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

Links 8/16: Ode On A Grecian URL

Israel now gets 55% of its water from desalinization and has gone from drought-stricken to having more than enough to share. Related: Jeff Kaufman on the economics of desalinization in California.

Long 2004 piece by Atul Gawande on ranking doctors by outcomes, why we don’t usually do it, and diseases where it seems to work.

Bryan Caplan (2014): talk of the “increasing returns to a college degree” don’t necessarily motivate more students to go to college if they predict they’ll fail.

In November, Maine will vote on becoming the first US state to use ranked-choice voting.

A 2004 study showed that the antidepressant Celexa worked in children. Newer studies show it doesn’t. As part of a lawsuit, investigators got all of the pharma company’s internal data on the trial that “proved” the drug worked. So if you ever want to see exactly how pharmaceutical companies cook their trials, here’s your chance.

Did you know: military dogs traditionally outrank their handlers in order to encourage the handlers to treat them with respect.

The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish. And like the Amish, they have big communities in Pennsylvania. But did you know there are also large Mennonite communities in Paraguay, Mexico, and Belize?

Fredrik deBoer’s thoughts on atheism pretty much parallel my own evolution on the same subject.

AskReddit: what is the weirdest sensation you’ve only felt once?

IF you’re anxiously awaiting Civilization 6, there’s a good compendium of all available information about the game here.

Missouri governor defunds the state’s public defense system so that it has trouble hiring enough lawyers to defend cases. Head public defender makes use of an obscure law that lets him “draft” lawyers when not enough are available – and drafts the Missouri governor himself to fill in until the funds arrive.

I think someone might be trolling the sovereign citizens – somehow it’s entered into their lore that if you officially write “I am an idiot” on your court paperwork, the government can’t prosecute you. I guess I understand how this sort of makes sense – “idiot” used to be Greek for someone not involved in political life – but I still wonder if this is the best prank of all time.

The governor of Nebraska occasionally honors people by declaring them an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. A similar tradition of Kentucky honoring people by naming them Colonels is how we got Colonel Sanders. Related Colonel Sanders fact: he was so angry with KFC switching from his original recipe that he denounced their food as “pure wallpaper paste…there’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it.”

Poll finds that 37% of Trump supporters have zero friends who support Clinton; 47% of Clinton supporters have zero friends who support Trump.

Remember when LHC thought they found a new particle recently. They didn’t. Scientists in other fields declare physicists weird, creepy for waiting to make sure finding actually exists before announcing it.

Sam Bowman’s neoliberal manifesto aims to carve out “neoliberalism” as a particular policy position (instead of just a vague smear) based around belief in markets, technocratic managerial competence, and interest in helping the poor through evidence-based programs. It’s a useful term since it has elements of liberalism and libertarianism but doesn’t exactly fit into either. But I worry it still doesn’t draw a fine enough distinction. Hillary Clinton and Peter Thiel would probably both be “neoliberals” under this definition, but there’s a big gap between them. More important, Hillary’s brand of neoliberal can probably be relatively happy with the direction things are going, whereas Thiel’s brand is phenomenally unhappy. A better explanation of the differences between the two might be a worthwhile project.

Studies kept finding that people who drank more alcohol had lower mortality, but everyone assumed it was doomed to stay a correlational finding only – after all, you couldn’t ethically randomize people to start drinking alcohol, could you? Well, now they did a study where they randomized people to start drinking alcohol.

Donald Trump quotes superimposed on pictures of Zapp Brannigan works surprisingly well.

New paper finds that blinded review of linguistics papers increased percent of women whose papers did well at a conference, suggesting previous discrimination against women. Slight catch is that in previous linguistic conferences, papers by men and women did equally well, but after institution of blinded review, women did much better than men. Authors write that this suggests previous bias against women lopped off the bottom half of the female ability distribution, leaving only women who were so brilliant that they could effectively compete on a skewed playing field, and who therefore did better than men once the playing field was leveled. I find this a little self-serving, but it’s hard to explain why blinding review would have this effect otherwise, and I don’t see any obvious attempts to cook the data. All of their data is freely available (good for them!) so if you want to investigate yourself, let me know if you find anything interesting.

Vox: why is GDP growth so slow?

In case you really like quantifying things, here’s The Cost Of Crime To Society. They just gave per crime statistics, but multiplying everything out it looks like it’s on the order of $300 billion/year, which is way more than I expected and which doesn’t even seem to count things like decreasing land values.

r/evilbuildings

This week in “studies saying the opposite of what previous studies said”: Uber does not decrease traffic fatalities; Mexican immigration does decrease native wages; but only for African-Americans; religious children are no less altruistic than anyone else.

Scientists have bred alcoholic rats in order to investigate the genetics of alcoholism.

A single mutation in horses 1000 years ago noticeably increased their rideability.

There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years, which is statistically super-unlikely. I’m sure global warming skeptics will pounce on this, but this actually seems to go beyond no-change – is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?

New York Daily News: We Were Wrong: Ending Stop-and-Frisk Did Not End Stopping Crime. I will always republish people admitting they were wrong, so good for them.

Filipino president verbally attacks the Pope, jokes about raping missionaries, announces that “I don’t care about human rights”, catcalls female journalists, encourages citizens to shoot drug dealers, and called the US ambassador “a gay son of a whore”. But also, he is lauded for his work promoting women’s and LGBT rights in the Phillipines, and during his tenure as Mayor of Davao transformed it from “the murder capital of the Philippines” to “the world’s fourth safest place”.

That weird star that we’re not supposed to blame on aliens is still doing weird things.

Chinese audiences loved “Kung Fu Panda” so much that it inspired national soul-searching on why the West was better at making Chinese-culture-themed movies than they were.

Musical Alexander Hamilton: proud immigrant who sings together with Lafayette about how “immigrants get the job done”. Real-world Alexander Hamilton: “The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass…to admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they put foot in our country, as recommended in the Message, would be nothing less, than to admit the Grecian Horse into the Citadel of our Liberty and Sovereignty.” H/t Alyssa Vance.

There is no hedonic adaptation to poverty; “poverty starts bad and stays bad in terms of subjective well-being”.

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884 Responses to Links 8/16: Ode On A Grecian URL

  1. The Nybbler says:

    For “why is GDP growth so low”, the obvious libertarian answer is that the pernicious effects of ever-increasing regulation are outpacing our efforts to invent around it. If you want to do just about anything in a first-world country, there’s innumerable permits and hearings and applications and the like; if you want to do anything very DIFFERENT, forget about it; Best Practices have been enshrined in law and you shall follow them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, Vox considers that explanation, but read their discussion.

      • Steven says:

        Vox’s analysis is . . . incomplete.

        The US Government has been adding an average of over 250 pages a day to the Federal Register for the last 25 years. Simply reading the daily output and figuring out if any of it applies to a given business, times all the businesses in the country, represents a vast regulatory burden of non-productive work. Which of course would apply to essentially all sectors of the economy evenly, because one needs to read and understand the regulations in order to determine if they apply to any given business. Any productivity lost to the actual content of the regulations comes after that.

        So, yes, we eliminated some of the most burdensome specific regulations that were distorting entire sectors of the economy, like trucking. But trading the regulatory environment of the 1960s for the 2010s is a lot like converting from Orthodox Judaism to Nugganism (from Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment). Sure, you get rid of a bunch of specific big issues, but instead of a stable system you could learn, you’re getting 250 new pages of Abominations every day.

      • Peter H says:

        But it’s a bad discussion, because some key areas where deregulated, yet overall government is ever expanding, even after Reagan. Just watch this 2 minute video from Vox which agrees with this idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67vMlQc97ds

      • Chalid says:

        Note that the Tabarrok study cited by Lee’s article focuses on federal regulations in the US, which I am entirely willing to believe are less burdensome than state and local regulations.

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      Ya but that doesn’t explain why the regulations are Being obeyed by by anyone who wants to do something significantly different.

      Silicon valley has showed us that regulations either A. Are unenforced or B. Are so weakly enforced that some mild lawyering can get around it.

      It’s a reverse catch-22: either your small enough no one will notice you or your big enough you can fight them off.

      Or have westerners gotten that bad at fighting?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “Silicon valley has showed us that regulations either A. Are unenforced or B. Are so weakly enforced that some mild lawyering can get around it.”

        No it hasn’t! Yes, Uber exists and makes billions of dollars, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means that the regulations are so hard to get around that people will pay billions of dollars for a successful gap in the armor. People don’t pay billions of dollars for random rocks lying around for anyone to pick up, they pay billions of dollars for rare ores that you have to dig deep into the earth to even have a chance of finding. If a mining company sells platinum for billions of dollars, that means that getting platinum is hard, not that it’s easy!

        • Luke the CIA stooge says:

          Scott I think you misunderstood. Technically the regulations should stop Uber/airbnb/lyft/task rabbit ect. But the regulators are so weak that they’re pretty much routed. Once somethings just new enough they become impotent. Why hasn’t every industry that wants to get around regs just make everything slightly different then BLAMO regulations hold little sway?

          Like why is every entraprenuer asking permission instead forgiveness, when just doing it seems to work so well for the cases that have tried it? Why isn’t every industry Uberfide

          Ie large company finds a semi plausible workaround then helps everyone do it and they dare the regulator to try them?

          If regs are locking out to trillions in growth then why aren’t there thousands of companies dedicated to breaking the regs? Like drugs are worth a few billion and the efforts to work around those regs have destabilized nations, if there was a multi trillion dollar market to be accessed with a few workarounds, some lawyers and a lobbying campaign wouldn’t we be seeing several thousand Pablo Escobars cropping up in silicon valley.


          ..
          .
          That is unless we’re right at the start of it in which case Paul Graham is trying to mass produce these guys and he might just succeed.
          Odds Paul Graham is the god emperor just went up.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think Uber became big because regulations are weak. Uber got around it because the tech angle allowed some ambiguity in whether they were breaking the law. Once places like Austin explicitly regulated them, they backed down quickly.

            “If regs are locking out to trillions in growth then why aren’t there thousands of companies dedicated to breaking the regs? ”

            Because they don’t want to get held up in court for years facing millions of dollars in potential claims. Read By the People by Charles Murray. He goes in to detail in how minor infractions of regulations can ruin people’s life. I believe one of the prominent examples he uses is wetlands claims by the EPA.

          • Lupis42 says:

            Like why is every entraprenuer asking permission instead forgiveness, when just doing it seems to work so well for the cases that have tried it? Why isn’t every industry Uberfide

            Because you have a 1 in 10 chance of prison, and a 1 in 10^10 chance of becoming Uber. The chilling effect of that regulatory apparatus is hard to measure, but if 80% of the people with the talent and brains to be running successful startups and small businesses are working for big firms instead, because you don’t go to prison and you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars before you can start work.

            As someone who is looking into opening a gun shop, I expect to spend $5K on regulatory compliance before I even know if I can open – that’s before I can even start getting inventory. If at any point I screw up any paperwork, I can expect to potentially spend a decade or two at club fed. If I wanted to open a brewery, it would be about the same, despite being a completely different set of regulations.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            That still doesn’t explain why the drug trade, a multi billion dollar market, is literally bullet proof, but a multi trillion dollar market, the lost growth from regulation, can be shut down with poorly thought out regulations and several orders of magnitude less enforcement than the drug trade gets. The two models of state power vs market power don’t seem to match.

            Like when we see the war on drugs fail we say “yep you can’t defeat the market” but then say the government which can’t shut down a billion dollar trade with trillions of dollars and thousands of deaths, can then snuff out TRILLIONS of dollars in growth through negligence and nannyism. Do you see how those two ideas are at odds?

            I agree with you on the bravery debate, I lean strongly libertarian and dream of a new administration just firing the bureaucrats and regulatory authorities. I agree with Niall Ferguson that over regulation is the disease of which it purports to be the cure,
            But I think it is a genuine mystery that over regulation has been able to snuff out this growth.
            Everywhere there’s money to be made illegally drugs, gun running, people smuggling, embesselment ect. There has to be a massive enforcement system to keep people honest, and those systems fail. What makes regulations special?

            -Are there too many honest people?
            -Does something similar happen with drugs where the industry would have grown by several orders of magnitude without enforcement? (If so the DEA might count that as success)
            -is paperwork more frightening to the average person than risking life and limb?
            -Is higher ed indoctrinating high achievers into the regulatory state faith?

            The mechanism just doesn’t seem clear when contrasted with other things that are made illegal.
            If you have personal experiences please share I think there are genuine insights to be had.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Obviously we just need more back alley doctors and heating engineers who aren’t afraid of Central Services regulations.

            Or less glibly, you can’t stop markets when people don’t care about following the law.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Homo Iracundus

            It’s funny you should Bring rogue heater repair men because here in Ontario, the most over regulated province of Canada (with over 350000 pages of regs on the book) there are rogue repairmen, home renovators, electricians ect.
            They take cash under the table don’t get permits and you don’t ask questions.
            So the informal economy can encroach on regulated industries, now why hasn’t this become the way of life it was in the Soviet Union when everyone was on board with the black market economy?

          • Lupis42 says:

            @Luke

            The simple answer is that regulations aren’t “locking out” growth, they’re redirecting it by shifting the returns to innovation. In illegal markets, innovations are focused on things that reduce the rate of loss to governments – e.g. more potent drugs that are easier to smuggle – and on violent conflict resolution, because the legal system is not available as an arbiter. An unregulated drug market would be more focused on user demand – more like the alcohol industry, for example.

            The ‘lost growth’ from regulation isn’t a multi trillion dollar market. It’s a million markets, each of which is a few million dollars smaller or more wasteful than it could be.

            The ‘more wasteful’ is important too. Imagine that 30% of the US prison population, 20% of the associated guards and administrators, and 10% of the nations police force were put to work building roads instead. It would be a few years before that started to show GDP growth, because ‘time lost in traffic’ is pretty small, but it would show up eventually. All those people are drawing income now, and they still would be, but right now they’re not driving growth, and they could be.

          • Jiro says:

            Imprisoning people should be wasteful. If you use prisoners to build roads, that’s a conflict of interest for the government, since the same government that sentences the prisoners benefits from not having to use budget to build the roads.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Luke, the demand for drugs is less elastic than other products since people are addicted to them. You can see a similar effect to cigarettes. More regulations means higher likelihood of being sold on the street. When the government bans other things less in demand, people don’t care enough to buy it on the black market.

            Even then, the drug market isn’t bullet proof. If there was less punishments for drugs that would probably result in higher consumption. Has the government eliminated drugs? No, but that doesn’t mean their drug policy isn’t doing damage.

          • Jill says:

            The drug war makes quite a bit of money for the prison industrial complex. So some people are happy it’s there, despite the overall damage it causes to society.

          • Logan says:

            Wrong Species:

            Uber didn’t back down in Austin, leaving town is a strategy. The regulations in question don’t go into effect until next February.

            They merely though that, by leaving, the people of Austin would see how much they need Uber/Lyft and acquiesce to any demands. Of course, since they left, the free market did what free markets do and replaced them. Now the only thing I miss about Uber is how easy their name is to say. “I wanna go downtown, somebody call a ‘come get me.'”

            Now I think the new strategy is to get the state legislature to override Austin’s regulations. Anyways, saying Uber “backed down quickly” is simply wrong. They didn’t even leave town before they forced the City Council to let the entire town vote on the regulations, and showered the city with an astroturf get-out-the-vote campaign.

          • Lupis42 says:

            Jiro,

            While I’m not sure I disagree, that still means that anything that imprisons more people than would be otherwise (e.g. the drug war) is acting as drag on growth.

            So one straightforward measure for “how much is regulation slowing us down” might be “how many people are either prison inmates, or employed full time in support of keeping people in prisons”.

            Other indicators: the percentage of a companies employee’s who work primarily in “compliance” roles, the rate of plea bargains, the average number of charges thrown at a typical defendant.

          • Anonnymoose says:

            @Wrong Species

            “Once places like Austin explicitly regulated them, they backed down quickly.”

            1) Places like San Francisco explicitly regulate “ridesharing” companies in the same way taxi cab operators are regulated. Uber and Lyft seem to have no problems with reasonable regulation.

            2) Uber is quoting me $5->6 for a ride from Austin City Hall, Austin TX to Houston Chronicle, Congress Ave, Austin TX. Looks like Uber and Lyft didn’t stay away for long. (Check it yourself: https://www.uber.com/fare-estimate/ )

            One hears people making a fair bit of noise about how “rideshare” companies don’t wanna be regulated as taxi companies, and how AirBnB type companies don’t wanna be regulated like hotels are regulated. The truth of the matter is that -in largely functional districts- both classes of business are already regulated like their counterparts. The noise that you hear is either complaints from people who live in dysfunctional areas run by spineless politicians, or is hit pieces and agitation in the guise of grassroots complaints from members of the old guard who don’t wish to have their gravy train stopped.

        • This doesn’t have to do with regulation at all. Uber makes billions because using a smartphone to summon a random driver who is willing to sell you a ride is a genuine innovation.

          Old-fashioned taxi services are always local. They have a headquarters and a fleet of taxis driven by employees and centrally human-dispatched. You call them on a local number and they send you a taxi.

          But when you’re out of town, that local number is completely useless. If you’re new in town, or rarely use taxis, you have to find out what the number is.

          Moreover, given a limited fleet of heavily used taxis, chances are it’s going to take 30 minutes to an hour, or even more, for a taxi to arrive. By contrast, Uber has so many drivers that, when I open the app, the number of minutes to wait is almost invariably in single digits.

          Moreover, getting an Uber ride is much less trouble than taking a taxi. The end of a taxi ride is always a dreaded moment: you have to come up with cash, decide a tip, wait for change, or wait for credit card approval. But with Uber, you arrive, you’re done, zero awkwardness.

          Uber has limited competition for the same reason that communication networks tend to become monopolies (as discussed in a previous thread). You don’t need any local knowledge. If you’re in Iowa City or Tampa or Boise, or any other random city in America, you can reasonably expect Uber to work, and that is a powerful thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        Silicon valley has showed us that regulations either A. Are unenforced or B. Are so weakly enforced that some mild lawyering can get around it.

        Go offer Netflix for Machine Guns, where for a modest monthly fee and a security deposit you’ll FedEx someone an automatic weapon from your extensive catalog but they have to send it back at the end of the month or forfeit the security deposit. Then tell me how impotent the regulators are.

        Or, put some thought into why some regulations are not enforced while others very much are. If possible, quantify it.

        • Head Fakes says:

          “Or, put some thought into why some regulations are not enforced while others very much are. If possible, quantify it.”

          Sounds like a very fun box to have opened.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          Neither here nor there but if I even run a tabletop campaign again, I’m borrowing this.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        There is this meme that Uber is operating as a taxi company while avoiding taxi company regulations.

        But they aren’t. They are a car service company, regulated like car service companies. It’s just that with universal computers and smartphones, a car service company can eat the taxi company’s market.

        • JE says:

          That depends on the jurisdiction. Uber’s activities definitely fall within the definitions of many taxi laws, including in places where uber does operate.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Ya but that doesn’t explain why the regulations are Being obeyed by by anyone who wants to do something significantly different.

        Naked force. The terrible power of the state. Outright disobedience has been successful in part for Uber, but on the other hand they also had their cars attacked by SWAT teams in Las Vegas. AirBnB has had similarly mixed results, with old laws being used against them (to the tune of $40,000 fines for New Yorkers using it) and new laws being passed against them.

        Or have westerners gotten that bad at fighting?

        Our governments have gotten too good at fighting. There’s still a grey-market where you’re small enough no one will (usually) notice, but this is necessarily extremely limited; as soon as it starts getting significant it gets shut down. Succeeding by defying the regs is extremely rare; usually you’re just brought down.

    • Jill says:

      It seems that the complexity of government and our compulsory good/bad government focus of politics, polarization, and money in politics keep us from ever dealing with the mass of different regulations.

      Complexity– Government and regulations are so complex and so many that no one has the time to sit down and look at all of the stuff we have and see whether it works or not– not even Congress and state legislature people.

      Good/bad government focus. Is government good and don’t worry about it? Or is government bad and we should just get rid of almost all of it? That’s the conversation. It’s too black/white. Either way, you don’t look at specific government regulations or laws and see what they do and whether that works. Government– you love it or you hate it. But you never examine the specifics of it.

      Polarization– Nothing in U.S. political life is about people coming together to cooperate in eliminating non-useful or problematic laws and/or passing useful laws. Everything is about the how the Other Tribe is screwing everything up so horribly that we can’t even stand to TALK to someone of that tribe, much less cooperate with them to get things done that are in our best interests. We can argue about whether the Get Rid of All Regulations tribe is wonderful or the Government Can Be a Beneficial force tribe is wonderful. But we can’t work together to make government more efficient in any way– partly because one tribe finds government itself to be almost entirely illegitimate, and that’s the end of that discussion.

      Money in politics– legislators enact the laws that they are paid to enact. And big contributors are, of course, listened to most and given what they want most often.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Your first point — Complexity — contradicts your second point somewhat. If the regulations are that complex, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the specific ones are. By the time you’ve figured all that out, and all the interactions between those regulations and their various interpretations interact with each other, you’ve spent your seed money on legal fees. So whether the specific regulations are “good” or “bad”, if you have a complex enough thicket of them, the situation is bad regardless.

        • @Nybbler. I think you mis-understood Jill. She wasn’t saying the question is whether or not government is good or bad; the question itself is a bad one. We need to look at each government action individually and judge them that way. Currently it seems that one tribe says all government is bad, and the others response to any problem is to just “do something,” which usually means give the government a bunch of money until the problem is solved. Both of these approaches are terrible. I think trying to solve this issue is complementary to reducing complexity, not contradictory.

          I would say that most of the complexity is because we don’t have a template for decreasing complexity, that is a way to analyze which prospective laws increase complexity unnecessarily. I started a previous discussion on this a few threads ago. But one always needs to look at each new law, instead of blindly deciding on whether or not one believes in government intervention.

          Go Jill, great post.

          • Jill says:

            Thanks, Mark.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My point is that even if you were to look at each government action individually and judge them good, the combined result is so complex that the overall outcome is bad. That is, if you accept that too much complexity is bad, you should also accept that there could be validity to the idea that more government is bad.

          • Jill says:

            I guess there could be validity to the idea that more government is bad. That’s not my personal view.

            I think that currently we do have too many laws on the books. I think that whether more government is good or bad depends on how much government we have– but also to some extent on what kinds of laws we have. I think that there are many times where certain laws would be good to add to the books, and times where certain laws already there would be good to get rid of.

          • Lupis42 says:

            Jill,

            Can you reconcile these?

            I guess there could be validity to the idea that more government is bad. That’s not my personal view.

            I think that currently we do have too many laws on the books.

            It seems to me straightforward that if there are too many laws already, more will be bad – because we will continue to get farther from the optimum. (Ditto for agencies, programs, etc). Whether any given law is good in isolation is a factor, but not not necessarily the main one.
            Metaphor: the average citizen is trying to dodge or catch 30 objects per minute. Adding a frisbee instead of a stone doesn’t make it a good idea to add things – that’s still too many objects.

            Regardless of how harmless/beneficial a new law would be in isolation, without a bunch of old law being removed, new law is almost certainly going to be net bad.

          • Jill says:

            “Regardless of how harmless/beneficial a new law would be in isolation, without a bunch of old law being removed, new law is almost certainly going to be net bad.”

            I can see where you are coming from. My own view is that status quo of having the same laws we have now, plus some new very beneficial law, could be a net positive. But I agree that we have too many laws on the books and that many need to be cancelled.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Jill – I agree with you in theory; there’re some individual new laws that I think would be beneficial. However, “the idea that more government is bad… is not my personal view” seems to go beyond that. Am I misunderstanding? Do you mean that you think most proposed new laws would be positive, or that expanding the powers of government on net would be positive? That seems to contradict when you say “I think that currently we do have too many laws on the books.”

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        Jill, I am willing to compromise on my “Get Rid of All Regulations” ideal and meet your “Government Can Be a Beneficial Force” position half way on the condition that we “examine what works” starting from zero regulations and zero laws and I get to win some reasonable fraction of controversies.

        Until that is on offer, since your potentially beneficial institution has taken the maximalist position that it or it’s peers control 100% of the land and 100% of the population, so I will take the maximalist position that all it’s works are rubbish.

        Otherwise, compromise just means giving the state another turn of the ratchet with no resistance.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, all or nothing views are very popular. You have a lot of company in that.

          Of course, zero laws would mean it would not be illegal for anyone to kill you or your family or steal all your stuff or take away your property or house etc.

          • onyomi says:

            Slippage from “regulation” to “law,” when “regulation” is commonly understood only to refer to a subset of law, is a straw man.

          • onyomi says:

            What if the problem is that the ideal amount of regulation is 2 out of 10 and we’re currently at 7 out of 10 with no easy way to figure out which of the 5 to remove? In such a state of affairs, even 0 out of 10 might be better–after all, it’s only 2 away from ideal, rather than 5.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I don’t believe that in the real world people refrain from killing me and taking my stuff because of government edict. It’s more like every human culture ever has placed restrictions on violence and designated consequences to transgressors. Any time and place where it temporarily appears that people can rob and kill with impunity, the majority of people who are unwilling to live under those conditions will self-organize to re-impose the norms against robbery and murder.

            So, as part of it’s project to impose itself as the only legitimate organizing principle of society, the state has had to make a big show of it’s anti-murder and robbery activities. It does this for much the same reason that priesthoods of the past developed elaborate ceremonial and sacrificial practices related to fertility, bringing rain, driving off disease, etc.

            A general principle of governing is to impose yourself between your subjects and the things they most need, whether you actually have the power to grant those things or not.

            As long you leave me and the rest of the population reasonably well armed and don’t interfere with our ability to freely associate and coordinate, you can lose the laws with no argument from me.

          • Slippage from “regulation” to “law,” when “regulation” is commonly understood only to refer to a subset of law, is a straw man.

            Do you have a definition that distinguishes “regulations” from “laws” in a meaningful way in this context?

            Obamacare/ACA is a law, no? But such laws are generally included when libertarians criticize “regulations”.

            Strictly speaking, regulations are not a subset of law. Laws are statutes enacted by the legislature, and regulations are rules laying out the official interpretation and implementation of a statute.

            Regulations are complicated because the world is complicated, and simple-minded approaches are likely to be unworkable. Regulations tend to be verbose because the purpose of a regulation is to explain and specify.

            Does THIS federal law apply to MY activity? Don’t give me generalities and shrug!

            Congress might pass a law about “big boats”. So what’s a “big boat” in specific numbers of tons or feet? Regulations are intended to anticipate and answer those questions. The vaguer the statute, the more extensive the regulations that are needed to make it specific. Everyone involved needs those specifics.

            Moreover, regulations are issued in a process which constantly solicits comments and suggestions. Proposed regulations are commonly rewritten in response to public comments, usually in the direction of making them less onerous.

            For example, if someone argues persuasively that such-and-such an activity should be exempted from the scope of a law, an agency could write a section making clear that activity isn’t covered.

            And that’s probably another few pages of the CFR.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t know if there’s an official, precise definition for “regulation,” but the way I understand the colloquial usage, all regulations are “laws” or parts of laws, but not all laws are regulations. The law against murder, for example, is not a regulation, nor would I consider any specifics detailing what counts as say, second degree versus first degree murder to be regulations.

            As I understand it, “regulations” refers basically to civil aspects of law designed to “regularize” activity like business, home building, etc., theoretically to prevent unfair or abusive practices.

            As for the degree of complexity which is needed, I don’t think it follows to say: “healthcare is complicated, therefore the government needs complicated, detailed regulations for it.”

            As anarchocapitalists frequently point out, government is not necessary even for producing law (which has and can be produced and enforced privately), much less for ensuring that every type of business is run fairly. For the latter there are market regulations, testing agencies…

            But for the sake of argument, I’ll concede that, given the kind of government and society we have now, some level of regulation on some areas of life are probably, if not necessary, then at least strongly desirable. The question is, have we gone too far?

            I think the answer is a definite yes. And not just a little too far. A lot too far. Personally, I think the right to do business freely should be respected as we would freedom of speech. We hold freedom of speech sacred even though there are a few situations where most people agree its sacredness is preempted: yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, for example.

            I think the results would be infinitely better if we treated economic regulation this way: maybe there are a few cases where it is urgently needed that we abrogate economic freedom in some small ways, but the presumption should be in favor of legitimacy of all voluntary transactions, not the legitimacy of any weird regulation any state, local or federal agency thinks up.

            And like I said to Jill above: what if the ideal level of regulation is a 2 out of 10 and we are currently at a 7 out of 10 with no good way to know which of the 5 are doing the damage? Wouldn’t we be better off in such a case risking underregulating, by dropping to 1 or even 0, rather than just continuing the status quo? I’d rather underregulate by 1 or 2 than overregulate by 5 (and yes, since regulation involves threat of coercion to control how peaceful people can use their own property, we should err on the side of under, rather than overregulating).

          • Jill says:

            This is one of those cases where we could use a big study of what effect the laws on the books actually have. I know that’s more hard work that the American public wants to engage in, so it won’t happen.

            The American public wants to keep bashing Congress, while re-electing incumbent Congress members more than 90% of the time. And when we get tired of the establishment, we want to “solve” this problem by suddenly electing a president who is disliked by the establishment, even if he is mentally unbalanced and would destroy the country.

            Our presidential vote saying Eff You to the establishment, once ever 4 or 8 years, is the most effort most of us are willing to go to, to make constructive changes.

            People have discussed here before the issue with getting rid of stuff quickly because it seems awful to you. But then you don’t realize how what you’re getting rid of, has some beneficial function or keeps stability, until you’ve gotten rid of it, and then it’s too late. The big example being getting ride of Saddam because he was a brutal dictator.

            One more issue here. In terms of political practicality and what tends to happen, yes, there will be many people in favor of dropping to zero laws before beginning again. And there will be just as large a group of people in favor of keeping all old laws and adding a bunch of new ones every time there is some problem that government might address.

            Because these groups are so big, and so unwilling to compromise, we get no progress.

            As Mr. Breakfast says, compromise just means giving the regulation loving tribe– or the law hating tribe– their own way, with no resistance. So each side thinks that of the other side. Consequently, no compromises are ever made, as both sides are so sure they’re 100% right, so why should they compromise? And so not even a tiny bit of progress ever gets made.

          • Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think the reason we have too many laws is because we don’t have a template for what is acceptable as a law and what isn’t. I don’t mean a constitution, but a general agreement amongst the political class that some laws fall unto the accepted rubric and some don’t. Instead the usual thought is to pass a law for whatever ill we can see in society, as long as enough folks are against the bad thing. My template is something like the following:
            1) Only laws that re-distribute or replace natural monopolies are okay.
            2) Each remedy should be confined to one governmental jurisdiction (federal, state, county, city), and to only one department. Welfare currently breaks these rules constantly.
            3) Never mix re-distribution and replacement of natural monopolies in a law or an agency.

            Who knows if I could ever get general agreement on these principles, but I haven’t heard any other solution that has a chance. Eliminate all laws and start over will never happen. We need to do something because we have so many laws that the US can barely be considered a democracy, since voters have little idea what is happening, and effectiveness and efficiency is out the window.

          • Jill says:

            Mark, I hope you can get discussions about a template for that purpose, going here and elsewhere. I think that you are exactly right that we do very much need a template for that. Because we’ve got nothing now, and that’s a big problem.

            Even if people don’t agree with your template, it’s a start, and people can say why they agree or disagree and then maybe eventually come to some agreement– if only we can get past the 2 ideological extremes which currently will not compromise:

            –Keep all laws and keep adding constantly, in every case of a problem

            vs.

            –Get rid of all laws

            The 2 sides have been in the ring fighting for quite a few years now. And the thought of compromise is horrifying to both sides currently.

            Could you explain and give an example of replacement of natural monopolies here? I am trying to think through and understand your template.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I agree; this’s a very important debate to have.

            And I’m not Mark, and I think I’d like to add a few things to his template (though I need to think about what), but it’s a good starting point. My interpretation of “replacing a natural monopoly” would be something like a city water and sewer system. It needs to be regulated in a way that’s open to all and charges reasonable prices to all. You can extend this to a local road system; you might be able to extend it to railroads, phone lines, and broadband Internet (though maybe not since they’re not really monopolies anymore.)

          • Mary says:

            Who are these “get rid of all laws” people?

            I’m aware that people think they are out there, given the frequency that Somalia is thrown in conservatives’ face, but — do they actually exist in any significant number?

            You can’t fight polarization until you have correctly identified the poles. Indeed, trying to persuade people to drop positions they don’t hold can only convince them that there’s no point listening to you.

          • @Jill. Maybe I didn’t word it great. I mean that the free market doesn’t work well with natural monopolies, so a democratically run business by the government is better for society than a single private firm. I think good examples of natural monopolies are national defense, court system, police, pollution control, local roads, maybe electric, water, sewer, gas.

            Examples of things that are not included are economic development (this covers a lot, such as corporate welfare and creation of jobs), business licenses, so-called victimless crimes, and more.

            This is my own template, and many will disagree on the details, but I want folks to agree on the concept that government simply tries to do too much and in too many different ways.

            @ Evan. Please do think about this and come up with thoughts. I think this will come up again in future threads. Also I would love for you to send ideas to markanderson4004@gmail.com, the e-mail I use for my book on Amazon. thanks.

          • John Schilling says:

            Who are these “get rid of all laws” people? […] do they actually exist in any significant number?

            By definition, those would be the anarchists. Who come in a variety of flavors, but the only one usually associated with the political right are the anarcho-capitalists.

            Anarcho-capitalists are a minority, but not a trivial one, among libertarians. The Libertarian party currently polls at an all-time high of ~10% in the United States; they typically get closer to 1% in national elections. So, An-caps exist, but they almost certainly make up <1% of the US electorate and do not control any faction of any major party.

            One of the most prominent living anarcho-capitalists, and author of probably the best introductory text on the subject, is a guy who occasionally posts here and can probably be induced to tell you more.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            By definition, those would be the anarchists. Who come in a variety of flavors, but the only one usually associated with the political right are the anarcho-capitalists.

            I hope I’m not being pedantic, but anarcho-capitalists are certainly not in favor of there being no laws, but rather believe that a state is not the best source of law.

          • Adam says:

            Am I the only person who read Jill as intentionally parodying both poles of this spectrum? This comment section seems sparsely populated with avowed statists looking to take offense at ideological Turing test failures, so conspicuously no one noticed the rest of what she said, but are there actually people in the United States who want to keep every single existing law?

          • Nornagest says:

            That is kind of a funky way of looking at it, now that you mention it. Anarcho-capitalism is a lot rarer than you’d think from how often it gets brought up as a boogeyman, but it’s at least on the spectrum of respectable libertarian, if not conservative, opinion.

            But there’s no one that actually cares about keeping existing law, as such. It can be a de facto standard — it is in fact harder to remove laws than to add them — but only thanks to status quo bias and because no one wants to go into the next election season as the Congressman who voted to rescind the law that would have saved Little Johnny’s job/house/life. That’s quite different than the situation we’d get if there was actually a party that was pro-regulation but agnostic to their content.

