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Links 6/16: Linkandescence

Maybe you knew that Maoist China got really obsessed with mangos for a while. But did you know that it reached the point where “when one dentist in a small village compared a mango to a sweet potato, he was put on trial for malicious slander and executed”?

Preliminary study suggests that genes that are disproportionately expressed in autism are also disproportionately expressed in men. Possibly a good time to review the male brain theory of autism.

People who lost weight on The Biggest Loser mostly gained it back afterwards and ended up with even worse metabolisms. Possibly related to permanent changes from obesity and yo-yo dieting, but we should also take into account allegations that the contestants were given illegal drugs.

This blog previously linked a Wikipedia article about a radar detector detector detector detector, but Rational Conspiracy did the research and believes it to be a hoax. The radar detection hierarchy likely ends with radar detector detector detectors. Mea culpa.

Some anecdotal evidence has previously suggested that online ads for vegetarianism could convert implausible numbers of people into vegetarians. Effective animal charity Mercy for Animals has done a more formal study and finds complicated and inconsistent results depending on how they define success. People apparently become more interested in vegetarianism, but there’s not much sign of a change in meat consumption itself.

New really interesting blog dissecting bad papers in the social sciences: ljzigerell.com

AskReddit: What is the most surprising mathematical fact you know?. The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

Giving scientific papers “badges” for transparent practices allowing outside analysis and replication increases compliance with such practices.

Guardian: “For nearly a year, Richard Rosenfeld’s research on crime trends has been used to debunk the existence of a ‘Ferguson effect’, a suggested link between protests over police killings of black Americans and an increase in crime and murder. Now, the St Louis criminologist says, a deeper analysis of the increase in homicides in 2015 has convinced him that ‘some version’ of the Ferguson effect may be real.”. I’m going to count this as a success for my 44th prediction for 2016.

Jerry Coyne continues beating up on media presentations of epigenetics.

A man who had no problems running thirty miles with no previous training and who later ran fifty marathons in fifty days may have some kind of mutation in his lactate metabolism.

Venezuela is collapsing, with the New York Times describing it as “uncharted territory” for a semi-developed country to be so deep in economic disaster that its hospitals, schools, power plants, and basic services are simply shutting down. So it’s a good time to reflect on the media’s previous glowing Venezuela stories. In 2013, Salon praised “Hugo Chavez’ Economic Miracle, saying that “[Chavez’s] full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results” (h/t Ciphergoth). And the Guardian wrote that “Sorry, Venezuela Haters: This Economy Is Not The Greece Of Latin America. Prediction is hard, and I was willing to forgive eg the pundits who were wrong about the Trump nomination. But I am less willing to forgive here, because the thesis of these articles wasn’t just that they were right, but that the only reason everyone else didn’t admit they were right was neoliberalism and bad intentions. Psychologizing other people instead of arguing with them should take a really high burden of proof, and Salon and Guardian didn’t meet it. Muggeridge, thou should be living at this hour…

Related: we all like to make fun of Salon, but Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon? They argue that it used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to fire journalists and increase demands from existing employees until the only way its writers could possibly keep up with the quantities expected of them was by throwing quality out the window. Key quote: “The low point arrived when my editor G-chatted me with the observation that our traffic figures were lagging that day and ordered me to ‘publish something within the hour,’’ Andrew Leonard, who left Salon in 2014, recalled in a post. ‘Which, translated into my new reality, meant ‘Go troll Twitter for something to get mad about — Uber, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Tea Party Republicans — and then produce a rant about it.’ I performed my duty, but not without thinking, ‘Is this what 25 years as a dedicated reporter have led to?’ That’s when it dawned on me: I was no longer inventing the future. I was a victim of it. So I quit my job to keep my sanity.”

Twitter: Questions Wolfram Alpha Can’t Answer, along with some it can. “Duration of the next time window during which the fraction of cats getting closer to Voyager 1 is between 0.2 and 0.8”, “Year that the ulnae of all living humans could first encircle Saturn’s equator, if laid end to end”.

Schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey reviews Robert Whitaker’s contrarian mental health book Anatomy of an Epidemic. I was hoping someone of Torrey’s caliber would do this. Also a really interesting piece on schizophrenia in and of itself.

Neerav Kingsland, CEO of various educational groups, reviews my review of teacher-related research and emphasizes his belief that school-level factors are more important than teacher-level ones. And Education Realist offers a more pessimistic take.

But related: Adam Smith Institute’s roundup of how going to a better school doesn’t make you more successful (see especially paragraph starting with “luck is certainly a huge factor”). And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men. That means either elite schools don’t have better teachers (really?) or that there’s a discrepancy between this and the Chetty study that needs to be resolved.

How come none of my Berkeley friends ever told me about the Berkeley Mystery Walls, a series of mysterious East San Francisco Bay structures that seem to predate the Spanish colonization and have inspired wild theories about pre-Columbian American settlement by the Mongols? [EDIT: proposed explanation]

How much do historians know about whether King Charles the Bald was actually bald or not?

The underwhelmingness of practice effects – “Overall, deliberate practice accounted for 18% of the variance in sports performance. However, the contribution differed depending on skill level. Most important, deliberate practice accounted for only 1% of the varaince in performance among elite-level performers…another major finding was that athletes who reached a high level of skill did not begin their sport earlier in childhood than lower skill athletes.” Maybe that 1% finding is partly ceiling effects – at the Olympic level, everybody’s practicing the same (high) amount. Does anyone know of any studies that contradict this?

Yet another Swedish lottery study finds that wealth itself (as opposed to the factors that cause wealth) has no independent impact on mortality, adult health care utilization, child scholastic performance, drug use, etc. “Our estimates allow us to rule out effects on 10-year mortality one sixth as large as the cross-sectional wealth-mortality gradient”

Maaaaaybe related, hard to tell – socioeconomic status has no relationship to hair cortisol level, which complicates theories about how many body systems are affected by “the stress of poverty” since we might expect hair cortisol level to be an indicator of biological stress levels.

17th-century philosopher William Molyneux formulated what’s now called Molyneux’s Problem: “If a man born blind could feel differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see (but now without recourse to touch) distinguish those objects by sight alone, in reference to the tactile schemata he already possessed?”. Thanks to modern science we can now perform the experiment, and the answer is: no.

A group including James Heckman does a really detailed analysis of the effects of years of education. I can’t follow along and I’m suspicious of any model that gets too complicated, but I think their conclusion is that everybody benefits (in terms of earnings) by graduating high-school, but only high-ability people benefit from graduating college.

Have you seen Ostagram and related sites yet, where an AI given two pictures can redraw the first picture in the style of the second? It’s really impressive. And if you want, you can get it done yourself for free at deepart.io, although there’s an 18 hour wait for your completed pictures.

Louisiana governor signs bill making offenses against police count as “hate crimes”.

Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech” – not because of what it says about Russia but because it’s basically just the “freedom from speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” argument that so many people love in a non-joke way here in America.

Everybody knows China is a big late 20th/21st century success story, but did you know India’s GDP per capita has tripled in the past 25 years? Noah Smith has more statistics.

Vipul Naik wants you to take a survey on your Wikipedia use.

Reddit AMAs with: Paul Niehaus of GiveDirectly on their basic income study, and Robin Hanson on Age of Em.

I agree with this article saying the recent study linking cell phones to brain cancer is hard to believe and that we should hold off judgment for now.

Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.

John Horgan gave a really ill-conceived talk at a skeptics’ convention last month saying that instead of focusing on boring topics like Bigfoot and homeopathy, skeptics should focus on debunking the really dangerous ideas like [consensus scientific beliefs that John Horgan does not agree with]. Since then a whole host of scientists have pointed out that John Horgan doesn’t actually understand their scientific fields and is wrong when he talks about them, of which a decent roundup would include Steve Pinker on war and Neurologica on various things. And since Horgan also believes the anti-psychiatry book Anatomy of an Epidemic, have I mentioned that schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey wrote a really neat review?

Emergence of Individuality In Genetically Identical Mice (h/t Paige Harden). Apparent biological differences in genetically identical individuals caused by “factors unfolding or emerging during development”. Maybe a good time to reread Non-Shared Environment Doesn’t Just Mean Schools And Peers.

Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately predicting various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things. He’s just called the 2016 POTUS elections for Donald Trump.

A study two years ago argued that the US was an “oligarchy” because rich people were more likely to get their way than average citizens (I wrote about it here). But Vox now has a good article about why that study may not be true.

Putin offers free land for foreigners in Russia’s Far East. If you can get enough people over there, the government will even pay to hook up infrastructure. If you’ve ever wanted your own town, this could be your chance.

Probably not real, but A+ for effort to this method of dealing with speed traps.

Vox: Congressional Democrats who get elected on rainy days become more conservative. This sort of makes sense. Fewer voters come to the polls on rainy days, conservatives are usually more committed voters than liberals, so rainy days favor conservatives, mean that Democrats get elected by lower margins, and make Democrats feel like they have less of a mandate to pursue liberal policies. But it also sort of doesn’t make sense – political scientists have known this for years, so shouldn’t Democrats adjust for it? Not sure if this is a mystery beyond just that Congressional Democrats aren’t experts in obscure political science studies.

The war on free speech on social media, “I see” edition.

US cancer deaths down 26% since 1990 (graphs, paper)

Congratulations to SSC reader Stuart Ritchie, who got his book on IQ featured in a Vox article last month.

Bryan Caplan wins almost all his bets, even though many are against smart people like Tyler Cowen. Scott Sumner on the phenomenon and Caplan himself on how he does it.

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951 Responses to Links 6/16: Linkandescence

  1. Eggoeggo says:

    “Putin offers free land for foreigners in Russia’s Far East.”

    I refuse to believe that our meme magic is this powerful. Great job, Social Matter.

    • Algirdas says:

      I am lithuanian. One wonders if this offer of free land in Siberia from a KGB podpolkovnik includes free transportation to the destination?

    • Deiseach says:

      I would be very careful about this. See what is going on in the Ukraine, with the arguments about Russian imperialism, Western imperialism, the Crimea wants independence, no it’s Russian Crimeans being used as catspaws by Putin, no it’s Western Ukrainians being used as stalking horses by the EU/USA and so on and so forth.

      Remember this year’s winner of Eurovision – a Ukrainian singer of Tatar ancestry singing about the forced relocation of Crimean Tatars by Stalin. Any resemblance is purely accidental, right?

      Whose land is he taking away, you have to ask yourself? Is it already empty, or is it occupied by inconvenient individuals that he would prefer to be overwhelmed by incomers reliant on Russia for support (so, we gave you houses and transport and incomes – if we leave you high and dry, what are you going to do? On the other hand, if you vote for our interests in the local elections…)

      • The Saddest Marmot says:

        I think it’s worth noting that the proposal is to give away very little land – 1 hectare according to the article. Compare this to the various homestead acts, which gave away between 65-200 hectares. Not sure how much 1 hectare of equivalently marginal land costs in america, but I would estimate under a couple thousand dollars.

        • Titanium Dragon says:

          Depends. Farmland in the US is probably worth about $2k/acre. But this is probably worse than US farmland. For one thing, it is in Siberia.

      • Lowtuff says:

        I’d be pretty worried if anything of this sort turned up, but I don’t think it’s likely. The Russian far east is a very empty place (mind, with good reason. very cold and a lot of barriers to development in the terrain), the local population is largely situated in the cities and there’s been a big outflow of people after the soviet breakup. There aren’t much in the way of restive minorities.

    • Flame says:

      Wasn’t Putin also doing this before they published their article?

    • rhaps0dy says:

      What do you mean with “meme magic”? Was there a meme about going to far eastern Russia?

  2. B.B. says:

    Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.

    The Dalai Lama has accused the Chinese of engaging in “cultural genocide” through the means of imposing mass Chinese immigration reducing Tibetans to a minority in their own land. White nationalists have explicitly drawn comparison to the Tibetan situation and their own impending minority status in the West as a means of claiming to be victims of white genocide.

    The Australian satirist John Safran is fond of pointing out how ignorant progressives are about the Dalai Lama’s socially conservative views.

    • Eggoeggo says:

      We had monks visit our school pretty frequently. You could tell they thought the fake-Buddhist westerners were degenerate suckers whose only value was securing foreign donations.

    • I was going to say something similar. I didn’t think the Dalai Lama’s views on the matter were surprising at all.

      However, the contrast between the Pope and the Dalai Lama was a bit striking.

      • E. Harding says:

        Well, the Pope is effectively a Berniebro. He comes from Argentina, a country with close to open borders where people notoriously distrust the market.

        • Wency says:

          I hadn’t made the Argentina/open borders/Pope Francis connection until now — appreciate the insight.

          I’ve been wondering for some time if the Pope has a master plan here. I still wonder this sometimes, though I’m perhaps 90% confident he just speaks out of instinct to always help the “disadvantaged” at the expense of the “privileged”, whatever the circumstances, subject to not fully backing statements that would require outright rejecting the Catechism.

          But I speculate that perhaps the Pope thinks a Muslim Europe is preferable to an atheist, post-Christian one. If Christianity cannot overcome post-Christianity and Islam can, perhaps he thinks it better to side with Islam.

          I could also see an argument that Christianity makes a comeback in a Balkanized, half-Islamized Europe, much as church attendance was high in Northern Ireland during the Troubles (and remains elevated today), and this gives the Church a chance to recover its authority. I’m not quite cynical enough to believe this is the strategy being followed though.

          • Randy M says:

            Rock-Paper-Scissors? Is the Pope a gamer?

          • Wency says:

            “Is the Pope a gamer?”

            He doesn’t come across as a rational strategist vis-a-vis European immigration (hence the 90% probability he’s not concerned with a rational strategy in his pronouncements), but then, sometimes it’s a rational strategy to not appear to be pursuing a rational strategy.

          • Psmith says:

            I speculate that perhaps the Pope thinks a Muslim Europe is preferable to an atheist, post-Christian one. If Christianity cannot overcome post-Christianity and Islam can, perhaps he thinks it better to side with Islam.

            s o u m i s s i o n

          • Since demographic trends do not actually point to a “replacement of population” in Europe in any foreseeable future, the most parcimonious interpretation is that the Pope is better informed about the dynamics of European demographics than the Dalai Lama is.

          • Wency says:

            “Since demographic trends do not actually point to a “replacement of population” in Europe in any foreseeable future”

            Strong words. Rather than argue over data on non-white populations in Europe, simply observe that a nonwhite majority is already a foregone and irreversible conclusion in the U.S, which was 83% white in 1990. Why can’t it happen in Europe, or at least some European countries, “in any foreseeable future”? The exact same trend of high immigration levels and differential birth rates is plainly happening in both places. The U.S. simply began the process with a larger nonwhite population so is crossing the threshold sooner.

          • Anonymous says:

            It seems like pretty aggressive bootstrapping to use a prediction about what will happen in the United States, but hasn’t happened yet, as some kind of proof that a similar prediction can be made about Europe.

            If all you are doing is extending trendlines you might as well cut out the middleman and just claim that the trendlines in Europe will continue.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            So…

            The last year we could get proxy numbers, in 2014, 37% of all French births were of African descent. In Paris, it was 70%. That number was rising about 1% YOY.

            And please note that was before Merkel invited in a million youths from the Middle East (which OK, on the scale of France doesn’t matter, but IIRC, they’re about 10% of the 16-25 cohort in Sweden).

            That’s before we add on the Most important chart in the world. Chart here Do you really think an extra 3 Billion Africans will be content to stay in Africa?

            Unless you know something the rest of us don’t, partial population replacement is at least a medium-term low-to-middling-order possibility.

            /My sole quibble with that chart is that it mentions how many people are of African descent, which isn’t quite the same as not-French. If the brown people give up Islam and drink wine, who cares, and of course, France spent a lot of time playing around in Algeria. (Of course, they had 3 terrorist attacks in 2015, so…)

            Edit: You know, I replied to @Machine Interface, but this works way better here.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            Fair enough, but do you agree that

            “A third of all babies born in admittedly the most cosmopolitan Western European country were not from Europe, and that’s before we add on a refugee crisis that makes this one look like a rounding error” is at least a decent response to “Since demographic trends do not actually point to a “replacement of population””?

            It’s not a good or bad thing (Well, 3 major terrorist attacks says it might be a bad thing done the way they’re doing it now), but it is a thing that is presently happening.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It’s nice that you can extrapolate all the views you think someone has based on just one. Sadly, my internet mind reading isn’t quite as advanced.

          • Among serious sources, the most “pessimistic” view is that of Philip Jenkins of Penn State University, who calculated that by 2100 Europe would be… 25% Muslim. And this has been criticized as too high on account on muslim fertility rate currently being in decline (both in Europe and in Muslim majority countries).

            Fertility rates are in fact in decline almost everywhere, and while population is still growing for now, the spectre of overpopulation and demographic replacement has never been further away.

            As for sub-saharan Africans, they migrate in majority to *other* African countries, rather than to Europe or the US.

          • NN says:

            Strong words. Rather than argue over data on non-white populations in Europe, simply observe that a nonwhite majority is already a foregone and irreversible conclusion in the U.S, which was 83% white in 1990.

            A nonwhite majority has been a foregone conclusion in the U.S. for more than 150 years. The reason it hasn’t happened yet is that the definition of “white” has been continually expanded, with Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jews all eventually being admitted to the white club.

            All signs point to this process continuing in the future. A significant number of Asians and Latinos already are effectively considered “white.” Ask George Zimmerman and Bobby Jindal. Or all of the Asians in Silicon Valley who are ignored whenever anyone feels like writing an article about the “overwhelming white maleness” of Silicon Valley.

            My sole quibble with that chart is that it mentions how many people are of African descent, which isn’t quite the same as not-French. If the brown people give up Islam and drink wine, who cares

            I don’t have the statistics in front of me right now, but less than 10% of French Muslims regularly attend Friday prayers, about a third approve of abortion, homosexuality, and extramarital sex, around 42% approve of the ban on headscarves in public schools, and a full one-fifth of French people with a Muslim background now identify as having no religion. Meanwhile, French conversion to Islam has been minimal, with only about 1-2% of French Muslims being converts. So this is sort of already happening.

          • Emily says:

            Looking at the Census responses for “race”, there was never a response code for Italian, Irish, or Jewish. The options are “White, black, or mulatto.” Then they add “Chinese (C), Indian (I)” as options in 1870 and Japanese in 1900. In 1930 we get Filipino, Hindu, and Korean. In 1940 they add Mexicans but say “Mexicans are to be regarded as white unless definitely of Indian or other nonwhite race,” which is not so different from today, and “mixed races,” which it’s made clear means biracial.

            I’d keep going, but you get the idea. Maybe someone didn’t consider some new white immigrant groups to be white, but Census certainly did. The biggest change between where we’d currently draw the lines for race and any previous Census designations are a) we’ve added more groups as the country has diversified and b) we aggregate Asian identities more.

          • E. Harding says:

            “The reason it hasn’t happened yet is that the definition of “white” has been continually expanded, with Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jews all eventually being admitted to the white club.”

            -This time, it’s different. Back in the old days, Vermont was rarely in political coalition with Manhattan. It definitely is now (except for the minor quibble of Clinton v. Sanders). Vermont voted for Teddy Roosevelt, who looked down on “hyphenated-Americans”, while Manhattan was largely composed of them. The fringes’ coalition now includes Br*hmins. That’s a dangerous and volatile combination.

            Also, Scott, my IP’s blocked.

          • Yakimi says:

            NN,

            A nonwhite majority has been a foregone conclusion in the U.S. for more than 150 years. The reason it hasn’t happened yet is that the definition of “white” has been continually expanded, with Germans, Irish, Italians, and Jews all eventually being admitted to the white club.

            This is a myth.

          • Yakimi says:

            Machine Interface,

            Among serious sources, the most “pessimistic” view is that of Philip Jenkins of Penn State University, who calculated that by 2100 Europe would be… 25% Muslim. And this has been criticized as too high on account on muslim fertility rate currently being in decline (both in Europe and in Muslim majority countries).

            Replace Europe with Western Europe, focus on urban areas, and look at the demographics of young cohorts. Then you’ll appreciate the magnitude of the transformation. There are already parts of European cities which consist almost entirely of foreigners and their immediate descendants. If that isn’t demographic displacement, what is? It’s certainly one of the most radical and rapid demographic changes in the long history of settler-colonialism.

            Most analyses also assume that current migration patterns will remain constant or even decline. In fact, as progressives catch on to the fact that international migration controls are morally indistinguishable from Apartheid (which is true), we can expect borders to give way to “universal human rights”.

            As for sub-saharan Africans, they migrate in majority to *other* African countries, rather than to Europe or the US.

            Non sequitur.

          • “There are already parts of European cities which consist almost entirely of foreigners and their immediate descendants.”

            That situation has existed in the U.S. for a century or so.

          • Outis says:

            This fills me with despair. Why must our nations die?

          • Yakimi > that’s not really impressive: “if we focus on the parts of Europe where there are large concentrations of migrants, we find that a lot of babies of immigrant descent are born in these places”. Especially since this happens in very specific areas that have often been immigrant-dominated since the end of WWII, if not before.

            This also fails to account for things such as mixed-race children — for all the accusations of communautarian sectarianism thrown at european Muslims, they in fact tend to be a lot more exogamous than other communities — and, at least in the case of France, for black migrants from oversea territories to the mainland, who have been French, French speaking and mostly catholics for centuries.

            So yes, it is true that *some specific parts of Europe* are dominated by immigrants and are likely to remain so. Just like it’s true that *some specific parts of the US* have been dominated by people of Chinese decent since the mid 19th century and are likely to remain so. How we make the jump from this to “replacement of population” is quite unclear.

            Perhaps the sentence is misunderstood; maybe to those opposed to immigration, “replacement of population” really just means “changes in the relative composition of the population”. So if a country gets from 95% white/5% black to 85% white/15% black, it’s a “replacement of population”. But people with more positive (or neutral) views of immigration tend to hear “replacement of population” as nearly synonymous with “ethnic cleansing” and then rightly object that the creation of muslim enclaves in some cities of Europe is not in any way equivalent to, say, the expulsion of 2 million people from Greece and Turkey in 1923.

            Of course, none of this justifies accepting migrants and refugees in itself. In fact, short of a moral imperative to help those in need, there doesn’t seem to be much rational justification to take in these people. But the arguments *against* taking them in seem equally lacking in substance.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yakimi, by the measures in that article, most Hispanics are “white” as of now (and nearly all the rest are “black”). But both racists and anti-racists treat them as something else. It’s true that southern and eastern Europeans never occupied the niche that African Americans did, but they did occupy the niche that Hispanics do.

            The idea that the US is inexorably headed for a non-white majority depends on white Hispanics not being considered white; Asian-Americans have a much lower birthrate than white Americans, and black and white birthrates are very similar. While there are more Asian immigrants, that’s not something which is “foregone and irreversible”.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t see any particular reason many Latin Americans can’t follow the same path as Italians and Poles. Heck there are already “Hispanics” in Texas and New Mexico whose families have resided there since before it was a part of the United States that are fully integrated into US culture.

            It looks to me like there’s a baptists and bootleggers coalition trying to maintain Latino as a quasi-race.

          • “In fact, short of a moral imperative to help those in need, there doesn’t seem to be much rational justification to take in these people.”

            As long as they are not coming to free ride on the welfare system, there is an obvious rational justification. Gains from trade apply to trade in labor as well as trade in goods. Standard economic theory suggests that, on net, immigrants make both themselves and the host population better off.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “The last year we could get proxy numbers, in 2014, 37% of all French births were of African descent. In Paris, it was 70%. That number was rising about 1% YOY.”

            No, this chart doesn’t tell the number of people of African descent, either. The at-risk populations include (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23685462_Neonatal_screening_for_sickle_cell_disease_in_France)

            “French overseas departments and territories: French West Indies,French Guyana, Re´union Island, MayotteAfrica: North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, including Cape Verdeand Madagascar IslandsAmerica: African ethnics from North, Central and South America,including the West IndiesSouthern Europe: Portugal, Corsica, Southern Italy includingSicily, GreeceThe Near and Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Arabianpeninsula (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc)The Indian sub-continent: Pakistan, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka”

            Particularly the inclusion of Portuguese, (Southern) Italians and Greeks means this chart cannot be used as any sort of a proxy for Africans, as France has traditionally been a major destination country for both Portuguese and Italian immigration.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            These attemps to explain the actions of people that one disagrees with by convoluted, almost conspiracy-like scenarios when it can be explained merely by “he wants to help people” never fails to befuddle me.

          • Wency says:

            @Machine Interface
            But people with more positive (or neutral) views of immigration tend to hear “replacement of population” as nearly synonymous with “ethnic cleansing”

            I understand “replacement of population” to refer to a country’s ancestral racial majority ceasing to be in the majority, with overtones of a total population reduction in that racial majority. People are arguing that Mexicans are white, though Mexico’s primarily Mestizo population is best categorized as “partly white” for any reasonable definition of the word “white”. This still represents a change from a white population that is primarily of 100% or near-100% European origin.

            But the arguments *against* taking them in seem equally lacking in substance.

            I take this to mean you haven’t been reading them. Mostly recently, see Hive Mind, which was reviewed on this blog, though immigration wasn’t its focus.

            The argument against is that the recipient nation’s culture, institutions, and economy will be damaged by the influx of foreigners, whether because HBD is real or because assimilating sufficiently culturally different populations is difficult and costly enough that the reality of HBD is irrelevant. The fact that Germans were able to integrate into Anglo-American society is not proof that Maghrebis can successfully integrate into French society. Moreover, even if the majority of Maghrebis can integrate, the existence of a significant hostile unassimilable minority may be reason to forbid immigration or at least become more diligent in screening immigrants.

            Lastly, unlike other humanitarian policies, this one is irreversible, barring genocide or mass expulsion. If it turns out, however improbable you think it, that a France inhabited primarily by Maghrebis is more like the Maghreb than the France of old, there will be no going back on it.

          • Nita says:

            a country’s ancestral racial majority ceasing to be in the majority

            Hasn’t this already happened in practically all American countries? Or did the new majority become ‘ancestral’ as soon as they became the majority?

          • NN says:

            People are arguing that Mexicans are white, though Mexico’s primarily Mestizo population is best categorized as “partly white” for any reasonable definition of the word “white”.

            Not all American Hispanics are Mexican, in fact from what I’ve heard a majority of recent illegal immigrants come from other Latin American countries. You also have to take into account that Hispanics have high intermarriage rates, with about 26% of 2010 American Hispanic newlyweds marrying non-Hispanics. In any case, about half of American Hispanics identify as white.

            The fact that Germans were able to integrate into Anglo-American society is not proof that Maghrebis can successfully integrate into French society.

            I suggest you read up on how, exactly, German-Americans became so integrated into Anglo-American society. It had less to do with any intrinsic properties of German immigrants and much more to do with World War I.

          • There doesn’t seem that much of a gap between Maghrebi and French culture really; it’s part of the same mediterranean cultural sphere at least for the southern half of France (the northern half is a bit further appart).

            Algeria and Morocco have similar homicide rates to France, and are in fact lower than many European countries (Lybia and Tunisia are a bit higher due to recent events, but still lower than the US). They’re not as secular and liberal as France, but they’re still much closer to France in that respect than to, say, Saudi Arabia.

            French remains an important language in education, administration and culture in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, which French media widely avalaible and consumed.

            And in fact, first generation Maghrebi immgrants integrate almost seamlessly in French society.

            The troubles are more with their grandchildren, who suffer from high unemployment and criminality rate. There might be cultural factors at work, but it’s important to note that these youth speak French as their first (and often, only) language, that they mainly consume French culture (French rap made in France and in French by French artists) and rarely identify with the country of their grandparents; and while they keep a tie to Islam, it’s often as tenuous as the link modern Frenchmen keep with catholicism.

            As already mentionned, Maghrebi populations in Europe also have a high exogamy rate.

            There are problems with this specific population, but it’s not clear at all that these problems have anything to do with a refusal to integrate and a supposed hate of French culture.

            Indeed, one might consider that France always had crime problems associated with poor working-class towns on the outskirt of Paris and other major cities. Indeed, these problems already existed at the beginning of the 20th century, when these towns were still mostly white (read up about the French “apache” subculture, on occasion).

          • Jill says:

            Tatu, no need to be befuddled. It’s just tribal behavior, which is very common. In group virtue is out group vice. If my tribe does something, there’s a perfectly benevolent reason why. If your tribe does the same thing, no conspiracy theory is too ridiculous or convoluted to explain the depth of evil in their actions.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t see any particular reason many Latin Americans can’t follow the same path as Italians and Poles.

            It’s already been shown–in an article that paints the results as pro- immigration–that second-generation Asian-Americans have political views close to the mainstream, but second-generation Hispanics do not.

            Also, just the presence of those Latin American immigrants immediately makes the vote of other Latin-American descended people count more, thus shifting the vote to the left, because of Evenwel v. Abbott.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s hardly a slam dunk refutation. First, because you haven’t said anything about second generation Italians or Poles. Second, because you haven’t explained why political opinions are the only important factor in assimilation. You might be an ideologue first, second, and last but most people aren’t.

          • Jiro says:

            First, because you haven’t said anything about second generation Italians or Poles.

            I am willing to accept you at your word that second generation Italians and Poles adopt politics similar to those of existing residents.

            Second, because you haven’t explained why political opinions are the only important factor in assimilation

            They’re not the only factor, but they’re an important factor. They are important because they refute the argument “those immigrants are just engaging in voluntary transactions”. If they change who gets elected and what laws get passed, I am then required at gunpoint to obey those laws–they are not voluntary transactions.

          • Outis says:

            Machine Interface: there hasn’t been a “mediterranean culture” since the fall of Rome. It is pure fantasy.

          • Outis > the “fall of Rome” is a really poor choice of landmark for such a bold claim, considering all the christian kingdoms that existed in north africa, and the muslim kingdoms that existed in southern Europe well after the fall of rome.

            Even today, Mediterranean culture is well alive and includes many aspects, from cuisine, mentality, alcoholic drinks, loan words, trade and so on.

          • Psmith says:

            Hasn’t this already happened in practically all American countries?

            Yep.

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro: G.W. Bush, for all his flaws, was (the only?) one Republican who could reach the Latin Americans. It seems that it was pretty simple, he just did not treat them most other Republicans seem to and despite having to fight the reputation of his party in this respect, he still managed to get something like 44% of the Latin American votes. I don’t see why it could not be 50% or even more if the Republicans got rid of the “anti-Latino” party label.

            Trump is an extreme case (then again, Trump is not really a Republican in any meaningful way) but it seems to me that many other Republican politicians are not far from him in this respect (of course, I only get to observe the US politics from across the Atlantic and do not pay as much attention to it as I do to the politics in Europe). I suspect that the fact that the immigrants from Latin America are much more likely to vote for Democrats has a lot to do with this. In fact, at least socially they seem to have more in common with the Republicans (relative religiousness and social conservatism) than with the Democrats. You probably would not vote a candidate who keeps talking about how you are (as a member of a group) a problem and how we must prevent more people like you from coming. It is true that most Latin American countries are more socialist than the US (Chile is actually way more capitalist than the US, then again there are probably not that many Chilean immigrants to the US), but it does not immediately follow that people from those countries are necessarily going to be more socialist. I would imagine that someone who emigrated from Venezuela and has experienced the wonders of socialism personally might be more opposed to it than an average “natural born” US citizen. Immigrants are also a bit different than the average member of the population. They are people who are willing to take risks associated with such a change. Save for welfare immigration (which seems to be a problem in Europe, but not in the US), these people will then probably be more capitalist than the non-immigrants from the same population, which should again favour Republicans, at least if the party recognizes what only G.W.Bush seems to have recognized.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I don’t think that’s fair. Bernie Sanders is not an open-borders advocate.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          He comes from Argentina, a country with close to open borders where people notoriously distrust the market.

          Whoa there, people only mostly distrust the market.

          Besides, Catholics gonna catechize, it’s not like Argentinians invented left-wing religiousness.

    • Econopunk says:

      The Dalai Lama is a politician. He is good with the West because it helps his political cause. I’m not saying he’s a bad person, but he’s not some angelic yes-man who just exists to encourage yuppies to do more yoga or something. I think he sincerely tries to do what he thinks is the best for ethnic Tibetans. And so his stance on migration and this line from the link:

      “When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering,” he said. “The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.”

      are very in-line with his political position.

  3. L.J Zigerell says:

    Thanks for the link, Scott.

  4. Earthly Knight says:

    Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech” – not because of what it says about Russia but because it’s basically just the “freedom from speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” argument that so many people love in a non-joke way here in America.

    This is kind of unfair. I think most people who say things like “freedom of speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” mean that invoking freedom of speech doesn’t (and shouldn’t) insulate you from social and economic consequences like insults, ostracism, or losing your job. They’re not saying it would be totally cool with them if the government started throwing dissenters in the gulag. At least, I hope not.

    • Anonymous says:

      The original version on freedom of speech only protected against prior restraints, not after the fact punishment of e.g. seditious libel. And it was improvement over the alternative. That said, I agree that the modern version is a still further improvement.

      • John Schilling says:

        Pretty sure the original version did protect against after-the-fact punishment of e.g. being thrown in the dungeon for saying that the King is a Fink. There is a line somewhere, but prior restraint isn’t it.

        • Anonymous says:

          In this, and the other instances which we have lately considered, where blasphemous, immoral, treasonable, schismatical, seditious, or scandalous libels are punished by the English law, some with a greater, others with a less degree of severity; the liberty of the press, properly understood, is by no means infringed or violated. The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.

          Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4.

          • My memory is that Milton’s Areopagitica, often represented as a defense of freedom of the press, takes essentially the same position as Blackstone.

          • RCF says:

            Literally read, the only restriction this places on freedom of speech is allowing laws against a subset of libel. Of course, once the government is allowed to define what constitutes “libel”, the term tends to become quite broad, and not limited to actually false claims, but taking him at his word, that’s quite different from “no protection other than against prior restraint”. And when JS said “original freedom of speech”, it’s reasonable to think it means “freedom of speech in the US’ First Amendment”.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not how you get that reading — literal or otherwise — the first sentence superficially mentions treason and blasphemy.

            As for the First Amendment, early jurists including Supreme Court justices were highly influenced by Blackstone. It was their go-to reference. It also worth noting that Sedition Act was enacted by many of the same people that voted for the First Amendment and never made it before the Supreme Court (it was repealed before Marbury).

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, note that the Sedition Act was highly controversial (to say the least) in its day, its repeal was a major campaign issue for the victorious Republicans, and Jefferson called it “a nullity as absolute and palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.”

          • RCF says:

            “I’m not how you get that reading — literal or otherwise — the first sentence superficially mentions treason and blasphemy.”

            Again, taken literally, the first sentence discusses treason and blasphemy as subsets of libel; it discusses treasonous libel, not bare treason.

          • Anonymous says:

            At 18th century common law truth wasn’t a defense to seditious libel. There’s pointing out technicalities and then there’s being a pedantic ass.

          • John Schilling says:

            It seems to me that this would make “freedom of the press”, literally worse than useless.

