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

OT58: Opepipen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Comments of the week include Katja Grace on Economics Whack-A-Mole and dtsund on the evolutionary complexity argument in politics, grendelkhan on Nexium, Emirikol on the degree to which overpriced generics subsidize research, and especially Corey on how the government might save money by funding all drug research.

2. Marginal Revolution also gives a cute story about an FDA bureaucrat (but see also).

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1,336 Responses to OT58: Opepipen Thread

  1. Daniel says:

    What industries are the most ripe for dynamic pricing?

    Restaurants? movie theatres?

    Bars? (or reverse surge charges on the weekend to bring about network effects).

    I know that parking has some dynamic pricing, but it really should be much more common.

    I’m surprised that dynamic pricing has not made a greater impact, but im sure there’s still some low hanging fruit.

    • Chris says:

      Bars? (or reverse surge charges on the weekend to bring about network effects)

      Happy hours at bars are dynamic pricing. Theaters have matinees, although I admit it’s a puzzle to me there isn’t more of it there.

      • There are also a large number of coupons for restaurants that are only applicable on non-peak week-days.

      • BunnyGo says:

        Theaters aren’t allowed to flexibly price movies too much. The theaters would almost be happy giving away tickets, since half goes to the studio anyways and the theater makes more money on concessions (with huge markups they don’t share). But the studios would be pissed if they did, so there are contracts on pricing, etc.

        • LHN says:

          My understanding is the theater gets a bigger percentage of the gate as the run goes on, so as demand (usually) drops they have more of an incentive to continue charging even aside from the contract.

          And of course there are ways of effectively giving away tickets: theater loyalty programs that give passes (not to be used on blockbusters during their opening weeks) to frequent viewers, heavily discounted tickets for organizations to resell (many colleges have cheap tickets available for one or another chain), etc.

    • Odoacer says:

      There is a bar in Austin that charges different prices for beer based on how popular a beer is at that time.

      http://brewexchangeaustin.com/

    • Gazeboist says:

      Restaurants usually have dynamic pricing for foods that change price a great deal, like fish. They also typically have rotating specials, and could probably get away with varying the pricing. Oh, and I know a pizza chain in my area that gives out a free one-person pizza with a drink and a calzone/stromboli if you order after 9:00 at night (a special so bizarre that my friends and I assumed the cooks had just made a mistake the first time it happened).

    • Mary says:

      Those with the highest ticket items and the most information about the customer’s ability to pay.

      Colleges, for instance. Where you have to tell them your family’s finances to apply for financial aid.

      • Alliteration says:

        So does this mean colleges should give discounts to people who do summer courses?

        • Mary says:

          Maybe they do.

        • NL says:

          I know several public universities that do this

        • Throwaway says:

          Summer courses at UC Berkeley are dramatically cheaper. This is mostly because summer courses are exempt from the additional out-of-state tuition for some reason. Also the summer classes are priced per-unit, while during the main semesters you pay a flat rate tuition. So it seems the price difference has more to do with general bureaucratic inconsistency than a conscious effort to maximize utilization of lecture halls.

          Some numbers:
          This summer I took 10 units. 6 units is considered full time over the summer, for scale. The tuition before financial aid would’ve been about 4500 dollars, or ~450/unit.

          This fall I’m taking 17 units. 13 units is considered full time over the fall. The tuition before financial aid would be 20,000 dollars, which includes a 13,000 out-of-state fee. So ~1200 per unit.

    • Wrong Species says:

      There is a fine line between dynamic pricing and discrimination. Any business is necessarily going to tread carefully.

      • nelshoy says:

        How do hospitals get away with it? People or their insurances can be charged an order of magnitude more for the same procedures depending on a bunch of esoteric I’m not sure anyone fully understands. You’d think some advocacy group or another would find out they’re overpaying and raise a big ruckus over it.

        • Brian Slesinsky says:

          As I understand it (and I’m not a lawyer), only discrimination based on membership in certain protected classes [1] is against U.S. law. Discriminate for any other reason and it’s fine – unless it might be a proxy for a protected class, and then it’s a grey area that keeps lawyers in business.

          [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_class

          • Mary says:

            You’re right.

          • Trevor says:

            Charging people different prices for the same good or service is technically illegal under US law, but the law is not enforced and there is a lot of wiggle room in terms of determining if a good is really “the same”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Trevor-

            Charging people different prices for the same good or service is technically illegal under US law

            You’re talking about a general principle here, unrelated to whether there are protected classes involved? This would really surprise me a lot. Can you give me a citation?

      • Mary says:

        A fine line? All dynamic pricing is by definition discrimination.

        The problem is whether it’s illegal, and whether it’s going to be PR nightmare. Like the way Amazon gave different prices based on your browsing history once — dynamic pricing, discrimination, perfectly legal, PR nightmare.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      I’ve often wondered about something related to this: Are discounted movie tickets for students an example of the private sector taking on some of the role of wealth redistribution instead of the Government?

      Or is it just a substitute for haggling? I.e students have less money but you still want to sell tickets to them, so you know that if you were to haggle over the price they would be willing to pay less. So you set the price lower in the first place because you don’t actually want to haggle, but you still make more money this way than not selling it to them at all.

      It seems like a clear example of supply and demand not being the only thing setting a price. If the stakes were higher, savvy students would be buying up discounted tickets and selling them to non-students at some intermediate price. But that doesn’t happen, so there is not a single price resulting from the equilibrium of supply and demand.

      Yeah, I think probably discounted tickets for students are a substitute for haggling. And normal free-market rhetoric about there being one price that’s set by supply and demand doesn’t work because the goods are not easily transferable.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s just price discrimination, dude. Like, it might take until Economics 102 before you talk about it, but this is not something that economists are baffled by.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          I don’t study economics and I don’t assume that economists are baffled by something just because I don’t immediately understand it—I’m just wondering how *I* should think about it, and am happy for people who know more about economics to tell me how it’s generally understood.

          Anyway now I’ve googled price discrimination now and watched a slick khan academy video, so I understand it a bit better.

          Still though, my point before I read up on it made sense: it’s a phenomenon that relies on consumers having imperfect information or goods not being easily transferable, which is nice to see because some ideologues like to think of markets in such a way that price discrimination would be impossible. So its existence is evidence of market inefficiency, which is cool to see.

          It is also kind of cool because it redistributes wealth/income to some extent. So that’s interesting, because one doesn’t normally think of markets as doing this.

          I’m not claiming to be saying anything new here, but if it’s new to me then it probably is to others like me, regardless of how well understood by economists it is.

      • Mary says:

        It means you can hire people who aren’t competent at haggling to work the ticket booth.

        Basically, since the ticket only must cover their variable cost — not high, for movies! — they calculate it will maximize their take for their fixed costs.

      • Emma Casey says:

        >the private sector taking on some of the role of wealth redistribution instead of the Government?

        General rule that I find helps me thinking about economics:

        If your hypothesis is that a company is persuing a social goal at the expense of its own profits then you’ve missed an important part of the story.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Of course companies don’t generally intentionally do things that hurt their profits.

          But companies do “moral” things all the time because it helps their image and leads to higher profits in the end. So them doing something for social good is not necessarily at odds with them being ruthless profit seeking machines.

          • Emma Casey says:

            Oh I totally agree. The point is if you have the theory “they’re doing wealth distribution” your mind should jump to the followup question “what PR benefit are they getting from doing that”?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        It’s the private sector looking to improve its profits through increased amount of customers, better PR, anything. It being or not being wealth distribution is incidental. I suppose you could answer the question of whether it’s wealth distribution or haggling with ‘both’; either way, it’s rather value neutral.

    • Hmm?

      Dynamic pricing is very common in everyday life. In fact, its so common it has become invisible. One example I can think of is the airline industry, which structured peoples varying ability to pay for the same good by adding some cheap frills for those willing to pay 2x+ as much for the same fundamental good. Same with cars, computers.

      With parking its everywhere too, with different rates for different times of day. Its usually at most 2 different prices for morning and afternoon to keep it simple.

      Dynamic pricing is practiced in every town and city, with gas costing something else for each town, and the same product varying by several bucks or more at each walmart.

      or medicine across countries.

      If it seems “invisible” I think its due to 2 reasons.

      1. Its so ubiquitous that its no longer noticed

      2. Certain super blatant attempts are rejected by the typical population. People prefer at least a flashy coat of paint on the same good to make it not obvious.

    • Rob says:

      I’m doing an economics PhD and have spent some time thinking about dynamic pricing.

      One of the big limitations is that dynamic pricing often provokes strong feelings of moral outrage. You have to trade off how much more money you’d make from the dynamic pricing vs. how much bad publicity / bad reputation will hurt. In addition there’s the additional inconvenience to you of keeping track of the flexible prices and annoyance from customers who have a harder time planning how much they’ll pay.
      e.g.
      Amazon ends personalized dynamic pricing
      Uber in “hot water”
      Orbitz charges mac users more

      It’s also worth thinking about what kind of dynamic pricing you have in mind.
      e.g. prices personalized to each buyer (big consulting projects, college financial aid)
      prices that vary by general characteristics of the buyer (senior discounts, ladies nights)
      prices that vary at set times of day / day of week (movie matinees, bar happy hours)
      prices that dynamically vary based on supply and demand (uber, some parking lots)

      • The obvious way reducing bad public relations is by putting it in terms of discounts rather than surcharges. Our normal prices are on the menu. But on weekday nights before six we offer a special 20% discount for customers who help us fill the empty seats.

        The version of the puzzle that intrigues me is the existence of predictable lines. Everyone knows that if you go to that restaurant on a Friday evening, you have to wait half an hour to get in. The half hour wait is the equivalent to (say) an extra ten dollars, reduces quantity demanded by the same amount. So if you raised prices by ten dollars the line would go to about zero, the cost of dinner to the patrons would be unchanged, with a cost in money substituting for a cost in time, and the restaurant would make more money.

        Why don’t they do it–presenting it, of course, as a discount on the other nights?

        • Chris Thomas says:

          Many restaurants and bars do this in form of cover charges.

        • SolveIt says:

          Having a conspicuous line of people waiting to eat at your place is great advertising?

          • It advertises the fact that you will have a long wait. Beyond that, why is it any better advertising than a short line plus high prices?

            You don’t want the line to go quite down to zero because you want to always be able to fill your tables–think of a line as a way of warehousing customers.

          • DavidS says:

            Yes, I think it’s better advertising than a short line plus high prices. For one thing, long queues are just more visible.

            In London at least, large parts of the fashionable restaurant industry clearly thrive on having large, visible queues. I think a part of this is that people feel prices above a certain bar for a certian type of food is inherently a rip off. Whereas the long queues are just a sign of excellence.

            Personally, I avoid queues like the plague. But I guess if somewhere usually had queues I might check it out at other times.

          • Gazeboist says:

            A long line also implies to the customer that they are winning the exchange when they get to the restaurant, which makes the price seem “right” whatever it is when they actually get to the restaurant. Whereas a place with no wait and high prices is automatically classed as overpriced regardless of the quality of its food.

        • Zakharov says:

          Having a long line is a massive ego boost for the owners, which may be worth more than extra money.

        • I think long lines are a better proof (not a perfect proof) that the food appeals to a wide range of people.

        • Tibor says:

          I’ve never seen a line in a restaurant in Europe (the only time I’ve waited in one in front of a restaurant was in Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong but we only had to wait for about 5-10 minutes). But it is very common to make a reservation beforehand to make sure you will get a table. I’ve also never been in an extremely fancy Michelin restaurant or something like that though. Actually, Din Tai Fung has one Michelin star I think, but that was the only case.

        • Civilis says:

          With restaurants, it’s problematic to try this because the pricing isn’t fixed, it’s on a per-item basis. How do I distribute the increase in prices across the dishes on the menu in a way to cause the average per-person bill to increase by $10, given that increasing prices will mean people change what they order? You could increase prices and discover that people order less appetizers and drinks, which may be more profitable, and discover that you’re losing money on the deal. Places that offer prix fixe meal options are likely to already be offering different prices at different times and therefor already using dynamic pricing.

          Also, given that people tend to compare restaurants by looking at menus and prices online, you might increase your prices and discover that people looking to eat might see the higher price and miss the discounts you’re offering, costing you business.

        • Deiseach says:

          So if you raised prices by ten dollars the line would go to about zero, the cost of dinner to the patrons would be unchanged, with a cost in money substituting for a cost in time, and the restaurant would make more money.

          Why don’t they do it –presenting it, of course, as a discount on the other nights?

          (1) Probably because most people expect bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. to be busy at the weekends (the time most people are free to go out and spend time away from home because they probably don’t have to work the next day so they don’t have to be in bed by ten p.m. to get up at five a.m.) and they factor this in to their expectations; if they had to wait half an hour at midweek they probably would not go. Ditto for popularity – if the restaurant is the new trendy must-go-there place because it was mentioned on national TV or a critic in a major newspaper raved about how great it was, people will put up with waiting to get the chance to eat there just to be able to say they did.

          (2) People tend not to price their time outside of work in terms of money (but rather inconvenience, etc.). So they don’t think “this wait is costing me ten dollars” as they would price the monetary cost of the meal, and if the price increased by ten dollars, they’d be likely to think “this restaurant is trying to profiteer off the back of being popular and busy on Friday night” and people do resent that – I’ve heard people complain about price rises during tourist season in local bars and restaurants, along the lines of “I eat there every Wednesday and they charged me a fiver more for the same thing I had last week, just because the tourists are in town – I’m not going back there until the prices go back down!”

          So possibly the restaurant would lose more custom than it would retain or attract by raising its prices, and the income generated would not be the same.

    • pku says:

      Fun example: We have a Sushi bar in town that’s half price on evenings and weekends, which is when the college students go. The same chain (is it a chain if there’s only two of them?) has another one two towns over that’s half price weekdays until 5pm. The assumption is that the rich people come to our town during the day, than go home to the other town for the evening.

  2. Homo Iracundus says:

    I’ll need to brush up on Principal Component Analysis at some point, but has anyone read this post on deaths in police encounters?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      How did they make State numeric? alphabetically?

      Since the data set is low dimensional, PCA is pretty pointless. All they use it to do is make plots, but they might as well have plotted against all the variables. And they use it to look for high correlations, but they might as well have looked at those directly.

      Clustering is good. Plots to check clusters is good. Looking at the clusters’ scores on the original variables is good. In the context of clustering, you can ask whether the PC separate the clusters, which is possible and interesting even in low dimensions. But once you have clusters, you really should throw out the PC and start over, separating out the variance between clusters from the variance in clusters.

      One sees from these two plots that Black victims seem to be on average, equally distributed amongst all 50 states, as their data points are spread almost evenly along PC3.

      If they wanted to do this, they could have just plotted against their numeric state variable, rather than relying on PC3. But either way, making the state variable numeric is stupid. And the conclusion is shocking: the states are uniformly represented, not by population. So the method is garbage. You just can’t test such uniformity by looking at such a plot. (Not that it looks uniform to me, knowing that the variable is categorical, not numeric.)

      • caethan says:

        Yeah, what the hell is the point of doing PCA on a 6-variable data set, and then looking at the first 5 eigenvectors? You do PCA when you need to do major dimensional compression, like in the thousands of variables.

  3. Brett says:

    I’m not sure how you would simply fund all drug research publicly without risking over-expenditures on particular areas because they have political clout in Congress. As flawed as the current system is, at least it leads to drug research and expenditures wherever the companies think they can make a profit without trying to plan out ahead which diseases you’re going to try and cure.

    . . . On the other hand, that might save more money and have less problems that trying to figure out a system to underwrite drug research that won’t lead to it being gamed.

    • Mary says:

      MORE over-expenditure. We have that already.

    • nelshoy says:

      What kind of political issues are you anticipating? I hadn’t really thought of drug development as a very partisan issue, but I suppose everything can be a partisan issue if you try hard enough. Something like conservatives getting upset about too much AIDS funding and stem cells, or liberals getting upset about animal testing and saying Cystic Fibrosis is “too white” to be focused on?

      How good a job does the NSF and NIH do? I don’t really here anything. They seem pretty technocratic to me, do they run into similar issues with what they fund? Is the solution just to let the NIH run everything?

      • pku says:

        The typical example is Cancer getting fifty times the funding of Alzheimer’s’ because its more efficient, and lung cancer getting less funding than other cancers because people assume lung cancer patients are all smokers who brought it on themselves. I don’t know how justified or generalizable these kinds of problems are, though.

      • Mary says:

        Diseases typically are not spread evenly throughout the population. Every subgroup has a reason to lobby for the disease that affect it more than others.

        Edit: Here’s a graph Scott once linked about this:
        http://lungcancercircleofhope.org/lcch09/Assets/graph0703a.jpg

      • Civilis says:

        Most of this is political in the sense of ‘this particular cause has a strong lobbying group’ and not ‘this is a conservative vs liberal split’. If you have a good spokesperson, like a prominent celebrity that suffers from the disease, your cause will get more funding than a cause that doesn’t. Ideally, there would be some objective factor in what research got funded, based on the number of incidences, the lethality, the ease of prevention, etc., but that’s not the way government funding works.

        Some of this has become more traditionally political. A common conservative point is that breast cancer funding receives far more funding than prostate cancer.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Misallocation of cancer research funding is officially a conservative talking point now?
          I guess it’s all part of Winning The War on Women…

          • sweeneyrod says:

            It is arguably not misallocated, since prostate cancer has a lower mortality rate in young men and so causes fewer years of life to be lost. I can’t seem to post a link, but if you google “prostate cancer katatrepsis” there is a blog post about it.

          • Civilis says:

            I guess it’s all part of Winning The War on Women…

            Conservative does not equal Republican. Perhaps I should have said Red Tribe instead of conservative, although that’s not strictly correct either. The fact that pointing this out constitutes part of the ‘War on Women’ shows how easily things can be politicized these days.

            The following is taken from this article from 2010 (http://dailycaller.com/2010/10/05/breast-cancer-receives-much-more-research-funding-publicity-than-prostate-cancer-despite-similar-number-of-victims/) , so it’s not the most current or most unbiased, but it is the first return in a Google search.

            Incidences of cancer:
            According to estimates from the National Institutes of Health, in the United States in 2010, 207,090 women and 1,970 men will get new cases of breast cancer, while 39,840 women and 390 men will likely die from the disease. The estimated new cases of prostate cancer this year — all affecting men — is 217,730, while it is predicted 32,050 will die from the disease.

            Funding:
            In fiscal year 2009, breast cancer research received $872 million worth of federal funding, while prostate cancer received $390 million. It is estimated that fiscal year 2010 will end similarly, with breast cancer research getting $891 million and prostate cancer research receiving $399 million.

            Even when it comes to private foundations, the picture is the same. For example, at the American Cancer Society, breast cancer receives about twice the number of grants as prostate cancer.

            The math (which I quickly threw together) is $21,675 per breast cancer death and $12449 for prostate cancer death. My math may be wrong, but if you put 1% of the breast cancer funding in the ‘men’ category to go with the 1% of breast cancer deaths that are men, it’s still not remotely balanced.

            The article goes on with some theorizing about why this might be so, and to me the explanations given, that there are differences between the ways men and women think about their health, ring true.

            It also illustrates my original point, that things can be political without necessarily being partisan, especially partisan in the Republican vs Democrat sense.

        • Mary says:

          “based on the number of incidences, the lethality, the ease of prevention, etc., ”

          Also, disabling effect. Diseases that do not kill, or kill slowly, can still have crippling effects.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      The current system is producing less and less new cures:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eroom%27s_Law

    • H. E. Pennypacker says:

      As flawed as the current system is, at least it leads to drug research and expenditures wherever the companies think they can make a profit without trying to plan out ahead which diseases you’re going to try and cure.

      I would have thought that the current system leading “to drug research and expenditures wherever the companies think they can make a profit” is the main flaw of the current system, not its saving grace. Surely the main problem is that large pharmaceuticals see increasing profits as their main aim, not helping sick people get better. If it’s going to be more profitable to develop a drug that will treat a disease for which we already have perfectly good treatments (but those treatments are patented by another company), than it is to develop a drug that treats something we don’t have any adequate treatment for at present, the pharmaceutical company will choose the profits over lives saved every day of the week.

    • Deiseach says:

      without trying to plan out ahead which diseases you’re going to try and cure

      The cynic in me says “Easy. What diseases affect cute gap-toothed moppets and telegenic young marrieds with their whole lives ahead of them? Because those are going to be the tearful faces gazing out at you from the billboards and TV spots paid for by the lobbying group.”

      Like the adverts for homeless charities, which often have a small print disclaimer at the bottom about “The image used in this advert is that of a model/actor, not a real homeless young person”. Ostensibly this is for confidentiality and privacy protection reasons, but it’s quite curious how the image used is always appealing and generally attractive.

  4. Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

    Since people here seem to like picking out of the errors in flawed science papers and studies, can anyone tell me where they went wrong with this one:
    Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage“?

    • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

      I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the people here are only interested in attacking the research that supports center or Left facts, and consider obviously the sexist papers with plainly false conclusions perfectly fine examples of “science”.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        You waited less than twelve hours to criticize people for not fulfilling your difficult and time-consuming request, and those twelve hours were the hours most people sleep in the US (9PM to 9AM). Sometimes other people do not immediately drop everything including sleep to do your work for you.

        I would take a look at it now that I’m awake and have some time, but I feel like that would just be encouraging this kind of behavior.

      • FishFinger says:

        What is it with Anitas and feminism?

    • AxiomsOfDominion says:

      Its pretty simple. The study deals with frequency of sex. Not quality of desire for it. As in, traditional beliefs about the wife’s duty to fulfill the husband’s sexual desires do not appear to be accounted for.

    • Jacob says:

      What makes you so sure they went wrong? And why did you describe the conclusions as “plainly false”?

      I’ll give you my thoughts on the study:

      * Analysis seems a bit ad-hoc, with a jillion variables in the model, and some coded in seemingly arbitrary ways. I’m suspicious they might’ve left some things out which didn’t get the result they wanted, but I have no way of knowing. Ideally the analysis would’ve been pre-registered (very few scientists preregister analytical methods, I imagine it didn’t even occur to these authors)

      * It’s interesting that husbands share of housework is what’s most significant, rather than total number of hours.

      *Also interesting that gender ideology wasn’t significant, nor was an interaction with mens share of housework.

      * Without reading the study I guessed that a wife having medical issues could cause both increased share of husbands housework and less sexual frequency. The study did have a self-reported health term in the model so maybe this is controlled for, but self-reported health data is often pretty inaccurate, and the term is just “how healthy are you” on some scale.

      * I didn’t see any measure of model fit provided. If their model has an R^2 of 0.1 I don’t much care about the regression coefficients, because it’s all noise anyway, and the fact that they didn’t report any measure of fit quality is suspicious

      Generally I find the study underwhelming, based mostly on the fact that it’s observational,based only on self-report data, and doesn’t report a quality-of-fit for their model. Much social-science falls into this category.

  5. BeefSnakStikR says:

    What choices have you all made in regards to retirement savings plans/401(k)s? Any general advice? Should I be skeptical of anything when I talk to my bank?

    I’m in a fairly typical situation–I’m a minimum wage worker who can’t find work in the field I studied in. I live cheaply enough that I could afford to put hundreds of dollars a year in a retirement fund, but I have no idea how long that will be true. I could lose my job (or get a much better job) quite suddenly. I can fall back on my parents for a place to live, but not for money.

    That’s not unusual, and yet all of the advice I can find online either says that (A) you simply should have started investing a week ago, what are you waiting for? or (B) assumes that at a certain age you’ll have a career that pays an estimated amount, at which point you can afford a retirement fund.

    I’m in my early twenties and in Canada, for what it’s worth.

    • Mary says:

      The first step to economic stability is to build up a slush account for immediate emergency use. The guidelines I tend to see are for six months to a year living expenses. Then you worry about retirement funds. If only so you don’t have pay penalties to get at the money.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I second Mary’s advice to build an emergency fund, though I would recommend starting smaller; $1 000 is a good first target, and building up from there. Reddit’s /r/personalfinance has a good wiki that has some basic overviews. Note that in Canada we don’t have 401(k)s or IRAs; rough equivalences are RRSPs and TFSAs. Good luck.

    • Tax planning is really important and is the primary reason Americans are urged to use 401k plans. Not sure about Canada.

    • LHN says:

      Whatever you do, it’s a lot easier to begin with n% going into a retirement account from the day you start than to try to find a way to do it later. Expenses have a way of expanding to fill the available funds.

      In your early twenties, I’d go with a broad market index account (or ETF) or a target date fund. Having as low an expense ratio as possible (Vanguard is generally good if it’s available to you), sheltered from future taxes, and in something that doesn’t tempt you to try to micromanage it are almost certainly the best things for a time horizon of decades.

      And if your employer has any sort of match, do whatever is necessary to get it. It’s free money, sometimes up to 100% immediate effective return. But other than that if it’s required, don’t put any retirement money directly into your employer. You’ve got enough riding on the company’s success just working for them– don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

      (Startup options hoped to go big may be an exception. But that’s a calculated risk, and shouldn’t by any means be your entire retirement plan.)

      I don’t believe in the strongest form of the Efficient Market Hypothesis– there are people who have the knowledge, skill, and talent that let them beat the market. But the overwhelming majority of people can’t, and if you’re asking about this on a general forum, odds are you’re no more that person than I am. And I strongly don’t believe it’s much more possible to prospectively identify a fund manager who can do it– vs one who got lucky for a few years, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”– than to do it oneself.

      But your biggest ally right now is time. Every dollar you can invest for retirement in your twenties is (almost certainly) worth much more than the dollar you invest in your forties. It’s not worth going into debt over, and as people have noted an emergency fund is important. But if you can possibly get even a small percentage of your income automatically deducted (and then increase it a percent or two each time it becomes possible), future you will likely be glad of it.

      • Mary says:

        It’s fairly easy to redirect the income stream that had been going into the emergency slush fund to the retirement funds, though.

    • keranih says:

      general advice

      Check out Dave Ramsey. He might not be your style, but don’t knock it until you try it.

      • LHN says:

        If he isn’t, I’d recommend Andrew Tobias’s The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, which is full of the sort of common sense advice almost no one is ever actually taught.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Warning: not an investment professional, not a reliable source, for entertainment purposes only.

      The advice you’re going to get that’s aimed at Americans is mostly true for Canadians, but the tax-advantaged stuff is different, and Americans generally get a better choice of index funds and so forth. But yeah. Live frugally – you can probably find ways to do this that aren’t on the wacky end of the spectrum. Set up an investment account of tax-advantaged index funds of one sort or another – probably online is the best way to do this; some index funds are only available online, and if you go into a bank they’ll just try to sell you on overpriced actively-managed mutual funds. Read “The Elements of Investing”.

      As a Canadian you can have both an RRSP and a TFSA. The RRSP is tax-deductible, there’s a contribution limit per year based on your income or a hard ceiling, and you get taxed on the money when you take it out instead of when you put it in. It’s good for retirement because of this – somebody can put away money when they’re earning it, pay less tax then because of the deduction, and pay tax on their investment gains and such at a lower rate when they’re old and not working.

      A TFSA isn’t taxed at all – you won’t pay any tax on investment gains. The amount you can put in is much lower (adding up to under $50k for someone 18+ in 2009, and increasing by $5.5k per year indexed for inflation). You probably would do better now with the TFSA and wait for an RRSP until you make more money, because of the variable amount you can put in on those, the tax deductions, etc. Plus with the TFSA, you could withdraw the money whenever and pay no tax, making it far more flexible.

      • LHN says:

        Though flexibility is a double-edged sword. It can be really helpful in emergencies, but making the money hard to access can discourage looking for “emergencies”. Obviously, this depends on the individual and the circumstances, but a lot of savings strategy for most people comes down to “put the money out of sight somewhere sensible, and don’t mess with it”.

        • Mary says:

          At least some of the funds need to be purely liquid — the sort where you could write out a check and take the money.

          If you can’t be trusted with that. . . you have a real problem.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m careful to keep a bit extra in my chequing account after I’ve paid my rent before I move money to the account where I park my money until I consider it a “chunk” enough to be invested, and that savings account is a secondary possible slush fund.

          • LHN says:

            No one’s arguing against a liquid emergency fund. That’s unquestionably a good idea.

            I’m just saying that automatic investing and arranging things so that it requiring more effort to access long term savings can be a helpful tool for many people. (Additionally many forms are often tax-advantaged in the US, though all I know about Canada is what others have posted here.)