        • @ Mary. That comment about getting rid of all the laws was simply in response to a comment above by Mr Breakfast suggesting that as a first step. I doubt he meant it seriously, but I was just trying to pre-empt his possible response back to me.

          • Nornagest says:

            I didn’t read Mr Breakfast as advocating a lawless state at any point in time, but rather a clean-slate approach to deciding which laws to keep. He’s asking for positive justification for everything. Imagine a constitutional convention, not (meme!)Somalia.

          • Adam says:

            If we’re talking appropriations laws specifically, this practice is known as zero-based budgeting. Jimmy Carter did it when he was governor of Georgia and then tried when he was president. It largely doesn’t work because it prohibitively increases the amount of effort required. It has a great deal of theoretical appeal, but implementation difficulties as governments typically don’t want huge portions of their budgets eaten by the process of budgeting itself.

  2. Sandy says:

    So, who else plays Civ here?

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      OG Alpha Centauri 4lif.

      • bluto says:

        This is the only one of the series I enjoyed (though it was quite hard to play anything but the greens until they added a colorblind mode).

      • Specter says:

        Agreed, SMAC was the pinnacle of the series, although I do like Civ 4. Not a fan of the changes in 5 so I doubt I’ll be buying 6. Time will tell…

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      I play Civ 4, and am not terribly good at it, which makes me sad.

      But Civilization is fun, which makes me happy.

      • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

        I somewhat regret getting good enough at civ 5 to win at deity difficulty. In doing so I came to the conclusion that far far too much of optimal play consists of tedious micromanagement and memorising a body of obscure facts.

        -A challange more along the lines of something like nethack (I can’t give a good delineation of what this consists of off the top of my head, maybe someone else can) than a game where strategy (or tactics) is the focus. (and that’s ignoring dumb exploits and semi-exploits).

        Still an interesting challenge, but not “the challenge of civ 5, but extreme”, instead, the greatest part of the challenge is finagling the peculiarities of the system in order to survive the early game in decent shape.

         

        I still think it’s a great game, because the aesthetics are great, the history is great, the huge encyclopedia is great, the tech tree is fun to navigate/plan through, likewise with the terrain, every game is different, and most importantly, if one handicaps oneself by not using a great deal of the supposedly advanced micromanagement and tricks, (and doesn’t then play on deity) the gameplay itself is excellent.

        There’s also a lot of mods, but afaik nothing as great as fall from heaven 2. (haven’t played but there’s no way it’s not another great sandbox to explore, at a bare bare minimum)

        So anyway my point is that I think that civ 5’s gameplay collapses at a “high level”, or it partially collapses and partially turns from a strategy game into a roguelike.

        -But it’s still a very good game. Maybe Civ 4 is also a better game when one isn’t attempting to be “good” at it, if there is likewise a very different kind of there, there, than one would expect. (and perhaps best treated as more of a sandbox).

    • Dan Peverley says:

      I play Civ IV with mods (Fall from Heaven II) and Alpha Centauri. I’m going to wait for reviews + first expansion on Civ VI.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s a recurring topic, so not too few. I’m looking forward to six, but it might be awhile til I buy it.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Civ IV master race reporting. My favorite expansion is Warlords; it has some UI improvements over Vanilla, but without all the extraneous bullshit from BtS (I turn off vassal states in the game options). I usually play a random leader on a fractal duel map with six civs, mine included, which takes 2-6 hours depending on how many wars I get into. I can reliably win on Noble and win more often than not on Prince, but only barely.

    • blacktrance says:

      I play Civ IV. When playing with other people, I play with the Always Peace rule, and when playing against the AI, I cheat using World Builder.

    • Chalid says:

      I still play Fall From Heaven sometimes, but haven’t touched an unmodded Civ game since shortly after Civ 5 came out.

    • Pete says:

      Me and my wife play Civ V quite a bit. Apparently everyone else plays IV, but we tried it and it didn’t quite stick.

      We’re both quite looking forward to VI. I don’t love the aesthetic, but I do like the sound of some of the new mechanics.

    • Wilj says:

      Civ IV is one of my favorite games of all time. I also enjoy Paradox and Total War games immensely, notably Empire TW (it got slammed for bugs at release, but now… now, it’s amazing).

    • I’m playing Civ V community balance mod which fixes most of my issues with Civ V.

    • Kusterdu says:

      I’m not usually into computer games but one of my friends got me hooked on Civ V, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Sometimes two friends and I would stay up all night playing it. I’m really looking forward to VI.

    • anon says:

      I used to but have been fully converted to Paradox titles. I think there’s room for a tile-based engine 4X/GS game, but the political and economic modeling in the Civ series is just so crude compared to what Paradox’s Clausewitz engine can support.

      • John Schilling says:

        Agreed. Last time I played Civ was when I was looking for something quick to play on a laptop when I was stuck in an airport, and it was too crude and simple to be very engaging. Alpha Centauri is better, but no substitute for e.g. Crusader Kings 2. And I’ll take a look at what’s planned for Civ VI, as soon as I finish conquering Byzantium here, but I expect I’ll be sticking with Paradox.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I play either Civ 1 or Civ Revolutions, depending on whether I’m looking for a several-day campaign or several-hour campaign.

      But it’s probably been a year since I’ve picked up either because I’m busy.

    • nelshoy says:

      I’ve played more civ than any other video game series, starting with III.

      Does anyone else really like Civ Colonization? The base game is unfinished, but with The Authentic Colonization mod it gets so much deeper and more balanced. I love all the detailed specific resource optimization that aren’t included in the base game.

      I’m actually a big fan of the Civ VI stuff they’ve announced so far, I’m getting a much better “know what they’re doing” sense than with V.

      • Specter says:

        Yes, the Civ 4 based reboot of the original Colonization is still one I go back to periodically. I didn’t realize that mod existed though, so I guess now I’m going to have to quit fooling around and complete Fallout 4 so I can run a new game of Colonization!

    • DrBeat says:

      I made some custom Touhou civs/leaders for Civ V. Cirno of the Great Fairy Alliance, Utsuho Reiuji of the Palace of Earth Spirits, Eirin Yagokoro of Eientei, and Yuuka Kazami of Mugenkan.

      Well, I thought they were pretty neat, they have their own soundtracks and loads of humorous custom dialogue, people said they were pretty cool…

    • Mr Mind says:

      I avoid Beyond Earth like the plague, because if I just start it the next thing I notice is “Where the fuck these weeks have gone?”

      It’s just too addictive for me.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      Civ V with Machiavelli’s mods. It does a good job revitalizing the vanilla experience, imo.

  3. Homo Iracundus says:

    Re. politically opposite friends:

    I’m probably about to cut ties with one of my last friends on the other side. It’s getting embarrassing and awkward to listen to her crazy rants that are directly hostile to multiple people in the room with her, only for her to go right back to normal and polite when she’s done, like she never said anything.

    Is it plausible that Cordycepted people aren’t really thinking or even hearing the things the parasite makes them say? There certainly doesn’t seem to be any connection between the infected and normal parts of their thought process.

    • Anonymous says:

      crazy rants that are directly hostile to multiple people in the room with her, only for her to go right back to normal and polite when she’s done

      Ya know, this could describe many of the comments I encounter here (if you’re willing to allow an online forum to stand in for the room).

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        “only for her to go right back to normal and polite when she’s done”

        But we make no pretense of sitting down with our internet political opponents for tea and biscuits afterwards, so it doesn’t get awkward.
        He says everyone like me should be exterminated, so I say Emperor Thiel will feed him to dogs in the grand arena, and neither of us follows up with “so, brunch Saturday?”

        • Anonymous says:

          So the only “politically opposite” people you want to interact with are those online?

        • At a slight tangent …

          Some time back, I friended someone on Facebook who clearly had different political opinions than I did but was considerably more reasonable than most people on FB. At this point I rarely read his posts, because a sizable fraction are what strike me as unreasonable claims from other people on his side of the relevant arguments. When I responded, his reresponse was usually reasonable, he being more reasonable than the author of whatever he was posting a link to. But I find reading arguments that are both arrogant and either ignorant or dishonest irritating.

        • I would love to sit down with most of the people on this list for tea and biscuits. I don’t really understand why you can’t have intense political discussions and be good friends. Maybe that explains my deficit of friends.

          Of course the extermination part, yes that is beyond an intense discussion. I mean discussions without ad hominems. There are many internet lists for which I would never want to meet the participants, but that is not true for SSC.

          • I would love to sit down with most of the people on this list for tea and biscuits. I don’t really understand why you can’t have intense political discussions and be good friends…. There are many internet lists for which I would never want to meet the participants, but that is not true for SSC.

            Seconded.

      • dndnrsn says:

        On the other hand that would have to be a pretty big room, without any way to tell who was in the room. The tone here could definitely use improving but the problem isn’t that it isn’t being treated like a smallish gathering of people physically in the same place.

    • Jill says:

      If you are doing the same thing to her, you likely don’t realize it.

      Americans are totally Divided and Conquered into fragile tribes, which don’t even share consensus reality on facts of our political life, much less beliefs.

      Just like you, no one can tolerate the beliefs or the “facts” from the other side i.e. facts that are consistent with the world view of the other side.

      Even Hillary supporters and Jill Stein supporters don’t like to talk to each other, or at least not about politics.

      Politics is like fundamentalist religion now. Talk about it and you’re sure have someone turning the conversation into converting you to their religion. And why would you want to convert, because you are absolutely sure that you belong to the One True Church, which has beliefs that come directly from God– or God’s representative on earth, Peter Thiel.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        No, I literally never mention politics IRL in any fashion. The same way I wouldn’t mention what a giant shit I took earlier.

        That said, maybe that’s why she thinks it’s appropriate for her to do it, since she never gets any pushback.

      • Yakimi says:

        Jill, if only you were endowed with a sense of irony.

        • Jill says:

          If only you and certain other people here would decide to stop focusing on my alleged flaws and just say what your issue or disagreement is with what I said.

          Looks like this is the only comment you have made so far, on this post of Scott’s–just this one, for the purpose of criticizing me. But I should not be surprised. In the U.S. today, many people think nothing is so important as bashing the other tribe. Why contribute anything other than that?

          • Zoop says:

            There seems to be no reason to assume Yakimi is part of the other tribe besides the fact s/he’s criticizing you. No offense, but it’s possible for somebody to dislike what you’re saying for reasons other than political ones (e.g. manner of speaking or argumentation). I make no claims to know what Yakimi meant or intended here. But I would suggest that assuming somebody who insults you must be a member of the other tribe and must be insulting you for tribal reasons is only going to make your own tribalism worse.

          • Jill says:

            Lots of people have piled on to me, on this site. Including you, now. And perhaps I could be more precise.

            So to revise, I might say to Yakmi:

            If only you and certain other people here would decide to stop focusing on my alleged flaws and just say what your issue or disagreement is with what I said. Even Zoop has no idea what you meant or intended by your vague comment.

            Looks like this is the only comment you have made so far, on this post of Scott’s–just this one, for the purpose of criticizing me. But I should not be surprised. In the U.S. today, many people think nothing is so important as bashing the other tribe. Why contribute anything other than that?

            Looks like this is the only comment you have made so far, on this post of Scott’s–just this one, for the purpose of criticizing me. But I should not be surprised. In the U.S. today, many people think nothing is so important as bashing other people. So I can see why you would choose not to contribute anything else to the threat other than a bashing comment.

          • I agree with Jill here. She is rightly sensitive about this because she has been piled on. I think that when folks criticize her style instead of her content, they should at least be clear. I have no idea what Yakimi meant.

          • cassander says:

            @mark

            When people ask Jill for substance, i.e. to expand upon, explain, or provide evidence for her views, she has a bad tendency of either ignoring them or calling it “dog piling” then accusing them of arguing in bad faith.

          • Jill says:

            “When people ask Jill for substance, i.e. to expand upon, explain, or provide evidence for her views, she has a bad tendency of either ignoring them or calling it “dog piling” then accusing them of arguing in bad faith.”

            If there ever was a statement made in bad faith, that’s it. I often provide evidence for my views. But I am not here to submit to every demand or to answer every obnoxious question that anyone comes up with.

          • cassander says:

            Jill, last time I asked you to expand on something, you accused me of making absurd demands and refused. When multiple people pointed out that you were refusing to give something I didn’t ask for, you admitted you didn’t actually read my request, blamed my “tone” for this misunderstanding, and left in a huff without answering my question. So please, don’t accuse me of having bad faith.

          • Jill says:

            Cassander, I am at least as frustrated with you as you are with me. I know that you have commanded me to answer questions I was not willing to answer, as if I was obligated to do so. I explained why in detail at that time and that other thread place. And I won’t repeat all that here.

            But feel free to ignore all my comments. I don’t see any way that I am going to get anything constructive out of interactions with you. And perhaps you feel the same about me. When I feel that an interaction is going in a destructive direction, and has no hope of constructive outcome, I usually stop it. What do you do? Oh, I know what you do– You keep insulting the person in some new thread– because you just can’t let go of wanting to get revenge.

            Do you feel like you have gotten your revenge now? I certainly feel like you have hassled me and frustrated me a great deal– in the original threat you refer to– and also by sidetracking this thread back into the other one. Does that count for anything– or do you insist on drawing more blood?

            I probably should just stop this already and not read any more of your comments ever again.

          • cassander says:

            What would make me happy Jill, is for you to understand that attempts to make you rethink your priors are not personal attacks, that people who disagree with you are not out to get you, and that you are in no way immune to the tribalism you love to condemn, ideas that are essential to the community here.

            Unfortunately, I grow increasingly convinced that those are things you are unwilling to or incapable of understanding.

      • “or God’s representative on earth, Peter Thiel”

        Peter Thiel is an interesting fellow, but I don’t think he has his own sect. He’s a libertarian, but a pretty unconventional one–as shown by his support of Trump.

      • Bringing up Peter Thiel was a flaw in your otherwise good comment.

        • Jill says:

          Perhaps Peter Thiel is not the most common person to be thought of as God’s representative on earth, metaphorically speaking. But some do think this.

      • Maware says:

        People have very fragile senses of self now. The amount of change that has happened in forty years has been staggering, and the internet especially has flooded people with a tremendous amount of corrosive information. I think you find fundamentalism as response to that erosive chaos, and I don’t think it will end unless the turbulence of our information society quiets some.

    • Nathan Cook says:

      An escalating response generally beats an all-or-nothing response. Whether that escalation takes the form of “you know, that’s really rude” or of “you know, that’s very interesting, but we could only really solve this problem by abolishing democracy and allowing absolute freedom of association” depends on circumstance.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Yeah, I’ll have to start slipping in a few “We need to make Assad the undisputed hereditary monarch of Syria to end the violence” responses.

    • Nadja says:

      I’m interested in the question of breaking up with opposite-side friends. My husband is very outgoing, outspoken and he loves to argue politics. Most of our friends are on the opposite side of what we are, so he argues a lot. He’s not the best at communicating his ideas, but he’s brilliant and civil. I’ve seen people call him a fool, and get angry at him, but he somehow shrugs it off and continues treating these people as friends. And most of these people reciprocate and continue treating him as a friend.

      I’m very different. I’ve had a formerly close friend go on a somewhat aggressive rant against me when she found out who I voted for in the primaries. We kept the conversation civil, but I was so turned off by it that I’ve now distanced myself from that person.

      I would like to be more like my husband. It’s not that he doesn’t care: I’ve seen him stay up late, agitated, because someone was wrong on the Internet. So how does he do it? Is it a life skill or a personality trait? Is it just thick skin? Some sort of humility on his side? Or some kind of a general openness and warmth towards other human beings?

      • Jill says:

        He’s very rare. And he may get tired of this after a while. I wouldn’t bet on many people being able to imitate him in this way. And I wonder whether he actually feels better for doing this, or thinks there is any benefit to doing so, or if he just can’t stop himself. The Divide and Conquer program continues to work, whether he does this or not.

        • Nadja says:

          He’s indeed very rare. =) I don’t think it’s in any way calculated on his part. Now that I think about it, I suspect this might be related to him scoring off the charts on Seligman’s optimism test. I’d link to it, but afraid that Scott’s spam filter will eat me again. Anyway, the idea is that scoring high on Seligman’s optimism means you don’t take defeat personally, you don’t think it’s significant or that it will last. Conversely, you treat victories as indicative of a larger trend, you see them as a big deal and you attribute them to your own skill or hard work.

          So, in the political discussion context, I think it mostly translates to thick skin, or a tendency to shrug off the negative and focus on the positive.

          BTW, if I remember correctly, Seligman thinks scores on his optimism test predict things like which children will get depressed, or which salespeople will have the best results. It’s pretty interesting. I wonder if it overlaps with grit 😉

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        I’ve been through a few quite different political belief systems before I arrived at the Correct one.

        It’s hard to think of people with different ideologies as evil, when you’ve had very different ideas yourself, and clearly remember not being any more (or less) evil then.

        • Nadja says:

          That’s a good point.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Mmmm.

          Some of the most strident people are the ones who flip from one side to the other. They were extremely strident hard-core liberals, and then they are extremely strident hard-core conservatives. Far-left to far-right (or vice-versa) is definitely a thing.

          Yeah, there is a “converts have to signal harder” thing, but I don’t think that’s it in many cases. They were signalling twice as hard to begin with.

          I think they are some people who are looking for simple, uncompromising, clear answers to “life”. An ideology that offers these answers is extremely attractive, right up until it isn’t, at which point it is rejected with a horror that is equal to the original attraction.

          • Anonymous says:

            What I will never understand are people who chide their former selves for having been overly smug, strident, and condescending to their political opposites, then switch sides and somehow continue to be overly smug, strident, and condescending to their new political opposites.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eh, it doesn’t make a great deal of logical sense when analyzed strictly from the perspective of argument.

            But I think it’s very understandable when we factor in the prevalence of bias and the heuristic nature of the human mind. Everyone is at least a little bit narcissistic.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, habits and emotions rule humans, not rationality or facts.

            A V.A, hospital psychologist I once worked with did some research on this subject. He found it was actually MORE COMMON to switch from one extreme side of the political spectrum to the other extreme side, than it is to go from an extreme toward the middle. Religious or political fundamentalists like to stay fundamentalist, for the very reasons HCB mentioned.

            “looking for simple, uncompromising, clear answers to “life”. An ideology that offers these answers is extremely attractive, right up until it isn’t”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They were extremely strident hard-core liberals, and then they are extremely strident hard-core conservatives.

            This. If someone is a thoughtful careful member of tribe A, and switch to tribe B, they will be a thoughtful careful member of tribe B. Their conversion will inform their being careful because they know how to relate to people from tribe A.

            If they were an asshole member of tribe C and switch to tribe D, they will be an asshole member of tribe D. Their conversion experience will inform how justified they are to be an asshole, because they know exactly what kind of assholes people from tribe C are.

          • Dain says:

            Hm, David Horowitz comes to mind. Can you offer any other examples?

          • Sandy says:

            Justine Tunney is a transgender ex-leftist techie who went full Moldbug.

          • vV_Vv says:

            They were extremely strident hard-core liberals, and then they are extremely strident hard-core conservatives. Far-left to far-right (or vice-versa) is definitely a thing.

            Horseshoe theory: the far left and the far right aren’t opposites, actually in many aspects they are much more similar to each other than to mainstream political positions.

      • Most people are generally good, even if they have different beliefs. Most people are generally good, even if they hold actively hostile or objectionable beliefs.

        I have a pretty wide circle of friends with some very different beliefs. I had a buddy and his girlfriend over last night, he’s a big libertarian. My friends from high school are die-hard liberals. My co-worker is a big conservative who doesn’t believe in gay marriage and broke up with his girlfriend because of the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner stuff. One of my not-as-close friends is a BLM activist who protested at Trump’s Chicago rally and hyphenated his last name along with his wife. I am reconnecting with an old college buddy who is a tech-libertarian soon.

        Most of them are good people, although politically there is not so much daylight between them, as there is interstellar space.

        No reason to chuck friends out over political differences.

        If people want to trash me for voting Trump, well, okay, I understand why they feel that way. Most people have at least SOME legitimate grievances, which they are entitled to feel passionate about.

        I tried taking this optimism test, but many of the answers don’t ring true to me.

        40. You are asked to head an important project.
        I just successfully completed a similar project.
        I am a good supervisor.

        Where is the “it’s Stalingrad and you’re the sacrifice today” option?

        I have no idea what this analysis means, but apparently my Total Good score “Great Pessimism” and my Total Bad Score is “mildly optimistic.” Which apparently averages out to “very pessimistic”?

        Reading the Wikipedia summary, this sounds….well…like optimists are wildly delusional?

        • Nadja says:

          Yes, I think delusional, to an extent, is right. You know how they always said people who have a more accurate view of reality tend to be more depressive/pessimistic? =)

          Anyway, nice to hear that it’s not just off-the-charts optimists who have a good tolerance towards their friends going on an occasional political rant against them. (That probably has nothing to do with it, after all.) Nice attitude!

          • Well, there might still be an association between over-the-top optimism and tolerance. Beats me.

            A lot of these other explanations here ring true to me. Particularly the intellectual humility when you have major political shifts yourself.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, great attitude, Beta Guy!

      • LPSP says:

        It’s almost none of those buzzwords. It’s an incentive. Your husband knows what he finds satisfying and rewarding – what he believes makes the world better, and what he has the power to enact – and lo, so he does. I dare say it’s a male thing, overall. An explicit mindset, over-arching but not over-reaching. One that deals with many things from the vantage of a interested, but motivated, outsider. A tendency to leap into the very forward and direct is often a failure point for the female explicit approach. (the implicit is a different story, but then no-one changes their mind on a contentious issue without an explicit addressal)

      • Jill says:

        Hmm. I don’t think of gender as being the crucial factor here. Most of the people I’ve known who can’t seem to tolerate different political viewpoints from their own, are male. Although there are plenty of both genders.

        • Teal says:

          Women in general seem more likely to have break ups with friends. For guys it seems more common to vaguely drift apart. Of course there are exceptions, but that seems the tendencies.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            Guys only break up with friends over girls.

          • LPSP says:

            Both these things are true, I’d say. Friendships are important but not central to the male existence, so if two guys aren’t really doing anything for each other anymore, there’s no drama – just a drift apart. However, girlfriends and guy friends are on about the same level of emotional valency in the male mind so there’s friction. Sex is really good, and if a male friend seems to be interfering with that, he’s being an enemy.

      • qwints says:

        Is it a village atheist thing? I’ve had groups of friends tolerate a single person with widely divergent views from the rest of the group on key issues. The dynamic seemed to be that as long as the person didn’t actually pose a threat to the group consensus and limited their arguments to designated times, others enjoyed having the around. I can think of the one vegan in the group, the one old school Marxist, and the one devout person (ironically).

        Some of that may be due to this being groups of friends from childhood and college where the argument feels like a reminder of fun times from the past. I haven’t had that dynamic with friends from later in life or that may just be related to the closeness of the friends.

      • Maware says:

        It’s a game to him, and not something he really believes in. You can beat your friends in games and still keep them as friends, but the moment it stops being a game is the moment you lose them.

      • Adam says:

        I don’t have much trouble doing it, somewhat for the same reasons as Squirrel of Doom below, that I’ve changed my mind enough times before that I have no reason to think I’ve figured it all out now. So friends from all over the spectrum isn’t too big a deal.

        But I don’t care the way your husband does (or at least performatively pretends to care). I don’t vote. I’m in a fairly liberal friend group and frankly get baffled at how convinced they are that a Trump presidency would equal apocalypse. I very, very strongly dislike Donald Trump. I disliked him way before he ever decided he wanted to be president. The idea that he is a candidate to me is like having Kim Kardashian as a candidate, but I still don’t think it would be a disaster if he won. He’d surround himself with roughly the same people any other Republican would, and he’d be faced with the same Congress and the same courts. The president is not a dictator. He’d build a wall and ban all Muslims about as much as Obama pulled out of Afghanistan and shut down Guantanamo. He isn’t magically going to make coal stronger than natural gas again. He would almost certainly be a single term president because of how miserably he would fail to deliver on anything he promised, assuming I’m not being too generous in thinking his supporters even care and aren’t voting solely on identity politics.

        So that’s part of it. I might be personally baffled that people I know support him, but I don’t feel threatened by them. I live a damn good life in the most prosperous nation that has ever existed in the safest period it has ever experienced, in a region and city with an extremely thriving market for what I happen to do, and I don’t expect that to change one way or another. To me, people staying friends with each other even when they don’t agree about everything is way more important to the future of the country than who the next president is.

        But that’s my personal bias. I tend to discount accounts of history that focus strongly on the personality traits of individual leaders. i.e. Abe Lincoln was a great leader and all, but slavery was going to end in the next few decades anyway and the north was always going to win that war once it started. I don’t see a wildly different 2050 America based on who wins in 2016.

        I don’t even think I would call this intellectual humility. I’m not intellectually humble. About topics I believe the evidence exists to justify strong beliefs, I have strong beliefs. I’m reasonably certain I’m not friends with any young-earth creationists, for instance. I don’t think I’m friends with any Marxists. I’m not friends with any outright David Duke racists who admit they are racists and think that is fine. But the within-the-Overton-window margins of American politics that specifically hinge upon the selection of a president are very much not among these things that I’m going to die on a hill for.

        For what it’s worth, I used to be very much into debate and argument largely for the sake of demonstrating skill at debate and argument. I am no longer into that. Back when I was, it probably appeared to people that I had a whole lot of strong opinions about politics even though I did not. It is possible this describes your husband and it is also possible he does not realize it. Someone else in this thread mentioned it being a game to him. But you know him better than I do.

        • Aapje says:

          There is also the difference between being internally and externally motivated. I primarily argue to improve my own understanding, not to convince others, so if they remain unconvinced, it’s no big deal.

      • Schmendrick says:

        I can’t speak for your husband, but I find myself in almost precisely the same situation as you describe him. I am fairly conservative, but all my other close friends range from milquetoast liberal to raging progressive. I also love talking and debating about politics, and so do they. Sometimes these discussions get heated, though they have never descended to the “you’re a racist!” “no, you’re a communist!” level. I’ve yet to break off a friendship for political reasons, mostly because a) I like the arguments, and b) political opinion is only one facet of a person and so breaking off a friendship over that seems about as sensible as breaking off a friendship over a dispute about whether mint is tasty or gross. I regard political arguments as quite fun, mostly because most of the time I’m not really trying to convert my opponent. It’s a verbal and ideological fencing match, and if something I say rings true with them, then that’s an unexpected bonus.

    • Jill says:

      No one can talk about politics due to being polarized. Therefore even the tiniest of governmental or political problems can not be solved, because if you can’t discuss it, you can’t solve it.

      Well, except for the “discussion” by money, which SCOTUS has said is the same as “speech.” So no one discusses problem solving in words, at least not with people who aren’t in the same tribe. But politicians do continue to do what they are paid to do, by political contributors who pay in large enough amounts to expect a big “return on their investment.”

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        You put an awful lot of time into this, but with all the hilarious responses you manage to get I can definitely see why you keep going.

      • “Well, except for the “discussion” by money, which SCOTUS has said is the same as “speech.””

        The issue you are pointing at isn’t just about money. One way of getting a politician to do what you want is to persuade him that it’s a good thing to do. Another way is by offering to do something for him in exchange. That something might be giving him money, it might be working for his campaign, it might be endorsing him, it might be getting a group you are part of to support him. But it doesn’t depend on having good arguments for your position.

        The first way feels like how things ought to work, but isn’t how one would expect them to work, since politicians who don’t do things to get people to support them, whether with money or other things, are less likely to end up getting and staying in power.

        Consider the interaction between Sanders and Clinton. It’s unlikely that Sanders has offered arguments that Clinton wasn’t already familiar with–but he pretty clearly made his support conditional on her shifting her position a little in his direction, and she seems to have done so. Nothing to do with money–but also nothing to do with offering good arguments.

        • Jiro says:

          The issue you are pointing at isn’t just about money.

          You’re being too charitable.

          In a previous thread, Jill refused to answer a question about Citizens United that could not be answered without admitting that her narrative was wrong. She’s now doubling down on her wrong narrative.

          • Jill says:

            I always appreciate it when someone like you carries things from another narrative over to this one, just to insult me. Was my argument this time too brilliant for you to stand it? So that the only way you could find to criticize it was to grab something out of another thread in order to put me down?

            But then for some people, bashing members of the Other tribe is the whole meaning of life. So I should understand that, shouldn’t I?

            I am not obligated to answer anyone’s questions about anything. If it doesn’t make sense to me in the discussion, I won’t do it. I also refuse to read the entire 100 or so page Citizens United ruling, as someone there demanded that I do (though I doubt he or anyone else here, expressing opinions on the ruling as a whole, has read the whole thing.)

          • Jiro says:

            By alluding to Citizens United, you were the one who grabbed something from the other thread.

          • Jill says:

            CU was discussed in both this thread and the other one. however, you seemed to have this big urge to criticize me but couldn’t find a way to do it on the basis of what I said on this thread. But if criticizing me (and others perhaps) is so important that you have to bend over backwards to find a way to do it, then what can I say?

            Again, I am not obligated to respond to anyone’s questions or demands, nor is anyone here.

          • “I am not obligated to answer anyone’s questions about anything.”

            You are not obligated to eat, drink, or breath, but failure to do so is likely to have consequences you don’t want.

            If you make a claim and someone offers a criticism that many other people find plausible, you are not obligated to respond. But if you fail to do so, especially if you repeatedly fail to do so in such situations, you should expect many other people to take what you say less seriously as a result.

            A consequence you may not want.

        • Jill says:

          David, good points. That’s true what you said about Clinton and Sanders. And true that there are a number of ways to persuade a politician to do something, most of which do not have to do with good arguments.

          One issue here is that we can’t have nice things, like good arguments, very often at all in the U.S. now. Because we are so polarized that very few people will ever listen to someone they don’t agree with for one second.

          I appreciate that you mentioned how you’ve been able to discuss politics with people who aren’t identical to you politically, in hobby groups. And a couple of other people mentioned being able to do this with some friends. I think this needs to become more and more common.

          How can problems that affect the whole country ever be solved if so very few people can tolerate someone with different viewpoints?

          • Persuading someone to do something by making it in his interest instead of by persuading him that it is inherently good isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Consider Smith’s “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

            In a well functioning market, the process of exchange–”I’ll do this for you if you do that for me”– is a decentralized mechanism for adding up effects of changes on many people, so that if the sum is positive the change happens, if negative it doesn’t. For details see a price theory text.

            Unfortunately, the structure of the political market does that very poorly. The fact that people who support a steel tariff are willing to offer more, in money, political support, votes, etc. to get one than the people who oppose it are willing to offer to stop it is very poor evidence that the tariff provides net benefits.

            The fact that a steel company can sell steel for more than it costs to make it is considerably better evidence (though short of proof) that making steel produces net benefits.

          • Ricardo Cruz says:

            “Because we are so polarized that very few people will ever listen to someone they don’t agree with for one second.”

            I think it’s irrealistic to get things done by having people listening to each other and come to an agreement. As David Friedman mentioned we can cooperate in the economy while having completely distinct views. The problem arises when people want to force others into one-size-fits-all packages.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Ricardo Cruz
            I think it’s irrealistic to get things done by having people listening to each other and come to an agreement. As David Friedman mentioned we can cooperate in the economy while having completely distinct views.

            Such cooperation is sometimes called ‘pragmatism’, and reviled as such.

            Ricardo, I think it depends on what level of agreement we come together on. “Feed the poor because God commands it” and “Feed the poor so they don’t revolt and kill us” are unlikely to find an agreement on the “because” level. But “I’ll bring the beans to the Soup Kitchen if you’ll bring the rice” … is much more likely to be agreed on.

          • Jill says:

            Okay, when people can’t have discussions, we still can cooperate in certain ways in the economy but not in government.

            “The problem arises when people want to force others into one-size-fits-all packages.”

            Exactly what we have now. It’s like this article someone posted earlier:

            http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/when-will-idiots-other-end-political-spectrum-wake-53482

          • “Okay, when people can’t have discussions, we still can cooperate in certain ways in the economy but not in government. ”

            You can still cooperate in government via horse trading, log rolling, etc. It’s a very poorly functioning market and often produces undesirable results, but it does allow for cooperation via trade rather than via common goals and beliefs.

            Incidentally, I think you exaggerate the degree to which people who disagree on politics are unable to listen to each others’ arguments. Consider the group of academics that includes Cass Sunstein and Larry Lessig. They self-identify as left wing but have absorbed quite a lot of the ideas of Chicago School economics, generally thought of as right wing. And the (self-identified) Bleeding Heart Libertarians have absorbed a good deal of left wing thinking, although I don’t think they have done an adequate job of integrating it into their libertarianism.

    • MawBTS says:

      What does Cordycepted mean? I couldn’t find a relevant sounding definition on Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary.

      • Jill says:

        Cordyceps is a kind of parasite. I assumed that it was meant that politically opposite friends must be infected with some terrible parasite– since politically opposite people are thought, in our tribalized society, to be contaminated, evil, deformed, diseased, stupid etc.

        If they weren’t like that, they would be “rational” and agree with us politically. Nothing is too horrible to think or say about politically opposite people. They are the bane of our existence, the reason for all political and societal problems.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Cordyceps” is the pop-sci name for a kind of parasitic fungus whose spores take over and eat the brains of insects they land on, and use the victim to spread the fungus to their hive-mates.

        (The actual species people usually reference was moved to a less catchy-sounding genus, because scientists are jerks, and is now known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Only just found that out, so thanks for getting me to look it up.)

      • Alex Godofsky says:

        Originally in this context it referred to a particular strain of social justice that seemed overwhelmingly concerned with spreading itself (notably, it duped people into repeating trivially and verifiably false statements). Thus the meme is like the parasite etc.

        (Also it was conceived of as an inoffensive replacement for “pozzed”.)

        The term may have mutated as it’s spread so I can’t speak to HI’s intended meaning.

      • anon says:

        Cordyceps is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, too, FWIW.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Homo Iracundus

        Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

        I’ve used that one as a codeword for Moldbug before.

    • Zoop says:

      I think I disagree with almost all of my friends politically (and they mostly agree with each other). We do discuss politics, but I usually try to pick my battles and ignore responding to any really inflammatory comments. I think at this point my friends treat my politics as some sort of wacky personality trait and/or token outsider status. Maybe I’m more tolerable as a anomaly since I’m the only one.

      I’m a big fan of the “evil twin” — the person who’s very similar to you except for disagreement on some big issue (here’s somebody’s description: http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/09/17/your-evil-twins-and-how-to-find-them/). I’ve personally always found conversations about politics with an evil twin to be more educating and more likely to change my mind than just about anything else (probably since I trust my friends and am willing to be as charitable and open-minded in discussion as possible). I admit this stops working if people become so polarized everybody else becomes blanket evil/stupid to them. Though sometimes you can still get through if you build that friendship/rapport for a while before any political disagreement pops up. Then you get to surprise your friend with, “Democrats/Republicans/Reptilians are people, too!”