            In the Bad Old Days of Tyranny, you contemplate publishing “The King is a Fink”, and either ask the censor’s permission (in which case he says no and you don’t publish) or you publish without permission (in which case you get thrown in jail)

            In the Glorious New Era of the Free Press, you contemplate publishing “The King is a Fink”, and either understand that the censor will disapprove (in which case you don’ publish) or you go ahead and publish anyway (in which case you get thrown in jail as “the consequence of your own temerity”).

            Except that, with explicit censorship, it is at least possible that you can dial down your statement to the point where the censor will approve it, and publish safely. Under Blackstone’s version of “freedom of the press”, every edition that isn’t 100% pablum places the editor at risk of imprisonment.

            Did Blackstone ever explain why he thought this “freedom of the press” thing was a good idea?

          • Anonymous says:

            Here’s the full chapter, unfortunately with the original spelling:
            http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/blackstone_bk4ch11.asp

            Though he doesn’t say so, I believe the answer to the dilemma you pose is that Blackstone had more faith in the court system than he did in the executive officials even though both, at least technically, were mere creatures of the King in Parliment.

          • RCF says:

            If you had expressed your disagreement politely, I would have explained how I don’t think it is valid. Since you are being rude, I don’t think that continuing to have a discussion with you is worthwhile, especially since you are posting anonymously. I’ve reported your post, and I find anonymous posters posting insults to be quite in opposition to the concept of a walled garden.

          • John Schilling says:

            Though he doesn’t say so, I believe the answer to the dilemma you pose is that Blackstone had more faith in the court system than he did in the executive officials

            Ah, so the value of Blackstonian freedom of the press is entirely in which branch of government gets to throw you in jail after you’ve said that the king is a fink. Gotcha.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            unfortunately with the original spelling

            Aaaaaaaa if they’re going to tranſcribe the typeface using the long s, which looks a bit like an f (except without the croſs mark, or a ſmall croſs mark only on the left), they can at leaſt do us the courteſy of not making it look exactly like an f.

          • Outis says:

            I can’t believe that Yale can’t tell an ſ from an f.

          • DES3264 says:

            The Blackstone system has the advantage of not setting up an Office of the Censor which will, in the nature of government agencies, go looking for things to do even when no one is calling the king a fink.

          • John Schilling says:

            Judges may not go looking for things to do, but there has never been any shortage of people coming to the Judiciary with things for them to do. Including, particularly in England, pestering them with rather expansive definitions of libel and slander which have gone unpunished and must be set right.

    • Theo Jones says:

      I don’t think it is unfair considering how many times I’ve seen that one liner used in cases that involve state or institutional consequences. A few days ago I had a conversation with someone on FB over the Gawker Media case * , where the “freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences” one liner was used (I actually made reference to that Soviet joke in response). A court case where the consequences were state enforced. At the very least these people are fine with all consequences that aren’t literally sending people to jail. A mindset that if it becomes widespread could quickly turn free speech into a dead letter.

      * quick note — I’m actually somewhat ambivalent on the Gawker case. But in defence of the verdict there have been some pretty dangerous arguments made.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Roughly, no one thinks “freedom of speech” is unlimited though. Once you admit that, then some body has to adjudicate where the limits are and whether those limits have been crossed in a specific case, and in the U.S. that is going to be the court system.

        You can argue that the Gawker case was decided wrongly, but not that there was no role to play.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      The Soviet system also relied a great deal on social and economic consequences to sustain hegemony, especially after Stalin died and the gulags were closed.

    • DavidS says:

      Incidentally, I was reading a definitive late-19th, early-20th book on English constitutional law, and the freedom of speech but not freedom from consequences was a definite thing then: and hailed as important. Because other countries in Europe had a censor that stopped newspapers publishing things, whereas in Britain you could publish what you like, although you could then get sued for libel or indeed charged with treason if you undermined national security or whatever.

      So ‘freedom of speech without freedom from consequences’ is not meaningless or a technicality.

      • RCF says:

        How did the censors stop people?

        • CatCube says:

          It was illegal for the owner of a printing press to print something without approval from the censor.

          There were not many printing press owners, so it wasn’t hard for the government to come down on them.

          • RCF says:

            But the punishment for printing something without approval still happened after the printing, no?

          • CatCube says:

            Well, if you’re trying to argue that you technically can’t make anybody do anything, only make them wish they had done it, that’s pretty much a truism. The point being made about old censorship regimes is that the government, by law, got to see and approve everything that was printed before it was printed.

            I’m sure that the law was violated occasionally (as all laws are) but I don’t know if it was a major issue before falling prices made the availability of printing presses more widespread.

          • RCF says:

            “The point being made about old censorship regimes is that the government, by law, got to see and approve everything that was printed before it was printed.”

            The original point being discussed was whether “freedom of speech” is meaningful if people are punished afterwards. You have simply presented a variation of people being punished afterwards.

          • CatCube says:

            Well, generally, they couldn’t publish at all. The “punishment afterwards” thing was mostly theoretical, since nobody with a press would publish without an imprimatur.

          • RCF says:

            They could print without permission, but they didn’t. Because there would be punishment afterward.

          • Nicholas says:

            Okay, I see the misunderstanding:
            In the Censor model, if you create copies that get censored the Censor has them destroyed before they get distributed. He’s physically there, in your office, from the moment you open to the moment you close each day. If he censors something you’ve printed he does it before it ever leaves your establishment.
            In the English model, while you might be equally as arrested as your censored cohort, you have already distributed your work. People actually got to read what you printed, buy it off the newsstand, and take it home with them.
            The advantage is that, in the British system, everybody knows what a publisher printed that got them censured, and in the earlier system, what they did wrong is a secret.

          • John Schilling says:

            [The censor is] physically there, in your office, from the moment you open to the moment you close each day.

            I am exceedingly skeptical of this assertion. The only prior-restraint regimes I know of, the censor sits in his own office, and while it is against the rules to publish without first sending him a copy and getting his approval, it is trivially possible to do so and the consequences are entirely after the fact.

            Do you have evidence for censors-in-residence at newspaper offices in, e.g., the eighteenth-century Continental European nations Blackstone was contrasting with England’s practice?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            None that I’m aware of. Censors at Work goes into their operation; for the most part ancient regime censors worked from their own homes and were concerned with pissing off nobles.

      • John Schilling says:

        freedom of speech but not freedom from consequences was a definite thing then… Because other countries in Europe had a censor that stopped newspapers publishing things, whereas in Britain you could publish what you like

        But freedom of speech and freedom of the press are different things, or at least the United States Constitution calls them out as different things. Freedom of the press in England may have been strictly a matter of prior restraint or lack thereof, but it is difficult to see how freedom of speech could be so defined.

        • Anonymous says:

          I read an analysis once that claimed the best originalist reading of those clauses was that they were equivalent to the difference between slander and libel — one protected literal speech and the other writings. I’ll see if I can find it.

        • Publius Varinius says:

          Yep, this is the most important point. The various manifestos of 1848 also treat speech and the press separately, so does Mao’s October 10th Manifesto, and various other documents throughout the ages.

          The UN Declaration of Human Rights also mentions freedom of expression without interference from anyone, interference not being restricted to interference by states or governments.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      They’re not saying it would be totally cool with them if the government started throwing dissenters in the gulag. At least, I hope not.

      They’ll reach that point in a couple of years, don’t worry. Already have on a few subjects, such as “climate change denial.”

      • DavidS says:

        Who’s advocating gulags for those who don’t believe in climate change?

          • Bill Nye’s plan is quite simple. On at least one occasion, the Hayden Planetarium sponsored a lecture by a solar astronomer investigating the influence of the Sun on climate change. His intent is clearly to have Neil deGrasse Tyson arrested and then reign supreme over popular astronomy.

          • Urstoff says:

            The Fall of Bill Nye has been quite sad. You wouldn’t see Beakman out doing this kind of shit.

          • I recently read Nye’s book Unstoppable, and it was profoundly disappointing. The degree of strategic equivocation, cherry-picked numbers and percentages, and apparently blindness to his own immersion in a culture which values certain things and scorns others makes the book painful to read.

            Is this a brain-eater thing? Or was Bill Nye always like this, just under deep cover?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I read “Undeniable” and it starts out pretty good, but gets worse and worse and worse as the book proceeds. I’d recommend the first 5 chapters.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The last letter seems to be calling for a RICO investigation into the fossil fuels industry and its front groups along the same lines as the investigations into the tobacco industry two decades ago. Do you think that the investigation of the tobacco industry constituted “throwing people into the gulag for not believing in the perils of secondhand smoke”?

          • keranih says:

            Considering that the data for second hand smoke has always been sketchy at best, yes, it does sound like that.

          • James Picone says:

            There’s a significant difference between throwing Watts in jail and throwing people at $SOME_CORPORATION who’ve been funding disinformation schemes in jail. You are equivocating.

            The crime isn’t the speech, the crime is the fraud.

          • “The crime isn’t the speech, the crime is the fraud.”

            You make arguments that are demonstrably false about climate questions–I’m thinking of an exchange, not with me, that you may remember, in which you were attacking a book you had not read with claims about its content that were refuted by someone who had read it (apologies if I am confusing you with someone else, but I don’t think I am).

            Your reason to make those arguments, which you presumably believed, was to persuade people to support certain public policies. You believed that those policies would benefit you (and lots of other people, presumably most people).

            Is that fraud? Should it be criminal? Would it become criminal if you didn’t actually believe the arguments you were offering?

            Or in other words, how do you distinguish fraud from mistaken political speech more generally?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Freidman:
            How does one prove corporate fraud? Well, it’s not necessarily easy, but the thing about corporations is that they have this paper trail that shows what information they had, when they had it, and what they decided to do about it.

            If I have evidence that my product is defective, and I claim the opposite (especially when testifying under oath, or provide documents to the SEC, or some other function where the truth of my statements is required), then it is possible I have committed fraud.

            Do you think the tobacco cases were decided wrongly? Should the major tobacco firms have been able to claim, under oath or other compulsion to tell the truth, that they did not have evidence that cigarettes caused cancer?

          • RCF says:

            I watched one episode of Bill Nye, and he talked about air acting as blanket warming things up. But blankets don’t warm things up, they just make things keep the heat they already have longer.

            And here he repeats the “airplanes fly because of the Bernoulli effect” BS. https://vimeo.com/83625163

            Seems like a really dumbed-down version of science to me.

          • James Picone says:

            @David:
            In addition to HBC’s point about paper trails, I would also like to point out that I’m not pumping millions into ‘think tanks’ nor lobbying politicians; there’s a degree of scale. Much like how somebody driving a kilometre/hour over the speed limit may be technically breaking the law, but nobody is going to pick them up for it, and somebody going 50 km/hr over the speed limit is going to get in significant trouble if they’re caught.

            I’m going to demur on the exact scenario you’re describing, suffice to say that I disagree with your viewpoint.

            Do you admit that there is a difference between advocating for, say, you to be locked up for your positions on climate change (which I agree would be ridiculous and wrong), and advocating for locking up a hypothetical executive who has been funding people he knows not to be scientists (or at the very least to be well outside the scientific mainstream) to say things that he has a fair idea are false, when such statements benefit that executive and hurt a lot of other people? What about if the false statements were made to Congress?

          • James Picone says:

            @RCF:
            I’ve never seen any Nye, I think he’s not an international export.

            Global warming is often described very poorly; but I’m not sure describing a blanket as ‘warming something up’ is a heinous crime. It’s strictly incorrect, yes, but it’s a valid colloquial use. There’s a causal relationship between putting a blanket over warm things and the air inside the blanket getting warmer than it was before the blanket was there. I can’t speak to the exact phrasing of the Nye thing, though.

            Amusingly enough Futurama’s GW episode has one of the best mass-media-not-explicitly-scientific descriptions of the process I’ve seen.

          • “What about if the false statements were made to Congress?”

            If they were made under oath and he knew they were false, that’s perjury. The Director of National Intelligence has admitted to committing it, but for some reason hasn’t been charged and tried.

            I don’t know exactly where the lines are drawn for fraud, but my feeling is that it involves someone telling another person a lie in order to directly profit from that person–my claiming the coins I sell you are gold when they are really gold plated lead. On the version you are suggesting, anyone who donates money to pay for research and/or publicity for his views could be charged, provided the prosecution was willing to argue that his views were false and he benefited in some way from them. I don’t think that is consistent with freedom of speech, or even close.

            You might consider that the amount of money spent on the current orthodox view of climate issues is enormously larger, at least one order of magnitude and possibly two, than the amount spent on the critical side. Do you really want to argue that if some of Obama’s views of climate are false–he blatantly misrepresented Cook 2013 when he tweeted on it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has continued to do so although I don’t follow his statements closely enough to be sure–he should be charged with fraud? He is a politician who has made climate change a major issue, so clearly benefits politically by persuading people of its danger.

            Suppose Tesla donates money to a campaign to warn people about the dangers of AGW (no idea if he does). Does that become a crime if a prosecutor can convince the court that the campaign misrepresented the facts? He clearly gains, both in his auto and his solar power business, by having people believe AGW is a problem.

            The end point of your argument is that people who push political arguments can be locked up if a prosecutor can convince a court that their arguments are wrong. I don’t think you want to go there.

            And, I should probably add, pretty nearly everyone who does push political arguments on a large scale, on any side, sometimes says things that are not true. So it comes down to which side controls the prosecutors. A year from now that could be Trump.

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman:
            If a company says their products are safe, and they’re not safe, and the company demonstrably had that information, then yes that’s fraud. I don’t see how it could be otherwise.

            The application to GW seems straightforward; the application to smoking certainly was.

            I certainly included the “knew or should have known” aspect; you’ve elided it. It’s important. If Tesla says that their cars don’t explode when they have lab tests that say under some semi-common condition the battery explodes, that’s fraudulent. If they say the same thing but have, to the satisfaction of a court of law, constructed their tests to specifically exclude the situations where the batteries explode, then that’s fraud. If they’ve obviously set up an internal wall where the people saying “Cars are safe!” and the people investigating why the batteries are exploding don’t talk to each other, that’s fraud.

            I didn’t think that was controversial.

            Incidentally, you’re comparing funding for research to funding for writing articles and books in the popular press. Yes, it costs more to launch satellites and travel to the poles and write scientific papers than it costs to hire Heartland to write editorials.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Not a lawyer, but I found this handy rundown of the legal requirements for fraud. Offhand it looks like, even if the AGs can find a judge willing to agree that CAGW is The Truth, they’re going to have a tough time showing materiality and reliance: they’re basically going to have to show that if the fossil-fuel industry had told The Truth, the public would have stopped using fossil fuels. The defense might proceed by asking the plaintiffs, who of course know The Truth now, whether they still use fossil fuels.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not if their purpose was avoidance of short term loss in the stock market. It’s still fraud if you lie to prop up your share price, is my understanding.

            David Friedman, I note your reluctance to address the tobacco example.

          • @James:

            I think part of the issue is who it is fraud against. My using fossil fuels does not impose any significant cost on me, although you would argue, perhaps correctly, that it imposes a tiny cost on each of eight billion people. So a fossil fuel company that conceals evidence that CO2 causes climate change isn’t defrauding its customers. As someone else in the comments suggests, arguing that it is requires you to argue that a customer who knew that wouldn’t buy the fossil fuel. But most people who believe in AGW continue to use fossil fuel.

            Your stock price argument is a little stronger, but I think it covers much too much. It would apply to any firm arguing that its activities benefit the country and so should be treated favorably.

            My basic objection is that the rule you are defending provides a tool by which anyone with influence over the mechanism for criminal prosecution, which in practice means the incumbents, can use it to shut up those who disagree with it. That is a very dangerous thing to do.

            Consider an academic arguing that government should spend more money on climate research. If people who don’t believe in AGW get elected, are they entitled to charge him with fraud?

            “Yes, it costs more to launch satellites and travel to the poles and write scientific papers than it costs to hire Heartland to write editorials.”

            I see an awful lot more publicity for the orthodox view on AGW than for the critical view. And a lot of the “research” isn’t traveling to the poles, it’s reading papers and drawing conclusions–the same thing the critics you object to are doing. Cook et. al. 2013 was a propaganda project–but one that required people to read a lot of abstracts.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I don’t see how a long-run corporate propaganda campaign serves the goal of short-run stock price manipulation. I’d expect any effect on share prices to be long-run as well, and to the benefit of the shareholders.

            For what it’s worth, the leaked internal memo cited in Sen. Whitehouse’s article makes it clear that that part of the campaign at least was aimed squarely at influencing the course of legislation, not at taking direct advantage of any individuals in a commercial transaction. It also gives no indication that the people taking part disbelieved any of the claims they were putting out in public. If the RICO prosecutors can somehow get past the other objections, they’re still stuck with proving that CAGW was already– in 1998!– so undeniably proven, that to say otherwise in public showed a reckless disregard for the truth.

          • James Picone says:

            Do note that I haven’t actually said I think there should be such a case; I just think it’s a plausible possibility, and that it’s also quite distinct from locking up people for not believing in climate change, which is what it was originally presented as evidence for.

            @David Friedman:

            I see an awful lot more publicity for the orthodox view on AGW than for the critical view. And a lot of the “research” isn’t traveling to the poles, it’s reading papers and drawing conclusions–the same thing the critics you object to are doing. Cook et. al. 2013 was a propaganda project–but one that required people to read a lot of abstracts.

            And the majority of the money would have been spent on the expensive things. Satellite launches and trips to Antarctica do cost money, and they’re kind of important for research purposes.

            I’m not sure Cook13 cost the taxpayer much. In fact as I recall they raised money from SkS’ readership to pay the let-everybody-read-the-paper fee the journal charged, on the order a few hundred dollars?

            My point is that you’re comparing apples and oranges. The research budget of a fairly large field of scientific study is going to be a lot more than the propaganda budget of a few think-tanks. Then when you realise that there are maybe 10 to 20 people with any level of scientific expertise being paid out of that propaganda budget…

            I’m reasonably confident that if I didn’t have a bunch of global warming blogs in my RSS feed I would see more anti-global-warming-science nonsense than pro-global-warming-science stuff. The latter is limited to a) news services publishing a scientific press release, which isn’t a terribly common thing, b) the Greens doing politics stuff and c) /maybe/ you could count the fig leaves the major parties toss in that direction, but you’d be being generous. The former? Well News Corp owns one of the most popular websites for news in Australia, News.com.au, the vast majority of newspaper readership is of News Corp papers, including, for example, The Australian, and Rupert Murdoch’s editorial stance on climate change is rather well known. For example, the most recent edition of the Australian’s front-page story was “Activists distort data on reef”. There’s a paywall, don’t expect to be able to read it, but I’m fairly sure you can determine what the editorial slant is. Here’s a shortlist of other popular news websites:

            The Sydney Morning Herald, owned by Fairfax Media, the other Big Media Conglomerate that owns the ~30% newspaper market share News Corp doesn’t. I can’t find anything mentioning global warming on the main page, but there is an environment section which I rather doubt thinks it isn’t real. See if you can find it! Now guess if anybody reads it other than people who are already greenies.
            The Guardian’s Australian website. Despite being the Grauniad, I can’t even find an environment section, let alone anything on global warming.
            The ABC, the state broadcaster. Widely considered terribly left of centre by the right over here, despite them stacking the board something fierce. Slightly more promising – the Environment section is easy to find. I can see one story on the main page that’s obviously climate-change-associated, wine growers in Tasmania moving because of rising temperatures.

            I think you get the picture.

            EDIT: Oh and keep in mind that as I write this comment the big news is a huge storm screwing up expensive beachfront property in New South Wales. Interesting that there’s zero climate slant on that in News.com.au’s story about it, isn’t it?

          • @James:

            It’s possible that the balance of news is different in Australia than here. Also, perhaps the fact that I get my news stories mainly from the Google News site biases my view in some way.

            What I see is a stream of stories repeating the claim that climate change threatens the Statue of Liberty with no criticism and linking bad climate events, such as the California drought, to AGW with, usually, no consideration of the arguments for and against. I see very nearly zero discussions of positive effects of AGW, although CO2 fertilization is well established and a big effect.

            I expect you are right that a larger fraction of spending in support of the orthodoxy goes to actual scientific research than on the other side. But we aren’t looking at a ratio of spending on the two sides to two to one but more like a hundred to one.

            Would a fair statement of the position you are defending be:

            Someone who makes statements on politically controversial subjects that he knows are false and that benefit him should be civilly or criminally liable.

            By that standard, it would be hard to find any important political figure who didn’t qualify. For example.

          • James Picone says:

            @David:

            Someone who makes statements on politically controversial subjects that he knows are false and that benefit him should be civilly or criminally liable.

            I’d scratch ‘politically controversial’, would change ‘should be’ to ‘could plausibly be’, would note that I imagine ‘knew or should have known was false’ is difficult to prove in a legal sense, would note that I imagine there’s likely a level of benefited below which it’s not worth bothering, and finally I would note that I’m not a lawyer and am trying to sketch out the fuzzy boundaries of a fuzzy concept I imagine lawyers have a better grip on and have more caveats on (for example, I imagine there’s a ‘mere puffery’ defence).

            Assuming Obama’s statement was false and he knew it to be false, then I imagine the crux is how much it benefited him. My suspicion: not much.

            A merchant sells me an item, falsely claiming it is gold. I believe him and buy it on that basis; it turns out not to be gold. I think everybody agrees that is fraud.

            A merchant sells me an item, falsely claiming it is safe. I believe him and buy it, and would not have if I believed it were unsafe. It actually isn’t safe. I think everybody agrees that is fraud.

            I buy an item from a company that heavily advertises it as safe. There are signs up in the store saying “It’s Safe!”. I wouldn’t have bought it if I thought it were unsafe. It isn’t safe, and the company demonstrably had that information. Presumably that is still fraud, or at least false advertising, yes? Or is that where we differ, in that you don’t think companies count?

            I buy an item from a company that, while not explicitly advertising the product as safe, does fund PR claiming that it’s safe. I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise etc.. It isn’t safe, and the company demonstrably has that information. Maybe that is where we differ, in that you don’t think not-explicit-advertising counts?

            A company would like to do an industrial thing in a location. An environmentalist group claims the industrial thing will have significant negative health effects for residents. The company claims otherwise.
            A: The company is wrong, and demonstrably has that information. Is there plausibly a case, assuming the project goes forward?
            B: The environmentalist group is wrong, and demonstrably has that information (or just doesn’t care). Is there plausibly a case, assuming the project doesn’t go forward (as a result of the campaign)?

            I would say ‘yes’ to both. I see a fairly clear progression from the first example I’ve given here to the last example, that maintains a basic wrong the state has a legitimate interest in curtailing – deceiving someone for your own gain – but goes from a case I think we both agree on to something I think is a local analogue of GW. Where do we start to disagree?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Going down James Picone’s list, I see a clear break in legal terms when we come to the last item. Political speech, at least in the US, comes without warranties; if the government requires accurate information from companies on an environmental issue, it can enact a regulation making them provide it– and does so, at least in cases where the company has information they lack (this is one of several points where CAGW diverges from ordinary pollution issues: the carbon content of fossil fuels is what it is, and there’s no reason to expect their producers to know more than anyone else about the consequences of burning it).

            I’ll admit that the notion of imposing a symmetrical requirement of truthfulness on environmentalists tempted me briefly. For instance, I found the following gem in this otherwise worthwhile piece by Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker, which used to be known for its meticulous fact-checking:

            But his darkest point was that climate scientists, being scientists, must confine themselves to making claims that have a high degree of statistical probability. When they model future climate scenarios and predict the rise in global temperature, they have to pick a lowball temperature, one reached in ninety-plus per cent of all cases, rather than the temperature that’s reached in the average scenario. Thus, the scientist who confidently predicts a five-degree (Celsius) warming by the end of the century might tell you in private, over beers, that she really expects it to be nine degrees.

        • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

          Loretta Lynch, who considered the RICO letter, and the 17 state AGs that have taken the ball are, perhaps, more worrying.

    • lvlln says:

      It’s always been obvious to me that freedom of speech without freedom from consequences is a contradictory concept. In a world where the government – or some other mob – owns all forms of writing/expression and can literally read minds and seal people’s lips before they speak, that might have some meaning, but we don’t live in that world; restrictions on speech are necessarily enforced after-the-fact. The method of coercing someone into not expressing certain speech is by credibly providing threat of consequences for certain speech.

      And whether the government provides that credible threat or a mob does seems like a distinction without a difference; a government is just a type of mob. And losing your job might not be as devastating to one’s life as being sent to prison, but the difference is one of degree, not of type. This, of course, is significantly different from ostracism, insults, or counterarguments that the mob might respond with, because those are just more speech which don’t materially affect the person – anyone is free to let those sound waves cause vibrations on their ear drums and then walk along their merry way. Losing your job or physically being restrained don’t offer such freedom.

      • Teal says:

        I take it then, that you aren’t a fan of the maximal version of “freedom of association”? (see http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/29/open-thread-50-5/#comment-365889 and following)

        Or do you think bakers should be allowed to refuse to hire gay people but not be allowed to refuse to hire people that hate gay people?

        • lvlln says:

          Yes, I’m not a fan of freedom of association. I believe bakers shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to hire someone based on whether or not they’re gay or whether or not they hate gay people. Both being gay and feeling hatred toward gay people should both carry no consequences for someone – otherwise, they can’t accurately be said to be free to be gay or to feel hatred toward gay people. And everyone should be free to be either or both.

          • RCF says:

            That’s silly. If I buy a bike, there’s a consequence: I have several hundred fewer dollars. That doesn’t mean that I’m not free to buy a bike. Demanding that your actions have no consequences is not freedom, it’s autocracy.

          • lvlln says:

            No one’s talking about no consequences for actions. Buying a bike is an action and isn’t an expression of speech.

            I’d add that having several hundred fewer dollars isn’t a consequence of buying a bike, it’s an inherent component of buying a bike. Without it, it can’t be accurately considered “buying” a bike, it’s “taking” a bike. And that’s something people aren’t free to do without the owner’s consent. Because there are consequences.

          • RCF says:

            “No one’s talking about no consequences for actions. Buying a bike is an action and isn’t an expression of speech.”

            Being gay is also an action. You listed several actions, and said that if they have any consequences, then people aren’t free to do them. The logical assumption is that you are proposing a general principle that if an action has consequences, then one isn’t free to do it, not that you are asserting that there is a special class of actions for which this is true.

            “I’d add that having several hundred fewer dollars isn’t a consequence of buying a bike, it’s an inherent component of buying a bike.”

            I’m not convinced those are mutually exclusive. A consequence of shooting yourself in the foot is that your foot is now injured. That injuring your foot is an inherent part of shooting it doesn’t mean it isn’t a consequence. And besides which, if the bike is bought with a credit card, then having a few hundred fewer is not an inherent part of buying the bike.

          • lvlln says:

            Being gay isn’t an action by any reasonable definition of those terms, as best as I can tell. Being gay is a state of mind, much like being against gay people is also a state of mind. Obviously there are cases where the line between “speech” and “action” are blurry, such as true threats or libel or incitements to violence, but merely having an opinion or preference is pretty unambiguously on one side of that line.

            As for the foot shooting example, piercing your foot with a bullet is an inherent part of shooting your foot (assuming you don’t miss, obviously). Bleeding, feeling pain, possibly dealing with infection and/or broken bones are the consequence.

            As for the bike with credit card example, buying with credit card means you have a few hundred dollars less credit available. Whether you’re pulling from your pool of cash or pool of credit is a meaningless distinction. The point is that “losing some of your money resources – whether it’s in the form of cash or credit or anything else I haven’t mentioned” is an inherent component of “buying” something. Otherwise it’s not accurate to say that you’re “buying” it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Being gay isn’t an action by any reasonable definition of those terms

            “gay = engages in sexual activities with other members of the same gender” is a reasonable definition, and one which many people actually seem to use.

          • RCF says:

            “Being gay isn’t an action by any reasonable definition of those terms, as best as I can tell. Being gay is a state of mind, much like being against gay people is also a state of mind.”

            ::rolleyes::

            Clearly, in the context of people discriminating against gay people, “gay” refers to actions. One cannot discriminate on the basis of state of mind, apart from the actions that reveal it, and most discrimination against gay people is based on them engaging in same-sex relationships, not merely having a particular state of mind.

            If you merely were asserting that people should be free to have the “state of mind” of being gay, but were not making any statement as to whether people should be free to take any actions related to being gay, then your position is completely vacuous.

            The proposition that you are arguing in good faith is becoming increasingly doubtful. At the very least, I think you’re making a less than appropriate effort to be a cooperative communication partner.

            “Obviously there are cases where the line between “speech” and “action” are blurry, such as true threats or libel or incitements to violence, but merely having an opinion or preference is pretty unambiguously on one side of that line.”

            All speech is action. Moving your mouth is an action. The legal term “action” isn’t quite the same as the literal one.

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          My impression of the anti-social sanction proponents of free speech is that they aren’t arguing we should have legal interventions to prevent people from losing their jobs or facing social sanctions for their speech, but rather we should have strong cultural norms and social pressure against economics and social sanctions aimed to silence people who espouse ideas we don’t like.

          You should combat ideas by challenging them and showing them to be wrong, by pursuading people, not by using your power to punish and silence people.

          Thus the same way we use state violence to prevent people from using violence, we shouldn’t feel bad using social and economic pressure to create a standard against using such pressure. It’s a social equivalent to an arms treaty or deterrence.

          • Matt M says:

            This this this.

            The whole “but the first amendment doesn’t apply to private companies!” retort is a complete (and perhaps willful) missing of the point.

            If we assume that our legal codes are a rough approximation for our cultural values, it seems odd that we would vigorously protest say, the government imposing a $100 fine for politically-incorrect statements, but would loudly applaud a twitter-mob’s effort to completely destroy the life of someone who makes an impolite joke.

            The point of having this debate is not so that we can all show off our understanding and interpretation of various employment-law statutes. It’s to suggest that political speech SHOULD, in fact, be free of devastating consequences, whether they are government-imposed or privately-imposed.

          • Anonymous says:

            If our legal codes are a rough proxy for our values, what about the legal code that says that private businesses may not to discriminate? Then, even if there’s some loophole that exempts a particular baker (akin to the state action principle for free speech) from your logic it would look to me like strong social norm against it would still be appropriate.

          • Matt M says:

            I think that’s about right.

            Recently libertarian presidential debates have replaced the “should a Christian baker be required to make a cake for homosexuals” with “should a Jewish baker be required to make a cake for Nazis” in what seems to be an attempt to emphasize this point.

            If our social value is truly non-discrimination, then Jewish bakeries refusing to bake cakes for Nazis should in fact receive the same sanctions (even if Nazis are not currently protected under discrimination law) from the public as Christian bakeries who refuse homosexual customers do.

            But in either case, if I argue with you that the bakers should be able to discriminate, and not face terrible consequences from the state OR from society in general, my primary objective is to appeal to you to change your values, not to try and win a legal debate regarding the details of current discrimination law.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If our social value is truly non-discrimination, then Jewish bakeries refusing to bake cakes for Nazis should in fact receive the same sanctions (even if Nazis are not currently protected under discrimination law) from the public as Christian bakeries who refuse homosexual customers do.

            This isn’t true. Refusing to serve a customer because you find her ideology objectionable is less bad than refusing to serve a customer because of innate and morally neutral traits like race or sexual orientation.

          • Matt M says:

            Putting aside those who don’t consider sexuality innate, there are certainly a lot who don’t consider it “morally neutral.”

            You may take these things as self-evident, but many do not.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            That’s fine. You said earlier that “if our social value is truly non-discrimination,” we are compelled to treat the jewish bakers and the homophobic bakers alike. I’m just showing how we can abide by a norm of non-discrimination and still draw a principled distinction between the two types of cases.

          • RCF says:

            “Putting aside those who don’t consider sexuality innate, there are certainly a lot who don’t consider it “morally neutral.””

            What relevance does that have?

          • Matt M says:

            EK is using the argument “homosexuality is morally neutral” as evidence that it is different from discriminating against Nazis.

            But that’s just his own personal opinion. There are plenty of people who disagree and consider homosexuality a moral wrong. Most notably – the people who are likely to run afoul of these sorts of laws in the first place. Someone who agrees that homosexuality is morally neutral is unlikely to refuse the business of homosexuals…

          • Theo Jones says:

            I think firm size (and the nature of the product) matters here. For a large company, or one that engages in essential services, I would have no problem with legislation imposing the type of protections for worker free-speech that exist for government agencies. For a small company (ie. bakery) I have more caveats in both cases.

          • RCF says:

            “EK is using the argument “homosexuality is morally neutral” as evidence that it is different from discriminating against Nazis.”

            Which it is.

            “But that’s just his own personal opinion.”

            No, it’s not.

            “There are plenty of people who disagree and consider homosexuality a moral wrong.”

            That’s completely irrelevant. Again, you’ve said that MK is using the claim to support the idea that the two types of discrimination are different. If I say “Claim A supports position B”, pointing out that some people believe that Claim A is false is irrelevant. If you want to attack that argument, you need to actually show that Claim A is false, not merely observe that some people believe that it is false. You’re engaging in fallacious reasoning.

          • Matt M says:

            But that’s basically a tautology.

            “Discriminating against homosexuals is bad because homosexuality isn’t bad, but discriminating against actual bad things isn’t bad because those things are bad.”

            Fine. If that’s his point, his reasoning is sound. But that doesn’t really give us any useful analysis that we can apply in a society where nobody actually agrees on what is “bad” and what isn’t.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            “useful analysis that we can apply in a society where nobody actually agrees on what is “bad” and what isn’t.”

            Of course it does. “We have the power to decide what’s bad, and demonstrate it by firing the people who don’t agree”.
            That seems incredibly useful to me.

          • Same Anonymous, New Email says:

            But in either case, if I argue with you that the bakers should be able to discriminate, and not face terrible consequences from the state OR from society in general, my primary objective is to appeal to you to change your values, not to try and win a legal debate regarding the details of current discrimination law.

            Fair enough, but on the issue of morality I don’t think you are being consistent. If it is immoral to socially sanction a baker that openly espouses anti-gay views than it is immoral for that baker to socially sanction gay people by refusing to serve them. Either the line is drawn between speech and actions or freedom of association means that both boycotts and refusals to serve are okay. You can’t split it half way but only in favor of the baker.

          • John Schilling says:

            refusing to serve a customer because of innate and morally neutral traits like race or sexual orientation

            Strawman, with a side order of motte-and-bailey on the definition of “homosexual”. Nobody refuses to serve a customer because of their sexual orientation and you know it.

          • “If it is immoral to socially sanction a baker that openly espouses anti-gay views than it is immoral for that baker to socially sanction gay people by refusing to serve them.”

            It would be equivalent if the reason the baker refused to serve gay people was to punish them for being gay. But if the reason is that the baker thinks it’s immoral for him to implicitly approve of gay sex by playing a role in a gay wedding and would refuse even if he knew there were ten other bakers happy to take the order, then it isn’t equivalent.

            I should probably say that, in my view, it should be legal for the baker to refuse to bake the cake, for an employer to refuse to employ Jews or libertarians, for the owner of an apartment house to refuse to rent to them. I also think it should be legal for people who disapprove of such discrimination to express their disapproval by refusing to do business with the baker, employer or landlord.

            Whether I approve of people doing any of those things, on the other hand, depends on the details. Trying to punish people for expressing views you disagree with is, in my view, a generally bad idea–better to listen to the views and offer arguments against them. On the other, if someone goes out of his way to be nasty (in legal ways) to gay people (or Jews, or libertarians), that strikes me as a legitimate reason to make a point of not dealing with him.