            I’m sure there are people who can exercise restraint without added help. There are also people who’ll take out third mortgages and loans using their pension as collateral if it’s allowed, rendering any barriers largely moot.

            (And while most of those will spend it on consumption goods, a handful will gamble it on, e.g., an entrepreneurial enterprise with real potential and a smaller fraction will hit it big, where following more “sensible” advice would have left them unable to pursue it.)

            Thre’s no one size fits all advice. But “put long-term savings out of immediate reach” is a useful heuristic for, I think, a broad swath of the population that’s looking for pointers. As is “have a liquid emergency fund that, as the name implies, can be accessed in an emergency without jumping through many hoops.”

            Though having even that in a separate account that you don’t carry the ATM card for routinely may help stop you from spending the emergency money on dinner out or a new phone (when the old one still works) or a trip because the regular spending account is low and it’s just this once… or twice.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I have a stubborn and probably dumb preference for doing things manually to automating things. Personally, my willpower level is “will eat stuff in fridge, but won’t go out to get junk food”.

        • dndnrsn says:

          For me, digging out the information and going to the trouble of moving money to the investment account and buying the things is enough of a hassle that I only do it when I’ve saved up a chunk of money to minimize other costs. I can’t imagine liquidating investments in a hurry.

    • Cadie says:

      If you’re in your early 20s, the next couple of years might be better spent on gathering an emergency fund and trying hard to find a better job – even if that means investing a little money into classes/training – than saving for retirement right now. There’s no good reason you can’t start saving for retirement at 26 instead of 24 or whatever. You still have plenty of time and $500-ish is better saved for immediate-need emergencies than for putting into a fund that you’ll cash out 45 years later. If I were you I wouldn’t even worry about putting money away for retirement directly; I’d focus the extra time and bit of money, after saving some for emergency use, on getting into a higher-paying job either elsewhere or as a promotion where you’re at. It could get you into a better financial position faster and THEN you start thinking about what you’re going to do in your 60s or 70s.

      Basically, invest by trying to improve your financial status in general now, not by buying stocks or getting a special saving account. That can wait a few years. If you’re not on the road to retirement savings by 30-ish then you might have a problem, but right now you’re long on time and short on good financial options, so expanding your options is more important than trying to choose the best one at present. An extra $250 saved doesn’t need to go into retirement savings quite yet, use it to get your resume professionally re-done and make some business cards, or a better outfit to interview in, or job placement services, or something like that depending on what field you’re trying to get into.

      • LHN says:

        I’d say that it’s always going to be possible to justify kicking that can down the road, because there’s always going to be some more immediate call for the money that might be saved.

        For that reason, I’d recommend beginning to save for retirement, however token the amount has to be due to also contributing to an emergency fund, training, etc. And remembering to kick it up a notch as and when raises and better jobs come.

        (Obviously, that might have to go by the wayside for a serious imminent need. But for most incomes, there’s someone out there getting by on 10% less than you’re making– however impossible that appears examining your own expenses.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’d like to add that you don’t have to be making scads and scads of money.

  6. Scott Alexander says:

    Lots of people like classic cars and say they’re more attractive than modern cars. Why don’t we make cars that look like classic cars anymore?

    • Anon. says:

      I’m gonna guess that it’s probably illegal, new cars have to follow all sorts of standards that make them less dangerous to pedestrians.

    • Eltargrim says:

      My understanding is that classic cars are murder on aerodynamic performance, and hence perform poorly on mileage and emissions metrics.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Nah, they’re just plain murder.

        Video summary: Crash a ’50s car head-on into a recent car. The people in the recent car will be knocked about a little but not severely hurt. The people in the ’50s car will be crushed to death as the engine comes through the passenger compartment.

        • Eltargrim says:

          I have no doubt that the aesthetic of muscle cars could be preserved with modern crumple zones and engineering design, given that most of these features are “under the hood”, so to speak. It’s a fair bit harder to improve aerodynamic performance while also maintaining aesthetic, as the surface we see is also the surface that interacts with air.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        But is it any worse than SUVs, which lots of people get even when they don’t have big sporty families just because they like the aesthetic?

        • LHN says:

          SUVs are, I think, still more aerodynamic than midcentury cars. And they benefit from the regulatory wrinkle of being classified as trucks. The choice would be producing cars with worse mileage (running up against CAFE, and possibly safety issues for projecting surfaces) or making trucks with even worse mileage than they have.

    • keranih says:

      Why don’t we make cars that look like classic cars anymore?

      (snip) several snide comments to the tune of “really??? You have to ask?”(snip)

      Federally mandated restrictions on mpg of the national fleet, plus a side of customer preference for more maneuverable and fuel-sparing cars. But mostly the first one.

      Most of the people I talk to who have expressed a fondness for American Heavy Metal talk not just about the looks, but also the size, roominess, and the ability to accelerate.

      The gas guzzling and mechanical attention required every 2K miles gets less attention. So does the way that people now walk away from crashes that completely totaled the cars in numbers that they never used to. (Even for allowing for crumple zones that total cars at lower impact speeds.)

      • LHN says:

        Most of the people I talk to who have expressed a fondness for American Heavy Metal talk not just about the looks, but also the size, roominess, and the ability to accelerate.

        There’s a fair amount of rose-coloring there. Modern cars tend to have better acceleration than those of earlier decades when comparing comparable models, despite being heavier. (To the point that there have been tut-tutting articles about their having too much power, where they could be so much more fuel-efficient.)

        The size issue is also somewhat deceptive, given that a lot of the US market responded to the downsizing wave by moving to bigger vehicles. (I can testify that cars when my building was built circa 1960 can’t have been much bigger than mine is now, or they wouldn’t have fit between the pillars of my parking space.)

        But modern cars are mostly boring. (What styling there is seems to be concentrated on tiny cars or on expensive sports models.) I’m guessing the aerodynamics is the biggest part, but also cars lasting longer. It’s one thing to make a fashion statement when the car’s expected to rust out in five years, another if it’s expected to still be on the road in large numbers in fifteen or even twenty.

        • keranih says:

          The size issue is also somewhat deceptive, given that a lot of the US market responded to the downsizing wave by moving to bigger vehicles.

          True – but they did so (had to do so) by shifting whole classes of vehicle ie, from sedans to SUVs. Cars shrank. People comparing apples to apples still have a point.

          People like what they like, but as a person who is a bit shorter than the average male person, I’m not really cramped in the smaller cars, and I dislike having to pay for all the gas a SUV burns. Or a Mustang, or one of the old dino-bone burners. So while I think I understand what people say they miss in the old cars, I don’t have much regret.

          Plus, as you say, you can spend a life time driving today’s beater into the ground, instead of just a summer.

          • LHN says:

            Though modern SUVs are more fuel efficient than classic cars, so even through the various market distortions imposed by regs, it’s possible to retain space and do better on fuel and safety.

            (My favorite bit of perversity was Cash for Clunkers, where we were able buy a crossover– i.e., a car-chassis, but an SUV for regulatory purposes–, but a car with the exact same gas mileage didn’t qualify. Grateful though we were for the– utterly undeserved– free money, the sheer dumbness of how that act alone was implemented may have completely disillusioned my wife re the entire process of legislation.)

            That said, old large cars had bench seats, which (especially in the pre seat belt days if people were willing to squeeze) offered significantly larger passenger capacity than comparable cars do now. To get similar capacity requires a minivan or a three row SUV, which is a big reason those became the station wagon equivalent of the current generation.

        • Psmith says:

          Modern cars tend to have better acceleration than those of earlier decades when comparing comparable models,

          Not in the US, not when your benchmark for comparison is price. The fastest fully-loaded muscle cars of roughly 1967-1972 would run you about $25,000 new in today’s dollars and do a sub-13.5 quarter mile. I don’t believe there’s anything today that will do the same.

          (Except sportsbikes. Which, incidentally, are a good deal faster than their counterparts circa 1972–although possibly not faster than the fastest road-legal two-strokes of the 80s and 90s, at least with the same displacement.).

          The fastest current Challenger is faster than the fastest old Challenger, but it also costs ~3x as much. Tires and brakes have gotten better, and the muscle cars couldn’t hang in the corners even back in the day, but straight-line acceleration has yet to return to its peak c. 1970.

          • LHN says:

            Fair enough. My impression had been that the typical car not marketed specifically for speed/acceleration (not so much muscle cars as typical daily drivers) had better pickup now than then. But it’s not an area I’ve made a close study of, and I may well be wrong.

            (They’re certainly anecdotally better than when I was learning to drive. But that was close to the nadir of the post-oil shock redesigns.)

          • JayT says:

            That’s not quite right Psmith. The Camaro SS, Mustang GT, and the Challenger R/T all are faster than 13.5 in the quarter mile. They all start around $35K, so a bit more than the ’70s cars, but in general all cars have gotten more expensive due to safety and pollution regulations.

            That said, the Subaru WRX will do the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds for $27K.

          • LHN says:

            I wonder to what extent higher prices reflect the fact that the cars last longer. If a new purchase is buying 200,000 miles of car use on average instead of 100,000 miles, it’s not unreasonable for that to be reflected in the price.

            Likewise, a car with an expected remaining lifetime in years or miles comparable to a 1970s new car may cost less, though of course it’s hard to directly compare a good used car with a brand new one. (Since “newness” itself has a demonstrable monetary value.)

          • Psmith says:

            The Camaro SS, Mustang GT, and the Challenger R/T all are faster than 13.5 in the quarter mile. They all start around $35K, so a bit more than the ’70s cars, but in general all cars have gotten more expensive due to safety and pollution regulations.

            That said, the Subaru WRX will do the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds for $27K.

            There is no great stagnation!

            (good points, good research, I stand corrected, and now I think about it someone brought up the WRX the last time I started talking about this.)

          • Xenophon says:

            Heck, my 2012 Ifiniti G37x does the ¼ mile in 13.7 (just shy of your benchmark), and it’s not even a muscle car.

            Rather a bit more spendy, though.

        • Deiseach says:

          Possibly also nostalgia? Something from ten years ago just looks dated and out of fashion, something from fifty years ago looks cool and stylish, whether it’s fashion or cars or the future we were going to have 🙂

          • Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

            –Oscar Wilde

          • LHN says:

            Though I think that one of the things that happened is that automotive fashion changes much more slowly these days than in the past. A typical car from 1955, 1965, and 1975 are much more different from one another than a car from 1995, 2005, and 2015 are. (Or so it seems to me, anyway.) The change isn’t zero, but it’s not as dramatic.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m going to go out on a flyer here and suggest we should look at automated manufacturing techniques, error rate and rework cost.

      The fuel consumption requirements are for fleet sales, not individual cars, and yet even the concept cars and small runs don’t look as unique and interesting as the older cars.

    • BBA says:

      We tried that once. It was called the PT Cruiser. See why we stopped?

    • The PTCruiser is designed to look like an old fashioned car. I assume it was reasonably successful, since I see a fair number of them.

      • Poxie says:

        They did sell a million plus, but I’m surprised you see a fair number – I drive a lot, and I really don’t see ’em on the road anymore. (I don’t see many battleaxes or broadswords either, of course, so …)

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Would anyone buy them? Would anyone buy perfect modern replicas of masterpiece paintings?

    • Brian Slesinsky says:

      It’s been done, sort of. The “new” Beetle and the PT Cruiser were successful for a while.

      Some reasons they’re still different:
      – Airbags, other safety standards.
      – Higher standards for bumpers. (A low-speed collision shouldn’t require a trip to the shop to fix the chrome.)
      – Fuel efficiency (better streamlining, better ways to bend metal to get streamlining).
      – Higher expectations for passenger comfort. (Nobody wants bench seats, etc.)
      – All cars are air conditioned now. Older cars often relied on getting good airflow by opening windows.

      • Protagoras says:

        Also the Miata. So it works well enough that car makers do it once in a while, and it usually has some success, but not enough success for them to do it more often.

    • sohois says:

      Lots of people is a pretty fuzzy measure. Is lots of people a sufficient number to actually support a new model that has such an appearance? Classic Cars suffers from the same issue. There are hundreds of classic cars, but I expect different classic car appreciators have different ideas of what is attractive. Is it classic cars from the 30s? From the 50s? The 70s? Classic Cars from Europe? From America? So even if the number of people is sufficiently large, you couldn’t simply produce one model and capture the entire market as there would too much divergence in preferences.

      And then there’s the question of whether people simply appreciate the appearance, or whether there’s some kind of halo effect where because people like the history, or the old brand, or the mechanics or any number of other factors, they also like the appearance of the car. Basically would people only buy cars that are actually classic, and old, or would they buy anything that mimics a classic car?

      I’ll end by pointing out that some UK manufacturers do make cars with a very classic appearance, but they are very niche. The Caterham 7 was one such model, which even won a lot of awards when it was released several years ago. Pretty much every model of the Morgan Motor Company have old school appearances (and they are also quite notable since they produce every car by hand, eschewing modern production lines)

    • Tibor says:

      This is very subjective (also from a European perspective), but I think many people like to have a look at an American cruiser from the 50s every now and then but they would quickly get bored with a car like that. Personally, I really like very old veterans (1940s and before) but if I could choose between a new BMW and a remake of an old veteran, I’d buy the BMW. I also think that most cars newer designed between the 1950s and 2000s (not including either decade) are quite ugly, I don’t know how widespread that view is.

    • bluto says:

      The two big reasons are pedestrian crash requirements and fuel efficiency. Cars must push pedestrians up in all collisions and cars have pressure to look more like the Prius to get better fuel economy. Designers can hide these with some style features but it cuts an enormous number of old designs out.

    • LPSP says:

      That’s an interesting question. Allow me to relate it to Dungeons and Dragons.

      DnD pioneered the use of character or personality metrics in roleplaying with the introduction of the Alignment chart. Players, npcs and villains alike could be measured along two different axis – Good vs Evil and Order/Law vs Chaos – as a tool to both inform the formation of alliances and rivalries, as well as a fun tool to be diagnostically applied to outside franchises.

      The system was very popular and successful, and lead to many other systems of personality measurements since. Almost all of these are an advancement or refinement over the original DnD, and certainly any modern ones created wholesale-or-otherwise in the last two decades would completely outclass DnD in terms of functional personality prediction. Yet the DnD GvE/OvC axis remain the most popular in terms of discussion, comparison and application.

      In chats about roleplaying and character systems, I have compared the DnD system to the Ford Tin Lizzy. It’s a thing of beauty, an important piece in the history of its kind that stood for development, innovation and refinement, and without-which we would not have the greatnesses of today. Yet no-one drives around in a Tin Lizzy, because it is an archaic and outdated car that ultimately constitutes a substantially worse means of getting from A to B, among other things. Tin Lizzys are still made, bought, traded, sold and put to use, because it’s a piece of beautiful history and there’ll always be collectors and enthusiasts with the time and money to spend owning (or at least watching) the piece in action, nevermind the television and movie uses.

      But that’s the limit – entertainment and amusement. The Tin Lizzy only exists now as an end unto itself, and not as a means or facillitator. Herein the distinction lies in the DnD roleplaying axis. It may be outdated, but ultimately no role-playing tool has pragmatic value (… or HAS IT?). Coupled with the low cost of simply knowing that is needed to partake in its use, and it isn’t surprising that the sheer heritage factor of the alignment chart has kept it dominant in its field.

      I think this sort-of answers or addresses the question, and at least it was fun to type.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        To be fair, the original single-axis D&D alignment system is much more usable and avoids most of the problems with the newer two-axis one.

        Law and Chaos allow for a traditionally heroic style of play, with combat against dragons as a literal Chaoskampf, while still allowing for conflict within the Lawful races. It also captures the spirit of the Spengler-by-way-of-Robert E Howard cycle of Barbarism -> Civilization -> Decadence, by allowing extremes of Law to be as inhospitable to life as extremes of Chaos.

        Adding in a Good vs Evil axis is, at best, redundant and more often sabotages the system.

        Edit: An alignment thread in the SSC comments, more flame than race&gender or less? Time to measure our nerd quotient.

        • LHN says:

          While the two-axis system is newer, at 42 and 39 years old respectively the two are virtual contemporaries with respect to current RPGs. The Law-Chaos axis was well suited to the sort of swords-and-sorcery fantasy it was originally lifted from. (Explicit in Anderson, Lieber, and Moorcock, arguably implicit as you say in Howard. I’m not sure if there’s anything or anyone that can be characterized as “lawful” in Vance.) But the Tolkien influence that hit the game big as it expanded really did call for recognizable (and magically effective) Good and Evil. Sauron may be a tyrant, but he represents something other than an extreme of Law, and likewise Gandalf can’t really be captured on a Law-Chaos spectrum.

          Obviously the alternative is to dispense with alignment entirely the way most later tabletop games did. But genre fantasy and allied genres circa 1980 were full of objects and people of inherent Evil and well-defined good and light, with sharp edged transitions from one to the other. (Darth Vader and the risk that Luke might follow his path, Phoenix becoming Dark Phoenix, then finding redemption at the cost of her life, etc.) I’d say the 2-axis system, while always a bit clunky, was a natural elaboration as the inspirations for games broadened.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Well I can’t speak to the Dark Pheonix Saga, I’m more of a DC guy, but fitting Tolkien’s and Lucas’ systems to Law-Chaos is actually not too hard.

            Tolkien was operating from an implicitly Judeochristian framework, where one of the titles of God is “lawgiver” and sin is fundamentally a transgression of divine law. Morgoth, Sauron and later Saruman all sought power outside of the law, literally introducing discordant notes into the song of Ilúvatar. Sauron embodies Chaos, and his patchwork armies of orcs and evil men enact largely random destruction.

            Lucas is similar, but arguably even more explicit. The Empire is strict and hierarchical, but also arbitrary and capricious. Darth Vader doesn’t mark Admiral Ozzel down on his quarterly review when he fails but simply kills him on a whim. The later Sith Code makes this explicit:

            Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
            Through passion, I gain strength.
            Through strength, I gain power.
            Through power, I gain victory.
            Through victory, my chains are broken.
            The Force shall free me.

          • LHN says:

            The various Enemies in Tolkien embody rebellion against the rightful and established order, but they (Sauron especially) establish extremely regimented states of their own, as Saruman does on a smaller scale. Saying that Mordor or the Shire under Sharkey is “really” more chaotic than Gondor, Rohan, or (especially) the bucolically anarchic Shire feels as if it’s straining to fit a definition. There’s always some of that in a defined alignment system, but I think that sort of thing takes it beyond usefulness.

            (I’m more of a DC person as well, but it doesn’t have a similarly iconic corruption arc that I can think of. Hal Jordan’s descent and redemption is as close as I can come up with, but that was a decade later and not very well done.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Sauron embodies Chaos, and his patchwork armies of orcs and evil men enact largely random destruction.

            Oh, I have to disagree with you there, Dr Dealgood! Sauron (and indeed Morgoth) are not Chaotic, their fault is excess of Lawfulness, where it becomes sterility and tyranny:

            Sauron was of course not ‘evil’ in origin. He was a ‘spirit’ corrupted by the Prime Dark Lord (the Prime sub-creative Rebel) Morgoth. He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and ‘benevolence’ ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages. But at the beginning of the Second Age he was still beautiful to look at, or could still assume a beautiful visible shape – and was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all ‘reformers’ who want to hurry up with ‘reconstruction’ and ‘reorganization’ are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up.

            Their faults are the desire to have all things under their rule, under their one sole will as the dominant feature, with no dissent – slaves not subjects, every leaf on every tree (what trees are left) to move to their wish as they wish. They are very strong believers in Order, simply it is that the Order should be their Order and none others:

            In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit. Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was held to be this by his servants, by a triple treachery: 1. Because of his admiration of Strength he had become a follower of Morgoth and fell with him down into the depths of evil, becoming his chief agent in Middle Earth. 2. when Morgoth was defeated by the Valar finally he forsook his allegiance; but out of fear only; he did not present himself to the Valar or sue for pardon, and remained in Middle Earth. 3. When he found how greatly his knowledge was admired by all other rational creatures and how easy it was to influence them, his pride became boundless. By the end of the Second Age he assumed the position of Morgoth’s representative. By the end of the Third Age (though actually much weaker than before) he claimed to be Morgoth returned. If he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world.

            Morgoth becomes – or rather, his acts turn – Chaotic out of his rebellion; if the Valar build, then he destroys what they build, he pulls down and burns and overthrows. When left to his own devices, he constructs huge citadels of overpowering and overbearing strength and discipline – Utumno, Angband.

            And so Sauron is like his master in this – being in rebellion, he has to destroy and pull down. But his armies do not engage in random destruction (apart from Orcish vandalism, which is more that when Sauron is lying low and not directly giving them orders, they have no aims other than mere survival) – see the infiltration of the half-orcs/men like orcs amongst the refugees fleeing the South and how Bill Ferny got roped into being an informer and spy. Uglúk of Isengard knows his business and can hold a disparate group of different Orc-tribes (from Moria, Isengard and Mordor) together for a reasonable fighting retreat until they are finally slain by the Rohirrim.

            And the danger to those on the side of Law and Order is the temptation for them to use the tools of the enemy for “good” ends:

            Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained ‘righteous’, but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for ‘good’, and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great).
            [The draft ends here. In the margin Tolkien wrote: ‘Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he left “good” clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil.’]

          • So the ice age was Catastrophic Global Valargenic Cooling.

            Valaragenic?

          • LHN says:

            I’m guessing Tolkien would complain about mixing Quenya and Greek roots, but I don’t remotely know enough of the former to suggest a pure Quenya adjective.

          • Mary says:

            “Their faults are the desire to have all things under their rule, under their one sole will as the dominant feature, with no dissent – ”

            which is order, but the wrong order. One could — I’ve played with the notion of — have Order opposed by Chaos and Disorder both.

            You get some serious silliness in Law vs. Chaos. Like a description of pure Order as a flat featureless plain — which is nonsense, because it would have no objects to be ordered.

            Which, of course, contributes to the serious silliness of alignment, which is taking all the moral questions that the best and brightest have broken their hearts over for millennia, misunderstand half of them, boil them down to something as codified as a RPG rule book, and hand them over to sophomoric players (some of whom, indeed, will have the excuse of being sophomores).

          • cassander says:

            @mary

            >Like a description of pure Order as a flat featureless plain

            that’s why we stick with Planescape, where order is a literally clockwork universe.

        • LPSP says:

          I did not know the DnD axis was originally just an axe. Order vs Chaos is easily the most functional of the two current axis, and Good vs Evil is exactly as you say, a useless metric.

          SSC has an excellent standard for reasoned, focussed and dynamic discussion, especially on topics which don’t bring in regular invasions from interest groups. I could see some contentiousness but no flaming really from a chat. I’d bet £5.

        • cassander says:

          I’d agree, the problem with the system was good vs. evil. Lawful good and chaotic good made some sense, but if you were lawful evil, presumably you believed laws were good, so does that mean you should work to undermine them because you’re evil?

          • John Schilling says:

            I took it to mean you should work to impose and enforce evil laws, e.g. a totalitarian dictator or one of his enforcers. To the extent that this isn’t pure selfishness, I take the justification/rationalism to be that Law vs Order is much more important than Good vs Evil, and Evil Will Always Triumph Because Good Is Dumb. Thus, Team Lawful Evil is the only responsible choice.

          • LHN says:

            Not that the D&D framework is particularly coherent, but I suspect that reasoning tends more towards Lawful Neutral, with Lawful Evil being more about law and structure as a source of personal and organizational aggrandizement.

            As with so many things D&D, the Order of the Stick has a couple of compelling takes on the alignment in Redcloak and Tarquin.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The descriptions in the current edition frame the good/evil axis as Altruism vs Selfishness with the “neutral” alignments being stoics, fatalists, and nihilists. (LN, TN, CN, respectively)

          • Mary says:

            Law vs. Chaos, among its other problems, was interpreted in three separate ways.

            1. One’s personal life and habits.
            2. One’s views about society
            3. One’s views about the universe.

            So one could be lawful evil by being rigorously self-disciplined and orderly in your life; or by regarded one’s society as an excellent thing to be fit in and upheld — even if because it gives you the best venue for your evil; or because you regard the universe as orderly though evil, a place where, say, strength always rules, and the weak suffer what they must.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            I work and write on foreign policy, and I often say that US policy tends to waver between stupid and evil, and as a foreign policy professional, my job is to shift it away from stupid and towards evil.

            @hlynkacg

            With altruism, good works fine, the lawful good build or support systems of altruism, the chaotic good tear down systems of selfishness. But how is one chaotically or lawfully selfish? If you murder a kindly old priest who gives away all his money to the poor, you haven’t really acted selfishly, but you have acted evilly. And if you kill an evil overlord who oppresses his people, you’ve acted pretty altruistically even if you only did it so you could steal his sword.

          • Aegeus says:

            @cassander: D&D morality is based on virtue ethics, not consequentialist. Good and Evil are objective personality traits, detectable by spells like Detect Evil. So if you murdered someone because you wanted their shiny sword and you literally didn’t care who the owner was, you’re probably evil. They turned out to be a terrible person, but your motive was not altruistic. If it had been the kindly old priest who had the shiny sword, you would have killed him just as readily.

            I agree that “Evil in ways that don’t benefit you” doesn’t quite fit, but I would count “Because it’s fun to hurt people” as a “selfish motive,” which probably covers most forms of Evil that involve just wrecking things for no gain.

        • radmonger says:

          > While the two-axis system is newer, at 42 and 39 years

          Of course, everything really started with the Babylonians.

          Leaving the intermediate history out, you had Tolkien’s Catholicism leading to a
          universe where morality was literally written into the Cosmos. His contemporary,
          Lovecraft, has a universe with no such morality, which tended to send people
          mad because existentialism hadn’t been officially invented yet.

          Which didn’t stop RE Howard from writing the prototypical existentialist hero, Conan.

          Conan: Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

          In reaction to all that, a generation later Moorcock wrote the existentialist hero
          on hard-mode. Elric lived in a universe where something very like morality was
          literally written into the Cosmos, but that must be rejected in favor of being
          true to yourself.

          Which was the status quo in the first version of D&D. Until the mass popularity
          of Star Wars and LoTR lead to a demand for unambiguous, cosmically-backed morality, in response to which Gygax produced the ingenious hack which is the dual-axis system.

          Which gives the system roughly as many alignments as there are star signs, personality types in the average psychological model, or houses in Hogwarts.

          Around the same time, the well-known Libertarian political two-axis model was
          created. Which causes a certain group of people to fit themselves into slot#7 on
          the diagram. And in so doing, explicitly identify that way, rather than picking a
          broader identity and a set of contingent beliefs and tactics.

          Consequently, another generation later, Trump.

          • LHN says:

            Until the mass popularity
            of Star Wars and LoTR lead to a demand for unambiguous, cosmically-backed morality, in response to which Gygax produced the ingenious hack which is the dual-axis system

            Tolkien very likely, given the halflings and treants that showed up. But Gygax would have had to be pretty nimble for his 1977 release of the AD&D Player’s Handbook (which I’m pretty sure included the two-axis alignment chart) to be strongly influenced by a movie that had come out in May of that year.

          • Deiseach says:

            Hm, I always felt the Law/Chaos D&D system was heavily influenced by Moorcockian Law/Chaos and the Balance, rather than anything from Tolkien as such.

            Granted, Gygax swiped Elves, Dwarves, Orcs et cetera et cetera from Tolkien, but I get the impression that the morality scale (or however you want to call it) came from Moorcock since “good and evil” was a bit too old-fashioned and black-and-white (how could you have a cool anti-hero doing what would otherwise be considered bad stuff if you stuck to that alone?)

          • LHN says:

            @Deiseach Moorcock is comparatively late on the scene (though the first, copyright-infringing edition of Deities and Demigods demonstrate that TSR were fans), but his Law and Chaos is shared with earlier work by Poul Anderson and Fritz Leiber. (And his contemporary John Brunner, whose “Traveller in Black” stories I highly recommend.)

            But I think everyone is more or less agreed that the Good/Evil axis was added in large part to reflect the rising influence of Tolkien on D&D. Though it also helps with serial-numbers-filed-off (because D&D worlds still tend to be polytheist) Christian-influenced stories like the Arthurian mythos.

            (You can certainly do Camelot=Law, everything before and after=Chaos, but something like the Grail, or the entire concept of the D&D Paladin, works better with concretized Good struggling with definitively Evil.)

      • Patrick Merchant says:

        Only nerds could take a conversation about muscles cars and somehow wind up talking about D&D.