      On a similar note, I think getting rich and poor people to become friends (real friends, not just “being friendly”) could be an effective way to reduce poverty (or at least raise concerns about reducing poverty). Likewise with other social tensions among differing groups. I can’t think of any places this happens with any frequency, though, aside from possibly churches. Nor can I think of ways to make this more likely. The diversity of opinion has been one of my favorite things about this space — despite concerns about the readership drifting right, this blog remains far more politically diverse than about anywhere else I go online or IRL. Conventions of niceness and civility can go a long way, I guess.

      • “On a similar note, I think getting rich and poor people to become friends (real friends, not just “being friendly”) could be an effective way to reduce poverty (or at least raise concerns about reducing poverty). Likewise with other social tensions among differing groups. I can’t think of any places this happens with any frequency, though, aside from possibly churches.”

        You get that pattern in hobbies as well. I’ve been active for a long time in the SCA (historical recreation pre-seventeenth century). People in that hobby vary a lot in income (and politics), and friendships tend to be based on common interests and common attitudes to how to play that particular game. One close friend of mine mostly worked as a secretary, another friend is a D.C. (I think) lawyer whose views on regulatory issues are rather different from mine.

        (The software is telling me that I’ve already posted this but I can’t find it, so am trying again with a little added)

        • Adam says:

          Military is at least close to this. That’s certainly the one walk of life I’ve experienced with the most diversity of background in the people I knew. Although it ranged the spectrum from poor to gentry more than poor to rich. There aren’t too many people, if any, that are truly “rich,” like from families with at least 8 figures in the bank.

      • Jill says:

        ” I admit this stops working if people become so polarized everybody else becomes blanket evil/stupid to them.”

        This is where almost everyone in the U.S. is right now, on the issue of political tribes. Good for Zoop and David if they have found ways to get beyond this, and groups of people in which it is possible to do so.

        It can’t be done one-sided. Both people have to have some openness. Even if you know the other tribe isn’t evil, that doesn’t help if the person of that tribe is 100% sure your own tribe is the Anti Christ.

        • Zoop says:

          In my experience assuming that the person on the other side thinks your side is the Anti-Christ can be as counterproductive as straight-up thinking the other side is the Anti-Christ. It’s easy to become blind to how unfair [generic “you”] you’re being to the others if you assume they’re being grossly unfair to you.

          Of course, it’s true many people on the other side will confirm whatever stereotypes you have of them by acting stupidly/calling you the Anti-Christ/whatever. I think one needs to tolerate a high level of rejection or disappointment if you want to find that good conversation.

          That’s why I think it’s helpful to start by developing a non-political basis for friendship. Even if you never have that great conversation, once the difference of opinion is known it still forces people to acknowledge “This guy is on the other side, but he’s still a sane, intelligent, and moral human being.”

          Maybe longer-time readers can tell me — did SSC start with very few political discussions? It seems that rationality fits into the hobbies David Friedman mentioned — trust stemming from a shared interest in rationality allowed for a politically diverse crowd to congregate before knowing how diverse it was?

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe longer-time readers can tell me — did SSC start with very few political discussions?

            There was always politics talk, but it wasn’t as ubiquitous or as acrimonious as it is now. I think l’affaire du reproductively viable worker ants did a lot of the damage; that created a need for an intellectually respectable base for anti-SJ opinion, and SSC was one of the sites that ended up filling that niche. That in turn attracted a lot of people who were mainly here for the politics.

            I feel like it’s gotten significantly worse in the last three months, though, and the ants can’t account for that.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            Nornagest: your perception of the change being just the last three months is interesting to me. Was there a particular event or delayed fallout from an event? My instinctive explanation of evaporative cooling has concrete events (certain regulars moving permanently to diaspora blogs/rationalist tumblr) occurring longer ago than that, and I had periods of not reading SSC comments for being more anti-SJ-saturated long before that, as well.

            On the other hand, “worse” might refer to comment content quality, which I could agree with as having changed more recently. Aforementioned anti-SJ-saturated threads further ago were still more long-winded, full-on discussions. Less sniping, one-liners, personal attacks, and “debating to win,” more seemingly genuine engagement from both sides, more actual sources and extrapolation from stats and primary evidence, more admittance of adjusting priors. From a discursive quality measure, even the archive threads with the more notorious banned commenters somewhat advocating for sexual violence were better.

            It comes off as the result of polarization having run its course, opposite sides having calcified all discussion paths into interminable arguments. There’s a sophomoric “randos in my mentions” subtext to the more acrimonious threads nowadays, with newbies getting excoriated, sophomores thinking everyone else is a bad-faith rando, and veteran more charitable regulars having bowed out of fatigue or boredom of this thing that got properly hashed out ages ago getting brought up again in lower discursive quality, which means that some of the more productive insights and resources are lost to the sands of open threads past. (one of the reasons I dislike their greater frequency)

            So, basically, evaporative cooling again.

            Another potential explanation: evaporative cooling was actually delayed by the “things I will regret writing” phase, because they brought in an influx of pro-SJ and/or leftist-sympathetic readers. I was linked here a couple of years ago from a very, very unlikely (very leftist) site to the Trigger Warnings post. Scott now avoiding those kinds of posts means that mainly those predisposed to a certain mindset and commenting style are finding the blog now. Meanwhile, the Rationalist movement as a whole keeps getting painted with a more and more uncharitable “to be dismissed/avoided on sight” brush, and the original inevitable cooling course resumes its march…

            (The only other three-months-ago-ish event I can think of is Book That Triggers This Blog’s Filters, but that was more of a Tumblr thing than SSC to begin with.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Quality, but also quantity.

            There’s not much I can point to. I don’t think any prolific regulars left around that time, but I do think some prolific newbies arrived. That’s also about the time Scott started putting more of his work into Unsong, which might be more significant; without Scott’s enviably charitable work to set the tone, I could see the comments getting nastier. Or it could just be election season killing all of our brains.

            I don’t think we’ve exhausted the possible avenues of discussion, though, I think we’ve stopped trying. There’s very little depth in the politics threads I see these days; it’s either mindless cable news stuff, or the same dozen policy talking points being repeated over and over (and then repeated again without change if someone attempts a rebuttal), or whining about how the preferred perspective isn’t getting enough airtime. Which, heh, I guess I’m now contributing to.

            I never thought I’d miss the ants, but I do. At least there was some theory there that I could sink my teeth into.

            (Not sure what book you’re talking about. Can you clarify?)

          • I think Brexit and the American campaign season are enough to explain politics getting more prevalent here.

            Speaking of, I’ve seen a suggestion that the UK will delay leaving the EU until the whole thing can be blamed on a previous administration and allowed to never happen. Thoughts?

          • John Schilling says:

            Speaking of, I’ve seen a suggestion that the UK will delay leaving the EU until the whole thing can be blamed on a previous administration and allowed to never happen. Thoughts?

            David Cameron already resigned. His successor, albeit from the same nominally anti-Brexit party, explicitly stated “Brexit means Brexit”, and then appointed Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.

            My understanding of British politics is that the latter move signals “Yep, we’re really leaving the EU” in roughly the same way that President Clinton appointing Donald Trump as Secretary of State would signal “One Yuge Wall, coming right up”. Among other unsavory things.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            Nornagest: the Basilisk book.

            Nancy: I don’t think the events themselves are responsible by themselves. The first few threads after Brexit went in pretty in-depth on implications and predictions that were still fairly high quality. Some of the immigration threads hashing out open borders scenarios are still reminiscent of older discussion, as are gun threads. The American election-related threads got useless once most of the Republican candidates dropped out. (Hrm, was that about 3 months ago?) Come to think of it, the first threads addressing a specific tragedy (after the mandated wait) tend to be better, too. Hrm.

            Speed seems to play a factor, for some threads. If the first responders are short and mean, it tends to tank the entire thread. If the first comment or first response of a thread is high quality, that tends to help. But putting together such comments is higher effort. Responses nowadays tend to bypass cites in favor of just claims, which both contributes to wasted posts asking for cites and tone of “just claims” comments as more presumptive, more aggressive. It amazed me how fast older regulars could so quickly put up educational walls of text, but those same people are rarely as prolific now. Some of it might be the choice of topic (fatigue, disinterest), but there might just be more commenters not taking the time anymore, which means discussion is dominated by high speed content.

          • Jaskologist says:

            1. There’s a US election going on now, which is going to raise the amount of politics in the comments.

            2. There’s been a policy of banning people for being too right-wing. As a consequence, the right-most side is now mostly a cluster of social conservatives such as yours truly. And while we are a handsome bunch, we’re not going to be bringing any terribly novel ideas to the table, like the death eaters would.

            In an alternate universe you’d get to see Jill vs. Jim threads, which is just further proof that we do not live in the best possible world.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            One obvious (to me) possibility is that the number of “left wing” comments has picked up. If you are are a “right wing” commenter, this will mean that the comments feel less comfortable.

            Usually things which are broadly classified as interesting aren’t also threatening to some sacred value or definitely preferred policy.

            So, death-eaters can be interesting because most of the oxen that they gore are “left-wing” oxen. Sure they aren’t anti big government (necessarily) but they are anti current government. And you even see, for example, people saying that a monarch could choose to govern in a libertarian manner (or whatever there preferred style of government is).

            But an out and out communist (which we don’t have very many of at this point) is not so interesting, and puts people more in attack mode. A mainstream left-wing commenter can be just sort of exhausting, if you don’t agree with their point of view.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think it’s just “more left”. I was here when Multiheaded and Veronica D and whoever it was that Multi called “senpai” were regulars, and they’re all way further left than any prolific commentators we have now — Multi and “senpai” in an Actual Commie kind of way, Veronica in more of an SJW way. The comments then were way more interesting. And even more civil, occasional gulag fantasies aside.

            Of course, James A. Donald was around back then too. But he’s at least as far to my right as Multiheaded is to my left, and I’ve reported more of his comments than Multi’s and Veronica’s put together, so I doubt he’d be making me any more comfortable.

            (Plus, of course, I don’t think of arbitrary_greay or Nancy Lebovitz as particularly right-wing, so at best this would be an incomplete explanation. Don’t think of myself as right-wing either, but there’s at least one anon that disagrees, and we all know that anons are never wrong.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Jill – “It can’t be done one-sided. ”

          Strongly disagree. In my experience, precommitting to the one-sided version is the only reliable way to make it possible at all.

          • Jill says:

            We may be arguing semantics here. As you may have noticed about me on this site, I am not a person who refuses to converse with anyone of a different tribe. I pre-commit sometimes to starting such conversations.

            But that doesn’t mean I am willing to stay in the conversation, if it turns out to be a situation that is like letting the missionaries into your door– where I find out that the other person has no interest in considering my views for a millisecond. Where they’re obviously only participating in the conversation for the purpose of converting me to their view and/or proving, at least to their own satisfaction, that I am wrong and they are right.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “But that doesn’t mean I am willing to stay in the conversation, if it turns out to be a situation that is like letting the missionaries into your door– where I find out that the other person has no interest in considering my views for a millisecond.”

            Do you have an interest in considering theirs for a millisecond? if so, whether they reciprocate or not, it’s still possible to have a useful conversation. At a minimum by asking questions, learning more about how they think, and looking for common ground. Approaching the conversation as an ideological Turing Test seems to help for this; trying to frame your positions in ways you think they’ll be inclined to agree with, usually by approaching from their ideological blind spots rather than charging their bastions directly.

            That doesn’t mean it’s easy or emotionally cheap, but it does allow useful communication across very large inferential gaps. The times I’ve been able to pull it off have been useful more often than not. The (many) times I’ve failed have occasionally felt pretty good, but have uniformly achieved nothing. Two-way openness is way better and way less stressful, but also very rare. Your own openness is what you have actual control over, and succeeding at openness can occasionally induce openness and charity in the other party.

            tl;dr – Openness can be done unilaterally.

          • Jill says:

            Sure, openness can be done unilaterally. And good for you, if you are willing and able to do it and don’t find it draining. I do find it draining. I am also aware that unilateral openness is not how we get to cooperation– or maybe on occasion, it can be the first step in a long process.

            I actually would just as soon that most people didn’t do very much unilateral openness, because I think that their energies usually could be more productively used elsewhere on less draining activities that are more productive.

          • Have a remarkable example of unilateral openness— a black man who befriends and sometimes converts KKK members.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz – That article is one of the most influential things I’ve read in the last decade, and has decisively shaped how I understand society.

          • Jill says:

            Nancy, great article and a wonderful guy. One can’t expect that very many people will have or find the courage and the skills to do that sort of thing. But when someone is able to do it, that’s great.

            It may be more possible to do this when it’s a matter of race, than a matter of politics. Someone can believe that you ought to change your political beliefs, and may keep pressuring you to do this, so that they can convert you to their political religion. But it’s not possible to change your race.

          • I suspect the world would be a much better place if there were 10K people with Davis’ skills and temperament willing to do his sort of work (not just with the KKK). However, to the best of knowledge, there’s only one of him.

            So far as I know, the important principles of his work are to meet people where they are and look for commonalities.

            My opinion (may or may not be his) is that his work might only be possible because the KKK has been hammered on for decades by both the law and public opinion.

            I recommend his book, Klan-destine Conversations, not just for learning how it’s possible to influence people you would have thought would be hopelessly hostile, but for a look at the culture of the KKK. Who knew there were people who agree with the ideas of the KKK, but won’t join because there’s too much politics?

          • Jill says:

            Thanks for the book reco, Nancy. Sounds like a great one.

          • leooboiko says:

            @Jill: In my book, you’re already like 50% Daryl Davis just for trying to engage in conversation in this forum, despite the stalkerish, agressive criticism you get whenever you write anything. I would never dare to express my left-of-center opinions around here; if people wrote to me the way they write to you, I’d feel bummed for weeks. I’m content with lurking 95% of the time, and posting the odd uncontroversial musing the other 5%.

    • Head Fakes says:

      Until you tread on ground the mind virus deems important, you’ll find its host to be perfectly polite. But one wrong step and youre in the blast zone.

      Having hosted a sucker or two in my time I can’t really remember what I was thinking when I got into arguments, or even if I was thinking at all.

    • acrobats stab orca says:

      Is it plausible that Cordycepted people aren’t really thinking or even hearing the things the parasite makes them say? There certainly doesn’t seem to be any connection between the infected and normal parts of their thought process.

      As someone with exclusively politically-opposite friends, or at least having any friends who see eye to eye with me as deeply closeted as I am, I don’t think it’s a compartmentalization per se. Rather that they’re aware of what they’re saying but don’t see any part of it as objectionable.

      The politicization of the terms “decent human being” and “hate” seems to play a big role in it. If you’re a polite curious guy who treats your coworkers and friends respectfully the idea that you’re quietly leaning Trump in the election is on par with you secretly cutting up hookers. If they see a bloody knife or a red baseball cap in your luggage then they’d figure it out quickly enough but it would still be a big surprise.

      That is, chances are she totally forgets that you’re one of Those People because she knows that you’re a decent person who isn’t motivated by hate.

    • Jill says:

      “Is it plausible that Cordycepted people aren’t really thinking or even hearing the things the parasite makes them say? There certainly doesn’t seem to be any connection between the infected and normal parts of their thought process.”

      The person probably thinks the same about you, when you broach the subject of politics.

      Things opposite tribes say about politics seem totally irrational, because it is not just disagreements on points of view. In the U.S. today, people very very often choose their news media according to their politics– which means that people can not agree on objective facts about government. Each kind of media includes only those facts that are consistent with their own party’s narrative and leaves out the others. And some trusted media sources do indeed lie quite a bit. Thus people of different tribes each think the other is making up their own “facts.”

      • ” Thus people of different tribes each think the other is making up their own “facts.””

        And, for the reason you give, they are often correct. The person you are arguing with isn’t making up his own facts, but he is relaying facts made up by someone on his side.

        I’ve sometimes tried to deal with this by finding a sufficiently clear case so that I can persuade someone that the fact he is relaying is not true. The objective isn’t to persuade him to abandon the view that fact is intended to support–the view, after all, might be true even if the particular fact isn’t. It’s to persuade him not to trust the information sources he got the fact from.

        It’s surprisingly hard to do, even when the evidence against the purported fact is very clear. I think the reason is not so much that the other person regards me as evil or stupid as that the other person sees argument as combat rather than intellectual exchange.

        My guess is that the problem isn’t limited to political disagreements, although that’s generally the context I’ve seen it in. I had a similar feeling in an argument a month or two back on the physics of a particular design of chair.

        My wife cites a motto she saw on a refrigerator magnet or something similar, to the effect that a couple should never go to bed with an argument unsettled between them. The implicit assumption is that an argument is a quarrel.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, it’s most often in politics. But, on any topic, if one person is discussing for better mutual understanding, and the other is competing in order to win or be right or convert the other– you’re each doing different, and incompatible, things.

          With some of the fact issues, it can be hard. E.g. Syria– probably neither of the discussers has ever been to Syria. You’re both taking some trusted source’s word for what the “facts” are. Neither can really have any clue from their own experience.

          And a lot of subjects are like that, even if they don’t involve a foreign country. It’s a hard argument to make, to say that “Your trusted news sources, that you and most people you know depend on to know the truth of what’s going on in the nation, are lying to you.”

          • It’s a hard argument to make on a random claim by your trusted news source. The solution is to find one of the few claims where it’s easy to show the claim is false and use that to try to persuade you that that source ought not to be trusted.

            But I have to admit that my main attempt to do that online, a blog post which I believe demonstrates that someone used as a source of information on AGW lied in print about his own work, seems to have convinced very few people that he ought not to be trusted.

            Or at least, very few have admitted to being convinced of that, even though all the evidence I’m using was produced and webbed by the person in question and his co-authors.

            I made a similar attempt on the other side of the political spectrum when I concluded that a claim being made on my side of an issue was bogus (and probably fraudulent in origin, although the person whom I heard it from presumably believed it). As far as I can tell, I did not convince the person I got the claim from not to trust the person he got it from, which was part of my objective.

          • Jill says:

            David, sometimes I wonder if an individual can ever make a difference in these kinds of issues about truth. Maybe the people you talked to will be convinced if 200 other people tell them the same thing. Perhaps we need more truthful media more than anything.

            As Goebbels is reputed to have said “Say something once, and it’s a lie. Say it twice, and it’s a lie. Say it 100X, and it’s an eternal truth. The media says lots of stuff, much of it lies, 1000X.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’d guess one reason it’s so hard to convince people their sources can’t be trusted is that they don’t trust you. You can point out “Sourceguy said X; X is false” – but most people know nothing about X, and know that even if your arguments sound convincing, there might be some interpretation where X sounded true to Sourceguy at the time. I was just reading one blog which goes through a lot of Roman Catholic arguments that Luther was an immoral infidel who saw the rotten fruit of his Reformation (with evidence! Quotes from Luther himself!) — and proves, by showing context, that it’s all wrong and taking Luther out of context.

            Scott had a post about this on his old blog pointing out how he did essentially the same thing about anti-consensus ancient history theories, and calling it “epistemic learned helplessness“.

          • Jill says:

            Thanks for the link to that post by Scott. Looks like a good one for me to read.

            That’s an important point. If the person trusts you far less than they trust Source X, then they are not likely to believe you when you tell them that Source X is wrong– no matter how much evidence you give them.

        • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

          My wife cites a motto she saw on a refrigerator magnet or something similar, to the effect that a couple should never go to bed with an argument unsettled between them. The implicit assumption is that an argument is a quarrel.

          My impression is that is one of those widely cited pieces of marital advice. The reading I have always had is that it refers specifically to arguments that would inhibit your willingness to have sex with your spouse. Both because cold-shouldering in the bedroom massively escalates the argument, and because doing the deed significantly increases willingness to compromise. It’s just gussied up in a form you can put in a wedding toast or on a refrigerator magnet.

    • suntzuanime says:

      People think they can get away with what they’ve gotten away with. It might be worth trying to explain to her that her anti-Semitic rants are really upsetting to her Jewish friends and that you wish she’d tone down the Nazi rhetoric, rather than just silently cutting ties.

  4. Sandy says:

    On the subject of Duterte attacking the Pope, I wonder how popular this Pope is. Trump attacked him too and it didn’t seem to do all that much damage to his campaign. The Philippines is a staunchly Catholic country and Duterte is still very popular despite slagging off the Holy See. Francis seems to be rising in popularity among people who wish the Catholic Church could be something other than the Catholic Church; I’m not sure how he’s doing with traditional Catholics.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      On further investigation, it looks like he “cursed him” for causing a traffic jam when he visited the Phillipines, but later apologized.

      • Sandy says:

        Apparently he called Francis a “son of a whore” for those traffic jams (must be his go-to insult). He then issued an apology and was planning to go to the Vatican to apologize in person before cancelling that trip because it would be “an exercise in duplicity”.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          (must be his go-to insult)

          Filipinos speak Spanish, right? “Hijo de puta” in Spanish is like “fag” in 4chan. Ostensibly rude, but used so much that it doesn’t mean much.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Have you watched the interview where he insulted the American ambassador? It was in Filipino, and sounds absolutely beautiful.

            Also IIRC only a few percent of the population speak spanish these days?

          • Filipinos speak various native languages of the Philippines, with the official language taught in school and used for daily communication being Tagalog (aka Filipino)

            BUT

            For having watched a movie in Tagalog, it appears that Filipinos very liberally season their speech with Spanish words (the way young people in some non English-speaking western countries use a lot of English words while speaking their native language), including swearwords, but also sometimes even numbers.

          • pku says:

            Also, curse words in secondary languages just don’t sound as bad – for example, an american using “merde” somehow doesn’t sound quite as bad as an american using “shit”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            “Merde” is a minor oath in French, closer to “crap” than “shit” in terms of vulgarity. So, unclear if this is a general effect of cursing in a different language.

          • Kusterdu says:

            I wouldn’t say they sprinkle Spanish words into their speech — Spanish words have been incorporated in the language. They do switch back and forth between English, though.

            While the Philippines was a Spanish colony, the friars took the policy of using the local languages and not trying to teach or spread Spanish. By the end of the colonial period, the educated class spoke Spanish but this remained a small percentage — although there was still some Spanish in use up through World War II (some Japanese propaganda was broadcast in Spanish).

          • Anonymous says:

            You’ve got it about right but the exact phrase he uses is “putangina” which is as common in the Filipino lexicon as “sonofabitch” is in English.

          • Nornagest says:

            Filipinos speak Spanish, right?

            No, they speak one of several local languages — most often Tagalog in and around Luzon (also a common second language elsewhere), or a dialect of Visayan in the central islands and parts of Mindanao. Most of them also speak English, which, alongside Tagalog, is commonly shared between Filipinos of different regions and therefore serves as a language of tourism, business, and government. A lot of communication over there is bilingual, with English and Tagalog or Tagalog and a local language; or trilingual, with all three. But you don’t see Spanish much.

            Most Filipino languages do have a lot of Spanish loanwords, though, and placenames and even personal names are full of Spanish there, because it was a Spanish colony for centuries. (Not unlike California, as an acquaintance of mine pointed out to me when I was over there.)

  5. Christopher says:

    Re: Mennonites: the majority of Mennonites are not anachronistic; so-called “moderate” or “mainline” Mennonites dress and live in ways that are outwardly very similar to protestant denominations like the Methodists. (Indeed, due to extensive mission work by certain Mennonite groups, the traditional German-, Swiss- and Russian-descended Mennonites are now substantially outnumbered by much newer Mennonite communities in Africa, south-east Asia and Central and South America.)

    The groups who do dress and live anachronistically are usually referred to as “old order” Mennonites.

    As well as in the noted places there are also a substantial number of Mennonites – both mainstream and old order – in Waterloo county, Ontario. When I was studying at the University of Waterloo it was not unusual to see horse-drawn buggies coming down the street I lived on to go to the hardware store in uptown Waterloo.

    • Ordnung says:

      I have a flip phone because I don’t consider the benefits of a smartphone to be worth the costs/drawbacks. Am I being “anachronistic” or is there a better word to describe my choice?

      • biztheclown says:

        atavistic

        • Ordnung says:

          No, I don’t think that fits. I didn’t downgrade from a smartphone to a flip phone; I never got a smartphone in the first place. Wasn’t worth it to me, still isn’t.

          Anyway, where I was going with this was, if I was part of a community that made lots of decisions like that–not just about phones but lots of other stuff including beliefs and language–we’d wind up looking out of place after a while compared to the surrounding culture, but I don’t think it would be right to say we would be “anachronistic.”

          To some extent this happens on a micro scale in most households. My wife and I don’t have a TV and we don’t play video games, so there are big chunks of pop culture that never make it into our “bubble” until we’re on vacation and have TV in the hotel or something like that. I’m sure you can think of your own parallels.

          • I don’t know about the Mennonites, but in the case of the Amish the decision not to use certain modern technologies is a deliberate one and seems to be based not on “they cost more than they are worth” but “they would subvert our culture, which we like.”

            Arguably, that makes them more modern than the rest of us, not less.

          • Ordnung says:

            I almost added a parenthetical “and I don’t just mean cost in terms of money” but then decided it was unnecessary. Guess I was wrong.

            Amish communities’ decisions not to adopt various technologies is indeed based on “it costs more than it’s worth”, but it’s usually more of a spiritual/cultural cost than a monetary one.

            As is mine: I can afford a smartphone, but it would cost me in other ways having to do with my identity, my lifestyle, the micro-culture that exists when I interact with my family and friends, my time, etc.

            David, I’m glad you spoke up, because when Christopher used the word “anachronistic” your SCA stuff is the first thing I thought of. The contrast between what you’ve been off doing on a campground recently and what the Amish do for their whole lives is considerable, and not just in scope. I don’t think “anachronistic” describes the Amish or old-order Mennonites well at all.

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      Oh hey!

      I’m from southwestern Ontario too and actually have exstensive contact with Mennonite and Amish.

      The interesting thing is that while most new order Mennonite are pretty much modern despite a few excentricities the old order are crazy religious. Like the Amish think they take it too far.

      The Amish arent incredibly religious (despite the odd culture and lifestyle) like they only hold church every other week, wrap it up in and hour or two and then use the rest of the day to drink with their buddies (since everyone’s together anyways (the church rotates round house to house)) but the old order menonites its either don’t drink or frown on it considerably don’t wear bright colours and jus the a general dourness about them.

      Like the Amish behave more like hard drinking dwarves than religious extremists but the old orders actually match up with what you’d imagine a puritanical religious sect would look like.

      • Troy says:

        I think this probably varies among Amish communities. The Amish are also quite diverse, with guidelines varying from community to community.

    • anon says:

      Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast has been a pleasant surprise to me, on balance. Gladwell grew up Mennonite in Waterloo too, and his most recent episode was partly about a Mennonite pastor; I (non-religious) found it quite moving.

    • Todd says:

      Yep.

      Signed,
      A non-anachronistic Mennonite

  6. Nathan Cook says:

    Sam Bowman’s definition of neoliberalism includes as point 7 “We think the world is getting better”, which does rather exclude Thiel et al, and which I think is the critical point. “Modern life isn’t rubbish” is the slogan I assigned to Sam on reading his piece, and this should be taken to include not just material conditions, but the modern way of living.

    Self-avowed neoliberals appear to be the least objectionable sort of neoliberals, oddly enough. Those who insist on the Panglossian telos of the current world order while disclaiming the moniker are far worse.

    • ComfotablyNumb says:

      One can think the world is getting better overall, and that it is getting worse in specfic places. Same with crime. But I do think “an overall optimistic view of the future” and “an overall pessimistic view of the future” is an important category distinction.

      • “But I do think “an overall optimistic view of the future” and “an overall pessimistic view of the future” is an important category distinction.”

        It’s not quite the same distinction, but I’ve seen the claim that the big division in the future will be stacists vs dynamists, people who fear change vs people who expect change, don’t think it can be prevented, and think the proper approach is to adapt to it.

        One can see that split in climate arguments.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          How does “stacists vs dynamists” break out Transhumanism? On the one hand, it’s a group that favors radical change in the near term, but TH future visions often seem to assume stability once technology fully satisfies human wants. Also, whenever someone is contemplating something in the UBI / Star Trek / Post-scarcity family of futures, aren’t they examining a basically non-dynamic future for the human species?

    • Luke the CIA stooge says:

      It seems neoliberal is genuinely outdated now. Like it used to mean non-socialists who wanted to help the poor believed in capitalism and generally were opposed to both the communists and the nationalist coporatist old keysian-Galbraithian consensus. That’s everyone now, no one wants to go back the company man postwar Pleasantville hierarchy (except Micheal Moore).
      The real destination is between the libertarians (who want to take the market orientation much further (to the point of making politics itself bow down (think regulatory arbitrage, seasteading, the various -exits(br, t, Alask, nether, etc.) And generally don’t trust democracy to not eat freedom vs the technocrats and new nationalists

    • multiheaded says:

      Self-avowed neoliberals appear to be the least objectionable sort of neoliberals, oddly enough. Those who insist on the Panglossian telos of the current world order while disclaiming the moniker are far worse.

      Endorsed.

    • He probably believes in democracy although it is not on the list.

  7. Anaxagoras says:

    With Tabby’s Star, it seems to me like the theory most aligned with the evidence really is aliens, but that because everyone has justifiably high priors against this, it would take much stronger evidence to convince people were that actually what is happening.

    The Missouri story is very amusing, and definitely seems like the plot of some heartwarming movie about a cold-blooded politician forced to discover his heart of gold.

    • Subbak says:

      Of course, because this is reality, the governor will probably (justifiably) claim that he can’t act as a lawyer while being governor (conflict of interest, also provisions to guarantee a leave from their jobs to public officials), and won’t learn anything about the damages his policies do.

  8. DanielLC says:

    Does Tabby’s star make sense if it’s aliens? I’d expect that if someone were building a Dyson sphere, you’d see it dim exponentially, along with an increase in infrared light from the sphere itself. Not this sudden blocking of light thing. Is there something I’m missing?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think the theory is that the aliens have completed part but not all of the structure, so that as it rotates, Earth is exposed to more or less finished parts and so we see more or less light get through.

      I wonder if anyone’s ever calculated theoretical limits to how quickly you can build a Dyson sphere. I’m surprised it’s taking centuries; I would expect it to be quicker if the aliens have superintelligence on their side (and if not, how did they reach Dyson sphere levels?)

      • If it’s a Dyson sphere then almost certainly the great filter got the aliens before they could finish. It would be a massive coincidence to observe a Dyson sphere during construction but much less of one to see the ruins of a dead civilization.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I thought part of the puzzle was that aside with the small fluctuations from year to year, there was a longer-term dimming trend. That would be consistent with the aliens (or their machines) continuing work.

          • Outis says:

            It’s a huge spaceship flying towards us from the direction of Tabby’s Star. As it gets closer, it obscures a larger fraction of the star, reducing its apparent brightness.

          • Houshalter says:

            The spaceship theory makes no sense. Our solar system has moved over the centuries, as it orbits around the galaxy. Spaceships can’t fly in straight lines towards their target, but instead where their target will be in a century.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          They almost finished building a sphere around the sun, but wiped each other out in an apocalyptic religious war over whether it should be painted red or blue.
          (The designer wanted it to be green).

        • utilitarian troll says:

          It would be a massive coincidence to observe a Dyson sphere during construction but much less of one to see the ruins of a dead civilization.

          Maybe not, if abiogenesis is the great filter and both we and they are the result of the same panspermia event. (I think Robin Hanson has some posts endorsing panspermia.)

          The thing that frustrates me about the link Scott shared is that it doesn’t even attempt to evaluate the plausibility that the structure is being built by aliens. If you were going to build a Dyson sphere around a star, what would the best way to go about it be, and would we be gathering observations similar to what we are seeing?

          • anon says:

            @troll, I don’t think we have anything close to a reasonable guess as to “what would the best way to go about it” might be. Naively it seems likely that a civilisation with the tech to contemplate this project would regard the primary challenge as moving useful mass (mostly iron with a smattering of other key elements?) from one place to another in the system. Looking at a system like Sol’s, it seems quite likely we will first mine the ferrous asteroids, but for a Dyson sphere/swarm I think back-of-the-envelope math is enough to show that it would be necessary to mine at least one planetary-sized body. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Extracting the material from the gravitational well of its source body will necessarily involve creating large gradients of (potential) energy, e.g. by assembling large quantities of fuel for chemical rockets. It wouldn’t be shocking if there are rate-limiting implications that can be drawn from this fact alone. However since the ultimate construction process is likely to be self-bootstrapping (more and more solar panels allow you to focus or harvest starlight for propulsion), it seems tricky to get tight constraints on what one might observe about the process.

          • Error says:

            Even if both were products of the same panspermia, I would still expect a large divergence in the time to reach a technological society.

            I doubt we’re more than a few thousand years short of dyson-sphere tech levels ourselves. That’s an awfully small margin on a cosmic timescale.

          • cbhacking says:

            @anon: Niven said you could build a ringworld with the mass of the planet Jupiter. I forget how wide a ring that made, but it wasn’t absurd; pretty sure it was well under the diameter of earth (1000 miles, maybe?) and it also makes assumptions about the thickness of the ring, but let’s use that for the moment.

            Fun with Wolfram Alpha!
            Surface area of this proposed ringworld: 5.84 * 10^11 sq. miles
            Ratio of this area to Earth’s surface area: 2965:1

            OK, that matches what I remember about the proposed scale of a ringworld. To be fair, when comparing mass of a ringworld to mass of a Dyson sphere I should also account for the sidewalls necessary to hold in the atmosphere (as a sphere won’t need them), but at this point I’m aiming for “+/- one order of magnitude” so whatever.

            More Wolfram Alpha fun times!
            Surface area of a [Dyson] sphere with radius 1 AU: 1.08 * 10^17 sq. miles.
            Ratio of Dyson sphere area to ringworld area: 185925:1
            (Fun fact: WA recognizes input of “surface area of sphere with radius 1AU” as “area of a Dyson sphere”.)

            OK, the parameters being even, we’re looking at roughly 180 solar masses to build the sphere. That’s not “mine the asteroids” territory, more like “mine the entirety of all star systems within quite a few light years, and bring all that mass to the star you’re building the Dyson sphere around”.

            That doesn’t even account for the fact that the vast mass of the universe is in hydrogen, with helium a distant second; fusing those up to the level of iron is possible (and I think it’s even energy-positive, though going past iron is not) but that is a mind-blowing amount of fusion. If you want all that mass in stuff that’s suitable for solid construction, you’ll have to mine a lot more than a few hundred star systems.

            OK, so let’s look at the parameters. A Dyson sphere might be able to be thinner than a ringworld – you probably wouldn’t spin it for artificial gravity, so that’s less acceleration it needs to withstand – but you also *can’t* just spin it to force it to keep its shape, so it’ll need to be rigid enough to resist that huge amount of gravity. I’m not going to even pretend I’d know *how* to compute how thick that would mean it needs to be.