          • Same Anonymous says:

            It would be equivalent if the reason the baker refused to serve gay people was to punish them for being gay. But if the reason is that the baker thinks it’s immoral for him to implicitly approve of gay sex by playing a role in a gay wedding and would refuse even if he knew there were ten other bakers happy to take the order, then it isn’t equivalent.

            So what if we say the reason people are boycotting the bigoted baker is not to punish him but because they believe it would be implicitly endorsing bigotry, and so immoral, to buy from him. It seems to me you are drawing a distinction without a difference.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The distinction is, roughly, the concept of secularism.

            Most people rather expect the Catholic Church and its subsidiaries to be religious. But we’ve also found it beneficial to carve out a lot of neutral spaces outside of church, particularly in the areas of commerce.

            What you’re proposing is abolishing secular spaces and having them declare allegiance to your religion instead.

            Others have mentioned the Thirty Years War, which is a good place to start if you want to learn why moderns opted for secularism.

          • Anonymous says:

            If it is immoral to socially sanction a baker that openly espouses anti-gay views than it is immoral for that baker to socially sanction gay people by refusing to serve them.

            Actually, this would be truly the best of all possible worlds. No baker sanctions gay people by refusing to serve them (because doing so is immoral), and therefore no baker is sanctioned for acting immorally (which would, in any case, be immoral).

          • Same Anonymous says:

            @Jakeologist
            The Catholic Church yes, Catholic bakers no. Live by special pleading, die by special pleading.

            “Either the line is drawn between speech and actions or freedom of association means that both boycotts and refusals to serve are okay. You can’t split it half way but only in favor of the baker.”

            As for actual churches, well boycotts are rather a moot point.

          • CatCube says:

            @Same Anonymous

            If people were boycotting the baker for not baking a gay cake, there’d be no problem. If you can get enough people to not patronize them and drive them out of business, knock your bad selves out.

            The problem is that isn’t what’s happening. The government is coming in, fining them $100,000, and ordering them to shut their doors.

          • Same Anonymous says:

            Per Matt M’s request I was setting aside the legal issue and focusing on the ethical one.

            Anyway, I don’t think everyone agrees with you that non-governmental pressure of this sort is okay. This whole chain started with lvlln saying he wasn’t (albeit he takes one of the two consistent options — that it’s also not okay morally for the baker to refuse to bake the cake.)

          • Eggoeggo says:

            I was going to say, that analogy was just outright wrong.

          • RCF says:

            @Matt M

            “But that’s basically a tautology.”
            What is?

            “But that doesn’t really give us any useful analysis that we can apply in a society where nobody actually agrees on what is “bad” and what isn’t.”
            Sure it does. It depends on what is actually bad, not what people believe is bad. Why aren’t you getting this?

            If we were to wait around until everyone agreed about morality, we wouldn’t be able to have any rules.

            @John Schilling

            “Nobody refuses to serve a customer because of their sexual orientation and you know it.”

            False.

            @Jaskologist
             
            If you’re going to say “you”, you really should say who you’re responding to.

            @CatCube

            “The problem is that isn’t what’s happening. The government is coming in, fining them $100,000, and ordering them to shut their doors.”
            Give one example of the US government fining someone $100,000 and ordering them to shut their doors merely for refusing to serve a gay person.

          • Nita says:

            @CatCube

            As far as I remember, most of the damages were due to the huge wave of harassment (both online and ‘real life’) caused by the baker posting the gay couple’s complaint, names and address on social media. Also, allegedly they had received around half a million dollars in donations, so a $50 fine would hardly have an effect.

          • “As far as I remember, most of the damages were due to the huge wave of harassment (both online and ‘real life’) caused by the baker posting the gay couple’s complaint, names and address on social media.”

            That’s the first such claim I have seen. Can you link to some support for it?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Information about the ruling
            http://www.oregon.gov/boli/SiteAssets/pages/press/7_2_15%20BOLI%20rules%20on%20Sweet%20Cakes%20discrimination%20case.pdf

            The damages were for discrimination, but the same ballpark as previous cases (135,000 in this case versus 325,000 in another religious discrimination case).

            If you mean the doxing
            http://www.snopes.com/2015/07/03/sweet-cakes-melissa-damages/

            The lengthy ruling described incidents wherein the Kleins’ promotion of their plight resulted in negative attention and threats to the Bowman-Cryers, including Klein’s publication of court documents to Facebook that included the couple’s home address.

          • @Samuel:

            Thanks. Interesting.

            I note that the complaint that the couple filed included the address, phone number, etc. and the statement:

            “By submitting the complaint I understand a) this complaint will become part of DOJ’s permanent records and is subject to Oregon’s Public Records law;”

            On the other hand, the complaint was filed on a smart phone and “This public records disclaimer was not visible on LBC’s smart phone view of DOJ’s form.”

            I think describing the act of publishing the complaint which included the information as “doxing” the complainants is a substantial exaggeration, but I see what you meant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Part of the public record and publicizing are two different things. Some of this comes down to what we think the defendant in the case was intending to publicize, merely the existence of the case, or specifically who the plaintiff was. It may amount to a subtle distinction, but subtle distinctions can be important.

          • RCF says:

            @ MattM
            Comparing gay people to Nazis is incredibly offensive, and this “well, you might think that homosexuals aren’t as bad as Nazis, but other people have other points of view, so you can’t use your arbitrary opinion as a basis for ethical reasoning” argument is total bullshit.

            @David Friedman

            ““By submitting the complaint I understand a) this complaint will become part of DOJ’s permanent records and is subject to Oregon’s Public Records law;” ”

            Something they didn’t exactly agree to freely.

            “I think describing the act of publishing the complaint which included the information as “doxing” the complainants is a substantial exaggeration, but I see what you meant.”

            Then you don’t understand what the term “doxing” means. It doesn’t mean revealing confidential information. It means taking information that is available with enough effort, and posting it with hostile intent. If you’re registered to vote, I believe the following are all public information: your came, your address, what party you’re registered with, and what elections you’ve voted in. Other information, such as your phone number, may also be public information; I’m not sure. If I were to post that information here with hostile intent, that would be doxing.

          • keranih says:

            Emm. I disagree. Connecting David Friedman’s info off his voter registration to his posts here on SSC are pretty much not related.

            However, when someone files a lawsuit against another person, with the intent to use the power of the government against that person, that’s pretty intertwined. The lawsuit *is* the reason for the bakery’s interaction with those two people.

            Also – it is not clear at all to me that it’s appropriate to equate revealing someone’s true identity behind a screen name with reporting the public record actions associated with a real name. If the people filing suit against the bakery had been posting on, oh, MySpace as LittleBlueBird, and someone such as the bakery had posted on their MS feed that LittleBlueBird was the person who had just filed a suit against them, and oh look there’s the lawsuit record with their name on it – to me that *would* be doxing.

            Simply reposting public record material in an on-going case is rather weak tea.

            Having said all that – it is the habit of newspapers to at least partly obscure the addresses of people they report on – Mr John Smith of the 200 block of Oak Street, for example, instead of 254 Oak. I think this is a reasonable step and would have preferred the bakery have done this.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ keranih

            IANAL
            In most areas there is a legal difference between deliberately causing harm, and causing it more or less accidentally. The law, and we, may not morally condemn the latter, but zie still has to pay something toward repairing the damage.

            If the bakers just thoughtlessly copied the whole document without hiding the couple’s names and address (especially since as someone posted, that might have been invisible on the bakers’ device), then that doxing would be accidental and perhaps limited to actual damage. The high grant of damages covered the accidental damage plus other damages for other harmful deeds that the bakers did deliberately.

          • keranih says:

            @ Houseboat –

            It is my understanding that the smartphone failure to see the whole warning was on the part of the couple filing the public charges against the bakery – apparently, they thought they could file legal charges against someone else and remain anonymous.

            Which I can see – someone thinks they have been injured, they file for compensation from da gubmint, why is their good name being drug into it, it was the other party who obviously did wrong!

            But from the part of the state, you don’t get to make accusations anonymously, as that leads too far too much abuse. Plus the right of the accused to face their accuser, and all sorts of other Enlightenment nonsense.

            I am still not clear on what sorts of damage – deliberate or otherwise – were done to the couple by the baker. At all.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Which I can see – someone thinks they have been injured, they file for compensation from da gubmint, why is their good name being drug into it, it was the other party who obviously did wrong!

            Consumer complaint form.

            But from the part of the state, you don’t get to make accusations anonymously, as that leads too far too much abuse. Plus the right of the accused to face their accuser, and all sorts of other Enlightenment nonsense.

            You get to confront your accuser in court. Notably there is no requirement that the accused know the address of their accuser.

            I am still not clear on what sorts of damage – deliberate or otherwise – were done to the couple by the baker. At all.

            http://www.oregon.gov/boli/SiteAssets/pages/press/Sweet%20Cakes%20FO.pdf

            Tldr; it turns out violating people civil rights is considered a harm in the state of Oregon.

      • Ryan says:

        The difference is that with the government you get due process of law. There’s no such thing as due process of mob.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You could have a regime (and there have been such regimes) where nothing was allowed to be printed or otherwise publicly broadcast unless it was first passed through the Bureau of the Censor. Printing anything without doing so (or merely possessing unregistered instruments of mass communication), even if benign, would be punishable. Thus in contrast, one view of freedom of speech simply means you can print what you want without prior restraint; you can still be beheaded afterwards, by the government.

        This rather narrow view isn’t usually what’s meant by ‘freedom of speech’; some freedom from consequence is expected.

        • RCF says:

          “Printing anything without doing so (or merely possessing unregistered instruments of mass communication), even if benign, would be punishable.”

          But punishable after it is printed.

          • Nicholas says:

            No, like in the sense that there was a police task-force that randomly searched houses to see if you had a printing press inside, and if you did it was a crime.
            People in this thread are using the word “printing” to refer to the entire process of creating and distributing physical messages, including the part where you have to put the physical messages on a truck and ship them somewhere before anyone but you can read them. That last step is where the censors would step in: They’d stop the truck and destroy the message before anyone could read it.

      • JohannesD says:

        In a world where the government – or some other mob – owns all forms of writing/expression and can literally read minds and seal people’s lips before they speak, that might have some meaning, but we don’t live in that world […]

        The original concept of freedom of the press was very much about abolishing pre-publish censorship. It was about controlling means of reproduction (which, at that time, meant the printing press) so that it would indeed be very difficult for anyone to illegally spread unwanted information in the first place. Indeed, the original meaning of the world “copyright” has nothing to do with the creator’s rights and everything to do with controlling what can be published in print.

      • Deiseach says:

        There has to be some kind of limit, though. The “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer” was a silly meme, but if a media outlet can get away with “Ted Cruz murdered six babies and ate them for breakfast last month”, and the only response they need as a defence is “Dude, nobody seriously believed that, it was so plainly untrue”, and you can’t protect your good name because you have no recourse to any kind of regulation, then you get to a stage where they publish “Famous Person embezzled public funds/sexually harassed their employees/drove drunk and killed a mother of four – no, seriously, we mean it for real this time” and everyone who sees it goes “Ha ha, those guys, will they ever stop joking?”

        If you can publish anything about anyone and get away with it, sooner or later you’re going to be no more credible than Uncle George the conspiracy nut. For a scandal sheet or something like the “Weekly World News”, that probably works out fine (at least for a while) but for serious news organs (or those with pretensions to such), why should I believe your headline about GENUINE SCANDAL BROKEN OPEN when I’ve seen fifty headlines of the same kind which were blatantly untrue and moreover, the defence of those who published them was they were intended to be read as blatantly untrue and so not libelous?

        I know the wealthy and influential do abuse libel law by asking the courts to put blanket bans on all kinds of stories that are legitimately in the public interest, but swinging to the opposite extreme of “any news outlet can say whatever the hell it likes under ‘freedom of speech’ with no consequences” isn’t going to make things better, either.

        • caethan says:

          Oh man, that Zodiac Killer bullshit pissed me off so badly. There was a poll of registered Florida primary voters where one of the questions was “Do you think Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, or not?” Results: 10% Yes, 62% No, 28% Not Sure. Cue lots of hysterical articles about how hilarious this is, from such bastions of balanced reporting as Gawker, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian. I haven’t seen any commentary from the media on their own role in playing up this little “joke” given that apparently their blatant and repeated smearing via hilarious in-jokes had a significant effect on the polls. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

          • Simon says:

            I wouldn’t be so sure the actual voting was affected that much, as it may be an instance of the “Lizardman’s Constant”, see:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the poll replies were indeed people having a laugh (I imagine there are very few people who actually believe this to be true).

            But yes, when the media use their position to mock people they don’t like with what basically amounts to “Haw, haw, he’s so stupid! Look at the stupid guy! Ain’t he stupid?”, then I think they have no right to be surprised when they end up with Trump as a presidential candidate.

            They gleefully did their bit driving the alternative choices out of the race, and he’s the only one left. Too late now to be all shocked about “How could this happen?”

          • RCF says:

            Ted Cruz is a pretty poor “alternative”, though. The media have largely supported the more sane Republican candidates like Kasich, and look how much good that did.

          • @RCF:

            What’s not sane about Cruz? The main bad thing I heard about him was that other politicians don’t like him.

            I have to admit prejudice in favor of someone who not only is a fan of _The Princess Bride_ but has apparently memorized it.

          • Jill says:

            “The media have largely supported the more sane Republican candidates like Kasich, and look how much good that did.”

            Further down the page here, there is a statement that certain pundits want to have their cake and eat it too. Most humans do. The pitch that “We’re going to cut your taxes AND lower the federal deficit” sells like hot cakes, which is why politicians say it, despite the fact that it isn’t true.

            In this case, the media wanted to have their cake by going into the anger business. Then they wanted to control which candidate the voters flocked to, and to make sure that that candidate was not too angry and out of control.

            But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t rile people up with anger, as your business model, and then expect them to listen to your station telling them to vote for the calmer saner candidate.

            Anger is a business
            Many news outlets’ business models now depend on stoking anger. This exacerbates the political system’s polarization and dysfunction.
            http://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2016/4/26/11506808/anger-is-a-business

        • “but for serious news organs (or those with pretensions to such), why should I believe your headline about GENUINE SCANDAL BROKEN OPEN when I’ve seen fifty headlines of the same kind which were blatantly untrue and moreover, the defence of those who published them was they were intended to be read as blatantly untrue and so not libelous?”

          Because the serious news organs haven’t had fifty headlines of the sort that were blatantly untrue. Probably not even one, although they have probably had untrue headlines whose untruth was sufficiently nonobvious to explain why the editor didn’t see it.

          That’s one of the reasons to consider them serious.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t know, @David Friedman, the click-bait headline is definitely a thing, and a lot older than internet is.

            I mean, I pretty much ignore headlines as providing negative information at this point, but I can see Deiseach’s point.

          • Deiseach says:

            The serious news organs haven’t had such headlines because there are consequences – their lawyers tell them “you can’t publish that or at least not in that form”.

            Take those consequences away, and in the race to the bottom chasing readers (especially online, where a lot of the traditional media are sinking money and where they’re directly competing not alone with each other but with the likes of Gawker) and why shouldn’t they take a pop at their unfavoured people? It’ll cost them nothing but the usual retraction on page 94 in a single paragraph buried in the middle of the page (unlike the front page splashy headline) and it will grab them the page visits their ad departments so crave.

            Unfortunately, if they’re going to be competing with scandal sheets, they’re at a disadvantage because the gutter papers have their technique down pat.

            The Sun and the Times are both owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Both of them might be running headlines about a political figure caught with his trousers down (as it might be the Culture Secretary)*, the only difference being in the phrasing used and that most people would regard the Times story as being more reliable or trustworthy.

            Take away any need to make sure the click-bait is true or accurate, and why should I believe the Times is any more disinterested than the Sun?

            *The Daily Mail is bad enough under the present circumstances, with its mix of outrage and prurience – that linked article shows the worst of their “shocking disgraceful antics that will disgust all right-thinking people – see pictures on pages 4-9” modus operandi. Imagine what they’d be like if they could publish whatever they wanted with no consequences?

            I’m not arguing for muzzle laws but there have to be some consequences or sanctions. If Bob says Alice is a rapist-murderer, Alice has recourse to have that set right (assuming she is not in actuality a rapist-murderer) and Bob can’t simply get away with “Freedom of speech!” as a defence or excuse. I see no reason the media should have wiggle room on this with “in the public interest” and “freedom of speech”, where it’s not about “in the interest of the public to know this” but “the public are interested in gossip and sleaze and this sells papers/page views”.

          • RCF says:

            There are lots of obviously false claims that have been printed in mainstream newspapers, such as:

            The national debt decreased the last two years of the Clinton presidency
            There is a gunshow loophole to background check requirements
            Citizens United allows unlimited contributions to candidates.

            There’s also this article, made up almost entirely of bullshit, that was printed in newspapers throughout the country:

            [search for “Mark Pulliam Boy Scouts”; posting links doesn’t seem to work]

        • lvlln says:

          Well, yes. Obviously there should be limits. I’m not arguing for some sort of absolute “no consequences for any speech whatsoever” here, which would be a ridiculous position to hold (and one which I’ve never encountered in the wild). It’s reasonable to carve out exceptions for things like libel and slander as in your example, or things like true threats which do cause provable harm to others.

          But those are the exceptions. I think it makes perfect sense to have a general rule of free speech, but with exceptions carved out only after careful nuanced consideration of the harms and benefits of such exceptions.

      • lliamander says:

        > This, of course, is significantly different from ostracism, insults, or counterarguments that the mob might respond with…

        I would say that ostracism counts as a form of action, in that a group of people is choosing to dis-associate with an individual previously associated with them.

        Yet, if we consider the three types of responses to ideas we disagree with (ostracism, insults, and arguments) and we could only legitimize two (socially or legally), I would pick ostracism and arguments.

        It’s not always feasible to associate with people with whom you disagree/have different values. Sometimes those “non-relevant criteria” are relevant precisely because they lubricate the gears of society.

        However, having massive spontaneous mobs of slander and self-righteous anger storming across the internet to crush the reputation some rando in po-dunk wherever seems highly ill-advised (even though the mob participants were only using words).

    • Ryan says:

      I have a pretty much opposite view. I’d much rather taboo or verboten ideas be regulated by the government because you can’t get due process from the mob. This issue was actually the origin of Catholic Inquisitions. Town would get riled up accusing someone of whatever sort of blasphemy, run them out of town or in the worst cases simply lynch them. The Church responded to the injustice by creating the inquisition process. An official would question the accused, the accusers, trying to ascertain the truth of the situation. The vast majority of the accused were exonerated, and the true blasphemers were assigned much milder punishments than the mob ever handed out.

      To use a contemporary example. Branden Eich donated money to support the California gay marriage ban amendment. A mob gathered, accusing him of the awful sin of homophobia. He was publicly shamed and run out of his job. A proper inquisitor would have interviewed the people who worked for him, asked how he treated the gay employees, found out how he treated other gay people, what he’d ever said about them. Now maybe the inquisitor judges him guilty and he still loses his job, but at least he has a chance. With the mob he had none.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        That’s a really insightful comparison.

        Of course, I’d prefer to live under the Inquisition than the Human Rights Tribunal because Social Justice is logically incoherent while Catholicism has a reasonable possibility of being true.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have to laugh at someone that confesses faith in a single unitary god but prays to three separate gods and a panoply of demigods, complaining about the logical coherence of anything else.

          • Two McMillion says:

            The Trinity is not three separate gods.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            God is one substance existing in eternity. Christians believe that the original ineffable personality of God (what Platonists called the One) emanated two more persons, the Logos and the Holy Spirit. We believe, contra pantheism, which claims that everything is an emanation of the One*, that God then chose to create everything else mental and material out of nothing.

            We don’t pray to demigods, meaning beings that are half man and half small-g god. Neither are small-g gods the same thing as God. So you’re not framing Christian truth claims in a technically correct way to maximize how ridiculous they sound, you’re flat out wrong.

            *Another common ontology claimed that God and Chaos are co-eternal and God organizes Chaos.

          • Anonymous says:

            The saints you all pray to quack an awful lot like demigods. And all that gibberish about emanations and substance may sound convincing to you, but then again I’m sure to the people spouting off about it lived experience find in convincing too.

            From the outside view you are in no position to be complaining about logical coherence. Indeed your rationality in general is highly suspect given the nonsense you believe without nearly sufficient evidence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ahh, no, Anon, you’ve ruined it. If you’re going to troll people, it’s best to make sure people think you’re actually being serious. You’ve made the rookie mistake of trolling too hard and too soon, and inadvertently outed yourself.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s an actual, serious position that Christianity is an incoherent, silly mess and that the rationality of people that believe in it is highly suspect. It’s not polite, and in public one needs to act as if it isn’t totally ridiculous to believe an illiterate rabbi rose from the dead because he was really an eternal omnipotent being all along. But impolite doesn’t mean unserious.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            First of all, purple anon, it’s going to be unnecessarily difficult to debate you when you’re parroting an Anonymous with a different gravatar.

            From the outside view you are in no position to be complaining about logical coherence. Indeed your rationality in general is highly suspect given the nonsense you believe without nearly sufficient evidence.

            Logic and evidence are different concepts. It’s not logically incoherent to believe in things on logical grounds that lack sensory evidence, unless you’re an empiricist. My considered opinion is that strict empiricism is self-refuting, as the arguments for any epistemology ultimately rely on formal logic, which since Frege relies on mathematics, and there is no sensory evidence for mathematical objects.
            Are you familiar with Quine’s defense of mathematical Platonism and the attempt to reconstruct science without mathematical objects? To me, the desire to stop believing in mathematics rather than in empiricism smacks of a totalizing belief, which merits skepticism.
            Oh, and if emanations are a gibberish explanation for how entities came to exist, would you be so kind as to enumerate the non-gibberish explanations?

          • Anonymous says:

            Persons come to exist through birth. As for how aspects of the ineffable come into separate existence, mu.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so persons are completely material entities that begin to exist through birth.
            Can I infer that the cause of the first person was a non-person animal?
            If so, what caused the first animal?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Well animalia are from eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are believed to be a fusion of a member of archea with a member of bacteria (one consumed but didn’t destroy the other; given the shape of mitochondria, it looks like bacteria was consumed by archea).

            Tracing those back gets to the origin of life. Nick Lane’s The Vital Question: Why Is Life The Way It Is? is a current (and I think rather good) attempt to solve that, but work is still ongoing; given the changes in Earth’s composition (all the iron precipitating out) and the possible locations (mostly underwater; the amount of the planet covered by water in the past was greater because water is forced into the mantle by subduction) we haven’t been able to test the theories as thoroughly as anyone would like.

          • LHN says:

            an illiterate rabbi

            is very nearly a contradiction in terms.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            My considered opinion is that strict empiricism is self-refuting, as the arguments for any epistemology ultimately rely on formal logic, which since Frege relies on mathematics, and there is no sensory evidence for mathematical objects.
            Are you familiar with Quine’s defense of mathematical Platonism and the attempt to reconstruct science without mathematical objects?

            Stop, you’re going to give me a stroke.

            1. Logic does not “rely on mathematics”– Frege and Russell endeavored to reduce mathematics to logic, although their program ultimately foundered on the incompleteness theorems.

            2. Quine turned to platonism late in his life precisely because he came to believe that the existence of mathematical objects was supported by empirical evidence. The evidence of the senses confirms our best scientific theories, confirmation of a theory also confirms the existence of those objects in the domain of its quantifiers, our best scientific theories quantify over mathematical objects, therefore, the evidence of the senses confirms the existence of mathematical objects.

          • Deiseach says:

            Original Mr X, Pastel Anonymous just sounds like the typical Sola Scriptura type denouncing the Evils of Rome 🙂 There’s nothing to say Pastel Anonymous isn’t themselves a believer in some form, simply not a Trinitarian (or, obviously, not Catholic/Orthodox). Nothing I haven’t heard before.

            Purple Anonymous is possibly piggy-backing on Pastel Anonymous to have a go at Christianity in particular and possibly belief in general. Again, bog-standard stuff anyone who’s admitted to being religious in public for a period greater than ten minutes has heard before.

            I like the “illiterate rabbi” bit. Sure. Reading the Torah in the local synagogue means you’re illiterate*. Unless Purple Anonymous is using the term in the broader sense to mean “did not go to good old Pimento U. and got a degree like what I did” ergo uneducated and lower-class, which means I’m also illiterate by that standard – oh, the crushing ignominy of not having a B.A. or even not being able to aspire to the heady heights of being able to write B.Sc after my name! 😀

            *Luke 4:16-20 “16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

            18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
            because he has anointed me
            to proclaim good news to the poor.
            He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
            and recovering of sight to the blind,
            to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
            19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

            20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.”

          • CatCube says:

            @Deisach

            Most Protestant denominations are Trinitarian, of standard Nicene variety. Lutheranism actually uses the Ecumenical Creeds, but many denominations consider them not of the Bible and refuse to teach them, though they still teach the actual content.

            My favorite was when our battalion Chaplain demurred on using the Nicene Creed in a service because it was “Catholic”, and then did a seven-week sermon series on the nature of God that was pretty much exactly the Athanasian Creed.

          • Ptoliporthos says:

            What’s the evidence Jesus was illiterate? Doesn’t he read from a scroll in the synagogue in Luke’s gospel?

          • Jaskologist says:

            I find more interesting the implication that literate people are more likely to rise from the dead. I don’t recall that being included in the ABCs.

          • Jill says:

            Anonymous, please say who you are referring to, and in what way you think they are missing the forest for the trees. I think I know who and what you mean. But why not be clear, rather than sarcastic?

            These long threads have so many replies to so many people, it can be hard to keep track.

          • Fahundo says:

            The way I interpret Anonymous’s position on Jesus’s literacy is this: As a son of a carpenter in a small farming village in the first century, it would be incredibly unlikely for Jesus to be fully literate.

            Posting a passage from the gospel that says he was literate is no more convincing to a nonbeliever than posting a passage that affirms his divinity.

          • onyomi says:

            I have no opinion on the degree to which either of these labels could have justly been applied to Jesus, but just want to chime in here to point out that in 20 AD, “literate” and “educated” were not the same thing.

          • Matt M says:

            Also “incredibly unlikely”: Raising the dead.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also “incredibly unlikely”: Raising the dead

            Or just founding a religious cult of even regional significance.

            There are very few things we know with certainty about Jesus Christ, but one of them is that he had atypical persuasive ability, which is strongly correlated with communications skills. It would be a gross failure of rationality to assess his (il)literacy solely on the basis of average literacy rates for first-century Levantine tradesmen.

        • BBA says:

          I find them both perfectly coherent, and in fact completely equivalent: as a cis het white male Jew I’m damned no matter what I say, so let’s get to the auto-da-fe already.

      • Anonymous says:

        When you find yourself writing an apologia for the Spanish Inquisition it’s time to reevaluate your life choices.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I have no idea as to the accuracy of what was posted, but the Spanish Inquisition wasn’t the only Inquisition.

        • The Spanish Inquisition wasn’t created by the Church, but by the King of Spain, with the specific goal of serving as a secret police against enemies on the crown (a mandate which included looking for hidden Jews and Muslims). It was very different in nature, organization, goals and methods from the Roman Inquisition, to which the above commentary more correctly applies.

          There is generally consensus among historians of the Roman Inquisition (including atheist historians) that the instutition was, *for its time*, a model of fairness and leniency in dealing justice, compared to the secular institutions of the time.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            On the one hand, I appreciate that the holy inquisition used blunter instruments of torture than some of their contemporaries. On the other, I am not sure that an organization which purports to be the representative of God on Earth deserves any credit for being a touch less sadistic than Vlad the Impaler. Here’s probably the best way of looking at it: if God existed and worked through the catholic church, how many blasphemers and heretics would it have burned at the stake? Intuitively, the answer should be zero.

          • keranih says:

            Here’s probably the best way of looking at it: if God existed and worked through the catholic church, how many blasphemers and heretics would it have burned at the stake?

            Umm. More attention to the source document might be called for. Biblically, humans under the direct auspices of God fuck things up all the damn time. Starting with the first guy and the first gal, themselves.

            You could say that Bill Shoemaker should be able to win the Derby on a donkey, but that ain’t how the universe works.

          • Anonymous says:

            So much for omnibenevolent.

          • Nornagest says:

            Did someone link us to /r/atheism or something?

          • Mary says:

            Not to mention that the Spanish Inquisition was also the reason there were so few witch hunts in Spain during the craze. The Inquisitors would start questioning and ask such awkward questions, as “how do you know that your sickness came from witchcraft? Don’t you know that people get sick?” or observe that if one person said she had seen another at the sabbat when the other claimed to have been asleep — well, it was clear that one was an illusion, but not which one it was, so it was not evidence against her.

            Didn’t prevent lynching, alas. And during the Basque Witch Hunt, some friars went along with the mobs; they were punished afterward, but they did manage to preside over a standard witch craze.

          • Mary says:

            “So much for omnibenevolent.”

            Does true omnibenevolence preclude freedom? The problem with Big Brother was not his tyranny but that he could not actually control thoughts?

          • Anonymous says:

            Combined with omnipotence it sure does. But that must be one of those mysteries like the trinity that make perfect sense once you wave your hands in Greek.

            Also, am I the only one that finds it funny that Ryan wasn’t trying to defend the Spanish Inquisition, but Mary has no such qualms?

          • Mary says:

            So — you’re saying that no one should say anything pleasant about the Spanish Inquisition even if it’s 100% true? Why not?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Ah yes, dodging the question. Lets watch as rather than answering the awkward question we focus on outrage posturing.

            Ever going to explain how this is Big Brother and more importantly bad? Because your argument appears to be the more likely a legal system is to punish guilty people and the less likely innocent people, the more evil it is which is rather… unusual.

          • anon says:

            Here’s probably the best way of looking at it: if God existed and worked through the catholic church, how many blasphemers and heretics would it have burned at the stake?

            Here’s what this atheist thinks is the best way of looking at it: if the Church had not existed, how many more people would have been punished, perhaps without being guilty, for the kind of crimes covered by the inquisition, which included not only thoughtcrime, which has always been punished with or without christianity, but also witchcraft, which has always been punished with or without christianity, as well as sexual misconduct such as bigamy, which has always been punished with or without christianity.

            If you don’t believe in God, and I don’t either, then it makes absolutely no sense to speculate about what God would have done. To accuse Christians of being… not real Christians. I find that ridiculous. Imagine if a libertarian accused a communist of not being a real Marxist. What’s the point of that? Let religious people decide by themselves what their religion entails, and when you attack them use your True Objection – that there is no God.

            And it makes no sense to single out the Church for doing things that strike us today as bad but were normal throughout history, with or without a bishop on the throne.
            I’ve always found it absurd for example that people today criticize the church for waging crusades, yet nobody castigates the still extant kingdom of England for the hundred years war.

          • Jiro says:

            I’ve always found it absurd for example that people today criticize the church for waging crusades, yet nobody castigates the still extant kingdom of England for the hundred years war.

            The church claims knowledge of absolute good and evil that doesn’t change with time and was told to it by an omniscient being.

            England doesn’t.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Imagine if a libertarian accused a communist of not being a real Marxist. How does that make sense? Let religious people decide by themselves what their religion entails.

            It makes perfect sense and happens all the time. I’m not sure why pointing out that certain conclusions do not follow from your premises is conceded odd.

          • Anonymous says:

            nobody castigates the still extant kingdom of England for the hundred years war.

            Because to the extent it can be established, justice was on their side.

            Now, if you want to argue the French should be castigated for it, I’m with you; but the French get away with everything like that too easily.

          • anon says:

            The church claims knowledge of absolute good and evil that doesn’t change with time and was told to it by an omniscient being.

            But you and and I Earthly Knight *don’t* believe that the church possesses such knowledge, right? We already know that it doesn’t.
            When you say that, what are you trying to demonstrate, that the Church is not in fact divinely inspired? Well, thank you, I already knew that – but I don’t think that was the *purpose* of Earthly Knight when he wrote those lines about what would God have done. It would make no sense, since almost everyone at SSC already agrees with that.
            No – remember that he wrote in support of this:

            When you find yourself writing an apologia for the Spanish Inquisition it’s time to reevaluate your life choices.

            Therefore, his point is to cast the church as a moral villain. And that makes no sense.

            This is about moral villainy. When I compare the Church to for example England, I mean how the morality of the Church compares to the morality of England. The morality, not the philosophical consistency.

            It makes perfect sense and happens all the time. I’m not sure why pointing out that certain conclusions do not follow from your premises is conceded odd.

            It depends on what the context is. It makes no sense to say *among libertarians* that a Marxist is especially *reprehensible* because he isn’t a “real marxist”.

            Because to the extent it can be established, justice was on their side.

            It isn’t completely clear that the Crusades were wrong either.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Therefore, his point is to cast the church as a moral villain. And that makes no sense.

            The medieval church was immensely villainous– it tortured and murdered dissenters and participated in genocides. Ryan and others claimed that the church’s blameworthiness is in some way mitigated by the fact that its actions were positively humane compared to the actions of its contemporaries. But, as should be obvious, “other people were even worse!” is a feeble excuse. Doubly so, given that the church portrays itself as upholding the highest moral standards.

          • Mary says:

            “Ever going to explain how this is Big Brother and more importantly bad? Because your argument appears to be the more likely a legal system is to punish guilty people and the less likely innocent people, the more evil it is which is rather… unusual.”

            Is this supposed to mean something? Your second sentence has no coherent relationship with either your first or anything I posted

          • anon says:

            Earthly knight, would you judge a slaveowner in 18th century America the same way that you would judge someone who advocated slavery today?

            In our culture we have absurdly negative knee-jerk mental associations to the medieval Church, which I think are undeserved, first because the medieval church had many virtues which other historical institutions didn’t have, and second because we don’t have similar negative mental associations regarding other historical institutions.
            It isn’t even possible to say something positive about the medieval inquisition without people having to remind us that the church was terrible terrible terrible.
            The roman Empire was terribly villanous, waaay more villainous than the Church, it murdered and tortured and crucified and enslaved and made captives play cruel murderous games and it was all about conquest and subjugation. Nonetheless the mental associations we give to the Romans are absurdly positive. Why is that? If someone said something good about any aspect of ancient Rome there wouldn’t be other commenters hurrying to say that the Romans were terrible terrible terrible.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            @Mary
            I complain you were ignoring anonymous and posturing… and you ignore the problem and posture.

            anon
            “Why is that? If someone said something good about any aspect of ancient Rome there wouldn’t be other commenters hurrying to say that the Romans were terrible terrible terrible.”

            It depends. I’m pretty sure people would reproach “if not for the dark ages, then space ships to Alpha Centauri” by pointing out how horrible the Romans were. Claims of superiority are meet by pointing out horrible flaws.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Have you ever met an apologist for the Roman empire? Someone who says things like, “Sure, the Romans crucified a few people, but did you think about how many people would have been hacked to pieces by barbarians if not for the watchful gaze of the Roman legions? And man, if you want to see brutal, take a gander at what the Persians did to their enemies! Really, when you think about it, crucifixion is no worse than McCarthyism.” I doubt it, both because no one has anything invested in whitewashing the crimes of an ancient empire, and because the line of reasoning is downright farcical. I have encountered apologists for the confederacy before, though, and I can assure you they sometimes need reminding that owning slaves was reprehensible and blameworthy in 1860, just as it is today.