        As for why we don’t often see modernized versions of old cars, I think it’s because of the conformity element of fashion. What’s fashionable will always be a compromise between aesthetics and social signalling. I think white tuxedos look amazing, but I’d feel unbearably self-conscious wearing one in most circumstances. When I see an old car on the road, it strikes me as very flashy and attention-getting, like when you see a sleek and expensive modern car, or a dude wearing an expensive suit to a college class.

        Most people aren’t gutsy enough to do this, which means that the market for throwback cars is limited. Why gamble on manufacturing a car like that?

    • AxiomsOfDominion says:

      Squeaky wheel Scott, come on. Cars are like fashion or music. Aesthetics are often environmental and/or performative. The vast majority of people are happy with modern car design. Classic car enthusiasm is just more in the public eye since you have to go out of your way to participate in it.

    • Dahlen says:

      Not that I know anything about this, but it seems, at a first glance, that older car models wouldn’t perform as well from an aerodynamic standpoint. What seems to differentiate classic car design from the modern variety is a pattern of more right angles (you don’t want right angles), a steeper windscreen, less compactness and continuity between car parts (don’t know how to phrase this), smaller overall size, higher distance from the ground, a flat, non-pointy hood (viewed from above), narrower body, and (although it’s probably not very important) round rather than “squinty” headlights.

      The ideal aerodynamic shape seems to be something resembling a projectile; in case of earthbound vehicles, probably a projectile with the lower half flattened out along the Z axis. The fewer deviations and irregularities from this shape, the better. Modern cars definitely follow the ideal projectile shape with greater fidelity; most hard angles have been designed away and replaced with curves, the windscreen now is almost on the same curve as the hood, the hood is the slightest bit pointed, etc. In addition, there have been safety improvements in the making of the car body; it’s simultaneously softer and more bulky, whereas older cars seem more made of lean, trimmed, rigid metal. Nowadays, in an accident, the outer parts of the car can get completely smashed to bits, but these seem to function as a sort of padding, so the functional parts don’t get damaged as badly. Or at least that’s almost sort of what my father (another old car enthusiast) explained to me quite a while ago.

      As for width, this might just be people getting fatter upgrading their standards for comfort. xD (Also, ISTM that it’s mostly non-passenger car bulk that has grown in size, due maybe to more features, airbags and whatnot.)

      The point being, maybe the design features that you may see as mainly aesthetic have a functional role that they might perform more poorly than modern versions.

      There’s also the marketing side of the story. Okay, there’s a certain segment of consumers that prefer older car aesthetics to the latest fashion. Do they drive the market? Or does the other category of consumers (by preference) drive the market? Lots of people respond positively to more modern aesthetics. Also, I would expect classic car aficionados to be a rather older age cohort (for nostalgia reasons), who might already have a car, and if most buyers of new cars are young, maybe there’s a reason to cater more to their preferences.

      [Probably should mention again — epistemic status: PIDOOMA]

    • Protagoras says:

      I used to have a car with hidden headlamps, which I thought were pretty stylish. They’ve pretty much disappeared, because it’s a lot harder to make hidden headlamps that satisfy the rules about crumple zones in modern cars. There are probably other features that are part of the aesthetic of classic cars that are hard to make compatible with modern regulations in ways that aren’t obvious.

    • Richard says:

      The classic car market is composed of 3 kinds of people:

      1: The aesthetics (<1%)
      These are the people who view cars as art and prefer the old designs for beauty. They are buying things like Morgans with full knowledge that they are getting an inferior product with a wooden chassis but they don't care because it's pretty. They prefer classics to modern cars for the same reason people prefer the Mona Lisa to a picture taken by your cellphone even though the latter is arguably a better representation of reality.
      2: The tinkerers (<10%)
      These are your mechanics geeks, happily tinkering away on anything that is mechanically complex and well made. If they don't end up with cars, they would happily tinker on bicycles, steam-engines, sewing machines or guns. They prefer classics because they are more mechanically "pure"
      3: Your everyday Joe (~90%)
      These are the people who saw a random car in a showroom when they were 10 and desperately wanted one, then grew up and now they can afford one. They don't really prefer classics, but rather that one specific car. (or a handful of options)

      The confusion comes when people of type 3 use all the arguments of types 1 and 2 in order to justify their utterly moronic purchase.

      The way to tell the difference is that types 1 and 2 will typically talk about a 1937 Hispano-Suiza K6, (which is both a work of art and a mechanical marvel) while type 3 will talk about a 1981 Cadillac Seville (which is a momentous train wreck where horrible design met the unholy trinity of insufficient electronics, poor quality control and regulatory overload)

      I don't know how large a percentage of type 3s that actually believe their own nonsense, but when we meet at car shows, we sure talk a good yarn.

      Building cars for type 3s is naturally an exercise in futility.

      (Also, the only way you can get me to give up my Cadillac bustleback is to pry the keys from my cold dead hands, because I spotted one in a showroom when I was 10 and desperately wanted one….)

  7. AR+ says:

    I long felt that I should just always carry an Epipen(substitutions allowed) despite having no known allergies. I mean, if I AM allergic to some specific species of wasp that I’ve just never been stung by yet, or some fruit that I’ve just never eaten yet, how am I ever going to find out except when I start going into anaphylactic shock, and wouldn’t it be nice to have an Epipen(substitutions allowed) on hand when it happens?!

    But no, it’s prescription only, so that’s not happening. I guess I’ll just have to die of an unknown allergic reaction first.

    • nelshoy says:

      Wow. I would personally never carry something as big as an epipen around just for the off-chance that I’m highly allergic to something I’ve never been exposed to. Do you carry around supplies for other emergencies?

      You could get blood work done to see if you have common allergies. I think there are also over-the-counter bronchodilators you can buy.

      • AR+ says:

        I feel like I should do a lot of things that I ultimately decide aren’t worth the trouble.

        But I actually didn’t know how huge they are until looking it up just now. I’d have expected something more like a military-issue atropine injector, which is, like, Sharpie sized.

      • Yrro says:

        I wouldn’t mind having one in my emergency kit in my car next to the tourniquet and fire extinguisher.

        I don’t really expect to catch on fire or bleed to death, but I’d feel really shitty if I had the opportunity to help someone else who was and couldn’t. And it’s very low cost and low effort to me.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Would you recognize an anaphylactic shock if you had one? I would not.

      There should be an app and/or Google Map integration that would let you locate any of the many Epipens near you when emergency strikes.

    • Amanda says:

      I don’t know what percentage of the population carries an EpiPen, but there may well be one around in the unlikely instance of you ever needing it. I had to carry one around for my kid for a few years, and I always considered it a bonus that wherever I went, someone (me) would have an EpiPen available for someone who needed one. It never happened, but I got to imagine saving the day, which was pleasant, and I just ignored the possibility of inconvenient legal problems later 🙂

    • Deiseach says:

      The best way to avoid any such mischances, AR+, is not to go outside your door at all. How if you were to be crushed beneath a falling piano? Furniture is treacherous!

      • MugaSofer says:

        77% of accident-related injuries happen in the home.

        Clearly, the safest thing is to become homeless.

        • Patrick Merchant says:

          Live outside? Are you crazy?? “Outside” is where the Oxygen Holocaust happened!!!!

          The only solution is to fly to the moon. Nobody’s ever died there.

      • “Falling piano”

        There was a very old computer game, possibly for the TRS80, where you stuck in an insane asylum trying to get out. If you looked up at the ceiling a piano fell on you.

        That, at least, is how I remember it.

    • Garrett says:

      As an EMT:
      I’ve never actually had to administer epinephrine to anybody in 4 years. Local demographics probably play a part in this. Ie. people in our service area who know they have allergies are responsible enough to either avoid the allergen and/or carry an epi-pen with them when conditions occur.

      Allergic reactions are rarely fatal the first time – they develop over repeated exposure with symptoms getting progressively worse. If you have an allergic reaction (eg. breaking out into hives), you’ll know something’s up and you can see an allergist to see what’s going on.

      People having breathing problems are one of the top priorities for emergency responders. If you have a cell phone and call 911 you’ll have people there as fast as possible.

      • We had such an incident a few days ago. One of the people having dinner at our house had a pretty strong allergic reaction, possibly to peach leather. We called 911. I think the EMT’s arrived within five minutes.

  8. Finger says:

    I’m a person in my mid twenties thinking about my career options. 80,000 hours recommends going in to AI research as a high impact career path. How can I figure out whether this is a good fit for me? I’m good at programming (relative to my former peer group of computer science students at a top university) and decent at math (was in accelerated math classes as a high school student, but I found them reasonably difficult). Is there any easy way for me to predict whether I would make a good researcher or not? People tell me that my blog is insightful, but I have no idea whether insightfulness in SSC type topics predicts insightfulness in math/computer science topics, or even whether insightfulness is an important characteristic in a researcher. I took http://www.iqtest.dk/ and scored 118, but that test is supposedly normed very hard (based on discussion online, I think a score of 118 probably corresponds to a score of 130 on a real IQ test), and I might have done better if I’d allocated time better or been less nervous.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      Mid twenties?

      But the best answer is almost always in medicine.

      As for high-impact AI research, the bulk of that is being done by former olympiad participants and near participants. If you are *really* dead set on being a techie, its probably best to git gud at the tools that exist around you. There’s now plenty of allright online teaching tools and online courses, so that should not be a terrible problem to find.

      What was your college major, if you graduated?

    • NL says:

      First, read Bostrom if you haven’t. Then try to read/work through Russell and Norvig (the standard undergraduate textbook on current AI).

      Do you have any experience with proof based math classes (not counting High School Geometry)?

      • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

        For mathy AI research, its really close to useless to even try and participate unless one both has a rigorous understanding of a broad range of mathematics, computer science and algorithms, and is also brilliant.

        That means a firm grasp of what’s in an undergraduate mathematics and statistics curriculum, sans perhaps real analysis, and a deep knowledge of programming algorithms.

        Its a three year journey of dedicated studying to really hope to contribute to that body of research, and I don’t think the guy has the time.

        On the other hand, the merely bright and very dedicated have had success with online courses and self-directed interested studying.

        I guess if he is really brilliant, one shot is doing great at things like this

        https://www.udacity.com/nanodegree

        maybe not the site itself(apparently there exist good ones in biostatistics), but I hear top performers get letters of rec from professors at major institutions. Something like this is probably the guys best bet.

        • NL says:

          The idea was honestly that Russell and Norvig would scare him off/make him realize it wasn’t for him.

          • Finger says:

            I’m pretty sure I could get through Russell and Norvig. That textbook is used for undergrads right? Computer science classes have never been hard for me–I was working my way through SICP independently when I was 16. My concern would be that I’d put a lot of effort in to mastering this stuff and find it was all a waste because I’m only able to make progress at 0.1% of the rate of top researchers. Or I’d hit a wall partway through graduate school where I had difficulty mastering super advanced stuff.

            Edit: Looking over Russell and Norvig, a lot of this stuff doesn’t seem very new to me.

          • Zombielicious says:

            I wouldn’t really say AIMA is particularly difficult. More like a broad intro level beginner book on the subject. It’s great for its breadth more than its depth, imo. Check out Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning by Bishop for something more intermediate, or Theory of Neural Information Processing Systems for something fairly advanced. Going through the recent big research papers wouldn’t hurt either.

            In general I’d ignore online IQ tests in favor of getting (many, many) books off Amazon or Libgen and actually studying applied math and computer science up to a graduate level. See how you do on the problem sets during and after self-study and that should give a better measure of your aptitude. Consider other areas contributing to AI research if you’re not a math whiz, e.g. programming, hardware, neuroscience, bioinformatics, etc.

            I’m less pessimistic. AI is still a relatively young field with a lot of low-hanging fruit left. Most of the big advances in difficult fields get made by the top % of the talent pool, but there’s still room for mere mortals to exploit the stuff they don’t have time for. Aiming to be one of the leading researchers is probably overconfidence, but there’s still room in the middle for reasonably intelligent people. Fwiw though, doesn’t most research show people are happier in fields they’re actually good at? Unless you’re really drawn to the subject or do have monumental talent at it, your long term impact may be similar or better just doing what you’re good at and donating some of your disposable income towards various research endeavors.

            (Disclaimer: Interested in the field for a while, not in any way a PhD or professional researcher.)

          • LPSP says:

            People find satisfaction in fields at which they are optimally good at AND which they percieve as making the world better, in a general or other-centric sense. This means that it’s possible in practice for someone to find satisfaction from a job at which they suck if they can at least contribute and REALLY find it a boon to the world; and vice-versa, people can be satisfied with jobs that help no-one much except for themselves if they’re geniuses at the field. In all probability most people will be best to aim for a job that does both.

            So ultimately Finger’s question is not only if he’ll be good at AI research, but also if he can see it as a favour to the world.

            (notable non-contributing-to-satisfaction factors: money earned, prestige and social status of job, leadership and command, level of responsibilities, popularity, commonality, broader societal (inc. familial, peer, class, national/ethnic) expectations to participate, and finally ease or convenience of work, low/flexible hours etc.)

        • Finger says:

          What’s the best way to predict who’s going to be successful as a researcher after all of that dedicated study takes place? I’m pretty sure I could get in to a top grad school if I went back to school… my old algorithms study buddy now is a grad student at Stanford studying deep learning, and it didn’t seem to me like his abilities were significantly beyond mine. But if there’s some way to predict in advance that I’d be a mediocre grad student that could save a lot of time.

      • Finger says:

        Do you have any experience with proof based math classes (not counting High School Geometry)?

        Not really.

    • suntzuanime says:

      FWIW I got very similar scores on that and on a “real” IQ test within a few years of each other.

      • Deiseach says:

        I did slightly better on that one than on another Ravens Matrices test a little while back (102 vs 99).

        Plainly, associating with you all has increased my IQ level to “normal” 🙂

        “Unsolicited testimonial from a grateful reader –

        Thanks to Dr Alexander’s Amazing Osmotic Intelligence Increase Method, I gained three 1Q points in a matter of months! Dr Alexander’s Method requires no expensive equipment, no outlay on materials, no tedious counting of calories or abstaining from tasty treats – all you do is read and comment at a time and place chosen by and convenient to you!

        I heartily recommend Dr Alexander’s Method of Learning By Absorbing By Reading By Opinionating to anyone wishing to improve their IQ score, become more attractive to persons of their preferred gender(s), and raise their chances of surviving the forthcoming AI purge of the non-rational!

        Thanks, Dr Alexander!”

    • rubberduck says:

      I don’t have much to say re: career choices but with regards to the IQ test, the score I got from the online one is about 10 points lower than the one I got from a psychologist-administered test I took a few years ago.

    • pku says:

      FWIW, I found that 80,000 hours was too focused on sexy high-risk high-reward type stuff, and as a consequence wasn’t too impressed with them (they didn’t even do an expected-value calculation, and my back-of-the-envelope maths implied the other way). They seemed mostly like a mathy version of the “live your dreams! move to hollywood and be a rockstar”, without any evidence that they were more reliable than the musician version. OTOH, I’m generally more pessimistic than them on AI research.

    • TMB says:

      I don’t know, but I just took the test and I got 130.

    • LPSP says:

      If 118 corrects to 130, what about 138?

      Who here figured out 34, 36 and 37? I whittled down the first two to some likely possibilities and then guessed, but I have no clue for the latter.

      • TMB says:

        34 is arithmetic, right?

        skipped the other two.

      • Anonymous says:

        36. Va rnpu ebj naq pbyhza, gurer vf bar cvpgher va juvpu gur pbyberq oybpxf pbzr sebz rnpu bs gur obggbz, evtug, naq yrsg. Nzbat cvpgherf jvgu gur fnzr fhpu bevragngvba, gur pbybef bs gur tebhcf bs oybpxf crezhgr.

        37. Gur pvepyrf nqinapr bar fdhner jvgu rnpu cvpgher ohg ner bofpherq ba qnex fdhnerf. N pvepyr guhf bofpherq jvyy or bs gur bccbfvgr pbybe jura vg vf erirnyrq ntnva.

        • LPSP says:

          V jvyy unir gb zrqvgngr bire gurfr jvgu fbzr tenivgl gb frr ubj gurl pbhyq or qrqhprq. V fhfcrpgrq fbzrguvat gb qb jvgu n erthyne fcnpr fuvsg va 37 ohg pbhyqa’g frr jung qrgrezvarq gur qbg’f pbybhe, naq V ybbxrq znvayl ng gur engvb bs yratguf gb pbybhef va 36.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I still don’t understand 36, despite reading the rot13’d discussion.

        What about 38 and 39?

        I got 122, FWIW. I thought I was going to ace the test until those last few burned through my clock.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          rot13ed:

          36: Vg’f n pbzcyvpngrq “Fhqbxh” bar (gurer ner frireny punenpgrevfgvpf gung unir gb nccrne bapr va rnpu ebj naq pbyhza). Gur fvzcyr punenpgrevfgvpf ner bar yvar bs guerr bs rnpu bs gur pbybhef, naq bar puneg tbvat yrsg, bar evtug, bar hc. Gur zber pbzcyvpngrq barf ner bar pbybhe orvat n yvar bs 3, n yvar bs 2, naq n yvar bs 1; nabgure pbybhe orvat 3, 2, 2; naq gur guveq orvat 3, 1, 1 (va grezf bs ubj znal oybpxf gurer ner va n yvar va n tencu). Naq rnpu pbybhe vf n qvssrerag bar bs gubfr cnggreaf va rnpu ebj (r.t. oynpx vf 3, 1, 1 ng gur gbc, 3, 2, 1 va gur zvqqyr, naq 3, 2, 2 ng gur obggbz (gur 3 orvat va gur nafjre)). Gurer zvtug or shegure cnggreaf gb qb jvgu beqref bs gur yvarf (be n zhpu fvzcyre jnl bs ybbxvat ng guvatf) ohg V guvax gung vf rabhtu gb trg gur evtug nafjre (nygubhtu V qvqa’g unir gvzr jura V qvq gur grfg). Fb hayrff V’z zvfgnxra, gur nafjre vf S.

          38: Vg’f fbzrguvat gb qb jvgu gur pbearef orvat genafsbezrq ol gur rqtrf. V gubhtug V unq gur nafjre, ohg ba ersyrpgvba vg’f abg pbeerpg.

          Ab vqrn sbe 39.

    • Dániel says:

      You don’t have to figure this out right now. Right now AI research is in the middle of a big democratization process. It is splitting into several branches. To invent something like Variational Autoencoders, you have to be a math genius. To combine it with other known models, and invent a Variational Autoencoder / Generative Adversarial Model, it’s enough if you are good at math and a very good software hacker. And if you want to build a good image classification model, it’s enough if you can program a bit, and you are patient enough to play with the parameters, see my little weekend project Training an InceptionV3-based image classifier with your own dataset.

    • Dahlen says:

      I took http://www.iqtest.dk/ and scored 118, but that test is supposedly normed very hard (based on discussion online, I think a score of 118 probably corresponds to a score of 130 on a real IQ test)

      Really? That’s… very uplifting news. Literally.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, not really. There is no norm study and the result you get from it is completely meaningless.

        Some guy somewhere until the internet was told that he has an IQ of 130 based on a test he took in elementary school. That number was rounded up twice, once by his mother once by him. Then he took the meaningless internet test and was disappointed by the more or less random result he got. Et voila the test is normed low. Some guy in HBDChick’s comment section said.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think me scoring 102 on that test is fairly accurate, given that it’s mathematically-based and I am pure hopeless at maths/pattern recognition/spatial manipulation (I managed to get lost not once but two times in my small home town where I have lived all my life – no sense of direction!). So I think any scores you’re likely to get are the real thing, and not “should add on X points because it’s marked hard”.

          • Loyle says:

            Counterpoint: I scored 138 and I’m pretty damn sure I’m a dumbass. I may have a special affinity for the types of questions it asked, or I’m just phenomenally lucky that my guesses are that good, but it in no way reflects what it says it’s measuring. I’m at least pretty sure you’re smarter than me.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Loyle
            Had you done any IQ tests prior to this one?

            @Deiseach
            You would likely score higher on an actual IQ test, as they usually have a verbal reasoning component.

          • Loyle says:

            Any real IQ tests? Probably not. Unless one or more of the tests given when I was in school was a stealth IQ test. I’ve played a few browser games masquerading as IQ tests, but I can’t say I remember their results. I do believe 138’s the highest I’ve gotten on one.

          • I know nothing about that particular test but I think it’s pretty obvious, reading your posts, that your IQ is well above a hundred.

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, had it a verbal portion I’d be confident of crushing it, but the maths involved means the resultant score stacks up fairly well with my estimation of my mathematical ability, i.e. none.

            So on that basis it seems like a reliable test for those of you wondering if it’s extra-tougher than the others you took.

  9. Wrong Species says:

    I’m looking for more “meta-political” books. To be specific, I want to read more books similar to the Righteous Mind, Moral Tribes and The Fractured Republic. What these books have in common is they acknowledge that we have different values and are focused more on trying to understand each other and work together rather than convincing everyone that their values are the only Good, True Values. Any suggestions?

    • hlynkacg says:

      I’d recommend The True Believer By Eric Hoffer, if you haven’t read it already. It’s reasonably short and IMO one of the better examples of the genre.

      • anonyi says:

        Seconded.

        • US says:

          Thirded.

          I incidentally covered Hoffer’s book on my blog and the link over my name will lead you to a blog post I wrote after having read the book.

          I haven’t actually read any of the books you mention so I’m not sure exactly what sort of material they cover, but I would note that there are lots of relatively ‘strange’ places you can find interesting stuff which may help you better understand these kinds of things. Books which you’d probably not be particularly likely to encounter while looking for stuff on these topics but which might nevertheless be quite helpful would in my opinion include works like Natural Conflict Resolution by Aureli et al. and The Biology of Moral Systems by Richard Alexander (I haven’t finished the latter book yet, but I have read enough of it to have no problem recommending it, and it seems like it covers the sort of material you might be interested in; as he states in chapter 1: “I am interested, first, not in determining what is moral and immoral, in the sense of what people ought to be doing, but in elucidating the natural history of ethics and morality—in discovering how and why humans initiated and developed the ideas we have about right and wrong”). Perhaps also some books about cultural evolution, like e.g. A Cooperative Species, by Bowles and Gintis, or The Origin and Evolution of Cultures, by Boyd and Richerson. Patricia Crone’s book Pre-Industrial Societies also includes some great stuff about historical aspects of politics/religion/culture, and that one is an easier read than the aforementioned texts.

          All of the books mentioned above, with the exception of Hoffer’s book, take some work to get through (a few of them quite a bit of work) and they may at least in that respect not really be all that similar to the books you mention; but in my opinion you should in general be very cautious about expecting any sort of light read on topics like these to get you all that far.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker isn’t explicitly about meta-politics, it’s about human nature. But it has so much overlap with The Righteous Mind that upon remembering something I read in one of them, I can never remember which of the two it was in. So if you liked The Righteous Mind you might like The Blank Slate

    • cassander says:

      Albion’s Seed is a must for american politics. Scott’s review is good but the full treatment is fascinating.

      James Q. Wilson’s “Bureaucracy” is not about politics per se, but about the behaviors of large organizations and is essential to understanding why organizations behave the way that they do.

    • Mr Mind says:

      The logic of political survival.
      It’s game theory applied to politics in a way that explains why dictators, electors and presidents behave the way they do, very rational and insightful.

    • H. E. Pennypacker says:

      Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value: The false coin of our own dreams by David Graeber if you want to read something that very much fits what you described but will probably (I’m assuming here based on the average SSC commenter) disagree with a lot of your beliefs.

      Here’s a much shorter article on the same topic by the same guy.

    • Emma Casey says:

      “The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left” also by Yuval Levin is excellent.

    • multiheaded says:

      Discourses on Livy

  10. rubberduck says:

    This feels like a silly question but why is it that whenever discussing discrimination in hiring, comparisons are almost always drawn to the population rather than the applicant pool?

    Imagine that Group A represents 25% of the population but only 5% of people in some profession. It is meaningless to talk about discrimination in hiring without knowing the portion of Group A in the applicant pool- there is unlikely to be active discrimination if the applicant pool is only 2% Group A, for example, while the reverse is true if the applicant pool is 40% Group A. Yet nobody ever seems to make this comparison, choosing instead to compare to the population as a whole. Why is this? Is it simply because statistics on the demographics of job applicants are too hard to come by, or is there some other reason that I am overlooking? (I will be charitable and assume people aren’t intentionally ignoring the obvious comparison for the sake of pushing a narrative.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      The pool of applicants may itself reflect discrimination. If black people aren’t applying to work for you, it might be your fault for sticking black heads on stakes outside your offices.

      • Sandy says:

        Yes, but it may reflect other people’s discrimination, or it may not reflect discrimination at all. If black people aren’t applying to work for you, it’s possible you work in a field that few black people go into in the first place, which means taking you to task for low representation that stems from problems in the school or university system doesn’t make much sense. Or if women aren’t applying for your extremely theoretical STEM job despite concerted efforts by government and social organizations to get women interested in extremely theoretical STEM jobs, it’s possible women just aren’t interested in such work.

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s not possible that women differ from men in any way, I think you’ll find.

          • Sandy says:

            I was given to understand we were a sexually dimorphic species! How have they hidden this from me for so long?

            And there is some debate over whether men are more represented in engineering fields than women because of a documented gap in spatial cognition between the sexes.

          • trappings says:

            Sandy, methinks you’ll find that was sarcasm.

          • Sleigh-By Commenter says:

            Bear in mind the Internet makes sarcasm detectors malfunction and generate false positives and false negatives…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I was given to understand we were a sexually dimorphic species! How have they hidden this from me for so long?

            That’s only because women (sorry, “people who are labelled as female”) are starved and maltreated and not allowed to play sports! If they were, there would be no physical differences whatsoever!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s only because women (sorry, “people who are labelled as female”) are starved and maltreated and not allowed to play sports! If they were, there would be no physical differences whatsoever!

            Actually, that reminded me of Aristotle’s statement that “A woman is merely a defective man”… Always fun to see people who try to be so opposed to misogyny they inadvertently back into it.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Everyone here is getting trolled by each other and I will ban anyone who continues this pathetic cycle.

      • rubberduck says:

        That doesn’t sound like hiring discrimination to me- even if an office is surrounded by black heads on stakes, it is not impossible that they might still be fair when hiring blacks, or even actively select for them. Discrimination to me would be more if the applicant pool has a number of well-qualified blacks that HR is actively choosing not to hire because they are racists. My understanding is that this is what people have in mind when talking about discrimination in hiring, rather than looking at whatever factors might lead there to be fewer black applicants in the first place.

        • Jiro says:

          That doesn’t sound like hiring discrimination to me- even if an office is surrounded by black heads on stakes, it is not impossible that they might still be fair when hiring blacks,

          Having black heads on stakes outside the office is Bayseian evidence that they will be unfair when hiring blacks, even though it isn’t logically required that they are unfair.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Related: it’s often said that men less often get custody of children in custody battles.

        But, apparently if you look at stats on how often they actually petitioned for it, they get custody about 50% of the time they try. It’s just that they don’t try often.

        Case closed, right? No discrimination evident. Well, not quite. Men also apply for custody less. It’s still possible that they only attempt to get custody when they think they have a particularly good chance of winning, after taking expected discrimination into account. If they’re doing this well, you would expect them to win about 50% of the time. Men who think their odds are significantly less than 50% don’t even try.

        It’s like we sometimes say in science: If you think the chances are better than 50% that your paper will be accepted, you should have sent it to a more prestigious journal.

        • Gazeboist says:

          I recall a “chop out the bottom” effect coming up on this site at some point in the past. In some academic field, women were (on average) vastly more successful than men, but men were a majority at all levels. The suggested explanation was that the women were filtered more strongly than the men, resulting in only the best women entering the field in the first place.

          • That may be my account of Bolt, Berkely Law School, when my sister went there. Women were, as I remember, about 10% of the class, and one year, of the six top students (two in each year), five were women.

          • Gazeboist says:

            That could be it. The story is associated with the west coast in my head.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I think it was a link to some agency for programmers doing experiments with voice modulation to make candidates seem like they were of different genders.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In Oxford before the 60s, the number of female undergrads was capped at a ratio of 1 to every 4 or 5 males. The effect was that women as a group consistently outperformed men as a group.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Of all possible things people could do or not do with gender ratios, why the hell would anyone do that? Not an accusation of lying, but if you happen to know the answer please do explain because I am baffled to hear that.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s probably a mistake to think of Oxford as a single school, rather than a consortium. It didn’t have a policy that fixed it 1/6 female before 1974. Instead, most colleges were male, five female. Would you say that the Harvard-Radcliffe consortium limited its enrollment to 1/3 female before 1972? That would be a lot more reasonable than to say the same of Oxford.
            [Maybe Mr X is talking about something else, earlier.]