            So, let’s look at an alternative idea. Rigid spheres are simply impractical. (This is not news. Wikipedia could have told you that. See the “Dyson Shell” section for some of the problems, in detail.) A “Dyson bubble” using light sails (to counteract the star’s gravity) is a lot more practical both in terms of engineering and materials cost – by necessity, such light sails would have extremely low mass, to the point where one problem with the idea is that we can’t make a sail with that low of density right now – and would look the same from the outside, though.

          • A Dyson sphere that was literally a solid sphere seems like a crazy idea, for reasons some of which are suggested in this thread. I would expect a Dyson sphere to consist of a bunch of ring worlds and/or satellites whose total effect was to intercept most of the light from a star.

      • Loquat says:

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear of a complete Dyson sphere taking centuries to construct; those things by definition are huge and require the breakdown of multiple planets for materials. I do not remotely trust any timeframe estimates that include handwaves like, “oh, once we’re done breaking down Mercury for materials, we’ll have so many construction robots that doing the same to Venus will only take a year!”

        Also, perhaps they don’t want to construct a complete Dyson sphere? They might not even have enough materials if their star system was short on planets to begin with.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Yeah, I never really got the point of it. Once you’ve got the technology to do it, what benefits could you possibly be getting from having it be a contiguous object?
          Would you still care about it being handier for the train?

          • Soumynona says:

            The point is to compete with other species on the galactic stage in who’s got the biggest building.

            That will show those Zarbloxians with their puny ringworld!

          • Subbak says:

            Also, it’s a huge space wall. Maybe make the Zarbloxians pay for it?

          • Mr Mind says:

            I think that the Pebble Sorting Aliens of LWian memory teach us not to try to even imagine what other life forms would care, besides basic thermodynamics.
            Maybe it’s a utilitarian project, or maybe it’s the only way to keep a cohesive governement, or maybe they are quite primitive but good at coordinating and this is their only way to say “hello world”.

      • gwern says:

        Sandberg says years to centuries are doable & plausible timescales: http://aleph.se/andart2/space/what-is-the-natural-timescale-for-making-a-dyson-shell/ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576513001148 (but obviously you have a lot of problems like why don’t we see tons of other infrared sources/Dyson spheres in the infrared surveys and how likely is it we just happened to see the only Dyson sphere in existence in the eyeblink it’s being constructed in etc).

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Isn’t the natural conclusion “aliens have some kind of really good infrared sink”? That would explain why we don’t see more aliens and why we caught one in the act (if there are millions, the chance of catching one in its brief eyeblink goes way up)

          • anon says:

            I don’t know the exact argument but I think there is supposed to be a thermodynamic reason why “really good infrared sink” is implausible.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            “There is an alien civilization that has found a way to dump heat out of the observable universe” is…very fracking scary. That is some next-level owning of the laws of physics, and would permit shit like oh, having dozens of observation platforms above earth while we remain blissfully ignorant.

            “Tabby’s star has a lot of very large statite-mirrors that beam it’s output off in directions we can’t see” is a lot simpler, and while still scary (because that sort of thing can in theory be used to make literal death-stars. Yes. Beams that gravitationally unbind planets at 1k lightyear is plausible engineering) not.. to the same crap your pants level.

          • Mr Mind says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            How about dumping heat into a black hole?
            Or maybe they could dump heat into neutrinos, WIMPs or gravitational radiation.
            Our sensors still have not covered the whole spectrum of available forces…

        • hlynkacg says:

          Because it’s likely that a completed Dyson sphere surrounding a main sequence star doesn’t look much different from a brown dwarf when viewed from 100s of LY away, and ring-worlds don’t look like much at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            A Dyson shell viewed from hundreds of light-years away would look like a brown dwarf tens of light-years away, except that it would not exhibit the parallax we’d expect from something tens of light-years away.

            Any point IR source far enough away to exhibit no parallax and yet bright enough to detect would, I think, be considered noteworthy as soon as those properties were discovered. It is possible that such a thing has been observed and we haven’t gotten around to doing the parallax measurement yet.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I remember there’ve been several efforts over the last couple decades to measure the parallax of a number of nearby stars; does anyone know how complete they’ve been?

          • Nornagest says:

            Not exactly, but I’d imagine pretty complete, since parallax is central to one of the main ways of measuring distance to a body, and astronomers are obsessed with distances.

            On the other hand, the parallax method doesn’t work from Earth except for the nearest stars; there’s too much atmospheric noise. You can extend it with space-based observation, but not enough to cover much of the galaxy — and telescope time in space is much scarcer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if parallax surveys in that distance range were far from complete.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Why would a Dyson sphere require super-intelligence?

        The basic engineering is pretty simple. The hard part is harvesting sufficient resources to build it.

        • coherentsheaf says:

          Not need, but precede. It looks easier to build superintelligence.

          • Baughn says:

            The aliens could be better at coordination, and hold the belief that they wouldn’t be able to control superintelligence.

            Or we could be wrong about how difficult AI really is.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          It is? Have you done any basic calculations on tensile strength, etc? Do you have a materials engineering background?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t have a materials engineering background, but I am a no shit rocket scientist satellite guidance technician, with a penchant for world building.

            In order to determine the material requirements you first need to identify the mass, radius, and thermal output of the parent star along with the radius of the theoretical sphere.

            Basically what we have is a case of competing constraints where the greater the sphere’s radius is, the less you need to worry about material strength. However the greater the sphere’s radius the more material and energy you’ll need to construct it in the first place.

      • Skef says:

        If the energy capturing technology on the inside surface is reasonably efficient, and it’s possible to build in stages at all, why construct surface faster than you need it? Anxiety over a few tens of millions of years of lost photons doesn’t sound very superintelligent to me …

      • martin_w says:

        When Freeman Dyson published the idea originally, he did not envision it as a single solid sphere, but as a collection of separate solar collectors and/or habitats which would together catch a large portion of the star’s energy output but not necessarily all of it.

        So perhaps, from the aliens’ point of view, they are not deliberately working towards a complete sphere, any more than we are deliberately trying to cover the entire Earth with buildings as fast as possible. They just make new additions when needed, and the growth of the construction represents the natural growth of their population and industry. They might even have an environmentalist faction which considers the growth of the sphere to be a bad thing and urges restraint in making new additions.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      The most consistent-with-evidence theory I’ve seen is mindbogglingly huge mirrors. – because mirrors can shade a star and not produce infra-red surplus, which is missing, and makes just about all the other theories make zero sense. That implies someone is doing optical astronomy on a massive scale or beam-riding on ditto.

  9. Seth says:

    Indeed, Bowman is not discussing some very important policy distinctions between neoliberals and Libertarians.

    A key difference not discussed by Bowman is that typically neoliberals believe government has a strong, vital, supremely important and absolutely critical role to play in making the economy fair against the monopolistic tendencies of big business – on the behalf of other big businesses. Libertarians think that never works and call it regulatory capture by the best game-players.

  10. ComfotablyNumb says:

    A cheeky response to the neoliberal post:

    1. We like markets – a lot.
    “Only Economics Matters.”
    2. We are liberal consequentialists.
    “The description is that of hedonic individualists, though. We value philosophical descriptors, but don’t feel the need to use them accurately, because we are Non-Ideological.”
    3. We care about the poor.
    As opposed to all those other people.
    4. We care about the welfare of everyone in the world, not just those in the UK.
    As opposed to all THOSE other people.
    5. We base our beliefs on empirics, not principles.
    “While this explains the shoddy terminology in 2, we really want to emphasize that we don’t really have a solid grasp of what principles are, because they’re so self-evident, see?”
    6. We try not to be dogmatic.
    “We’re really invested in the idea that we are removed from ideology, history, and human culture; which is convenient when Only Economics Matters.”
    7. We think the world is getting better.
    “We are currently dominant and expect this to continue.”
    8. We believe that property rights are very important.
    “We’re not going to get into any thorny descriptions of what exactly those property rights are, though.”
    9. But we’re comfortable with redistribution, in principle.
    “Now you understand the vagueness of 8!”

    • multiheaded says:

      Come on, 3 and 4 are obvious things to proclaim here; this piece is clearly written for left-liberals and not for libertarians, so.

      Agreed that 5 and 6 are laughable and naive and #pureideology.

    • Re 4. Why the snark, nationalists exist.

      • Sandy says:

        Nationalists aren’t necessarily rooting for everyone else in the world to suffer; 4 sounds like one of those bourgeois left-liberal statements about how retrograde the idea of borders is because we have room/no person is illegal/refugees welcome/whatever.

        • They might not actively wish for others to suffer but they might not necessarily care about the welfare of people in other countries the way they care about the welfare of people in their own countries. For instance, look at this Benie Sanders interview where he justifies immigration restrictions by saying that his responsibilities are to his state and country. Of course he wants to help people elsewhere in the world, but not if it hurts Vermonters at all. Everybody tends to care about people near to them more than foreigners but there are certainly differences of degree.

          • Sandy says:

            Bernie Sanders is an elected representative from Vermont; of course his responsibilities are to his state and country first and foremost. If they weren’t, he’d be a foreign agent.

            Everybody tends to care about people near to them more than foreigners but there are certainly differences of degree.

            Do they? The Brexit fallout suggests there are a lot of rootless cosmopolitans out there who consider foreigners nearer to them than their countrymen. Unsurprisingly, most of these people live and work and study in rich, well-policed London; Rotherham is a working-class town filled with the kinds of foreigners who are priced out of the London neighborhoods such cosmopolitans call home.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Sandy’s second comment captures the objection better than Sandy’s first. If Bowman hired a lawyer, I’d have to believe he’d take it somewhat amiss if the lawyer told him that every party in the dispute has equal worth and therefore he’ll be considering all their interests equally.

            To get from this parallel to the full nationalist position requires some additional assumptions which I mostly don’t share, which is why I end up closer to the neoliberals. What matters is that the starting point doesn’t have to involve deprecating the moral worth of foreigners, and nationalists are right to bridle when someone implies otherwise.

          • Sandy’s argument would mean that any departure from nationalism, any level of immigration or foreign aid, is treachery.

            That seems to be proving too much.

            Let me put it another way. The duty of elected representatives is implement the wishes of the electorate. If the electoratewant internationalist policies, that’s what they should get. Internationalism is not automatically a betrayal of civic duty.

            And there are perfectly legitimate arguments in ethics about widening the circle. Someone who criticises nationalism ethically is not doing something. Illegitimate.

          • Sandy says:

            I didn’t say Bernie Sanders’s responsibilities are exclusively to his state and country; just that his state and country are his main priorities.

            The duty of elected representatives is implement the wishes of the electorate.

            Not in a republic, it isn’t.

          • In a republic , elected representatives are obliged to implement the desires of the electorate within the constraints of t he constitution>

            I don’t see how the rider i.smaking much difference

        • But 4 doesn’t say there are evil people who want nothing but suffering fur foreigners. Why not read the comment as distinguishing Bowman’s position from one that is actually held?

      • ComfotablyNumb says:

        I had already commited to snarking all of them based on 5-9, tbh.

  11. mobile says:

    Hurricanes are a heat transfer mechanism from lower latitudes to higher latitudes.

    Global warming affects the planet at higher latitudes more than around the equator.

    Smaller temperature differences between higher and lower latitudes means fewer and weaker hurricanes.

    • The Nybbler says:

      An interesting story, but did anyone predict this effect?

      Also, I don’t think there has been a drop in the number of major hurricanes. Only in those making landfall.

      • Pete says:

        My understanding of the science was that there should be fewer hurricanes, but the ones that do form should be stronger. I think there’s also a cycle, and it’s difficult to know how much a change in hurricane activity is due to a multi-decadal cycle and how much (if anything) it has to do with climate change.

        Here’s a video from 2010. Potholer is a science journalist, not a scientist, but he does link his sources in the video description.

        Some of the papers linked, just in case people are too lazy to watch the video (which is fair enough).

        “Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under 21st century warming conditions.”– Tom Knutson, Nature Geoscience 2008

        “Warmer Ocean Could Reduce Number Of Atlantic Hurricane Landfalls”
        — Wang et al, Geophysical Research Letters 2008
        Here is an article discussing this one.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s things like this that make believing in horrific climate change hard to believe. How can people change their beliefs so drastically and not expect anyone to notice?

        • Pete says:

          Can you point to scientific literature that predicted an increase in hurricane activity? I’ve quoted 2 papers (and linked to a video that quotes more) from 2008 that predict the opposite. Was there ever consensus otherwise?

          If you only focus on what’s said in the media, you’ll get an inaccurate view of the scientific consensus. The media gets science wrong constantly. You shouldn’t let that fact colour your opinion of the science itself.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I linked to four highly cited articles below. And here’s an article with a quote from Michael Mann.

            http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090812/full/news.2009.821.html

          • bluto says:

            I’m not climatologist but my reading of this paper appears to attribute increases in hurricanes due to climate change. Specifically,

            We can now develop the following causal chain.

            SSTs in the main hurricane development regions of the NATL ocean have increased over the past century, particularly in the past 30 years, due primarily to greenhouse warming associated with anthropogenically introduced gases.

            There is a strong and statistically significant relationship between SSTs and tropical cyclone activity at longer periods, with eastern NATL SSTs explaining over 60% of the variance in overall cyclone frequency and Gulf of Mexico SSTs explaining a similar level of variance in the proportion of major hurricanes.

            The SST/cyclone relationships are primarily due to transitions between distinct climate regimes and are independent of known data uncertainties.

            Collectively, this causal chain leads to the strong conclusion that the current level of tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic is largely a response to climate change from anthropogenic causes.

            If I were guessing, I would expect that this quote from an Inconvenient Truth had more influence on people hearing a tie between global warming and hurricanes than any study:

            Now I’m going to show you, recently released, the actual ocean temperature. Of course when the oceans get warmer, that causes stronger storms. We have seen in the last couple of years, a lot of big hurricanes. Hurricanes Jean, Francis and Ivan were among them. In the same year we had that string of big hurricanes; we also set an all time record for tornadoes in the United States. Japan again didn’t get as much attention in our news media, but they set an all time record for typhoons. The previous record was seven. Here are all ten of the ones they had in 2004.

            The science textbooks that have to be re-written because they say it is impossible to have a hurricane in the South Atlantic. It was the same year that the first one that ever hit Brazil. The summer of 2005 is one for the books. The first one was Emily that socked into Yucatan. Then Hurricane Dennis came along and it did a lot of damage, including to the oil industry. This is the largest oil platform in the world after Dennis went through. This one was driven into the bridge at Mobile.

            And then of course came Katrina. It is worth remembering that when it hit Florida it was a Category 1, but it killed a lot of people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. And then, what happened? Before it hit New Orleans, it went over warmer water. As the water temperature increases, the wind velocity increases and the moisture content increases. And you’ll see Hurricane Katrina form over Florida. And then as it comes into the Gulf over warm water it becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. Look at that Hurricane’s eye. And of course the consequences were so horrendous; there are no words to describe it.

            How in god’s name could that happen here? There had been warnings that hurricanes would get stronger. There were warnings that this hurricane, days before it hit, would breach the levies and cause the kind of damage that it ultimately did cause. And one question that we, as a people, need to decide is how we react when we hear warnings from the leading scientists in the world.

            So I would suppose you would need to find Gore’s sources for that statement to determine why people have been hearing this for years.

          • Pete says:

            Thanks bluto. The claim I’m making (apparently poorly) isn’t that there have been no papers making that claim, only that it has never been considered settled science, and that there have certainly been papers pointing in the opposite direction.

            But I appreciate the link anyway. I’ll give it a read.

            And I hate AIT. It’s propaganda, not science, and makes a number of questionable claims. This then leads to people dismissing the entire field.

            Edit: A line from the linked paper that stood out

            A formal statement released by NOAA after the 2005 hurricane season stated unequivocally, with no reference to peer-reviewed literature to the contrary, that the current high level of activity was entirely due to natural variations

            This suggests that Gore was disagreeing with NOAA at least.

          • anon says:

            Key language from IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers: “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low”. Which I think translates to “we are capable of building computer models which exhibit more hurricanes, statistical evidence for an increase is basically nonexistent, but the sample size is small and the older data is crap”.

          • TomFL says:

            There are two things.

            1. Observations
            2. Predictions

            The quote from AR5 is about observations so (very little) modeling is not involved. Like tornadoes improved technology (satellites) has increased the count of smaller storms that would have gone undetected 100 years ago. The best 100 year trend to use is USA Cat3+ landfalls because these are never missed.

            Observations do not show any significant trends occurring.

            http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/gw_hurricanes/fig33.jpg

            http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-V9Zqz_djQhw/U5ZjNCvNY_I/AAAAAAAADhk/UahVOH12Hic/s1600/noaa.hurrfreq.jpg

            https://cei.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/Pielke%20Jr%20US%20Hurrican%20Power%20Dissipation%20Index%201900-2013.jpg?itok=dtfLUux_

            Predictions are a different thing. If people want to model, speculate, predict a major change in this trend in the next 100 years that is fine by me, but there is no particular reason anyone should believe them.

          • Some years back Chris Landsea, who was one of the IPCC hurricane experts, resigned from the IPCC to protest a claim that AGW had increased hurricanes which was made by the person who, if I remember correctly, was in charge of the next iteration of the hurricane part of the report. Landsea’s claim was that there was no peer reviewed support for such a link at the time.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I tend to listen to Mueller. He has long said “scientists have never said global warming causes more storms.”

            I’m acutely aware that when I would tell people this, I would get called a climate-denier, and an idiot for believing Mueller over Gore. Just saying.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t follow this issue closely, but for as long as I can recall the prediction has been lower frequency, increased severity.

          • Chris Landsea’s view sometime back was that increased intensity and reduced frequency was a plausible but not certain result, with both changes fairly small.

    • So why is it that I have been hearing for years that global warming was going to cause more and stronger hurricanes? I have never, ever heard anyone say, “Global warming is real, it’s caused by humans, and it’s going to give us fewer hurricanes.”

      • Pete says:

        Maybe because you don’t keep up with the published scientific literature. From the article I linked above (from 2008).

        A warming global ocean — influencing the winds that shear off the tops of developing storms — could mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes striking the United States according to new findings by NOAA climate scientists. Furthermore, the relative warming role of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans is important for determining Atlantic hurricane activity.
        The article, to be published on January 23 in Geophysical Research Letters, uses observations to show that warming of global sea surface temperatures is associated with a secular, or sustained long-term increase, of vertical wind shear in the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes. The increased vertical wind shear coincides with a downward trend in U.S. landfalling hurricanes.

        ETA and here’s a quote from the abstract of the other.

        Here we assess, in our model system, the changes in large-scale climate that are projected to occur by the end of the twenty-first century by an ensemble of global climate models, and find that Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm frequencies are reduced. At the same time, near-storm rainfall rates increase substantially. Our results do not support the notion of large increasing trends in either tropical storm or hurricane frequency driven by increases in atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations.

        • Wrong Species says:

          You should probably check Google Scholar before you make claims so obviously untrue.

          http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-87-5-617

          “However, while there are obvious large and
          natural oscillations, in our view the growing body
          of evidence suggests a direct and growing trend in
          several important aspects of tropical cyclones, such
          as intensity, rainfall, and sea level, all of which can be
          attributed to global warming. Aspects of the association between global warming and tropical cyclones
          and other extreme atmospheric events are uncertain,
          in part because climate change is continuous, yet
          irregular. However, in a warmer, moister world with
          higher SSTs, higher sea level, altered atmospheric
          and oceanic circulations, and increased societal
          vulnerability, it would be surprising if there were no
          significant changes in tropical cyclone characteristics and their impacts on society. Indeed, the broad
          agreement between theoretical and modeling studies,
          together with the strong evidence from observational
          analysis, suggests that not only will tropical cyclone
          intensity increase with anthropogenic warming,
          but that this process has already commenced.”

          http://science.sciencemag.org/content/309/5742/1844.full

          “We conclude that global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes, corroborated by the results of the recent regional assessment (29). This trend is not inconsistent with recent climate model simulations that a doubling of CO2 may increase the frequency of the most intense cyclones (18, 30), although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.”

          https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jmsj/84/2/84_2_259/_article

          “Possible changes in the tropical cyclones in a future, greenhouse-warmed climate are investigated using a 20 km-mesh, high-resolution, global atmospheric model of MRI/JMA, with the analyses focused on the evaluation of the frequency and wind intensity. Two types of 10-year climate experiments are conducted. One is a present-day climate experiment, and the other is a greenhouse-warmed climate experiment, with a forcing of higher sea surface temperature and increased greenhouse-gas concentration. A comparison of the experiments suggests that the tropical cyclone frequency in the warm-climate experiment is globally reduced by about 30% (but increased in the North Atlantic) compared to the present-day-climate experiment. Furthermore, the number of intense tropical cyclones increases. The maximum surface wind speed for the most intense tropical cyclone generally increases under the greenhouse-warmed condition (by 7.3 m s−1 in the Northern Hemisphere and by 3.3 m s−1 in the Southern Hemisphere). On average, these findings suggest the possibility of higher risks of more devastating tropical cyclones across the globe in a future greenhouse-warmed climate.”

          http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7051/abs/nature03906.html

          “Theory1 and modelling2 predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperatures, but work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend. Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities. I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.”

          To be fair, I did find some articles criticizing the above ones, but to claim that no scientists were suggesting so is truly incredible. And no, you can’t escape by saying that only a few fringe scientists were saying so, these were the most cited studies.

          • Pete says:

            I didn’t claim that no scientists were claiming that. Such a claim would have been absurd. All I said was that there were papers stating the opposite. I don’t believe there has been a solid consensus on the subject.

            The claim I was responding to was,

            I have never, ever heard anyone say, “Global warming is real, it’s caused by humans, and it’s going to give us fewer hurricanes.”

            I provided examples where that was the case.

            I appreciate the articles citing the alternative view. This was never my area of study.

            Actually, could you point out exactly where I made an untrue claim?

            Also, from the very text you cite

            although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.”

            work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend.

            Aspects of the association between global warming and tropical cyclones
            and other extreme atmospheric events are uncertain,
            in part because climate change is continuous, yet
            irregular.

            Indeed, the broad
            agreement between theoretical and modeling studies,
            together with the strong evidence from observational
            analysis, suggests that not only will tropical cyclone
            intensity increase with anthropogenic warming,
            but that this process has already commenced.

            None make firm claims, 2 are studying the intensity not the frequency (and if you read my first post above, you’ll see that my understanding of the science was that hurricane intensity would increase) and one of those 2 even states that there has been no trend in the frequency of hurricanes.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Kevin said:

            “So why is it that I have been hearing for years that global warming was going to cause more and stronger hurricanes?”

            To which you replied:

            “Maybe because you don’t keep up with the published scientific literature. From the article I linked above (from 2008).”

            So that’s where I got the implication that you were saying that no one was making that claim. But looking back, it does seem you were replying more to his second statement than his first. My apologies.

          • Pete says:

            No worries. Easy to misinterpret things online.

            And I really do appreciate the linked studies. Back in 2011, one of the modules of my physics degree involved the science of Global Warming. I had a much firmer grasp of the literature then, but sadly I seem to have forgotten most of what I studied at university.

          • TomFL says:

            Pete,

            There is nothing that frustrates climate “skeptics” (I am using the required scare quotes here) more than people pretending claims like there will be stronger and more frequent hurricanes weren’t really made and here is a single paper that says the opposite. Look at the cover of Al Gore’s famous epic and what do you see?

            Here is a Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalism piece on the exploitation of hurricane climate models for insurance purposes.

            Florida insurers rely on dubious storm model
            http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20101114/article/11141026

            I have been skeptical of climate science for a while now and the Florida insurance market link with climate science turned me towards the dark side. I’m a bit more moderate now and see the media / science interface to be where most of the fault lies. Too many activists in the media.

            The media says lots of crazy alarmist things about climate, especially extreme events, and climate science rarely corrects them. I fault them for this. So if you were to present that (1) the science never claimed this link and (2) they made lots of attempts to correct that impression than I would be sympathetic. It’s wrong on #1 and really wrong on #2.

          • I had a blog post a couple of years ago on the contrast between what the IPCC actually said and what climate alarmists in the popular literature claimed.

            One of my favorite IPCC quotes (on sea level rise):

            “Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.”

          • One of the things that most frustrate believers is sceptics quoting the crippling cost of anti GW measures, when the pro GW side actually proposing something much more modest. The nonsense factory doesn’t work in just one direction.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But would those more modest measures actually do meaningful good (assuming AGW is correct)? My impression has been most anti-AGW people think of them as the camel’s nose poking under the tent.

          • If the deniers can prove, using real facts, that modest measures would have no impact, they would have the beginnings of a rational case.

          • TallDave says:

            TAG,

            But there’s an enormous asymmetry there. It’s like the US government cutting people’s heads off live on national TV and then telling critics “so what, Al Qaeda does it too.” We’re already spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars per year globally based on beliefs about global warming, and doubts are conflated with Holocaust denial at the highest levels.

    • TomFL says:

      The question I always ponder is:

      “What would happen if there was a record number of Cat3+ landfalls in the US over the last 11 years?”. So many that it was a 1 in 2300 chance that it would occur naturally.

      Would the science and the media be claiming this it was just “dumb luck” as appeared in the NYT?
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/opinion/where-are-the-hurricanes.html?_r=0

      I very much doubt this. I just want the same standard to be used for event trends that go in both directions. This is where the confirmation bias I believe exists with climate change, and specifically the media coverage.

      The point made in this article is valid. We aren’t having “US coastal warming”, we are having global warming. We should examine the global trends, not a single basin. (Not much happening in global trends).

      Frustration #1: If you are doing numerical analysis on data that is sparse, sporadic, and noisy why would you split the dataset and expect to gain better insight? When you don’t have enough data points to get reliable trends, using 25% of those points isn’t going to improve things. It is frequently done to get the answer a researcher is looking for.

      If you want to claim this regional data is somehow indicative of something it is borderline unethical to not also present the entire dataset to show the differences.

      Frustration #2: Size of the effect. It has been warming for 100 years. Hurricanes don’t care why the warming is there. If we can’t detect any changes in hurricanes over the past 100 years of warming, why would we expect the next hundred to show a significant change? There may be an effect, but it may be negative, and it is probably small.

      Frustration #3: Causation. Even if a trend did exist, it is almost impossible to separate natural variability from other potential sources given the meager data available. This is not something you just throw into a computer and get an answer.

      Frustration #4: Model reliability. Due to the nature of the length of trends involved a model cannot be validated. It is educated guessing at best, pure speculation at worst. If the same model used to raise my FL insurance rates 80% also successfully predicted a reduction in landfalls I would be impressed. Obviously it predicted the opposite. Models to predict hurricane seasons have been laughably bad. There is no reason to expect long term models to be any better. Trust is being placed here that has not been earned.

  12. BBA says:

    “No major hurricanes” – as long as you don’t count Sandy, which was a major hurricane at its peak but weakened before it made landfall. And even if it didn’t have sufficient wind speed to make it a “major hurricane” by the official definition, it was certainly a big deal, at least among us parochial New Yorkers.

    • Loquat says:

      The article is defining “major” as “category 3 or higher at time of landfall”, with no reference whatsoever to the actual level of destruction inflicted. It seems an odd definition, since Sandy managed to become the second-costliest hurricane in US history even though it wasn’t technically strong enough to even be called a hurricane at time of landfall.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Sandy was expensive because it hit a very populated, very wealthy area. Didn’t help that it’s also an area with a lot of underground infrastructure.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The benchmark number that was being tossed around breathlessly after the 2005 hurricane season was “Category 3+ hurricanes making landfall in the continental US”. Sandy doesn’t count by that definition; it was nowhere near Category 3 at landfall. Seven Category 3+ hurricanes made landfall in 2005, none since. This may or may not be the best measure, but it is a measure predictions were made about.

    • Chalid says:

      I don’t know anything about the topic really, but it seems obviously wrong to make inferences about *global* warming by looking at a category like “major hurricanes that made landfall in the United States.”

      • John Schilling says:

        And yet every local extreme weather event, even those of extreme cold, will be put forth as one more proof of the Imminent AGW Catastrophe.

        The best climate scientists, the ones that don’t need scare quotes around the scientist part, don’t do this. They are careful to distinguish between climate and weather and to note that AGW doesn’t mean universally worse weather. They are careful to acknowledge that they really don’t know how to do long-term weather prediction very well.

        And then they try to do the best they can anyway, because people are asking and it’s important, which results in a body of literature with more noise and scatter than data. Which the worst sort can cherrypick for whatever they need.

      • TomFL says:

        The reason US landfall records are often used is that this is the most reliable long term records (> 50 years) available.

        Before the global coverage satellite era records from the other basins were very poorly kept.

    • TomFL says:

      Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane at landfall. That’s why it’s called Superstorm Sandy.

      http://www.climatecentral.org/news/nws-confirms-sandy-was-not-a-hurricane-at-landfall-15589

      It was a large storm that hit a woefully unprepared NY/NJ coast at high tide and an unfortunate angle. In terms of power, it was not a very powerful storm.

      The existence of large storms is neither surprising or unprecedented. NY/NJ should have been better prepared.

  13. Utopn Naxl says:

    Why would it be a surprise that the GDP may be shrinking, or growing slowly?

    My pet theory is that its going to slowly decrease as we get ever more of our entertainment and news from these cheap iphones, instead of subscribing to a newspaper and the ink, paper, and manpower involved for 2 years. Not buying movies. Less frequent movie theaters. All the stores involved in movie rentals for the past 30 years have gone away. Been replaced by a few people online. More goods watched and produced, less people involved.

    Alarm clocks, general GPS systems, cameras, film developers . Why would someone expect the GDP to increase with this?

    Today is the world of more electronic goods being consumed with data, but less of its components being produced, all being put into one cool smartphone/laptop. When something can double as both, it decreases further.

    What about 15 years from now, when computers may be so powerful and general (with a slow enough rate of improvement) that they become the family car again?

    Its also may decrease if we get good efficiency in cars and little accidents with computers driving cars. Less maintenance of cars = less people repairing them.

    And green tech. Is that even easy to include if we start getting really efficient green-tech?

    But of course, the real meaningful stat is inflation-adjusted gdp per capita. Everything else is piss in the wind.

    • Wrong Species says:

      http://www.vox.com/a/new-economy-future/technology-productivity

      “This is a challenge to the mismeasurement hypothesis: We’ve never measured productivity perfectly. We’ve always been confounded by consumer surplus and step changes. To explain the missing productivity of recent decades, you have to show that the problem is getting worse — to show the consumer surplus is getting bigger and the step changes more profound. You have to prove that Facebook offers more consumer surplus than cars once did; that measures of inflation tracked the change from outhouses to toilets better than the change from telephones to smartphones. That turns out to be a very hard case to make.”

      “Syverson reasoned that if productivity gains were being systematically distorted in economies dependent on informational technologies, then productivity would look better in countries whose economies were driven by other sectors. Instead, he found that the productivity slowdown — which is evident in every advanced economy — is “unrelated to the relative size of information and communication technologies in the country’s economy.”

      Then he moved on to the consumer surplus argument. Perhaps the best way to value the digital age’s advances is by trying to put a price on the time we spend using things like Facebook. Syverson used extremely generous assumptions about the value of our time, and took as a given that we would use online services even if we had to pay for them. Even then, he found the consumer surplus only fills a third of the productivity gap. (And that’s before you go back and offer the same generous assumptions to fully capture the value of past innovations, which would widen the gap today’s technologies need to close!)”

      “A March paper from David Byrne, John Fernald, and Marshall Reinsdorf took a different approach but comes to similar conclusions. “The major ‘cost’ to consumers of Facebook, Google, and the like is not the broadband access, the cell phone service, or the phone or computer; rather, it is the opportunity cost of time,” they concluded. “But that time cost … is akin to the consumer surplus obtained from television (an old economy invention) or from playing soccer with one’s children.”

      There is real value in playing soccer with one’s children, of course — it’s just not the kind of value economists are looking to measure with productivity statistics.”

    • multiheaded says:

      Und so… you are saying that the growing efficiency of capitalist production results in a crisis of underconsumption?

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        Yup!. Like a well-made 70 dollar pair of shoes adds less GDP then 4 pairs of 25 dollar crap shoes.

        • Yes, but that means more income for other things. I am spending $25 on a new kitchen implement, like that garlic roller.

          Demand is infinite, so increases in supply will always be met by increases in the demand. The constraining factor needs to be supply (in some fashion).

          • “Demand is infinite”

            But some of it is for leisure, which doesn’t get counted in GNP.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            People spend money on their leisure which does get counted as gdp though, as does the increased productivity/work they need to do to afford that weekend getaway, pleasant dinner out, ect.

            Assuming general preferences for leisure over income haven’t changed I don’t see how leisure as a catagory could lower measured growth unless the means of leisure is itself getting more efficient in a way that isn’t counted: free video game entertains better and for more hours than $12 movie, airbnb gives you both a nice and cheaper vacation.

            It could be our modes of entertainment are just that much better (increase demand without preference change) and cheaper, both of which don’t show up on gdp.

            I don’t know, seems quantifiable enough (hour spent on leisure, average cost of leisure, etc.) But I haven’t heard of any studies that look into it.

          • Leisure definitely is a positive good, but in recent history, I think we’re talking mostly about shifting household work hours into leisure hours and remunerative work hours.

            If we’re talking about declines in productivity, entrepreneurship figures seem more relevant than a preference for leisure. Just my take. An undeveloped heuristic, admittedly.

          • Utopn Naxl says:

            Perhaps. It can mean that in a hyper-capitalist society where people don’t care about anything environmental. With proper environmental taxations and even rewards for not heavily polluting, that can reverse. I will give this video that reversing the GDP in many areas can be a good thing, even if it effects the final measure.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77IdKFqXbUY

            I wonder how much money can be counted in the status boosting activities like buying pricier diamonds, or houses in nicer areas. As a cynical observation, some computer companies sell their stuff for 3X the price of the competation, just making it slightly slimmer and prettier. Is the future buying pretty overpriced version of the same goods to increase GDP somehow?

            How does that status grubbing effect the GDP? That reminds me I need to restudy that issue.

            But I don’t think demand is actually infinite, at least for all people. Its certainly not infinite for *every* person. The hippie movement showed that(and its regulations probably did reduce the possible max GDP and made the world a cleaner place)

            The current hikkimori problem in Japan shows that lots of people can now live in their rooms getting entertainment from gaming and free videos, to the point where real life is substituted. The matrix is just some electricity applied, very cheap! Even the crappy hikki version of the matrix.

            I suppose in societies where certain over-excesses like lots of cars are frowned upon, with perhaps a tax dis-incentive here and there, I think this combining of multiple devices into one *will* reduce the gdp, while increasing consumption.

            I guess that adds a question as to if good renewable solar energy is created, will that *reduce* the gdp in the books? No transactions would be occurring for that energy.

    • It sounds to me that the crisis is no crisis so long as you don’t think dollars are utilons.

  14. Chalid says:

    Poll finds that 37% of Trump supporters have zero friends who support Clinton; 47% of Clinton supporters have zero friends who support Trump.