          • hlynkacg says:

            owning slaves was reprehensible and blameworthy in 1860, just as it is today.

            That’s debateable, which I think was anon’s point.

          • @Earthly Knight:

            Lots of people argue that the Roman Empire was on the whole a good thing and its fall a disaster. And I’ve seen serious argument that Genghis Khan was, on net, a good thing–created an empire that linked large parts of Asia, with desirable consequences.

          • Deiseach says:

            if God existed and worked through the catholic church, how many blasphemers and heretics would it have burned at the stake? Intuitively, the answer should be zero.

            By the same token, God should not punish sin. Am I to take it you are an annihilationist, Earthly Knight? The Church is made up of humans and we mess up. Local conditions applied which meant that the principle of judicial punishment was misused. This does not mean, however, that there is no right to rebuke false teaching or declare some beliefs not to be orthodox. That argument only works if the underlying assumption is that religion is a purely human construct, therefore all doctrines are the same weight (being equally mistaken statements about the non-existent), thus the only binding elements should be social cohesion and a measure of charitable activities. Alice can believe God is a four-headed dragon, Bob can believe God is a human man who attained mystic powers, Carol can believe God is the name we give the interior yearning impulse towards transcendence and Derek can believe God is a useful label but nothing more, and the Pope/Grand High Mufti/Moderator of the Board of Elders of the church has no more right to say Alice is right and Derek is wrong, since all the beliefs are equally nonsensical being about a non-existent entity and thus equally correct (though Derek is probably the most correct being the most secular) and has no right to say Alice is indeed a Reformed Orange Catholic and Derek is not.

            On the other hand, if Alice is a member of the local Botany Club and denies Darwin, the Secretary of the club is perfectly entitled to toss her out on her ear. Because that’s science and science is real and you have to have the correct understanding, you can’t just say “we all like going on field trips to do ecological field work about the distribution of species in a local area, does it really matter if we all accept Linnaean classifications and Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution or not?”

            Steelmanning your argument, it is “let the wheat and the tares grow up together” 🙂 But even there, eventually the tares get separated out.

            24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

          • Anonymous says:

            Are you really defending burning people alive because they have (slightly!) incorrect views about your imaginary friend?

          • John Schilling says:

            Have you ever met an apologist for the Roman empire? Someone who says things like, “Sure, the Romans crucified a few people, but did you think about how many people would have been hacked to pieces by barbarians if not for the watchful gaze of the Roman legions?

            “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

            Pretty sure Monty Python was being ha-ha-only-serious there.

          • Nita says:

            Purple anon, Christians don’t really see killing the way you or I do. They believe that everyone is essentially immortal, and the entire time we call someone’s ‘life’ is a mere moment compared to the infinite afterlife.

            So, capital punishment is like fast-forwarding someone to a GAME OVER screen, or kicking them out of a chatroom — and if you let the sinner confess and receive absolution beforehand, you’re actually doing them a favor (making their afterlife infinitely better).

            Taking that into account, it’s hard to get really outraged at them. But it is pretty unsettling to contemplate when many people around you have beliefs of that sort.

          • Mary says:

            I complain you were ignoring anonymous and posturing… and you ignore the problem and posture.

            I know this isn’t meant to mean something.

            What on earth are you whining about? I ask you what on earth you mean, and you resort to insults and don’t even try to clarify. What on earth is the purpose of all this posturing and pose on your part?

          • Mary says:

            “Are you really defending burning people alive because they have (slightly!) incorrect views about your imaginary friend?”

            No one is, and you are indulging in base slander by insinuating so.

            Especially since you seem to be insinuating that literally anything at all would be acceptable to stop it. Would you stop it at the price of having the entire human race having our minds taken over by aliens that would control our every action, thought and emotion?

            For, after all, if God would have to stop the Spanish Inquisition from the burning, He would also have to stop people from posting lying comments. The difference between them do not extend to principle; if God must stop evil, He must stop every instance of it.

            For all practical purposes. you are saying that God could not be good and powerful and let the human race exist.

            Assuming, of course, by the Principle of Charity, that you are not saying that for some reason, God can allow every other evil to occur but not the Spanish Inquisition. There is no principled argument for that.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ David Friedman

            Lots of people argue that the Roman Empire was on the whole a good thing and its fall a disaster. And I’ve seen serious argument that Genghis Khan was, on net, a good thing–created an empire that linked large parts of Asia, with desirable consequences.

            It is important to keep straight, in contexts like these, the various dimensions of moral appraisal. Apologia often proceeds by sliding illicitly between them. We have:

            1. States of affairs– When evaluating historical institutions, it is natural to hold fixed human choices and compare the state of affairs where the institution existed to the state of affairs where it does not. So we might say that the Roman empire or the medieval church was better than the alternative. But this judgment depends on a long and unwieldy counterfactual, and so should be treated with skepticism.

            2. Actions– Here the contrast class is always the other actions available to the agent at the time. And there is no question that the medieval church acted wrongly by torturing and murdering people, as they always had available to them the option of not torturing anyone.

            3. Characters– The goodness of an agent or institution’s character depends on whether they act rightly and whether they are disposed to act rightly. This means that the medieval church were not “good guys”, as you elsewhere claim. They were repressive butchers.

            4. Moral responsibility– You might be inclined to think that the moral responsibility of the medieval church is diminished because, living in barbarous and ignorant times, they could not have known better. But, frankly, they could have known better– torture is decidedly unchristlike. So the church bears full blameworthiness for the atrocities it committed.

            @ Mary

            For, after all, if God would have to stop the Spanish Inquisition from the burning, He would also have to stop people from posting lying comments.

            Or, you know, he could have included a postscript in the Bible to the effect of “By the way, it is never acceptable for any cleric in my church to torture anyone for any reason! I’m talking to you, followers of Saint Dominic!” Why not put that divine foreknowledge to good use, in between the rambles about the whore of Babylon?

          • “This means that the medieval church were not “good guys”, as you elsewhere claim. ”

            Where did I claim that?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This means that the medieval church were not “good guys”, as you elsewhere claim. They were repressive butchers.

            Citation needed, please. Let’s see some hard facts about the actual proportion of suspects the Inquisition tortured, and what tortures were used.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ David Friedman

            “On the witchcraft hysteria, they were the good guys–serious standards of proof and mostly mild punishments.”

            (this was, I suppose, with respect to the Spanish Inquisition rather than the church)

            @ the original Mr. X

            Let’s see some hard facts about the actual proportion of suspects the Inquisition tortured, and what tortures were used.

            That the church practiced torture is well-attested. You’ll have to look up the details for yourself.

            http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/history/status-inquisition-in-the-catholic-church.html

            “It is also true, sadly enough, that the Church, following the judicial customs of the day, allowed for torture as a part of the judicial procedure. The approval of torture went all the way to the top, as Pope Innocent IVs bull Ad exstirpanda (1252) attests.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That the church practiced torture is well-attested.

            Saying that the medieval Church was made up of “repressive butchers” implies something stronger than simply “Churchmen sometimes used torture”. I mean, the US sometimes uses torture, but it would be inaccurate and hyperbolic to say “Americans aren’t the good guys. They’re repressive butchers.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I have no trouble affirming that Rice, Cheney, Yoo and company are butchers. Although their victims were presumed terrorists, not heretics and blasphemers, which makes for a bit of a difference.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I have no trouble affirming that Rice, Cheney, Yoo and company are butchers.

            The correct parallel of “The Church were repressive butchers” is not “Rice et al. are butchers”, it’s “Americans are repressive butchers”. Are you willing to affirm that statement?

            Although their victims were presumed terrorists, not heretics and blasphemers, which makes for a bit of a difference.

            And on what grounds do you say that?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I called the medieval church “repressive” because they severely restricted free expression, “butchers” because they tortured people. The Bush administration mostly upheld the first amendment– at least, once the courts forced them to– so they are butchers, but not repressors. Torturing heretics and blasphemers is a far greater crime than torturing presumed terrorists, because the former are being punished for their speech. I do not see how this is unclear?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So if we accept for the sake of argument the medieval belief that spreading heresy literally meant sending people to Hell, would that make it OK to treat them like terrorists or murderers? Why/why not?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Of course not. Speech can’t be restricted because the authorities view it as potentially hazardous to men’s souls. The standard set in Brandenburg is that inflammatory speech is protected unless it incites imminent lawless action.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The standard set in Brandenburg is that inflammatory speech is protected unless it incites imminent lawless action.

            I doubt the judge in that case believed that spreading heresy can send people to Hell. If that was a widespread societal belief, there would be a much bigger push for anti-heresy laws.

          • Samuel Skinner says:


            Does true omnibenevolence preclude freedom? The problem with Big Brother was not his tyranny but that he could not actually control thoughts?

            Combined with omnipotence it sure does. But that must be one of those mysteries like the trinity that make perfect sense once you wave your hands in Greek.

            Also, am I the only one that finds it funny that Ryan wasn’t trying to defend the Spanish Inquisition, but Mary has no such qualms?

            So — you’re saying that no one should say anything pleasant about the Spanish Inquisition even if it’s 100% true? Why not?

            Ah yes, dodging the question. Lets watch as rather than answering the awkward question we focus on outrage posturing.

            Ever going to explain how this is Big Brother and more importantly bad? Because your argument appears to be the more likely a legal system is to punish guilty people and the less likely innocent people, the more evil it is which is rather… unusual.

            I know this isn’t meant to mean something.

            What on earth are you whining about? I ask you what on earth you mean, and you resort to insults and don’t even try to clarify. What on earth is the purpose of all this posturing and pose on your part?

            I’m not going to put an insult here. I’m going to ask you to respond. If you fail to respond in an appropriate manner you get to go to the ignore list. Not insults, not passive aggressive bullshit, not pretending that what was written didn’t exist, not garbage, but an actual response.

            Of course I know you won’t, but this blog embraces charity and I have to make the offer.

            “The difference between them do not extend to principle; if God must stop evil, He must stop every instance of it.

            For all practical purposes. you are saying that God could not be good and powerful and let the human race exist.”

            And? You need to show the argument is wrong. If we use genetic engineering to make sure pedophiles are no longer born is that bad?

            “Assuming, of course, by the Principle of Charity, that you are not saying that for some reason, God can allow every other evil to occur but not the Spanish Inquisition. There is no principled argument for that.”

            Sure there is. As their liege God is responsible for the actions of his vassals and it is God’s duty to correct them and insure they follow divine will correctly. It is the D&D “the Gods only directly intervene with their dedicated followers” model.

          • Mary says:

            ” If you fail to respond in an appropriate manner you get to go to the ignore list”

            Is this a promise?

            Because your response hear may contain no insults, but it is clearly passive aggressive bullshit, pretending that what was written didn’t exist, and garbage. I draw particular attention to the way you insist that my response to part of a comment is somehow dodging the question.

            Especially since your reason for it was I didn’t “explain how this is Big Brother”. Why would I explain something that the person I was responding to clearly understood without explanation?

          • Mary says:

            “The difference between them do not extend to principle; if God must stop evil, He must stop every instance of it.

            For all practical purposes. you are saying that God could not be good and powerful and let the human race exist.”

            And? You need to show the argument is wrong.

            I was making a counter-argument that it was wrong. Complaints that I was not doing exactly what I was doing are wrong-headed.

            If we use genetic engineering to make sure pedophiles are no longer born is that bad?

            If we massacre everyone within a certain degree of blood relationship with a pedophile to make sure pedophiles are no longer born, is that bad?

            The exact question I was asking was whether there are limits to what you can do to stop evil actions. That question is clearly an attempt to pretend that the question is whether there is anything that can be done. It is, in fact, exactly what you accuse me of. It is also irrelevant to the point.

          • Mary says:

            “Assuming, of course, by the Principle of Charity, that you are not saying that for some reason, God can allow every other evil to occur but not the Spanish Inquisition. There is no principled argument for that.”

            Sure there is. As their liege God is responsible for the actions of his vassals and it is God’s duty to correct them and insure they follow divine will correctly. It is the D&D “the Gods only directly intervene with their dedicated followers” model.

            ROFLOL.

            D&D? You put forth the argument that a role-playing game written by a bunch of nerds actually dictates the rules by which you judge the universe?

            It’s also morally bankrupt. Because, after all, what you would be, by that argument, is a rebellious vassal, not a free agent. (Since this is not a D&D universe where there are gods you can pick and choose; having made you, He is responsible for you.) It would be His duty as much to stop your evil deeds, including your rebelliousness. After all, by your argument, by rebellion you have acquired the right to commit torture without being interfered with. Obviously you must be brought back into the fold before you actually do it.

          • Mary says:

            Or, you know, he could have included a postscript in the Bible to the effect of “By the way, it is never acceptable for any cleric in my church to torture anyone for any reason! I’m talking to you, followers of Saint Dominic!”

            And?

            Jews sacrificed babies to Moloch after a great many statements to explicitly ban it.

            The question is, What will you accept to stop it? And precise words never have.

          • Mary says:

            “Speech can’t be restricted because the authorities view it as potentially hazardous to men’s souls. The standard set in Brandenburg is that inflammatory speech is protected unless it incites imminent lawless action.”

            What makes Brandenburg sacred?

          • Anonymous says:

            No, you didn’t make any counteragument. You made no argument at all for how free will can be consistent with the existence of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent entity. You merely restated that that was the argument in need of a counteragument.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I don’t bluff.

            @ Anonymous
            I would recommend quoting Mary’s posts and asking for the relevant part that is a counter argument. Otherwise you will get the behavior you see here where Mary attacks the style of an argument rather than bothering with the substance.

            You could try “how would you recognize Munchausen syndrome by proxy if you were the victim” or “can you make all those definitions consistent with each other”; theodicy tends to end with the believers dropping the thread so expect that to happen.

          • Nicholas says:

            Several other times in European history, both earlier and later, the Church had the kind of secular authority to say “Witchcraft isn’t real, stop being stupid, go home.” And people actually listened to them and didn’t lynch anybody. Was the church unwilling to act during the Panics as it had in the 1200’s due to some shift in opinion, or was secular power so circumscribed in that era that they could not trust people to listen to them.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Was the church unwilling to act during the Panics as it had in the 1200’s due to some shift in opinion…?”

            You mean, a little thing like the Reformation?

            The Church, the singular capitalized one that existed in the 1200s, I believe did act during the various later witchcraft Panics. That’s what people are talking about. Several different churches, ones created in the 1500s and 1600s, did not.

          • A claim I remember reading at some point was that witchcraft trials tended to be in areas that were neither solidly Catholic nor solidly Protestant.

            So far as the church acting, as I earlier commented the Spanish inquisition acted by applying serious standards of proof to charges of witchcraft and generally acquitting those charged.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s a guy that looks like Gandalf in the sky

            Not in Christianity there isn’t.

            And Gandalf doesn’t work as a D&D character either. What, the second-most-powerful wizard in the land can’t cast “Feather Fall”?

          • LHN says:

            What, the second-most-powerful wizard in the land can’t cast “Feather Fall”?

            Unfortunately, he’d loaded up his 1st level slots on spells like Comprehend Languages, Detect Secret Doors, and Hold Portal.

          • Mary says:

            “You made no argument at all for how free will can be consistent with the existence of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent entity. ”

            Stunningly enough, that was because that was not the disputed point. The disputed point was whether God’s not stopping the Inquisition — by unspecified means — was proof that God could not be omnibenevolent. I therefore countered that the price of such stopping could be, by anyone’s judgement, higher than not stopping.

          • Mary says:

            “I don’t bluff. ”

            By the very act of posting, you reveal that, yes, you do “bluff”. (So to speak. In ordinary English, you bluff when threatening, not when offering to do something nice to someone.) Ignore means ignore. I am disappointed that you have not carried out your promise.

            Feigning that you are not addressing me in the second part merely underscores that you know you are not doing what you said.

          • Mary says:

            “At least the LARP guys are self aware enough to know they are playing a game.”

            Demonstrating that you can call people names if you distort their beliefs enough is not the world’s best argument.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Unfortunately, he’d loaded up his 1st level slots on spells like Comprehend Languages, Detect Secret Doors, and Hold Portal.

            The level penalty from aasimar or dual classing? He takes a Balrog in melee.

          • Nicholas says:

            @John Schilling
            In the 1200’s, there weren’t trials at all. Instead of suggesting that witches might be real, and Judith here just happened to not be one, your local bishop would call you a moron and tell you to get off his yard, because it wasn’t possible to have a witch trial because it wasn’t possible to be a witch. But I will accept that the Reformation in some sense weakened or threatened Church power to the point that they felt they had to humor the idea, lest their demon-fearing congregants all convert to Lutheranism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Renaissance was into magic and mysticism in general, far more so than the Middle Ages were. In the Middle Ages, educated people tended to dismiss magic as an ignorant peasant superstition; in the Renaissance, even highly learned people dabbled in alchemy and astrology. Given all this, it’s not really surprising that accusations of witchcraft had an easier time being taken seriously in the sixteenth century than in the thirteenth.

        • Ryan says:

          I believe you’re confusing the Catholic and Spanish Inquisitions. The first was carried out by representatives of the Catholic church, the second by the secular government of Spain. This is what Pope Sixtus had to say about the latter in 1482:

          In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.

          In response to that letter King Ferdinand removed the last Catholic officials from the Inquisition process and brought it entirely under the control of the crown.

        • Deiseach says:

          There were also the Roman and Venetian Inquisitions. The Venetian was really nasty, mainly because it was so political; Venice may have called itself a Republic but it was very good at disappearing people with the wrong political views.

          Inquisitions were something like the House Un-American Activities Committee, so yes – not a good way of handling things, I agree.

        • “When you find yourself writing an apologia for the Spanish Inquisition”

          On the witchcraft hysteria, they were the good guys–serious standards of proof and mostly mild punishments. With real secret Jews and Muslims to worry about, they didn’t want to waste time on imaginary witches.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            I wish I could find a reference for one my favourite old statistics jokes. A member of the inquisition from around 1550-1600 remarking that because so many witches are found and burned in protestant countries, protestantism must cause witchcraft.

          • Frog Do says:

            @David Friedman
            Well, given that the Jews ran the books for Muslim slaving operations in Europe, you can see how “disrupting the finances of the international slave trade” might be an important concern. But I suppose it’s not quite so funny when you choose to phrase it like that, is it?

            @Eggoeggo
            That’s a joke?

          • Eggoeggo says:

            That’s a joke?

            That’s the funniest part! On a couple of levels.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Hitler believed Jews were responsible for communism and defined Jews as 1/4 ancestry. In 2011 it was revealed Lenin was 1/4 Jewish. A Bayesian win for Adolf.

            http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2077413,00.html

            Oddly enough people’s reaction was not “oh, the Holocaust was okay”. Apparently “The Jews” are not a hive mind.

            I wish I could find a reference for one my favourite old statistics jokes. A member of the inquisition from around 1550-1600 remarking that because so many witches are found and burned in protestant countries, protestantism must cause witchcraft.

            Given the locations of paganism in the developed world, that is probably true.

          • Frog Do says:

            @Samuel Skinner
            I’ll slow this down for you, hopefully you can understand me this time: there are broadly two ways you can go about trying to understand people. One way is that they are Pure Evil and must be destroyed. The other way is to try and understand where they are coming from and convincing them they are still wrong.

            Chaotic Evil Orcs, for example: “With real secret Jews and Muslims to worry about, they didn’t want to waste time on imaginary witches”. Hahaha, get it? Spanish Christians are totally stupid! They believed idiotic things without any correspondence to reality, man, isn’t it weird that they weren’t completely evil? Look at us, being all ingroupy and burning the outgroup in effigy!

            Try and understand where they are coming from, for example: “hey, maybe people are very concerned about the rise of the Ottoman Empire and the frequent raiding of Christian nations for their slave armies; and hey, isn’t it weird that Jews more or less run the financial system of the Caliphate(s)”. This (and I understand you have a really, really hard time with this) does not mean agreeing with their views. But you have to understand them to try and communicate with them. But it’s much harder to extend that handshake and try and convince people on their own terms if you don’t even think they are really human.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I’ll slow this down for you,

            Reported. Next time provide something that is not entirely composed of insults.

            Chaotic Evil Orcs, for example:

            You are using my charitability to Adolf Hitler as evidence that I am not charitable.

            and hey, isn’t it weird that Jews more or less run the financial system of the Caliphate(s)”.

            Racial anti-Semitism dates to the 19th century.

          • “Chaotic Evil Orcs, for example: “With real secret Jews and Muslims to worry about, they didn’t want to waste time on imaginary witches”. Hahaha, get it? Spanish Christians are totally stupid! They believed idiotic things without any correspondence to reality, man, isn’t it weird that they weren’t completely evil? Look at us, being all ingroupy and burning the outgroup in effigy!”

            If I correctly understand this, you misunderstood my point.

            There really were secret Jews and Muslims in Spain after 1492. The Spanish authorities had, from their point of view, legitimate reasons to be concerned about them, if only the desire to save their souls–perhaps also the concern that if the Muslims got their act back together, as they had at least twice before (Almoravides and Almohads), secret Jews and Muslims might be a threat.

            There were not, so far as we know, actual witches.

            “and the frequent raiding of Christian nations for their slave armies”

            The janissaries were recruited from non-Muslim populations under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans did engage in slave raiding, but not, so far as I know, for soldiers.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Recruited”. I guess maybe you’re trying to say that enslaving people you already rule is more ethically defensible than raiding into others’ territory for slaves?

          • Frog Do says:

            @Samuel Skinner
            My post is not comprised of entirely insults. Your continued motivated incomprehension is still very tiresome. I didn’t bring up racial anti-Semitism, you did. When you brought up Hitler in a discussion of medieval Europe. Which I didn’t see as worthy of engaging with, so I didn’t. As far as announcing reports: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/02/be-nice-at-least-until-you-can-coordinate-meanness/

            @David Friedman
            I was assuming you were being sarcastic, given your view that Islam is more moral than Christianity because this one time in Spain they were, so let’s blow that up into a Platonic statement. I don’t disagree with you on the facts, I disagree with (my assumption about) your framing them into a narrative, given your past statements about who you root for in holy wars.

            @suntzuanime
            You’re an excellent shitposter I really respect, but let’s not shift those goalposts, we’re talking about Spain.

            Edit:
            @all
            Actually, let’s not talk about Spain, it’s distracting from my point. Let’s talk about the difference between facts and the presentation of facts to imply a narrative, especially when it’s used to cheer on one side as objectively morally superior to another by people who pretend to be academically disinterested.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Sorry, Ottoman Empire apologism is a bit of a sore spot for me, particularly people minimizing the awfulness of the devshirme system.

          • “I guess maybe you’re trying to say that enslaving people you already rule is more ethically defensible than raiding into others’ territory for slaves?”

            No. I’m saying that the comment I responded to had its facts wrong. There may have been reasons for the Spanish to worry about the Ottomans, but slave raids to get soldiers were not, so far as I can tell, one of them.

          • Frog Do says:

            @David Friedman
            I had a hard time finding what you were referencing. Are you referring to my comment directed at Samuel Skinner? My point in that comment was, from a Spanish perspective, Ottoman slave raids on Christian nations would be considered possibly true. Which is why I immediately followed it with a statement about how you don’t have to accept other people’s narratives as true to make an attempt to understand them, again, with the obvious implication that I don’t. I agree with you! The Spanish had their facts wrong, and I am not claiming otherwise. I misunderstood the your comment as a far more sarcastic than it was meant to be which drastically changed the meaning.

            Sometimes feel like I should just adopt a script format in my comments? Something like this:
            Frog Do says:
            Frog Do wearing the viewpoint a Spanish noble in the late 1400s:
            Frog Do making a broader meta-point about human understanding:

            But I have a feeling it wouldn’t matter anyway.

          • Deiseach says:

            Frog Do, the joke is that Catholicism mainly didn’t believe in witchcraft because it did not accept the Devil has equal power to God, so there was a current of (at least at the official level) thinking that people who claimed to be witches or believed in witches were deluded, hoaxing, or hysterical. Folk beliefs tended to be more superstitious and convinced of the reality of witches. Though we only had one famous case in Ireland of a witch-burning and a lot of that was entangled with local politics and the Normans/Anglo-Normans/Norman-Irish (name ’em how you will) imposing their structures on the native society.

            It was only when the Reformation swung into full gear (and let’s blame the Germans on this one – the infamous Malleus Maleficarum were a pair of German Dominicans, the Germans appear to be the ones really pushing the witchcraft angle) that witches and demonology got taken seriously.

            The joke about “Protestantism causes witches” reflects that: more witches were being burned/hanged in Protestant countries, and since Protestantism had swept away the traditional folk-religion remedies against witchcraft, had encouraged a lively belief in the power of the Devil (the constant worry about “are you saved? truly saved?”) and saw a rise in a lot of lay self-appointed ministers, witch-hunters* and the like, so think of the Salem Witch Trials as your model here: local communities using the courts to enforce conformity and put down perceived threats under disturbed psychological conditions of existential dread and fear.

            Also the joke is Catholics poking fun at Protestants 🙂

            *Hammer Studios made a film about Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General – he was active during the English Civil War of 1642-1651 and took advantage of the turmoil and upheaval of the time to profit by it.

          • “I was assuming you were being sarcastic, given your view that Islam is more moral than Christianity ”

            When did I say that?

            “I don’t disagree with you on the facts”

            You implied that slave raids by the Ottomans were to get slave soldiers, which I assumed meant Janissaries. I believe that is not true. Hence we disagree on the facts.

            Your post seems to be based on a wholly imaginary picture of my position. It might help, when you claim I believe something, if you would cite me saying it.

            “My point in that comment was, from a Spanish perspective, Ottoman slave raids on Christian nations would be considered possibly true.”

            They were true. Once you get late enough so the Barbary ports are at least nominally Ottoman, there are Ottoman slave raids on Spain. I doubt that secret Muslims and Christians had much to do with them, however, and I don’t think I’ve seen any references to claims at the time that they did.

          • Frog Do says:

            @David Friedman
            You said it in other dust up we had about the morality of Islam and Christianity, it was cause by you saying exactly “Islam is more moral than Christianity”. It’s in one of the Open Threads or links threads a couple months back.

            I’ve already said twice that I misunderstood your position in the original comment. Here’s me saying it a third time, in bold. I do not think this was unreasonable assumption, given that you think Islam is more moral than Christianity, but I was still wrong.

            I implied “slave raids to get Ottoman soldiers” was a rational thing to believe at the time, and that I disagreed with it as a factual statement. I put it in quotations to make this obvious, and immediately after implied I disagreed with it. I then explicitly stated this a second time. Are you reading my comments?

          • Frog Do says:

            @Deiseach
            Sorry, I should have indicated it was a rhetorical question. I do get the joke.

          • @Frog Do:

            I do not recall ever making any blanket statement about the relative morality of Islam and Christianity, both of which existed in a wide variety of forms. My guess is that you either are misremembering or misread something, but unless you actually point me at the quote I have no way of telling.

            I don’t think it was reasonable for the Spanish to believe the Ottomans were raiding them for soldiers since, so far as I know, they weren’t. It was rational, at least after the mid-16th century, to believe the Corsairs, who were under the Ottomans, were raiding them for slaves, because they were.

            And I don’t see what the question has to do with the attempt by the inquisition to identify secret Jews and Muslims.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “My post is not comprised of entirely insults. Your continued motivated incomprehension is still very tiresome.”

            Attack the argument, not the man.

            “I didn’t bring up racial anti-Semitism, you did. When you brought up Hitler in a discussion of medieval Europe.”

            =points to quote=. Judging people who converted from Judaism due to the actions of people who are Jews in an entirely different country is racial antisemtism.

            Hitler was brought to show providing pieces of evidence racial anti-Semites use does not get people any closer to not despising them. If you are complaining people are unfairly despising a group, you actually have to provide evidence to support the latter part (group guilt) of the argument.

            @ DF
            “And I don’t see what the question has to do with the attempt by the inquisition to identify secret Jews and Muslims.”

            It doesn’t. Frog Do is projecting modern antisemtism into the past.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I am not sure the church continues to live up to its high historical standards of due process. After all, catholic organizations today routinely fire employees for the awful sin of being gay without even giving them the benefit of an inquisition.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, imagine firing someone for violating the tenets of the organisation. Where will it all end – with posts about how people shouldn’t write books about their beliefs?

          Okay, let’s look at the cases you quote: given that I’m assuming the 7-11 guy was not an employee of a Catholic organisation, I think you must mean the gym teacher.

          Being sexually active outside of marriage is considered a sin. Since the lady had a female partner, they were not married and as you note, they were both lesbians. Being gay is not sinful. Having sex the wrong way is sinful. Since employees of Catholic schools are supposed to be upholding the values of the school which are the values of the faith, you can get fired for public scandal – and parents writing letters saying a teacher is giving scandal counts.

          Now, you probably can argue “But I had no idea being in an active sexual relationship was going to be a problem” but, eh, since there is plenty of publicity about the repressive and backwards not to say homophobic views of the Catholic Church, you probably won’t have much luck persuading anyone “I had no idea they thought gay sex was sinful and when I signed my teaching contract saying I would not contradict Catholic values I didn’t realise they meant that”.

          The idea is giving example to the pupils. If a teacher is supposed to be teaching the kids to believe the doctrines but acts in a way that the kids can see contradicts what they say with what they do, then they’re not doing their job. As if you hired a diversity officer on a college campus, then found out they were a member of a white supremacist group. How long would they be allowed to remain in their job there?

          You can certainly argue those are regressive values and false and should be outlawed and made illegal. But then you don’t go to work in that place. If the teacher says “This was the only job I could get so I lied about agreeing with church teachings”, that’s one thing. I don’t know if that’s what happened there. But if you’re crossing your fingers and pretending to agree with the values of Institution X while you don’t agree with them or live by them, then that’s your problem, too.

          • James Picone says:

            So I take it you’re okay with Brendan Eich being fired then?

          • Eggoeggo says:

            Are you willing to accept San-fran tech companies as the Church of Leftism?
            Because I thought you were denying that…

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The point is to separate out the people who actually care about individual liberties from the people who are angry that they are no longer able to victimize gays with impunity. If you find yourself caring more about Eich getting fired than the non-gazillionaires in the Advocate article, it’s a good bet you fall in the latter camp.

          • BBA says:

            Mozilla is a charitable organization under IRC section 501(c)(3), the same tax classification as churches. (Well, not quite, churches are exempt from even filing the paperwork, but close enough for our purposes.)

          • James Picone says:

            @Eggoeggo:
            I don’t really see why it matters whether or not there’s a creed that the company supposedly follows; I don’t see much difference between a company having an explicit value X because it’s religious and a company having an implicit value Y because most of the people in it are of that opinion and most of their customers are as well. Certainly if you have to sign a contract saying you’ll follow Catholic values there’s an expectation, and that isn’t there for Mozilla, but I don’t see that significantly altering the moral calculus.

            Frankly I think Eich should have been fired because he created Javascript, without any reference to his opinion on homosexuality at all. 😛

          • Theo Jones says:

            The teacher wasn’t really doing a job that was inherently ideological. So, the diversity officer example doesn’t really apply there. At the very least imposing that type of rule on the personal life of the employees reflects very poorly on the school and its administration.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Knight
            I agree with the core of your post, but Eich wasn’t that well paid. Mid-tier non-profit. Better off than the people in that article, but still in the range of what you could call upper-middle class.

          • Deiseach says:

            James Picone, if Mozilla had required Brendan Eich to sign a contract of employment stating “As part of the conditions of working here, you are required to support the marriage-equality campaign, so you must Vote No On Prop 8” and he had said “Sure, no problem!”, signed it, and then went off and contributed to the “Yes for 8” campaign, I think Mozilla would have been justified.

            You can certainly say “The attitude towards sex and homosexuality shown there by that school is outdated, mistaken and wrong”. But if the gym teacher had been working in a public school, had taught biology classes as well (so did my gym teacher when I was in secondary school) and had, let us say, put up pictures on Facebook of her wearing T-shirts saying “Evolution is the Devil’s Doctrine”, or had used class time to invite pupils to prayer meetings, I think some organisations might object to that? Might ask the school to fire her? Might say “Her opinions are her own business but she has a duty to the students and can’t contradict the code of the school”?

            Now, while the universities may be positioning themselves as “within the Catholic tradition” but otherwise are busy making themselves secular and jettisoning any particular denominational and doctrinal distinctives, the point is (the trouble is) Catholic schools operate on a whole-school ethos, which means that religion is not just confined to “the forty-five minutes of Christian Doctrine class”, it is supposed to pervade all areas of the school and how the teachers and students interact and behave.

            I don’t know if that teacher was herself a Catholic. If so, the idea is that you don’t act in a way that contradicts the teaching of the Church, or if you do, then you don’t go to work in a church-run organisation that requires you to model adherence to the teaching. Would a vegan restaurant fire an employee who brought ham sandwiches to eat at lunch as contravening their ethos? You tell me.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I think Mozilla would have been justified.

            Really? You have no objection to Silicon Valley contracts standardly including clauses which prohibit participation in any political groups which might be perceived as bigoted? I doubt many of the other Eich-lamenters would agree with you on that. I certainly do not.

            But if the gym teacher had been working in a public school, had taught biology classes as well (so did my gym teacher when I was in secondary school) and had, let us say, put up pictures on Facebook of her wearing T-shirts saying “Evolution is the Devil’s Doctrine”, or had used class time to invite pupils to prayer meetings, I think some organisations might object to that? Might ask the school to fire her? Might say “Her opinions are her own business but she has a duty to the students and can’t contradict the code of the school”?

            Uh, Deiseach, in the first example you give, of the public schoolteacher wearing anti-evolution t-shirts on facebook, her doing so would be straightforwardly protected by the first amendment. The second case would be grounds for censure, because proselytizing public school students during class hours is forbidden by the first amendment. Neither strikes me as being at all similar to the Eich case, not least because you ignore the distinction between government-run schools and private firms.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Earthly Knight

            “If you don’t prioritize my examples above yours, you must not care about the issue and just want to bash gays” is just a way of calling your political opponents evil mutants.

            If you want to show that people just want to bash gays, you have to show that, not just object to them finding a distinction that you fail to.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Tell me, what is the distinction I am overlooking between Eich and all of the individuals who have been fired by religious organization over the years for being gay or supporting gay causes? Does believing in skymen give you some special license to purge your ranks of unorthodoxy?

            Anyone who believes in individual liberty for his ideological allies but not for his ideological opponents does not, in fact, believe in individual liberty. They are hypocrites exploiting the language of liberty as a weapon in the culture wars.

          • Matt M says:

            Earthly Knight,

            The difference is probably of how the firing came to be, which may or may not be relevant (as the end result is, as you say, the same).

            I suspect that in most cases, an unnamed person “fired for being gay” was presumably fired because their boss found out they were gay, didn’t like gays, and fired them. As a society we are somewhat (though less and less every day it seems) comfortable with the notion of “your boss is your boss and he can fire you for whatever reason he wants.”