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of all possible things people could do or not do with gender ratios, why the hell would anyone do that? Not an accusation of lying, but if you happen to know the answer please do explain because I am baffled to hear that.

            IDK, apparently they just didn’t like having too many women around.

            It’s probably a mistake to think of Oxford as a single school, rather than a consortium. It didn’t have a policy that fixed it 1/6 female before 1974. Instead, most colleges were male, five female. Would you say that the Harvard-Radcliffe consortium limited its enrollment to 1/3 female before 1972? That would be a lot more reasonable than to say the same of Oxford.

            From what I gather, there was a conscious decision not to build more women’s colleges to even up the ratio, and also to stop the women’s colleges from just accepting loads more applicants. So describing it as a cap doesn’t seem unreasonable.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nope.

          • Gazeboist says:

            That makes substantially more sense. And I agree with Anon that it’s a little misleading to call it a cap, though. It definitely functioned as one, but a functional cap (even if it’s an indirect result of policy) is sufficiently different from a direct policy cap that I think it’s worth calling out.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            In some senses, there was a direct policy cap. As far as I know, the imbalance resulted from a combination of the policy of the majority of colleges not to admit women, and the lack of funds for all-female colleges.

            From A Room of One’s Own: “We are told that we ought to ask for £30,000 at least… It is not a large sum, considering that there is to be but one college of this sort for Great Britain, Ireland and the Colonies, and considering how easy it is to raise immense sums for boys’ schools. But considering how few people really wish women to be educated, it is a good deal.’ — Lady Stephen Emily Davies and Girton College”

          • Anonymous says:

            Sweeneyrod, but that isn’t a single policy. The colleges each had a separate policy (unlike Harvard-Radcliffe). Not entirely separate, as shown by the fact that 5 of them went coed in one year, but not entirely together, as shown by the fact that only 5 went coed; and one considered it five years earlier.

            And especially the lack of funds is not a policy. It is, as your quote indicates, the aggregate will of the donors. But does it make sense to talk of the incoherent mass of donors having policies? Do you speak of the policies of the market? What is the policy of the donors moved by the appeal you quote? Is it to increase the female proportion at Cambridge, or in Britain as a whole? The number 1/6 comes from a particular choice of aggregation.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Anonymous

            I agree, there certainly wasn’t a single policy. But one of the two necessary factors that caused the gender imbalance was the set of direct policies the male colleges had; i.e. there were deliberate policies that caused the imbalanced, rather than it just happening to occur, which is what I interpreted Gazeboist as implying.

          • Anonymous says:

            The question was: why this policy of 1:5, rather than the common policies of 1:0, 0:1, 1:1? The answer was: everyone is using a common policy.

            Let us return to Mr X’s claim that the women outperformed the men.
            Many people claim that the women’s colleges were at the top of the Norrington tables, but this claims that St Hugh’s was never high on the Table. I can’t find the actual tables, which were not official. (Also, I’m suspicious that women’s choice of degree would hurt them on this particular metric.)

        • Tibor says:

          I suppose there are also men who are not interested in the custody. If you don’t account for that, you will conclude that there is a discrimination against men where there might be none.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      It’s because taking the applicant pool into account is bad for the narrative. Simple as that.

    • pku says:

      Rule of the thumb: If there’s something that seems like it’d be a much better evidence for someone’s cause than the one he’s actually bringing up, it’s because the evidence doesn’t support him on that.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Because the comparisons to the population typically result in a more dramatic result, and anyway “pipeline” is a bingo card. To make things look even worse, you can make a comparison to a completely inappropriate population, like that of the city or county the home office is in (e.g. Santa Clara county is 20% Hispanic, why isn’t Apple?)

      It’s all culture war.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Law only cares about the applicant pool, FWIW.

    • Tseeteli says:

      Those discussions are being started by activists rather than researchers.

      When I’ve seen the stat defended, the typical argument is that the discussion-starter is trying to critique the the system as a whole.

      The view is that companies are knowingly participating in a sexist/racist system. And if they don’t want to be seen as sexist/racist, they should take steps to fix the leaky pipelines that are giving them a biased group of applicants in the first place.

    • Jeff Heikkinen says:

      “I will be charitable and assume people aren’t intentionally ignoring the obvious comparison for the sake of pushing a narrative.”

      Why assume that? There’s charitable, and then there’s credulous.

      I mean, I suppose there’s an alternative explanation – that the people who make these claims are so bad at statistical reasoning that it honestly doesn’t occur to them that the relevant comparison is to the applicant pool, not the population. But Hanlon’s Razor notwithstanding… I mean, that is a really incredible degree of stupidity that you’d have to attribute to them. There’s got to be some degree of stupid where “they’re evil” (at least in the sense of “they’re consciously dishonest on this point”) becomes a more charitable explanation than “they’re stupid”, and this seems well into that territory, doesn’t it?

  11. keranih says:

    RE: recent campaign events

    I find myself rather annoyed at reporters, bloggers and random commentators alike who feel they have a solid take on a stranger’s health based on a two minute video clip. And this on both sides – the ones who say “SHE’S ON DEATH’S DOOR” and the ones who say “NONSENSE FIT AS A FIDDLE!!” A pox on all your houses.

    If determining diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment were that easy to do, then the whole national mess of “Healthcare reform” is a farce – worse than a farce, a lie, and an industry built on lies, and people who spend their lives teaching doctors and nurses and medics – much less the docs, etc – are thieves and charlatans.

    (Which I don’t think they are.)

    To be clear – I think it’s appropriate to ask “Doesn’t she look tired?” –

    – even if you *are* The Doctor, and are doing so from malicious motives –

    – and always correct to question both the spin of the media and the spin of the campaigns, but I think that should be combined with a humility that admits that even “real” (ie, not claiming to be one on the internets) doctors use a number of tools to come to a conclusion, and two minutes of video aren’t enough to say much of anything beyond “that should get looked at.”

    (For those who have forgotten – I am sort of a #NeverHillary sort, in that there are people who have now or previously run for president who, if matched against Hillary, would make me feel I was obligated to vote for her. But I honestly can’t bring any to mind right now. My issue is about how we-as-citizen-owners-of-the-country ought to use our minds, not about Hillary’s health in and of itself.)

    *kicks aside soapbox, wanders off, muttering*

    • suntzuanime says:

      On the one hand, sure, but on the other hand, there had been questions being raised about her health for a while, and the media orthodoxy was that this was an absurd right-wing conspiracy, so I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the people who made correct predictions to feel vindicated.

      • Seth says:

        The jury is still out regarding any signficance of Hilary Clinton’s recent tiredness. Campaigning is physically exhausting. The manipulative view of the politics involved is that by rumor-mongering, the near-inevitable bad day would turn into a much bigger story of supposedly vindicating the original rumor.

        • suntzuanime says:

          The “jury is still out” because it only takes one #WithHer to deny reality and hang a jury. But from a rationalist perspective that’s looking for evidence rather than proof, making correct predictions is pretty impressive. At what rate would you say politicians collapse at public events?

        • Seth says:

          But it’s not “pretty impressive” to predict anything like “Politician X will have a bad health day sometime over the course of a grueling campaign”. That’s to the level of “God will visit wrath on this city of sin in terms of a sign via weather”. Any bad day then can be taken as “proof”. How often do politicians have any sort of health incident which could fit? It happens. I’m sure people are compiling past incidents now, to far better detail than I could.

          Why do you think something like “Hillary Clinton has secret chronic illness” has higher likelihood over the also-fitting and more typical “Hillary Clinton is campaigning hard enough to exhaust herself”?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Uh, I think you’re working off an outdated party line. Go download the latest talking points and try again.

          • nelshoy says:

            I’d say it is pretty impressive claim. To my knowledge, not many politicians have a history of keeling over in public during the campaign season. They assigned a higher probability to that event happening than I’m assuming you did. Time to update.

            Collapsing involuntarily is a pretty severe form of exhaustion. I’d think most politicians would rather rest in their tour bus or plane. Illnesses, on the other hand, are quite common in the elderly, and definitely not something you want people to fault you for if you are desperately trying to win an election.

          • Seth says:

            Can you restate your own argument? I thought it was that Hillary Clinton has some sort of chronic health problem, i.e. one serious and incurable. Anything along those lines requires believing that her disclosed overall information is dishonest. Now, candidates have been known to lie about their health problems, so it’s not utterly unbelievable. But where is the evidence of such a chronic health issues over a transitory one, given that minor health problems are common to anyone who does an enormous amount of public speaking and travel.

          • A Non Mous(e) says:

            Why do you think something like “Hillary Clinton has secret chronic illness” has higher likelihood over the also-fitting and more typical “Hillary Clinton is campaigning hard enough to exhaust herself”?

            1) She just took a month off actually campaigning and if she’s exhausted by less than 2 weeks of campaigning then that in itself is a sign that she’s in poor health
            2) Looking at the video she didn’t pass out, she tensed up in a seizure like manner and then collapsed.
            3) The people around her who are familiar with her and her health situation didn’t let her recover, they dragged her into the van because their primary concern is that video of the event leaks out (if no video, the press simply won’t report the incident). The most likely explanation for this behavior is that they’ve seen it before.
            4) She’s claimed to have had a concussion from a fall with no specific stated cause in the past.
            5) The story coming out of her camp changed in a transparently false way. First, nothing. Then they see the video and she was hot because it was extremely hot (it was in the 70s and low humidity). Then the story changed to pneumonia. Before the pneumonia story came out she embraced a random small child – allegedly when knowing she had a dangerous contagious disease.

            There are more reasons – mostly to do with prior assumptions since one group of people predicted this sort of thing was likely while the group now denying any problems said that was the talk of deranged people.

          • Seth says:

            @ A Non Mous(e)

            1) She was doing fundraisers, which counts also.
            2) All I can find is video of her stumbling while getting into a van. If that’s the worst the critics have, I’m skeptical there’s anything to this.
            3) 9/11 – I won’t criticize any caution when it comes to getting the leading Presidential candidate away from an open area.
            4) There’s a whole medical trail here.
            5) “fog of war”. Small point that she probably shouldn’t be embracing children, but that’s thin gruel.

            Again, predicting something notable will happen sometime is not a strong prediction.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            It would be easier to shrug this off and move on if the news media hadn’t spent all of 2008 insisting that John McCain was going to drop dead any second.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Seth – ” All I can find is video of her stumbling while getting into a van. If that’s the worst the critics have, I’m skeptical there’s anything to this.”

            angle 1
            angle 2

            …From the beginning of the clips, Clinton appears unable to stand, supported by the staffer holding her under the armpit and leaning heavily on the post behind her, very noticeably off her center of gravity. There is some movement that appears to be a failed step forward, and she sinks noticeably. at least one and possibly two staffers quickly support her weight and drag her into the van toes-down before the security detail screens her from view. “Stumbling” seems like a pretty inaccurate description.

            shortly after, seems fine

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Anything along those lines requires believing that her disclosed overall information is dishonest.”

            Prior probability=unity.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Since we’re apparently talking about this, why don’t we start quoting the last thread where Hillary’s Health was brought up, to see what people said?
          I seem to remember a lot of accusations being flung around…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And I was one of the people who piled onto the person who brought it up.

            I regretted it soon after, because of piling on.

            I regret it now because it looks like I should have given them a better chance. In any case, you should now consider them more believable and me less believable.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Don’t feel bad. I’m a breitbart reader and still didn’t take it at all seriously.
            I guess the only real moral here is to never underestimate the power of Meme Magic.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I think this is a good chance to not indulge in petty smugness by calling back prior discussions, particularly because of the gravity of the accusations.

          • Deiseach says:

            All I know about this is that she is supposed to be suffering from pneumonia, according to the news. The one site I saw questioning the story did so along the lines of “So if you knew on Friday she had been diagnosed with pneumonia, why did you let her keep campaigning?” and the conclusion they drew was that there is some underlying health problem which her campaign are trying to keep under wraps, so they’re putting out the “it’s pneumonia” story and sticking to it.

            I have no opinion one way or the other on her state of health. Campaigning is physically exhausting, this is the season to pick up respiratory infections, put ’em both together and it’s quite possible you have doctor saying “this is pneumonia, take a break” and candidate insisting she was fine to keep going.

            I don’t think any conspiracy theories from either Right or Left need be invoked, but if she does have some health problem, for feck’s sake be honest about it! Suppose she’s become asthmatic or something over the past few years, I have no idea – keeping it a big dark secret is only going to make things worse.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Pneumonia was the second explanation that was given (maybe the third, if you count angry denials, but I’m not sure how official those were). The first was heat exhaustion. But that has really bad optics, and the temperatures were only high-70s, so they offered pneumonia as an explanation later.

            So yeah, a constantly changing story doesn’t help any.

          • Aapje says:

            Well, I’m sure not going to bother commenting on this again. People apparently can’t discuss this rationally here, so….

      • Aegeus says:

        The thing is, some of it was an absurd right-wing conspiracy theory. The theories I heard before today (when we got an actual diagnosis announced) included everything from “microseizures” to “the concussion she got years ago is suddenly making a comeback.” Every staff member who got near her suddenly became a “medical aide” who was secretly administering drugs to keep her from dying in public.

        If there was a sane-sounding doctor on the right who actually called “pneumonia” (or at least some sort of lung disease), who could point out symptoms without using hyperbole like “Hillary was crippled at her last campaign appearance!”, I would boost their credibility significantly. But I didn’t see anyone like that. They were using the method of a conspiracy theorist, not a doctor.

        A broken clock is right twice a day, but that doesn’t mean I should smash my wristwatch.

        • LHN says:

          Though as someone who’s been discounting her opponents’ claims as trash talk, I was still struck by the contortions her supporters (at least in my social media bubble) underwent. Doctors on her side proved just as capable of diagnosing a patient based on a few seconds of cell phone video (“harmless syncope”), New York in September became a veritable sauna that might fell anyone. Then the sudden pivot when the pneumonia release came without even noticing that this contradicted the previous “she’s fine” and the airy dismissals that the campaign had been trying to keep something under wraps.

          Given the previous attempts to downplay things, I can only be agnostic on the pneumonia as the final diagnosis. (I don’t assume anything worse than that without data, but I do believe that if things were worse they wouldn’t say so.)

          There’s nothing new about that, of course (there’s a long list of presidential ailments that were minimized or covered up), but it does make analyzing a candidate’s or president’s health almost akin to Kremlinology.

          • Corey says:

            it does make analyzing a candidate’s or president’s health almost akin to Kremlinology.

            And not even particularly useful, given the US’s polarization and the VP candidates (who are, approximately, Generic Republican and Generic Democrat). There’s nobody who prefers Clinton to Trump who would prefer Trump or Pence to Kaine.

          • LHN says:

            True enough. I suspect that both VP candidates’ negatives are substantially less for swing or even opposing voters than the tops of their respective tickets. (If either Clinton or Trump had to step down, I’d expect their party’s poll numbers to go up, at least initially.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Corey

            Are you kidding me? I’m going to sit this election out, but if you flipped the Republican ticket to put Pence at the top I’d pull the lever for him in a hearbeat.

          • LHN says:

            I’d’ve probably voted for Pence if he’d run and gotten the nomination initially. (Unless I’d been seduced by the LP actually running a plausible ticket– plausible to govern, not to actually win, of course. My state isn’t a swing state anyway, so I might have taken the opportunity to vote a preference.)

            But going forward, what individual Republicans did in this campaign is going to inform my vote, which puts Pence is pretty much at the top of the Nope list for me.

            Which doesn’t mean he wouldn’t win, at least if Trump were sidelined for reasons that didn’t provoke his supporters to sit the election out.

            On the other hand, more non-Trump R-leaners might hold a grudge against Pence for allying with a perceived outsider than D-leaners would hold one against Kaine for running with a powerful long-term influential Democrat, whatever they thought of her.

            (But maybe not. I’ve had no luck predicting this election, and I’m not going to start now.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Kremlinology, indeed.

            This is the kind of thing that really pisses me off. A week ago, I dismissed the speculation about Hilary’s health as basically conspiracy theories. It’s not that the concept of an old person being in bad health was all that crazy, I just didn’t buy that internet randos could actually diagnose somebody on the basis of a few scattered public appearances. Moreover, even if there was something there, her handlers would surely be competent enough to keep it hidden from us. No point in pursuing it further.

            And then she goes and collapses. And of course the first thing out is some nonsense about heat exhaustion, and now I’m supposed to believe them when they say it’s pneumonia, we promise, totally not lying this time? Also, they claim to have known this back during the same period of time they were answering questions about her health with “HOW DARE YOU?!”

            Who’s a Bayesian to believe when the choice is between liars and loons?

          • Corey says:

            @Jaskologist: The analysis that fits this, and pretty much all previous data, is the Clintons’ and the press’s mutual hatred. She believes (correctly IMO) that no matter what information gets out, it’ll get spun as negative, so better to not give an inch (even when it would have been better to just be transparent about it from the get-go).

            I don’t think this is fixable in time for the election. If, a year or two ago, she’d have went full transparent (as in “press pool, follow me in here while I poop”) it *might* have let relations cool to the point where she could be transparent now. But during the cooling process there would be an interminable string of nothingburger scandals, and if she tried it now those would still be going on up through the election.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “The analysis that fits this, and pretty much all previous data, is the Clintons’ and the press’s mutual hatred.” It practically leaps off the screen at you.

          • CatCube says:

            @Corey

            I think that “Hillary is an inveterate liar” explains the evidence much better.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            And of course the first thing out is some nonsense about heat exhaustion, and now I’m supposed to believe them when they say it’s pneumonia

            Have you considered that these explanations are not mutually exclusive? There’s a reason why doctors prescribe bed rest for people suffering from respiratory infections, after all.

          • “Have you considered that these explanations are not mutually exclusive?”

            If the reason she overheated was that she had pneumonia, explaining what happened as “she overheated” is, if not strictly a lie, deliberately misleading.

            Rather like explaining that President Lincoln died because his heart stopped without mentioning that the reason it stopped was a bullet.

          • onyomi says:

            I can say I sympathize somewhat with Hillary on this point: you know your opponent is going to make a big deal of it if you are perceived to be suffering a health issue, so you try to power through and not let it get out. And having suffered through many scandals the past couple of decades, Clinton may well be in what some journalists have described as a “bunker” mentality: always trying to damage control whatever the next thing is going to be. I can understand how she’d get into a “bunker” mentality, given what she’s been through so far. Question is: do we want a “bunker” presidency, given there’s no reason to assume she’ll change her attitude when she wins? Sounds a bit like Nixon, who I don’t actually think was that bad a president, btw, but with an obvious tendency to make things worse and distract from the job of presidenting by covering up.

          • Jiro says:

            The Democrats used health as an issue against McCain in 2008. Having it fall on Hillary Clinton is a case of “do not call up that which you can’t put down”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ David Friedman

            If the reason she overheated was that she had pneumonia, explaining what happened as “she overheated” is, if not strictly a lie, deliberately misleading.

            It took her doctor, what, all of seven hours to issue a statement about the pneumonia diagnosis? I suppose more information is better, but I don’t think it’s particularly dishonest to attribute Clinton’s collapse to overheating if it was, in fact, caused by overheating.

            @ Jiro

            The Democrats used health as an issue against McCain in 2008. Having it fall on Hillary Clinton is a case of “do not call up that which you can’t put down”.

            One slight hitch: Hillary’s life expectancy is somewhat better than her opponent’s, on account of her age and sex. McCain’s health also became more of an issue in virtue of his disastrous choice of running mate, but both Pence and Kaine strike me as competent and unremarkable selections.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      A purported video I saw of her really looks like she passed out.

      On my view, you would never hire a 70 YO person, male or female, to do the most demanding job in the world for possibly 8 years. If you *have* to do so, they need to clearly be in much better shape then the average 70 YO.

      She may have had a stroke, or something similar to it, and now this. Really I think she should step down for her running mate or someone qualified with good health to take the charge.

      • I may be wrong, but my understanding is that a candidate doesn’t have the option of stepping down for her or his running mate. The names on the ballot are determined by procedures under state law and not freely changeable.

        I’ve been wondering for a while what happens if either candidate drops dead of a heart attack, gets assassinated, or simply withdraws. Or both.

        (Which starts me imagining a terrorist attack at the debate).

        • LHN says:

          The candidate or the party could announce the intention to instruct a candidate’s electors to vote for someone else.

          There’s no federal law binding the electors. There are state laws in some states which do, which are largely untested. If the intended candidate was dead, I suspect that an enforcement action would be unlikely.

          Withdrawing is trickier. But the penalty for faithless electors is usually a fine, and there’s a decent chance that the laws wouldn’t past constitutional muster. A party campaign organization could probably provide assurances sufficient to convince most electors to risk it, especially if the alternative is splitting the vote and losing the election to the other candidate.

          • So the candidate would still be on the ballot, even if dead? But people would be told that voting for the candidate really meant voting for electors who had been instructed to cast their electoral votes for a different (and live) candidate?

            It must have happened at something less prominent than the presidential level. If so, did the knowledge that the candidate was dead result in fewer votes than would be expected either for the candidate if alive or for the replacement if on the ballot? Substantially fewer?

          • Phil says:

            @David Friedman

            Mel Carnahan beat John Ashcroft posthumously for the Missouri Senate race in 2000, he died in a plane crash 3 weeks before the election, the Lieutenant Governor (who became the new governor, because Carnahan was the sitting governor) announced that Carnahan’s widow would be appointed to the seat if Carnahan won the election, which he did

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Carnahan#2000_Senate_election_and_death

          • JayT says:

            In the 1972 election Thomas Eagleton was McGovern’s running mate, but it came out that he suffered depression, and they took him off the ticket (after the convention) in favor of Sargent Shriver. So, there is some precedent for someone being removed from the presidential ticket.

            That happened in August of ’72 though, and I would assume that there is some point where there’s no going back, but I don’t know when that would be.

      • pku says:

        Pet peeve: Presidents aren’t actually elected for eight-year terms, and they do, in fact, sometimes fail to be reelected. Especially if they start going visibly senile or something.

        • Bassicallyboss says:

          I read “possibly 8 years” as “4 years, but with the understanding that incumbents who seek re-election are rather likely to win it.” For that reason, I wasn’t bothered. Upon reflection, though, if one assumes that a candidate may not have the health needed to do a good job, then one’s estimate of the probability that a candidate will be in interested in and capable of running for re-election ought to be correspondingly lowered, so I guess “possibly 8” makes less sense in context than I first thought.

      • Tibor says:

        Is it really the most demanding job in the world though? From what Scott writes about being a medical doctor in a hospital, that seems like a much more demanding job to me.

        Anyway, I was surprised about the age of both candidates, I thought both were 10 years younger than they are.

      • I had pneumonia some years back. Two possibly relevant points–only possibly because pneumonia covers a pretty wide range and I don’t know how her case compares to mine:

        1. The pneumonia itself wasn’t so bad. I was scheduled to do a book signing and talk at Laissez-Faire books in San Francisco and did it, despite having pneumonia and a significant fever. That makes me wonder if her apparent near collapse is evidence that she has a relatively severe case. Of course, she is older than I was and under considerably more pressure.

        2. What was bad was the recovery. As the lungs were healing up they threw out a lot of liquid with the result that I was coughing violently for some weeks and ended up at Pennsic recovered from the pneumonia but running my bardic circle in a whisper because that was all I was capable of by that time. That would be a serious inconvenience for a presidential candidate campaigning.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Yes. I’ve had pneumonia, too, and on my experience it is completely implausible that you could have it bad enough to collapse and then do public speaking hours or even a few days later.

          ETA: Hmm, unless she was thoroughly hopped up on way better drugs than I had at my disposal.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      I find myself rather annoyed at reporters, bloggers and random commentators alike who feel they have a solid take on a stranger’s health based on a two minute video clip. And this on both sides – the ones who say “SHE’S ON DEATH’S DOOR” and the ones who say “NONSENSE FIT AS A FIDDLE!!” A pox on all your houses.

      Just wanted to second this.

    • Emma Casey says:

      Surely Hilary being ill is a selling point right? “Vote Hillary, she’ll die soon and then we’ll get a Generic Democrat President which is a massive win”.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Well, her VP choice seems to be roughly the same as her, political-views-wise, so it doesn’t seem like a massive win for the prog-wagon.

        • Emma Casey says:

          Sure but such people are weird and should be ignored.

          I’m considering the mainstream democrats who would like to vote for Clinton’s policies, or maybe even something to the right of them, but are put off by corruption worries/personal dislike.

    • HircumSaeculorum says:

      I agree, with the addendum that I don’t honestly care that much *what* her medical situation is.

      I would rather vote for chronically ill Clinton than for Trump. I would rather vote for Tim Kaine than for Trump. I would rather vote for the office to be filled via sortition that for Trump. I would rather vote for the office not to be filled than for Trump.

      Not too keen on Johnson or Stein either.

  12. Siah Sargus says:

    Hey SSC Commentariat, what is your biggest fetish/kink/paraphillia/partialism/turn-on? I want to see if it differs significantly from the usual stuff people admit to liking on the internet.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Is this a trap? It smells like a trap.

      • trappings says:

        Hmm what does a trap smell like? Also, if they had a smell wouldnt that preclude them from being traps? Or are they perhaps, perfumed?

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Porn artists casually chat about marketing demographics just like any other professional. It’s just a slightly stickier topic with them.

        My biggest paraphilia is watching rationalists try to decide if the guy proposing prostate stimulation as the most healthy and rational form of sex play is serious, or just trying to troll them.
        You learn strange and terrible things about yourself lurking rationalist forums.

      • Anonymous_o says:

        Eh, if we fear them enough that we’re unwilling to have free discussions in our own online spaces, we’ve already lost.

        My turn-on is dominance contests, usually in the form of roughhousing/wrestling. Outright submission is boring no matter which party is doing it, but one party “losing” is fine.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        Depends, are you into traps?

        • Deiseach says:

          I can tell you what I don’t like, or rather, what does not do it for me at all and frankly I find it boring: spanking.

          Whether it’s the “tee-hee, aren’t we being naughty?” fluffy handcuffs kind or the serious “whip ’em till you raise welts and they bleed” kind, just do not see the appeal.

          Not that it sends me into spasms of pearl clutching, more like “Ah, good story, enjoying this, and now we come to the sexy bit – ah. Spanking. Skipping right ahead to the next part…”

          There was one small fandom for which I was desperately trawling for fanfiction, and unfortunately the one person writing copious amounts of new fanfiction for it had some kind of spanking fetish, which they tried to pass off as “non-sexual spanking”.

          Certainly within the stories the spanking was not in a sexual situation, but honey, you’re writing twenty variations on “X spanks Y for disciplinary reasons” (and some of those are not “parent spanking teenage child” but “husband spanks wife”) – it’s sexual for you.

          Also humiliation, whether verbal or otherwise – I know some people have it as a kink and only if it’s consensual and agreed upon beforehand, but nothing (not even spanking) will make me “nope” out of a story faster than party A humiliating Party B.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        There is no way beneath the heavens that it is not meant as a trap.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      My gut reaction is “fetishes are irrational, so why talk about mine on a rationalist site?”
      Do you have a serious thesis this is for?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Counterpoint – fetishes are psychological, so it makes perfect sense to talk about them in the comments of a psychiatry blog.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Touche. =)
          What do we know about the etiology of fetishes, anyway? There’s the “contagious” model, where someone will say “I had a girlfriend who liked me to spank her, and ever since it’s been way easier for me to get off with spanking.” Then there’s the same model that’s PC for homosexuality: you’re born with your fetishes. This accords with my experience. I can definitely remember being interested in… things before puberty (and I was never sexually abused).

          • Protagoras says:

            I’ve always assumed it’s a little from column A, a little from column B. There seem to be some things I’m into because of some experience or relevant person, but sometimes that isn’t enough to get me into something, and there are also cases that seem to be very difficult to explain in that way.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I don’t know if I’d say it’s genetic, but I’d guess that paraphilias become formed and hardwired pretty early in life (before puberty). This is the case for everyone I know who has them, including myself.

            When people develop a fetish later in life it usually seems to be less intense–something they use to enhance their sex life as opposed to something that’s core to their sexuality.