    Unfortunately what we should take away from this is highly dependent on the number of friends people have. If people have 30 friends then there is some serious ideological sorting to get half of Clinton supporters not knowing any Trump supporters, whereas if they each have two friends then it would not be surprising at all. Relatedly, the poll questions seem to be about “close friends,” not just “friends,” which makes a big difference because the number of close friends is likely a lot less than the number of friends.

    According to the poll, the difference between Trump supporters and Clinton supporters is driven entirely by race, which makes sense; black people near-unanimously support Clinton, and black people are likely to have a disproportionate number of black friends. “Fully 72% of Clinton’s black supporters say they have no close friends who support Trump. Just 36% of whites who back Clinton say the same, similar to the share of whites supporting Trump who do not have close friends who back Clinton (33%).”

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Came here to make this point.

      Note that people with no close friends are all in this category.

    • pku says:

      Also, there are about 8-9% more Clinton than Trump backers, which in itself may be enough to explain the difference (depending on your model of how randomly people make friends).

    • TomFL says:

      So your theory is Trump supporters just don’t have friends, and not that people tend to sort themselves ideologically and that liberals may do this even more according to the data?

      I guess black people have almost no friends at all according to this theory.

      • So your theory is Trump supporters just don’t have friends, and not that people tend to sort themselves ideologically and that liberals may do this even more according to the data?

        I guess black people have almost no friends at all according to this theory.

        None of those assertions make sense to me.

        White Clinton supporters look to be closely similar to white Trump supporters. Black Clinton supporters are likely to have close friends who are also black and also Clinton supporters.

        The fact that people in all categories have similarly varying numbers of close friends is entirely consistent with this.

      • Chalid says:

        Why don’t you carefully reread the last paragraph of the post you’re replying to?

    • Jill says:

      One factor here that might make the data mean less than they appear to mean, is that many people live in an area that is extremely red or extremely blue. So that you’d have to really go to a lot of trouble to find Trump supporters, or Clinton supporters, in your locale. Whereas some geographic areas are more mixed, so that you’d have to go out of your way if you desired to avoid people of the other political tribe.

  15. Ordnung says:

    Buffalo NY has a court building that’s pretty evil-looking. Brutalism at its finest. Surprised it’s not on there, but then again maybe this just means there are tons of evil-looking buildings so a given evil-looking building has a low probability of being well-known for that.

  16. Jiro says:

    Authors write that this suggests previous bias against women lopped off the bottom half of the female ability distribution, leaving only women who were so brilliant that they could effectively compete on a skewed playing field, and who therefore did better than men once the playing field was leveled. I find this a little self-serving, but it’s hard to explain why blinding review would have this effect otherwise, and I don’t see any obvious attempts to cook the data.

    That seems to be subject to conservation of expected evidence. In other words, if you really believe this, you must also believe that women doing worse than men is evidence against discrimination.

    • brightlinger says:

      I’m not sure I follow?

      The evidence of discrimination is the delta between blinded and non-blinded performance. If that delta were non-significant or negative, that would be evidence against discrimination. This part is totally kosher by CoEE.

      But then, we have the weird result that women performed _better_ than men after blinding. This isn’t itself evidence of discrimination, the authors just propose a mechanism by which it might happen, and that mechanism happens to involve discrimination. Another possible mechanism is “women are better linguists”, or etc.

  17. Nadja says:

    The Atul Gawande piece is incredible. Thanks for linking it. Relevant not just to the field of medicine, but to the question of what makes some people outstanding performers in general.

    (Also, if anyone is interested in the issue of data transparency and accountability in medicine, I recommend the book “Unaccountable” by Marty Makary. The fact that a lot of data on the performance of doctors and hospitals is out there, but not available to the patients, makes me frustrated. And worried. If someone I care about has a serious illness, how do I figure out where to take them for treatment? Makary suggests talking to nurses and doctors, the best question to ask being along the lines of where they would want to get treatment themselves. If that’s the best way for most conditions for which data is not public, then it – again, again, again – goes to show how important people skills are. The better you connect with these people, the more info they’ll be willing to share. A very frustrating thing to admit for an extreme introvert who’s on the wrong end of the social skills bell curve.)

  18. JGWeissman says:

    It looks like the real world Hamilton was arguing that immigrants should be residents for 5 years before being naturalized as citizens, which is a lot less anti immigrant than one might think from the quote. He’s not saying don’t let them in, he’s saying don’t let them vote until they have had some time to assimilate.

    • Adam says:

      I think people miss historical context very easily pulling quotes from people that said something that long ago. The idea that a foreign country could get someone elected to the presidency by sending over stealth immigrants to sway the vote is a pretty damn realistic threat in a country that only has 50,000 voters and is still fairly well packed with European loyalists. This really doesn’t tell us much about how Hamilton would feel about any of the immigration issues the country faces today.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        On the other hand, it’s a lot easier today to be an immigrant without assimilating. In Hamilton’s day, immigrants crossed an ocean they would probably never cross again, and their ability to maintain communications with their old life was comparatively nonexistent. Arguably, today that five year wait should perhaps be ten or twenty.

        I don’t read Hamilton as fearing anything as paranoid as a stealth invasion by an actual foreign power, but was instead concerned (like immigration skeptics today) by the dilution of the existing culture and the resulting decoherence of direction.

        Regarding the swaying of an election, note that the margin of victory in the last four Presidential elections was smaller than the number of illegal immigrants in the same year. Yes, illegal immigrants (mostly) did not vote, and they would not necessarily have all voted the same way in any case, but by the numbers it certainly doesn’t seem insane to share Hamilton’s worries, or to suspect that Hamilton would be just as likely to hold them today.

        And then there is the fact that the government is vastly more intrusive than in Hamilton’s day, so that the results of an election are potentially very much more significant to your daily life. Perhaps that would not affect his opinion: popular wisdom in some libertarian circles is that Hamilton was much more of a statist than many other founding fathers.

        • Adam says:

          Honestly, I think these are mostly just comments from the very end of his life and he was a crabby old man by then. He didn’t express opinions like this in his heyday.

          The stealth election thing can’t happen just because there are a sufficient number of immigrant voters (his issue was not about illegals but about immigrants period) to reverse the margin of an election. The concern then (and it was a real concern even if this wasn’t the concern he was expressing) was that a foreign power could get a specific candidate elected who was an agent of that foreign power. That would require 1) coordinating the efforts of every immigrant voter, and 2) getting a person onto the ballot who otherwise wouldn’t even be there.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            You could be right; I’m not familiar with Hamilton’s writings as a whole. My take on the passage Scott pointed to still seems right to me; in Hamilton’s day, even the two requirements you describe wouldn’t have sufficed, because the Electoral College still had teeth. (If a cadre of stealth immigrants had given George III or IV the popular vote, it would never have been rubber stamped by the College.)

            As such, the plausible danger would seem to be wholesale shifting of the zeitgeist rather than tricky election-hacking. Offhand I’d agree that does seem more of a risk with a population of 50 thousand voters than with 125 million. On the other hand, as best I can tell the legal immigration rate now is three times what it was in 1820, and it was probably even less when Hamilton wrote this passage in 1802. So it still doesn’t seem absurd to me to claim that Hamilton would be concerned today. If that matters.

            (Finally, heh, though this passage was written only two years before his death, he was only 45, so I have to object to characterizing his views as those of a crabby old man.)

          • Adam says:

            Actually, I was under the impression that the point of the electoral college was in part to prevent such things. It wasn’t just that they didn’t trust the masses to make good leadership selections at all. They also didn’t trust them not to come under the thrall of a foreign demagogue. I could be misremembering my history, though.

            Of course, there were certainly many other indicators of the fear of foreign influence in American elections. The Alien and Sedition Acts, which were brought about by a fear of French influence. Even now, paranoia about foreign campaign contributions.

  19. Massimo Heitor says:

    The west often makes the best Chinese culture movies and products. Japan definitely makes the best Euro medieval themed game with Dark Souls. The best wild west movies were made in Italy. Often outsiders do the best job of a culture.

  20. Porkburger says:

    Technically, Clinton is edging towards Ordoliberalism, but so far, only the Germans have been able to make that work … Wiki defintion : “Ordoliberalism is the German variant of social liberalism that emphasizes the need for the state to ensure that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential.”

  21. onyomi says:

    Is there a comparison of drinking wine to drinking grape juice? I have heard the claim that the benefits of wine drinking can be entirely credited to the antioxidants, polyphenols, etc. in the grape, but that the alcohol itself isn’t doing anything useful. Of course, I also enjoy drinking wine more than grape juice, so will continue to do so… but it would be nice if I could continue to justify it on health grounds relative to a non-fermented equivalent.

    • Nadja says:

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but just wanted to note that there’s hope it might be (moderate consumption of) alcohol itself that makes us healthier. There are people out there who believe that HPA-axis dysfunction is to a large extent responsible for heart disease, and moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have a positive effect on the HPA-axis. =)

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2011/08/the_doctor_and_the_pomegranate.html

      Its been about 30 years of research on antioxidants in these types of foods and nothing good/great has been convincingly found. I chawk up the new articles every year to the same system that decides saturated fat kills you one month, and then decides its great for hormone levels the next and something something good bad cholesterol.

      Publishing papers and books, and that’s about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope something like this turns out to be true. Due to severe acid reflux, I can’t safely consume alcohol on a regular basis. Would be good if there were another way to gain the health benefits of wine.

      • Jill says:

        Do you know the cause of your acid reflux? I’ve had it at times. Depending on its cause, you may be able to get it fixed so that you can have more of the kind of diet you desire.

        I have found naturopathic doctors N.D.’s, and also holistic M.D.’s to be of more help than gasteroenterologists with this issue. Only one has to go to the best ones in one’s region of the country or world, because some folks in this field have not had very useful training and don’t know anything helpful to do.

        E.g. in the Seattle region, Tahoma Clinic is a big internationally famous holistic medicine place, with a reputation of being able to help more people than most other holistic clinics there.

  22. Anonymous says:

    In case anyone missed it, here’s Peter Thiel’s Commencement Speech mentioned by Scott a while ago.

    I quite like this part

    Looking back at my ambition to become a lawyer, it looks less like a plan for the future and more like an alibi for the present. It was a way to explain to anyone who would ask — to my parents, to my peers and most of all to myself — that there was no need to worry. I was perfectly on track. But it turned out in retrospect that my biggest problem was taking the track without thinking really hard about where it was going.

    • LPSP says:

      Sounds like my brush with a physics degree. Last OT or so I had a chat with a guy who felt he was just going through the motions every day, dreading having to get up and do things utterly bereft of meaning. My thought is that guy didn’t know his own utility function.

  23. bluto says:

    I’ve always thought one of the most interesting things about the Mennonites is that it’s one of faiths whose members can opt out of social security.

  24. Troy Rex says:

    A few years back a brother and I took a six-month motorcycle trip through Central and South America. En route we replaced tires and chains many times.

    In Belize we had to replace our tires, and I think something else. In Central America “la moto” is a vehicle for a family of five (no lie), and they have a lot of mechanics. The best motorcycle mechanic in Belize was a Mennonite named Wolf. We were pretty surprised to find Mennonites in Belize, with traditional farm buildings and clothing.

    They all spoke the old language, and so their English was German-inflected. Wolf of course spoke Spanish as well and often traveled to Guatemala City (a very bad place to go) to get motorcycle parts.

    Wolf could put on and take off our motorcycle tires with his bare hands. Like everyone else, we carried tire irons to wedge them on and off. We still talk about this with awe.

  25. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    Q: What is the weirdest sensation that you only experienced ONCE?
    A: doubting your sanity

    Oh man. I had an experience similar to reddit’s top post.

    > Be highschool sophomore.
    > Walking to the bus stop at 7:30 am.
    > Half asleep; nodding off; looking downward.
    > (!) Something’s at the top of my peripheral vision.
    > There’s a beaver statue in the center of the road?
    > Beaver statue is 4 ft away, erect, and looking right at me.
    > I freeze.
    > Time stops.
    > zoom_blur.jpg
    > Question sanity.
    > “What’s a beaver statue doing in the middle of the road?”
    > “Did it drop out of a car’s window?”
    > “Should I pick it up?”
    > “Is this The Matrix?”
    > “Am I on drugs?”
    > Beaver statue scampers off into someone’s lawn.
    > oh_it’s_not_a_statue.png
    > Continue towards bus stop.

    In retrospect, the beaver was obviously real. But what’s interesting is the surreal state-of-mind it triggered. Here’s my hypothesis.

    I generally don’t expect small animals to be within my vicinity, let alone arm’s reach. So I think the beaver caught me off-guard so much, my brain didn’t know how to process the thing in front of me. While my brain was still processing, my vision did this zoom_blur effect on my peripheral vision, such that the only part which wasn’t zoom_blurred was the beaver. And while still categorizing the object, I started questioning reality/sanity and had thoughts like “is this The Matrix? Am I on drugs?”. After exactly 1 eternal second of questioning reality, the beaver moved (which broke the spell).

    When I consider The Matrix right now, I don’t get the same visceral feeling that THE SEAMS OF REALITY ARE COMING APART AND EVERYTHING I KNOW IS WRONG. Nor have I ever experienced the distinct zoom_blur effect again. A beaver isn’t nearly as surprising as an elephant, but my reaction exactly matches how the elephant guy reacted.

    I’ve never shared this event with anyone because — well I mean subjectively, it was significant. But at the time, the objective facts didn’t seem worth sharing. E.g. “You saw a beaver? So what. There’s beavers everywhere.” And I didn’t have the vocabulary to properly convey to others the psychological gravitas of the event. So I just kinda forgot about it until now.

    I imagine this has been analyzed somewhere in the tumblr sphere though.

    • Tom Vanderbilt’s book on traffic mentions the observation that drivers in Maine brake more quickly on seeing a moose in the road than seeing a penguin.

      I had an experience like yours when I witnessed a minivan overturn on an expressway during a light snowstorm. The van stood straight up, its chassis facing me from across the median, and stayed there, dark, towering, steaming slightly, seemingly motionless, like the monolith from 2001, for a VERY long time.

      Eventually, it fell down and landed on its roof.

      • pku says:

        Tom Vanderbilt’s book on traffic mentions the observation that drivers in Maine brake more quickly on seeing a moose in the road than seeing a penguin.

        I would love to know how they found this out.

        • qwints says:

          If I recall correctly – driving simulator.

          Edit – nope, just a phrase illustrating the point (it takes longer to react to the unexpected) after discussing the driver simulator results. page 182-183.

    • Phil says:

      You might recall that there was an earthquake in DC a few years ago.

      I lived close enough to feel it. Earthquakes aren’t common there, I’d never experienced one before.

      My first thought when it happened was to wonder if I was having a stroke or some other medical issue

      Fortunately I was at work, so a second or two later I heard other people “is the building moving?” to cue me in that the experience wasn’t internally generated

  26. Nadja says:

    In the atheism post, the author mentions that his views have evolved as he moved from a place where he wasn’t at all inconvenienced by religious people to a place where he is. Very much along the lines of many of the discussions we’ve had here regarding what we see/interact with/perceive as an actual threat.

    My own evolution has been in the opposite direction. I grew up in an atheist family in a very religious town, and I now live in a very socially liberal state. So, over the years, I grew to feel much more friendly towards religion in general than I used to be.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I just loved how his only example of atheists behaving badly is them saying “ugly, ignorant, Islamophobic things” on twitter, like “help, they’re cutting off my head”.

      Not much mention of all the other stuff the atheism movement’s been up to the last few years…

      • Nadja says:

        Yes, I was actually wondering if he was being serious there.

      • CommonPlebeian says:

        I’m genuinely curious to what you’re referring to, I’ve been out of the atheist loop for the last few years. Mind educating me?

      • Ordnung says:

        Not much mention of all the other stuff the atheism movement’s been up to the last few years…

        Like being key players in the fight to normalize abortion and out-of-wedlock births?

        • That guy says:

          Normalizing out-of-wedlock births is a net loss for society, I think.

          More general response to the thread: do communist atrocities count as atheists behaving badly? I mean this as a genuine question, not a rebuttal.

          • Jill says:

            Well, perhaps. But some might say that if you have to go around to the other side of the world to find atheists behaving badly, you’re stretching things to make a point.

            If atheism is so bad, why do you end up having to go around to the other side of the world, and then find people behaving atrociously– due to a particular ideology and authoritarian government– and then note that that ideology involves atheism?

            Authoritarian governments often commit atrocities– whether they are atheistic, or are they are Christian fascists or Naziis. It seems to be the authoritarian aspect that causes the atrocities– not the predominant religion or lack therof of the people or the leader.

          • Adam says:

            Sure, but I always wonder what the heck people seriously think they’re proving when they have these arguments? It’s pretty obvious that, as Jill says, any government that attempts to gather together a whole bunch of people who believe many different things and then forces them upon pain of death to believe only one thing, is going to do some damage. In some cases, as we’re seeing with China, arguably with Saudi Arabia for a long time, they’re largely successful anyway even if morally despicable.

            But so what? There are a few religions that explicitly tell believers to convert people, but they don’t all do this. It’s not a necessary endemic feature of religion. And atheism is certainly not a necessary feature of communism. It happens that Marxism developed in a place where the church really was used as a tool of the powerful to subdue the masses for the last several thousand years, but that isn’t the case everywhere in the world with every religion, and there are other examples of communalistic societies that were not atheist and even the roots of communism in Europe originally sprang from the writing of Sir Thomas More, a Catholic saint.

          • Jiro says:

            There are a few religions that explicitly tell believers to convert people, but they don’t all do this.

            Memes evolve. In other words, religions which say to convert people will outcompete similar religions which don’t. So even though not every religion seeks converts, the existing believers are going to be mostly members of religions which do.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

            No matter how powerful the idea, nothing explains everything.

    • Vinnie Baker says:

      Yep, that post is a perfect example of the human tendency to ironman far groups and the extent to which social bubbling can affect which movements and ideologies we perceive as threatening. At first, this doesn’t sound so bad; I mean, don’t we want to be charitable towards people different from us? But it can be dangerous, mainly because the principle of charity and ironmanning are two subtly different things.

      The principle of charity is about interpreting opposing arguments in the light, you’re opponent most probably meant it. It’s when you let go of pedantry and small gaffes, in order to truly debate ideas and not semantics.

      Ironmanning is about constructing an argument for your opponents position that is most sturdy against your argument.

      Basically, the difference between ironmanning and principle of charity is whether your opponent would agree with your restatement of their argument.

      When we ironman far groups, we’re doing two troubling things: we’re downplaying their potential danger and we’re attributing to them positions they don’t even hold.

  27. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    Q: What is the weirdest sensation that you only experienced ONCE?
    A: to blink & time travel

    I had this feeling once too.

    > University student.
    > 1st week of class.
    > About 15 classmates.
    > There’s 3 rows of seats.
    > I’m in the center column, 2nd row.
    > There’s a guy on my left; a girl on my right.
    > The 1st row seats directly in front of me are empty.
    >
    > We’re halfway through the lecture.
    > College Dean is discussing engineering.
    > The lecture is really interesting.
    > let’s_hear_more.png
    > blink.
    > The dean is still talking.
    > 5 minutes of deja vu.
    > something’s_fishy.png
    > Look to my left.
    > Is… is that the same guy?
    > Look to my right.
    > See my male dorm-mate.
    > “Hey FMR, I didn’t know you were in this class!”
    > tfw_you_fall_asleep_in_class_and_wake_up_in_the_next.png

    I swear to God, I only blinked. But all the external evidence suggests that I fell asleep in class and didn’t realize it. It’s as if I had blinked and been teleported an hour into the future. Realizing the deja vu might be real was incredibly disorienting.

    After I did realize what had happened, I internally freaked out. “Should I get up and leave? But I’m in the middle of a lecture — it might be disrespectful to the Dean if I leave apropos of nothing. Guess I have to sit through this.” So I just kind of awkwardly sat there for the rest of the lecture. The Dean must have known, but he never said a word.

    • Chalid says:

      This happened to me once, except I lost a whole night. I was quite young though (under 10 years old?), so I just shrugged it off as something that happens sometimes.

  28. Mitchell Powell says:

    A quibble: the Amish are Mennonites. All Amish are Mennonites; not all Mennonites are Amish. So it’s not quite right to say that “The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish.”

    Better, “The Amish are the most anachronistic subset of the anachronistic German Protestant group known as Mennonites.”

    Now, I’m not sure you’re completely wrong in the way you said it, because colloquially, the word “Mennonite” does tend to get used with the meaning “non-Amish Mennonites.” But the Amish would all consider themselves Mennonites. And part of the reason Mennonites are common in the same areas as Amish is that if you’re a religious kid raised Amish, but you want to leave the community without leaving the broader faith, you join a Mennonite church. So every year thousands and thousands of people raised Amish turn Mennonite. So if you go to Holmes County, Ohio, for example, most of the non-Amish Mennonites have Mennonite ancestors.

    And then, of course, there’s the Beachy people, who can’t agree on whether to call themselves Amish or not. But they’re a whole nother story.

    • Troy says:

      I don’t usually hear the Amish referred to as Mennonites. Rather, they are a splinter group from the Mennonites. (Perhaps many of them consider themselves Mennonite, while non-Amish Mennonites do not consider the Amish to be Mennonites; somewhat like Mormons and Christians.) Note too that the Amish are not a part of Mennonite World Conference, unlike other Anabaptist groups such as the Brethren in Christ Church.

      You are right, though, that historically and demographically, Mennonites are the main group, and the Amish should be understood in comparison to them. But more people in the U.S. have heard of the Amish, because they stand out more in modern society, and so most people, like Scott, will learn of the Mennonites by way of the Amish, rather than conversely.

    • Ordnung says:

      I still think “anachronistic” misrepresents the Amish. They never said “We want to live like back in olden times.”

      They simply said “We don’t need new gizmo A. We don’t need new gizmo B either. We can use new gizmo C. New gizmo D we’ll modify so it can be driven by propane instead of electricity. And let’s try and keep our clothes simple.”

      You and I both do this to some extent. The Amish just do more of it. The way you’re using “anachronistic,” anyone who doesn’t have the absolutely newest version of everything is anachronistic.

  29. Wrong Species says:

    Scott hasn’t done a post on the productivity slowdown yet has he? I would like to see his take.

  30. Jeffrey Soreff says:

    Re the desalinization link, re

    (Sometimes people will say a region doesn’t have enough water to go around and so should limit construction and density. An American uses about 100 gallons a day of local water [2] which at desalination rates would be just 15¢/day. This is a water bill of $4.50/month, which is not enough money to even enter into the decision. People want to live in dry sunny regions, and the economics do work out.)

    I am heartily sick of hearing calls for water conservation in bay area cities.
    I’ll cheerfully pay my 15¢/day for desalinated water.
    I wish the bay area would just build the damned plants, tap the seawater of the Pacific, and have done with it.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      In practice, the restrictions are:

      * You need to ask your waiter for water.
      * Your HOA can’t complain when your grass goes brown.

      It’s a backdoor way to avoid doing lawncare.

      • At least in San Jose, there is a restriction on watering–a specific two days a week (which two days depending on whether your address is even or odd) and time of day. I don’t know how much effort is made to enforce the limits.

  31. Skef says:

    I apologize for the length of this. Not sure how to condense it effectively.

    I’ve been reading Audit Cultures (except for parts of section 3, not as bad as you might think) and the word “Neoliberal” comes up quite a bit. The papers are mostly written by European anthropologists and Europe may have a different slant on the term, but it reminded me of and provided some further evidence for some earlier thoughts I had about uses of the word with a negative slant.

    The complaints about Neoliberalism in the papers focus on a pattern where (roughly): 1) governmental offices mandate that organizations (such as universities or even college departments) “self-audit”, 2) organizations are set up or charged with “collecting information” and 3) the “self-auditing” plans are rejected if they don’t meet certain “standards”.

    But the main standard is inevitably the evenness of the statistical spread in the results from “good” to “not-so-good”. Importantly, the middle organizations admit they not in a position to judge the audit standards more specifically: that’s why it’s always “self-auditing”. So ithe effect is that organizations are pressured to come up with some standard, however meaningful, of labeling some of their colleagues as crappy. Then outside pressures (promotions, grant money, etc.) make everyone to try to follow the standard.

    This fits with my own thoughts about how at least westerns societies have been trending over the past few decades, which are also wrapped up with the idea of “meritocracy” and an emerging meritocratic “class”. And it also has to do with #1 in Bowman’s article, “We like markets–a lot.” Here are two pictures of market competition:

    1. Competition leads to efficiency as competitors adopt each other’s innovations and prices are driven down towards the cost of production.
    2. Entrepreneurs create wealth by making new products and industries and the economy works best when we keep obstacles out of their way and let them do their good work.

    Now, the psychology I associate with picture 1, if everything is going “right”, is someone really stressed out about what their “competitors” are doing and whether they’re measuring up. But with picture 2 I associate someone concentrating on solving some problem without distraction. In that light, here is a compact statement of the direction of societal change in recent history: picture 2 for a meritocratic elite (think 2-4 steps down, on a variety of metaphorical staircases, from Davos) and picture 1 for everyone else.

    For example: I can remember when leaders of organizations that had really bad things happened were expected to resign, even if just for “symbolic” reasons. Now it takes Katehi-level public clusterfuckery to get the boot, and the golden parachute is released anyway.

    In contrast, fields of work below that level where competitive pressure was once internal, and therefore spottily distributed, have been called out and subjected to auditing regimes where the only real success criterion is that the people involved are sufficiently stressed out. I mean this literally: Everyone pretty much agrees that there is too much pressure to publish across academia and that it results in more superficial work and less good work, but we can’t imagine getting rid of that system without some other way of judging people over the short term. Apparently the judgment itself is the important thing, even if it makes the results worse.

    This picture also fits with the 80’s rhetoric you sometimes run into about “taming labor”. And there has certainly been a general trend of transferring the costs of uncertainty to individual workers. I know too many people with lowish wages, irregular schedules that never seem to get much over 30 hours, and a routine pattern of firing turnover. (Firing for trivial mistakes cultivates paranoia but not much else.) I guess Uber is supposed to be the answer for filling in those hours, if only these folks could afford a car.

    What makes all this especially pernicious is that picture 1 has apparently never been pervasive in normal markets anyway. This leaves us all increasingly devoted to structuring the life of most people around a caricature. It stinks and should stop.

    • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

      This touches on what I think of as “the failure of metrics based leadership.” If you spend all your goddamn time measuring everything, you never get any fucking real work done.

      • You need to have a conversation with my management team. They don’t believe it when I say it.

        • Jill says:

          Humans can be very hierarchical tribal animals. It matters a lot WHO says something. If the boss says something, people will most likely listen, even if it’s nonsense. Someone else says something and it goes unnoticed.

          • Yeah, this is tangential, but I do not understand this reflex. Maybe it’s the INTJ in me, but when my boss says something stupid, I still realize it’s something stupid.

            About 1/2 the time, other team members seem to convince themselves that this is a brilliant insight that needs to get done immediately.

            I suspect ass-kissing is a factor (these co-workers are all ass-kissers in general), but I am not sure if they are convincing themselves “we should fly to the Moon on a parasail” level ideas are smart, or if they are successfully acting like it is smart.

            I am thinking they are convincing themselves it is smart, because the 1/2 time they reject the idea, they still privately complain about the ridiculous logic.

            I am ruling out “ADBG is wrong and this legitimately a great idea!” because a lot of these ideas are “parasail to the Moon” level stupid.

          • Jill says:

            Scott Adams in his Dilbert cartoons captured a lot of these kinds of ridiculous situations. He’s a great cartoonist, although his blog makes no sense whatsoever to me.

            People do often work hard to convince themselves that what they think they need to do to get ahead, or what they need to do to have a comfortable naive unquestioning trust and faith in their leader/boss. Cognitive dissonance, resolved by changing your assessment of the bad idea you just said yes to.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    • multiheaded says:

      (Firing for trivial mistakes cultivates paranoia but not much else.) I guess Uber is supposed to be the answer for filling in those hours, if only these folks could afford a car.

      Don’t worry, Uber will give them one, then make them pay it off and threaten suspension for the slightest mistake.

    • onyomi says:

      Somewhat related: in addition to being amazing, inspiring, power of the human spirit, etc. does anyone else find the following to be a tad depressing?

      Comparison of 1950s and 2016 olympic gymnastics.

      The old video, of course, is very unexciting compared to the new, but I also look at it and think “oh, so you could, like, be a normal person and be in the Olympics?” Whereas I look at the video on the right and I’m like “were these people genetically engineered and trained from birth?” I mean, doesn’t Michael Phelps have like flippers for feet?

      I know to some extent we have better training methods and so better results with the same level of talent and effort, but it sort of depressingly reminded me of just… everything. How college admissions is so much harder, how getting a high-status job is so much harder (note that the people judging your tenure case won their “medals” in the left-hand context). Yes, we’re technically richer in a lot of ways, but status is still kind of zero sum…

      This is probably me at my least libertarian, but, I feel like, given a sufficiently broad definition, we could call the right-hand side a result of “neoliberal athletics.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I mean, doesn’t Michael Phelps have like flippers for feet?

        Well, he has an otter-like body shape (which is, I think, what led him to be picked out of the crowd and groomed for competitive swimming).

        The old thinking was that the average body type was best suited to all manner of sport (I didn’t watch the video, but did the 1950’s athletes appear more “normal”?). Later on, specific body shapes were sought for particular sports.

        [Edit] – Watched the video. Women’s gymnastics in particular has become much more athletic, possibly because women in the 1950s weren’t expected to be very powerful.

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, well this is part of what makes it depressing, arguably: before people realized that there were ideal body types for each sport, there was a better chance of “I decide I really like swimming–>I train really hard at swimming–>I get into the Olympics for swimming.”

          Now, no matter how much you love swimming, you’re probably not going to have a chance if your body is shaped like an ox and all your competitors are shaped like otters. You might have a chance at weightlifting, say, but what if you aren’t interested in that?

        • Tekhno says:

          The women on the right hand side in 2016 don’t look that much more muscular or different in general, yet they can jump so much higher.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Technology devalues human effort, worth, and knowledge. Always has, always will. This holds true whether you’re a gymnast today or a chandler a century ago.

        • onyomi says:

          I’m not sure what technology has to do with the sports case, unless you consider superior ability to pick out genetically talented individuals and train them with weights to be a kind of “technology” (steroids and other forms of “doping,” of course, come closer to the mark).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        How college admissions is so much harder, how getting a high-status job is so much harder

        I think one of the things you are discounting is that the Olympics are, depending on your point view, much higher status now than they were then. The Olympics was for amateurs then.

        Also, being ordinally first, or even top 100, is much harder in a world of 7 or 8 billion. You could always take up swimming and move to Ethiopia if you want to say you are the best in a smaller pool, so to speak.

        • onyomi says:

          Is it more high status now to be “the best x in the world” than it was 50 years ago? Probably the most famous of the famous can make more money in product endorsements, but even the best in most sports are still doing it for love/amateur reasons. And then there’s Ryan Lochte, who “would be the Michael Phelps of swimming” if it weren’t for Michael Phelps.

          Which is by no means to say that Michael Phelps doesn’t deserve money, fame, etc. but it does seem like it’s moving more in the “huge rewards for the very top performers, little or nothing for everyone else” direction. That is, arguably a critique of neoliberalism, or whatever it is I’m talking about is that it pushes more and more pursuits into the realm of what Scott described as “dualized” professions/pursuits.

          And yes, of course the competition is stiffer due to sheer numbers. But that complaint also applies to jobs and the global market for labor. Though it is a good thing from the perspective of humanity as a whole, it definitely makes it much harder for any given person to stand out.

          • “Though it is a good thing from the perspective of humanity as a whole, it definitely makes it much harder for any given person to stand out.”

            The solution is to view your status in terms of some smaller group–fellow hobbyists, fellow members of your ethnic group, fellow citizens of your city/state/small country.

            Is standing out in a reference group of a billion people in a world with ten billion less impressive than standing out in a world with a billion people?

          • Manya says:

            I would also like to point out that in the 50s, only about 60 countries took part in the Olympics, compared with this year’s 207.

          • onyomi says:

            “Is standing out in a reference group of a billion people in a world with ten billion less impressive than standing out in a world with a billion people?”

            Maybe not less impressive in some abstract sense, but less valuable, personally and financially, because ten billion people can eat out of the same Wheaties box.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            The solution is to view your status in terms of some smaller group–fellow hobbyists, fellow members of your ethnic group, fellow citizens of your city/state/small country.

            But isn’t the march of “universal culture” reducing the supply of exactly these opportunities for differentiation? Will there eventually be an accounting of the relative value of status/achievement/uniqueness type goods versus health/rights/consumption/longevity type goods?

            I have seen a few commenters here railing against “honor cultures” as basest atavism, and these cultures are the ones that seem to optimize for “mean status” by creating lots of little honored roles in family, village, congregation, trade, and tribal groupings. Meanwhile, the universal culture is eating these cultures alive, forcing them to optimize for “mean consumption bounded by individual rights”.

            Maybe this is for the better, maybe status/achievement/uniqueness have no value which is fungible for any quantity of health/rights/consumption/longevity. If that’s the case, I would like see the universal culture bite the bullet and state this explicitly.

            Then, once it does, the universal culture should stop pretending that spectacles of individual achievement like the Olympics evince it’s greatness.

      • Artemium says:

        Relevant N.N.Taleb quote :


        THE OLYMPICS

        There used to be a distinction between an athlete representing virtus (human-ness*) and ἀρετή (the quality of being what you are made to be) on one hand, and, on the other the circus acrobat selling uniqueness and deformity. Mediterranean ideals, as opposed to the Egypto-Babylonian ones, were about scale and balance: even the Gods were brought down to human scale. (Yet homines sumus, non dei: we are men, not gods)

        Today’s Olympics, by dint of specialization and overoptimization, thanks to the media and the huge financing involved, have transformed the athlete into a circus acrobat, a mutant selling deformities.

        Let me insist: anything overoptimized, or even barely optimized, is no longer human.

        Hominem te esse memento!

        * manliness in PC terms.”

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, I think this is sort of what I’m getting at. As someone with too many different interests, I sometimes get depressed at the death of the “Renaissance Man.”

          • The issue shows up for me in my reaction to changes in the SCA over time. In the early years, if you wanted something–medieval pavilion, medieval shoes, helmet, …–you mostly had to make it yourself or get someone you knew to make it for you in exchange for something you did for him. Nowadays you can buy almost everything, generally in higher quality and greater historical authenticity than you could make it. The result is much better garb, armor, etc.

            But much less reason for many people to learn to do many things.

            There’s a Heinlein quote about what a human should be able to do which I identify with emotionally despite my professional bias in favor of specialization.

          • Jill says:

            A huge percentage of the creativity and progress in the world comes from Renaissance type people. How can you make any of the important connections between field of study, if all you know is your own field of study. It’s a societal disaster to discourage Renaissance type people.

          • Well, you cannot be a renaissance man at the upper echelon of society, but you certainly can be a renaissance man in your own social group with relatively little expert.