            In the case of Eich, it seems to be that his direct bosses either knew, or didn’t really care, about his political positions and/or donations – but outsiders rounded up a mob to demand he be fired – and he was fired because of mob outrage. That strikes (most of us) differently, because we feel the boss would have liked to keep him around, but acquiesced due to mob demands.

            Perhaps those scenarios are morally equivalent in your mind, but they are not quite functionally equivalent – which may matter to people more than we might suspect it should.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I am sure it will be no trouble to find cases where the principal of a religious school intended to keep a gay teacher on until confronted by a mob of outraged parents. This would have been routine a decade or two ago.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Tell me, what is the distinction I am overlooking between Eich and all of the individuals who have been fired by religious organization over the years for being gay or supporting gay causes?

            The one is a case of somebody breaking the terms of their contract (specifically, that they would uphold Catholic teaching), the other is a case of somebody not breaking their contract but getting fired due to mob pressure.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            First, I suggest you read the Advocate article more carefully. It is not clear in all cases that the employee’s contract expressly forbade same-sex relationships or advocacy of gay rights– some may have been fired merely at their employer’s discretion– and several are pursuing legal action.

            But it doesn’t really matter, because working discrimination into the terms of a contract is not, it turns out, any less odious than just firing employees who espouse the wrong political views. I pose to you the same question as to Deiseach: do you really have no objection to Silicon Valley contracts standardly including clauses which prohibit participation in any political groups which might be perceived as bigoted?

          • suntzuanime says:

            We also tend to give especially hands-off treatment to religion that we don’t give to other ideologies, because of how traumatic the Thirty Years’ War was.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not deiseach, but I for one, would certainly prefer those clauses to be included in the contract, rather than the current situation where such limits AREN’T explicitly spelled out, but you will be fired for violating them anyway…

          • Deiseach says:

            Earthly Knight, the case of teacher alleging he was fired for teaching creationism; there seems to be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over it and there were allegations of him being physically abusive to students as well.

            Your argument boils down to “I don’t want people teaching things in school or acting in ways I don’t approve of but I do want people to be able to behave in school once it’s something I do approve of”.

            Which is not different from what you are saying I and the Catholic school did in that instance. You don’t like people parading their religiosity in schools, but it’s okay to be gay and sexually active. The Catholic school swaps that around. Your case is based on “My view is right”. Their case is based on “Our view is right”.

            We’re not going to get any further forward on this. You want the Catholics to accept gay people in sexual relationships and say it’s fine and that sex outside of marriage is not a sin. That’s not really going to happen soon as a matter of changing doctrine. Failing that, you want Catholics to say “It’s okay to behave in a manner contrary to the professed beliefs of this organisation”.

            I’m going to assume you think Brendan Eich’s dismissal was justified because he had demonstrated he was homophobic and that was contrary to the diversity policies of Mozilla. In that case, why object to the school dismissing the teacher on the same grounds – you are not compliant with our ethos?

            What you want is adherence to a new orthodoxy that is a secular religion. If anyone trespasses against gay rights, let them be anathema: so that Eich should be fired and the teacher should not be. You are trying to get me to admit “Okay, I have a double standard”. But I don’t think I do – Eich was not acting contrary to the terms of his employment. He was exercising his legal rights, and unless Mozilla had particular rules or policies on the matter, I don’t think it was contrary to their beliefs that you should not vote in referenda or give political donations. Indeed, if there were someone on staff who gave a large sum as a donation to the anti-Prop 8 side, I’m sure they would have been held up as an example of good citizenship.

            The gym teacher is different. It’s the same reason as the NAACP official who had to resign because she was not actually black. She may work for the organisation and believe in their goals, but she is not suitable to represent them because she is not what she represented herself as being. Are the Spokane NAACP racists for this? Should they be compelled by law to give her the job back because, prior to the revelation of her true identity, she was doing it to their satisfaction and they accepted her qualifications?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Matt M

            Well, if you ever find yourself about to kvetch about Eich’s firing, I hope you will endeavor to mention one of the gay teachers fired for her sexual orientation or political activities in the same breath. It shouldn’t be hard to find one whose contract was insufficiently precise, if that really makes a difference to you.

            @ Deiseach

            Earthly Knight, the case of teacher alleging he was fired for teaching creationism;

            Okay. This is a different case than the ones you mentioned earlier? Creationism is a religious doctrine, not a scientific one, so the first amendment forbids its teaching in science classes in public schools. It’s fine to teach it in a religion class alongside the creation myths of other faiths, though. It’s also fine for teachers to promote creationism in their private lives, or at voluntary after-school religious clubs or what have you. I know you are not American and so the details may seem strange to you, but this has been established by decades of court rulings here.

            You don’t like people parading their religiosity in schools,

            No, I don’t have any problem with people parading their religiosity in public schools, so long as they aren’t teachers proselytizing students, which, again, violates the free exercise clause of the first amendment. Private schools can, of course, indoctrinate their students however they see fit.

            You want the Catholics to accept gay people in sexual relationships and say it’s fine and that sex outside of marriage is not a sin.

            I don’t really have opinions on what the catholic church should do, other than close down forever. My quarrel is with the hypocrisy of those who lament Eich’s firing on grounds of individual liberty but are indifferent or oblivious to similar incidents perpetrated by their ideological fellow-travelers.

            so that Eich should be fired and the teacher should not be.

            I don’t believe that Eich should have been fired.

            But I don’t think I do – Eich was not acting contrary to the terms of his employment.

            As I noted earlier, it is not at all clear that all of the folk mentioned in the Advocate article were violating an explicit provision of their contracts. Do you agree that, if a catholic school makes a contract with a teacher which omits the usual bit about leading a church-approved lifestyle, it is impermissible for the school to fire that teacher for being gay?

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you can glean a fair amount of his thoughts on gay and lesbian people by his backing of a bigoted law that sought to deny them the same privileges that hetero people enjoy.

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, Earthly Knight, this is getting bad-tempered on my part, so I’m going to say one final thing and then shut up.

          I think a certain amount of what can be called “discrimination” is permissible and acceptable in order for certain things to function.

          If Mozilla had been a LGBT activist group, and Eich worked for them, then even though it was perfectly legal for him to donate to the Prop-8 campaign and he was exercising his rights, I would see the point in them asking him to resign or be fired as his views were contrary to what the aims and goals of the organisation were.

          I don’t expect the Student Atheist Alliance to elect a born-again Evangelical as president and I think they’d be within their rights to deny a candidate like that the chance to run for office, because it would be a dilution/contradiction of their values.

          The African-American Lawyers’ Society (I have no idea if there is such a thing), the Latina Women Engineers’ Group, the Third-Generation Asian Women Restaurateurs – I think they all have the right to set admission standards and require members to adhere to those. You’re not African-American, Latina or Asian? Sorry, can’t join our group even though yes, that is based on race and gender and yes, that’s discrimination under the law.

          Teacher in public school is gay and partnered? Can’t be fired for that. Teacher in Catholic school is gay but living by the rules of the Church? Can’t be fired for that. Teacher in Catholic school is gay, may or may not be partnered, is outed by fellow teachers who would prefer someone else got the job*? Shouldn’t be fired for that reason alone; if they’re not causing a public scandal and are living by the teachings, they should not be fired. Teacher in Catholic school is straight but cohabiting outside of marriage? Should be fired for that just as much as a gay teacher would be.

          *I’m using the Mozilla example where allegedly “Gary Kovacs, John Lilly and Ellen Siminoff resigned from the Mozilla board after the appointment, some expressing disagreements with Eich’s strategy and their desire for a CEO with experience in the mobile industry. Critics of Eich within Mozilla tweeted to gay activists that he had donated $1,000 to California Proposition 8, leading Eich to say on his blog that he was sorry for “causing pain” and pledged to promote equality at Mozilla”. The people who left did not do so because of his disgusting anti-gay prejudice but because they “sought a CEO from outside Mozilla with experience in the mobile industry who could help expand the organization’s Firefox OS mobile-operating system and balance the skills of co-founders Eich and Baker”. And those within Mozilla who agreed with that idea used the Prop-8 donation to get outsiders to run a pressure campaign to have him jump or be pushed.

    • lliamander says:

      “I suddenly remembered how Jim Edgerton had stood up at town meeting and said something that everybody else disagreed with. But they let him have his say. No one shouted him down. My gosh, I thought, that’s it. There it is. Freedom of speech.”
      – Norman Rockwell
      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/17/Save_Freedom_of_Speech.png

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    More interesting links recently that you may have seen already but whatever:

    Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor? — in the spirit of “Can a biologist fix a radio?”, applies standard neuroscience techniques to attempt to understand the MOS 6502 and doesn’t get very far. Indeed, it has a hard time distinguishing it from a brain, even though we know they work very differently.

    The GRIM test — a useful and very simple test when checking whether a paper may have faked its data, or had something else go wrong: Are the given means compatible with the given sample sizes and granularity of the data? E.g., if you sample 20 people’s age in years — where ages, as usual, are rounded down to a whole number of years — the average age in years had better be an integral multiple of 1/20 (or a roundeed version of such). This seems to catch a surprising amount of stuff (not all of it exactly errors, but things that were underexplained at least). Of course, if it becomes standard, fakers will account for it, but even so…

  6. Tom Hunt says:

    I feel like the Molyneux Problem result is kind of trivial, in that the reason that the formerly-blind person couldn’t distinguish a sphere from a cube is just that they can’t distinguish much of anything at all. It would seem more true to the spirit of the question to ask whether they could distinguish sphere from a cube after they’d adjusted enough to move around and manipulate objects via sight at all, but a big part of the process of doing that is probably touching things while watching yourself to get back-feedback, so it might contaminate the experiment.

    Still, interesting.

    • roystgnr says:

      I’m kind of annoyed that they only tested on abstract shape pairs. (and that their paper only seems to have a figure showing 1 out of the 20 pairs they tested?!) It would be very interesting to try with objects (human faces?) for which humans might more plausibly have innate image-recognition capabilities. Could they distinguish a long-haired vs. a short-haired person? I would say “of course they could!” but I’d probably have said that about a cube vs. a sphere too, and now I’m not nearly so confident.

  7. E. Harding says:

    The marathon article is from 2013. Why link to it so late?

    Also, Venezuela’s various disasters really only began with Maduro.

    The Salon article is interesting, but ad-supported sites are dying.

    “but did you know India’s GDP per capita has tripled in the past 25 years?”

    -I’m pretty sure everyone knew that. And tripling is unimpressive for a country so poor.

    “I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.”

    -Why should a Tibetan Buddhist be an advocate of mass Muslim migration?

    “Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately pretending various British elections,”

    -What about Cafe’s Carl Diggler?

    “This sort of makes sense.”

    -I ask again: is this just an artifact of the U.S. South being rainier?

    “are against smart people like Tyler Cowen”

    -How many times do I have to say this? “Well read” does not translate to “smart”. I’ve seen no evidence Cowen is extraordinarily intelligent, rather than simply extraordinarily diligent.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “Also, Venezuela’s various disasters really only began with Maduro.”

      Because the price of oil dropped and Chavez’s ‘lets spend the money that was supposed to be used on maintaining the wells’ decisions finely caught up with them.

      • E. Harding says:

        Nope; the problems began almost immediately after Maduro took office, well before the oil price collapse. Memories, people. This stuff wasn’t that long ago.

        • mdv59 says:

          So is it your belief that if Chavez had lived the Venezuelan economy would still be humming along in spite of oil dropping below $30 per barrel?

          It’s interesting that Venezuala’s Oil Production declined significantly while Chavez was president from 1999-2013, in spite of the fact world consumption was growing for much of that time. But I’m sure he would have turned it around once the oil glut hit.

          • Nicholas says:

            Based on the most readily available graphs, there’s a good possibly that Venezuela had exhausted their most productive oil reserves, and that everything that came after was financial chicanery to conceal this fact. If this were the case, Venezuelan production declines are both worse than reported, and also pretty much irreversible and unavoidable.

        • keranih says:

          This is actually not an uncommon pattern for discovering mismanagement and/or embezzlement – the business appears to be running just fine, until the long time office manager/CFO falls ill or takes an unexpected retirement, and when someone else takes over their duties, finds all the diversions, false invoices, and so forth.

          • Mary says:

            This is why many companies enforce vacation, and accountants look with gimlet gazes on those who never take it.

        • James James says:

          Venezuela has had shortages of food and toilet paper long before Chavez died. These things were easily predicted by anyone with knowledge of the Soviet Union.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Agreed,
            I’m constantly amazed at people who still think price controls can do anything except create a shortage/collapse of demand(if pegged high). It’s the kind of econ101 stuff that you can explain on the back of a napkin.
            The will full ignorance is just stunning.

            Does anyone know if someone’s done a psychological look into the just price fallacy?
            It seems there needs to be an evolutionary explanation of some kind as I can’t think of any other mechanism that could make people behave so irrationally so consistently in the face of basic logic and evidence.

            I don’t know maybe it’s a weird interaction of the care and fairness foundations of morality?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s really shocking just how brazen Chavez was. A lot of things he did, if I read about them on Twitter, I would assume was just someone making up worst-case things. But he really did things that were obviously wrong in the 1980s on Communist Russia. He really was a cartoon version of a Communist.

            The longest-term thing Chavez did that screwed up the economy that didn’t really get found out for a while was mismanagement of oil resources. You really do need domain experts in there to manage them to get all the oil out in the long term. But they did stupid things that got short-term gains but ruined the oil fields.

          • “Does anyone know if someone’s done a psychological look into the just price fallacy?
            It seems there needs to be an evolutionary explanation of some kind ”

            Yes.

    • Cliff says:

      Are you joking? Cowen was a child prodigy and Harvard PhD at the age of 25. You can’t tell he’s smart by reading his posts?

      • E. Harding says:

        I see absolutely nothing particularly smart in his posts. One needs only an IQ in the low 120s to get into Harvard -lower, if one has more diligence. And nobody has doubted Tyler’s extraordinary diligence and drive to be well-read.

        https://pumpkinperson.com/2016/01/15/more-evidence-that-ivy-league-students-average-iq-122/

        Cowen is generally overrated. Sumner, Sailer, and Caplan (who regularly post smart insights) aren’t overrated. Our host is roughly properly rated.

        • Frog Do says:

          Sumner and Caplan are definitely overrated, Cowen is still underrated; because IQ is overrated and well-readness is underrated.

        • Deiseach says:

          One needs only an IQ in the low 120s to get into Harvard – lower, if one has more diligence.

          To quote “Legally Blonde”

          Warner Huntington III: You got into Harvard Law?
          Elle: What? Like it’s hard?

        • Cliff says:

          We’re not talking about Harvard undergrad, we are talking about the Harvard econ PhD program. He was the youngest ever state chess champion in the state of New Jersey. I guess you will just dismiss everything as “diligence”(grit?) but it’s ridiculous.

          • E. Harding says:

            “In the Scientific American article that links to my blog, there’s a link to a study correlating chess skill with IQ. The correlation with general intelligence is 0.35 (see table 1), which is not a weak correlation, but not a strong one either.”

            https://pumpkinperson.com/2015/05/30/chess-iq/

          • Wrong Species says:

            @E Harding

            What would you consider evidence in either direction on whether Cowen is smart? Saying “he doesn’t seem particularly smart” isn’t very helpful.

          • E. Harding says:

            @Wrong Species

            -Oh, the usual. Test scores, unusually good insights, praise from fellow economists that’s actually based on something.

        • Urstoff says:

          Don’t know how to judge whether someone is overrated (although I think Arnold Kling is very underrated), but Tyler is definitely smart. You need only listen to Conversations with Tyler to see that. Whether he’s insightful or interesting is much more idiosyncratic to the reader.

      • Anonymous says:

        This guy has a serious ax to grind on the subject. He’s been banned at MR for months but still trolls the comment section with his dumb one liners about Trump and links to his anti-MR website. Seriously, some kind of weird obsession.

        • Urstoff says:

          MR has a bunch of weird obsessives in the comments that have almost completely driven out good discourse.

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        >At the age of 25

        Enter college a year young. Start the PHD very quickly after graduation. Congrats, PHD at 25.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Start a Master’s course aged 18. Graduate aged 22 (usual, in the UK, if you neither take a gap year nor fuck up).
          Apply to a PhD and start it that same year (not universal, but common).
          Finish it in 3 years (legitimately hard, but more a function of hard work and a bit of luck than intelligence).
          I expect most fresh-minted PhDs to be in the range 25-27, and if they’re any older I wonder what’s slowed them up.

  8. Weirdest math fact I know:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey%E2%80%93Borwein%E2%80%93Plouffe_formula

    You can compute digits of pi in hexadecimal without computing the preceding digits.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      This doesn’t seem to be on Wikipedia at the moment, but note that the problem that the aricle mentions, that the given “algorithm” is not necessarily an actual algorithm due to the possibility of FFFFF…, was later fixed by Chee Yap.

    • Vitor says:

      That’s interesting. Note though that the computational effort does get higher for digits further out. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have been really surprised.

      • I’ve assumed you hit a point where it’s cheaper to use a more conventional method to get more digits, but I don’t really know.

        • Anonymous says:

          If you just want one digit, BPP is the fastest method. If you want all the digits up to that point traditional methods are faster. The further out you go, the larger the gap. The amount of work to compute the n-th digit via BPP rises with n, but the amount of work in a traditional method to compute the n-th digit already knowing the preceding digit also grows with n.

    • It gets to me a little that this is from 1995, and I haven’t heard another math fact which is nearly as weird since.

      Am I being reasonable? Or are math facts which can be understood by someone with only a casual interest in mathematics really rare?

      • SJ says:

        The distinction between countably infinite and uncountably infinite was weird…at first.

        I’ve tried to explain it to non-math-savvy people, but it is both counter-intuitive and a little weird.

        1. There are exactly as many Positive integers as there are Integers.
        (There exists a mapping from Positive Integers to Integers that is both One-to-One and Onto. For every Positive Integer, the mapping points to exactly one member of the set of Integers. Thus, the two sets have the same cardinality–even though both are infinitely large.)

        2. There are exactly as many Rational Numbers as Integers. Even though Rational Numbers are made up of ratios of Integers.
        (As above: there exists a mapping from Integers to Rationals that is One-to-One and Onto. Thus, the two sets have the same cardinality, even though both are infinitely large.)

        3. There are infinitely more members of the set of Real Numbers than there are members of the set of Rational Numbers.

        Georg Cantor arrived at this by trying to map every Rational number to a Real number. He discovered that if he had a hypothetical list of all Real Numbers, ordered according to the Rational Numbers that they mapped to, he could then construct Real values that were not on that list.
        Indeed, the diagonalization process to construct new Real Numbers (not on the list) could produce infinitely-many such numbers.
        Thus, the Real Numbers are uncountably infinite.

        4. Some infinities are larger than others.

        Item (4) was the part that seemed weird to me.

        It doesn’t seem weird now…perhaps I’ve gotten used to it.

    • EyeballFrog says:

      I don’t know if this counts as a math fact, but I always found it really weird that 1 mile = ln 5 kilometers to within 0.01%.

  9. Mr. Breakfast says:

    … accurately pretending various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things.

  10. Steve Sailer says:

    “Related: we all like to make fun of Salon, but Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon? They argue that it used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to fire journalists and increase demands from existing employees until the only way its writers could possibly keep up with the quantities expected of them was by throwing quality out the window.”

    It’s real hard for quality online journalism to get enough money to pay off. Ads just don’t look all that good onscreen compared to in slick paper magazines like Vanity Fair and New Yorker. On the rare occasions when I buy the Los Angeles Times on paper, I am fascinated by how much more attractive the ads are than at the LATimes.com website.

    The only online periodical model that seems to work is having a rich guy pay us pixel-stained digital journalist wretches in return for the pleasures, such as they are, of being the owner or benefactor.

    Thus, Salon has been funded by two Silicon Valley rich guys, Hambrecht and Warnock. Slate was funded by Bill Gates for many years. I write for two rich guys. Carlos Slim bailed out the New York Times in 2009. The Washington Post has revived since Jeff Bezos bought it, and so forth.

    • anon says:

      So do you see patronage (either traditional or Patreon-style donation based) as the long-run business model for journalism (say in the next 10-20 years)? Or will something like micropayments actually work eventually?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Who’s the other rich guy you write for besides Unz?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s real hard for quality online journalism to get enough money to pay off.

      Let’s hope Wesearchr changes that!

    • Julie K says:

      Salon “used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to [etc.]”

      Aha, a real-life example of the Marxist theory that cut-throat competition will send everything down the tubes.

      • Jill says:

        I don’t know about everything, but it is certainly true of journalism which is darn near extinct by now.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Journalism is okay, but it’s economically harder for individual journalists since there is more competition due to fewer barriers to entry and because advertising online isn’t very effective.

          You used to have lucrative newspapers in every city, each with a near monopoly on local classified advertising. Magazines could rely both on subscriptions and on lavish ad spending for high quality ads. That meant that being on staff at a newspaper or a magazine tended to pay okay.

      • anonymous says:

        Oh, was it Marx who invented that idea?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I’m still unconvinced that journalism wasn’t always terrible and we just didn’t as many tools to find out as we now.

        It might be that now it’s a different kind of terrible.

        • Urstoff says:

          I’m very skeptical of any argument stating that X was better in the past. I need a lot of concrete evidence as a counterbalance to rampant nostalgia and memory biases.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’d be willing to believe that the fact-checking was always this bad, but journalism hasn’t been this overtly biased in my lifetime. What passes for mainstream news now is taking a line like I used to see from Rush Limbaugh, just with the ideological commitments reversed.

          • Civilis says:

            It may just be that before the internet we weren’t able to effectively fact-check or publicize the results of fact checking. If the only news sources you have present one set of facts, it’s easy to fall victim to the Gell-Mann amnesia effect.

            Dan Rather seemed the model of a respectable centrist news personality up until he made the mistake of not adequately vetting his sources and their evidence on a massive too-good-to-be-true story (giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake). Afterwards, hints that he was biased all along that had been overlooked started falling out of the woodwork.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d be willing to believe that the fact-checking was always this bad, but journalism hasn’t been this overtly biased in my lifetime. What passes for mainstream news now is taking a line like I used to see from Rush Limbaugh, just with the ideological commitments reversed.

            That might well be the case, but then you’d have to argue that everything is terrible nowadays.

          • onyomi says:

            What if the difference now is just that people wear their bias on their sleeves rather than trying to hide it behind a veneer of journalistic objectivity?

            For better or for worse, it seems like the consensus position now is that bias of one kind must be balanced out by bias of another (Fox News’ “Fair and Balanced” slogan seems like a joke when everyone knows they have a right wing bias, but it arguably works in the sense of “we provide a counterbalanace to all the left-wing media.”)

            Not sure if this is symptomatic of the more general trend whereby historical bias against one group must now be addressed through bias in favor of that group. “Just be fair to everyone” seems a better standard.

            Yet, given that I’m not sure there is such a thing as pure objectivity in political reporting (what does or doesn’t seem reasonable all depends on your starting point), maybe this is better than pretending to be objective when such a thing is not even possible?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ onyomi
            given that I’m not sure there is such a thing as pure objectivity in political reporting […] maybe this is better than pretending to be objective when such a thing is not even possible?

            This has been worrying me ever since 2000. Huntley/Brinkley seem refreshingly cool and sane in hindsight, but really they probably were being unfair in small ways — with no open indication of it. Now at least we know which side each newscaster is leaning toward, and where to find the other side.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m still unconvinced that journalism wasn’t always terrible

          Stay unconvinced. Referents: Yellow journalism; Muggeridge. (Scott’s review of Muggeridge’s autobiography neatly explains the latter, I daresay)

        • Samedi says:

          It has always been terrible. You need only look at newspaper articles from the 18th and 19th century. Maybe there was a brief moment in the mid 20th century when journalists like Murrow tried to elevate the standard, but now it is reverting back to the mean. And the mean is yellow journalism. Plus the Internet appears to have brought back yellow journalism with a vengeance.

          • Matt M says:

            Murrow isn’t as clean as everyone likes to believe. A lot of his anti-McCarthy stuff was incredibly one sided (which is not to say that McCarthy was in the right, but merely that Murrow made absolutely zero attempt to look at the other point of view).

      • Vegemeister says:

        I prefer the less general explanation that association with advertising will send anything down the tubes.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The solution is to pay for things explicitly with dollars.

          It’s hardly an iron-clad defense, because you can get dollars + ads, but it gives the people who want quality some place to flee to.

    • Error says:

      I used to read Salon back before they went insane — and before I mostly dropped out of following politics. It’s kind of depressing.

    • anon says:

      On the rare occasions when I buy paper magazines, I am disgusted by ~50% ads-to-articles ratio, and what makes it worse is most of those ads are pretending to be articles and half of articles are reprints of press releases.
      Strongest buyers remorse, every time.

  11. onyomi says:

    Related to weird additions to your car: what’s the deal with those intensely, piercingly bright headlights some people have, and why are they legal? They seem extremely dangerous to me.

    • E. Harding says:

      High-beam headlights are illegal to turn on when within 500 feet of another vehicle in my state.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t mean high beams. These are headlights with a bluish tint; I think maybe called “xenon” something? This is there normal brightness; not the high beams.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The idea is that you can “outrun” ordinary headlights if you are driving superfast, so you need superstrong headlights that project further down the road. They send the message, “I’m not currently going 150 mph, but I could be.”

        • Anonymous says:

          Usually when you see those and they’re annoying it’s a conversion kit that has been improperly installed (xenon/hid headlights need different reflectors, optics, &c), in which case it is illegal in most places.

        • bluto says:

          They’re high intensity discharge (HID) lights, which are similar to stadium lights, movie lights, and grow lights (because they’re nearly as efficient in lumens/watt to LED, but much less costly for high wattage systems). Outside of luxury cars, they’re frequently done with conversion kits, which just convert regular bulbs to HID, even though doing it properly requires other changes to the reflector and lens that most home conversions don’t include.

          Depending on the bulbs they can leak considerable amounts of UV which is invisible but can be uncomfortable to look at for a short period of time (closer to looking at bright sunlight).

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    Regarding the R4D, to repeat what I’ve said elsewhere:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky has talked about “Yudkowsky’s Law”, that all practical infinite recursions are actually at most 3 levels deep. The R4D, if it existed, would appear to be a counterexample. Of course, arguably the R3D is a counterexample — radar is itself a form of detection, so even an R3D is a detector detector detector detector detector.

    But Alyssa’s 5th reason is an interesting one, and I think could be a reason why Yudkowsky’s Law so often works (though depending on how you count, you may have to replace 3 with 4). There is one easy class of counterexamples to “Yudkowsky’s Law”, and that’s arms races — biological ones, in particular, can get really hairy. And yet sometimes, as with the radart detectors, they stop after a few steps.

    I think essentially what’s going on here is what you might call “Sirlin’s Law. Basically, we can distinguish between two patterns of arms races. Say Player A can attack with option A0, and player B develops technology B0 to counter it; then A develops A1 to counter B0; then B develops B1 to counter A0 and A1; and so forth. (So, in the next step, A develops A2 to counter B0 and B1; then B develops B2 to counter A0, A1, and A2…) Each newly developed technology is a strict improvement on the previous one; this arms race will continue indefinitely.

    But the other pattern is, A has attack option A0; B develops B0 to counter it; A has A1 to counter B0; and then in the next step, B develops B1, which just counters A1. So here the pattern is one not of strict improvements, but of specifically-targeted counters. Then A has no need to develop A2, because A0 can be used as a counter to B1. The recursion cuts off at two options for each side. So this is a way that an “arms race” can happen, but still obey a (perhaps slightly modified) Yudkowsky’s Law.

    I’m not sure whether that is exactly what is going on with Alyssa’s 5th reason, but it certainly seems very similar.

    • Vitor says:

      Huh, Sirlin’s book Playing to Win influenced me quite a bit back in the day, cool to see it mentioned here.

      Sirlin’s Law does seem to explain the phenomenon at least in part: It explains why the pattern would be finite (under the assumption that you can only counter finitely many things simultaneously), but it doesn’t explain the specific number 3 or 4.

      For instance, if there is an evolutionary arms race between two species, there will be generational overlap or a certain lag for a mutation to take hold:

      – A has A0

      – B has B0 to counter A0

      – A develops A1 to counter B0, but now has a mix of A0 and A1 because A1 doesn’t propagate instantly to the whole population.

      – B develops B1 to counter A1 (mix of B0 and B1).

      – A cannot go back to A0, since this is still being countered, as opposed to a genuinely new A2. in the meantime A0 dies out (it was still partially countered by the not yet extinct B0).

      – B goes to a mix of B1 and B2.

      – A0 is viable again, so now we can go to an (A2, A0) mix, then (B2, B0), (A0, A1), and the pattern starts looping.

      I imagine that if we model this in a population that continuously adapts to the mix of genes in the opposing population (I imagine infinite populations where we keep track only of the ratios of genes, not simulating individuals directly), we would get quite complex patterns with long and irregular cycles, specially if some mutations were stronger counters than others.

    • Anatoly says:

      I don’t _understand_ the 5th reason. It says: “R3D is useful when you have an RD, because it allows you to distinguish between R, for which you apply RD, and R2D, for which you need to shut off RD in case it’s illegal. But R3D is useless without RD, so it’s easier and equally useful to simply detect the original RD”.

      But isn’t the whole point of R3D to make it difficult for me to detect the original RD? If the R3D worked as advertised and caused you to turn off (or never turn on) your RD, how will I detect your RD? If I had an R4D, I could infer you (likely) had an RD from your use of R3D, even though your RD were undetectable. So I don’t see how the argument refutes the hypothetical usefulness of an R4D.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, I think you’re right, actually! Note that this all relies on the assumption that the R(n+1)D can detect the RnD before the RnD detects the R(n-1)D. Without that assumption, the R3D doesn’t make sense; and with that assumption, the R4D does seem to make sense, as you say.

    • James Picone says:

      FWIW in the field of electronic warfare, I’ve heard people talk about countermeasures [CM] (flares, etc. to decoy missiles), counter-countermeasures [CCM] (missile algorithms to try and pick out aircraft from flares, etc.), and counter-counter-countermeasures [CCCM], but never any more than that.

  13. Montfort says:

    Maybe your Berkeley friends believe the San Jose Mercury news.

    It turns out, they’re not much of a mystery, according to Beverly Ortiz, cultural services coordinator with the East Bay Regional Park District. “We just call them rock walls,” she says. Analysis places them in the early American era, when European settlers are said to have built the walls using the labor of marginalized groups, such as Chinese and Native American laborers.

    The walls were used mainly to clear land of scattered rocks to facilitate the movement of grazing livestock, such as cattle, and, at times, to guide the movement of the animals or to corral them. So take off your tinfoil hats: Even though the walls don’t, in fact, have otherworldly origins, they provide snapshots of an interesting time in our history.

    The wikipedia entry seems to be primarily based on an article posted to the “Atlantis Mysteries” yahoo group. The AM article is also a bit more down to earth than I expected:

    There is a less far-fetched possibility that the walls were built using the cheap and abundant Chinese labor left in California at the end of the Gold Rush. Thousands of Chinese workers had been imported to work in the gold fields, and later to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. Some long-time residents maintain that Asian workers built the walls, although no direct evidence supports this view…

    and later:

    One of the most clear and sober bits of evidence comes from the papers of Weller Curtner, descendant of Henry Curtner, a rancher who owned 2000 acres near Mission San Jose and leased land to tenant farmers in the 1870’s. The younger Curtner wrote:

    “At the corner of Weller and Calaveras Road there was an Amish family by the name of Matthews… Those were the people that built the stone walls that you find along the top of the ridges. In the fall when the crops were off they would go out with stone boats made out of a couple willow trees…. They cleared the land and built the fence at the same time… same as they did in New England.”

    [edit: put an extra “the” in the yahoo group name]

    • Deiseach says:

      when European settlers are said to have built the walls using the labor of marginalized groups, such as Chinese and Native American laborers

      Because of course European farmers would never sully their own hands with manual labour, they look about and find a marginalised group to exploit instead. Though I am impressed that in a mere two paragraphs of material, the paper managed to get in the ritual genuflection of abasement about White Privilege.

      Irish drystone wall – not built by Chinese or Native Americans, unless we cunning White Devils managed to import an oppressed group or two to do our hard work for us.

      Okay, having got that off my chest – the photo of the wall in that article reminds me of local stone walls round here, which is probably not surprising given that there are only so many ways to construct a dry-stone wall. They look like what the article surmises – what you do when you’ve cleared a field of rocks, have a pile of rocks left, and need to do something with the damn things. Easiest thing is to build a wall in situ as this makes sure you don’t leave the rocks to be redistributed through the field and so have to clear them out all over again and lets you neatly divide up your fields in whatever size you want.

      Those walls are your basic “pile up the rocks” version, but dry stone walling is an art as well as a trade and you can get really impressive work if it’s done well.

      • Dain says:

        Wow, did they really just throw that bit in about marginal laborers for the hell of it, assuming it to be true?

        • meyerkev248 says:

          In fairness… if it was built by the Spanish, they were most definitely using Native Americans who they were busily converting to Christianity.

          I’m just saying. Visit any of the missions and it’s all “And here’s the graves of the Indians X and Y, baptized as A and B in year Z”.

          It sounds like the priests also worked fairly hard, but just math means they were using Native American Labor for everything.

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends where you’re talking about. The missions themselves were populated mostly by Native American converts, but I get the impression that the sparse Spanish (later Mexican) presence outside the mission towns was mostly migrants from the south, right up until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

            The missions were deathtraps, is the thing. Not through any deliberate policy; the Spanish were happy to use native converts as near-slaves but they preferred them alive. But precolonial California was a pretty primitive place, forager rather than agricultural (unlike Mexico or the inland Southwest), low population densities, not much trade or travel. So its natives were incredibly vulnerable to disease, and they hadn’t already been exposed like some of the more cosmopolitan cultures in the Americas had at that point: the mission project was supposed to form the nucleus of a new, Spanish-speaking, Catholic population in California, but it didn’t really work out that way.

            I’ve seen those grave markers too, and most of them died really young.

          • Deiseach says:

            If the walls were built by the Spanish, which nobody knows for sure.

            But do we really need a reminder that “Chinese and Native Americans were marginalised groups”? I mean, does the “San Jose Mercury” routinely print “Barack Obama is the first African-American – a group who were introduced to the United States as slaves – president”? Are the people of San Jose so blighted with historical amnesia they need to be reminded in every article “African-Americans were slaves once”? If not, whence the “marginalised groups” bit?

            The natural flow of that sentence is “using Chinese and Native American labour” or “built by Chinese and Native American labourers”. The “marginalised groups” bit seems like White Liberal Guilt boilerplate that is stuck in on autopilot, to demonstrate the bona fides of the writers (yes, we are totally not down with exploitation, we want to emphasise that when mentioning non-native labour, even historical non-native labour that everyone learns in history class was exploitative and bad, though we admit we get a bit tangled when we’re talking about native labourers as the labour and non-native non-labourers using the native labourers as labour instead).

      • Such walls are common New Hampshire and Vermont for the same reason.

      • BBA says:

        If you can’t have any darker-skinned laborers to force to do the same kind of work you did in Europe, why even bother crossing the ocean to begin with? It’s the American Dream.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Perhaps to gain religious liberty and a chance to establish your own vision of the Just Society?