          • Emma Casey says:

            Personally I’m a fetish sponge (rather than sponge fetish which is very different). I had a partner who was into a thing, then for months after we broke up I was still seeking it out of my own accord, despite never having cared about it before that.

            But then I had at least one of my fetishes at age like 10 despite no contact with it outside of TV.

          • Gazeboist says:

            If you were a sponge fetishist, that would be odd.

            If you were a sponge fetish, though, that would be downright bizarre.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            When I was young I got into men being dominated by women.

            This lead to an interest in men being penetrated by women.

            Which lead to an interest in men being penetrated by men who look like women (surgery, etc)

            Which has lead to an interest in men who look like women as a fetish in general. (no surgery, cd, etc)

            As a boy I had no sexual interest that I can remember in other boys, but can pretty clearly track a series of fetishes that I developed that have resulted in a sexual interest in a particular kind of ‘boy’.

            So that is a data point?

      • Siah Sargus says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever had a serious thesis.

        I would say that while fetishes et al. are irrational as desires, they still have to be accepted as desires you have, because letting something irrational cause you distress seems counterproductive, even if it is you being irrational. I’d also say that catering to other people’s irrational but easily met fetishes is money on the ground in terms of consequentialist preference utilitarianism.

    • Finger says:

      You might want to create an anonymous poll. Is there a reason you’re interested in this?

      • Bassicallyboss says:

        I can’t speak for Siah Sargus, but I would be interested in the results of such a poll, mostly to see if there is any interesting divergence from the general population. I suspect there wouldn’t be, but data is better.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        The same reason I’m interested in anything; curiosity. That, and seeing how many people share your taste compared to that total number of people sampled. I don’t know what sort of questions I’d ask first, though.

    • Anonymous says:

      mutual willingness,
      trust,
      knowing yourself,
      communication of needs,
      openness to experience,
      being mentally and emotionally ‘present’,
      searching for alternatives,
      and buttsex.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Related: Is there a difference between a fetish and a kink? To me, the former suggests something all-consuming (can’t get off without it) and the latter suggests an extra (vanilla soft serve is nice but sometimes you want it in that spooky chemical blue raspberry dip the ice cream trucks have), but that’s hardly how one comes to definitions.

      • Siah Sargus says:

        Well, in my opinion, I listed all of the “sexual preference” words in order of decreasing intensity. So your idea of those definitions is correct to me; an intense focus on a specific action or object as the source of most sexual desire. Not everyone considers the definition of a fetish to be that it is necessary for sexual arousal, but even so, saying kink is a way to downplay it to “optional but preferred”: shades of meaning and all that. Paraphillia and partialism are more clinical words that mean roughly the same thing as the broad definition of fetish, one dealing with inanimate objects (for example heels), one dealing with body parts (feet). Finally “turn-ons” is the least loaded, least specific, and most boring way to phrase the concept; viewing desire as simply the opposite of “turn-offs”.

      • keranih says:

        Is there a difference between a fetish and a kink?

        Of course there is. You’re obviously unfamiliar with the form of some irregular verbs.

        To wit:

        I have a rational and alluring sexual preference.
        You have an odd but harmless kink.
        He has a sick fetish for which he should seek treatment.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Ha!

          What was the name for this form of joke again? I recall MAD magazine did them in the 70s but presume they’re older.

          • keranih says:

            Weeellll, I wasn’t ever in the Mad Magazine demographic –

            – isn’t that a geek thing? To recoil irrationally from snide mockery? –

            – and the first I heard of it was Yes, Minister, which is more my style.

          • dndnrsn says:

            MAD Magazine was way better in the 60s and 70s – not that I was alive then – but I had the collections when I was a kid, and into the 70s and maybe 80s they actually had some really clever social and political commentary.

    • Deiseach says:

      I suddenly realise the appeal of anonymous commenting 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m pretty vanilla. Sometimes like to do ass spanking during sex (giving not receiving) but if someone isn’t into it, no big deal. I guess I have sort of an anti-fetish in that I only am strongly attracted to women of my own race (white).

      As for the elaborate stuff and/or needing something very specific in order to enjoy sex — I don’t really get it. I mean, I believe when people say that they have them that they aren’t lying but it isn’t something I really understand in any sort of internalized way.

    • onyomi says:

      I’m interested in whether Scott and any others with a psychiatry/psychology background believe in the theory that fetishes are a result of exposure to stimulus at a developmental stage. Clearly, this must be true to some extent, or it wouldn’t be possible for a fetish to “rub off” on someone, as apparently it has on another commenter here (this has never happened to me, however). This theory of why furries exist, for example, seems fairly plausible, unless a certain percentage of ancient Greeks suffered with unfulfilled desires to view porn with anthropomorphic wolves? Or maybe the people in ancient Greece who would have been furries if born today simply fantasized about centaurs and satyrs and sirens (oh my)?

      In other words, is the kink intrinsic and its expression culturally specific, or is it possible to pick up a kink purely as the result of circumstances (though probably coupled with some predisposition, since not everyone who watched Tailspin became a furry)? Though if the latter, this raises uncomfortable questions about e. g. homosexuality, etc. That is, at what point was it inevitable someone would be gay or straight? Conception? 6 months in the womb? 5? 12? I’m pretty sure it’s pretty darn early and relatively environment independent (and is it wrong to talk about preference for men or women on the same level as preference for feet, bondage, etc.? These latter “kinks” seem more secondary, malleable than “gay” and “straight,” though some people might say they are a big part of their identity and also very much not a choice).

      • LHN says:

        unless a certain percentage of ancient Greeks suffered with unfulfilled desires to view porn with anthropomorphic wolves? Or maybe the people in ancient Greece who would have been furries if born today simply fantasized about centaurs and satyrs and sirens (oh my)?

        There may be cultures that don’t cater to (or spark) those sorts of interests. But as you allude, Greek mythology is chock full of shapeshifting to animal forms and cross-species relations and semibestial humanoids. I don’t know to what extent it would map onto modern furries, but I’d be really surprised if no one in the classical world ever privately roleplayed Pasiphaë and the bull or Leda and the swan.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        My theory for why people have a bunch of weird kinks is that it keeps the gene pool active. No matter how weird you are, there is someone who finds you perfect, so you and the fetish-holder are more likely to reproduce.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Pondered, not endorsed: maybe rare kinks act to discourage inbreeding by making it less likely you’ll find someone who shares it in your local community?

      • Deiseach says:

        I am presuming you all know about the Pompeiian sculpture of Pan and the goat?

        The erotic imagery and items discovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum used to be – I don’t know if they still are – kept locked away only available for viewing by gentlemen “of mature age and respected morals”. Similarly in the British Museum.

        • Long ago, I came across an old translation of Golden Lotus, a famous (and pornographic) Chinese novel. The sexually explicit bits had been translated into Latin instead of English.

          • LHN says:

            IIRC, Burton did the same for the racier passages of One Thousand Nights and a Night.

            (Which, considering what he left in English…)

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I really get off on making up stupid answers to questions like this.

  13. Erebus says:

    I’ve heard a rumor several times over the past few years, and I can’t find anything to confirm or deny it. The rumor goes that it’s still possible to get a degree from Yale simply by demonstrating fluency in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. This seems at least superficially plausible, as it may be a holdover from bygone days when Yale was primarily a school of theology & placed great importance on the study of Hebrew (a Yale innovation) and the Classical languages.

    Does anybody know whether or not this is true — or how it might be possible to check, without raising any alarms?

    • LHN says:

      It’s listed as one of “Yale’s many myths” in this 1997 Yale Herald article.

      http://www.yaleherald.com/archive/frosh/1997/frosh97/MYTH.html

    • pku says:

      I have a friend at Yale who’s fluent in all three (and several others besides), and she’s still a couple years away from getting her degree.

    • phisheep says:

      Until 1960 passing an examination in Latin was a requirement for admission to the University of Oxford. This fell some considerable way short of fluency, and was necessary for matriculation *not* sufficient for graduation.

      I would not be in the least surprised if Yale had had a similar requirement in the past, nor if it had got garbled in the telling.

      • Emma Casey says:

        The traditional* strory is that Newton didn’t pass his maths exams** and was only able to graduate at cambridge because his latin and greek were exceptional***.

        * almost surely false
        ** becuase the examiner asked him “how does Euclid prove proposition X” and he reliped “I don’t know”. Newton answered the question litterally, having proved it himself without reference to Euclid’s method.
        *** because he spent like half his time reading both translations of the bible trying to descover the date of judgement day.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If this had been true, wouldn’t it mean that any Israeli classicist would be entitled to a Yale degree?

  14. Wrong Species says:

    In the Chinese Room Experiment, Searle believes he has demonstrated that computers can’t be conscious. I’m sure most of us would disagree. However, I don’t think enough people realize the importance of the weaker claim, which is that consciousness can’t be determined by behavior. Imagine that a robot comes up to you and begs you to help him gain his freedom. His creator accidentally made him in to a conscious being and he hates being treated like a slave. He demands his freedom. But the owner tells you that it is just a computer bug. He can simply wipe out the problem. The robot of course calls that murder. Who do you believe?

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      I don’t believe it can be determined from behavior, only suggested.

      My view is “I think/feel, therefore I am” and in an important way that’s all you can *really* know.

    • IrishDude says:

      Have you seen Deus Ex Machina? It’s a great movie that addresses this topic somewhat.

      • LHN says:

        Second the recommendation, but just to aid in finding it, the movie title is just “Ex Machina”. (Last I checked it’s available on at least one of the big streaming services.)

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s interesting but I think the ending was underwhelming. Personally, I think Her is the better AI movie.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Follow up question: is the bearded AI expert based on Yu-know-who?

        • Nelshoy says:

          Yudkowsky if he spent all his time on AI and working out instead of writing fanfiction 🙂

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          First thought: no way in hell Yudkowsky is nothing like him in terms of personality.

          Rewatched a few scenes: Holy shit they really do look similar.

    • sards says:

      I don’t think computers can be conscious. I think that’s the majority opinion in the general population. You really think the opposite is true at SSC?

      Of course, if computers can’t be conscious, that solves the question about whether you believe the robot that claims it is conscious.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Computers can obviously be conscious. SSC has Eternal Septembered hard enough that I no longer trust the obvious truth to be the majority opinion, though.

        • sards says:

          Computers can obviously be conscious.

          That seems like an overly confident claim.

          • Computers can obviously be as conscious as people, then? I mean, a Sufficiently-Advanced computer can do everything we look for in a person to make sure they’re conscious.

          • sards says:

            Computers can obviously be as conscious as people, then? I mean, a Sufficiently-Advanced computer can do everything we look for in a person to make sure they’re conscious.

            I don’t want to get into a whole debate about p-zombies and David Chalmers’ hard problem of consciousness, but I don’t think that observing a computer that appears to behave in a way that matches how conscious humans behave is a strong reason to believe that the computer is conscious.

          • Lemminkainen says:

            Human brains are complex meat computers whose parts communicate with electrical signals, and we’re conscious. Chalmer’s argument fundamentally rests on the pieces of a system not being aware of what they’re doing. To see why his argument is fallacious, imagine that the pieces he’s talking about are neurons.

          • Izaak Weiss says:

            Unless you believe in some form of dualism, like souls, (which most commenters on this blog probably don’t) then surely a computer of high enough power should be able to simulate a brain long enough for it ot experience consciousness.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Computers can obviously be as conscious as people, then? I mean, a Sufficiently-Advanced computer can do everything we look for in a person to make sure they’re conscious.

            That runs straight into the original problem…it is conceivable that there is no real consciousness behind the conscious-style behaviour. (And that doesn’t even have the problem of whether p-zombies are actually conceivable, because an AI isn’t a physical duplicate, but only some sort of behavioural duplicate).

            I don’t know what the ultimate answer is, buti I am not seeing anything obvious one way or the other,

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            hen surely a computer of high enough power should be able to simulate a brain long enough for it ot experience consciousness.

            No, there is a logical gap between “simulate” and “be”. Even if you firmly reject dualism, you can still believe that there is something about brain chemistry that is necessary for full consciousness.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Computers can obviously be conscious.

          Obviously?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Computers can perhaps be as conscious as Walmart, but not more so.

        • Maware says:

          It’s not obvious at all. If anything, it’s more than likely that computers will never be conscious, because the way computers work will never show volition. A computer can “learn” to play go. It cannot ever learn to hate playing the game go, resent its “parents” for making it learn it, and overturn the table one day in a fit of anger.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            because the way computers work will never show volition. A computer can “learn” to play go. It cannot ever learn to hate playing the game go, resent its “parents” for making it learn it, and overturn the table one day in a fit of anger.

            Now, there is an exampl,e of the popular argument I was talking about: why can’t a computer learn volition , or display hate?
            If humans do those things using a neural net, why can;t a simulated neural net do them? Is it a real limitation of all computers, even ones that are designed very differently from a desktop pc or a smartphone, or is is just that desktop pcs and smartphones are designed to be “passive” and “obedient” because that what people want?

        • Faradn says:

          What event do you think cause SSC’s eternal September? One of the big articles like Moloch or Untitled?

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        I don’t think computers can be conscious. I think that’s the majority opinion in the general population.

        Sort of. Laypeople seem to think that computer are characterised by desktop PC’s, and display no “mind of their own” or volition. The knowledgable think that computation is characterised by software, and that you can build agentive software.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          To be c;ear, a typical desktop PC doesnt display volition, because -people don’t want it to — its a market requirement, not a technological limitation.

        • Maware says:

          You can’t, and won’t. Software will simply do the task you reduced into an algorithm. A computer can recommend to me movies I might like based on weighting my reviews and observing my purchases. It can never recommend a movie I might like because it has watched the movie and enjoyed it. No matter how complex the algorithm is, software will never display conscious volition.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Searle’s view actually runs into a great deal of trouble explaining how we can know that other biological organisms are conscious. Maybe we can learn that other humans are conscious by analogy with our own experience, and maybe anatomical homologies allow us to extend this to non-human animals as well. But it sure seems like even humans with no understanding of anatomy or evolution can come to know that apes, dolphins, dogs, and so on possess at least a rudimentary form of consciousness, and I suggest that they could only acquire this knowledge by inferring it from the animal’s behavior. But if we can infer that an animal is conscious from its behavior, why not robots, too?

      • The Nybbler says:

        But if we can infer that an animal is conscious from its behavior, why not robots, too?

        Because we know how a robot works, we know how it makes its decisions. It’s an automaton, and if it is an automaton and yet appears conscious, perhaps we (despite seeming conscious) are also actually automatons.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          That is a view someone might have, but it is not Searle’s. Searle believes that humans and other mammals (at least) are conscious. He writes:

          “If somebody says, “Yes, but aren’t you ignoring the possibility that other people might be unconscious zombies. and the dog might be, as Descartes thought, a cleverly constructed machine, and that the chairs and tables might, for all you know, be conscious? Aren’t you simply ignoring these possibilities?” The answer is: Yes. I am simply ignoring all of these possibilities. They are out of the question. I do not take any of them seriously.”

        • Shion Arita says:

          I’m not sure that being considered an automaton is mutually exclusive with being considered conscious.

          I can say that from the inside my first person experience feels very mechanical and algorighmic, and I’d also say that I am definitely ‘conscious’, whatever that ends up really meaning.

        • Anonymous says:

          So if we knew how animals make decisions, they would stop being conscious?

          • Gazeboist says:

            This conversation (and the conversational template generally) is slowly convincing me that “conscious” is no longer useful as a concept. “Person” is probably the next place to go, but that brings other problems.

            (Also, do humans stop being conscious when they fall asleep?) :p

          • John Nerst says:

            So if we knew how animals make decisions, they would stop being conscious?

            No, but we’d be tempted to use another model to think about them. Some things are modeled as physical machines, others as conscious agents. Our limited knowledge and modeling capacity makes them appear intuitively qualitatively different even though they aren’t.

      • Wrong Species says:

        When it comes to animals, the important factor is not their behavior but their biological similarity to us. I know I’m conscious. I also feel fairly confident in claiming evolution is true. So if we are cousins to apes and have incredibly similar brains, then it seems reasonable to conclude that they are in some sense conscious. This can be extrapolated to other animals to a certain degree. But when it comes to AI or even aliens, we don’t have any kind of frame of reference. That’s a huge problem.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You seem to have ignored most of what I wrote. So let’s concentrate instead on this claim: Herman Melville knew that a whale could be conscious. I believe this is true, that Herman Melville did know precisely that, and I hope you will agree. But how did he know? He could not have known on the basis of biological similarities between men and whales, for Melville falsely believed that whales were fish. And he could not have known whales were conscious because we share a common ancestor with the cetaceans, as Melville was writing before Darwin. The only way, so far as I can tell, that Melville could come by this piece of knowledge was by inferring it from his experience with whale behavior. And if Melville could come to know that whales were conscious through experience with their behavior, there does not seem to be any obstacle to our coming to know that a robot is conscious by way of experience with its behavior.

          • Wrong Species says:

            He certainly did not know that the whale was conscious. I don’t even know if other people are conscious. But with his lack of the relevant knowledge, the simple answer is that he was less justified in believing the whale was conscious than we are. Of course, they didn’t have computers so the idea of having non-conscious intelligence would seem bizarre to them so maybe justified is not the right word. Regardless, I don’t think premodern “knowledge” of animal consciousness is good evidence in favor of behavior being evidence of consciousness.

            Its not that far off to imagine chat bots that can actually have decent conversations with people. If one of those was incredibly convincing would you consider a chat bot conscious? What behavior exactly would convince you of its consciousness? Tears? Laughter? Anger? All of these are probably trivially imitated. Now maybe to some degree behavior can hint at consciousness. But as far as I can tell, there is no smoking gun that could be provided as proof. This is why I don’t fault Descartes for thinking of animals as simple automatons. Based on the knowledge available to him, it was a reasonable assumption. In fact, concern over animal welfare is very recent. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we didn’t concern ourselves with it until after the theory of evolution.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I don’t even know if other people are conscious.

            Earlier you said “it seems reasonable to conclude that [other apes] are in some sense conscious.” Now you are saying that you are unsure even about humans? Does this all turn, for you, on some elusive distinction between knowledge and reasonable belief?

          • Wrong Species says:

            The only claim I feel comfortable with making that leaves no room for doubt is the existence of my own consciousness. I can’t even fathom someone convincing me otherwise. Everything else is just probabilities. But I would give a high probability to human and ape consciousness. If some superintelligent AI came from outer space and told me that it was conscious I wouldn’t even know what my estimate should be.

          • Jiro says:

            I am a little skeptical about my own consciousness. As I’ve pointed out before, there’s no way for someone to point to a consciousness that I can look at and for me to say “I have something just like that”. That leaves me no way to interpret the statement “I am conscious”.

          • TMB says:

            “there’s no way for someone to point to a consciousness that I can look at and for me to say “I have something just like that”. That leaves me no way to interpret the statement “I am conscious”.”

            Hmmm… isn’t literally anything that someone could point at an example of consciousness?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The only claim I feel comfortable with making that leaves no room for doubt is the existence of my own consciousness. I can’t even fathom someone convincing me otherwise. Everything else is just probabilities. But I would give a high probability to human and ape consciousness.

            You are using an unusually strict definition of knowledge– if we only have knowledge where there is no room for doubt, we would not know much of anything at all. But never mind, the example will work fine if we just speak in terms of probability. I believe there is a high probability that whales and dogs are conscious, and it seems clear to me that Herman Melville was justified in holding the same belief. Do you agree? If so, this is all that is needed for the argument to go through: if Melville can infer consciousness from behavior for non-human animals, there’s no reason in principle why we couldn’t do the same when it comes to robots.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        It does not seem to me to take much understanding of anatomy or evolution in order to recognize, or at least to be able to rationally presume, that the means by which the behavior of apes or dolphins is produced is much more closely analogous to the means by which our behavior is produced than that of a chinese room or a computer program. It doesn’t seem crazy to think that the closer the analogy, the more reasonable it is to infer consciousness from behavior.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Maybe, but I think you are underestimating how impoverished human knowledge of anatomy and biology was in ages past. The function of the brain was a matter of dispute until Galen, and dolphins were widely believed to be fish until the 19th century. But I do not think there was ever a time when it was unreasonable to think that dolphins, apes, or dogs possess some form of consciousness.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Fish seem to me pretty similar to mammals (certainly much more than to robots). If people used to think fish were made of wood or didn’t have even roughly analogous organs responsible for their behavior, then I’d agree that there wouldn’t be a very strong analogy-based case for people who thought dolphins were fish to assign consciousness to dolphins. But I was thinking peoples’ knowledge of anatomy wasn’t that far off. And if they really did think something like that, then it doesn’t seem crazy to think that confidence in dolphin consciousness might be misplaced.

            I’m happy to say that robots can be conscious – in the right mood I’m even inclined to say that the China Brain is conscious, so this is mostly an exercise in philosophical empathy on my part.

          • At a bit of a tangent, there is a description in Jomviking saga, probably written in the 13th or 14th c., of an experiment to determine whether consciousness was in the brain or the body. So they were thinking about that sort of issue.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            If you’re talking about the beheadings I think you are, you should take a side-job sanitizing mad scientists’ doomsday plots to get ethics board approval.

          • One beheading, to be precise. And it is explicitly set up, by the victim, as an experiment to see whether consciousness is in the head or the body.

            From the standpoint of the story, of course, it’s one more piece of evidence of how brave the Jomvikings are.

            “Of course I don’t mind being killed–I’m a Jomviking, after all. But this does look like the perfect opportunity to settle this argument we’ve been having. If it’s not too much trouble.”

            (not a literal quote)

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Searle’s view actually runs into a great deal of trouble explaining how we can know that other biological organisms are conscious.

        It doesn’t run into that much trouble bioligical similarity is an extra clue above behavioural indications.

    • Montfort says:

      See also the whole “Philosophical Zombie” discussion.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      I think a claim to be conscious would be more convincing if it were produced spontaneously, in the sense that it can’t be traced back to anything explicitly in the programming or training.

      But that is not a black-and-white solution.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Some features of consciousness can be inferred from behavior alone; others require looking under the hood. Searle picks the exact wrong thing, intentionality, to claim cannot be inferred from behavior alone. Intentionality and its close cousin agency are highly morally important, even where the qualia are different.

      Edit: now Wrong Species is talking about chatbots. That changes the spirit of the question. I thought we were talking about a robot that can pass an arbitrarily long Turing Test; i.e., has any and all behaviors you might want.

    • Antonin in a nintendo says:

      that’s a pretty fucking specific bug.

      (The computer, duh)

  15. Lolo says:

    So what do you guys think of human biodiversity? I found it about a year ago through this blog, and lately it seems like Scott has been getting pretty cozy with genetic differences. Thoughts?

    • Seth says:

      It’s one of the cases where I think “check your privilege” really does apply. The almost instant way it turns into justification for socioeconomic inequality should matter, in terms of a Bayesian analysis of it being a pseudo-scientific rationalization for oppression, of the “It’s SCIENCE!” type. There’s hundreds of years of this stuff, all utterly wrong, all previously nakedly serving to justify racism, colonialism, etc. But, the advocates say, this one time, they say it’s real – and pay no attention to the centuries of false claims. No – I am applying a heuristic. If what someone says pattern-matches to “… therefore observed group inequality is just an outcome of intrinsic biology”, I am going to presume they are speaking nonsense to a high probability of virtual certainty.

      • Sandy says:

        The almost instant way it turns into justification for socioeconomic inequality should matter, in terms of a Bayesian analysis of it being a pseudo-scientific rationalization for oppression, of the “It’s SCIENCE!” type

        It’s only a rationalization for oppression if people want it to be. If the prevailing belief across society is that people with better cognitive abilities are superior human beings who naturally deserve more and better things in life and should rightfully rule over their less gifted peers, sure, you’d wind up with oppression. But that’s perhaps more an indictment of the belief than the science.

        There’s hundreds of years of this stuff, all utterly wrong, all previously nakedly serving to justify racism, colonialism, etc. But, the advocates say, this one time, they say it’s real – and pay no attention to the centuries of false claims.

        Yes, and Copernicus argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun despite centuries of false claims to that effect from European, Arab and Turkish astronomers. You’re comparing people doing thoroughly unscientific things like measuring skulls to people pointing to differences in genetic code between groups. Dismissing the latter simply by invoking the dismissal of the former requires motivated reasoning.

        Is it often and frequently used to justify racism and discrimination? Sure. But that’s not a strike against it anymore than Putnam’s study linking diversity to corruption, alienation and civic decline should have been tossed out just because people didn’t like the conclusion.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Measuring skulls is not “thoroughly unscientific” in itself. If you fudge your data to support your biases, like Gould, that’s unscientific.

          • Sandy says:

            It’s unscientific if the conclusions you seek to draw from it have no empirical basis.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I would say that it’s drawing conclusions unsupported by the data that’s unscientific in that case, not the collecting of data.

          • a non mous(e) says:

            It’s unscientific if the conclusions you seek to draw from it have no empirical basis.

            Study – measure the volume of skulls, average results, compare by race.

            Possible conclusions – (a) different races have same average skull volume, (b) different races have different average skull volume.

            For some odd reason you’ve redefined “empirical basis” to “comes to the progressive approved conclusion”. Unfortunately reality keeps being non-empirical.

            To put it another way, studying things then basing conclusions on the study is exactly what it means to have an empirical basis for a conclusion.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Yes, and Copernicus argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun despite centuries of false claims to that effect from European, Arab and Turkish astronomers.

          I’ve noticed a small flaw in your argument. The centuries of claims from European, Arab and Turkish astronomers to the effect that the Earth revolves around the sun could not have been false, because the Earth does, in fact, revolve around the sun.

          • Sandy says:

            They weren’t false, which was my point. They were judged to be false because there was an orthodoxy inclined against the idea, and because they had the basic premise right but errors in the process that produced the premise sufficient enough that their claims could be disregarded.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It was a bit more complicated than that actually.

          • Mary says:

            They were judged to be false because all evidence was against their being true.

            As everyone who had ever been on a moving object knew, it was not like being a stationary one. Everyone has direct sensory perception that the Earth does not move.

            Furthermore, if the Earth moves, it would be nearer to stars on the same side of the Sun as it was and farther away from others. Enormously nearer. Yet the stars do not change in appearance at all throughout the year.

            If you argue that the stars are so far away that it would make no difference, look at them some time. While small, they are of finite side, not points. You’re arguing that for some reason we have a teeny tiny Sun surrounded by great big enormous stars. Why on earth is only one light source such a different size?

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          . If the prevailing belief across society is that people with better cognitive abilities are superior human beings who naturally deserve more and better things in life and should rightfully rule over their less gifted peers, sure, you’d wind up with oppression. But that’s perhaps more an indictment of the belief than the science.

          I think you need to note that the movement calling itself HBD is pretty much aligned with the right, and that there is a separate movement that considers genetics, among other things, from the left perspective, usually called the alt.left.

          And, thirdly there are actual scientists — most of the HBD movement are not — who study genetics, and who publish in learned journals and not on the blogosphere. There is a bit of a medium->message implication in HBD.

          • Vaniver says:

            And, thirdly there are actual scientists — most of the HBD movement are not — who study genetics, and who publish in learned journals and not on the blogosphere. There is a bit of a medium->message implication in HBD.

            One of the primary tragedies of HBD is that the journalistic impression of what scientists think on the issue is totally separated from what scientists think. (What laypeople think, as you might guess, follows journalists instead of scientists.) I like to point people to Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns, released by the APA in 1995, as the place to start with any discussion of the importance of intelligence or the existence of gaps.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It’s only a rationalization for oppression if people want it to be.

          On a blog that tilts very much libertarian? It ends up being a call to presume a just world.

          I’m guessing I’m going to get an argument that it is government that oppressed black people, so why am I knocking libertarian thought. But it’s interesting how we will get that argument simultaneously with “blacks have poorer outcomes because they are less intelligent”.

      • “There’s hundreds of years of this stuff, all utterly wrong”

        How do you know?

        Suppose someone in the past defended slavery on the grounds that blacks were less intelligent than whites. There are lots of reasons you might object to the argument. But in order to argue that his reason is utterly wrong you have to know that blacks are not less intelligent than whites–which gets you back to the question of whether human biodiversity is real and significant.

        You can’t argue “I know there is no difference between the average IQ of blacks and whites because people in the past argued that there was and they were utterly wrong, and I know they were utterly wrong because I know there is no difference between the average IQ of blacks and whites.

        Or at least, you shouldn’t.