            For instance, installing your own backyard garden with dual rain-capture drip irrigation and nearby compost is almost stupid-easy, but none of your friends are doing it (probably). Then you can make your own home-made pasta sauces for additional bragging rights, and know how to properly make a martini, and learn to dress reasonably well.

            You won’t be top in any field, but you can be “Most Interesting Man In Your Friend Group.”

          • LPSP says:

            I think ADBG’s outline is perhaps the secret to my inadvertent success in many small avenues of life. I just implement things I read about into other things that I regularly encounter, and people pay me compliments about my versatility. It’s not like I earn more than them, I just optimise my circumstances within the remit of my awareness.

      • Yes, I'm judging you says:

        Comparison of 1950s and 2016 olympic gymnastics.

        That video doesn’t depress me, because while Olympic gold metals may be zero sum, athletic skill is not.

        I have seen better and stronger performances in local junior high and high school exhibitions and by people just playing around and having fun in gyms, public parks, and music concerts, than those 1950s Olympian gymnasts. We live in a world where there are tens of thousands of people who are as strong and as skilled as the very best people were 70 years ago. This is a much better world in that respect, and we all are richer for it.

        I disagree with the hateful philosophy of Syndrome in Pixar movie “The Incredibles”. A world where everyone is better than they were before, is a better world.

  32. Wrong Species says:

    I think declaring that democracy and freedom are incompatible is a quick way to get kicked out of the neoliberal club. I’m not sure I would be accepted even though I feel like I identify with them more than many other groups. If neoliberals were to form their own organization, I wonder where they would draw the line between neoliberals and non-neoliberals?

    • hlynkacg says:

      But they are incompatible.

    • Seth says:

      The line between neoliberals and non-neoliberals is fairly clear. Versus the left, neoliberals are very much against government provision of public services (e.g. single-payer health care, free education, transport), and pro-privatization, often with a technological gloss. Versus the right, neoliberals are extremely concerned with race and gender and orientation, etc issues, as a matter of social consciousness. Thus, for example, if you want to destroy public education in favor of an online testing mill which will profit like gangbusters, but are strident that the company’s board of directors and executives who are making out like bandits must have an appropriate number of female and nonwhite profiteers, you’re a neoliberal.

      I suspect many SSC commentators wouldn’t be able to deal with the part about race and gender and orientation, etc issues. Neoliberalism is not merely about being conservative without the religious aspect. You have to pay for the guilt of basically being an anti-labor capitalist by trying to expiate racism, sexism, etc.

      • That’s not Bowman’s version of neolib, since he supports UBI. He’s basically in favour of the Scandinavian model. Calling it the Scandinavian model is dicey, because people often don’t realise how important markets are to it. But calling it neoliberalism is dicey too, because it implies welfare cutting.

      • Wrong Species says:

        When did promoting racial diversity become a marker of neoliberalism? I think it’s fair to say that no one agrees on how to define other than it being market friendly and distinct from libertarianism.

      • Tekhno says:

        Neoliberal started as a slur for generic evil pro-capitalists, like it was classical liberalism back from the dead on steroids. Since it was applied from the outside, there was never any consistent group it applied to with clear boundaries. Trying to reclaim it means redefining the word more precisely and drawing boundaries, and then the definition of neoliberal becomes whichever group self-identifying as it is loudest.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, there’s problem with words that become insults. For a long time, no one was liberal. They had to be progressive, because liberal had been made into a dirty word. Neoliberal is a dirty word to a lot of people in the media. So its meaning gets conflated by some into “all that bad unfair economic and trade stuff”– and it ends up being used always as something bad by these writers, but meaning different bad things to different writers.

          • There is a certain cosmic justice to the declining reputation of “liberal.”

            The word got its strong positive connotations back in the 19th century when it meant something close to what “libertarian” means now (plus support for expanding the franchise). The enemies of liberalism stole its name (in the U.S.–in continental Europe it seems to have largely maintained its 19th c. meaning) and eventually their actions reversed the sign of its connotation.

      • Seth says:

        @Wrong Species – if you’re market-friendly but not much interested in diversity and not Libertarian, you’ll likely go under the heading of “compassionate conservative” or something like that. An interest in diversity of some sort is a very strong llberal marker. Yes, there’s nobody enforcing definitions, but again, the diversity divide is a rather large separator.

        @TheAncientGeek – neoliberals love Universal Basic Income. They view it as the ultimate privatization of government helping the poor. Here’s a great article that examines the topic at length:

        https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/22/silicon-valley-universal-basic-income-y-combinator
        “Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income”

        “Rather than steer technology towards social progress by promoting projects that contribute to public benefit and human flourishing – not just reflect the desires of privileged groups – Silicon Valley elites can shake off critics by pointing to UBI as the solution, and one that does not restrict their profit motive.

        UBI can, in some ways, be seen as welfare for capitalists. …

        The logic is to shut down “public housing, food assistance, Medicaid, and the rest, and replace them with a single check”, writes Nathan Schneider in Vice. …”

        • The guardian article is about SV liberalism, not neoliberalism. That neoliberalism want reductions in govt. spending s mentioned in the first para. of the wiki article.

          • Seth says:

            Quote, by Sam Bowman:

            “I’m a capitalist, neoliberal advocate of a basic income, or something like it. ”

            https://austrian.economicblogs.org/adam-smith/2016/bowman-neoliberal-income/

            He said it, not me.

          • Seth says:

            Let me clarify, the above came out wrong, too hasty, sorry – further on, Bowman talks about “Perhaps it would work if we did a huge one, as Charles Murray has proposed, that replaced most of the state’s activities altogether with cash payments.” That is, the neoliberal universal basic income is seen as a way of cutting government spending. When one gets into the details, the neoliberal concept is to take away government social services, with the idea that the UBI will replace it by market purchases. While in theory the UBI payment could exceed the government spending on these services, in practice in the history of politics that has very strong tendency not to happen. The cynical might even say it’s a feature, not a bug, in the implementation.

          • But Bowman is not describing mainstream neoliberal thought, heis launching a project of the own.

  33. RIP Charb says:

    It’s unfortunate that even as Freddy writes an article defending the honor of the atheist community, he persists in his accusations of “Islamophobia” (a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood) against prominent atheists because they make uncomfortable observations based on demonstrable facts about Islam. If there is one thing atheists must not be afraid of, it is criticizing the one particular religion that is most closely linked to terrorism and horribly regressive attitudes than any other religion today. It strikes me as ironic that he is unable to see this even as he criticizes others for comparing strident atheists to souther Christians.

    • ““Islamophobia” (a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood)””

      It’s true: no one hates Muslims ever. Especially not in India, Sri Lanka or Burma.

      • Kusterdu says:

        Sri Lanka? I thought the main dispute was between Buddhists and Hindus.

        • Sandy says:

          The main dispute in Sri Lanka is between Sinhalese and Tamils; it just so happens that the majority of Sinhalese Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists and the majority of Tamil Sri Lankans are Shaivite Hindus, but the conflict is largely an ethnic war rather than a religious one.

      • hlynkacg says:

        no one hates Muslims ever. Especially not in India, Sri Lanka or Burma.

        Dislike and hatred are very different things from “phobia”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Is that a serious question?

            A phobia is an extreme and often irrational aversion to *thing*.

            Dislike is simply the inverse of “like” or affection.

            Hate is more instrumental than either, where opposition to *thing* gets adopted as a personal goal/value in and of itself.

            You needn’t worry about someone who is genuinely “islamaphobic” person attacking Muslims because a islamaphobic person’s first choice will always be to avoid Muslims all together. In contrast, a person who hates Islam will actively seek Muslims out because fighting them is part of who they are.

          • Ordnung says:

            Adding -phobe or -phobia to the end of stuff medicalizes it, as if you couldn’t possibly have any problem with Muslims unless you had a mental disorder. Which is real handy: if any person saying critical things about Muslims is just crazy, then you don’t have to listen to him and you can start looking into how to use instruments like government to shut him up or lock him up in state-run institutions. You know, like they do in Canada and Europe.

          • John Schilling says:

            A phobia is an extreme and often irrational aversion to *thing*

            According to the dictionary, yes.

            In common usage, “-phobia”, Islamo- or otherwise, is usually diagnosed with no particular effort at establishing that the aversion is either extreme or irrational. It is sufficient that the dislike for a thing be greater than that of the speaker.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @John

            I understand that this is what a certain subset of regressive leftists mean when they use the term (see Ordnung’s comment above about medicalizing disagreement) but I reject it’s commonality.

          • Jill says:

            Hlyn, regressive leftists? Speaking of slurs, or insulting categories, that sounds like one to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            I understand that this is what a certain subset of regressive leftists mean when they use the term

            I’m pretty sure it isn’t regressive leftists who invented “hoplophobia” and applied it on no other basis than someone arguing in favor of gun control laws.

            Don’t do that, whatever side of the political debate du jour you are on. And don’t deny that other people on your side of the debate are doing that. Accusing people on the other side of being literally mentally ill is an equal-opportunity political vice.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ John
            You’re right. But for what it’s worth folks who coined the term “hoplophobia” seem to put a whole lot more effort into establishing the existence of an aversion that is extreme or irrational than the folks who coined “homophobia” or “Islamophobia”

            @ Jill
            “Leftist” as a category is too broad and we just had thread about not using “SJW” as a pejorative so what term would you prefer I use to describe for the specific subset of professed leftists that display an affinity for belligerence and anti-enlightenment / anti-humanist positions?

          • Outis says:

            @John: I had never heard of “hoplophobia” before.

          • Meanwhile, in common, actual, daily usage, “islamophobia” is equivalent to “antisemitism”, it just means hatred of the group. The etymology of “-phobia” is not relevant (just like everyone understands that “antisemitism” means “hatred of Jews” and not “opposition to semitic people”).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            a) “A certain segment of the regressive left” is doing a double segmentation. I think you were going for ensuring that you weren’t talking about the left as a whole, but what it looks like is that you may be applying regressive to the left as a whole.

            b) You like “regressive left”, but regressive is commonly understood as pejorative. I prefer “illiberal”, because it is more precise in identifying the segment. We are talking about people who, in practice, reject the common liberal values of freedom of speech and assembly.

            Illiberal perhaps suffers from the same problem of being pejorative though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We know who coined the term “hoplophobia”; it was Colonel Jeff Cooper, a big name in firearms. Its use to apply to any advocate of gun control is a (common) misapplication; he meant it to refer to those with an unreasoning fear of weapons, particularly those who believe the weapons have a will of their own.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Machine Interface
            The etymology of “phobia” is very relevant if you expect to communicate with people outside your bubble. Ditto “hate”.

            @ HeelBearCub
            Fair points.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Another possibility would be to go back to referring “politically correct”, perhaps referring to the group as “pro political correctness”.

            Yes, it developed a pejorative connotation, but it’s out of fashion for anyone to refer to, and it is, broadly, the segment of people you want to identify. It also has the advantage of having been a self-appellation originally, IIRC.

            Of course, one option is to not to refer to a group of people, but rather various actions or ideas, at least as much as possible. That’s not bad as a rule-of-thumb to allow for communication that avoids some pitfalls.

          • Jill says:

            “what term would you prefer I use to describe for the specific subset of professed leftists that display an affinity for belligerence and anti-enlightenment / anti-humanist positions?”

            Good question. Thank you for asking. Maybe just “There is a subgroup of Leftists believes that ______________ (Insert the position on the issue your are talking about.) Otherwise it’s confusing, and is unclear whether you are talking about a majority of Leftists vs. a small group. “Regressive” means going backwards, and it sounds insulting and is also unclear what “backwards” means to you.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Jill

            Advance apologies to you and others for future misgendering, mispartisaning, misnationing y’all and doubtless others yet. But I simply can’t remember all these fine points.

            Data point: the only terminology that I might be able to follow would be ‘Obama-ish’ … ‘McCainish’ … ‘Bushy’ ‘Bush-like’ … ‘Bill-ish’ … etc.

            Using Theresha May wouldn’t work for this USian, as I always think of Cousin Minnie Pearl.

          • Jill says:

            Houseboat, why not just avoid insulting sounding terms like “regressive” when categorizing a group, and just say what you were going to say about what a certain group of people believes?

            OTOH, plenty of folks here make no effort to avoid insulting terms, so if you can’t or don’t, you wouldn’t stand out in any way.

        • Jill says:

          We need to revise standards for political speech. Racism, Islamophobia — these sorts of terms lose their meaning when used in a vague way to describe huge groups of people or everybody.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agreed.

          • LPSP says:

            Very, very true.

          • Jill says:

            The current system of political correctness in speaking, seems to have originated from university liberal arts departments, teaching classes such as African American studies, Women’s Studies etc. It was a solution to the problem of how to treat minorities fairly, since had been suffering from discrimination.

            Next time, journalism departments, law departments, social scientists, journalists, attorneys and others with experience in these matters, need to all participate.

            This is one of those problems with specialization in society. Every field has its blind spots. Liberal arts, and universities themselves, have some disastrous blind spots in this area. Those blind spots resulted in the situation where the standards they came up with, did not work well in the real world outside the university– in journalism, law, and numerous other areas.

            Another example of the problems with specialization is Congress. Far too lopsided with attorneys. Congress needs more of a balance of people from a variety of fields– school teachers, accountants, engineers etc. Then Congress would have more varied inputs into what they are doing.

          • Evan Þ says:

            ” Far too lopsided with attorneys. Congress needs more of a balance of people from a variety of fields– school teachers, accountants, engineers etc. Then Congress would have more varied inputs into what they are doing.”

            Indeed. I remember one (possibly apocryphal, but plausible) story about a Congressman who retired, opened a small hotel, and quickly realized just how much of a burden all the regulations he’d voted for were on small business owners. We need to get more people in Congress who’ve already been small business owners, minimum wage workers, and in many other walks of life so they can bring their experiences to the table instead of only finding out about them too late.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Not apocryphal! It was George McGovern, and yo can read about the experience in his own words:

            In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.

          • Gil says:

            Phobia is implicitly understood to mean a pathological / non-rational fear of something.

            So if someone finds themselves in a burning building. No one would call them a pyrophobe if said person admitted they were terrified of the ordeal. There are no disagreements

            Likewise no one would call a professional firefighter a pyrophobe since his entire line of work is centered on identifying, mitigating, and treating risks associated with fires. So a firefighter’s attitude about fires is at worst a professional bias then anything pathological (usually), particularly since this person in question is professionally qualified to enter burning buildings whilst remaining calm.

            Regardless if a word has a strong positive/negative connotation regardless of the definition, it will inevitably be deployed opportunistically rather than descriptively. It also has an Orwellian streak in how it treats the sanity of dissidents . I can forgo thorny questions about whether and to what extent X group is a threat to Y by such methods.

            And don’t get me started on R-ism

      • LogicDragon says:

        There’s some merit to the term in the sense of unfair hatred towards Muslims as people, but come on: in this article as elsewhere, it’s being used as an unreasonable snarl-word towards anyone arguing against Islam as a philosophy.

        Dawkins can be counter-productively abrasive, and sometimes has an unpleasant tinge of arrogance about him, but a bigot he is not. Calling him a word designed to call to mind things like homophobia is outrageous.

        • Agronomous says:

          Calling him a word designed to call to mind things like homophobia is outrageous.

          Please, please, please tell me you’re joking.

      • RIP Charb says:

        I regret making the claim that Islamophobia is a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood, because it is apparently untrue (my belief was based on the claim of an ex-member of the Brotherhood, but apparently the term was coined much earlier than he claims), and because it was somewhat inflammatory, and thus has drawn attention away from the point I was actually trying to make. So allow me to clarify.

        I am not saying there is no such thing as bigotry against Muslims. There absolutely is, and I condemn it unreservedly. But to use a word that is now considered more or less tantamount to “racist” to describe Dawkins and Harris is a deplorable, dishonest tactic of the kind DeBoer frequently and forcefully criticizes when the subject is something other than Islam. Harris has written an entire book (Letter to a Christian Nation) criticizing Christianity specifically, and nobody on the left calls him a “Christophobe” for this.

        DeBoer also seems to have no qualms about criticizing Israel, despite the fact that Muslims outnumber Jews by a factor of more than 100; that Jews are still persecuted in many Middle Eastern countries; and that even in the west Jews remain more likely to be victims of hate crimes than Muslims. You might object to this on the basis that “Israel” and “Jews” are not the same thing… but that’s precisely the point! Neither are “Islam” and “Muslims.”

        Call people out on their bigotry, by all means. If you want to call Donald Trump a bigot, you are not going to hear any argument from me. But most of the time when I see the word “Islamophobia,” it’s being used as a rhetorical bludgeon to shut down conversation about the regressive and harmful beliefs that are all too easy to find support for in Islamic doctrine. I oppose all religions, but there’s only one that I can’t criticize openly without fear of ostracism or worse.

        • Aapje says:

          I agree with your point, but have to point out that Israel doesn’t relate to Jews in the same way that Islam relates to Muslims. So your comparison rings false.

          • RIP Charb says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that Israel is to Jews as Islam is to Muslims. I’m just saying that one can imagine how criticizing Israel could lead to anti-Jewish sentiment. So if people like Freddie believe that ideas associated with vulnerable minorities should not be criticized, then they should probably not criticize Israel either, since it could just add fuel to the existing fire of anti-semitism.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      The OED has “Islamophobia” attested as far back as 1923, five years before the Muslim Brotherhood was founded. The word appears to have gained wide currency after being used by Edward Said in the mid-1980s.

    • That’s southern Christians. AFAIC, you are in phobia territory as soon as you start lumping a whole religion together. Nobody does that to religions that are part of their own culture.

      • pku says:

        Not sure if it’s necessarily phobia, just ignorance. When I moved to america I was pretty confused by how different types of Christians seemed to consider each other alien, but I didn’t have anything against Christians. Phobia is when you lump them all in with the worst of them (e.g., to be christianphobic, I’d have to have had the above beliefs and also form my view of the Christians based on something like the Westboro Baptist Church.)

    • herbert herbertson says:

      He’s a leftist, who is against western interventionism and considers it to be highly damaging to human life, freedom, and prosperity on a scale measured in the millions. He, like myself, considers the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be probably the greatest moral atrocity of the 21st century, and certainly the greatest one which the country he resides in is responsible for. Meanwhile, statistically, Islamic terrorism remains a very minor threat to Westerners, and, really, anyone who doesn’t live in Syria or northern Iraq. While the way in which Islamicist ideology affects the female and LGTB citizens of Islamic-dominated countries is lamentable, there is no cure available to Westerners which is not worse than the disease.

      Starting from this valueset, I reject the idea that there’s anything remotely irrational in condemning Islamopobic athiests. Islam is obviously not true, and the fact that its practitioners do a better job of acting like it is true than do, say, Christians, makes it a little worse for the world than, say, Christianity, but I’d be irrational to spend a lot of time talking about that, particularly in an aggressive/inflammatory/evangelical manner, if I have good reasons to think that rhetoric could lead to something very very bad (another Iraq invasion).

      This is why I reject “Islamophobia” (I tend not to actually use the word, fwiw), I think it’s why most people on the left (certainly the far, anti-war/anti-imperialism left) reject it, and it’s a line of thought that seems to fly far over the head of those who would take a more militant approach to Islam/Islamic terrorism. Note that at no point is this about political correctness. And, of course, I don’t expect such people to agree with me, it’s starting from a valueset that they may not share at all–but it’d be nice if they seemed to understand it.

      • Anon. says:

        You imply that there’s a connection between “islamophobia” and military adventurism in the middle east. Care to offer an explicit argument for the connection between the two?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Good point. Bush was explicitly not an “islamophobe” because he never criticized Islam. If anything, being a hardcore “islamophobe” would have implied discouraging democracy since conservative Muslims usually win those elections.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            This is almost the exception that proves the rule, though. Bush opposed Islamophobia out of a hearts and minds strategy, believing it was critical for us to rebut Wahabbism/Salafism’s claims to represent true Islam. The possibility of the bellicose right abandoning this strategy is very concerning to me–and it’s not even close to hard to find Islamophobes (I’m going to take the liberty of dropping the scare quotes for these types) advocating my worst fears very openly and directly.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I’d add that that it’s a pet project of mine to point out as much as possible that pretty much all “Islamic” terrorism can actually be attributed very specifically to that Salafist/Wahhabist tradition. For example, outside of some fighting in Iraq, the last major Shia attack against America was in 1983. Care to take a wild guess at the sorts of internet commentors who become very angry when I try to more accurately define the bad (or at least worst) actors in the Muslim world?

        • herbert herbertson says:

          1. It is routine for those who seek to inflict violence to dehumanize their opponents, and “Islamophobia” seems to fit comfortably into that position.

          2. “Islamophobia” seeks to emphasize and publicize (unduly imo) the problem of Islamic terrorism. If Islamic terrorism is a problem, it should be solved, and interventions are the most intuitive and straightforward way of doing so.

          3. If my agenda is peace, then I will want to form a coalition with others who are interested in peace. Given who suffers most from the breaking of this particular form of peace, it is likely that many of my potential coalition partners are going to be Muslim and “Islamophobia” could interfere with that (this actually IS essentially political correctness, but I think it’s tertiary, and certainly is for me personally, since I live in a rural area and am not directly involved in any activism).

          I’d add that while the most prominent current critic of Islam in America has made statements which non-crazy people can conclude indicates his opposition to imperialism/interventionism, I personally don’t believe them for a second, as I think his temperament and lack of any ideological commitment to peace would lead him to be very willing to intervene if he were in power.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        He, like myself, considers the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be probably the greatest moral atrocity of the 21st century,

        I’ve been criticizing the Iraq war for going on thirteen years now, but this strikes me as needless exaggeration. The second Congo war, the genocide in Darfur, and the civil war in Syria all have a higher body count, and the genocide of the Rohingyas in Burma is more morally appalling.

        • pku says:

          You could make a strong case for the later weaker statement, though (“greatest 21st century moral atrocity committed by the US”). I can think of things last century that were probably worse, but nothing from this century comes to mind.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The people in charge of planning the invasion and occupation were culpably negligent, but describing it as a “great moral atrocity” strikes me as over-the-top. It’s not as if it was the US which made it a policy to deliberately target civilians, after all.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “The people in charge of planning the invasion and occupation were culpably negligent, but describing it as a “great moral atrocity” strikes me as over-the-top. It’s not as if it was the US which made it a policy to deliberately target civilians, after all.”

            Keep in mind that the statement open purports to apply to a valueset of leftist anti-imperialism, however. That valueset is highly consequentialist (i.e., it’s not that important that the US didn’t directly/openly intend large numbers of civilian deaths, they happened and were foreseeable) and has no patience for the Iraq War causus belli, which, even if taken at face value, was based on “they have weapons of a type that we have not yet finished destroying (chemical) and are seeking weapons we don’t even intend to destroy (nuclear)”

            In my book, it qualifies as the proverbial “supreme war crime”

        • herbert herbertson says:

          I think you could reasonably characterize Syria, and especially ISIS, as a consequence of the Iraq invasion. That said, yeah, you make me glad I hedged with “probably” because the Congo is a pretty effective rebuttal.

      • “While the way in which Islamicist ideology affects the female and LGTB citizens of Islamic-dominated countries is lamentable, there is no cure available to Westerners which is not worse than the disease.”

        Open immigration. Not a full cure, of course, but an escape hatch for those for whom the effects are most serious.

        • Phasma says:

          That doesn’t seem great for our LGBT citizens, considering that the majority of immigrants from Islamic countries would be normal Muslims from those countries with all the attitudes common in those lands.

        • Utopn Naxl says:

          I don’t quite agree with that. That’s a strategy which may easily backfire in Malthusian terms over the long term.

          There is also the danger of accepting large amounts of people from a culture that isn’t easily integrated into the general culture, with violently expansionist memes contained.

          Lastly, in these days we can do a few simple tests that determine with strong accuracy in groups of 10 which groups are likely to perform well in schooling and become/not become criminals. A simple english version of the LSAT’s logic reasoning and a spatial game could work. Add a testosterone level check and ensure that those with low G and high T do not come in could work if there is no underlying ideology. Selection methods such as that hardly appeal to peoples ideals.

          Of course in a few years there are going to be quite accurate genetic tests similar to Gattaca that can determine with some accuracy who is likely to produce and who isn’t.

          Would you support a refugee country? Or a sectioned off area of the world with only open to refugees? How sustainable would that country be? Would it flourish? Would it turn out that some refugee groups end up highly disproportionate as the winners and intellectual leaders, and others as violent criminals?

          Would that refugee country end up producing refugees of its own if it could not hold itself together?

        • It sounds like an asylum system woukd be better than open immigration fior the reasons mentioned.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        I am not sure on Iraq. I actually lean towards it being an intelligent decision, even if a power bubble helped spring up ISIL.

        But ISIL is actually a far weaker group then Iraq ever was under Saddam. I feel that ISIS is a group that’s allowed to exist for political reasons, and could be destroyed any day of the week. Its just a hunch, though. I mean for the love of god, we have solar powered weaponized drones with facial recognition and weapon recognition technology and self-destructing software.

        its explicitly and entirely religious though, which adds a bit to complexity. I wonder if the US is just waiting for a threatened regional largely muslim country to take the bait in taking them out.

  34. eqdw says:

    The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish. And like the Amish, they have big communities in Pennsylvania. But did you know there are also large Mennonite communities in Paraguay, Mexico, and Belize?

    Hi everyone. Resident Mennonite here. Family names Klassen, De Fehr, Epp, Fast. Anyone have any questions they’d like to ask?

    —-

    Some Mennonite Fun Facts:

    * Mennonites keep meticulous ancestral records in their churches. One perk of this is that there is a global database of all Mennonites, and how they’re related, at http://grandmaonline.org. I can plug any two names in and find out how we’re related. This is how I know, for example, that I’m sixth cousins twice removed to the creator of the Simpsons.

    * The city with the largest Mennonite population (as far as I know) is my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. By my rough back-of-the-envelope estimate, about 15% of the city’s population are Mennonite (~100,000). With a global population of two million, that’s not shabby.

    * Mennonites are traditionally a German ethnic group. They’ve been extremely isolationist, and this has been stable over 500 years. But fairly recently we hit a milestone: There are now more black Mennonites than white Mennonites. Apparently the missionaries have been busy in Africa.

    * Speaking of German, Mennonites generally raise their kids with german as their first language. Despite being a 4th generation Canadian (great grandmother was an immigrant), most of the people I went to school with were ESL. They never learned English until they started Kindergarten.

    * Many of the Mennonites in Canada immigrated from southern Ukraine in the 1920s. Turns out, not a great idea to be German landowners in the middle of a Russian communist revolution. During the revolution, roving bands of anarchist thugs raped and murdered most of my ancestors, with a wink-nod (formally denied) from the Red Army in Moscow. 3% of all the Mennonites on the planet at the time were killed by the revolutionaries.

    * Some Mennonites (called “Old Order”) live in technologically-retarded communities, similar to the Amish, but this stereotype is largely untrue. Most Mennonites have fully assimilated into modern society, no different from any other vaguely left leaning upper-middle class people of European background.

    • Troy says:

      Speaking of German, Mennonites generally raise their kids with german as their first language. Despite being a 4th generation Canadian (great grandmother was an immigrant), most of the people I went to school with were ESL. They never learned English until they started Kindergarten.

      I think this must vary from place to place. This is not true of most Swiss Mennonite families in the U.S., in my experience.

      • eqdw says:

        Yep. You are correct. This is a good jumping off point for something I forgot:

        —-

        Among the European Mennonites there are two major ethnic groups, generally referred to as “Dutch/North German” and “Swiss/South German”. I’m of Dutch Mennonite descent, so I’m not very familiar with the Swiss background Mennonites.

        The Swiss Mennonites came from Switzerland and surrounding areas. They colonized Pennsylvania in the mid 1700s and a handful of other places in the US, and later from there built colonies in Mexico and Belize.

        The Dutch Mennonites (my background, so I’m more familiar) had a few major moves. They established a colony near Danzig in Prussia (now Gdansk in Poland) in the 1700s. In the late 1700s, when Russia annexed Ukraine, Dutch Mennonites went on to colonize various rural areas near what is now Zaporizhia. They lived there until the Soviet revolution, fleeing as refugees to Canada in the 1920s. Most of the Mennonites who fled to Canada stayed there, but some moved out to start a new colony in Paraguay.

        That last detail is interesting to me, because I didn’t know until recently that Mennonites _left Canada_ to colonize Paraguay. This gives us interesting citizenship chains. So, for example, on my stepdad’s side:
        * He has Canadian citizenship
        * His dad has dual Canadian/Paraguayan citizenship (born in Paraguay, naturalized here)
        * His dad had Canadian citizenship (born in Canada, moved to Paraguay)
        * His dad had whatever passed for Ukrainian citizenship in the early 1900s.
        * His dad had whatever passed for Prussian citizienship back when that country existed.
        * His dad had whatever passed for citizenship in the Holy Roman Empire (I forget which state).

      • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

        This changed with the anti-German sentiment during WWII.

    • SamChevre says:

      I grew up Mennonite, in one of the more separate and more German (vs Dutch) groups. Here’s a hodge-podge of possibly-useful information. I find it useful to divide the Anabaptist groups along 3 dimensions: historical geography; level of assimilation; doctrinal distinctives.

      Geography: A large portion of the Anabaptists in the 1500’s were centered on the Rhine Valley–from Switzerland up to the Netherlands. In the 1600’s, a large group moved from the Netherlands to Prussia (near today’s Gdansk in Poland) and then in the 1700’s moved to Russia (mostly Ukraine/Crimea). Today, there are effectively three historical-geographical groups: the “Russian” Mennonites (like eqdw), who speak Plautdietsch and have names like Dyck and Klassen; the Swiss Mennonites, who speak Sweitz and have names like Schwarz; the German Mennonites, who speak Pennsylvania Dutch.

      Assimilation: all three groups have more and less assimilated sections. The assimilated groups are less distinct from each other (obviously). The less assimilated groups are frequently called, and call themselves, “Plain”; that’s in my opinion the most useful descriptor. They might have no internal combustion engines, or no cars, or only black cars (that’s the groups I grew up in); might forbid any form of telecommunications, or allow phones in businesses but not houses, or allow voice phones but not smartphones, or allow phones but forbid radio and TV. And etc: the rules vary from group to group, and are somewhat idiosyncratic.

      Doctrine: this includes the “old order” vs “new order” distinction, which IS NOT about assimilatedness (it’s about what makes for salvation–the old order are more like Catholics and focus on baptism and church membership, the new order more Baptist and focus on an individual change of heart and encounter with God–“New Birth”). They go together somewhat (best analogy: Hasidic Jews and strictly-kosher-keeping Jews go together, but they aren’t the same thing–you can be either and not the other.)

      The Amish split off from the other Anabaptists in the late 1600’s–after the “Russians” had moved, so there are Swiss and German Amish, but no “Russian” Amish so far as I know. The Amish shun people who leave–no buying, no selling, no taking gifts, no eating at the same table; Mennonites don’t. (CLARIFYING EDIT: only people who joined the church, which you normally do in your late teens. You can not join and be like any other non-Amish person.)

      There are Amish and Mennonites all over; the groups mentioned above are all from the Russian group, but there are German groups as well. I’ve known people who’d lived in (German) Mennonite groups in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Brazil. Both Amish and Mennonites welcome converts, although for the groups who still speak dialects of German that is a barrier. My parents converted 38 years ago, and they and several of my siblings are still Plain.

      A great history of a Russian Mennonite family is from Scott Martens, who used to blog at “A Fistful of Euros”. His grandfather was born in Russia, and spent a good portion of his adult life as a missionary in Congo.

      • “The Amish shun people who leave–no buying, no selling, no taking gifts, no eating at the same table; Mennonites don’t.”

        I believe that only applies to people who leave after having committed, as adults, to being Amish. Someone born into an Amish family who never does so is in the same category as any other non-Amish.

        The “lower” (more extreme) groups maintain meidung (shunning) until the person has been accepted back into the congregation he left, the higher only until he has been accepted into some congregation. I’m not sure if that can be a Mennonite non-Amish congregation.

        “There are Amish and Mennonites all over”

        Mennonites perhaps. I believe that at this point there are no substantial Amish populations outside of North America.

    • Most Mennonites have fully assimilated into modern society, no different from any other vaguely left leaning upper-middle class people of European background.

      So what does it mean to be Mennonite if fully assimilated? Do these assimilated Mennonites marry outside the group? If so, I expect they won’t be identifiable within a couple of generations. Is it like being Jewish in North America — that is, almost impossible to tell and probably fully impossible in 50 years?

      • Troy says:

        Being Jewish is a good analogy, because it’s both an ethnic group and a religious group. Non-plain Mennonites probably marry fellow Mennonites more commonly than other (non-plain) Christians, but many marry outside the group. The couple might attend a Mennonite church or they might attend the other partner’s church (or not attend church entirely, of course). In that respect they’re pretty similar to other Protestant groups. Mennonite Church USA’s numbers have been slowly declining since the 1970s (http://www.mcusa-archives.org/resources/membership.html), but this is in common with most other Christian groups in the United States. They do get some numbers from former Amish, as mentioned somewhere above.

  35. Acedia says:

    PT Barnum published a book in 1880 called “The Art of Money Getting”, which sounds like a joke title written by someone satirising PT Barnum.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      This is actually a good (and short!) book (at least from my perspective as someone who has never owned my own business) and doesn’t necessarily match the image you might have from the title and the author’s name (ie it’s not about scamming people).

  36. SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

    Your link about the Filipino president catcalling is probably supposed to be this one:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodrigo_Duterte#Women.27s_rights

  37. utilitarian troll says:

    From the article it sounds like Maine implemented the form of ranked choice voting known as “instant runoff voting”. From what I remember when I was geeking out about this a few years ago, instant runoff voting has some problems and will behave really unintuitively in particular situations. Approval voting was my favorite of the systems I read about I think. It’s really simple–you’re allowed to vote for as many different candidates as you like (whichever candidates you “approve” of).

    • pku says:

      Being complicated seems like more of an advantage for ranked voting over approval voting – it may prevent people for whom it’s too complicated from voting, and making things slightly more complicated could help reduce black and white views and partisanship. Both of these seem like good things.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        If you like complicated, score voting is complicated and has some theoretical advantages. I don’t have a strong pref between score & approval.

    • Sadly, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem means that every sort of voting has problems. But I agree that approval voting is better because it’s easier for people to wrap their heads around.

    • BBA says:

      The proposal is meant to address the situation that came up in the last two Maine elections for Governor – a left-leaning majority split between the Democrat and an independent candidate, letting the Republican win with a minority of the vote. With IRV the Democrat is the probable winner, with approval voting it’s a prisoner’s dilemma for Democrats and independents.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        Score voting should solve that problem somewhat.

        I’m not that opposed to giving political power to groups that are good at cooperating in prisoners’ dilemnas

    • Ryan Beren says:

      Ranked Choice Voting can be really weird. Consider this IRV election between Apple, Banana, and Cherry.

      4 voters: A>B>C
      5 voters: B>C>A
      3 voters: C>A>B

      The winner is Apple.