          Or perhaps because there’re lower taxes in America, no chance of being drafted to fight far-off wars for your king, and a lot more and better land on which to work the same kind of work you did in Europe?

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    The 1/7-in-base-10 phenomenon occurs more generally for 1/n in base b whenever b is a primitive root modulo n.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      And each two digits is double the preceding two.

      .142857
      .142857
      =========
      .285714

  15. Mark Grant says:

    Not sure I’m sold on the Molyneux problem result. Maybe those particular people couldn’t distinguish the cube from the sphere, but I take the problem to be whether a “perfect reasoner” (under some suitable definition of that term) could do it.

    • Nicholas says:

      The empirical spoke turns out to be that blind people can’t be perfect reasoners about sight at t0. The effect of being blind on the parts of the brain used to process sight is that, from a vision processing perspective, a recently-sighted person is brain damaged for the first several months of vision. The cognitive toolbox for reasoning using sight is malformed in a way that prevents use.

  16. Sniffnoy says:

    You want surprising math facts? Here’s one regarding infinite graphs. Any graph with no 4-cycles, no matter how infinitely large it may be, can be countably colored.

    (The real theorem is actually stronger than this, but this is a nice statement for sheer surprise value. 🙂 )

  17. Steve Sailer says:

    “Most important, deliberate practice accounted for only 1% of the variance in performance among elite-level performers”

    There was probably more variance in the past. Most sports are maniacally competitive these days, but in the past it was rarer to practice hard.

    For example, it appears that before Ben Hogan in the 1940s, it was unknown for professional golfers to practice hitting golf balls for a couple of hours per day as well as playing 18 holes. Up until Hogan, most star golfers were also more or less professional gamblers who spent much of their time at the card table rather than the driving range.

    Bobby Jones, the top golfer of the 1920s and a celebrated gentleman amateur, had so much free time that he picked up a master’s degree from Harvard in English Literature because he liked English literature. Then he went to law school, passing the bar after only 3 semesters, all while dominating the U.S. and British Opens.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Supplementary strength and conditioning was also feeble to nonexistent: supposedly, into the middle 20th century, the common opinion among football coaches was that lifting weights wasn’t helpful. There are still a few sports where lifting weights to get strong is regarded as borderline cheating.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan took up weightlifting in 1973 with great success. It took him about 3-4 years of superstardom to persuade a single one of his teammates, Brian Downing, to do it too.

        The great shortstop Honus Wagner lifted dumbbells over a century ago, but most baseball players never lifted anything heavier during the offseason than a jug of corn liquor.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Relevant link.

          I’m thinking that probably bodybuilding getting briefly quite popular in, what, the early 60s to late 70s or early 80s is part of the reason it was the 70s that weights started to get more common across sports.

    • anonymous says:

      my pet theory on this is in large part a ritual which inculcates and directly promotes certain kinds of improvements,

      like:

      can increase one’s immersion in a discipline

      can provide an always available challenge to anticipate -to which one’s mind/body must rise

      can “be a placebo” (not a fan of the term due to its potentially negative associations -like someone is being fooled). Perhaps “psychological anchor” is a better term for what I mean.

      in the case of exercise, can improve one’s metabolism.

      etc

       

      -rather than having some mysterious improvement-essence

      and therefore that these things are fundamentally possible to achieve without practice, which becomes no less of a tool for it, but might be less “powerful” than the dedication and powers-of-direction of the best (as in skill) practicioners of something. (depending partially on the nature of the activity).

      If a person can inculcate growth and attunement in in themselves, (in relation to a particular discipline, in this case) through habit, insight, dedication, whatever it is- that would be an ability that lent itself well to getting very good at that thing, and which would reduce the relative payoff of practice as a primary means of improvement.

    • Neanderthal From Mordor says:

      Until the 90’s professional snooker players would smoke and drink beer during games.

    • Loquat says:

      Also relevant: Stephen Jay Gould’s argument in his book Full House that batting averages over .400 were no longer to be found in major league baseball because everyone was being trained to play better. Hitting .400, after all, isn’t a measure of the batter’s ability in a vacuum, it’s a measure of how the batter’s ability stacks up against all the pitchers he’s facing, and in Ye Olden Days the average major league pitcher didn’t get nearly as much practice and skilled coaching as his modern equivalent does.

  18. Steve Sailer says:

    “I agree with this article saying the recent study linking cell phones to brain cancer is hard to believe and that we should hold off judgment for now.”

    People have been worried about cell phones and brain cancer for a long time, so if there is a sizable correlation I would have to imagine it would have shown up by now.

    I can recall the death 23 years ago by brain cancer of financier Reginald F. Lewis (December 7, 1942 – January 19, 1993), the first black guy to make the Forbes 400. It was speculated at the time in the press that his constant cell phone use had given him brain cancer. So people have been worriedly looking for evidence linking cell phones and brain cancer for a long time. My impression of worrying about this over the years is that surprisingly little evidence has since turned up.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, that’s one reason I’m so skeptical – other studies have looked and not found it.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Cell phones and brain cancer are not the kind of topic that wouldn’t get attention. The media usually does a good job of catering to the concerns of what I call the “frequent flier” audience: e.g., airliner crashes are well covered, in part because people who fly a lot consume a lot of higher end media and are desirable targets for advertisers.

        Frequent fliers got cell phones a long time ago (e.g., I got my first cellphone in late 1991 when I had to start flying frequently to Walmart’s headquarters) and we immediately started worrying about our new miracle toys giving us brain tumors.

      • Jack V says:

        And as someone else pointed out, brains are one of the _least_ cancer-prone parts of the body, so if there IS a problem, a hands-free kit would make it worse not better, unless you hold the phone away from your body.

        • onyomi says:

          I actually worry more about another pair of organs near which it rests during the much greater time it’s not in use. Of course, it’s not transmitting at the time, but I mean, I have a data plan and it is doing something? I don’t worry enough to do much different, but I have thought about it.

          • Cliff says:

            I believe there is good science that in fact you do not want to leave it in your pocket all day. I always put it on my desk.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought that was only for men and the concern was heat not microwaves.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          “Worse” in the sense of whether you get cancer at all, yes.

          “Worse” in the sense of whether, if you do develop cancer, you can afford to lose or cut into the body part that has it…

  19. Steve Sailer says:

    “And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men.”

    My impression from studying the lives of famous English writers is that they benefited quite a lot from going to school together. Consider the famous cohort of writers who graduated from Eton in 1920-22: George Orwell, Anthony Powell, Henry Green, Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton, and Ian Fleming. Were they that individually talented? Or did it help to know each other?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      From Evelyn Waugh’s “Decline and Fall” on the advantages of being an old boy of England’s “public” [i.e., private] schools:

      “Is it quite easy to get another job after—after you’ve been in the soup?” asked Paul.

      “Not at first, it isn’t, but there are ways. Besides, you see, I’m a public school man. That means everything. There’s a blessed equity in the English social system,” said Grimes, “that ensures the public school man against starvation. One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the social system never lets one down.

      “Not that I stood four or five years of it, mind; I left soon after my sixteenth birthday. But my housemaster was a public school man. He knew the system. “Grimes,” he said, “I can’t keep you in the House after what has happened. I have the other boys to consider. But I don’t want to be too hard on you. I want you to start again.” So he sat down there and then and wrote me a letter of recommendation to any future employer, a corking good letter, too. I’ve got it still. It’s been very useful at one time or another. That’s the public school system all over. They may kick you out, but they never let you down.

      “… You’re too young to have been in the war, I suppose? Those were the days, old boy. We shan’t see the like of them again. I don’t suppose I was really sober for more than a few hours for the whole of that war. Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, ‘Now, Grimes, you’ve got to behave like a gentleman. We don’t want a court-martial in this regiment. We’re going to leave you alone for half an hour. There’s your revolver. You know what to do. Goodbye, old man,’ they said quite affectionately.

      “Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I brought it down again. ‘Public school men don’t end like this,’ I said to myself. … There wasn’t much whisky left when they came back, and, what with that and the strain of the situation, I could only laugh when they came in. Silly thing to do, but they looked so surprised, seeing me there alive and drunk.

      “‘The man’s a cad,’ said the colonel, but even then I couldn’t stop laughing, so they put me under arrest and called a court-martial.

      “‘God bless my soul,’ he said, ‘if it isn’t Grimes of Podger’s! What’s all this nonsense about a court-martial?’ So I told him. ‘H’m,’ he said, ‘pretty bad. Still it’s out of the question to shoot an old Harrovian. I’ll see what I can do about it.’

      And next day I was sent to Ireland on a pretty cushy job connected with postal service. That saw me out as far as the war was concerned. You can’t get into the soup in Ireland, do what you like. I don’t know if all this bores you?”

      “Not at all,” said Paul. “I think it’s most encouraging.”

      “I’ve been in the soup pretty often since then, but never quite so badly. Someone always turns up and says, ‘I can’t see a public school man down and out. Let me put you on your feet again.’ I should think,” said Grimes, “I’ve been put on my feet more often than any living man.”

      • Jill says:

        Well, maybe this is ancient history by now. It would seem that the value of networking with the kind of people who attend public schools would be different from one generation to another, and from one country to another etc. Some private school folks are valuable to network with, because they’re going somewhere constructive in life. Others are trust fund babies who do nothing particularly constructive at all, either in their work or for their friends.

    • Tracy W says:

      Maybe too rare to show up in the scientific study. What you list is only 3 years worth, it could well be a brief convergence of events (including maybe the loss of many a bit more experienced writers in WWI) turned those young men into popular writers, but that’s not replicable by Eton in any reliable way.

  20. lurkers guide says:

    A surprising mathematical fact: Chaitin’s incompleteness theorem.

    • Vitor says:

      You beat me to the punch. Chaitin’s incompleteness theorem is basically a constructive proof of Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem (and a far easier way to get to this result than the original proof by Gödel) using modern tools such as kolmogorov complexity and the obvious-in-retrospect idea that computer programs and mathematical proofs are kind of the same thing.

  21. Ilya Shpitser says:

    “The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.”

    Related to the mighty Enneagram for folks who follow pseudomystical mumbo-jumbo.

  22. Ben says:

    I’ve noticed you have gotten more conservative over the last couple years. Are you aware of it?

    • grendelkhan says:

      People keep claiming Scott for one side or the other. Depending on who you ask, he’s gone full reactionary and full SJW.

      … that said, I’m surprised at this year’s bet that the Ferguson effect is real, and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea. (The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)

      • MawBTS says:

        … that said, I’m surprised at this year’s bet that the Ferguson effect is real, and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea. (The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)

        When’s Scott said that migration into Europe is a bad idea? Or expressed any strong opinion on the topic at all?

        He’s just reporting what the Dalai Lama thinks.

        • Creutzer says:

          Grendelkhan is probably referring to prediction 42: “Mainstream European position at year’s end is taking migrants was bad idea: 60%”

          Which, of course, is not an endorsement of that expected position.

          • grendelkhan says:

            Aargh; you’re right. I have to remember to switch gears when I come here; everyone else I see saying that migrants into Europe will be generally bad tends to follow it up with “the accumulated filth of all their burned cars and sex riots will foam up about their waists and all the liberals and progressives will look up and shout ‘Save us!’… and I’ll whisper ‘no.'” But this isn’t that sort of place.

            Still, it’s a pretty mushy prediction; generally right-leaning people believe that immigration is a bad idea, and generally left-leaning people believe that it’s a good idea. It smells like an expression of that underlying belief more than a contingent empirical prediction. I think that’s where I was coming from.

          • Creutzer says:

            I think I can make this more precise: If you’re pro-immigration (convenient shorthand expression in this context), you can believe that other people will become anti-immigration, but you have to believe that they will do so for no good reason. Expecting people to believe something for no good reason requires some justification in a way that expecting them to come to see something you think is true anyway does not. Hence expecting Europeans to become anti-immigration suggests that you’re probably inclined towards that position yourself.

      • I think migration into Europe is a bad idea because the US is the nation of immigrants.

      • “The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?”

        But with some reservations for open borders in welfare states, which might attract people to collect transfers instead of producing.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          Especially when, as based on their paychecks, they’re a lot more likely to be the producers asked to pay for a rising population of takers demanding an increasing standard of transfer-based living than the takers.

        • keranih says:

          @ David

          How do they feel about HB1 visas?

          • I think the typical libertarian position would be open borders but new immigrants are not eligible for welfare. I would add that they should get a tax reduction on the grounds that they aren’t eligible for one of the benefits their taxes pay for.

            Given the present situation, it’s hard to see why a libertarian would object to people coming on a visa that is only available to someone with a job.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Grouchier libertarians would just eliminate welfare and thus the problem of immigrants moving here for it.

            The problem with H-1Bs (and I’m speaking here as an interested party, not a libertarian) is they’re used to depress the tech job market by bringing in mediocre people at low pay. This has destroyed a lot of the consulting business for programmers, and also a lot of programming jobs done by in-house programmers. The visa workers can’t do anything about their pay because they don’t dare rock the boat until they get their green card; if they do, they could get fired and have to go home.

            There are supposedly safeguards against this, requiring H-1B workers to be paid the prevailing wage; they don’t work for several reasons, including that titles aren’t standardized, and that there are so many H-1Bs in some tech jobs that they set the prevailing wage.

            To make things more confusing, there are other H-1B workers who are more what the program is billed as, people who really _are_ very good and are working in regular positions alongside Americans making similar wages.

            Ideally, we’d keep that second set and not the first set. I’d have a visa which was fully transferrable once the employee was here; if the employee leaves for a better job a week after applying, that’s tough luck for the employer . And I’d have a reasonable grace period where the visa worker could stay and find a new job after losing theirs for any reason.

        • Alrenous says:

          The grey tribe is blithely ignorant of responsibility in this case.

          Someone needs to be responsible for the effects the immigrant in question results in. In other words they need a sponsor. Simplest way: the immigrant isn’t taxed, but the sponsor has to pay all welfare costs out of pocket. Similarly if the immigrant commits a crime, the sponsor is charged.

          Internalize the externalities and the market will balance immigration for you. Don’t, and someone will always find a way to extract rents by having society pay those externalities for them.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s something called an affidavit of support for certain types of immigrants. In it the sponsor agrees to be responsible for any means tested public benefit the immigrant receives. It is enforceable by any level of government that provides such benefits.

            I’ve never heard of any case of a government suing to enforce the order (it can also be enforced by the immigrant in cases of divorce and that does sometimes happen). I can’t understand why not. Sanctuary cities, sure, but why not Arizona or something? What about during the GWB administration? Why is this provision seemingly completely unenforced?

            If anyone is familiar with such a case, I’d appreciate a pointer.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps the immigrants most likely to abuse the welfare system are not the ones commonly admitted via affidavit’s of support?

          • Nicholas says:

            1. It’s used fairly often. A friend of mine is currently frustrated, for example, that marrying her Canadian boyfriend won’t get him citizenship, because she doesn’t have the resources to support the affidavit.
            2. The trouble is that most affidavits are signed for family immigrations, and few people would refuse to take as much responsibility as possible for a member of their direct nuclear family, even if it was a transparently bad idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            Re# 1
            Yes, the CIS enforces the income requirements on the front end but AFAICT no government ever sues to enforce it on the back end (which is why you should have no qualms about acting as a joint sponsor for your friend’s boyfriend).

            Re# 2
            If the argument is that it would somehow be unfair to enforce the contract because it was coerced I’d expect that to be compelling to some governments but not all of them.

            @Matt M
            Most family based permanent resident petitions require them, which constitute a majority of all green cards issued every year. In particular, they are required for parents of US citizens over the age of 21, an immediate relative category, among which the use of means tested services viz. Medicaid, is endemic.

          • Nicholas says:

            My argument is that it won’t work because there’s no feedback I can think of that 1. You would actually see the government do, and 2. Would be severe enough to persuade more than a modest fraction of individuals to abandon their nuclear family members. It’s not the kind of loyalty that responds to fines.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nicholas, I think maybe you misunderstand what I’m saying. I don’t expect local governments enforcing affidavits of support to “fix” anything in a larger sense. I do expect it would generate some money for e.g. hospitals that are losing money treating people for free that ought to be someone else’s financial responsible (viz. the signers of the affidavits of support). Though this isn’t some gigantic benefit it is a benefit, and so I can’t understand why no one is out there capturing it.

      • TD says:

        “and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea.”

        Migration from certain places, and mass migration in general. I think it’s a position you can come to easily if you support a basic income guarantee, which I think Scott tentatively does. I’ve come round to this position from libertarianism into this sort of extreme third way/radical centrist (free markets + basic income + border control) position for similar reasons.

        “(The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)”

        Yes, but I think the grey tribe can adapt to an argument that’s nuanced enough to be selective about immigration. Top tier University degree software engineers from India are great, random masses from Afghanistan, Somalia, and whereveristan not so much.

        • Tibor says:

          Top tier University degree software engineers from India are great, random masses from Afghanistan, Somalia, and whereveristan not so much.

          This is more or less the immigration policy of Switzerland or of Singapore. While better than many other immigration policies, I still think it is not quite the best in that it relies on the state to decide which are the “needed jobs”. Yes, it generally tends to be the case that more skilled people, especially in technical fields are in demand whereas unskilled labour is not. But if an illiterate sheep herder from Afghanistan can support himself in Switzerland by some means (either by getting a job somewhere or setting up his own business…selling sheep cheese for example) which do not include him living off the welfare payments then I don’t see why he should not be allowed to do so. I have a certain sympathy for the people who fear mass immigration and great cultural changes in Europe. If I believed that open borders sans welfare state (or access to welfare after a period of several years only) would lead to a major demographic change in Europe (something along the lines of the demographic change in the Americas after the colonization), then I would be much less supportive of that idea. But I am pretty sure the sky does not fall in this case and that the kind of immigration you get under the no welfare or postponed welfare and open borders regime is almost entirely beneficial to everyone. You might get people from Somalia or Afghanistan but you get different people than those who would come for welfare benefits (or perhaps even the same but with different incentives). You might get a certain demographic change but you won’t see a lot of ghettos with crime and violence which gradually turn the country into a new Somalia or whatever. While I think that culture is important and it makes no sense to point out to a success of one group of immigrants to draw conclusions about any group of immigrants, I also believe that incentives trump culture and also that culture varies within countries and nations (I will probably have more in common with an Indian programmer than with a Czech factory worker for example) and by setting up the incentives the right way (by making people come for better opportunities not for welfare), you will get the immigrants of the “right” culture, regardless of where they come from.

          One reason to limit or ban low skilled immigration is sort of a welfare/protectionism for the low skilled people in your own country. I think this is exactly the reason behind the Swiss policy. However, I think that rather than “protecting Swiss jobs”, the actual effect is moving the Swiss factories to China and India, so it does not really work.

          That said, I’d still rather have the rather clearly defined Swiss immigration policy than the ad hoc and concept free immigration policy of Germany. I like the Czech system with welfare delayed by 5 years and conditioned on having had a job in that period the most although I would get rid of any further restrictions (such as working visas…although I am not sure how hard it is to get one, maybe it is just a formality), the delayed access to welfare (especially since it is still less attractive than welfare in the neighbouring Germany or in the Nordic countries) is enough I think to keep the undesirable immigration away while retaining all the benefits (both the the locals and to the immigrants) of the open borders.

      • Nicholas says:

        The Grey Tribe’s aggregate position on borders has shifted somewhat, both as the tribe makes feeble inroads into other social classes and also as the bottom rung of the founding tribe sees itself slowly pushed out of the magic circle in America.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve noticed you have gotten more conservative over the last couple years. Are you aware of it?

      I think you’re wrong.

      What has happened is that Scott banned a lot of people rightwards of Dr. Friedman (if I may use him as a Schelling point of fairly inoffensive, history-based socially conservative libertarianism). Previously, you’d see the occasional Death Eater or adjacent make a comment in line with that throughsphere, then have not just the left-wingers, but the more moderate right-wingers object to that most strenuously.

      Nowadays, Death Eaters are few and far between, which sort of makes it look more conservative because the moderate right-wingers are debating the left-wingers, and there’s a lot more moderate right-wingers than there ever were Death Eaters. It went from “everybody piles on the far-right” to “righties and lefties arguing with each other a lot”.

      (Or did you mean “Scott, personally” with that “you”?)

      • Tibor says:

        David Friedman is socially conservative? I had no idea 🙂

        Also, I would say that you can hardly get more “right-wing”, at least on the capitalism-socialism scale, than David.

        Also, I have no idea who “death eaters” might be.

        • Nornagest says:

          Also, I have no idea who “death eaters” might be.

          Followers of the Dark Lord, Mencius Moldbug. It’s a bit of an injoke ’round these parts: the standard name for the group is automatically spam-filtered because Scott was sick of arguments about them, so they became the Ideology-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, and things proceeded from there as you’d expect from a forum full of Harry Potter nerds.

          • Dahlen says:

            As a TES nerd, I much prefer calling them “worshipers of Molag Bal“. The Elder Scrolls series does a better job than most at distinguishing between nuances of evil, and the Daedric Prince of domination sounds just like their kind of guy. I mean, they certainly wouldn’t sacrifice at the shrine of the duplicitous, genderqueer Boethiah.

            Besides, I’m kind of partial to Voldemort despite the whole villainy thing, and don’t like seeing his name besmirched like that. *cue Bellatrix’s crazy shrieking in the Hall of Prophecies in book 5*

        • I think that for most people, long term monogamous marriage is a better strategy than polyamory, open marriage, or non-marriage with lots of casual sex. In some contexts that counts as socially conservative.

          • Tibor says:

            Hmm, that makes perhaps 95% of the population (of any country) socially conservative, rendering the term rather useless.

            On a slight tangent – for me, a socially liberal person is someone who not does tell other people what kind of a lifestyle they should live as opposed to what probably should be called a socially authoritative person. From my perspective there is not much of a difference between someone telling me that I cannot be a transsexual because it is against God/nature/etc. and someone who tells me I have to like transsexuals because otherwise I am homophobic/intolerant/etc.. Similarly with other issues such as being a stay at home mom or focusing on career instead of children (they are women, such as my PhD advisor who manage to raise 3 kids and have a very successful career, but I guess that it is pretty hard and probably even harder outside of the academia), whether I can go shopping on Sunday (this is not really an issue in the US I guess, but it is in Germany for example…I’ve got used to it, it is not such a big issue, but in principle I still do not like it) whether I can run a smoking bar or not and so on. Both groups of people, one of whom would be called “socially liberal” and the other “socially conservative”, try to tell me what kind of a lifestyle I should have and what exactly they propose is not as important to me that the fact that they try to force me to change the way I live, either through legislation or media campaigns. The same way, I would dislike a group which tries to impose my lifestyle on other people.

    • Leonard says:

      Actually Scott has increasing been blogging on rainy days.

      • Randy M says:

        You would expect the opposite, since rain makes people depressed, and he would have more workload on those days.
        But it’s likely* that the increased patient flow spurs his creativity.

        *In as much as anything based on a chain of silly premises is likely, of course.

        • Tracy W says:

          Maybe the more depressed people don’t manage to make it to their appointments so he has more free time.

    • Query says:

      Are you sure it’s not you who’s gotten more progressive instead?

    • Murphy says:

      If anyone is looking for one I’ve created an ubuntu VM with the software and dependencies installed. I’ve been playing around with it since yesterday.

      I’m planning to dig into the implementation and play around with it a little.

      It does take a hell of a lot of CPU horsepower. Running on a desktop with access to 6 cores without GPU acceleration it’s taking hours to complete on individual images.

      • Murphy says:

        The dependencies are surprisingly hard to get working right, I killed 2 VM’s (pretty unusual for installing stuff to do this much damage) trying to get them to install correctly before I found a combination that would work.

      • Lambert says:

        What architecture?

        • Murphy says:

          Ubuntu VM running on an intel i7-4790

          For some larger images I’ve needed to give it about 20GB of memory but 8 is enough for most images.

          • Lambert says:

            Any chance you’d be willing/able to upload the VM, preferably in a format readable in Virtualbox (.ova seems to be the usual standard, AFAICT)?

      • ulucs says:

        So my dream of getting it run on phones is pretty dead unless I can pull out some mathematical optimization magic 🙁

        • Lambert says:

          Unless you use my bu the cloud.

          • ulucs says:

            The main idea was to port the model so that no internet connection nor a web interface was needed.

        • Murphy says:

          I’m sure it could technically run on a phone.. eventually.

          You could also run it with really low numbers of itterations and limit the size heavily to limit memory use.

          Though at that point it’s basically just a slightly fancy filter.

  23. lymn says:

    The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

    This is like the most trivial property of modular arithmetic. The deep mysteries of basic long division…

    • Houshalter says:

      I find it interesting because I didn’t expect it to be true. It doesn’t happen for other numbers, it’s very weird.

    • Anonymous says:

      I apologize if I misunderstood, but you seem to be saying that it should always happen – and as the other comment says, it doesn’t. For example, 1/3 = .333…, 2/3 = .666…, and they obviously can’t be rearranged.

      It boils down to a somewhat deeper fact – namely, that 10 is a generator mod 7. When we say that the fractions i/n are “rearrangements” of each other, we are saying two things: 1) That n is prime (as otherwise, you get a fraction with a smaller denominator, which will not be a rearrangement), and 2) That all the fractions i/n can be reached by taking the fractional part of 10^j/n.

      Rephrasing that last part, that’s equivalent to saying that 10 is a generator of the multiplicative group Z/nZ. For example, for 7: 10 is 3, and 3^2 = 9 = 2, 3^3 = 27 = 6, 3^4 = 81 = 4, 3^5 = 243 = 5, 3^6 = 729 = 1, all of which are different, so 3 is a generator.

      We can then find other examples: 10 is a generator mod 17, and it will get you that all are rearrangements. Or you can do it in other bases: 2 is a generator mod 5, so the fractions i/5 will be rearrangements mod 2 (1/5 = 0.001100110011…, 2/5 = 0.01100110011…, 3/5 = 0.100110011…, 4/5 = 0.110011001100…)

  24. Laurent Bossavit says:

    A faster alternative to deepart.io, also free: http://dreamscopeapp.com

  25. grendelkhan says:

    In 2013, Salon praised “Hugo Chavez’ Economic Miracle, saying that “[Chavez’s] full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results” (h/t Ciphergoth).

    I fully admit that I didn’t follow much about Venezuela at the time, but I was under the impression that the criticisms of Venezuela at the time were “social programs lead to chaos and burning” and “this is the success that the US was so afraid of that they murdered Allende”, not “their entire economy is built on oil prices; if those collapse, so does the nation”. Also, the thing about most of their electrical power coming from a single plant. I think I’d have taken that sort of criticism more seriously.

    Then again, this is politics. Unless I’d made a significant effort, I wasn’t going to find substantive pieces. (Vox: “Venezuela’s single point of failure, explained”? Unlikely, and I suppose that says something.)

    • keranih says:

      In my memory, it was pretty well acknowledged that their economy was built on oil – but, so was Norway’s. And Saudi Arabia. Both of which are still going concerns, despite the crash.

      What was not as well articulated was the seed-corn eating that was going on, in terms of using all oil revenue – not just profit but also the maintenance and machinery replacements costs – to support the social programs. It was also not well articulated how the social programs and government policy stifled small business and made everyone dependent on the handouts.

      And having said all that – Latin American developed nations are not like Western developed nations – they resemble the Mid East in corruption and cronyism, just without as much tribal values. Even if Chavez had been replaced early on, it is not clear that the country would have been more free and very likely the average person would not have been any wealthier than it was when he died. And probably less wealthy, because of the seedcorn still in the banks/sunk back into oil rigs, instead of given out to the Chavez-favored groups. (It wouldn’t have crashed as bad, but that was a counter-factual until just now.)

      • Dru-Zod says:

        The Norwegians and Saudis have prepared rainy day funds for when the oil business fails them. Norway’s is something like $800 billion set aside, while the Saudis are planning to keep $2 trillion in the kitty.

        The Venezuelans refused to think that far ahead.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Semi-related question: Is there a good way to google for things before a certain date? Say that in this case I want to search National Review for any articles they wrote about Venezuela before 2010.

      My memory is that most right-wing sites were warning that Chavez would lead to disaster ever since he came into office, but I don’t know how to back that up, since search results are dominated by more recent reporting.

      • brad says:

        After you do your search and get your results they’ll be a link called “Search tools” on the bar with All, News, Maps, etc. Click that and they’ll be a pull down labeled “Any time”. At the bottom of the list is a “Custom range …” option.

      • roystgnr says:

        Do a search, then click on “Search Tools”, “Any Time”, “Custom Range”, enter the date (e.g. 12/31/2009) in the “To” box, and hit “Go”.

        It’s not infallible so double-check dates by hand, but it’s a good starting point.

        • roystgnr says:

          You definitely have to double-check algorithmically-determined dates. For instance, the comment dates above suggest that “brad” hit submit 10 minutes ago and I’m an idiot who didn’t think to refresh the page before commenting, but that’s probably just a bug.

          • Er, that’s a bug in WordPress, this blog system, not in Google Search’s date detection. So the behavior you saw has no bearing on whether it’s necessary to double-check Google.

            The problem probably has to do with caching, not with algorithmically determining dates. It could be a fixable bug, or it could simply be an explicit trade-off between showing up-to-date content and saving work for the web server so the site doesn’t crash from the load of all the users visiting it.

    • TD says:

      It wasn’t just oil though. Chavez was propping up the bolivar with a ridiculous exchange rate against the dollar. At this level, no one wanted to buy bolivars, so the government had a shortage of foreign currency, meaning that importers couldn’t get dollars easily. Instead, black markets cropped up for dollars, allowing the importation of foreign goods. Chavez then looked at this and concluded that businesses were price gouging (because he was applying the official rate), and started shutting them down. Maduro continued all of this. At some point, either of the two put in direct price controls too.

      Even with the oil, the issue wasn’t just that the country was funding its programs from oil, the issue was that the country had performed expropriations of private oil companies, leading to a decline in foreign investment. However, things seemed okay because Chavez was able to paper over this with the oil revenue.

      Compare to the “Nordic countries”, and while they (Norway in particular) do use some oil revenue to fund social programs, their basic economy is a lot more free in terms of property rights and the price system (to the extent that the conservative Heritage foundation once rated Sweden high in economic freedom). Essentially, the argument isn’t “taxing for welfare = bad”, it’s “fucking about with supply and demand, applying fixed exchanged rates and price controls, and engaging in large scale expropriations of private property = bad”.

      • Daniel Keys says:

        You don’t say.

        Now, CEPR did fail to emphasize this point years earlier. But overall – looking at the information I have from them – they don’t seem to have emphasized any statements about the economy of Venezuela. Mostly they made pronouncements such as, “Venezuela is not Colombia, where journalists have to flee the country in fear of their lives when the President denounces them.” (By contrast, they say a great deal about the successful economic policies of Argentina.)

  26. MawBTS says:

    People are accusing Caplan of “bum-hunting” – only betting against crackpot viewpoints that he knows are wrong. Like a boxer building a perfect record by beating up 10 year olds.

    Is there any truth to this? I haven’t looked in detail at his bets or who he made them with. Nor do I recognise many of the names, Cowen excluded.

    • Frog Do says:

      His betting strategy is looking for people claiming there are going to be historic shocks to some system. Since predicting shocks is a fool’s game, he be correct the vast majority of the time. He will also hedge his bets to insure he comes out ahead regardless. It’s an excellent betting strategy that has more to do with the limitations of prediction than anything else.

    • Urstoff says:

      I think that’s part of the explanation. What’s interesting about most of the bets is that he finds smart people to make dumb bets against him. If anything, Caplan’s bets are a nice way to expose the overconfidence of experts (Caplan’s basic belief that seems to motivate most of his bets is that things get better, slowly, over time).

    • onyomi says:

      Well, apparently he’s bet (at 2:1) that HRC won’t be the next POTUS. That’s hardly the consensus view, though at 2:1, he’s basically just saying that those who rate her chances at 70+% are overconfident, as I think they are.

      Though this raises the question: is there a good way to score yourself if you are betting that the consensus view isn’t necessarily wrong, but only that it’s overconfident? Like, say HRC had 70% chance of victory on prediction markets the day he made the bet, but only 40% on election day. Yet she still ekes out a victory.

      In such a case Caplan would probably have been right that his opponent was overconfident, though he’d still have to pay up, and would therefore probably have to put that in the loss column.

      (This also seems to imply that if a good record is your only goal, betting against highly unlikely things at long odds is the best way; to some extent Caplan does this by betting against people predicting things like “Ron Paul victory in 2008,” though I don’t think all his bets are this lopsided.)

      • shemtealeaf says:

        You can avoid that by betting at odds, and then reporting a net monetary gain, rather than just a win-loss record. If I can repeatedly get 10:1 odds on things that I think have a 25% chance of happening, I’m going to make a lot of money even though I lose most of the time.

        • gwern says:

          You will need to make a lot of bets if you’re going to be willing to make longshot bets and want to impress people with your total winnings, though, and given how hard even Caplan finds it to set up these bets, you’d probably just be better off using something like Prediction Book and then reporting log scores.

      • CatCube says:

        One way that’s handled is betting a spread. I.e., bet that HRC will win by 10% or whatever. If she only beats Trump by 9%, you win the bet.

    • eccdogg says:

      Yes, there is truth to it and Caplan pretty much admits it in his post.

      He waits for someone to say something very unlikely at way too high of a probability.

      He then calls them on it and challenges them to a bet.

      The person is usually too overconfident or too prideful to back down so they then enter a bad bet. I have been watching Caplan bet for a while and I can’t think of a bet he took that I would not have been on the same side as. I often thought his counterparties made very bad bets when they made them.

      But that is not really a slam on Caplan since one of the things he says is that betting is a tax on bullshit. So he is finding bullshiters and making them pay the tax on their bullshit.

      • eccdogg says:

        I think I interpreted bum hunting more broadly than is correct. If bum hunting means “picking off inexperienced newbies who happen to bet”, I don’t think that is what Caplan is doing. He is betting against folks who have a lot of knowledge about the subject at hand and are plenty sophisticated.

        If bum hunting is going after the random sports fan looking to bet, what Caplan is doing is closer to betting against the sports pundit or sports announcer. They know plenty but way overestimate how much confidence they should put in their analysis.

        It mainly betting against the inside view.

        • Phil says:

          http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/05/what_the_primar.html

          Think about the bet offered here, he’s basically trying to goad a Trumps supporter into betting something on the order of 30 percentage points off the publicly available price

          He’s also leveraging but his professional reputation and the low stakes nature of these bets, to drive up his betting record (I think Cowen would have thought a lot harder about that bet if thousands or millions of dollars had been on the line (I don’t think he lost on the underlying idea, more on the public accounting of that idea))

          _________

          In a vacuum that wouldn’t really bother me, but while I think Caplan’s blog is smart and full of interesting ideas, I don’t think it’s especially free of BS

          He is good at keeping his BS to things that can’t be nailed down to a specific number, and tend to be entirely hypothetically, since nobody’s actually trying to put his ideas into practice

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with Phil.

            In high school I had a mild obsession with sports betting (not in an irresponsible way, never bet anything I couldn’t afford to lose, more as a hobby than a money-making scheme).