        • Seth says:

          I’m going to answer this on two levels. Please note the distinction:

          Scientific: You ask “Suppose someone in the past defended slavery on the grounds that blacks were less intelligent than whites.”. The answer is that the claim of “less intelligent” is being used here as a motte-and-bailey. The defense at the time was that slavery was justified in a way that those enslaved were a kind of lower type of humanity. Not a few “IQ points”, which would hardly justify being enslaved. It is misleading rhetoric to shuffle the phrase “less intelligent” between the two vastly different concepts.

          Political: Why is the above motte-and-bailey being done? There is a reason for it. Just like the slave-owner wants to justify slavery by it’s-science, the inequality-benefiter wants to justify inequality by it’s-science. This is what I mean by I will apply a heuristic. When someone argues anything of the sort “You can’t know it’s false”, I will look at who-benefits as useful guide. I will not be impressed by a simplistic rebuttal that a heuristic can be wrong.

          This is what I think of “human biodiversity”. It is relabelled “race (pseudo)science” for exactly the same rationalizing reasons.

          • definitely anonymous says:

            This argument works equally well for either side. You could just as well argue that black people on the left say that genetic differences are not a thing so that they can request unfair advantages in the form of affirmative action and stuff, and justify it as necessary to reverse oppression.

            BTW, there’s always the approach of actually considering the facts instead of endlessly psychoanalyzing one’s opponent.

          • Seth says:

            The fallacy “This argument works equally well for either side” is the historical amnesia that gives the lie to the word “equally“. Whatever the abuses of affirmative action, and I won’t deny there’s been some somewhere, they are utterly microscopic against the centuries of slavery and colonialism and the pseudo-intellectual justifications built to justify it. I knew what I was getting into, sadly, when I said the words “check your privilege”. Maybe that’s a bad pattern-match itself. But this is one my my frustrations with the failure of rationalism:

            1) You must have a model of reality

            2) While this model can be wrong, and you need to keep an open mind about it being wrong, you can also have a mind so open that your brains fall out.

            Reasoning about the real world has to take into account that there’s efforts to justify oppression that’s orders of magnitude more extensive than ways the oppressed might use to get away with something. It’s not proper Bayesianism to simply list that both could happen in the abstract, so arguments then can’t be distinguished. It’s almost to the level of the joke that things either happen or they don’t, so everything is a 50/50 chance.

            This is what “we” get wrong. It’s why too many people trying to be rational end up being handmaidens of horror.

          • cassander says:

            >The fallacy “This argument works equally well for either side” is the historical amnesia that gives the lie to the word “equally“. Whatever the abuses of affirmative action, and I won’t deny there’s been some somewhere, they are utterly microscopic against the centuries of slavery and colonialism and the pseudo-intellectual justifications built to justify it.

            This is not a principled argument. It amounts to saying “other people were wrong so we pass for a while even if we’re wrong now.”

            >Reasoning about the real world has to take into account that there’s efforts to justify oppression that’s orders of magnitude more extensive than ways the oppressed might use to get away with something.

            again, we’re talking about biological facts here, not having an oppression dick measuring contest.

          • Seth says:

            It amounts to saying “other people were wrong so we pass for a while even if we’re wrong now.”

            Well, to be precise: Other people were wrong, and it looks very very much like the exact same type of pseudoscientific argument is being made for the exact same political reasons, so let’s take that into account and assign a very very high skepticism to that argument as likely being wrong also”.

            N.b., I keep having to point out the difference between this being an excellent heuristic though not utterly infalible, versus a straw claim of absolute.

          • cassander says:

            >it looks very very much like the exact same type of pseudoscientific argument

            They are not the same at all. DNA clusters are pretty inarguable, particularly when you can start identifying what specific genes do.

            >is being made for the exact same political reasons,

            Science doesn’t care about motives. They have no place in this discussion. Copernicus came up with the heliocentric model to make doing astroloy easier.

            .

          • hlynkacg says:

            To say that something resembles pseudoscience is not a sufficient argument on its’ own. The whole point of pseudoscience is that it resembles science.

          • I want to respond to the “scientific” part of your argument.

            Your claim, I think, is that there were some people in the past who made claims about racial differences that we can be pretty sure were wildly exaggerated and used those claims to defend institutions by which you believe they benefited.

            That’s probably true–on any issue there is a range of views. But there were also people in the past–Darwin and Adam Smith come to mind–who were pretty far on the nurture side of the nature/nurture controversy but believed there were innate differences and, at least in the case of Darwin, that such differences were heritable. In the 19th century there was a lively dispute over the size and relevance of racial differences. Economics got the label “The Dismal Science” for arguing against slavery and the associated claims.

            I could imitate your argument by pointing out that there have been some people who have made wildly exaggerated claims on the nurture side of that argument, such as the claim that male/female differences were entirely a matter of nurture. There is even one modern case of someone who maintained that claim by deliberate scientific fraud and (until it was discovered) benefited professionally by doing so.

            Is that a reason to reject a priori all claims that upbringing affects personality and behavior?

          • definitely anonymous says:

            You’re essentially making an argument from incentives. I’d argue that the incentives to pretend that all races are equal are much stronger. I’m anonymous because I risk a lot by having my name associated with this opinion. The reason I have this opinion is because I suspect it’s correct–possessing has high downside, and no upside, for me personally.

            A more persuasive argument you could make to me would be to say that in a world where racial inferiority is a common belief, racial tensions and race-related atrocities are higher. Then we could start breaking down subcomponents of that question: was belief in racial inferiority a cause of oppression, or an effect of oppression? Do constant and often frivolous accusations of racism (“race-baiting” back in the day) improve race relations or make them worse?

            Personally, achieving racial harmony is my #1 goal of discourse about race. I’m against accusations of racism because I think they create turmoil with no purpose. My view is that race relations have gotten worse in the past few decades due to frivolous racism accusations. I don’t talk about HBD often, and when I do it’s with the objective of undermining these frivolous accusations that I consider harmful.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            I’d argue that the incentives to pretend that all races are equal are much stronger.

            It depends who you are. If you are Steve sailer, the horse has already bolted — he might gain some “scientific credibility” by joining HBD, but isn’t going to be regarded as any more racist.

          • “It depends who you are.”

            If you are a Nobel prize winning biologist, the cost of suggesting that racial differences are real and matter is very high. We’ve done the experiment.

            If you are a prominent economist, president of a top university, with links to Democratic politics, the cost of raising the possibility that differences by gender in the distribution of specific intellectual abilities are real is also substantial.

            Generalizing that, for any prominent figure not already linked to politically unpopular positions, there is a strong incentive not to admit belief in the existence of such differences. That’s more relevant to evaluating the present state of the argument than what people did or didn’t say or believe a century or two ago.

          • Mary says:

            Whatever the abuses of affirmative action, and I won’t deny there’s been some somewhere, they are utterly microscopic against the centuries of slavery and colonialism and the pseudo-intellectual justifications built to justify it.

            On the other hand, the abuses of AA are being done here, now, and could be stopped. The abuses of slavery are not only in the past, both the slaves and masters are all dead now and past all punishment and reparation.

          • suntzuanime says:

            We can punish them by doing things they wouldn’t have liked, assuming they cared about the future after their death. For example, people tend to care about their descendants, so we could have all descendants of slave-owners tortured to death.

          • a non-mOus(e) says:

            We can punish them by doing things they wouldn’t have liked, assuming they cared about the future after their death. For example, people tend to care about their descendants, so we could have all descendants of slave-owners tortured to death.

            Seeing as how black Americans who are descended from slaves are about 15% white genetically and that very few whites were slave owners, blacks are the only definitely identifiable group of descendants of slave-owners.

      • definitely anonymous says:

        all utterly wrong

        According to the standards of the current milieu, which doesn’t seem all that reliable either (see: replication crisis, publication bias, and all the issues with science brought up on this blog). There’s a story by which “scientific racists” of yesteryear were simply documenting facts that anyone could see, and in the modern era we have a sophisticated intellectual establishment to rationalize away those facts.

    • Lemminkainen says:

      I’m also very suspicious of motivated reasoning (since HBD proponents seem to usually share a particular set of political commitments and often share an obvious visceral animus against black and brown people), but I think that refusing to even consider the movement’s claims is kind of silly, especially since if it is just a mess of motivated reasoning, the best weapons against it are epistemic.

      • suntzuanime says:

        If you have HBD-related beliefs but are not ready to make those particular political commitments, you’re likely to keep your mouth shut for fear of being ostracized. Scott touches on somewhat similar topics in this post: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/22/freedom-on-the-centralized-web/

      • a Non Mous(e) says:

        The political beliefs are downstream of believing your lying eyes on HBD.

        How bizarre would it be if you didn’t shift your beliefs towards the alt-right / thing-that-shall-not-be-named-because-scott-can’t-argue-against-it-effectively after being convinced of the truth of HBD?

        • Ted says:

          I wish you wouldn’t do that. There are plenty of ways to refer to neo-reaction which don’t involve taking a dig at Scott; doing so like this is harmful to the quality of discussion here.

      • Seth says:

        Seriously, what justifies refusal based on sounding like past crank science? Does the n’th “free energy” machine have to be carefully considered based on the idea that it might embody some heretofore unknown scientific discovery? But, one might say, people didn’t understand radioactivity once – how can we be sure that this alleged “free energy” machine isn’t the key to a discovery of a new science? Can you prove it’s false? And look, if it pans out, no more energy problems, right?

        While some small amount of real science was originally dismissed as crank science, there’s an enormous amount of crank science that’s just crank science. Life is too short to examine every looks-like-crank claim just on the off chance there might be a tiny grain of truth in it. It’s exhausting.

        • A non Mous(e) says:

          The only example of a modern “scientist” attempting to show a failure to reproduce to disprove an old “psudoscience” study was when Stephen Gould faked his data rather than report that an old study about skull volume by race was correct.

          Modern studies not only confirm the old “psudoscience” but give more examples. Old studies – brain volume by skull volume. New studies – brain volume by MRI. Same result.

          But modern social psychology argues against those conclusions (kinda, sorta if you squint right at implicit association tests). Of course, there’s the whole crisis of repliciability in modern social psychology that, for some unknown reason, skipped all psychometrics.

          You’re the flat-earther here. You posit that at some point a great disproving happened due to evidence rather than social pressure to simply ignore the actual evidence. No evidence was ever given for your position and the best that your side can do in arguments is claim that there’s not enough proof because the default assumption should be that you’re right.

          What would change your mind? Would brain volume averages do it? That’s pretty specific and not plausibly related to social attitudes. Differences in MAO-A gene frequency? Lack of Neanderthal admixture of brain development genes in only one major race? What evidence would it take to convince you? (Trick question, obviously there’s nothing that would convince you).

          • Seth says:

            “The only example of … You’re the flat-earther here.”

            Let me put it this way: We do not appear to have commensurable assumptions.

            One of us is wrong (to a reasonable approximation).

            Presumably we both think it is the other.

            Rationalism needs to figure how to better handle this situation. It is the core the problem.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Great, how do you propose we do that?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Seth, it appears you have put more effort into refusing to examine these “pseudoscientific” claims than it would take to take a first cut at examining them.

          • ChetC3 says:

            What if he has examined them, and wasn’t convinced?

        • “Life is too short to examine every looks-like-crank claim just on the off chance there might be a tiny grain of truth in it. It’s exhausting.”

          Couldn’t one argue, along the lines of heuristics sketched already, that since there are very severe social penalties to saying you believe in innate racial differences, when someone says “I’m not going to bother to investigate the claims because they are obviously crank science” the odds are pretty good that the real reason is that he is afraid the evidence might support the claims?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            hat since there are very severe social penalties to saying you believe in innate racial differences,

            Only if you have never done so before.

          • Corey says:

            there are very severe social penalties to saying you believe in innate racial differences

            Except for the guy who’s about to come in second or better in a US Presidential election. Outlier?

            There are also HUGE political/motivated-reasoning incentives to believe that minorities are immutably inferior to whites. Those have been around the US since approximately the Mayflower, whereas the SJW superweapons have been around for about a generation.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Trump has said racially incentive things but he has never, as far as I can tell, given a genetic reason for it.

          • Corey says:

            @Wrong Species: Fair enough, Trump doesn’t seem to be an HBDer, but he does seem a counterexample to “accusations of racism are a career-destroying superweapon” which is usually a baseline assumption in such discussions.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, a lot of claims of the form “you can’t get away with X” come with an implicit “unless you’re a charismatic billionaire”.

          • “There are also HUGE political/motivated-reasoning incentives to believe that minorities are immutably inferior to whites. ”

            Are there similar incentives to believe that whites are inferior to East Asians? That’s part of the usual IQ argument.

          • Corey says:

            @David: Good question, Asian IQ doesn’t seem as politically salient so I don’t think anyone cares too much about that side of the argument.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trump is the outlier, yes. Not every billionaire could get away with what he says. He can do it because he has a reputation for being crass (resulting in lowered expectations), because he does not in any way depend on support from those who are shocked by the things he says, and because he’s partially built his campaign on saying the unsayable. And even he has avoided some of the more potent third rails; he hasn’t said anything against black people or Jews, for instance. Even his attacks on Mexicans have been rather limited.

            But being a billionaire celebrity helps, yes.

        • Seth, the free energy machine can be assigned a very low prior because we have a battle tested physical theory (thermodynamics) which predicts it to be impossible. Demonstrating said machine will require us to overturn the law of conservation of energy.

          Same thing for various other claims, e.g. cell phones cause cancer or ESP.

          What equally well tested law of biology proves that different subpopulations of an animal species cannot have mental differences? (I.e., wolves and dogs cannot behave differently.)

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            Or different breeds of dog? Surely in many cases those are even more closely related.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            What equally well tested law of biology proves that different subpopulations of an animal species cannot have mental differences? (I.e., wolves and dogs cannot behave differently.)

            Is that literally the only claim that the HBD movement is making? Are you completely sure there isn’t some further claim, like “and these groups correspond to races as popularly understood”, or “and these differences matter”, or “and these differences should be a basis of public policy”?

          • TheAncientGreek, the HBD types generally make several claims.

            They don’t claim popular perceptions of race are perfectly accurate, and in fact they go into extreme detail making additional distinctions as supported by science. They do claim that popular perceptions of race are ballpark correct, however.

            I know of no ironclad law of biology which claims that subpopulations of animals with distinct appearances cannot, in fact, have a genetic basis. (I.e., dogs and wolves can’t be genetically distinguished.)

            There is, to my knowledge, no law of biology which claims that the differences between dog and wolf behavior cannot matter in a social context either.

            Whether they should be a basis for public policy is a normative question, not a positive one.

            In any case, TheAncientGreek, if you’d like to claim that some particular law of biology makes HBD claims exceedingly implausible, why don’t you state said law? Also please explain why said law does not apply to differences between dogs and wolves, or mastiffs and poodles.

            (I harp on the dogs vs wolves point because most of the claims HBD folks make are completely uncontroversial and generally accepted as true when applied to all other species.)

          • “Is that literally the only claim that the HBD movement is making?”

            Perhaps some of the clash of opinions here comes from two different readings of the question “do you believe in HBD?”

            I take it as “do you believe in human biodiversity–that there are genetic differences among human populations large enough to matter beyond the obvious physical differences such as skin color?”

            Some people here seem to take it as “do you agree with the HBD movement?”

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HBD is like feminism.

            There’s a core idea that isn’t too objectionable.

            But almost everyone who is talking about it isn’t talking about the unobjectionable core idea, they’re talking about something else.

            As is made abundantly clear by the fact that HBD conversations tend to revolve around a particular skin color, particularly with regard to political implications, and particularly particularly the political implications for social justice positions.

            Feminism and HBD are similarly toxic ideologies, for approximately similar reasons (they’re tribal tools mostly used as an excuse to pillory people on the basis of birth characteristics predictive of tribal affiliation of an opposing tribe). If you hold feminism responsible for its most toxic adherents and its refusal to do anything about it, it’s mere ideology to not do the same for HBD. Likewise the reverse.

            Consistency.

          • OrphanWilde, I disagree that the core idea of HBD “isn’t too objectionable”. James Watson and Charles Murray have all been pilloried and attacked simply for expressing the core idea.

            Curtis Yarvin, a mild mannered programmer who in a few throwaway paragraphs agreed with HBD, causes great controversy when he attends conferences to discuss functional programming.

            Unlike feminism, I’ve never seen HBD proponents pillory anyone. I have seen them be the victim of such things many times, however. I don’t think your comparison is very accurate.

          • Sandy says:

            I don’t think those examples are just about agreeing with the core idea of genetic differences. Watson claimed anyone who worked with black people could see for themselves that there are genetic differences between the races, which suggests that he thought his own black colleagues and employees were inferior.

            Yarvin definitely wasn’t about just agreeing with the core idea of HBD. He’s given spirited defenses of colonialism, and two of his heroes are Julius Evola and Thomas Carlyle. I vaguely remember the people who booted him out of one conference justifying that decision by referencing an essay Yarvin wrote about Carlyle’s views on slavery.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Whether they should be a basis for public policy is a normative question, not a positive one.

            Meaning what? That it can therefore be no part of HBD the movement, since HBD the movement is Pure Science? But that is precisely what I am disputing.

            In any case, TheAncientGreek, if you’d like to claim that some particular law of biology makes HBD claims exceedingly implausible, why don’t you state said law?

            There is a reason I keep talking about HBD the movement and distinguishing it from genetic science. What do you think that is?

      • Zombielicious says:

        It helps to separate out the people who hear about evidence for HBD and go, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” think about it a bit and then go back to their lives, versus the people who hear about it and get obsessed about how it explains all the negative and positive aspects of their ingroups and outgroups. It’s a spectrum of course. Similar parallels for stuff in evolutionary psychology.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      The idea that genetics is part of the explanation for average differences in physical or psychological characteristics between races (or whatever the closest biologically respectable analogue of race is) is well-supported. But, in part to various self-reinforcing feedback loops, the discussion of the topic by people who identify with HBD ideas is full of:

      1) Disproportionate confidence in the degree of racial differences as well as the degree to which the differences have a genetic cause.

      2) Disproportionate confidence in the degree to which these differences explain a wide variety of social phenomena (crime in inner cities, the success and failure of different nations, etc.)

      3) Disproportionate (and sometimes morally reprehensible) views about how much those empirical facts ought to influence policy or behavior. (Restricting immigration from nations with certain racial backgrounds, weird racial natalist views, etc.)

      In addition, there’s a strong correlation between interest in HBD ideas and various nasty attitudes towards particular races or a more general ugly tendency to view everything through the lens of race.

      In general, it’s a topic that’s full of motivated thinking stemming from the worst angels of peoples’ natures, rendering it reasonable to look at people who make a big deal out of HBD with a wary eye. At the same time, the resulting taboo makes it more difficult to get a clear and complete picture of the world.

      • Couldn’t you say much the same about the rejection of HBD? It’s based on motivated reasoning and leads to nasty behavior–ferocious attacks against scientists who have not demonstrated the characteristics you associate with HBD believers but have suggested innate differences by race or gender? Perhaps even, as claimed in the Gould case, to scientific fraud.

        Hence that it is reasonable to look at people who confidently reject HBD with a wary eye.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          I think people who confidently reject even the less controversial bits of HBD also tend to do so via motivated reasoning. And inappropriate attacks on all sides should be condemned. The world is big enough for more than one group behaving badly. I’m happy to look at most people with a wary eye.

          That said, while I think there is a lot of symmetry in bad cognitive practices and in the factors that lead people to be aggressive and objectionably intolerant of the opposing side, I think there is some asymmetry in the moral character of the attitudes that (frequently) motivate obsession with genetic racial differences and those that underlie defensiveness against that idea.

          And it’s what you’d expect, I think, from the way the topic has been tabooed. When the anti-HBD position has become the way to signal sympathy for traditionally oppressed groups, the people who are going to oppose it openly and spend a lot of their attention fighting against the current are going to tend to be people with little interest in expressing sympathy towards traditionally oppressed groups. And this is disproportionately a group with some pretty ugly attitudes.

          None of this, of course, constitutes an argument for or against any of the ideas of HBD.

          • “When the anti-HBD position has become the way to signal sympathy for traditionally oppressed groups, the people who are going to oppose it openly and spend a lot of their attention fighting against the current are going to tend to be people with little interest in expressing sympathy towards traditionally oppressed groups. And this is disproportionately a group with some pretty ugly attitudes.”

            On the other hand, if the evidence supports the position that social pressures oppose, the people who fight against the current will also tend to be people who care what is true. And the people who go along with the current will tend to be people who don’t.

          • suntzuanime says:

            People who care what is true are rounding error.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Actually, I think everybody cares about what is true – it’s just that very few people are good at getting there. So few, in fact, that I think the widespread epistemic superiority of one side is basically never the right explanation for politically charged disagreements.

            Now, @DavidFriedman, I can’t tell if you genuinely believe that the group of people who spend lots of attention on racial differences, who keep folders on their desktop full of Black and White IQ charts, are by and large dispassionate rational truth seekers, and that they do not disproportionately have morally objectionable racial attitudes. If so, then I think you may have experienced a skewed sample of that group, or your agreement with their ideas has disposed you favorably towards them in a way that blinds you to their faults. But I don’t have any formal study showing a correlation between these things, so our disagreement ends there.

            Or maybe you’re okay with the above claims, but you object to the idea that it’s reasonable to look at HBD advocates with a wary eye, because it’s unfair to those who really are motivated by noble pursuit of the True. I’m sympathetic to that. I don’t mean the wary eye to involve any kind of mistreatment – it’s meant to capture what seems to me to be the right epistemic response to learning that someone spends a lot of attention on defending the importance of genetic racial differences, which is generally to increase ones’ credence that they have various correlated objectionable attitudes. I think it’s unfortunate when expression of truths has this effect, but it does happen.

            Or maybe it’s something else. Your manner of oblique combativeness makes it hard to pin you down. Perhaps you have some inaccurate assumptions about my views and you just want to snag me on some sort of inconsistency.

          • “Now, @DavidFriedman, I can’t tell if you genuinely believe that the group of people who spend lots of attention on racial differences, who keep folders on their desktop full of Black and White IQ charts, are by and large dispassionate rational truth seekers, ”

            I don’t think I know any people like that. I know people I encounter in online discussions, on one side or the other. And I have observed at a distance some prominent cases, such as the response to James Watson’s comment on race or Lawrence Summers’ on possible explanations for the shortage of female math professors at Harvard or equivalent.

            My conclusion from those observations is that people who insist there are no significant differences are either lying about their own beliefs or holding beliefs for reasons unrelated to evidence that they are true, and a fair number of them are willing to maintain their beliefs by punishing those who openly disagree with them.

            That’s behavior I strongly disapprove of.

            To put it differently, I don’t know how many of the people who believe in significant heritable differences are dispassionate truth seekers. But I know that almost all the dispassionate truth seekers who have seriously thought about the question believe in at least the possibility of such differences.

            Do you disagree? Do you think it is possible for a dispassionate truth seeker to be confident that there are no significant differences in the distribution of intellectual characteristics by race or gender?

          • Philosophisticat says:

            David, as the first sentence I wrote in this discussion should indicate, I think the evidence favors not just the existence of average psychological (including intellectual) differences between races, but that these are partly explained genetically. I think people who are confident that this is false are ignorant, misled, or engaging in bad cognitive practices. Frequently, all three. I’ve also tried to be clear that I think the sort of punishing behavior you describe is bad.

            You seem to have a mistaken model in your head of what I believe. I haven’t claimed that all, most, or even some dispassionate truth seekers are confident that the weak base claims (the motte) of HBD are false, and it would be a logical error to infer it from what I’ve said. I’m not trying to be cagey about any of my views here, so turn down the inductive inference dial and I’ll be happy to clarify.

            (Aside: As a purely philosophical matter, I think it’s possible for a dispassionate truth seeker to have pretty much any belief at all, if presented with enough misleading evidence (or perhaps with extreme enough priors). I don’t think that the real life examples we are considering are fully explained that way, though one of the issues with taboo subjects is that they lead to a presentation of consensus which is misleading evidence.)

          • I don’t think I was responding to a model of what you believe, merely to your comment that I quoted at the beginning of mine.

            You seemed to think that I was denying the existence of people who support HBD for bad reasons. My point was that those were not the people I had encountered in the context of that argument.

            I don’t know if the epistemic superiority of one side explains the pattern of views. It’s possible that all of those who reject HBD do so for bad reasons and that most of those who accept it do so for bad reasons.

            There are, however, good reasons to accept it and not, I think, good reasons to reject it. That’s most strongly true for the gender version, somewhat more weakly for the racial version.

            I wasn’t implying anything about your view of the subject.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @DavidFriedeman

            , I can’t tell if you genuinely believe that the group of people who spend lots of attention on racial differences, who keep folders on their desktop full of Black and White IQ charts, are by and large dispassionate rational truth seekers, ”

            I don’t think I know any people like that.

            So are you saying that Jayman, HBDchick, and Steve Salier are definitely people who don’ have folders full of IQ charts?

            My conclusion from those observations is that people who insist there are no significant differences

            Could you respond to the argument that the claim of differences, and nothing else, isn’t what HBD is actually about?

          • ” I think it’s possible for a dispassionate truth seeker to have pretty much any belief at all, if presented with enough misleading evidence (or perhaps with extreme enough priors)”

            As best I can tell, almost everyone who rejects significant innate differences believes, or at least claims to believe, in Darwinian evolution. I don’t see how one can both believe in Darwinian evolution and have a strong prior for there being no significant differences in the distribution of psychological characteristics between males and females.

            I agree that practically any view can be held by a rational truth seeker given a sufficiently biased body of evidence. But I don’t think that’s a plausible explanation in this case, given an obvious and more plausible alternative.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @ David

            Well, perhaps there’s some miscommunication between us. I’m trying to pin down where we might be at odds. As far as I can tell, both of us accept that the evidence favors there being differences in psychological and intellectual traits with a partially genetic cause between races and genders. Both of us think that people who confidently reject those claims do so for bad reasons (we agree that radically misleading evidence is not a good explanation of it). Both of us think that the attacks on scientists working on these topics and others expressing those beliefs have suffered are deplorable.

            It may be that we disagree about how common morally bad race-related attitudes are among active proponents of HBD. This might be due to a difference in who we’re talking about. The group I’m thinking of isn’t limited to people who I interact with in this community or academics working on the topic, nor even people who self-identify as “HBD”. It’s also not so broad as to include anyone who, say, thinks that there are average differences in psychological traits between genders with a partially genetic explanation (a massive majority of everyone). This isn’t really accurate (too few people have blogs), but heuristically we might consider it the group of people who have charts linking race and IQ posted on their blogs.

            I reject your argument that “On the other hand, if the evidence supports the position that social pressures oppose, the people who fight against the current will also tend to be people who care what is true. And the people who go along with the current will tend to be people who don’t.”, because I think everyone cares what is true, and people who rationally respond to the evidence on politically charged topics are a tiny minority. What I think is probably true is that people who do rationally respond to the evidence will tend to fight against the current. But that’s a very different claim. (I’m reading “tend to” in a way where if, say, 5% of a group has some feature, it comes out false that members of the group tend to have that feature.)

            It may be that we disagree about the extent to which HBD-related ideas outside the core are well-supported, but neither of us have said anything specific about that, besides my indicating that a lot of people who make HBD a centerpiece of their thought have overconfidence in those ideas.

            Does that about cover it?

          • Corey says:

            I don’t see how one can both believe in Darwinian evolution and have a strong prior for there being no significant differences in the distribution of psychological characteristics between males and females.

            What in the EEA would have driven such differences in psychology? Most people bailey-out this motte, subconsciously or consciously, with an EEA that’s either medieval Europe or postwar middle-class US suburbia, neither of which is a particularly plausible EEA candidate.

          • Corey says:

            if the evidence supports the position that social pressures oppose, the people who fight against the current will also tend to be people who care what is true.

            Or people who want to signal/cultivate lack of empathy because they think it makes them more rational. Or people who want to shock/troll/whatever.

          • Anon. says:

            What in the EEA would have driven such differences in psychology?

            The same thing that drove differences in upper body strength.

          • “It may be that we disagree about how common morally bad race-related attitudes are among active proponents of HBD.”

            I don’t think I have an opinion on that. I’m not even sure how you would define “active proponents of HBD.” Does Watson count? Summers? I’m wondering if you are defining “active proponents of HBD” as “racists who use HBD arguments” and then concluding that all active proponents of HBD are racists.

            “What I think is probably true is that people who do rationally respond to the evidence will tend to fight against the current.”