      If everyone had the opposite opinions and gave reversed rankings, then the winner would still be Apple.

      If 2 more C>A>B voters showed up to the polls, then Banana would have won, which from their perspective means they would have made the outcome worse by voting. Good thing they stayed home.

      Similarly, the B>C>A voters would have been happier with the results if 3 of them (most of them!) had not shown up.

      If they knew their turnout was going to be too good, the B>C>A voters should have organized to vote C>B>A instead, to elect their lesser-of-two-evils.

      In general, RCV results are not at-a-glance obvious. You have to keep tallies of every permutation of the candidates, and you can’t tell who’s in the lead without considering all the permutations. By comparison, with approval voting you just sum up the number of approvals, and comparing the candidates is as simple as checking which sum is bigger. Also, if the approval is interpreted as “I’m OK with this candidate winning”, then approval voting always gives the win to the candidate whom the most people are OK with winning.

      • Yes, but this seems only an issue in very weird situations. The problem that RCV is trying to fix is to allow people to vote for their first choice even if it appears that person has no chance. Then maybe some dark horses would actually win, if a lot of folks really did support them. The kind of thing BBA refers to above, and the issue we often hear about in presidential voting, such as the voting for Nader in 2000, and possible voting for Johnson or Stein this year. RCV does solve that problem.

        However, there are real life problems with RCV. We use it here in Minneapolis, and some don’t like it. In 2013, we had 35 mayor candidates, and every one was on the ballot in November, so voters could pick using rank ballots. It was kind of difficult to analyze every candidate. I myself much prefer having too much choice over the usual situation of too little, but I can understand why some don’t.

    • Houshalter says:

      Yes thank you. Instant runoff voting is inferior and I don’t know why every alternative vote group supports it. Condorcet voting is so much better: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet_method

      Proportional representation systems are nice also.

  38. Anonymous says:

    BBC article about an SC campaign from two months ago:

    “It is nothing about law, and it is not harmless. Taking this daftness seriously can be legally dangerous. If people try to use such things to avoid their legal obligations they can end up with county court judgments or even criminal convictions. You may as well walk into court with a t-shirt saying ‘I am an idiot’.

    This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

  39. anon says:

    I don’t know how I missed this.

  40. Seth says:

    I think someone might be trolling the sovereign citizens – somehow it’s entered into their lore that if you officially write “I am an idiot” on your court paperwork, the government can’t prosecute you.

    While that would be a good troll, I can’t find any evidence via a quick Google Search that any other person has tried this. It seems to be just this one guy’s weirdness. And he is aware of the implication too. As best I can figure it, he’s saying something like “I have no idea about this legal stuff, so it isn’t reasonable to expect me to defend myself over stuff I don’t understand in the first place”. To the obvious reply of having a lawyer appointed to speak for him, he then says something like “Don’t be silly, nobody speaks for me, and I sure don’t want anyone claiming they’re speaking for me – they aren’t, I’m the only person who definitely has my best interests at heart”.

    It reads to me as kind of an unsophisticated version of the way geeks like to think they can hack law by finding some sort of contradiction. That is, he’s trying to claim he can’t be tried in court because he can’t be expected to argue stuff he doesn’t understand, but the court can’t appoint him a representative because he doesn’t trust anyone else to represent him. That doesn’t work, but he’s far from the first person to believe he’s found a clever legalistic escape-hatch.

    • In my office, we see many sovereign citizens wanting to file various strange papers or obtain certifications. Indeed, I got a long phone message from one just yesterday.

      So far, none of them have labeled themselves idiots.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I’ve seen ‘ignorant in the law’, ‘unlettered in the law’, ‘unlearned in the law’ and the oddly non-sequitur ‘unbeknownst to the law’, all claimed as reasons to waive certain statutory provisions.

        My favorite sov. cit filing by far involved a woman who was of the opinion that our state laws were waiveable at the discretion of the Court of Chancery of England and that, after our rebellion and secession, the power of the King’s Conscience had devolved to notaries public.

        (As I recall, our office did not agree)

      • Outis says:

        The sovereign citizen movement sounds like alternative medicine, but for the law.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, SC stuff is the homeopathic medicine of legal problems.

          But all alternative medicine is not like homeopathy. There are many plants and herbs and alternative medicine cures that are researched and then turn into allopathic medicine– like foxglove becoming digitalis. Not all alternative medicine works. But then not all traditional medicine works for all of its patients either.

          There really needs to be more alternative medicine research to find out what works and what does not.

          • Teal says:

            There are billions of dollars to be made in all sort of drug niches. There’s no conspiracy against researching leads that come from ancient druidic wisdom. Whatever works is called medicine, what’s left is unjustified speculation and outright quackery.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But then, I’m sure there’re leads that haven’t been adequately explored yet, which would still currently fall into the category of alternative medicine. Or, other leads probably aren’t explored because they wouldn’t be profitable; Scott’s written before of how too much drug exploration is circumscribed by profit.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, a lot of what is left, is left because it hasn’t been researched. Once it is, some of it will be found to heal various illnesses, and some of it will be found to be ineffective. It’s all called quackery now. But once it’s researched, some of it will be called wonderful cures for certain illnesses.

          • Teal says:

            Yes, that’s true. But there are no shortcuts. The only way to find out what works is research. You can’t intuit the wheat from the chaff. Even when alternative medicine advocates are correct they are still wrong, because it’s just random luck. Like a chartist that stares at historical prices and dreams up shapes. Or the sports fan than always makes sure to wear his lucky shirt for big games.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Teal
            There are billions of dollars to be made in all sort of drug niches. There’s no conspiracy against researching leads that come from ancient druidic wisdom.

            To make money, you need to find something you can patent. Not very likely with ancient druid stuff. If you find that X herb works, you can’t stop* competitors from harvesting some and selling it.

            So “it does not work” in effect means “it only works on Elderly Hispanic Women** so the potential market is too small for us to make a profit on it”.

            Patients who are EHW, or who look more closely at such tests, see that the curve always has a ‘tail’ of people for whom it did appear to work. Say it worked for 30% of the subjects, that is enough customers for the company to make a profit on, which is reported as “it works”. If it only appeared to work for 10%, then the company would report “does not work” and refuse to spend any more money on it. But as an OTC customer, I may be part of the 10% for whom it does work, and a $5.00 bottle of it would be worth me trying.

            * Except by gaming the FDA hoops

            ** I wish they’d use a term less likely to be taken as fact, and much less ‘racist’.

  41. I’m not sure why you would call either Hillary Clinton or Peter Thiel neoliberals. Hillary is for all sorts of policies to intervene in the economy that hopefully help the poor through roundabout mechanisms rather than just taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor. The reason I voted for Obama in the primaries back in the day was that I thought Hillary’s proposal had was too complicated and I liked Obama’s healthcare reform policy better. Of course we ended up getting Hillary’s proposal as Obamacare so oops, maybe. And I’m under the impression that Peter Thiel isn’t interested in wealth redistribution

  42. Galton's Bulldog says:

    The actual voice actor for Zapp Brannigan has been reading Trump quotes:
    https://twitter.com/TheBillyWest/status/763531951827357696

  43. “is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?”

    Why “paradoxically?” Weather is a complicated system and there is no strong a priori reason to expect all effects of warming to be bad.

    Some time back, Chris Landsea wrote: “The climate models are also coming into agreement that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes will not go up and may perhaps even decrease (by around one-fourth fewer) because of the increased vertical wind shear. ”

    My old explanation of the error in the popular view of why AGW can be expected to make hurricanes worse.

    • TomFL says:

      I was just going to make that exact point. One answer could simply be there aren’t hurricanes in winter.

      One can definitely get the impression the media coverage is biased in “warming makes everything worse” direction and “everything bad is caused by warming”. They have not said Trump is caused by global warming…yet.

      So….if we started to get a prolonged trend of cooling everyone would celebrate because of all the improvements that will occur? Everything they claim is worse via global warming would get better with cooling? Extinctions will decrease. Food supplies will increase. Extreme events will decrease. Less snow storms. Less drought. Less war. Not likely.

      There is a media / science feedback circle that is not healthy for science. The media likes fear, they can find scientists to provide it. These scientists become media stars, and with the climate where you won’t be proven wrong for 50 years there isn’t much career downside. It amazes me the media still thinks Ehrlich has credibility.

      I promise to never read the internet again if someone comes out and says the world is going to end and we need to implement actions that go completely against their ideology to fix it.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      I hate climate science.

      There’s a few basics(and the major important points of the people involved) which are absolutely true. Its basic point is that releasing all these strange new things into the atmosphere is more likely to have something to catastrophically bad, which is a very good point, and has been shown time and time again with things like Acid Rain, the Ozone crisis, etc…

      Trying to go into all the specifics is horrible, and should probably be done away with, but Academia insists on every undergrad student publishing two papers to get into grad school, and every grad student publishing 10 papers to get into real academia, so it continues.

      More or less hurricanes based on a difference of 1.5 degrees Celsius, showing massively different migratory patterns that leads to extinction based on 2 C (and not perhaps more animals and plant life in a certain area) is all terrible,subject to chaos theory and the people involved should feel bad.

  44. Exit Stage Right says:

    On the DeBoer piece

    “To begin with, not only do the aggressively religious outnumber the aggressively atheistic by huge margins, they are also far more politically organized and influential.”

    The idea that one side is more powerful has nothing to do with which side is worse. The contention is that aggressive atheists are “just as bad” as aggressive theists, not “just as powerful”. This is mostly just pointing out that both sides are similarly mindkilled.

    On another note, comparing the aggressively atheistic to the aggressively theistic is one thing, but I’m doubtful of its importance. The use of the word “aggressively” seems like an attempt to capture the Dawkins and Harris group but leave out the secular governments and institutions that have the most influence in the world. Whats the belief system of these secular governments and institutions? Its not aggressive atheism or aggressive theism, surely, so what would you call it? Because thats the thing you should be afraid of.

    “I think far too many people who live in progressive urban enclaves and live online have developed this fantasy that angry atheists are as prevalent, powerful, and toxic as the worst elements of religion. And I just don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of reality”

    And I think thats pretty rich coming from someone who one paragraph earlier notes that religious influence exists in Indiana thats not present in Chicago. Which of those places is more politically and economically important? In fact, go ahead and line up all the Religiously-Influenced cities in the USA, then compare them to the ones that are Secular. Do that again for the whole planet. Then tell me again who the powerful are.

    “The Catholic Church alone is a vast entity with enormous resources that it uses strategically to alter the world”

    The Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of a Harvard or Yale. If its goal has been to strategically alter the world then you should take heart at how completely its failed to do so.

    If you’re going to point to an organized religion that actually fits this description and could be considered influential, you point to Islam, and thats about it.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      The Catholic Church spends about $170 billion each year in America, a sum four times larger than Harvard’s entire endowment. Your perception of the church’s influence is off by at least two orders of magnitude.

      • Sandy says:

        Harvard educates Presidents, Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices. It can easily be argued that this has a far stronger influence on both America and the world than anything the contemporary Catholic Church is capable of.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You really thought it would be a good idea to pick the Supreme Court as an example of the church’s lack of influence in America? Until Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court was two-thirds catholic. Both Scalia and Thomas attended Catholic colleges as undergraduates.

          But Exit Stage Right explicitly mentioned resources, and the wealth of the Catholic Church makes Harvard look like a Dollar Tree.

      • Exit Stage Right says:

        50 billion dollars as the operating budgets of Catholic universities is counted as spending by the Catholic Church? You really don’t want to get into how much secular university budgets total, do you? 100 billion spent by a Catholic health care provider. Please stop, you can’t be serious with this. I find it hard to believe you actually read the link you provided.

        A quick google search will tell you Harvards budget is ten times that of the Vaticans, and Harvard is ONE university. Its endowment is thirty times larger. Granted, the Church’s true wealth is not such a simple thing to figure out as those figures make it appear, but I feel comfortable playing fast and loose like that considering its apparently legit to throw the Catholic Health Association of the United States into the pot.

        Thank you for demonstrating how uninterested you are in an actual discussion so quickly and efficiently

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You really don’t want to get into how much secular university budgets total, do you?

          You said “the Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of a Harvard or Yale.” Did you mean to say “the Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of all secular universities combined“? That would have been less profoundly stupid, but it would not have been nearly so interesting a claim.

          A quick google search will tell you Harvards budget is ten times that of the Vaticans, and Harvard is ONE university

          The Vatican’s population is 558, while Harvard has around 21,000 students, 1400 staff, and 280 faculty. But this comparison is meaningless. The Catholic Church has “the resources of a Harvard” a hundred times over.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            I concede that my comparison should be apples to apples. Harvard alone is not worth the Church in resources. Granted, and if I could strike that sentence from my original post now I would. Or perhaps I would simply replace “resources” with “influence”.

            Conflating the Vatican with the Church is at least as fair as conflating the Church with CHA. Given that I’m guilty of what I accused you of, however, I’ll retract my doubts of your good faith as well.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        The direction of American, and European, society has been towards feminism, liberal divorce laws, abortion rights, gay marriage and transgender acceptance. While this represents the triumph of secular liberalism rather than “atheism” per se it exposes the startling lack of influence by religion in society.

        • pku says:

          Not unilaterally towards abortion rights – it’s worth noting that infanticide used to be common and is now considered unthinkable in the west.

        • Jill says:

          It does represent that. Another thing that it represents is the triumph of parties using social issues as ways to please their voters, when they are unwilling to please their voters on economic issues. Because people more important to politicians than voters are– the big donors– are demanding to get their own way on economic issues, no matter what the voters want.

          Another thing though is that it is fundamentalist religion that is against these liberal social issues– not all religion. Many religions are fine with LBGTQ people, divorce and/or abortion being legal for those who desire it etc.

          • BD Sixsmith says:

            …using social issues as ways to please their voters…

            Voters, in their millions, tend to come around to these things once they have been accepted by the cultural elite – a cultural elite that has become increasingly secular.

            Many religions are fine with LBGTQ people, divorce and/or abortion being legal for those who desire it etc.

            I don’t know if many religions are so much as many religious people are but that is certainly true.

          • Anonymous says:

            Voters, in their millions, tend to come around to these things once they have been accepted by the cultural elite

            Replacing “the cultural elite” with “their neighbors and friends” makes this statement much more likely to be true.

      • Maware says:

        Much of that is in administering its land holdings, and paying salaries I think. If anything, parishes and schools have been closing and consolidating in recent years. The Church in America owns a lot of land, mostly.

    • Montfort says:

      People who want secular government are not all atheists, as you seem to be implying. They’re not even mostly atheists. Secular government vs religious government is a rather different subject not addressed by the essay.

      • Exit Stage Right says:

        I did say that aggressive atheism was not the belief system of secular governments, which is not exactly the same point, but I think my statement is more relevant here.

        People who want secular governments can certainly be and often are theists, just as people who believe the Church is on net a social good can be atheists, but that doesnt really speak to the character of the government or the Church.

        The essay is discussing the Dawkins and Harris set. But what most people perceive as the benign sort of atheist/agnostic, and the hordes of nonpracticing Christians, Jews and Muslims who are their cousins, is I believe much more important socially than either fervent theism or fervent atheism.

        • Montfort says:

          I agree that harmful religion- and atheism- directed behaviors are relatively rare in the US today. But are you arguing that there’s a large category of harmful secularism-directed behavior (e.g. people going up to devout believers and atheists and shouting at them to shut up about their beliefs, cutting remarks that real people never think about religion at all), or just saying that there are bigger issues in general? I think deBoer would agree with the second, given the contents of his blog.

    • Troy says:

      The other strange thing in DeBoer’s post — shared in common with “new atheist” reasoning generally — is an apparent assumption that once we’ve enumerated some bad things religion has done, we can conclude that it’s a net negative force on society. He doesn’t say this in so many words, but this seems to be the pragmatic implication of quotes like “The Catholic Church alone is a vast entity with enormous resources that it uses strategically to alter the world. And many of its goals are contrary to my conception of the public good. Bill Maher is a jerk with a television show. Christianity is an army with many soldiers, and Christianity is just one religion.”

      Grant for the sake of argument that Catholicism has had bad social effects in areas like contraception or abortion access (obviously a huge concession to social progressives already). The research on the psychology and sociology of religion is pretty clear that organized religions, and the social networks they create, contribute to social capital and pro-social behavior. Not to mention the explicitly charitable ventures of organized religions like the Catholic Church that even secular progressives should approve of (doesn’t Scott work at a Catholic hospital?), and it starts to look pretty implausible that these positive effects are outweighed by the Catholic Church’s advocacy for particular socially conservative laws and mores.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        What is also ironic is that Mr deBoer fulminates about the Catholic Church while his only reference to Islam is in the context of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins’ supposed “Islamophobia”. I am not crudely anti-Islam, as it doubtless has personal and communal benefits for Muslims, and I accept that deBoer lives in America and not the Middle East, but there is only one faith that animates governors from Africa to South America to impose severe sanctions against women, homosexuals, nonbelievers et cetera, and that inspires many of its believers to violence.

        Mr deBoer also asserts that “Marxism’s traditional, black-letter atheism” holds that “religion exists for the few to exercise power over the many”. I can’t believe I am defending Marx but even he maintained no such boorish illusions. He maintained that men were naturally inclined towards religion in capitalist societies to console themselves in a “heartless world” and “soulless conditions”. Sadly, he decided that communist revolution would be a much better substitute. We know how that turned out.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          there is only one faith that animates governors from Africa to South America to impose severe sanctions against women, homosexuals, nonbelievers et cetera, and that inspires many of its believers to violence.

          –Christian Uganda recently passed a law imposing a life sentence for homosexuality. If not for western countries threatening to cut aid, the punishment would have been death. A number of other Christian countries in Africa also criminalize homosexuality. Several US states did, too, less than twenty years ago.

          –In Burma, the Buddhist majority routinely carries out pogroms– sometimes led by Buddhist monks— against a Muslim ethnic minority, the Rohingyas.

          –Hindus lead pogroms against Muslims or Sikhs in India about once a decade.

          –The troubles in Ireland also were not so long ago.

          • Troy says:

            @Earthly Knight: I believe BD’s claim was that Islam is the only religion that has these kinds of effects almost everywhere it is practiced, or at least across a wide range of contexts.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The first claim is false, the latter is too vague to have a truth value. I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of religious violence carried out in the world today is carried out in the name of Islam, though.

          • Troy says:

            I agree with you that the first claim is false, but it is plausible that Islam tends to have these negative effects more often than other religions (though separating out the role of religion and culture here is very tricky).

          • Jill says:

            Actually it could be tribalism. Some of these terrorists consider other Muslims to be infidels, and want to kill them too, because they are not from the same sect.

          • Troy says:

            It’s quite possible — tribalism is a very plausible cultural factor — but (sadly) killing one’s co-religionists does not rule out a religious motive for one’s behavior.

          • Jill says:

            True. It doesn’t entirely rule it out. But it does give the impression of people very willing to splinter off into groups and subgroups in order to fight and kill people. A sort of group chip on the shoulder way of not co-existing.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That’s the problem with the previous poster saying “there’s only one faith that…” or “there’s only one political philosophy that…” There are jackasses of all faiths and all political philosophies; there are always people who will take a statement of the greatest pacifism and generosity and use it to brutalize their fellow man. So a universalizing statement like that is trivially false and everyone knows it.

            However, for the same reason, it is of little value to triumphantly contradict the universalizing statement.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Islam is the only religion that has these kinds of effects almost everywhere it is practiced

            The country with the Muslims in the world is Indonesia and I don’t hear about religious violence there that often.

          • Aapje says:

            That’s probably due to the bias in the news sources that you consume. Indonesia has quite a bit of religious violence:

            https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/08/25/president-yudhoyonos-blind-side-religious-violence-indonesia

        • Anthony says:

          DeBoer manages to mention Marxism without once mentioning the damage that militant atheists of the Markist stripe did worldwide, after he’d already made the discussion broader than what’s happening in the U.S.

          He used to be better than that.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        it starts to look pretty implausible that these positive effects are outweighed by the Catholic Church’s advocacy for particular socially conservative laws and mores.

        The correct question isn’t whether a religion’s benefits outweigh its harms, it’s whether the world is better on balance with the religion than it would be without it. This is probably too big and complicated a counterfactual to get any purchase on, but that means the answer isn’t obviously “yes.”

        • Troy says:

          The correct question isn’t whether a religion’s benefits outweigh its harms, it’s whether the world is better on balance with the religion than it would be without it.

          I think I’m happy to accept the question change, but the answer still seems to me to be pretty clearly “yes,” on the basis of mostly the same evidence.

          • Troy says:

            Yeah, I think economic prosperity (I assume that’s what you’re getting at) and atheism probably have common causes (at least within the background context of Western civilization), such as IQ. Prosperity is probably also a cause of atheism.

            We can’t run RCTs on religion, but studies that control for variables like race, education level, and so on (as well as many that don’t) tend to find positive correlations of religiosity (especially church attendance) with charitable giving and other forms of pro-social behavior, and negative correlations with criminality, substance abuse, depression, and so on. (These studies, however, are mostly done in the context of American and European cultures, and so one might question their universal applicability.)

            There might be a case to be made that certain forms of religion decrease economic growth — and Catholicism here would be a good bet — but by that light, other forms seem to increase it (the Protestant work ethic). But I’m at any rate inclined to treat economic prosperity as less important than social capital, although I grant that others may reasonably place different weights on these.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ve also seen lots of correlational studies finding that zealous Christians score better on various indices of well-being than people who are too lazy to go to church. These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. In particular, they tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists, or what the world would look like if everyone decided to cut God out of their lives tomorrow.

            The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

          • Troy says:

            These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. In particular, they tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists, or what the world would look like if everyone decided to cut God out of their lives tomorrow.

            Absent psychology wholly explaining the correlation, I don’t see how these studies “tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists,” given that principled atheists are among the people studied in such research. Maybe your suggestion is that psychology does wholly explain the correlation. I’m open to the possibility of personality being a common cause, and I’d be interested to see the results of studies attempting to control for that. But:

            (1) We don’t just have correlational data between religion and pro-sociality; there are plausible mechanisms for the social aspect of religion in particular to have these effects, consistent with background knowledge in other domains about the benefits of having strong social ties with others.

            (2) Psychology is presumably already going to be partly controlled for by controlling for things like education and income.

            (3) There are also wide-scale sociological studies purporting to show pro-social effects of religion when other variables are controlled for, such as the one about belief in hell leading to less crime that got press a few years ago, and Robert Woodberry’s “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” I suppose some of these correlations could be the result of different societal psychologies, but this seems even more unlikely than above after other things are controlled for. And Woodberry’s essay, which is very careful (I haven’t read the hell paper; can’t comment on it), makes an explicitly causal argument, because he’s looking at the historical growth (via missionaries) of Protestant Christianity.

            The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

            It doesn’t show any such thing. As I’m sure you know, A can be a significant cause of B and yet be negatively correlated with B when nothing else is controlled for. This is especially the case when B is itself a cause of ~A. A large police presence has a strong negative effect on crime, but since high levels of crime cause large police presences, places with larger police presences tend to be places with higher levels of crime.

            And anyway, all you’ve provided is a map of Europe by religious belief, not an actual measure of the correlation between religious belief and GDP, self-reported happiness, or some other measure of well-being.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I don’t see how these studies “tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists,” given that principled atheists are among the people studied in such research.

            Uh, knowing the average well-being of atheists and people too lazy to go to church tells us next to nothing about the well-being of the groups when disaggregated, just as a matter of logic. The average (Swede or Nigerian) is quite poor; what does this tell us about Swedes?

            Maybe your suggestion is that psychology does wholly explain the correlation. I’m open to the possibility of personality being a common cause, and I’d be interested to see the results of studies attempting to control for that.

            I like the idea that it’s incumbent on critics of an obviously-confounded correlational study to show that the confounding factors are indeed the causes of the observed effects. No, your evidence is garbage, get better evidence.

            (1) We don’t just have correlational data between religion and pro-sociality; there are plausible mechanisms for the social aspect of religion in particular to have these effects, consistent with background knowledge in other domains about the benefits of having strong social ties with others.

            There’s a plausible-sounding explanation for any result, if you’re creative enough. This tells us nothing. And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not. You can’t get any insight into causation by piling up poorly-conducted correlational studies, no matter how high the stack gets. It just doesn’t work that way.

            (2) Psychology is presumably already going to be partly controlled for by controlling for things like education and income.

            To some degree, but unless we know going in the effects of conscientiousness and extroversion on well-being (P) and how much controlling for education and income (C) will reduce those effects, we have no idea how the residual effects of the personality variables (R) should compare to the the observed difference in well-being between churchgoers and the apathetic (O). What manner of algebra do you practice that you think you can determine whether P – C = R is less than O when you know only the value of O?

            It doesn’t show any such thing. As I’m sure you know, A can be a significant cause of B and yet be negatively correlated with B when nothing else is controlled for.

            Sure, but look at the details of the map more carefully, there are natural controls. The Scandinavian states share a culture and a history, but vary substantially when it comes to religiosity. Yet they are more or less identical when it comes to income and happiness. The same goes for the Baltic states. Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial. Oil does a lot more for the Norwegians than God does for the Finns!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. […] The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

            So wait, comparisons of people in the same country are hopelessly biased by confounding factors, but comparisons of people in entirely different countries aren’t? Come on.

            And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not.

            Yeah, you’ve got me there. I just cannot think of how meeting up with a group of like-minded people once or more a week could possibly cause the creation of new social ties.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial.

            Even if that’s true, it’s still a significant departure from what both Dawkins et al. and deBoer are saying.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            So wait, comparisons of people in the same country are hopelessly biased by confounding factors, but comparisons of people in entirely different countries aren’t?

            International comparisons have the advantage that they should not be much confounded by personality variables, unless Iceland is a nation of extroverts and Denmark a nation of neurotics.

            Notice also that the explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. The obviously lack of parsimony in this explanation should lead us to become more confident that the null hypothesis– that religion has no or negligible impact on well-being– is true. In general, if you posit a causal relationship between two sociological variables, it is a very bad thing if clusters of culturally similar nations which differ with respect to the one variable do not differ with respect to the other. Troy is correct that it is not absolutely decisive, but it makes the burden of proof much steeper.

            Yeah, you’ve got me there. I just cannot think of how meeting up with a group of like-minded people once or more a week could possibly cause the creation of new social ties.

            Sorry, my original formulation was imprecise. The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            International comparisons have the advantage that they should not be much confounded by personality variables, unless Iceland is a nation of extroverts and Denmark a nation of neurotics.

            They also introduce cultural differences and various other confounders, none of which you want to consider because doing so wouldn’t help your argument.

            Sorry, my original formulation was imprecise. The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

            So, when a piece of data seems to back up your position you just accept it without question; when it doesn’t, you come up with (wholly unsupported) conjectures to explain it away (“Maybe those people would be happier anyway! Maybe they would meet friends some other way!”).

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of religion from us.

            This argument cuts both ways, you know — if religion has negative social effects, like Freddie deBoer says, we’d expect it to show up in international comparisons. That it doesn’t suggests, etc.

            Plus, you seem to be using an unreasonably high bar for counting X as a benefit of religion — that, if you can come up with a hypothetical scenario where people still get X without being religious, then clearly X can’t be a benefit of religion. But this doesn’t follow at all. You might as well say “Sure, Hitler started WW2, but it’s perfectly conceivable that some alternate leader of Germany would have started a war of a similar scale, therefore we shouldn’t take WW2 into account when assessing Hitler as a leader.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            They also introduce cultural differences and various other confounders, none of which you want to consider because doing so wouldn’t help your argument.

            What do you think was the point of comparing the Baltic nations and the Scandinavian nations independently if not to partially control for cultural differences? Actually, it’s not obvious to me that the international cultural differences between Finns and Swedes or between Latvians and Lithuanians will be larger than the intranational cultural differences between churchgoers and non-churchgoers in the US. Troy hasn’t actually produced any studies, so we can’t see if they control for urbanness, region, or political affiliation.

            This argument cuts both ways, you know — if religion has negative social effects, like Freddie deBoer says, we’d expect it to show up in international comparisons.

            You seem to be confused about the view I’m defending, namely that we have no reason to doubt that “the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What do you think was the point of comparing the Baltic nations and the Scandinavian nations independently if not to partially control for cultural differences?

            If you compared, say, Americans from Appalachia and Americans from Bay Area California, you’d find important cultural differences, even though they’re both from the same country. Why assume that there won’t be important cultural* differences between different Scandinavian countries?

            * Or even, for that matter, genetic. No reason HBD wouldn’t apply to different European countries.

            Troy hasn’t actually produced any studies, so we can’t see if they control for urbanness, region, or political affiliation.

            Well, all you’ve produced so far is a map of Europe which included no information on how the data was gathered or what they controlled for. Motes, beams, etc.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do you really want to make “comparisons between countries are less confounded than comparisons within countries” your stake in the ground?

          • Troy says:

            There’s a plausible-sounding explanation for any result, if you’re creative enough. This tells us nothing.

            It tells us about prior probability. According to Bayes’ Theorem, the probability of some hypothesis in light of evidence predicted to some degree by that hypothesis is a function both of the prior probability of the hypothesis and how likely the evidence is on both the hypothesis and its negation. You can’t get a posterior probability just from the latter “likelihoods.” Prior judgments of plausibility play an ineliminable role, and so background knowledge matters. Otherwise we would have no way to rule out, for example, contrived explanations designed to fit the data exactly. These explanations cannot be ruled out by the data, to which they perfectly conform; they’re ruled out because they’re antecedently unlikely.

            I like the idea that it’s incumbent on critics of an obviously-confounded correlational study to show that the confounding factors are indeed the causes of the observed effects.

            All studies are confounded. It is impossible to control for every possible variable, because the list of possible confounders is indefinite. Even RCTs do not eliminate all possible confounders, and only eliminate particular confounders with high probability.

            The question is whether, in a particular case, it is plausible that a particular confounder is responsible for a result. I have already said that I’m open to psychology having causal effects here, and I’d be interested in the results of investigations into that. But for reasons I’ve already given, I think that it’s antecedently plausible that religion would have the mentioned effects, the data we have is consistent with that hypothesis, and that data comes from different cases, some of which are such that the plausibility of a psychological common cause is low. So I think it’s highly unlikely that psychology wholly explains the correlations in question. This argument isn’t conclusive, and is open to empirical disconfirmation, but I’m working with the evidence which I have currently available to me.

            And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not.

            One of the most basic functions of churches is the creation of social networks; this is obvious to anyone who has been involved in churches. It’s pretty hard to even conceive of organized religion in a way that the creation of new social groups is not one of its primary functions. If we turn to more formal studies, we certainly know from observational studies (e.g., Robert Putnam’s American Grace) that religious involvement correlates with more extensive social networks. And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks. One’s involvement in a church youth group is obviously a result of one’s churchgoing, inasmuch as the group only exists because of the church.

            Uh, knowing the average well-being of atheists and people too lazy to go to church tells us next to nothing about the well-being of the groups when disaggregated, just as a matter of logic. The average (Swede or Nigerian) is quite poor; what does this tell us about Swedes?

            Fair enough. I will note that you can always subdivide groups further; and the question then becomes whether it’s plausible that there are causally relevant differences between them (such as personality). But in this case I think it is well-motivated, although I’m less confident that the atheists are going to in general have higher average well-being than the non- or rarely-church-going theists, inasmuch as there are also studies purporting to find positive effects of the cognitive aspects of religion in addition to its social aspects. I suspect that there are variables in the GSS that could be used to control for the relative effects of theistic belief and religious practice, if you or anyone else would care to have a go at it.

            To some degree, but unless we know going in the effects of conscientiousness and extroversion on well-being (P) and how much controlling for education and income (C) will reduce those effects, we have no idea how the residual effects of the personality variables (R) should compare to the the observed difference in well-being between churchgoers and the apathetic (O).

            Sure, I agree that we can’t be confident in very precise claims here without this other data. I don’t know the literature on the correlations between personality and these other factors, but I’d be interested in the perspective of anyone who does.

            The Scandinavian states share a culture and a history, but vary substantially when it comes to religiosity. Yet they are more or less identical when it comes to income and happiness. The same goes for the Baltic states. Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial. Oil does a lot more for the Norwegians than God does for the Finns!

            Thanks; those graphs are more helpful. It’s not clear to me that the differences in religiosity between these countries is great enough to make a big difference, although I’m just going off of Wikipedia here. According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 18% of Swedes, 22% of Norwegians, 28% of Danes, and 33% of Finns believed in God. The page for Iceland says “39.4% of Icelanders said they believe in the existence of a benevolent god to whom one can pray”; this looks like a different poll. The difference between the low end and the high end isn’t trivial, but it’s not huge either (and according to this page, the ranking of these countries is Denmark-Iceland-Norway-Finland-Sweden, which seems to weakly correlate with theistic belief). But I can’t find good data on church attendance, which given the evidence already discussed I would expect to be the more important variable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Incidentally, let’s take a quick look at Denmark’s religious beliefs (via Wiki):

            Believe in “God”: 28%
            Believe in “some sort of spirit or life force”: 47%
            Don’t believe in either: 24%

            Now, it seems that a lot of the stuff about religion and happiness lumps the latter two categories together. But, it’s not entirely clear to me why we should treat “belief in some sort of spirit or life force” as being more akin to atheism than to belief in God. So, sure, you can say “Look, only 28% of Danes believe in God, and they’re one of the happiest countries in the world”, but you could also say, with at least as much accuracy, “Look, a vast majority of Danes — 76% — reject atheism in favour of supernatural belief”.

            (Cf. also “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Mr. X

            If you compared, say, Americans from Appalachia and Americans from Bay Area California, you’d find important cultural differences, even though they’re both from the same country. Why assume that there won’t be important cultural* differences between different Scandinavian countries?

            There are inevitably going to be some, although your analogy is terrible– the Scandinavian countries (nevermind Iceland) all fall within a 8 percentage point range so far as urbanization goes, the Baltic nations a 3-point range. That’s okay, though. It’s entirely possible that nature has ingeniously engineered the cultures of the four and three countries to conceal the happiness-promoting powers of faith, but prima facie unlikely, for the reasons given above.

            Well, all you’ve produced so far is a map of Europe which included no information on how the data was gathered or what they controlled for.

            All of the sources can be found on the websites accompanying the images, additionally, the source for the happiness data is superimposed on the map itself. None of them used any sort of statistical control; I have no idea what you would expect reports of GDP per capita or belief in God to control for.

            @ Jaskologist

            Do you really want to make “comparisons between countries are less confounded than comparisons within countries” your stake in the ground?

            Who thinks that? I certainly don’t.

          • Troy says:

            Responding to the later discussion:

            I largely agree with others that there are likely to be a lot more significant confounders, which are much harder to control for, with studies comparing different countries than studies comparing different individuals.

            On the subject of particular studies, I’ve mentioned a few mostly sociological works above, but the most extensive overview of the empirical psychological studies I know is Hood et al.’s The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. Chapters 12-13 (of the 4th edition) are focused on religion and morality and religion and health, although there are relevant studies discussed elsewhere in the book too.