            One of the side effects was that I was always very familiar with the public “betting lines” in a way that the average person was not. A result of that was that I could approach my friends, who were casual sports fans not that familiar with gambling markets, with bets where I got a much better “price” than the betting market. In other words, if the vegas line was “Cowboys -10” I could probably offer a friend “Cowboys -13” and they would take it – which is a good bet for me assuming I believe the vegas price is efficient.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Does he usually bet against free marketeers? If he does, you think they’d have the sense to check the betting websites to see what the bookies (who set odds for a living) and the market have come up with.

      Betting on unlikely outcomes with long odds generally doesn’t work in sports. So I can’t imagine it would work better in, say, elections, which have far more “moving parts” than a sports match does.

      • Deiseach says:

        Betting on unlikely outcomes with long odds generally doesn’t work in sports.

        If he could demonstrate he bet on Leicester City to win the league, then I’d be impressed 🙂

        This says the 5,000 to 1 odds were artificially inflated and the Foxes should only have been 2,000 to 1 or even 1,000 to 1 to do it. Oh well, that’s a different story, then!

    • suntzuanime says:

      That’s not an accusation, that’s the whole point. If you want your betting record to demonstrate your superior judgment skills, you should bet against viewpoints you know are wrong, rather than viewpoints that could go either way.

      • Watercressed says:

        And as everyone knows, people who run shell games have the best judgement skills in the whole world.

  27. The original Mr. X says:

    Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech”

    “Dark humour is like food. Not everybody gets it.” — Joseph Stalin

  28. LPSP says:

    The moment chinese peasants started reverently worshipping mangoes, developing all sorts of protocols, rituals and procedures centred around the mundane tropical fruit, purely because of their slim and accidental association with Mao – that was the point people should’ve realised Communism’s promises were red herrings.

    • dinofs says:

      I don’t really see how it contradicts any of “Communism’s promises” for some peasants to hold on to religious behavior less than 20 years after the Revolution in a place as far from what Marx had in mind as China in 1968. Unless your point is just about Chinese Communism, in which case I’m pretty sure that jig was up for a lot of people by then, at least judging by the direction China started to take just a few years later.

      • LPSP says:

        People had very unrealistic expectations of the power a communist social change could wield over people’s behaviour. As reasonable people, the pair of us can see that it wouldn’t work now, but at the time it was harder to tell. That mango thing tho, wow. There were people in the US claiming Communism was THE superior system (B. Sanders as an example) long after that. I guess it wasn’t well known, but still, boy howdy.

        • Yakimi says:

          People had very unrealistic expectations of the power a communist social change could wield over people’s behaviour.

          Yes. It’s worth remembering the promises of communism were not just limited to raising living standards. It promised to create an entirely new way of being human. Here’s Trotsky describing what communism would accomplish:

          It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts – literature, drama, painting, music and architecture will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.

          • Dahlen says:

            Funny, that bolded part doesn’t sound particularly egalitarian. Looks like at least in the early 20th century it wasn’t taboo for the left to admit that.

          • TD says:

            Progressive liberalism and Marxism aren’t the same thing. Their entire premises are different (which is something hard rightists miss), so a modern leftist probably doesn’t believe anything like that at all. It’s unfair to imply that.

            Classical Marxism was only strictly egalitarian in the sense of class. The main principle behind Marxism is the class struggle, and since Marxism fancies itself a materialist philosophy in which the means of production AKA the base is dominant over culture/the superstructure, any change in human equality is said to be dependent on a change in our relation to the means of production.

            Progressive ideology is explicitly based on equality in all senses, which is why they developed intersectionalism. The funny thing is that progressivism has basically pwned Marxism and a lot of rightists don’t realize it, because they see it as the other way around, with Marxism as the shadowy force in the background controlling everything. Modern Marxists are very different to their classical counterparts in that they contradict their own ideology of the primacy of class struggle in favor of bending the knee to the progressive idea of intersectionalism. As soon as the New Left appeared, and Freudo-Marxism became a big thing, they were already corrupted. Sometimes you see some Marxists fighting back and declaring intersectionalism to be “idpol”, but this is something you’d miss if you insisted on a strict historical continuity between Marxism and Progressivism.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          So I really, really hate to defend Chinese Communism, because it was fairly hellish, but signalling spirals are not new to China.

          The Bow of the King of Chu (by, admittedly, one of those who shall not be named).

          Short version:
          * King of Chu loses his bow, after trying to find it for several hours, decides he wants to go home and bang a concubine because screw this, I’m the King, I can just get another bow.
          * King says: “Stop looking for it. A Man of Chu lost his bow. A Man of Chu will find it. No need to search for it.”
          * Confucius says: ‘The King of Chu is a humane king, but he’s still half-way. He could have said “a man lost his bow, a man will find it”. Why specify “A man of Chu”?’
          * Daoists say: “Why mention people at all?” That’s right. A bow was lost. A bow was found. It doesn’t need to be a man of Chu. It doesn’t need to be a man at all. It can be a snake, or a frog. Or a tree. We are all part of nature, maaan. Want some more weed?

          Quoting TFA: “This is explicitly recorded as the Confucians being more 公, more public minded than the King, and the Daoists being more public minded than the Confucians. If this is not a virtue signaling spiral, I don’t know what is. And again, this was going on 2200 years ago.”

          It certainly seems to have been less wide-spread (ie: When it’s pure virtue signalling, only philosophers do it. When not doing it gets you killed, the peasants in the fields do it too), but yeah no, this is not new.

        • dinofs says:

          I get that, I just don’t see how the fact that peasants didn’t immediately become superpeople within one generation of the Revolution means that Communism wouldn’t eventually have benefits. I imagine that if you visit China now it’s a much less superstitious place than it was in 1968 or 1949. Not to mention again that Maoism was very very different from what Marx had in mind. I don’t see how the mango thing makes it less tenable to think that *a form* of communism is superior to capitalism — it’s not like your average Sanders-type Marxist was saying the U.S. should go the Mao route, especially not after the 60s.

          (Not a Marxist by any means, but probably more sympathetic to it than most SSC commenters.)

          • Jason K. says:

            Communism operates on a faulty understanding of how motivation works. As a result, it will always fail at any scale of significance.

      • Deiseach says:

        The “mango thing” is not peasant superstition, at least not wholly. It’s the very sensible idea that the person in charge is fairly much an ultimate dictator and that anything that smacks of disrespect towards him will have bad repercussions for you (and possibly even your family).

        So the level above you in the political organisation demonstrates its unimpeachable loyalty by writing articles of praise about Mao and his donation of mangoes? Then you go one better by not doing anything so crass as eating the donated mango, you preserve it as an example for the workers to live by.

        And the level below you go one better by not doing anything so disloyal and suspect as disposing of the donated mango (because someone very zealous could construe that as symbolising you want to overthrow Mao, which will get you in a lot of trouble) so you consume the relic and take its virtues – and by extension the virtues of the donor – into yourself.

        And you certainly don’t then forget all about the stirring example of the donated mangoes, after all that outpouring of effort and demonstrations of loyalty, because that too could be construed in your disfavour. So you make replicas and treat them with very careful ceremony to prove your continuing appreciation, gratitude and fealty.

        And so you preserve your neck, because you are peasants and folk-memory tells you the kinds of things that happen to people who disrespect – or can be interpreted by their enemies as showing disrespect – to the Emperor, not alone in his person but in the symbols representing him.

        And not just in Mao’s time, but today:

        Patnaree Chankij’s home on the outskirts of Bangkok is a cramped, three-room house in which the 40-year-old widow lives with two of her children, and where she often does other people’s laundry to make ends meet. At other times she works as a casual cleaner in apartments and offices.

        As in other houses in Thailand, there are portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the walls. Patnaree considers herself a loyal citizen, and says she has never said anything negative about the royal family.

        But earlier this month she was detained by the police and charged with lèse-majesté, insulting the monarchy, one of the most serious charges in the Thai criminal code. It carries a penalty of three to 15 years on each count and its use has escalated after the military coup two years ago.

        So what did Patnaree do to get charged? According to her lawyer, the only evidence the police have produced is an exchange on Facebook between her and a political activist, in which she responded to comments the police say are defamatory with the Thai word “ja”, which translates as “I see”, or “ok”.

        The police say she should have condemned the comments.

        Patnaree does not believe she has been charged over anything she said or wrote. She believes it is because of her son, Sirawith (which translates as New) Seritiwat.
        He is a political science student at Thammasat University, but over the past two years he has also emerged as the best-known face of student dissent against military rule.

        • dinofs says:

          Okay, I think I see the point a little better now. I still take issue with the idea that you couldn’t eventually change people’s behaviors; anything within one lifetime of the Revolution seems like it shouldn’t really count in terms of remaking the human being. Look at the French Revolution: the quest to remake man in the image of Reason ended up producing similarly horrible persecutions and signaling spirals as in Maoist China. Old rules get thrown out the window –> desperate tribalism to survive until you find out what the new ones are. But that doesn’t mean the French Revolution didn’t eventually lead to a real change in how people acted, and probably for the better.

          Not that I think Maoism or Marxism were ever the way to go in terms of improving humanity. But to smugly dismiss them both because they failed to fix people’s behavior in one generation seems unfair.

        • Anatoly says:

          >It’s the very sensible idea that the person in charge is fairly much an ultimate dictator and that anything that smacks of disrespect towards him will have bad repercussions for you (and possibly even your family).

          That’s exactly right. Here’s the extended version of the dentist episode, from the article on the cult of mango:

          Dr. Han was the much respected dentist in the community who had fitted the grandfather’s false teeth. Apparently, upon seeing the mango, Dr. Han remarked that is was nothing special and looked just like a sweet potato. His frankness was called blasphemy; he was arrested as a counterrevolutionary. He was soon tried and, to the dismay of the village, found guilty, paraded through the streets on the back of a truck as an example to the masses, taken to the edge of town, and executed with one shot to the head. His three sons were sent down to the countryside and his wife, reeling from the tragedy and bereft of family, soon died. The author recalls the profound effect the incident had on the town. Everyone became extremely cautious, unwilling to express any thoughts on anything having to do with Mao Zedong.

          Alfreda Murck, Golden Mangoes: The Life Cycle of a Cultural Revolution Symbol, The Archives of Asian Art, 2007.

          (Incidentally, the reference for the story is given as:
          “Wang Youqin, “Yayi Han Guangdi zhi si (The death of Dentist Han Guangdi),” web posting, 15 September 2005.”
          and I was not able to confirm it further than that)

  29. LPSP says:

    As for fractions of 7: I doubt I’m the first to notice this, but the first two digits are 14, which reads 14 or 2*7. Next are 28, so 4*7. Next comes 57, which is 56+1 and 56 is 8*7. The plus 1 may be accounted for by another, deeper trend. Briefly looking at 1/7 in more detail, the sequence 142857 seems to repeat.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The +1 is from double .57

      14.2857 doubled is
      28.5714 doubled is
      57.1428 doubled

      EDIT: It also worked shifted by 1, if you assume the digits keep on repeating

      42.8571 doubled is
      85.7142 doubled is
      71.4285 (mod 100)

  30. Hackworth says:

    Sorry for lack of insight, but I have to say I am thoroughly blown away by Ostagram.

  31. phisheep says:

    “attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men”

    This study seems to me rather flawed in muddling up state grammar schools with elite schools, particularly as Aberdeen at the time had three private (in UK-speak “public”) schools – at least two of which in the 1960s were open only to boys (both have since become co-ed, and one has returned to the public (state) sector). At one point in the paper the private schools are lumped in with “non-elite”, presumably on the grounds they did not select pupils by the state examinations – at another point they are excluded from the sample altogether.

    The thing about private schools over here (and unlike private schools in, say, France) is that they are highly selective. They take (a) through their own examinations and interviews the smartest kids for scholarships or remitted fees (b) the stupidest kids from rich parents who failed to get into grammar schools and (c) anyone else who can pay. So their pupils end up skewed towards both extremes, probably more towards the top end. Also, they take *all* the best teachers of both sexes because of higher wages, better benefits (including in the 1960s fee remittance for the children of teachers). So the presence of private schools in a town shears off the top layer of teachers, and the top end of – predominantly male – pupils.

    That probably entirely explains why the paper found as it did for life outcomes for males and females.

    You’d get more reliable results by running two studies, one in a town with a very heavy both-sex private school presence (like Bedford which has four, two for each sex), and one in a town which has no private schools at all (like Cwmbran in South Wales). I would expect the distinctions between “elite” and not-elite to show up much more sharply in the latter than in the former.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Looking at the methodology of the paper it seems like they screened off those sort of selection effects by exploiting a natural experiment: people who just managed to get in vs. people who just failed. So there shouldn’t be an effect of skimming the cream since the cream isn’t in the study to begin with.

      • phisheep says:

        That would cover off the cream-skimming effect for pupils, yes. But not the cream-skimming effect for teachers nor (potentially) that for available life outcomes, both of which will be affected by the presence of private schools.

  32. Thursday says:

    Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.

    Perhaps you need to watch this classic comedy video.

    Also, apparently there is a strain of traditional anti-Islamic sentiment in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I’d take that source with a grain of salt, but worth looking into.

    The attempt to overwhelm his country with Chinese immigrants probably has something to do with it too.

  33. Vokasak says:

    Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately predicting various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things. He’s just called the 2016 POTUS elections for Donald Trump.

    In general I’ve always been unimpressed by people like this, and it seems like their magic predictive power always falls apart under scrutiny. But this does remind me of the Kim Carrier Curse, in which a professional StarCraft commentator managed to bungle nearly every prediction he made in a decade-long career. Being wrong 100% of the time is nearly as hard as being right 100% of the time (at least in issues like these where you’re picking a winner out of 2-4 potential winners), but in my mind has the added bonus of being much more interesting of a story.

  34. Harry says:

    “A study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men. That means either elite schools don’t have better teachers (really?) or that there’s a discrepancy between this and the Chetty study that needs to be resolved.”

    I think I can explain the discrepancy. In Britain we have two kinds of ‘elite’ school. We have (1) grammar schools – which have almost entirely been phased out, but still exist in some areas. These only accept students who pass a test, but the education is free. Then we have (2) private schools (also known confusingly as public schools). These will only accept students whose parents can pay the school a very large amount of money.

    Grammar schools receive exactly the same funding as ‘normal’ high schools, and cannot pay teachers especially well, so do not attract top teaching talent. In some cases, they actually receive less funding, because normal high schools are seen as more badly needing the money in order to deal with more problematic students.

    By contrast, private schools are rich and pay their teachers extremely well. This is where the best teachers gravitate.

    I can believe that grammar-school students, selected by ability, might not do much better than their high-school peers. But privately-educated students do much better. 71% of judges, 62% of senior army officers, and 43% of journalists in Britain were privately educated (even though the privately-educated constitute only 7% of the overall population).

    Draw your own conclusions, I suppose, but I think this explains the confusion here.

    • Salem says:

      But public schools aren’t just rich, they’re incredibly selective. You aren’t getting into Winchester or St. Paul’s just because daddy’s got money. The fact that privately-educated students do much better may just be a selection effect, not a treatment effect.

      Plus, private schools can and do expel troublemakers. State schools find this extremely difficult. To the extent the better performance is a treatment effect, it may not have anything to do with the quality of teaching, but just be a reflection of a less violent environment.

      • Harry says:

        Yeah, as soon as I posted that, I realized that I’d missed this out! It’s a crucial point that I was stupid not to mention – most private schools do select their pupils on ability, often using exactly the same test as grammar schools use. They also give scholarships to exceptionally bright students who couldn’t afford to go otherwise.

        However, there is a difference still. Private schools and grammar schools both select using the Common Entrance Examination, which is very easy to coach a child for (especially when you can afford a private tutor). I’d argue that any parent who can afford a private school can easily afford to train even a very unintelligent child to pass the entrance exam.

        (You mentioned Winchester, which is a special case – it selects using a unique exam that is apparently much harder.)

        To me, all this seems evidence for what Michael Watts says below – success in later life is not usually attributable to the school.

        • Deiseach says:

          To me, all this seems evidence for what Michael Watts says below – success in later life is not usually attributable to the school.

          The thing is networking and attending with pupils from the same background whose parents will either know your parents or move in similar circles.

          The bright scholarship kid may get into the school on merit, but they won’t have the same “Tarquin is doing an internship in Bungle, Bungle and Shiftless Merchant Bankers because they’re clients of Max’s company who send them tickets for Glyndebourne every year” connections.

          That’s the kind of thing that means Joseph and Tarquin went to St Cake’s together but Joseph is not earning an equivalent salary in an equivalent high-level job years later, so to an outsider observer plainly the standard of education makes no difference.

          I think that’s where Scott is interpreting the study, which if we’re talking purely about “the standard of teaching has little or nothing to do with it” is right enough (though not everything, because there is an expectation of academic excellence in those schools). On the other hand, the Conservative government of the UK is stuffed with ex-public school types, and that didn’t just happen by accident.

          In Cameron’s old cabinet, 45% of MPs had attended a private school at some point in their life, while 58% had gone to Oxbridge. To put this into context, 7% of the general population have been to a fee-paying school.

          Of the 32 members allowed to attend cabinet meetings now, just over half have been educated at an independent school at some point in their life.

          The proportion that have attended Oxbridge is down slightly on the previous cabinet – 50% of the new cabinet have attended either Oxford or Cambridge university, compared with 58% of the previous line-up. Another 34% of the new cabinet went to a Russell Group university (excluding Oxford and Cambridge).

          The “Independent” has nice coloured pie charts and all! 🙂

        • James A. says:

          Private schools and grammar schools both select using the Common Entrance Examination, which is very easy to coach a child for

          Do you have evidence for these coaching claims?

        • phisheep says:

          I believe that now the few remaining grammar schools may use Common Entrance. But in the 1960s things were quite different. The private schools used Common Entrance or their own examinations, Grammar schools used the nationwide 11-plus. The former was more like a school test, the latter was basically and old-fashioned IQ test.

    • Michael Watts says:

      Well, the fact that English public school students do much better in later life than non-public-school-students doesn’t mean that any of that success is attributable to the school. This is studied in the US by comparing e.g. people who were accepted to Harvard but didn’t matriculate to people who graduated, and seeing very little effect of the school. Harvard graduates as a class have much better later lives than non-Harvard-graduates, which tells us nothing about whether attending Harvard benefited those graduates.

      • Wency says:

        My experience is that it’s much easier to convert a Harvard or similarly elite education into an elite entry-level position in i-banking or management consulting, which are probably still the best two starting points for someone interested in a non-entrepreneurial career in business. The benefits of beginning your career at this level are real. The door to joining, say, a top-tier private equity firm is mostly closed to you if you don’t begin your career as an analyst at a top investment bank.

        At schools a step down from the top Ivies (which would include the lesser Ivies), those positions are possible but harder to attain, or at least were when I was a student.

        At schools 2+ tiers lower than the top Ivies, they’re almost impossible to attain. The firms simply aren’t interested in trying to screen students from those schools.

        In other words, perhaps for many career paths, a Harvard education doesn’t make much difference compared to schools 1-2 tiers down. But there are definitely areas where it makes a decisive difference, particularly for a first job out of school. And a first job out of school can easily set the tone for the rest of your career.

        • Anonymous says:

          I mostly agree, but an MBA from a very top school can act as a reset button and allow you a second bite at the apple.

          • Wency says:

            I think that’s roughly true — e.g., a post-MBA banking associate may see some doors re-opened, though I’ve heard conflicting stories on the subject from private equity specifically. The elite private equity people whom I’ve interacted with all had roughly the exact same resume, best I can tell.

            Also having a strong resume — both educational and professional — tends to be helpful in getting into that top MBA program, though I know MBA programs also like to have a certain proportion of students with bizarre resumes.

      • lemmy caution says:

        The results of the Kruger study are different from what was reported in the press. You make more money (“Men who attended the most competitive colleges earn 23 percent more than men who attended very competitive colleges, other variables in the equation being equal.”) if you go to a school that is more selective:

        http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/08/15/does-where-you-go-to-school-matter-and-why-reporters-get-this-wrong/

        http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/03/college-prestige-matters.html

        Go to Harvard if you get in.

    • kaninchen says:

      Grammar schools do, I believe, have an advantage over comprehensives in obtaining teachers. They can’t pay more, sure, but they offer a much more pleasant teaching environment. Teaching in a grammar school you have pupils who are less disruptive, more interested in the stuff they’re learning, and less likely to require you to cover the same material repeatedly.

      (I haven’t looked at the empirical literature, but anecdotally:
      -I went to a grammar school, and and there were perhaps two bad teachers in the whole school. My brother and friends at comprehensives had much higher rates of duff teachers than that.
      -My mother trained as a teacher, and quit after a few years because she “liked the teaching, hated the child-minding and mob control.” Part of her teacher training was done at a grammar school, which she thoroughly enjoyed).

  35. LPSP says:

    About Democratic electee’s conservatism and rainy days: It strikes me that democratic candidates who are themselves acceptably conservative in politics to be elected by a conservative-heavy base, are thus more likely to be elected on rainy days as the voterbase is more conservative. So naturally those candidates will be more conservative in office. The rainy day is selecting for them.

  36. Jack Sorensen says:

    The divide-by-7 thing isn’t that surprising when you think about doing long division. Finding decimal places while doing division consists of taking the remainder from the last step, bringing down a 0 and dividing into the number so attained (with the result being the next digit in the decimal expansion), finding the remainder, and repeat.

    For divisor < 10, a given digit will always be followed in the same way, by a certain specific digit. For example when dividing by 7 and writing out the decimal expansion, a 1 will always be followed by a 4.

    To see why, let the denominator be n, and let the ith decimal digit be d_i. To find d_i you divide n into the remainder from the last step, call this r_(i-1), multiplied by 10 (bringing down a 0 == multiplying by 10).

    Since n 10. For example, in the expansion for 1/49, the remainder can be 31 or 32, and then the next digit will be 6, but the next remainder will be different, so the sequence won’t continue the same way. Because of this the expansion for 1/49 has the sequence …63265… with 6 followed by a 3, then later by a 5.

    But if n < 10, then increasing the remainder by 1 has to change the next digit.

    This means that a certain digit in the decimal expansion for x/n will always be followed by a certain digit: i.e., if d_i == d_j, then it follows r_i == r_j, and therefore d_(i+1) == d_(j+1) (since those only depend on r_i and r_j, respectively, and n).

    So, when n = 7, in the decimal expansion, a 1 has to be followed by a 4, and the 4 must be followed by a 2, etc.

    The other question is why they're all on the same sequence at all. The above shows that if x/7 and y/7's decimal expansions both contain a 1, they must thereafter be the same, but they might just have totally disjoint sequences. One could be .142857… and the other could be .369… . If they never meet, they needn't coincide. An example of this is 1/3 vs 2/3.

    I think the answer has to do with the fact that the repeating decimal for 1/7 is maximally long – it has 6 digits, and for x/n, the repeating decimal must have length <n. In particular it means that when doing the long division, each possible remainder 1 through 6 appears once while going through once cycle of the repeating decimal (once one remainder appears twice, the sequence will repeat). In so doing, it takes all possible values for a digit in a decimal expansion for x/7. Any other y/7 has to have a remainder that's the same at some point, thus one digit the same, thus the same sequence of digits.

    Final question is why the repeating decimal for 7 is maximally long. It's not clear to me there's some deep reason for this. But for me intuitively, a number with a long repeating decimal is a really irrational number, and 7 seems like an unwieldy number that would do that sort of thing.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      This has all already been said briefly elsewhere in the thread, but I’ll state it here explicitly.

      What’s going on here is that 10 is a primitive root (or generator) modulo the prime 7. Assume b and n are relatively prime, so that 1/n is purely periodic when written in base b. Then in general, the period of 1/n, written in base b, is equal to the order of b modulo n. That is to say, it’s the smallest k such that b^k=1 (mod n). (This is guaranteed to exist so long as b and n are relatively prime.)

      Why is this the same as the period? Well, a periodic representation in base b is some integral multiple of — well, let’s say for concreteness that the period is 4. Then it’s some integral multiple of .000100010001… (in base b); and of course this holds more generally, there’s obviously nothing special about 4. So let’s say the period is k. Well, then this number is equal to 1/(b^k-1). So if we want to write 1/n as a repeating decimal in base b, with period k, then we’re saying 1/n = m/(b^k-1) for some whole number m, i.e., n divides b^k-1. So the smallest period is the smallest k for which n divides b^k-1, i.e., it’s the order of b modulo n.

      So that explains the bit about the period — 10 has an order of 6, modulo 7. What about the “different starting points” bit?

      The order of b mod n isn’t just how long it takes b^k to reach 1 mod n; it’s actually the number of different values that b^k takes on mod n. When b^k takes on all possible values mod n that are relatively prime to n, we say that b is a generator, or a primitive root, mod n. We denote the number of these by φ(n); so to say that b is a generator mod n is the same as to say that its order mod n is φ(n), i.e., as large as possible. (Obviously, when n is prime, φ(n)=n-1.)

      (Note that there’s not a primitive root for every modulus! Famously, there’s a primitive root for every prime modulus, but those aren’t the only ones. In general, there’s a primitive root mod n if and only if n is one of 1, 2, 4, an odd prime power, or twice an odd prime power. I guess actually 1 is an odd prime power, so you could leave out 1 and 2.)

      So anyway. Say we want n and b such that 1/n, 2/n, …, (n-1)/n, written in base b, are all going to be the same cyclic string except starting at different points. This is going to happen precisely when n is prime and b is a generator mod n (and the latter happens when 1/n is “as long as possible” when written in base b). We’re going to want n to be prime because otherwise 1/n, 2/n, …, (n-1)/n aren’t even going to all have the same denominator when written in lowest terms, and that’s going to be a problem. Now, since we’re looking at n-1 different fractions, the period of 1/n had better be at least (and hence exactly) n-1, since the period gives you the number of different possible starting points. If you don’t have n-1 different starting points, you can’t get n-1 different fractions by picking different starting points.

      How about the converse, that if it’s a generator then in fact the m/n are indeed all shifts of 1/n? Well, if b is a generator mod n, and you have some m/n, then since b is a generator, there’s some k such that b^k = m (mod n). But that means that m/n and b^k/n have the same fractional part. And the latter is just 1/n shifted left by k places. So indeed it’s the same thing.

      (To go into more detail about the problem if n isn’t prime, if n isn’t prime, then for any m dividing n, you’ll get 1/m apearing in your list, and that’s going to be a problem, because if b has order φ(n) mod n, well, its order mod m is going to be less than φ(n), and so the period isn’t even going to be the same. Unless n=2m and m is odd, but you can pick m so that’s not the case.)

      So yeah — ultimately this just comes down to 10 having order 6 mod 7; 10 being a generator mod 7. It’s also a generator mod 19, 23, 29, and 47, for a few more examples; and of course one can easily come up with more in other bases as well.

      There’s actually a famous conjecture of Artin stating that if b is any integer which is neither -1 nor a perfect square, there are infinitely many primes for which b is a primitive root. So if true, there would necessarily be infinitely many primes you could take above. However, this conjecture has never been proven for even a single particular value of b, despite a bunch of nonconstructive work showing that it must be true for a great many values of b (we just don’t know which ones).

  37. Kevin C. says:

    Another link on “Mao’s mangoes”.

  38. keranih says:

    Effective animal charity Mercy for Animals

    What is the grounds for the description “effective” here?

    • Murphy says:

      “pictures”

      Factually it’s incorrect. People have been able to read images out of the visual cortexes of cats.

      Though I think that was also posted in the last thread and someone did the hard work of going through it line by line and pointing to every bungle, error and inaccuracy.

      it’s poorly informed wordplay by someone who knows little about computers or neurology and a waste of time.

      • Acedia says:

        Thank you! I knew if I posted it here I’d get feedback on its accuracy. You don’t happen to have a link to the other critique, do you? I searched the last couple of open threads and can’t find it.

      • Peter says:

        There’s maybe a hint of a point there, various things in that article have been said better by people making serious points about AI or psychology or neurology or philosophy, but…

        The title of the article is “The empty brain”, and soon goes on to say “The human brain isn’t really empty, of course.”. Every single shocking claim in that article should be read the same way – as some ridiculous piece of hyperbole where the article has taken some small kernel of truth and stretched beyond all recognition.

        Suppose I went back in time to the medieval period and tried claiming, “there’s no water anywhere”. People would think I was an idiot at best and point to lakes and the sea etc. and say “what’s that”, I’d say, “tell me what water is”, they’d say, “well, it’s one of the four elements, duh, ask any alchemist” and I’d say, “there’s none of the four elements off in that lake, there’s something in there, but it’s a compound of two elements, so it can’t be what you call ‘water'” (this all assumes I’d get that far without being burned at the stake first). That’s about the level of argumentation in that article.

    • Urstoff says:

      Turns out that cognitive science circa 1975 is not 100% correct. Someone stop the presses.

      The short of it is you can’t have cognitive science without representations. You can probably have it without explicit, discrete symbolic representations, but that is not exhaustive of the possible types of representations.

    • Aegeus says:

      It takes quite a while before he actually gets around to describing how a brain works (if it’s not a computer, what is it?), but his basic assertion is “Your brain doesn’t store a perfect copy of an image, instead it reconstructs that image in a complex, poorly-understood process.”

      Which is true, as far as it goes. The Illustrated Guide to Law recently did a really nice series on how our memories work, and how that affects things like eyewitness testimony.

      But saying that it’s not “storing information” sounds like splitting hairs. The information is definitely there, because you can reproduce it. It’s just stored in a very lossy and hard-to-decode format, which is tangled up with a lot of other bits of information. His argument is sort of like looking at the JPEG file format and saying “It’s not storing information, it’s storing a series of cosine functions that allow you to reconstruct the image.”

      I think a better lesson to take is “Information can be encoded in really obscure ways” or “You can store information by storing how to recover it.” Sometimes a tiny mathematical formula can have the entire Mandelbrot Set stored in it. And sometimes an impenetrable tangle of neurons can somehow have all your memories of grandma inside it.

      Anyway, it’s definitely not correct to conclude “And therefore, we can’t run a brain on a computer” from that. Neural nets are a thing in AI research, and it would be fair to say that AlphaGo’s neural net “stores information” on how to win a Go game, even though it’s stored in such an obscure manner that, as with a human brain, you can’t point to any part of it and say “That neuron stores knowledge about opening joseki.”

  39. Megafire says:

    AskReddit: What is the most surprising mathematical fact you know?. The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

    This is exactly why 7 has been my favourite number for several years now.

  40. John Ohno says:

    I think you misunderstand or misrepresent Horgan’s position. (Or, alternately, I have misunderstood it in a way that makes it far more palatable!) My understanding of it was that Horgan sees the skeptic community as focusing significantly more effort on demolishing the dregs of belief in what are essentially skepticism success stories from thirty years ago than on attempting to think critically in a general sense — i.e., spending a lot of time congratulating themselves on not believing in bigfoot in a world where hardly anyone believes in bigfoot instead of trying to figure out which things they already believe that they shouldn’t.

    Horgan’s list of examples didn’t seem like it was intended as a list of things he would specifically like debunked, so much as a list of examples of things wherein he thought expert disagreement was far more common than disagreement in the skeptic community (i.e., cases where skeptics should be more skeptical and pay more attention to what experts are saying, or else risk becoming skeptics-in-name-only as part of a club for people who think it’s really impressive not to believe in bigfoot).

    Now, maybe I interpreted Horgan in this way because I’ve been saying the same things for a decade — perhaps he actually *did* mean that he wanted skeptics to focus on the very specific dubious ideas he referenced. That hardly matters, except in the context of Horgan’s ego: we probably *should* be focusing skepticism on more hard targets than soft targets (as this blog does); in other words, interpreting Horgan’s talk with the assumption of good faith and competence gets the skeptic community farther than interpreting it in the way you have.

    • Deiseach says:

      Since then a whole host of scientists have pointed out that John Horgan doesn’t actually understand their scientific fields and is wrong when he talks about them

      I am slightly amused by this, as having read Horgan’s article, I think that it may well be he doesn’t understand in-depth the areas he mentions (he is a journalist after all, not a scientist) but that reaction mainly appears – to me at least – to be a lot of offended “Hey! We’re legit! Why don’t you go after the woo-merchants and leave us Serious Scientific Types alone?”defensiveness, which is exactly the problem Horgan mentions.

      Everyone is prepared to laugh at believers in a flat earth. I believe in Transubstantiation and I’ll laugh at them. Easy targets are no good. I note Neurologica’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger response about “The result was a string of cherry picked strawmen” (goodness, it’s a good thing skeptics and freethinkers never do that when taking on religion or the like, isn’t it?)

      But that’s Horgan’s point. Skeptics are going after the low-hanging fruit. If they’re offended and uncomfortable about Horgan not giving them a rah-rah speech about “Yeah! Bash those psychic hotlines and creationist museums!”, then he’s doing the job they need done. Turn their own examination on themselves and see if they’re just the tiniest bit smug, self-righteous, or comfortable in “I don’t have to investigate this for myself, all my like-minded cohort tell me it’s nonsense, so I know it’s nonsense”.

      • Jiro says:

        If you believe in transsubstantiation, I don’t think you get to complain that skeptics who take on religion are using cherry-picked strawmen. Complaining about strawmen basically means saying “real religious beliefs are a lot more sensible than the easily criticized one you picked”, and if transsubstantiation is your standard for real religious beliefs, that… isn’t so.

        • Deiseach says:

          Jiro, my point there is mocking easy targets is, well, easy. There’s nothing special in being sceptical (or even skeptical) about mediums when ten year old me was learning her catechism to avoid mediums and fortune-tellers.

          I wasn’t going for the religion angle, I was saying that there are a lot of easy marks out there, and the complaint that “John Horgan cherry-picked strawmen!” is not necessarily a refutation of his critque: that skeptics rehash the same old arguments about targets that have been acknowledged to have been beaten, instead of examining new targets closer to home.

          Sure, there are still people who believe in psychics and crystal healing and Bigfoot, but they are not in a position to do anyone any harm (apart from the con-artists who squeeze money out of vulnerable people for pretending to put them in touch with their deceased loved ones and advise them by forecasting the future, and that’s what the law is there for – to prosecute fraud).

          I picked transubstantiation as my example because that’s something even other Christians think is crazy or erroneous (see Martin Luther), and if someone holding such wacky beliefs agrees with you that the belief you are pointing and mocking at is indeed risible, then that battle has already been won. You’re going for the soft target and not picking fresh angles of inquiry.

          And the skeptic’s refutation of transubstantiation often boils down to “yeah, but if we put the consecrated wine through a mass spectrometer, there would be no measurable resemblance to human blood and no measurable difference from ordinary wine!*” which is not at all the belief of Catholics (and presumably the Orthodox): the accidents remain the same, the substance is changed.

          When you’ve got the Raelians on your side running DNA tests on (allegedly) consecrated hosts to demonstrate “Nope, no human DNA here!”, then I think “you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” applies.

          *Can I remember who suggested this approach? No I cannot, and this is what happens when you’ve read more than your tiny memory can hold all the details.

          • Jiro says:

            Transsubstantiation is an easy target. If skeptics are not attacking transsubstantiation, then they’re not cherry picking easy targets.

            (And the refutation of transsubstantiation is really “accident and substance are incoherent concepts. Also, while transsubstantiation according to the textbooks can’t be detected by DNA testing, transsubstantiation as understood by most believers could be, and I refuse to no-true-Scotsman those believers.”)