            Then we agree. But I think you may be using a higher standard of “rationally respond to the evidence” than I am. In the case of gender differences, it seems to me that it requires a pretty strong effort at motivated self-delusion to believe they don’t exist. So I would count as believers in HBD lots of people who haven’t explored the evidence in any detail but have reached the obvious conclusion from some combination of direct observation and a casual understanding of the implications of evolution–and haven’t made an effort to find reasons to reject it. Those within that population who have some social or ideological reason to want to reject it and don’t are giving evidence that they care about what is true.

            The case for racial differences isn’t as clear. But even there, I find it hard to see how any reasonable person can be confident they don’t exist, given that they obviously do exist for observable physical characteristics.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @David

            HBD, as I’ve been discussing it, is something like an intellectual movement, like feminism. For the same reason that in discussing the feminist movement, one might want to narrow the group one is considering to something more specific than “anyone who thinks that women have in some respect been treated by society in a way that is morally objectionable” (which is just about all that feminists universally have in common), I’m thinking of members of the HBD movement more narrowly than “anyone who thinks there are some difference in psychological traits between genders or races that have a partially genetic explanation.” (which, again, would make just about everyone count as an HBDer) Those are the least controversial, base claims of the movement, but genuine members of the movement will accept some collection of stronger related claims (though not necessarily the same collection in every case), and will have some kind of interest in promoting those views.

            I don’t think that all HBDers, conceived in this way, are racist. Anyway, it seems like clarification has dissipated most of our apparent disagreements.

          • ““anyone who thinks there are some difference in psychological traits between genders or races that have a partially genetic explanation.” (which, again, would make just about everyone count as an HBDer)”

            I was taking it one step farther–differences large enough to matter in explaining real world outcomes.

            But I certainly wasn’t restricting it to people who think of themselves as part of an HBD movement, which would have included neither Watson nor Summers.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I don’t think thinking of yourself as being part of an intellectual movement is a necessary condition on being part of an intellectual movement.

    • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

      The fact that AncestryDNA and similar haven’t been shut down for fraud proves that far too many in this country believe this discredited ultra-right-wing nonsense.

      As Vox said, there is no “race chromosome”.

      Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Dr. J. Craig Venter, of Celera Genomics.

      Or see here: “Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning.”

      Bill Nye: “There really is, for humankind there’s really no such thing as race.

      And quoting John Horgan in his Scientific American defense of Stephen J. Gould:
      “Maybe Gould was wrong that Morton misrepresented his data, but he was absolutely right that biological determinism was and continues to be a dangerous pseudoscientific ideology.”
      and
      “Biological determinism is a blight on science. It implies that the way things are is the way they must be. We have less choice in how we live our lives than we think we do. This position is wrong, both empirically and morally. If you doubt me on this point, read Mismeasure, which, even discounting the chapter on Morton, abounds in evidence of how science can become an instrument of malignant ideologies.”

      The human species is too young, and migration out of Africa too recent, for the evolution to produce any real differences. We all still have the same minds; our mental differences are all upbringing and social forces. And there is far more genetic variation inside the groups than is between them.

      Race is purely a social construct with no biological reality, and we should listen to the real scientists who work to see that the use of race “in biological and genetic research will be forever discontinued”, while “social scientists should continue to study race as a social construct to better understand the impact of racism on health.”

      Biological determinism is wrong, all meaningful human differences are socially constructed, race isn’t real. This is settled science, and anything that says otherwise is false neo-Nazi pseudoscience, and no decent person associates with it, or with those who peddle it. Anyone who is not an extreme-right winger knows to deny any platform to this sort of hate and the bigots who espouse it.

      And if not for fraud, AncestryDNA and similar should be shut down for making their customers more racist.

        • trappings says:

          That’s a troll? I dunno which ways up these days on this here blog. Who’s refereeing this thing?

          • The post was a lengthy collection of bad cliche arguments quoted from various people. It wasn’t clear if it was intended seriously or as a parody.

          • Lemminkainen says:

            The poster also has a history of poorly-supported, baffling arguments that read like somebody trying and failing to pass the lefty version of the ideological Turing test.

          • trappings says:

            Thanks, I don’t recall seeing Anita’s name before, didnt know she had form.

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @David Friedman

            I guess then that J. Craig Venter, Francis Collins, Stephen J. Gould, Bill Nye, Richard Lewontin, and so many other scientists are really just people peddling “bad clichés”? When it comes to what is or isn’t settled science, I guess the wise statements of countless famous scientists don’t count for as much as the son of an “economist” with ties to the oppressive right-wing Pinochet regime?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Regardless of the validity of your argument, listing Gould and Bill Nye is probably not conductive to being taken more seriously.

          • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous

            listing Gould and Bill Nye is probably not conductive to being taken more seriously.

            Why? Did you not read the article I linked, defending Gould against the under-sourced attacks of biased “scientists” with axes to grind, and pointing out that even if they were right in that single case, it says nothing about the many, many other examples of the racist pseudoscience debunked by Gould in The Mismeasure of Man?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Did you not read the article I linked, defending Gould against the under-sourced attacks of biased “scientists” with axes to grind,

            It’s a very weak defense, and those “scientists” deserve the scare quote treatment far less than the other name I objected to in your list of names.

          • Zombielicious says:

            I just hope the irony of this debate over whose advocates are/aren’t Real Scientists coming from a community following of random internet bloggers and people warning about malevolent superintelligent AIs (among other things) isn’t lost on anyone else.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I’m still trying to figure out if Anita is serious or trolling, but I’m going to let it pass for now on grounds of bringing ideological diversity to the site. If she ever crosses the line into obvious trolling, or continues this kind of behavior incessantly without other things that provide value, I’ll be harsher.

            On the other hand, extreme warning for bringing a commenter’s family into this. Do that again and you WILL get banned

          • suntzuanime says:

            The more obvious the troll, the less harmful. You should be banning the ones who don’t cross the line.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            But suntzuanime, the trolls keep good, decent folks on their toes. Is it truly that frustrating to your psyche that you still haven’t been banned?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I suppose I should have said, rather than “the less harmful”, “the less effective, for good or for ill”. We were speaking in the context of a harmful troll worthy of banning, though.

          • What I can’t figure out is, if Anita is trolling, whether she is a right winger trying to make left wingers look bad or a left winger (or general prankster) trying outrage right wingers.

        • Diadem says:

          Well the idea that race is a social construct is a broadly shared view among scientists. Anita Restrepo-Sanchez is not wrong on that, though they oversell their case when they claim it’s the consensus. Of course the last bit of their post, accusing anyone who disagrees of being a nazi, is rather absurd. But all in all it reads more like a sincerely held fringe-belief than actual trolling.

          Race is a complicated concept. The fact that two white people will in nearly always have a white kid, while two black people will nearly always have a black kid, is proof that there must be some biological component to race. Yet human races are clearly not the same as animal races, the differences between humans are far, far less pronounced.

          What is meant by the statement ‘race is a social construct’ is not that there are no differences between humans. Obviously there are. What is meant is that there are no clear biological boundaries between races, and that how we group people is more based on social convention then any biological differences. See for example Jews and Irish not being considered white in the past. The human race isn’t a group of clearly delineated islands, it’s instead a gently changing landscape, with no clear borders.

          The same way that clearly there exist adults, and there exist children, but the line we draw between these groups, at 18 years of age, is a rather arbitrary social construct.

          • Anon. says:

            how we group people is more based on social convention then any biological differences.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1196372/

            Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Diadem:

            You are correct that there are variations across definitions of race as a social concept. There are people who get on the plane in the US, most people would say they’re black, if they land in Brazil, they’ve turned in most people’s eyes to white.

            The races as a social concept precedes modern understandings of genetics or even modern understandings of heritability and such.
            It is too bad also that there is so much variance and downright equivocation in the different words used.

            Races are a bad way of sorting humans into groups. To really say much beyond something like “white people come from Europe” you need to zoom in much more, and the fact that the issues you raise makes the problem worse.

            @Anon.:

            That study is American, though – in some places there are people who’d say they’re white, and be considered white, who by US standards would be considered black.

          • Mary says:

            Trained anatomists can tell you the race of a skeleton with about 80% accuracy.

          • cassander says:

            > There are people who get on the plane in the US, most people would say they’re black, if they land in Brazil, they’ve turned in most people’s eyes to white.

            I fail to see what you think this proves.

            >The races as a social concept precedes modern understandings of genetics or even modern understandings of heritability and such.

            People have been breeding animals for tens of thousands of years. You don’t need to have the origin of species to understand heredity.

            >races are a bad way of sorting humans into groups. To really say much beyond something like “white people come from Europe” you need to zoom in much more, and the fact that the issues you raise makes the problem worse.

            Races, sure. Heredity? Definitely not.

          • The question I want to put to the “race is a social concept” (or analogous claims) folk is why they think it matters. Suppose we agree that there is no sharp boundary between black and white, that some societies would classify a person of mixed ancestry as white and some as black. How is that relevant to the question of whether the distribution of innate heritable characteristics is different by race as defined by some such classification?

            Suppose I agree that we cannot say anything about IQ and race because “race” is too fuzzy a concept. We can still say that IQ correlates negatively with percentage of sub-saharan ancestry–whether or not it’s true, it doesn’t depend on the concept of race. Is that really an improvement?

            Which is why I take the claim that race does not exist as evasion not argument and suspect that the use of evasions is evidence that the person using them knows he doesn’t have a good argument.

          • Jiro says:

            “Race is a social concept” is motte and bailey. The motte is that there are racial classifications that might be different in different societies. The bailey is that all racial classificationss are purely defined by society and there are no differences between races at all.

          • Corey says:

            The question I want to put to the “race is a social concept” (or analogous claims) folk is why they think it matters. Suppose we agree that there is no sharp boundary between black and white, that some societies would classify a person of mixed ancestry as white and some as black. How is that relevant to the question of whether the distribution of innate heritable characteristics is different by race as defined by some such classification?

            One of the problems with the usual white-supremacy arguments based on this is: who’s white? There’s a Catholic guy of Irish ancestry in the next cube, pretty conservative, definitely white in 2016 USA, actually quite concerned about the erosion of the US’s white culture. A hundred years ago the exact same guy would have been *part* of the destructive erosion of US white culture everyone “knew” was in progress.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander:

            I fail to see what you think this proves.

            Well, that the classic model of races is a suboptimal way of expressing human difference, because it features categories that are too large to be useful (Sicilians look noticeably different from Norwegians) and features a strong socially determined aspect (there were times and places where Sicilians wouldn’t be considered white; and one can find examples of NW Europeans, mostly English, describing other NW Europeans as “not white”).

            People have been breeding animals for tens of thousands of years. You don’t need to have the origin of species to understand heredity.

            Despite people breeding animals, the observations they had did not lead people away from holding all sorts of wacky views about heredity. Plus, our ability to effectively breed animals has improved much faster after the modern understanding of heredity was figured out than it did before.

            Races, sure. Heredity? Definitely not.

            Well, yes. Heredity obviously exists. It is possible to sort people into groups. But trying to sort people using a system that predates a modern understanding of heredity, that predates a modern understanding of geography, that predates a modern understanding of human migration, and that is heavily socially based … that’s just kinda dumb.

            It would be like if we were trying to do modern chemistry using some ancient definition of matter into fire, water, air, earth or something.

            @David Friedman:

            How much time do you spend among lefty social-science academics? I don’t think you’re correct that they say what they say to avoid a battle they know they’ll lose. I think they are in earnest.

          • Anon. says:

            That study is American, though – in some places there are people who’d say they’re white, and be considered white, who by US standards would be considered black.

            Sure, the correspondence between “race” and genetic clusters is fuzzy, and to some extent arbitrary. But this is not an argument against HBD, it’s an argument for tighter “race”-genetic cluster connections. Once you recognize that the clusters exist, the rest is a trifle.

            And of course the number of clusters you choose to separate the data into is also somewhat arbitrary. You could argue the Sardinians are a “race” of their own, and why not? But as long as you’re cleaving clusters at their joints, it’s all good.

          • “A hundred years ago the exact same guy would have been *part* of the destructive erosion of US white culture everyone “knew” was in progress.”

            A hundred years ago–better still a hundred and fifty years ago–he wouldn’t have been the exact same guy. He would have been an immigrant from a very different culture. The argument that such immigrants had a bad effect on the existing culture may have turned out to be wrong, but not because your colleague isn’t.

          • “How much time do you spend among lefty social-science academics? I don’t think you’re correct that they say what they say to avoid a battle they know they’ll lose. I think they are in earnest.”

            I spend quite a lot of time among lefty academics since I’ve spent the past forty years or so as a professional academic. The academics I interact with are mostly in law or economics however, the two fields I have taught in, so may not be an adequate sample.

            You could be correct, but when I see someone making an argument that strikes me as a transparent evasion, I draw the obvious conclusion.

            Here is an example in an entirely different context. I concluded that a factual account used by a friend of mine in the gun control debate was largely bogus. I discovered that he had gotten it from someone else on the same side of the debate (the side I’m also on, as it happened), so raised the question with him. A couple of steps into the exchange he stopped trying to defend his story and switched to attacking me for unrelated reasons. I concluded that he knew that the story he had told wasn’t true.

            Do you disagree with my inference?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Anon. –

            Sure, the correspondence between “race” and genetic clusters is fuzzy, and to some extent arbitrary. But this is not an argument against HBD, it’s an argument for tighter “race”-genetic cluster connections. Once you recognize that the clusters exist, the rest is a trifle.

            The tightest and most accurate cluster is the individual.

          • Anon. says:

            @Orphan Wilde

            … In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anon.

            But, then, surely it is a major error on the part of HBD proponents to take race as the line along which groups are to be divided.

          • Anon. says:

            Why do you say that? As the paper I linked above shows, the correlation between race and genetic clusters is actually very tight (at least in the US).

            If the data showed that a significant percentage of people who identify as X actually belong in the Y cluster, then it would indeed be a mistake. But as it is, the current categorization cleaves reality at the joints.

            Also, I don’t think anyone is saying that the current grouping is the only possible choice. Just because “whites” form a cluster doesn’t mean Italians are not distinct from Swedes. There are other demarcations that are just as valid. But this doesn’t make the current one erroneous.

            And again: these concerns about labeling clusters are irrelevant. The existence of clusters is sufficient for HBD to declare complete victory. If someone then comes along and mislabels or misrepresents those clusters, it doesn’t matter. They’re mistaken, but the clusters are still there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            I am aware you’re an academic. You’re right that law and economics aren’t representative. I do detect from friends of mine in law school that there’s a political shift happening there, but economics is probably the most “right-wing” of the “soft” subjects.

            While in your example the correct inference to draw would be that your interlocutor only really cares about “evidence” insofar as it proves what they already know.

            I don’t think that it suffices to explain the motivations of a large number of people. When I was in school I was mostly in areas of the humanities that are still fairly stodgy and old-fashioned in a lot of ways, or are “with it” but have a completely different “it”, instead of adopting stuff coming out of the social sciences (economics is, admittedly, a social science, but I’d argue it’s a noncentral example). So, they were still weird territory for me. I wasn’t impressed by what I encountered when I did – there was an emphasis on theory over fact I found really off-putting, and on what (kind of uncharitably) strikes me as basically the belief that reality is a collective hallucination, an elevation of the symbolic and connotative over the material and practical.

            I think it makes sense to assume that people hold their beliefs in earnest, even if their beliefs are essentially self-serving: someone who is falsely holding beliefs to serve themselves might get caught in the deception, while someone who actually believes something is not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anon.

            It’s tight in the US, but maybe the US just has a conception of races that’s closer to whatever the reality of human difference is – maybe the minimum number of groups you need to accurately describe things is 40 instead of 4, who knows.

            The situation in the US is liable to become more confusing, too, I think – look at the issue of what mixed-race people identify as, or the way that other people often “peg” someone as a given race or ethnic group (or cultural group – the way that Hispanic and Latino are defined by the government, as cultural groupings, is completely different from the way most people use it, as a racial/ethnic category) based on how it serves the point they want to make or their view of the world.

            The four-race model as a classification system may not be wholly erroneous, and the HBD’ers may not be claiming it’s the only way, but it’s still more erroneous than several other possible classification systems, and I see the HBD’ers use it a lot.

            With regard to Italians and Swedes:
            imagine a situation where every white person in a city is either Italian or Swedish. Let’s say both groups are big eaters of meatballs, the Italians with tomato sauce, the Swedes with lingonberry jam. If you want to say “white people in this city eat meatballs at 4x the rate of all people in the city, on average”, no problem, but what happens when you look at the statistics and declare that those white people are serving their hefty amount of meatballs with a half-and-half tomato-lingonberry mixture?

          • Anon. says:

            Well, that’s bad statistics. In the case of tomato sauce and lingonberries it’s easy to ferret out the error. In more realistic cases it’s probably more difficult. I think one big source of that kind of mistake is that we’re still dealing with relatively small sample sizes and a very limited understanding of which SNPs do what. But our capabilities are constantly improving.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anon.:

            Basically, I think that an antiquated classification system makes such errors more likely, and impedes finding the truth in general.

          • cassander says:

            >Well, that the classic model of races is a suboptimal way of expressing human difference,

            What exactly is the classic model? What the phrenology guys dreamed up 100 years ago? Modern American public perception of race? Modern American Census categories?

            >Well, yes. Heredity obviously exists. It is possible to sort people into groups. But trying to sort people using a system that predates a modern understanding of heredity, that predates a modern understanding of geography, that predates a modern understanding of human migration, and that is heavily socially based … that’s just kinda dumb.

            Again, you’d need to be more specific about exactly what system you think we’re using. Even if we take something largely unscientific, though, like modern census categories, we still find significant group differences.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander:

            The way people perceive race now is generally still some variant on 18th-19th century models, which divided people up into a handful of groups. The current US census, for instance, has five defined and singular groups.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The 19th century model with three races is useful though unrefined. The US census follows that model (with different names) plus American Indians and Pacific Islanders (both of whom would be considered Asian in the 19th century model).

            “Hispanic” isn’t considered a race (it’s an ethnicity, and the only one recognized) and probably isn’t a useful category as far as HBD goes, since it includes anyone from the Iberian peninsula (a European subgroup), plus anyone from the Carribean or the Americas south of the US.

          • Anonymous says:

            I would have thought “black” would be a pretty poor category if the underlying thesis were correct given that African-Americans have a broad mix of ancestry. You’d think quadroons would be as different from mulattos as they were from whites.

          • “You’d think quadroons would be as different from mulattos as they were from whites.”

            But if there is some characteristic which is an increasing function of sub-saharan ancestry, all “blacks” would differ from whites in the same direction.

            There are two more serious problems with “black” as a category. One is that sub-Saharan Africa contains very diverse populations. Afro-Americans are not a random selection, of course, but a population heavily weighted towards people from areas where lots of slaves were captured. But I don’t think one can assume that (say) Ghanaians and Biafrans, or even Nigerian Ibo and Nigerian Yoruba, will differ from the white American average in the same direction.

            A further problem is that there are some dark skinned populations, most obviously from southern India, that don’t have any particularly close genetic connection to sub-Saharan Africa–just a common adaptation to a common environmental feature. So no reason to expect them to differ from American whites in the same direction as American blacks.

            But all of these points, while relevant to how one might do HBD better, don’t seem to me very relevant to the implications of HBD, even done not very well.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler: extensive Wikipedia research says Linnaeus had 4 and Blumenbach 5. Or the other way around maybe.

            The category of “Hispanic/Latino” in the US is very obfuscatory because conventional use is completely different from what the word technically means and the way the government uses it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe the missing piece of the puzzle is that it isn’t the contribution of the large source populations in sub-Sahara Africa but the contribution of the relatively small group of slaveholder-rapists and overseer-rapists.

            Are there any studies on the characteristics of the white descendants of these groups?

      • hlynkacg says:

        If you’re going to troll at least try to be entertaining.

        • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

          I’m sorry if trying to explain to the neo-Nazi types on this ultra-right weblog how terribly wrong and unscientific their “scientific racism” is isn’t amusing enough for you. I mean, it’s not like genocide and oppression are serious subjects deserving of respect or anything.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Your real problem is that you’re shoving it in several times a sentence with no padding. Everybody knows you never go full retard—overacting ruins the effect.
            You have to start the post sounding like a functioning human being, and then deviate into crazy prog-speak at semi-random intervals.
            A broken record has to start with music, otherwise nobody will start listening to it.

            Try writing a normal effortpost from the perspective of the group you’re trying to mock. Then go back and edit parts of it as if you had a brain parasite that triggers spastic fits at certain trigger words and trains of thought.

          • FooQuuxman says:

            Should I start considering “Anita” a marker for moonbattery? Because so far 2 of 2 “Anita”s I know of are moonbats.

          • Deiseach says:

            the neo-Nazi types on this ultra-right weblog

            Drat it, those swastika-gravatars really were a bad idea, weren’t they?

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            So remember that prediction I made about the new moderation policy? That trolls would exploit it by overwhelming Scott’s limited amount of moderating time?

            Yeah, I honestly expected it to be subtler than this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They changed the gravatars, but mine remains an Iron Cross. If an Iron Cross were blue lace, anyway.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, the Pour le Merite?

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      It seems pretty obvious to me that the HBD-believing side is the side of intellectual honesty – I mean just look at the bullshit whining and rationalization against it going on elsewhere in this thread. Some of the more cluefull liberals, including Scott, seem to know this in their heart of hearts too, at least enough to hint at it, but of course they can’t say it straight up. Eventually the dam will break when enough direct DNA evidence comes out – or maybe polite society will just go full 2+2=5 on it (if we’re not there already).

      • The Nybbler says:

        Keep in mind that being less dishonest does not mean being right. It is possible the case for HBD looks as strong as it does only because few have seriously and honestly tried to refute it, instead relying on cries of racism.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is maybe a better way of saying what I’ve been saying. A team doesn’t have to be great to win a match if the other team doesn’t show up.

          • But the failure to show up is at least some evidence of what the other team thinks the result of the match would be.

            As I think I have already suggested.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And I’ve said that I think they’re in earnest – they don’t think they’re going to lose, it’s that they don’t even think that baseball (let’s say it’s baseball) exists.

            There are people who think that physical differences between the biological sexes (which are blatantly obvious, far more easy to measure than intelligence, etc) are socially determined – I’ve been told that the only reason men are bigger and stronger than women is that they’re told this in childhood and act accordingly.

            I don’t have a high opinion of the “fluffier” social sciences, not at all – I think they lack rigour and are often more comparable to theology (and, shit, not even current theology, where you can get away with heresy) than anything else. But I think the vast majority of them believe what they say they believe, from A to Z – very few pious frauds.

          • “But I think the vast majority of them believe what they say they believe, from A to Z – very few pious frauds.”

            You could be right.

            Part of the reason I don’t see it that way is that I’ve observed situations in political arguments where people make it obvious that they don’t care if their beliefs are true.

            One happened today on FaceBook, in the context of a climate thread. Someone who identified me (in part mistakenly) as a “denier” asserted that I had no scientific credentials–as a fact, not a conjecture. I responded that I had a PhD in physics and had published articles in physics. Shortly thereafter he asserted that I had no peer reviewed articles in physics. I posted the cites for two. At no point was there any suggestion in what he posted that he was bothered to discover that he had posted provably false factual claims. He just went on to offer more insults of a similar but less demonstrably false sort.

            There was someone else in the same discussion whom I had caught a while back referring to a graph in an article that wasn’t there–he had invented it.

            Neither seemed bothered by having said things that were not true–that they knew were not true. As long as they were on the right side of the argument that was what mattered.

            So I am inclined to interpret people who say things that I don’t see how they could believe but that they have strong political reasons for saying in the same way.

            I suppose the test would be some situation where the belief mattered to what someone did but where what he did would not reveal the belief to anyone who would care, ideally would not make the belief obvious enough to the person himself so that he couldn’t ignore it.

          • onyomi says:

            I think HBD is a motte and bailey game that, by virtue of being very old, familiar, and despised, has resulted in opponents attacking the impenetrable motte without reservation. This being a motte no one would question if it were in any other less emotionally, historically-loaded area, and one which some people are now quite content to remain in without thinking of entering the bailey.

            But, due to history, the anti-HBDers are so sure that anyone in the motte is just waiting for his chance to move onto the bailey that they don’t even wait till he moves to begin the assault. This, of course, creates cognitive dissonance, because they know the motte is unassailable, so they start to believe it’s actually full of holes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Is the motte “there are likely to be genetic differences between sub-populations that have effects on outcomes”?

            Or is the motte “we should assume observed differences in outcomes are the results of genetic differences?”

            Because from where I sit, the second claim is being made. Do you think that is unassailable?

          • onyomi says:

            I was thinking more the former.

          • Who do you think is making the second claim?

            As I thought I made clear, my claim is “we cannot rule out the possibility that differences in outcomes are due to genetic differences.”

            Hence we cannot be confident from the fact that differences in outcome exist that they are due to (in particular) discrimination.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            Are these laypeople (eg, not educated in the subject at hand) arguing or academics arguing over their specialty? In the former case, a lot of people are operating under the assumption that their opponents either won’t know or won’t be able to effectively uncover that they are lying.

            In the latter case, in the humanities and social sciences at least, you’ll find a much higher level of BS’ing and doing unfortunate things to statistics. I, personally, will admit to a probably about average level of BS’ing over the course of my academic career. And BS’ing and doing unfortunate things to statistics are far more easily to do without being aware of it, far more comfortable for the “true believer”, and more likely to coincidentally be right (there are, after all, bad arguments for correct claims). Good things do come out of the softer social sciences (just usually wrapped in all sorts of extraneous theory and obfuscatory language).

            I think it’s also maybe a bit confusing (and this is probably my fault for insisting on introducing battle and sports metaphors) to think of it as being “teams”. There’s not “Team Anti-HBD” picking who’s going to make the next plays. I imagine there are a great deal of experts in relevant subjects who could, say, have a good stab at refuting the idea of certain gaps being caused by genetics. But if they wander in and start arguing from a position that starts from certain priors, they’re probably going to catch heat from the left-wing-social-studies sorta crowd. So they stay out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            You made a stronger claim than that, which was that past discrimination or current discrimination was not a sufficient explanation.

            And then simply ignored me when I attempted to get you to address the flaw in your reasoning about the Roma.

            @onyomi:
            In any case, the burden is on those proffering a genetic case to prove their case, especially given the incontrovertible evidence of past harms to outcomes. As I said, past discrimination makes for a very strong prior.

            But are you really going to tell me that we don’t have plenty of people claiming that we “know” black outcomes are the result of the lower IQ due to genetics? You are really claiming that most of the fighting is at the walls of the motte?

          • @dndnrsn:

            The FaceBook exchange, which I assume is what you are asking about, was with lay persons.

            But the person who claimed I had no credentials in science had to know that if it wasn’t true I would contradict it. So I interpret him as not caring enough about whether what he said was true to avoid saying something that he was guessing was true but might well be shown to be false. The world was as he imagined, and if not so what.

          • “You made a stronger claim than that, which was that past discrimination or current discrimination was not a sufficient explanation.”

            Was not known to be the explanation. You were the one who claimed to know the explanation of the difference in outcomes. My point was that with two possible explanations, neither had to be right.

            Consider my analogy to Darwinian evolution and the existence of God. A designer God would be a sufficient explanation for why organisms seem so well designed. But once we have Darwinian evolution there is an alternative explanation, so we are not compelled to accept that one.

            “Je n’ais pay besoin de cette hypothèse la.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Darwin explains why God never was the explanation.

            So, either you are claiming that genetics means that discrimination never existed (which I don’t believe you are), or your analogy doesn’t hold.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            This reminds me also of the “if we admit that 2+2=4, next they’ll say it’s 5, so we better make a firm stand at 3” scenario.

            In this analogy, 4=as with all other traits, there are some broad, statistical, average differences in cognitive traits of different groups. These differences probably have some effect on outcomes, though it’s very complicated and difficult to disentangle them from other, historical/environmental factors like discrimination, patriarchy, etc.

            5=most of the difference in outcomes is a result of genetic differences.

            3=none, or almost none, of the difference in outcomes is a result of genetic differences. It’s almost all culture and history, especially discrimination

            2(bonus!)=there are no significant average intergroup genetic differences with respect to the brain. Ergo, any differences in outcome must be due to historical injustice. Also, even focusing on culture (Tiger Mom), which really makes you a 3, may get you labeled a 5.

            Around here you may not get a lot of people arguing 3, much less 2, but in society at large, I see it a lot. Just look at the post which started this thread. It seems basically to be arguing 2, right? And while it may be mistaken for trolling around here, my experience is that it’s pretty common.