            The only other thing I want to respond to specifically is this:

            The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

            I think we do have evidence for this. I am virtually certain, though I know of no data on this in particular, that you would find strong correlations between church attendance and total time spent doing non-work related activities outside of one’s home. That non-church attenders do not compensate by forming other social networks of the same breadth and depth is again antecedently plausible for those of us who have experience with churches; my high school friends who stopped going to church after moving out on their own tended to have much reduced social networks compared to my friends who continued going to church. Related research on the kinds of institutions which are successful in creating social networks is also relevant here; see, for instance, Rodney Stark’s research on how churches which make more demands on their members are much more successful in retaining members than others, because people crave the kind of transcendence of purpose present in more demanding communities. Bowling leagues, say (which have been on the decline — Putnam’s eponymous example in Bowling Alone), do not evoke the same feelings in their members, and so they are less successful.

            As for direct evidence, attending church and having social networks correlate, as discussed in Putnam’s aforementioned book, and there’s been a decline in both around the same time, which is some evidence for a causal connection. I think Charles Murray also talks about the declining religiosity of the lower classes and the breakdown in social ties in Coming Apart, although I haven’t read that.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Troy

            Prior judgments of plausibility play an ineliminable role,

            If by “prior judgment of plausibility” you mean reasonable inferences from background knowledge, I agree. If you mean it to include whatever weird prejudices you’ve picked up over the years, you’re pointing to a flaw in Bayesian epistemology, not a reason for trusting the weird prejudices.

            But for reasons I’ve already given, I think that it’s antecedently plausible that religion would have the mentioned effects,

            That’s great. How do we know that your judgments of plausibility are rational and not motivated by superstition or intransigence?

            that data comes from different cases, some of which are such that the plausibility of a psychological common cause is low.

            Which? Where?

            And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks.

            You haven’t shown causation in the first place. What evidence do you have that churches create more social ties than there would be in the absence of churches?

            I don’t know the literature on the correlations between personality and these other factors, but I’d be interested in the perspective of anyone who does.

            As you might expect, extroversion and conscientiousness are correlated with well-being. I would be amazed if they weren’t also correlated with church attendance. Another problem with believing in just-so stories is that you can’t evaluate the plausibility of explanations you haven’t considered or where you lack the relevant background knowledge.

            The difference between the low end and the high end isn’t trivial, but it’s not huge either (and according to this page, the ranking of these countries is Denmark-Iceland-Norway-Finland-Sweden, which seems to weakly correlate with theistic belief).

            The spread on the Baltic states is much larger, at 18% for Estonia versus 47% for Lithuania.

            @ Mr. X

            But, it’s not entirely clear to me why we should treat “belief in some sort of spirit or life force” as being more akin to atheism than to belief in God.

            Troy was speaking above of organized religion, in particular, churchgoing. Giving thanks to the nature spirit while burning incense and listening to new age music presumably does’t qualify.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Troy

            I largely agree with others that there are likely to be a lot more significant confounders, which are much harder to control for, with studies comparing different countries than studies comparing different individuals.

            I direct you to my response, earlier, to similar concerns:

            “The explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. The obvious lack of parsimony in this explanation should lead us to become more confident that the null hypothesis– that religion has no or negligible impact on well-being– is true. In general, if you posit a causal relationship between two sociological variables, it is a very bad thing if clusters of culturally similar nations which differ with respect to the one variable do not differ with respect to the other. Troy is correct that it is not absolutely decisive, but it makes the burden of proof much steeper.”

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States.

            is again antecedently plausible for those of us who have experience with churches; my high school friends who stopped going to church after moving out on their own tended to have much reduced social networks compared to my friends who continued going to church.

            Hell’s bells, part of your rationale for why we don’t need to worry about confounding by personality variables is an anecdote also confounded by personality variables! Have you considered that the friends who stopped going to church wound up with smaller social networks because both of these things are just ways of measuring extroversion?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Earlier UN happiness report on which the map is based; here the order is Denmark-Norway-Sweden-Finland. Devout Lithuania and irreligious Estonia are also adjacent on the list. Each batch of countries is so tightly clustered that any differences between them are going to be due to noise, though. So: fair evidence that the effects of religion on well-being, if there be any, are swamped by other factors.

            Twin study suggesting a causal relationship between personality and well-being.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. If I were a very religious person, I imagine I would find ways to believe that religion does wonderful things for people, no matter what the evidence or lack therof is.

            That’s an interesting thing about discussion/arguments among people. Some rather large percentage of them are like tennis matches, where people hit the ball back and forth, trying to make and defend various points. But regardless of who is correct, they both are determined to win, by being right about something that is important to them.

            Being right about something you think is important and identify with, is like survival. It’s survival of identity. So people fight as if their identity is their life, as if they must fight to survive. Truth isn’t anywhere near as important to humans or other animals, as survival.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re talking about a sample of ~4. Basically any correlation you pull out of that (and I note you haven’t actually run a correlation even on that data set) is going to be noise. As demonstrated when Mr. X was able to reverse the findings using a slightly different definition of theistic belief.

          • Troy says:

            If by “prior judgment of plausibility” you mean reasonable inferences from background knowledge, I agree.

            Clearly part of what is under dispute is whether these judgments are reasonable. I think that pointing to neighboring domains and examining what we know about causal mechanisms there is one of the best ways to make predictions about what we should expect in a domain.

            If you mean it to include whatever weird prejudices you’ve picked up over the years, you’re pointing to a flaw in Bayesian epistemology, not a reason for trusting the weird prejudices.

            If you don’t accept probability theory as a logic of plausible inference, then this is a large epistemological gap between us, but probably not one it’s worth getting into here.

            That’s great. How do we know that your judgments of plausibility are rational and not motivated by superstition or intransigence?

            I’ve given the bases of most of my plausibility judgments in earlier discussion.

            Which? Where?

            I was referring to the wide-scale sociological/historical studies, such as the one on hell and Woodberry’s “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” I’ll also add the roughly contemporaneous decline in both churchgoing and social networks in the United States, inasmuch as it’s not plausible that people’s personalities were changing en masse (though if you know of any studies of that, that would be interesting to examine!).

            You haven’t shown causation in the first place. What evidence do you have that churches create more social ties than there would be in the absence of churches?

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. This was an argument for causation, not one taking causation as a premise. I said “we certainly know from observational studies (e.g., Robert Putnam’s American Grace) that religious involvement correlates with more extensive social networks. And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks.” My point was that we know that A and B are correlated, and that it’s not plausible that this correlation is explained by a common cause or by B causing A. The only remaining explanation is that A causes B.

            Another problem with believing in just-so stories is that you can’t evaluate the plausibility of explanations you haven’t considered or where you lack the relevant background knowledge.

            This is a problem for science, not just “just-so stories.” It’s a fully general argument for skepticism, because there are always explanations you haven’t considered and areas where you lack the relevant background knowledge. Of course we should try to gain more relevant background knowledge when possible, and so I thank you for the paper, which I will try to read.

            The spread on the Baltic states is much larger, at 18% for Estonia versus 47% for Lithuania.

            There’s no apparent correlation on the report you link to, but on the aforementioned Wikipedia happiness ordering, belief in God correlates exactly with their happiness ordering. These appear to be the same report from different years (yours 2013, Wikipedia’s 2016). The 2015 report goes Lithuania-Estonia-Latvia, a partial correlation. I can’t find the equivalent data on the 2012 report.

            I still think this is probably not indicative of anything, though, because there are so many confounders, and as Jaskologist observes, the sample size is small.

            I direct you to my response, earlier, to similar concerns:

            “The explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. …”

            I don’t see how this addresses the concern that studies (or mere eyeballing, as we are doing here) comparing different countries will have more serious confounders than studies comparing different individuals. If I’m right that the risk of confounding in studies comparing different countries is very high, then that something like (2) should be the case is fairly likely. (I don’t know why you attribute (3) to me, since I haven’t defended any kind of general Cartesian-demon style skeptical scenario regarding the measurement of the different variables in question, and have in fact argued, in the course of giving reasons for (1), that in some cases we can tease out the different variables.)

            On the particular issue of similar levels of happiness in Nordic and Baltic countries, I still haven’t seen any data on whether there’s substantial variation in churchgoing among these countries, and so I don’t know whether there’s even a prima facie problem here. Churchgoing generally correlates with theistic belief, but with the spreads here I wouldn’t be confident without seeing numbers on the actual variable of interest.

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States.

            They have different governments and different laws. Presumably those are things that can make a big difference to happiness.

            Hell’s bells, part of your rationale for why we don’t need to worry about confounding by personality variables is an anecdote also confounded by personality variables! Have you considered that the friends who stopped going to church wound up with smaller social networks because both of these things are just ways of measuring extroversion?

            Most of the friends of whom I am thinking stopped going because they were atheists. But even if they did stop going because they weren’t extroverted, the fact that their social networks reduced, when presumably their introversion did not, would still suggest that their social networks reduced due to the thing that changed, namely their church attendance.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Jaskologists

            You’re talking about a sample of ~4.

            Both the happiness and religiosity data are based on samples of around 1000 respondents per country. We just have the data aggregated into four groups. There would be no trouble inferring from a comparison of the aggregated data for Somalia, Yemen, Norway and Sweden that inhabitants of a Scandinavian social democracy are happier than inhabitants of a failed state ruled by tribal warlords.

            @ Troy

            My point was that we know that A and B are correlated, and that it’s not plausible that this correlation is explained by a common cause or by B causing A.

            Oh, well in that case, you’re just mistaken. It’s quite plausible that extroversion could account for both church-attendance and size of social circle.

            The 2015 report goes Lithuania-Estonia-Latvia, a partial correlation.

            You’re reading way too much into minuscule differences between the countries. The point is that they’re all pretty much identical. As it happens, you’re also wrong about the 2013 data for the Baltic states, where the correlation between % theist and UN happiness score is ever-so-slightly negative:

            Estonia (18%, 5.426)
            Lithuania (47%, 5.426)
            Latvia (38%, 5.046)

            You are committed to the view that your hypothetical common cause of atheism and happiness perfectly mimics the happiness-promoting powers of the church. In particular, it exactly cancels out the effects of the large disparity in religiosity between Estonia and Lithuania, to the fourth significant figure. How plausible is this?

            They have different governments and different laws.

            So do US states. Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska. Your reasons for distrusting international comparisons are a fortiori reasons for distrusting the original studies you based your belief on.

            But even if they did stop going because they weren’t extroverted, the fact that their social networks reduced, when presumably their introversion did not, would still suggest that their social networks reduced due to the thing that changed, namely their church attendance.

            From your description, it sounds like their parents forced them to go to church when they were young, but as soon as they acquired some measure of autonomy they elected to stop going. This could very well be the effects of personality exerting themselves. But I’m not really interested in analyzing anecdotes about your own life. Your conclusions do not seem to have been arrived at on the basis of reliable methods, just strings of correlational studies with glaring confounds connected by tendentious speculation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Speaking of organised religion, 78% of Danes, 75% of Norwegians and 65% of Swedes are members of their respective state Churches, as opposed to less than 50% of Englishmen (via Wiki). According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest out of these four countries, followed by Norway, followed by Sweden, followed by the UK. Oh, looks like religion is correlated with happiness after all.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            –Membership in official state churches is not a useful proxy for anything. In some countries, newborn children whose parents are members of the state church are automatically enrolled.

            –Membership in the Church of England is actually much lower than the figure you quote, between 17%-38% depending on the measure used. This is because the UK has large populations of Presbyterians, Catholics, dissenters, and Muslims, while Scandinavia is overwhelmingly Lutheran (the Baltics are a mixture of Lutheran and Catholic).

            –This is not a game of cherrypicking data from whichever countries give you the results you want. The four Scandinavian and three Baltic states are uniquely similar in terms of history, government, wealth, demographics, and culture, making them an especially fertile proving ground for sociological hypotheses. It is also clear from the full maps of Europe that there’s going to be a negative correlation between religiosity and UN happiness scores, although I think this will be too confounded to be of much use.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There are inevitably going to be some, although your analogy is terrible– the Scandinavian countries (nevermind Iceland) all fall within a 8 percentage point range so far as urbanization goes, the Baltic nations a 3-point range.

            Oh well, good job that urbanisation is the only possible cultural variable between different regions, then.

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States. […] Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska.

            If you want to show that there are no confounding variables affecting the findings, you’ll need to do better than your gut instinct about a bunch of foreign countries you’ve apparently never lived in.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You are free to look up statistics on the Scandinavian and Baltic countries yourself. You will see that they are indeed nearly identical in all of the respects mentioned. There are a few stray differences (Norway’s oil wealth, Denmark’s population density, Lithuania’s Catholicism), but all things considered you couldn’t ask for a better natural experiment.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            –Membership in official state churches is not a useful proxy for anything.

            This comment got me thinking. If we’re trying to look at the effects organised religion has, then the number of people who tick “believe in God” on a survey is at least as bad a proxy as the number of people who notionally belong to their country’s official Church. Much better would be the percentage of people who regularly attend religious services.

            So I went and Googled it, and as best as I can tell, this is the approximate number of people who attend Sunday services:

            Denmark — 2.4%
            Norway — 2%
            Sweden — 2%
            Finland — 1.8%

            So, in terms of actual regular attendance, the difference between the most and least religious Scandinavian countries is only 0.6% — a low enough figure that I’m not at all sure that any effects on happiness levels resulting from religious variations would be detectable over the statistical noise.

            Tl;dr: Contrary to what you said earlier, no, the Scandinavian countries do not “vary substantially when it comes to religiosity”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            By the way, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ information website has a page about the influence of religion in Denmark:

            Compared with most other countries in the world, Denmark’s societal institutions and popular mentality have been shaped by Christianity to an exceptional degree. It can be asserted that religion is more firmly entrenched in Danish society than in many other countries.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The figure you’re citing is the percentage of the population which never misses church. What we want are the responses to this question, but I can’t get access to them anywhere.

          • Troy says:

            @Earthly Knight:

            Oh, well in that case, you’re just mistaken. It’s quite plausible that extroversion could account for both church-attendance and size of social circle.

            I think we’re reaching the point in the conversation where iterated commenting in these boxes is becoming unhelpful, because seeing the original context of a thread requires going back several comments, and instead we’re replying to particular comments without that context, which is leading us to go in circles.

            In this particular case, you can see what I was getting at by extending the quote from last comment: “And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks. [For example, o]ne’s involvement in a church youth group is obviously a result of one’s churchgoing, inasmuch as the group only exists because of the church.” In other words, I was not denying, and I do not deny, that one common cause of social networks and churchgoing in general is personality factors like extroversion. My point was that churches must also be a partial cause of greater social networks because some of the social networks that only church members are a part of, like church youth groups, are ones that are obviously effects of church membership.

            Just to avoid retreading more of the same ground by prompting another response I’ve already replied to: I made this comment in response to the claim that we did not have “reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties.” This was prior to my response to your later point that we should look not just at whether churchgoing creates new social ties but also whether equally strong/extensive social ties would be created among those not going to church. So I wasn’t addressing that latter point here, although I agree that it’s a fair one. I then explained why I thought that is not the case in this comment.

            So do US states. Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska. Your reasons for distrusting international comparisons are a fortiori reasons for distrusting the original studies you based your belief on.

            I’ve been expressing skepticism about drawing strong conclusions from comparisons of the different Scandinavian (or Baltic) countries. As far as I know I haven’t referenced a single study based on comparing different states, which would be the analogue of this.

            You are committed to the view that your hypothetical common cause of atheism and happiness perfectly mimics the happiness-promoting powers of the church. In particular, it exactly cancels out the effects of the large disparity in religiosity between Estonia and Lithuania, to the fourth significant figure. How plausible is this?

            Since these figures vary from year to year, it doesn’t seem surprising at all that in a particular year two states would have nearly identical figures. Presumably after the first significant digit, the remaining closeness is largely due to contingent circumstances that vary between the countries, perhaps from year to year. If there really are large differences in churchgoing within these groups — which I am still doubtful of — the baseline closeness may be somewhat surprising on the “religion causes happiness” hypothesis, but again, this is just one case (or two cases, if there are also large differences in Scandinavia). It’s far from a silver bullet.

            From your description, it sounds like their parents forced them to go to church when they were young, but as soon as they acquired some measure of autonomy they elected to stop going. This could very well be the effects of personality exerting themselves.

            The example would still be one in which not going to church leads to fewer social networks.

            The figure you’re citing is the percentage of the population which never misses church. What we want are the responses to this question, but I can’t get access to them anywhere.

            I agree that the data you’re after there would be the best, but I’m confident that Mr. X’s data, which is actually on churchgoing, correlates more strongly with this more fine-grained churchgoing data than does percentage of the country which believes in God.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ve been expressing skepticism about drawing strong conclusions from comparisons of the different Scandinavian (or Baltic) countries. As far as I know I haven’t referenced a single study based on comparing different states, which would be the analogue of this.

            No, a study of individual churchgoing with a sample drawn at random from the US population will be subject to exactly the same confounds, unless (a) geographical region and state are controlled for, or (b) geographical region and state are uncorrelated with church attendance (which we know going in is false). I’ve chosen to highlight personality variables because failure to control for them means your studies can’t possibly support the causal inferences you want. But there are going to be a lot of other problems, too.

            It’s far from a silver bullet.

            That’s fine– the correlational studies you’ve been alluding to are the evidential equivalent of safety scissors. The burden of proof on the religion-causes-happiness hypothesis has not been discharged: its apparent failure to explain real-world outcomes weighs against it, while the only evidence in its favor is hopelessly confounded and worthless.

            I’m confident that Mr. X’s data, which is actually on churchgoing, correlates more strongly with this more fine-grained churchgoing data than does percentage of the country which believes in God.

            You shouldn’t be. The numbers are so small that it’s all going to be noise.

        • SP says:

          @Earthly Knight

          Your last comment on this thread (timestamp 6:32am) seems hostile. Am I reading you right?

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      With apologies for spreading out over several comments what could have been said in one, I think something deBoer misses is the difference between “atheism as it is practiced in society as a whole” and “atheism as it is practiced in elite intellectual discourse”. In America at large, let alone the world, atheists are less aggressively evangelistic on the matter of their atheism than religious people can be the matter of their theism. Among the book-writing and seminar-teaching classes, however, it is often the other way around. I don’t think (though I am open to being corrected) that you will find the likes of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and John Haldane arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships, as Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian and Christopher Hitchens respectively have done about the Christian faith. These civilised men have never harmed believers, of course, but the obscurant intensity of their antitheism is important because they are (or were) well-placed to influence the culture. Campus bible bashers rarely have that power.

      • Troy says:

        In fairness, the atheistic counterparts to Plantinga, Swinburne, and Haldane are other philosophers, like John Mackie, William Rowe, Evan Fales, Bradley Monton, Graham Oppy, and Michael Ruse. These philosophers are generally careful, civil and charitable in their criticisms of theism, and not given to silly excesses of the above sort.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well, the religious counterparts of Dawkins et al. would presumably be authors of popularising religious books, like William Lane Craig or Alastair McGrath. I don’t recall any of them saying that atheism is a mental illness or that raising a child atheist is worse than molesting them.

          • Troy says:

            Fair enough. There may be less scholarly popular religious works that say equally silly stuff about atheism; I don’t read enough of that genre to now. But, on the other hand, Dawkins et al. are largely scientists, or at least educated men, who one would expect to know better (unlike, say, the author of The Shack — which I haven’t read and know virtually nothing about, but was the first non-scholarly popular Christian book to jump into my mind).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            That comment seems very incorrect to me.
            Edit: I removed a sarcastic characterization of the comment.

            Belief that the ills of the world are brought about by failure to worship God correctly is one of the classic hallmarks of conservative religious belief. All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

          • Agronomous says:

            All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

            We are now much more enlightened, and know that hurricanes and earthquakes are natural disasters and are not caused by unbelievers and apostates.

            Except the catastrophic-anthropogenic-climate-change unbelievers, who cause hurricanes, and the fracking apostates, who cause earthquakes.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Belief that the ills of the world are brought about by failure to worship God correctly is one of the classic hallmarks of conservative religious belief. All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

            That’s an interesting use of the passive voice. Laid at by whom, exactly?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @Agronomous:

            Hey, if it wasn’t for all those pesky religious people with their anti-science ways, we could have come up with ways to solve global warming already.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Well, it’s fairly bog-standard for conservative, fundamentalist religious figures to blame disasters on the actions of people who don’t worship in the proper way.

            This is by no means merely a Christian thing. I’m sure we could find Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. examples.

            If you explore the topic of theodicy, you realize that this used to be the common explanation for bad things. You didn’t sacrifice the right lamb, worshipped a golden calf, worked on the Sabbath, etc. God made bad things happen because humans did not follow his law. The followers of the Greek, Roman, Norse, etc. gods had much the same take on things.

            Once the idea of a triple-omni God comes in, then you start to need different explanations for why bad things happen (like free will), but there are still plenty of appeals to the old way of thinking.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well, it’s fairly bog-standard for conservative, fundamentalist religious figures to blame disasters on the actions of people who don’t worship in the proper way.

            That’s a couple of people blaming disasters on abortion, and one on gay marriage. None of them mention “people who don’t worship in the proper way”, let alone blame them for anything.

            Plus, people like Richard Dawkins and Peter Boghossian are (allegedly) serious and respectable academics, albeit ones who write for a popular audience, so a proper comparison would be with serious and respectable religious academics, not televangelists.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            This is a strange argument. Dawkins isn’t writing peer reviewed papers on Islam. That isn’t his field. The fact that he is a scientist in another discipline doesn’t make him a theologian, and if there is any field of study that would apply it would be theology. This is a selective demand for rigor.

            Dawkins, Hitchens, et. al.’s relationship to atheism is the same as any purveyor of popular ideas to the masses to their subject. I mean, Pat Robertson even has a Masters in Divinity …

            Raging against secularism is practically a cottage industry in the US. I’m not sure why you are trying to deny that.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well, let’s see what BD Sixsmith’s post which started off the conversation:

            In America at large, let alone the world, atheists are less aggressively evangelistic on the matter of their atheism than religious people can be the matter of their theism. Among the book-writing and seminar-teaching classes, however, it is often the other way around. I don’t think (though I am open to being corrected) that you will find the likes of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and John Haldane arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships, as Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian and Christopher Hitchens respectively have done about the Christian faith. These civilised men have never harmed believers, of course, but the obscurant intensity of their antitheism is important because they are (or were) well-placed to influence the culture. Campus bible bashers rarely have that power.

            So we aren’t talking about just “raging about” religion or secularism. Saying that religion is more harmful than child abuse, that it’s a type of mental illness, or that its adherents deserve to be massacred by totalitarian dictatorships is a step above saying that religion is wrong or socially harmful. So far, you haven’t been able to come up with evidence of anybody — let alone the “book-writing and seminar-teaching classes”, who ought really to be more rational and level-headed than the general public — saying such things about atheism, and I doubt you’ll be able to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Bill Donohue is the head The Catholic League, does he count?

            But Dawkins et. al. are evangelists for atheism, and that’s roughly all they are. They are popular figures who promote the idea of Atheism. And there are not many of them. It’s quite unfair to then pick out the largest class of proponents of religion and exempt them from scrutiny.

            The other thing to point out is that atheist writing, by definition, can only be anti-theism, there isn’t any actual theology to promote. So you will be able to find hundreds of thousands of pro-religious books, and the anti-secularism points will be hidden by simply being one part of the whole.

            Finally, my Catholic grandfather refused to come to our wedding and said our children were going to burn in hell because I had Lutheran minister (who also happens to be my uncle). He didn’t even know I was an atheist. That is an accusation of the ultimate child abuse, it’s just so incredibly normalized you don’t even recognize it for what it is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Bill Donohue is the head The Catholic League, does he count?

            I dunno. Does he ever call for atheism to be treated like child abuse, or praise totalitarian regimes for killing their atheist citizens?

            But Dawkins et. al. are evangelists for atheism, and that’s roughly all they are. They are popular figures who promote the idea of Atheism. And there are not many of them. It’s quite unfair to then pick out the largest class of proponents of religion and exempt them from scrutiny.

            The whole point of this sub-thread was to compare like with like. Dawkins et al. are, as Troy said, “largely scientists, or at least educated men, who one would expect to know better”. So, the appropriate comparison would be to religious intellectuals. Comparing them to some random televangelist is like comparing a professional philosopher writing for other professional philosophers — like, I don’t know, Plantinga or Foot — to a populariser like Dawkins, and then concluding that, because the philosopher’s writing is more intellectually sophisticated or less pugnacious, therefore theists are better than atheists.

            The other thing to point out is that atheist writing, by definition, can only be anti-theism, there isn’t any actual theology to promote. So you will be able to find hundreds of thousands of pro-religious books, and the anti-secularism points will be hidden by simply being one part of the whole.

            Shifting the goalposts. The thread isn’t about general “anti-secularism points”, but about “arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships”. Can you find anybody with a prominence even comparable to that of Dawkins or Hitchens making these claims?

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        Disclaimer: I’m an atheist, ex-Catholic

        I interpret this as a difference in power rather than anything inherent to the positions. Between Christianity and atheism, atheism has the upper hand in mainstream culture; thus, popular Christian work tends to be more civil while popular atheist work is more relaxed on that front. To my mind, this is because people holding the Christian position need to put their best foot forward to convince an opposed audience, while the atheist needs only to convince the already largely secular audience that Christianity is horrible and that Christian views should be pushed out of the Overton Window.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Interesting theory, although new atheists tend also to portray themselves as a bunch of plucky underdogs bravely fighting to overcome the fanatical hordes threatening to plunge us into a dark age of superstition. I suppose that might just be a rhetorical ploy, though.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Yeah, I’ve witnessed what you’re describing on both sides, and I always map it to a bravery debate. I’ve noticed it most in intra-tribe communications, while it’s more subdued if not more rare in literature directed at the public.

        • Nornagest says:

          Secularity has the upper hand in mainstream culture vs. religiosity, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing as saying that atheism has the upper hand vs. Christianity.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            I tend to agree. However, I’d claim that the target audience for atheists of Dawkins’ stripe includes both ‘angry atheists’, who buy the book but are already convinced, and more importantly relatively secular non-‘angry atheists’. The goal is to portray the atheist position as a righteous anger at religion pushing its nose in everywhere, for someone who knows of religion and may already be somewhat disaffected, but doesn’t have a huge list of grievances. The audience is expected to be neutral to positive towards the book. The message is “Look at the bad things that have happened; this ideology is a failure.”

            Whereas for christians, the audience is also people who are secular and/or disaffected, and so the tone is more polite because they’re expecting the audience to already be at least mildly opposed to Christianity. The meaning of the argument is supplemented by the tone: “Look how reasonably I’m presenting my viewpoint; I’m not the monster you think I am.”

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think far too many people who live in progressive urban enclaves and live online have developed this fantasy that angry atheists are as prevalent, powerful, and toxic as the worst elements of religion. And I just don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of reality

      Is the Chinese government not powerful and toxic? Because last I checked they were still explicitly atheist. Still jailing believers because of it, too.

      And let’s not forget the conduct of all those other communist countries as well, and the actions they took based on their “scientific atheism.” This isn’t ancient history.

      I’m sure there are ways to explain all that away as not being True Atheism, but at least make the attempt to explain it away. That’s my chief complaint with most of these anti-theism rants; no baseline of comparison is given. So far, history seems to show that when you sweep away religion, all the bad things you blamed on religion get way, way worse. At least show that you’ve grappled with the historical record instead of ignored it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Private citizens differ, in important ways, from government bodies. Similarly, a Richard Dawkins has somewhat less power to limit my religious practices than does the government of China (assuming I am a Chinese national).

      • birdboy2000 says:

        China jails members of specific religious movements which the government believes (rightly or wrongly) threaten the state. This is something amazingly common for governments to do and the fact that thiis particular government happens to be atheist plays little role in the matter; China (like many empires) did the same thing long before communism. It’s also not all that similar to persecuting believers as believers.

        (That said I agree with you on the broader point about the general quality of most antitheist rants, and that a lot of things blamed on religion would happen without it anyway, albeit in different ways.)

  45. Alex Zavoluk says:

    ” There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years”

    Sandy?

    • pku says:

      Sandy was only a tropical storm when it made landfall. A major hurricane is defined as something that’s a category 3 or higher hurricane when making landfall (A definition just arbitrary enough that I’m inclined to regard this as a coincidence).

      • The Nybbler says:

        Sandy was neither a tropical storm nor a hurricane at landfall. It was a post-tropical cyclone. It still had the wind speed of a Category 1 hurricane, but it was no longer “tropical”. This interesting meteorological fact did not change the amount of damage its winds caused.

        Sandy had an unusually low central pressure and an unusually large storm surge (almost 9.5′ at the Battery in Manhattan) for a storm of its size. Hitting at high tide of course made it worse.

        But the definition of tropical storm categories is based entirely on wind speed, so even if it had not “gone extratropical” shortly prior to landfall, it would not have been a major hurricane.

    • bluto says:

      Not even a hurricane when it made landfall. It did lots of costly damage because it struck a wealthy city with significant underground infastructure, coincidentally with an incoming tide, that wasn’t as well prepared for a tropical storm strength storm.

      The definition for major hurricane is category 3 at landfall.

    • LPSP says:

      No, windy.

  46. Troy says:

    Possibly the best thing on Twitter: this bot finds posts unintentionally written in iambic pentameter, and then rewteets them to rhyme: https://twitter.com/pentametron?lang=en

  47. Tekhno says:

    EDIT: Meant to go in Open Thread. Sorry.

    • Anon. says:

      Well, Hitler allied with the Japanese, right? I think we can safely infer that he would love anime. He also didn’t have any kids. So he fits “Childless Single Men Who Masturbate to Anime” pretty well. Hitler would love the alt-right.

  48. FooQuuxman says:

    Are we allowed to breathlessly plug stuff? Because I’ve been turned into a memebot who must breathlessly plug something.

    If you like puzzle games, or AI stories, or non-in-your-face-pretentious basic philosophy, you should go play The Talos Principle. It is available for Linux/PC/Mac/Ps4/Android. And is really really good. The philosophy won’t blow the mind of anyone who would spend time here, but the execution is fantastic.

    The gameplay is good, and I’m not even all that fond of puzzle games.
    The story is good sci-fi, and actually gives a compelling reason for why you are solving these puzzles.
    The two main endings are: (1: Good in a “totally called that, because that is exactly what should happen” way), and (2: Good because it pays off all of the buildup throughout the game, and storywise before the beginning of the game as well).
    The game makes excellent use of visual storytelling when relevant. The first reveal can be discovered within a couple minutes if the player is paying attention.
    The soundtrack is glorious.
    The “success” ending is easily on par with ME2’s Suicide Mission for shear grin inducing epicness.
    I don’t think this story could be done as well in another medium. You could do something very close, but not this story.
    There is an easter egg with a kitten. You don’t want to be known as a kitten hater do you?

    Please play The Talos Principle. The memebot needs you, it looks up to you.

    • roystgnr says:

      I’ve actually put down The Talos Principle halfway through; the phrase “easily on par with ME2’s Suicide Mission” may convince me to come back, though.

      It started to feel a bit repetitive to me, but more critically, it felt “a lot like Portal but not quite as good”; this would still have been an incredible compliment if Portal and Portal 2 had never existed, but they do and so it felt derivative.

      • FooQuuxman says:

        It’s worth noting that the wonder of the ending is going to depend quite a bit on how invested you are in the story. It also helps if you are a sucker for plots where many different threads start lining up[1], or for a certain trope which I can’t say without spoiling the story for others because it is the core of the plot :-/ (if you are half way through it should be obvious what one I’m talking about).

        [1]: The multi-kick scene near the end of Inception, or positioning the characters at the end of Revenge of the Sith being useful examples.

    • LPSP says:

      Let me finish A Metroid 2 Remake by tommorrow or so, and I’ll get round to it.

    • I also played and enjoyed The Talos Principle. I personally found one or two puzzle solutions to be unfair, in that the game normally does a great job of leading you through how you can interact with world elements but sometimes sneaks an extra method in without drawing attention to it, but keeping this in mind and looking for features that would be sequence-break-y can actually lead you to intended secrets and shortcuts in this game.

      I need to replay this and pick up the Serious Voice Pack at some point.

    • Vitor says:

      Well, this is a link thread, it’s doesn’t exist just to discuss Scott’s picks, I hope.

      I’m not surprised to hear that The Talos Principle is good, it has been on my to-play list for a while actually. The writer for the game, Jonas Kyratzes, is an indie game dev and writer who has created lots of weird and wonderful things.

  49. William O. B'Livion says:

    > IF you’re anxiously awaiting Civilization 6, there’s a good compendium of all available information
    > about the game here.

    I’m still playing version 2.

    • roystgnr says:

      If you have a slightly-decent video card, you should try 4 with its expansions. IMHO it had everything that was right about 2 but with the incentives for Infinite City Sprawl removed and with several interesting gameplay mechanics added.

      I’m playing 5 right now and I played 3 before, and both are good games with their own pros and cons, but except for the unnecessarily bloated system requirements 4 was strictly better than 2.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        My “main” computer is a 27″ iMac from 2009.

        I’m waiting for it to cool off to start using this old Dell I have, but I’ve already got 3 computers running on my desk, the keyboard and mouse logistics for 4 is a little difficult.

  50. The original Mr. X says:

    r/evilbuildings

    Do they include that house in Wales that looks like Adolf Hitler?

  51. TK-421 says:

    The hurricane article says major hurricanes are “storms with 111 mph winds or stronger”. While that’s a convenient metric for meteorologists, I wonder how good a proxy it is for the ultimate severity of the storm’s effects. If you took all the hurricanes from the same time period and compared the cost of the damage they each caused (adjusted for inflation, and maybe normalized as percent of GDP or something), would that metric show any interestingly different behavior?

    Assuming the lower frequency of high wind-speed storms is a real effect and not just a statistical jiggle, my completely uninformed and off-the-cuff hypothesis is: higher variability of weather patterns makes it harder for strong storms to organize and persist stably, so they end up burning themselves out faster.

    • bluto says:

      I think having a windspeed standard is usefull because a storm damage index can be biased by weaker storms doing more damage because they’re hitting ill prepared areas. If city A has building code that is intended to survive the median storm with 120mph winds and city B has bulding code to survive only 35mph winds there could be a significant increase in inflation adjusted storm damage because a typical 115mph wind storm hit city B instead of city A or opposite if the storm hits city A.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Well, that and a lot of hurricanes just blow themselves out at sea without ever hitting land.

        Category 5s that just go in circles in the mid-atlantic do a lot less damage than a category one that hits a populated area.

  52. hlynkacg says:

    It may seem a little weird considering the state of modern “fast food” but Colonel Sanders had a famously low opinion to frozen/pre-packaged food.

    The “wallpaper paste” comment was his purported response to learning that KFC’s corporate leadership had decided that the restaurants would no longer make their gravy “in house”.