          • keranih says:

            My favorite Catholic-joke-told-by-non-Catholics is about the poor Southern Baptist who left the woods and moved to the suburbs and ended up in a Catholic culdesac. After many months of hanging out with them, he decides to convert. In January(*) after the end of deer season, they have a ceremony at the church and he is sprinkled with holy water and the priest says: “You were born a Baptist and raised a Baptist and now you are a Catholic.”

            So now he’s Catholic like all his neighbors and all is well. Except they are constantly correcting him on breaking the rules. He wants to stand up and say things in Mass. He ‘borrows’ flasks of holy water and wants to get some bacon grease consecrated as anointing oil. They tell him he can’t do Baptist stuff any more, he’s a Catholic now.

            It all comes to a head on a Friday in early April, when the guy has a gill going and the tantalizing smell of steak is running across the neighborhood. Everyone is outraged, because it is Lent, so no red meat, and they summon the priest. He comes striding into the back yard with his black suit and collar and a rosary clenched (**) in his fist…

            …just as the guy is standing over the grill, sprinking holy water on the steak, and saying, “You was born a deer, you was raised a deer, and now you is a catfish.”

            (Badump dum. I’ll be here all week.)

            (*) Everyone who’s Catholic knows why this is wrong – people are admitted into the faith at a ceremony a week before Easter, barring v. special circumstances. It makes for a hellishly long mass and unless you’re one of the new initiates or of their family, it can be very hard to drudge up care.

            (**) It’s not a magic device, it’s just a counting string. Don’t get me started on Boondock Saints.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And the refutation of transsubstantiation is really “accident and substance are incoherent concepts.

            By all means, feel free to point out the incoherency.

            Also, while transsubstantiation according to the textbooks can’t be detected by DNA testing, transsubstantiation as understood by most believers could be, and I refuse to no-true-Scotsman those believers.

            So if it turned out that the majority of self-described evolutionists thought that evolution entails that a monkey once gave birth to a human being, would pointing out the ridiculousness of this belief serve to undermine the theory of evolution?

          • Jiro says:

            If “creature with less than X percent of these genes” counts as a monkey and “creature with at least X percent of these genes” counts as a human, it follows that according to evolution, a monkey gave birth to a human, for the same reason that there is a pile of sand that is not a heap which, if you add one grain of sand, becomes a heap.

            Even if you pick an actual false belief, such as “some creatures are ‘more highly evolved'”, there’s the question of why I would want to criticize layman-evolution rather than book-evolution. If I’m criticizing it for the purpose of arguing against scientists, I’d better pick book-evolution. But I’m not criticizing religion for the purpose of arguing against theologians.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So why the hell should I care about what some hypothetical guy thinks who’s ignorant about what the actual doctrine of transubstantiation entails? You can go on all you like about how not-transubstantiation-but-sometimes-mistaken-for-it is silly and wrong, but that doesn’t prove anything about transubstantiation itself.

            Plus, you’re just illustrating Horgan’s point about sceptics spending all their time going after low-hanging fruit here — weak-manning opposing views is an excellent example of going after low-hanging fruit in order to avoid seriously challenging your own preconceptions.

            And incidentally, if you’re going to pull the “But transubstantiation as understood by most believers could be detected by a DNA test!” card, perhaps you’d like to offer some actual evidence that most believers do in fact believe that consecrated wafers ought to contain detectable human DNA.

          • Deiseach says:

            Jiro, if the Raelians decided they were going to disprove that Moses received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai by going to a synagogue, stealing a Torah scroll, and setting it on fire – “and if it burns, that proves it’s not divinely produced!” – and then mentioned that they know it involves stealing a Torah scroll, and some people think stealing is a bit naughty, but for some unfathomable reason (probably the irrational prejudices of blind believers) if you ask a synagogue to give your their Torah so you can burn it – for scientific experiment purposes only! – they won’t do so, so they’ve satisified themselves it’s ethically okay:

            I think even the most Orthodox are likely to say

            (a) “Whether the scroll burns or not has nothing to do with what you think you are disproving”

            (b) “Guys, worrying about is stealing naughty is the least important point here!”

            I think most skeptics would agree the Raelians are full of woo. When you have even the Raelians agreeing with you that “belief X” is dumb, then you are going after soft targets and might as well congratulate yourself on not believing that Paddington was a real bear really from Peru.

          • RCF says:

            “By all means, feel free to point out the incoherency.”

            The burden is on believers to explain how it is coherent.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The burden is on believers to explain how it is coherent.

            The burden is on the person making the claim — which, in this case, is Jiro.

          • Jiro says:

            Whether the scroll burns or not has nothing to do with what you think you are disproving

            Neither well-educated Jews nor average Jews understand “the Torah is divine” to mean that it can’t be burned. Many average Catholics understand transsubstantiation to mean that the host turns into flesh in a way that could in theory be measured.

          • Andrew G. says:

            Just look at the ludicrous claims that are made for “eucharistic miracle” hosts – not sure if anyone’s claimed human DNA, but the latest one (in Poland) has been claimed to be human heart muscle.

            (Conveniently ignored is the fact that the church didn’t like the report they got from the first lab they sent it to for analysis, and that the second lab’s sample is suspect. The reporting on that aspect is all in Polish, though.)

          • RCF says:

            @The original Mr. X

            “The burden is on the person making the claim — which, in this case, is Jiro.”

            No, Catholics are the one making a claim, and they are the ones with the burden. Just because you can frame the situation to make it seem like Jiro is the one making the claim, that doesn’t mean that Jiro is the one with the burden of proof. The burden of proof generally attaches to the person making a positive claim, not the one making a negative one.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Andrew, the point of Eucharistic miracle hosts (to Roman Catholics) is that they’re special miracles beyond the miracle that (supposedly) happens to every host. If you analyzed a true Eucharistic miracle, you would observe true human flesh and blood; if you analyzed another consecrated host, you’d only observe bread. So, Eucharistic miracles aren’t relevant to a debate about transubstantiation.

            But your claim about the supposed miracle in Poland failing the first lab’s tests intrigues me. I’m a Protestant, and I hadn’t given any credence to Eucharistic miracles, but the published results on that incident looked convincing assuming I could trust their tests. (Which could be a big assumption, as Scott’s taught us.) Have you found any source in English? Or even if not, could you link something in Polish?

          • Andrew G. says:

            My knowledge of Polish is nil, but Google Translate has its uses.

            http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/wiadomosci/7,114885,19920428,bakteria-ktora-czyni-cuda-skad-moga-sie-wziac-krew-na-hostii.html

            I have not found any English reporting at all which quotes the relevant details.

            See also:

            http://m.wroclaw.wyborcza.pl/wroclaw/1,106542,19908435,byl-cud-czy-nie-dwie-rozne-ekspertyzy-naukowcow.html

            which quotes some relevant details regarding the sampling procedure (if I’m reading the slightly dodgy translation right, the first lab came to the church to take their own samples, and found nothing relevant, while the second was supplied with a sample by the cardiologist (hmm!) on the church’s investigation committee).

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I agree that regular science needs to be analyzed “skeptically”, but I don’t think the skeptical movement is at all the right people to do that, because the only game they know is taking things that they have been pre-informed are stupid, then mocking them for being stupid. If they got into analyzing regular science, they’d probably just go to whatever the most controversial or unpopular regular scientific field was and mock it for being stupid without really understanding it. Can you imagine the average person from Freethought Blogs saying “I went into this paper expecting it would be pseudoscience, but after really carefully retracing all the statistical steps I think it’s strange, unpalatable, but true”?

        I think of Bigfoot as a useful containment mechanism for these people.

        • Steve Reilly says:

          What’s funny is that PZ Myers from Freethough Blogs was a big supporter of the Horgan’s speech. This was right around the top that Myers was blogging about how he’d just attended some UFO conference with talks on the British version of a Roswell crash and a lengthy speech about Vikings who left runes in Minnesota in the eleventh century. Which seemed about as low-hanging a fruit as you could get.

        • rttf says:

          @Scott Alexander

          As someone who used to be very into skepticism a few years ago and completely agree with your criticism, I still feel the need to point out that the Freethought Blogs are not well regarded in the skeptical movement (to put it mildly) and PZ Myers is pretty much universally hated outside his very narrow fanbase.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            Oh, is that true? That’s really good to hear. At one point I’d gotten the impression that type had taken over all the conferences, and were systematically “uninviting” everyone outside of their clique.

          • rttf says:

            @Eggoeggo

            I should probably add that my information is somewhat out of date. In retrospect it’s not unlikely that that type has gained a better foothold since the time I stopped following.

          • RCF says:

            Yeah, I think of them typifying SJW more than skepticism. They do wrap themselves in the label (“Skepticon”, “Skepchick”), but they are in many ways deeply anti-skeptical; for instance, Greta Christina once wrote an article with a bunch of lies about the Trayvon Martin case, then informed her readers that anyone who expressed any skepticism about her claims would be banned, and it seems to be treated as completely proven over there that Michael Shermer is a rapist.

          • TD says:

            “then informed her readers that anyone who expressed any skepticism about her claims would be banned”

            I’m sure she didn’t phrase it quite like that, but I see.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @TD

            http://the-orbit.net/greta/2013/07/15/trayon-martin-george-zimmerman-freethought/

            “If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.”

            So yeah, she didn’t express it quite like that. She expressed it far more strongly. This is typical anti-rationalism from that side of the culture war.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            You have to wonder if they even realize how insane that kind of histrionic language sounds. I guess that’s what happens when you get enough retweeters going “SO BRAVE!!” at that style of writing.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Going after harder targets means a much higher probability of being wrong. It’s also encouraging laypeople to make disparaging comments in regards to difficult fields. Yudkowsky on Quantum Mechanics is not exactly the kind of behavior I want to promote.

        I mean, Scott’s analyses on certain topics, such as racism in the justice system or marijuana, is about as close to skepticism on hard subjects as you can get. And not everyone has both the smarts, time, and willingness to devote so much of said time, to doing that kind of stuff.

        Really, I’d just like the broader skeptic movement to learn a little epistemic humility. But I want everyone to learn a little epistemic humility. A little epistemic humility is a wonderful thing! But not a lot, or else you get solipsism

        • Deiseach says:

          But if skepticism is only to be applied to easy, as distinct from difficult, fields, then is there any use in encouraging lay people to be skeptical or to be free thinkers? The response of the scientists while valid does seem to rely on the creation or entrenchment of a professional grade of skeptic, who can then by virtue of their scientific/professional/”trust us smart people” understanding disseminate to the lay person what targets are or are not stupid and to be mocked, which does not get us very much further in “developing a sense of willingness to question beliefs and assumptions in the general public”.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            It is not that skepticism is only to be applied to easy fields, but that healthy skepticism on difficult fields is epistemic humility, not mockery. If you had the evidence to justify the mockery, the field wouldn’t be difficult.

            More specifically, mockery is only justified on questions so obvious that getting them wrong requires extraordinary incompetence. And even then it should be measured carefully to avoid needless cruelty.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          A little epistemic humility is a wonderful thing! But not a lot, or else you get solipsism…

          Or Cartesianism… 😉

    • shemtealeaf says:

      I’m not sure Bigfoot is the best example, because very few people believe in Bigfoot, and it’s a topic that matters very little either way.

      I think of the prototypical skeptic spending more time railing against things like religion and shady alternative medicine. Those are things that are widely believed and have significant real-world effects.

    • Urstoff says:

      What’s always annoyed me is that the skeptic community always seems to be more about self-congratulation than persuasion. After all, they’re definitely not following the practices for most effective persuasion recommended by psychology (hint: calling other people frauds, dupes, or stupid is not effective). Congrats, you don’t believe in bigfoot or homeopathy. Now do something hard: persuade those who do, or focus on more difficult intellectual.

      • urpriest says:

        Their best work is more about investigation than either, really.

        I used to read the Skeptical Inquirer pretty regularly, and the best articles were always the direct investigations. Some guy goes to a village where there are rumors of a poltergeist, hangs around, and manages to catch a kid throwing stuff when none of the adults are watching. Someone claims they have a bigfoot sample, and a lab takes it apart and figures out where it actually came from. There’s a big study on the effectiveness of astrology, and while it looks like there’s some effect at first it turns out to be due to the fact that when people don’t remember their spouse’s birthday on the census they substitute their own.

        This is something that’s interesting, that’s worth doing, and that Skeptics are good at. Persuasion is a sideline, self-congratulation a casualty. The most important question is never why a hoax is wrong, but how it managed to look right.

        Those who claim that Skeptics should focus on irrationality in general (both Horgan and people within the movement like Neurologica) are forgetting that the rest of the world already wants to avoid irrationality. Skeptics are unique because they know how pseudoscience operates, not because they’re more rational than everyone else.

        • RCF says:

          “the rest of the world already wants to avoid irrationality”

          No, they don’t.

          • Nicholas says:

            The rest of the world has conveniently defined a set of priors such that they are never acting irrationally, and you should to.

          • RCF says:

            I suppose it might be possible to model them as such, but I don’t think that’s how they view their worldview. For instance, a believer in the vaccine-autism link would probably say “There’s so much evidence for the link that once is forced to accept the conclusion”, not “I start with such a massive prior for the link that even the slightest evidence was enough to convince me”.

            We have the term “steelmanning”; should there be a term when Person A bends over backwards to find an explanation for Person B’s behavior that makes sense within Person A’s worldview and/or values, but Person B would reject that explanation?

          • Nicholas says:

            I mean that an antivaxxer would tell you “Not being an antivaxxer is just irrational.” People do not consider their own values irrational, and thus push for more rationality in the world around them, because obviously the correct measure of world rationality is what percentage of the world agrees with them.

  41. tgb says:

    Can anyone answer the request “approximate sum of the digits of n! using Stirling’s formula” that Wolfram|Alpha couldn’t? It doesn’t seem likely, since 1,000,000 and 999,999 have radically digit sums but differ only by 1 part in a million. So the best I could do is approximate the total number of digits in n! and then assume they’re all 4.5, or really to give an upper bound of 9*(number of digits).

    While using non-Stirling’s you could get slightly better: there’s always a string of 0’s at the end of n! for large n and you could count those to lower the upper bound somewhat. For example, there’s always at least floor(n/5) of them.

    I guess the request wasn’t for a good approximation.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Forgive me if I’m repeating an already stated point here, I didn’t see it in the comments but I skimmed those:

    Yet another Swedish lottery study finds that wealth itself (as opposed to the factors that cause wealth) has no independent impact on mortality, adult health care utilization, child scholastic performance, drug use, etc.

    Speaking as a Swede (in all of the citizen, ethnic, and grew up there senses), let me point out that this study shows that wealth itself has no independent impact on mortality etc. in one of the most extensive welfare states in the world where moreover, until the mid-’90s private options for dealing with many of the above were illegal, so that any study of adults would necessarily trap largely people who grew up in a DDR-type system. I’d hesitate to generalize these conclusions to Texas.

    • Anon says:

      Ancient Aliens is going to have a field day with that…

    • tgb says:

      Very neat, especially since I had just recently read about his scarab brooch they mention at the end:

      “In 2006, an Austrian astrochemist proposed that an unusual yellowish gem, shaped as a scarab in King Tut’s burial necklace, is actually glass formed in the heat of a meteorite crashing into sand.”

      You start to wonder how he died so young with all the high-level magic equipment he had.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        You start to wonder how he died so young with all the high-level magic equipment he had.

        Ah, but he might have died even younger without it…

        • John Schilling says:

          The guy totally misread the Challenge Rating of Aten. A tenth-level Pharaoh isn’t supposed to be taking on actual gods even with a +5 dagger and an Amulet of Protection from Evil.

    • Nornagest says:

      That’s a beautiful knife.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Cf the Javanese Kris:, ‘A bladesmith makes the blade in layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel.’.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ onyomi
      King Tut’s dagger made of meteor.

      I keep reading this as ‘dagger made of metaphor’, which suggests either Charles Williams (the Inkling one) or Larry Niven.

  43. The Nybbler says:

    Do we have any mainstream-ish articles blaming the Venezuelan situation on US policies yet?

    • sabril says:

      I’m not very familiar with the situation, but it occurs to me the Iran nuclear deal probably dealt a heavy blow to the Venezuelan economy. I doubt you will see the Left making this argument, however.

  44. Tsnom Eroc says:

    >Biggest Loser Drugged

    I doubt the guys were daft enough to explicitely give them drugs (amphetamines) like that. It was probably a yohimbe + caffiene appetite suppressant

    …and reading the arcticle, I was right!

    >I feel like we got raped, too.

    No. She knew what she was doing, losing weight for media fame and willingly taking the drugs they gave her. Its still all sketchy.

    • anonymous says:

      I don’t know, some people are pretty gullible, especially if they’re desperate, -which I imagine someone would have to be even to put themselves through that (this is the program about shouting at fat people, right?) for the money.

      Did they get paid a lot?

    • RCF says:

      That was remarkably insensitive to victims of rape. Okay, coercing someone into doing something is problematic, but a distinction between reluctant consent and no consent at all should be made. The article also says “The contestants were forced to shower together with no curtains or barriers of any kind.” Again, thre’s a difference between coercing someone into doing something and forcing them. (And the literal wording implies that all the contestants showered together’ presumably they were separated by gender.)

      Still, the premise of the show is rather disturbing: if overweight people are optimizing for most weight lost, rather than health, it’s rather predictable that they will lose more weight than is optimal weight-wise. Having a competition to lose weight is just asking for trouble.

  45. kaninchen says:

    My favourite bit of maths: proof by colouring.
    As an introductory problem, imagine a chessboard with two diagonally-opposite squares removed. You also have 31 dominoes, each of which covers two adjacent squares. Can you cover the board with these?

    The answer is that you can’t because each domino has to cover one white and one black square, but the board with the two corners removed has 32 of one colour and 30 of the other. Diagram.

    A similar problem: you have a 10×10 board and 25 4×1 tiles. Can you cover the board? Answer.

    Another one: prove that an 8×9 board cannot be covered by 12 6×1 tiles. (Proof)

    These questions are taken from here, there are a bunch more there as well.

  46. Anthony says:

    Scott, I’m reading an essay by Isaiah Berlin entitled “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” It’s about Leo Tolstoy’s (exceedingly skeptical) view of “historical science”, and it includes a savagely ironic quotation from War and Peace which sounded so much like you that I must copy it here:

    Louis XIV was a very proud and self-confident man; he had such and such mistresses and such and such ministers and he ruled France badly. His descendants were weak men and they too ruled France badly. And they had such and such favorites and such and such mistresses. Moreover, certain men wrote some books at that time. At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius- Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere- that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many. In Russia there was an Emperor, Alexander, who decided to restore order in Europe and therefore fought against Napoleon. In 1807 he suddenly made friends with him, but in 1811 they again quarreled and again began killing many people. Napoleon led six hundred thousand men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace. All Napoleon’s allies suddenly became his enemies and their forces advanced against the fresh forces he raised. The Allies defeated Napoleon, entered Paris, forced Napoleon to abdicate, and sent him to the island of Elba, not depriving him of the title of Emperor and showing him every respect, though five years before and one year later they all regarded him as an outlaw and a brigand. Then Louis XVIII, who till then had been the laughingstock both of the French and the Allies, began to reign. And Napoleon, shedding tears before his Old Guards, renounced the throne and went into exile. Then the skillful statesmen and diplomatists (especially Talleyrand, who managed to sit down in a particular chair before anyone else and thereby extended the frontiers of France) talked in Vienna and by these conversations made the nations happy or unhappy. Suddenly the diplomatists and monarchs nearly quarreled and were on the point of again ordering their armies to kill one another, but just then Napoleon arrived in France with a battalion, and the French, who had been hating him, immediately all submitted to him. But the Allied monarchs were angry at this and went to fight the French once more. And they defeated the genius Napoleon and, suddenly recognizing him as a brigand, sent him to the island of St. Helena. And the exile, separated from the beloved France so dear to his heart, died a lingering death on that rock and bequeathed his great deeds to posterity. But in Europe a reaction occurred and the sovereigns once again all began to oppress their subjects.

    • Deiseach says:

      Napoleon led six hundred thousand men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace.

      That part reminds me of the song The Bonny Bunch of Roses (in various versions, here’s one):

      ‘He took six hundred thousand men and kings likewise to bear his train;
      He was so well provided-for that he could sweep the world for gain.
      But when he came to Moscow he was overpowered by sleet and snow
      And with Moscow all a-blazing he lost the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

  47. Jaskologist says:

    Sanders has at last weighed in on Venezuela.

    • Jill says:

      He probably hasn’t had time to read up on the situation and thoroughly understand it.

      And I can’t see why a person who is in favor bringing a few socialist sorts of policies to an overall capitalist society, should be expected to make some case that every instance of socialism at any place and at any time, always worked perfectly.

      No one expects neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalist folks to have to defend every capitalist society on earth as having been perfect. In fact, neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalists don’t even feel the need to make a case that what they are doing here and now works in the least. They are allowed to stick to their religiously believed ideology, and to steer clear of actual facts, such as what the crony capitalism of the military industrial complex has done to the U.S.

      Turning the U.S. into Venezuela is not what Bernie is about. So it’s totally reasonable for him to focus on what he is proposing for the U.S. and why he expects THAT to work.

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        No one expects neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalist folks to have to defend every capitalist society on earth as having been perfect

        So young. So naive.
        Every socialist, left winger and social commentator holds absolutely EVERYTHING against neoliberal capitalism. If an African child stubs his toe it’s the fault of neoliberal capitalism. If a drought happens and a warlord steals the disaster relief food it’s the fault of neoliberal capitalism. If teenage girls take to anal sex it’s the result if neoliberal capitalism. If teenage pregnancies are up its the result of neoliberal capitalism. If women put off having kids into their forties it’s the result of neoliberal capitalism. If people have.trouble finding dates it’s because neoliberalism has turned dating into a market where people can’t compete. If people don’t call their parents as often as they should it’s because neoliberal values have weakened the bonds of family.
        If anything bad happens in the world neoliberal capitalism will be blame for it and if it happens in space it’s because Elon Musk gave into neoliberal ideology.

        But if socialist policies cause their country to collapse with very obvious and demonstrable policy to impact to consequence to economic and social failure mechanisms, “it’s oh that’d not a fair comparison”, “that wasn’t their intent”, and, “we wouldn’t do that if we ran America with socialist policies”.

        Spoke how socialism always gets the benefit of the doubt and “oh we mean well” is good enough, but capitalists have to fight tooth and nail to convince anyone that anything they say has any good intention behind it.
        And yet capitalism is still winning.

        It’s almost as if one is counter intuitive but amazing, and the other is intuitive but awful

        • onyomi says:

          In academia, this is no exaggeration. Everything from why your department chair is an asshole to why the donors have stupid priorities can be blamed on neoliberalism.

          • Jill says:

            Perhaps academia is different.

            I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers, including magic asterisk federal budgets that don’t add up at all, from people like Paul Ryan. And most of the mainstream media doesn’t question it at all– even those parts of the mainstream media that are not Right Wing echo chambers– as many of them are.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not sure what this has to do with neoliberalism?

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Academia, sociology, anthropology, social theory, literary theory, continental philosophy ect. Is full of people who speak of neoliberalism he way previous generation spoke of the devil: ever present in the back of peoples minds, sowing misery into the world and leading the weak non MA holding masses astray. It’s especially hilarious because these “scholars” who will spend years reading impenetrable post-modern philosophy and social criticism will never read the basic text of neoliberalism (“Capitalism and freedom”) despite the fact that it’s 140 pages of the most readable prose ever written on the subject.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            >I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers

            protip: if you’re going to capitalize the name of the Evil Enemy Conspiracy Group, you should capitalize every word in the name.
            Otherwise it looks like you’re talking about a group trying to market “far right-free” products.

          • “I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers”

            Could you give us an actual example? You hint at something from “people like” Ryan but don’t actually point at anything Ryan said or explain why it’s an obvious lie.

      • I assume he’s at least following the news in a general way because it could come up as part of his campaign.

        The economic failures caused by communist governments are not a new, surprising thing which require creative thought to understand.

        I’ve heard he’s said that he wants the US to be more like the Scandinavian countries, but I’d like to know whether he understands how market-based their economies are.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, I am sure he does. He has said in interviews that he just wants to add a few socialistic type policies to our overall capitalist system. He is not trying to turn the U.S. into a totally socialistic economy.

          • keranih says:

            he just wants to add a few socialistic type policies to our overall capitalist system. He is not trying to turn the U.S. into a totally socialistic economy.

            A gene sequence here and there is one thing, but when you’ve cut off the ears and the tail and slapped a set of horns and a fish fin on it, it’s not a jackrabbit any more.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve heard he’s said that he wants the US to be more like the Scandinavian countries, but I’d like to know whether he understands how market-based their economies are.

          Speaking as a Scandi, I’d especially like to know if he realizes how US-obsessed our culture is and how desperately Sweden at least has been hurling itself in the direction of America politically since the fall of the Soviet Union. (Not related exactly, we just happened to realize around that same time how much it sucked to have no products, no entertainment, no choices, and the telephone company owning all of the nation’s telephone handsets.)

          With a few exceptions, my generation hates the so-called (and aptly named) “DDR Sweden” system of the past. Even the left-wing half does!

          • erenold says:

            That’s actually very interesting.

            May I ask what the few exceptions are? For Swedes, what things about their more social-democratic past work better as opposed to the more capitalist present?

          • Anonymous says:

            The (literal, actual, not-hyperbole) Communists (they hand out an annual Lenin Prize and shit, they’re not kidding around), and the Feminist Party politruks. Both groups like the idea of authoritarian top-down social control and severe curtailing of the personal freedoms.

            (The Feminist Party floated a serious proposal — their only concrete policy, as I recall — during the last election of putting “gender commissars” (again, not hyperbole; that’s the closest I can get to a decent translation of their term) on all levels of public administration and academia, to reeducate and prevent wrongthink.)

            Fortunately, the communists did very badly in the election and the Feminist Party didn’t even get into parliament. So the rest of us don’t have to put up with that shit in the corridors of power, but we still have to listen to a lot of very American-like wailing about wrongthink from a tiny but vocal and disproportionately powerful minority. Basically, anything the Danes say about Swedes on this point can be assumed to be 100% true, at least of the media clique.

            Edit to clarify: when I said with a few exceptions, I didn’t mean a few policy exceptions, I meant with the exception of a few people. These people are generally considered somewhere between annoying and dangerously deranged by everyone else.

          • erenold says:

            Damn, that’s pretty crazy. Thanks for the informative reply!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.

            As far as I know the origin is some sort of unholy transatlantic symbiosis; there aren’t nearly as many influential Swedish writers on the topic as there are American, or at least anglophone, ones — our own local kooks mostly cite Butler, Irigaray and such. The only crazy pseudoscience we invented entirely by ourselves is racial biology (similarly invested with its own academic institutions with great pride and fanfare; how we’re going to defund this new crop without a war is anybody’s guess, though).

            As for why I wrote that specifically, though, I’ve noticed a lot of more ideologically-central European commenters here saying things like “it’s not nearly as bad here in Europe as it seems to be in the States”, so I thought that would just be the most effective way of conveying what the social climate here is like.

          • “Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.”

            “French letters” = “English devices.”

        • Devilbunny says:

          I can’t speak for Senator Sanders, but I will point out that my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting his home state last year. We stayed in Stowe for one night, and we ate dinner at Harrison’s (great place, do recommend). The wait for a table was an hour (on a Thursday night, in late summer, in a town that’s a winter resort, which ought to tell you just how good it is), so we ate at the bar. The bartender was in constant motion the entire hour and a half we were there. We were rapt, to be honest.

          If you live in a society in which such an extraordinary level of effort is common among people who work in jobs that are traditionally lower-middle-class, it is not hard to imagine that socialism (or even straight-up communism) would work. I’ve not gotten such good service even at bars I’ve patronized for years, with bartenders I knew by name, in the South. (All involved in all situations were white, so no question of racial animus applies.) And this is generally consistent with the views I see expressed: garden-variety liberals really do, deep in their hearts, think that most everyone will bust their butts all the time regardless of the incentives, and garden-variety conservatives really do, deep in their hearts, think that most everyone will do as little as possible to get by.

          I have mentioned before, in other fora, that most of my liberal friends from college came from places where government mostly worked, and that most of the conservatives came from places where it mostly didn’t. The former truly can’t imagine that some local governments are completely incompetent, and the latter can’t imagine that they are completely capable.

      • Salem says:

        He probably hasn’t had time to read up on the situation and thoroughly understand it.

        Jill you are a treasure.

      • erenold says:

        It strikes me that having an answer to this kind of comparative-economics question should be very high on his list of things to do, so if he genuinely hasn’t gotten round to formulating one, that’s quite a big problem in itself. It’s the most obvious question to ask.

        “But Senator, can you explain why the places that try the things you suggest generally seem to regret them? How do you explain the failures of socialism in, e.g., Venezuela, and what factors do you believe apply which would prevent America suffering a similar fate?”

        “Right now I’m running for US President and what occurs in other countries doesn’t interest me” is about as reassuring as “right now I’m driving off this cliff and what happened to the nineteen other guys who also drove off this cliff doesn’t interest me.”

        • Jill says:

          You’re the one who decided that Sanders wants to turn the U.S. into Venezuela. Sanders never said that. So why should he humor you by pretending to be who you say he is?

          He has said that he wants to use some policies that have been used in Scandinavia, so you can ask him about that if you want.

          Socialism is not the same as Communism. Socialism is not the same as wanting to use a few socialist type policies.

          • erenold says:

            I made no such decision (and I don’t remember asserting that he intended to turn the US into Venezuela in the first place? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, actually.) He calls himself a socialist. There is a philosophical coherence between his policies and policies generally understood to be socialist, including, inter alia, those imposed in Venezuela. The comparison is obvious and unavoidable. It is reasonable for me to want to know how he intends to avoid a similar outcome. What does he understand to have caused their situation? What does he intend to do differently?

            Stating that I can only compare him to examples which would make him look good strikes me as an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too. I call myself somewhat of a libertarian, as a shorthand. I am generally socially liberal and somewhat economically conservative. It would be nice if I was only compared to Edmund Burke, but if I’m compared to Ron Paul, or the guy who took off his clothes at the Libertarian convention, then I have to roll with the punches, and I have to be ready to explain how I’m not like them. It goes with the territory.

          • Anonymous says:

            He calls himself a democratic socialist, which despite the unfortunate name is only loosely connected to socialism.

            It’s a bit like when people try to connect socialism to the Nazis because they were the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Or when people try to make some sort of connection between turn of the century Progressives and modern leftists.

          • onyomi says:

            If what Bernie believes in is very different from what was tried and what has failed in Venezuela, then why doesn’t he just explain the difference?

            Moreover, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many, if not most of those who tried to claim “socialism” was working out great in Venezuela just a few years ago would not then have seen a big difference between that socialism and the “democratic socialism” many of them would probably profess to believe in now.

            In other words, before it fails, it’s “see, socialism works!” After it fails, it’s “that was totally different from the type of socialism I’m in favor of.”

          • Skivverus says:

            @onyomi
            Something something soundbite politics, something something cognitive dissonance. How much of each, well, I haven’t checked yet.

          • “Socialism is not the same as wanting to use a few socialist type policies.”

            Agreed. But the reason Sanders is described as a socialist isn’t because he, like all other American politicians, wants to use a few socialist type policies.

            It’s because he labels himself as a socialist, and has been doing so for a long time. You seem to be ignoring that fact.

          • “He calls himself a democratic socialist, which despite the unfortunate name is only loosely connected to socialism.”

            That might be true if he called himself a social democrat. “Democratic socialist” means someone in favor of both socialism and democracy. Chavez qualifies–there were still elections under his rule.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Oh, so we’re only talking about democratic socialism. Should we instead be asking Sanders about the countries Americans have applied that label to, then?

            The new government of Cambodia may have to resort to strong measures against a few to gain democratic socialism for all Cambodians. And we support the United Front in the pursuit of its presently stated goals.

            The Harvard Crimson, writing in support of the Khmer Rouge, 1975.

          • erenold says:

            The various posters giving very good substantive answers to the substantive question of how Sanders-democ-socialism varies from socialism are ignoring the fact that this is primarily a procedural point, which is that Sanders didn’t even think the question was worth his time to answer at all.

            How can that possibly be acceptable? Let’s say Trump didn’t back out of the debate last week. Or let’s say Sanders succeeds in overturning Clinton’s delegate lead in California + superdelegates. Is that comparison not going to be the very first point Donald Trump makes to him?

            And let’s say there is a super cogent, super convincing rebuttal to make, and let’s say Sanders makes it. He points out Scandinavia, he describes Venezuela’s one-commodity economy, he very carefully distinguishes the two philosophies. Great.

            Then why the hell didn’t he just give that answer in the first place?

            Either he has a good answer, or he doesn’t. I really, really doubt the American public is going to buy “right now I’m running for US President” when – not if – that question comes up in November.

          • MichaelT says:

            But Venezuela is a really good demonstration of the problems that come with Sanders’ policies. Promising lavish public benefits can work for a time as long as government revenue continues to grow at a good pace (which is Venezuela’s problem) and the population continues to grow at a healthy pace (which is Scandinavia’s main problem). At that point you need to either print money, which Venezuela tried, or pair down benefits, which although Bernie will never admit to is what most of Scandinavia is currently doing.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Eh, I don’t like Sanders, but “look at Venezuela” is as useless an argument as “look at Somalia!!!!!” that comes from the other side when trying to trip up a politician.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Really, this is just more proof of how bad ambush journalism has gotten. How could a socialist candidate have possibly anticipated a question about Venezuela during an interview on Univision?

          • Urstoff says:

            Why? Venezuela intentionally pursued socialist policies. Somalia is just a failed state.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Urstoff Somalia is/was used as a shorthand counterexample when arguing with anarchists, in similar fashion to how Venezuela is used as a counterexample when arguing with socialists.
            Don’t think Somalia makes the news quite so much lately, though. How are things doing over there these days?

          • TD says:

            “Look at Somalia” (properly contextualized) isn’t as bad an argument against anarcho-capitalism as anarcho-capitalists think it is, so the comparatively milder comparison between Sanders and Venezuelan policies isn’t really so out of order, especially taking things he’s already said about food lines into account.

            People rightly want him to clarify his position, and to see whether he understands the difference between Scandinavian style “socialism” (welfare capitalism), and the “socialism” that has been practiced in a few South American countries, you know, since he’s brandishing the label “socialism” about. Political literacy is not unimportant. I sure as hell want to know what Trump thinks about different kinds of nationalism, and where he draws various lines on that issue.

          • Mary says:

            “Somalia is just a failed state.”

            Somalia is just a failed socialist state.

            And one in which life has improved by many measures — such as infant mortality — since the state failed.

            Nothing is better than socialism! Literally.

          • Mary says:

            ” Somalia is/was used as a shorthand counterexample when arguing with anarchists, ”

            Also with anyone anywhere who thinks any regulations at all should be removed.

            Really. I have actually read with my own eyes people who think that removing anything is the equivalent of demanding anarchy.

          • TD says:

            Islamic warlordism might not be better than socialism, just saying.