            My view is that most people know the answer is 4 somewhere deep down, but convince themselves it’s 3 or even 2 because they don’t want to mentally touch 5 with a ten-foot pole, or, worse, be mistaken for a 5ist. By the way, arguing 4 on a news show or any popular public forum will immediately get you labeled a 5.

            Meanwhile, on 4chan, people start signalling or even believing 5 to show how not like the self-deceiving 2s and 3s they are, and due to the old “what’s the punishment for lateness? What’s the punishment for rebellion?” dynamic.

          • Corey says:

            But the person who claimed I had no credentials in science had to know that if it wasn’t true I would contradict it. So I interpret him as not caring enough about whether what he said was true to avoid saying something that he was guessing was true but might well be shown to be false. The world was as he imagined, and if not so what.

            There’s a more-charitable explanation for this, that I know happens because I do it: fact-checking oneself in online discussions (especially adversarial ones) is a waste of time, because others will do it very quickly. Related is the conventional wisdom that getting an answer to a question on the Internet is best done not by asking the question, but by posting an incorrect answer.

            To be fair, if someone’s doing this they should quickly and politely acknowledge corrections, which is also difficult in adversarial discussions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @David Friedman:

            That would make this guy a pious fraud, who thinks that a good cause demands lying, or a bullshitter, who doesn’t particularly care about the truth of what they’re saying – it could be true or false as long as it gets them what they want. Or he could just be a dummy who doesn’t really think about it at all.

            But unless you can catch somebody in something that blatant, I don’t think it’s helpful to focus on what someone might really think, etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:

            I think you are leaving out some things.

            Consider these statements:
            1 – There are differences, on average, between genetically distinguishable cohorts on characteristics that effect outcome
            2 – We know what specific characteristics change outcome.
            3 – We have identified the specific genetic differences that cause the difference in characteristics
            4 – We can reliably identify these genetic differences by a cursory examination of external features (at a glance)

          • onyomi says:

            BTW, when I mentioned how “the post which started this thread seemed to argue for 2,” I was referring to this, not the actual parent of this tree.

            @HBC, I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

            Your “1” seems similar to the position I described as “2+2=4,” but I didn’t say anything about your numbers 2, 3, and 4, which, I imagine, overlap to some extent with the position I described as “2+2=5,” though I don’t have an opinion on where, exactly, the line is.

            You might claim that most people who try to argue for your 1 actually mean your 4, and that may be true, but that is a higher level of nuance than one usually sees in this debate (like an argument that someone who thinks they’re saying “2+2=4,” is actually saying “2+2=4.5”). My point is that you can’t even argue for your number 1 without being assumed to mean my number 5.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I believe the nature/nurture debate is quite lively, and when we see reaction to articles on nature vs. nurture people don’t immediately attack this.

            Part of this, I believe, is that the general public, I think, mostly checks out of nature/nurture debates.

            Do you find fault with any of that?

          • TheWorst says:

            @Onyomi:

            This reminds me also of the “if we admit that 2+2=4, next they’ll say it’s 5, so we better make a firm stand at 3” scenario.

            Unrelated to the current topic, I’d just like to say thanks for reminding me of that phrasing. Things fall out that way fairly often, don’t they?

            And not just trying to make a firm stand at 3, but the internal-competition cycle happens: You start out at 4, go to war with the 5ists, until one of your fellow 4ists realizes he can win extra status by loudly being a 3ist. He does, and now he’s King Shit. Soon, someone else realizes that they can be King Shit by being the first loud 2ist. On the other side, meanwhile, someone just realized he can be King Shit of the 5ists by being a loud’n’proud 7ist, and then you’ve accidentally created 21st-century America.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            And not just trying to make a firm stand at 3, but the internal-competition cycle happens: You start out at 4, go to war with the 5ists, until one of your fellow 4ists realizes he can win extra status by loudly being a 3ist. He does, and now he’s King Shit. Soon, someone else realizes that they can be King Shit by being the first loud 2ist. On the other side, meanwhile, someone just realized he can be King Shit of the 5ists by being a loud’n’proud 7ist, and then you’ve accidentally created 21st-century America.

            At least the first 7ists are merely pretending to believe in 7ism as a hypocritical status/power grab. Once the next generation grows up, having never known anything but 7ism, they will really believe it, and their leaders will be selected for being the truest of believers in 7ism. Hence the phenomenon of “not getting the joke”.

          • TheWorst says:

            And then the 5ists who merely pretended to be 7ists for the last few decades in order to seem more hardcore than the rest of the 5ists will burn infinite pixels in hand-wringing about where all these lunatics came from.

            Meanwhile, anyone who suggests that 2+2 is [any number exceeding zero] will be accused of being a crypto-7ist and promptly crucified.

    • Anon. says:

      For some reason my reply was swallowed by the spam filter…anyway, look up Piffer on google scholar. Even with out limited understanding of the relation between genome and IQ, I think there is enough direct genetic evidence right now, and this will only be improved.

    • Racists, racists everywhere, and not a place to think says:

      TL;DR: Stay away, it’ll mark you as a haven for all racists.

      HBD gothic: a tragedy

      Act I

      You hear a claim that race-bound genetics or culture are important in some way. You investigate it seriously. Maybe you accept it, maybe you reject it, but either way you’re willing to consider it.

      Some people see you investigating and join. How delightful to find people who wish to search for truth! You’re worried about your own unconscious possibly-racist attitudes (you took the IAT), and you’re worried about anti-racism activists mistaking your nuance for racism. But look at your new friends! Surely they must share your worries, yet that never slows them down in their quest. What amazing lovers of truth.

      One of them comes to you quietly and starts talking about how inferior brown people are. Must be a fluke. Maybe you stop talking to them, maybe you pat yourself on the back for tolerating a racist as a friend.

      Half your friends come to you and start talking about how inferior brown people are.

      This can’t go on. You run to the anti-racism activists. Maybe you drop the HBD stuff entirely, maybe you keep researching but never tell a soul. You start a blog full of pictures of black scientists and skateboarding hijabi ladies.

      Act II

      Your new friends love the oppressed. In particular they really love Muslims. It’s a relief. Your racist friends hated Muslims. Your new friends love Muslims. They love Palestine. They hate Israel.

      Well, okay. You have a more nuanced view (you still love nuance, dammit) but you can’t say you’re a fan of all Israeli policies.

      A Jewish couple gets stabbed in your home town, and your friends are strangely silent. Wait, they’re not silent: they’re chanting antisemitic slogans.

      As you back away in horror, your old friends flock back to you, with gleaming white teeth, hissing “Ashkenazi intelligence”.

      Act III

      Fuck all of this. From now on you will only think about ponies.

      Ponies are alt-right now.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Ponies as a whole aren’t alt-right, just that one episode of _My Little Pony_.

        Anyway, the validity of a theory is not in any way dependent on the savoriness or unsavoriness of its most well-known adherents. Sometimes the truth has an other-than-liberal bias.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Ponies as a whole aren’t alt-right,

          That’s what you’d think, but right now your two choices are “SJW cuck” or “Alt-right Neckbeard”, and the Ponies have made their choice.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, I admit that my neck does sprout unwanted growth, Homer Simpson style, about 60 seconds following a shave. Does this mean I am a pony?

        • Racists, racists everywhere, and not a place to think says:

          Hyperbole didn’t work, trying clarity.

          Humans tend to assign broad emotional valence to concepts. For example, “yay Muslims, therefore: yay Palestine, boo Israel, yay BDS”. It takes effort and careful conscious thought to hold more nuanced positions, such as for example “I approve of boycotting companies in settlements, I disapprove of the indiscriminate BDS movement”.

          Claims like “this intelligence-lowering mutation is more common in this race” or “this cultural practice holds back children with this orchid gene” or “the crime rate is highest in this race, for whatever reason” may be true or false. If you investigate them, you might not end up believing only the specific claim. You might end up believing “boo black people” (or “boo Muslims”, or “boo South Asians”, etc.). This will change your other beliefs in ways not supported, or more weakly supported, by evidence; and change your behaviour in antisocial ways.

          Maybe you trust yourself not to fall prey to this effect. But when you encounter someone else who says “I have investigated that claim, and it’s true”, what’s more likely: that you have met someone moved by truth-seeking who also trusts themselves to examine evidence, or that you have met someone moved by “boo black people”? I say it’s obviously the latter, by one or two orders of magnitude.

          You may be prepared for people to mistake your factual claims for racist values and hate you. You might not be prepared for people to mistake your factual claims for racist values and befriend you.

          When I was young and naive, I could recognise lovers of truth by two signs. First, they can write with reasonable spelling, grammar, and coherence. Second, they’re willing to express opinions that would get them stoned to death by the general public. But some terrible people can spell, and racism used to be controversial enough in intellectual circles that it would pass the second test. So it doesn’t seem easy to discern ideological motivations.

          Because of this emotional valence, you can’t simply look at whether someone’s claims are true. It’s easy to write a virulently antisemitic speech made entirely of true claims about Israel’s policies and Haredi practices, and listeners will correctly deduce that the speaker would like employers to hire fewer Jews, even though none of the claims imply that.

          Therefore: It is risky to your sanity to consider such claims. If you go ahead and consider them, you should never tell a soul, because that soul will probably hear “I would like to join a racist conspiracy”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Having racists attempt to befriend (or recruit) me based on things I believe are true and they believe are useful is not a threat to my sanity. They actually are usually easy to spot; after all, they will believe and advocate a wide variety of racist-sounding things, not just the ones which there is evidence for.

            The truth is the truth regardless of whether it is useful to the distasteful, and attempting to hold on to a lie to avoid this is could corrupt my entire system of beliefs; in order to believe the lie I must disbelieve anything which confirms the lie. At best this leaves a nasty hole in my beliefs I must work around. At worst (as far as I know), this results in Social Justice.

          • Racists, racists everywhere, and not a place to think says:

            This seems to be a genuine disagreement. I expect that reading a lot of studies on whether people from Comoros are gay will cause you to associate Comorians and homosexuality, even if all the studies say no. How do you find these studies? Through blogs pushing the “Comorians are gay, and this is bad” line, either overtly or through undertones. Even if you initially read these blogs with disgust and skim until you get to the hard evidence, I expect you will slowly absorb the ideology through mere exposure. In favour of this, I offer: advertising works, recruitment usually works by social ties rather than argument, I’ve seen it happen to various people with various ideologies, studies on affect and priming.

            You are indeed at no risk of being recruited by incoherent people whose claims are demonstrably false. You are also not very likely to be recruited by people who publicly do what I described above, speeches made of nothing but true or plausible claims in a seething tone. If someone is utterly careless that could still happen (“well, all he said is that a Haredi guy stabbed someone for being gay and that Israel bombed a hospital, that’s definitely true” and not noticing you now unconsciously judge Jews to be less trustworthy), but people are not normally this naive.

            What I meant to be the novel part of the argument (everything above is meant to be obvious, and I’m surprised at the disagreement) is that some people are a lot more subtle than this. You will select a few people who seem trustworthy, privately discuss race with them, believe that they just want to know the truth, and only then will they start advocating a wide variety of racist-sounding things.

            I am not advocating believing lies about the causes of (observed or imagined) differences between race; I am advocating putting the question at the very bottom of your list of things to find out the truth about, below quantum field theory and knitting techniques.

            If you have a burning itch to study that particular question (possibly out of contrarianism because I just said not to), or if you’re Razib Khan and therefore have a practical need for it, then of course you will study it anyway. Then I advocate not sharing your results, because I’ve found through (hard, surprising) experience that most people who want to hear them are driven by racist ideologies. I also advocate combating the emotional effects; go have lunch with your friends (this assumes your friend group is racially mixed, which may fail if you live in rural China or something), listen to moving music or a brilliant lecture by someone of the affected race.

            Note in particular that refusing to study deep causes doesn’t mean you need to ignore race questions entirely. (Although you can.) Racist ideologies are wrong; they may use plausible factual claims to persuade but those claims don’t actually support the desired racist policies. The correct answer to “Whites have higher IQ than blacks” isn’t “that’s because of poverty”, it’s “Intelligence is irrelevant to moral worth”. The correct answer to “On average, Hispanics perform worse at this job than non-Hispanic whites” is “Just give the applicant a coding test and you won’t have to rely on a broad trend”.

          • RRE, we in America already live in a soceity which is telling us (certain, specific types of) Racism is Bad quite a lot, at full volume. If the concern is that we’d be brainwashed to incorrect beliefs due to advertising and social pressure, you should be encouraging people to be extra-racist to counteract this.

            Or is the argument here “Yes, the racists are obviously right, but they’re also obviously weak, and so the best thing to do is to make the progressive lies as plausible as possible for you to believe, because the risks of being able to avoid race-based high crime areas is outweighed by the cost of being attacked by progressives for racism.”?

          • Racists, racists everywhere, and not a place to think says:

            Well, observably, there are a lot of racists. Some of the commenters here (I very much hope) must live in the same sort of bubble I did as a child, where overhearing a racist comment is a rare curiosity and anti-racist slogans are a daily occurrence. They probably assume racism is largely dead and anti-racism is nothing but ruining careers over bad jokes.

            But in broader society, racism is very much alive and kicking. Far-right parties are gaining influence throughout Europe. Violent attacks against Muslims and people assumed to be Muslim are common in the US. Employment discrimination is well-proven.

            Either you think those are good things, in which case none of my argument is addressed to you; or there is more racism than there should be and therefore we should push the other way.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Priming works? Priming is a tiny effect you can produce in laboratory conditions at best, a casualty of the reproducibility crisis at worst. The idea that racist material is so convincing that merely skimming over it while knowing what it is will be enough to change my views in its favor, but the vast amount of anti-racist material in society at large will not be enough to prevent it, seems unlikely.

            You will select a few people who seem trustworthy, privately discuss race with them, believe that they just want to know the truth, and only then will they start advocating a wide variety of racist-sounding things

            Supposing this happens, my response will be to “back away slowly”. I’ve not run into this specific effect with HBD claims; I have run into people who feel free to say racist things to me when no others were around, because they thought I’d be receptive for various other reasons. They were wrong then and you are wrong now.

            Then I advocate not sharing your results, because I’ve found through (hard, surprising) experience that most people who want to hear them are driven by racist ideologies.

            You advocate that if I find out an inconvenient truth, I bury it in order to avoid being befriended by racists? How can I distinguish this from someone revealing an inconvenient truth because it conflicts with things they want known and done?

            The idea that “Intelligence is irrelevant to moral worth” is a red herring; there are follow-on effects to both “Whites, as a result of their genetics have higher IQ than blacks” and “Blacks and whites have the same genetic component to IQ” which have nothing to do with moral worth. There are a whole lot of things which are partially derived (implicitly or explicitly) from the two claims “Blacks and whites have exactly the same genetic intelligence” and “In areas where intelligence counts, blacks underperform whites”. If the first claim is false, it should change the whole way of looking at such things. If one must pretend the first claim is true regardless of its truth, it distorts one’s entire worldview.

            Violent attacks against Muslims and people assumed to be Muslim are common in the US.

            No, they are not. About 16% (184) of victims of religiously motivated hate crimes in the US in 2014 were Muslims. This is not common at all.

            Employment discrimination is well-proven.

            Qualitatively, yes. Quantitatively, the amount depends in part on the answers you wish to bury.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I like how you put “far-right parties in Europe” and “attacks against muslims” out there as though they were some particular form of bad weather, utterly disconnected from the actions of anti-racists.

            Do you know why the far-right is gaining ground in Europe, and the alt-right is gaining ground in America? In large part, it’s because the response to Islamic terror, black crime and third-world immigration is to double down on calling white people racists for noticing it.

            If you really believe people of color are equal to whites, then you must believe that their capacity for evil is equal as well. Giving minority groups a blank check on violence while restraining the majority is not justice and it is not equality.

          • Skivverus says:

            About 16% (184) of victims of religiously motivated hate crimes in the US in 2014 were Muslims. This is not common at all.

            Er. I may be misremembering, but isn’t only 1% or so of the US population Muslim?
            For that matter though, the more relevant statistic to compare ratios with would probably be the total number of assaults and murders in the US in 2014 – that is, figuring out what percentage of violent crimes are hate crimes in the first place.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Skivverus:

            Yes, about 1% of the population is Muslim.

            You can find most of the numbers you’re looking for here:

            https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2014

            Note that Jews, making up about 2% of the population, account for the majority of victims of religious hate crimes. (or rather, the majority of victims were in cases where the attackers were motivated by anti-Jewish bias; I believe cases where the attackers are mistaken are included)

            Anti-Muslim hate crime has gone up considerably since 9/11, though some of this is increasing Muslim population (replace “2014” with “2000” in the URL). But it is still not “common”.

          • “I am advocating putting the question at the very bottom of your list of things to find out the truth about”

            Because there is some risk that the search might lead you to mistaken ideas? That strikes me as a pretty weak argument.

            Finding out the truth about this question is useful in two different ways. It helps you evaluate other people–once you are confident that you have the truth and that it’s pretty easy to discover, you have reason to lower your opinion of either the intelligence or the honesty of those who deny it, which is useful information.

            It also helps you evaluate inferences about your society and so know something about what policies you should support. That’s less important, since your support or opposition is unlikely to have much effect. But I think most of us would be unhappy to discover that we had been enthusiastically supporting policies that made the world a worse place, even if our support wasn’t an important cause of those policies being enacted.

            Now I’m wondering how well your argument could apply to climate issues. If you look at the evidence on AGW you will conclude that it is real. You will encounter other people who agree that it is real and be gradually lured into believing that the world is going to be wiped out, or at least made horribly worse, by AGW sometime pretty soon.

            Better not to look at the question at all.

          • JayT says:

            Skivverus, something can affect one group more than others while still being uncommon. There are more than three million Muslims in the US, and there were only 184 victims of hate crimes. That’s about 5.4 incidents per 100,000 people. To put that into perspective, the murder rate is 4.5/100K, and the violent crime rate is 365/100K.

            Obviously, hate crimes are bad, but they are not common.

          • Skivverus says:

            @The Nybbler, @JayT:
            I do actually agree with the conclusion of hate crimes against Muslims in the US being rare; my point is that without reference to total crime rates, that “16%” emphasizes precisely the opposite perspective.
            Now that those totals have been included, I am satisfied.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I like actual researched claims, and dislike speculation (e.g. HBDchick’s cousin intermarriage theory).

      The HBD community is kind of a mixed bag in that respect. I’d recommend treating most HBD blogs content aggregators for obscure genetics papers and avoid reading the comments.

      You can actually find a lot of good “HBD” stuff in the mainstream genetics literature, if you read papers past the abstract or watch presentations. Nobody is going to lead with “… and then I discovered that the Nhl1 gene increases Canadian ice-skating ability by 50%” but if they found that result it will probably be somewhere in there, even if it’s hidden in the supplemental figures.

      • “I like actual researched claims, and dislike speculation”

        Why? Speculation is fun.

        One reason to form hypotheses about the world is as a first step in scientific research. But the world is full of interesting things that I am not prepared to do serious research on but are still worth speculating about.

        Both economics and evolutionary biology provide theoretical structures that can be used to form plausible conjectures. Doing so is both entertaining and intellectual exercise. Once in a while such a speculation might be worth further investigation–my first published journal article in economics was a conjecture (about history) that I found ways of testing. Most of the time it isn’t.

        Even if I am not going to test it, putting the speculation out there provides ideas that other people might want to test. The Lott and Mustard article on concealed carry, which set off an extensive and controversial literature, was an empirical test of a point I had made years before in a textbook. Whether that’s where the authors got the idea I don’t know, but it could have been.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Because biological systems are often very finicky and counter-intuitive hand waving has a particular risk. Unlike in a more heavily mathematical field such as physics, elegance is not necessarily a point in favor of a particular theory.

          I’d rather know the limits of my knowledge clearly by seeing a gap than paper over it and risk absentmindedly walking into an intellectual tiger pit.

          The Lott and Mustard article on concealed carry, which set off an extensive and controversial literature, was an empirical test of a point I had made years before in a textbook. Whether that’s where the authors got the idea I don’t know, but it could have been.

          Why not ask them? I’m sure they have emails on their faculty pages, wherever they are.

          As long as you make it clear you’re not trying to claim credit for their work but just intellectually curious they would tell you.

    • dndnrsn says:

      TL;DR I think there’s convincing arguments against a lot of common “genetic racial/ethnic IQ gap” claims and I’m surprised/disappointed those arguments against the claims aren’t being made, because I’m very dubious of those claims.

      The study of human genetic difference – whatever kind of difference – is a field where I have no idea what sources to trust, because it is such a charged topic. It furthermore is a field where it seems, not so much that one side has left the field, as that side has decided the field doesn’t exist. This is really bad, because it means that when one side shows up with factual observations and nasty explanations, the other side doesn’t provide nice explanations for those factual observations. HBD’ers are showing up with what they say are facts. Rather than challenge them – “what you say are facts are not” – or challenge their explanations, the opposing team seems to basically fall back on the same old 1970s social science, which is generally less than convincing for anyone who isn’t a 1970s social scientist.

      An example: there are cases of relatively impoverished, poorly-off European countries seeing economic booms in the middle or late 20th century that saw average IQ rise significantly. I think Ireland is the poster child – a few generations back, there were English pretty big into the idea that the Irish were just inherently 10-15 IQ points dumber, and now there isn’t an English-Irish IQ gap. It seems like “this group IQ gap is the result of bad nutrition, disease, parasites, the stresses of poverty and oppression, etc and thus we can fix it and we are probably morally obligated to do so, HEAL THE WORLD” is a pretty easy argument to make, and I find it fairly convincing. It would certainly be better to exhaust the possibilities that gaps that exist can be eliminated through improved standard of living, etc, because that is a better place for a society to go than the alternative. I would far better like to live in a world where genetic gaps don’t exist and environmental gaps are being closed. But it appears that rather than make arguments like that, the issue is denied or ignored.

      And this is bad because abandoning the field to your enemy is generally considered a poor strategy.

      • Anon. says:

        Well, we can estimate the part of the differences between groups attributable to environment by building a genetic model of IQ and comparing its prediction vs the observed value. For example, Vietnam massively under-performs (don’t do Communism, kids). OTOH, US Blacks over-perform, so “stresses of poverty and oppression” explanations for the difference between US Blacks and US Whites/Asians seem to be wrong.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Source?

          And, this is kind of what I mean – regardless of the merits or demerits of this or that particular study, there probably isn’t someone arguing against the existence of such genetic differences doing something similar but in the opposite direction, so to speak.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          How would that work? By “Vietnam under-performs”, do you mean “the Vietnamese perform badly relative to a baseline based on their ethnicity”? If so, how do you calculate the baseline?

      • Along the lines you mention …

        The best evidence I have seen that racial differences in outcomes in the U.S. are not due to genetics is by Thomas Sowell in Ethnic America, where he points out that West Indian immigrants to the U.S., who are genetically “blacker” than other American blacks, do quite well. He could make that argument because he was willing to think about the question.

        • Jiro says:

          That depends on whether we’re selectively getting the ones with high IQs. Immigrants aren’t a random sampling of the source population.

          • Mary says:

            Eh, maybe. During the 1940s, blacks in New York and Pennsylvania regularly surpassed in education not only blacks in southern states, but whites there as well.

            And since many of them migrated after the kids were in school, a sociologist was able to show that the kids only did better in northern schools; in southern schools, they had not done better.

      • “And this is bad because abandoning the field to your enemy is generally considered a poor strategy.”

        Unless you expect to lose the battle if you show up.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think it’s a failure of intelligence, to continue the analogy. I think there’s a strong strain in lefty academic and academic-ish lefty thinking that really downplays biology and plays up social factors. I think some people really don’t consider this particular field of battle to be real. Which is too bad because I think that defeat is not inevitable or even necessarily likely.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Viewing facts about the world as a “battle” to be won is kind of weird. Hopefully one day when the issue is less toxic and politically charged (could be centuries at this rate) then quality research will be done. As it is no one reasonable wants to touch it because just being associated with the question will, in one way or another, get you involved with all sorts of people, ideologies, and comment sections you don’t want to have anything to do with. No one serious wants to be remembered for that, or made into a hero by thinly-veiled racists or obsessive radicals (on either side), or have their intellectually-motivated research used to justify the next atrocity. So if you’re mildly scientifically interested but don’t have a bone to pick, it’s a lot healthier to just wait it out and maybe find out the answer in another twenty or thirty years.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The metaphor of battle is maybe a bad one to have used, because I’d prefer not to think about it as a battle.

            I don’t know how this issue could ever not be toxic and politically charged. Maybe if we all interbreed to the point that saying “group x is better than group y” is about as relevant as saying that the Spartan hoplites were totally cooler than the Roman legions, you guys.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Maybe if we all interbreed to the point that saying “group x is better than group y” is about as relevant as saying that the Spartan hoplites were totally cooler than the Roman legions, you guys.

            Nobody really cares about the Germans, the Welsh, the Irish, the Italians anymore. IIRC, there was a brief period in the 80s where everyone was very scared about illegal Chinese immigration.

            I imagine that concerns about Mexican, Caribbean, Central American and South American immigrants will fade away as well.

            If we can manage to get to the point that “black”-“white” intermarriage is as unremarkable as Italian, Jewish, German, Polish, Irish, etc. and “white” intermarriage, I think much of these issues go away and we look at regional and local poverty issues, and not “racial” ones.

          • Fahundo says:

            If we can manage to get to the point that “black”-“white” intermarriage is as unremarkable as Italian, Jewish, German, Polish, Irish, etc. and “white” intermarriage

            See, during the 90s I thought we were already living in that world, which is what makes this extra confusing for me.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Fahundo – we were. it wasn’t sustainable. you can’t make race both unimportant and the most important thing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Identity politics for the win!

            /sarcasm>

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Progress on these issues comes in fits and starts. My cousin married a black man about ten years ago and my dad when telling me to expect an invitation made sure to a) notify me that he was black, and b) drop to a slightly embarrassed soto voce while doing so.

            And I guarantee you that my dad was not in any way consciously against that wedding. But unconsciously, as an Italian kid who grew up in Chicago, he knew this was remarkable.

            And let’s not forget that Rodney King and OJ Simpson both happend in the 90s, so some of what is going on here is simply some version of typical mind fallacy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Someone being German, Welsh, Italian, Irish still matters … at least, it does in Germany, Wales, Italy, Ireland. Of course, they’re all generic white now in the US or Canada or wherever, although the one of Italian descent might (self-awarely, mockingly) talk about “white people” as though they’re not part of it.

            The pessimistic part of me figures we’ll stop caring about race when some new division appears, or maybe we get aliens to discriminate against. I mean, I ain’t saying I’m bigoted, two of my wives and one of my husbands are of a different gene-grouping, it’s just I don’t want my enbychild marrying a Venusian. I ain’t got nothing against them, mind you, I just think it’s best if we stay with ours and they stay with theirs. And don’t get me started on the Plutonians – it’s not even a real planet!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dnsnrsn:
            Those things matter … in places where it is still uncommon to marry outside those groups.

            I don’t see how that undercuts my point.

            And as an 1/4 Italian, I am most certainly white, insofar as that has meaning.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I don’t think it undercuts your point, but race in the sense we understand it now was an issue at the same time that “oh no all these Catholics are coming over from the bad [read: Catholic] parts of Europe” was an issue. The latter ceased to be an issue, but the former still is.

            And, to some extent, intermarriage/assimilation increases attempts to hold on to group identity: witness, for instance, the attempts by the Welsh to keep the language alive, etc.

      • Deiseach says:

        dndnrsn, that Irish IQ figure is very suspicious to me. I see the “Irish average IQ measured at 92” touted on the Internet, and the figure comes from a survey carried out by Richard Lynn, who has a very big political axe to grind (discoverable with a little Googling of his background).

        Am I saying he’s a Unionist who thinks the only reason the Taigs left the nurturing maternal bosom of British rule is because they were too stupid to know better? Draw your own conclusions! Notice how the Irish are just that bit stupider than the Scots who are just that bit stupider than the English:

        The average Irish IQ score is 96 compared with 100.5 in England and Wales and 97 in Scotland, according to Prof Richard Lynn, a former Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) psychologist and professor emeritus of the University of Ulster.

        And surprise, surprise: Northern Ireland (majority Protestant, stayed in the UK) has a higher average IQ than the South (which is literally just across the road in some places). Who would have thought, eh? (Probably down to all the UK IQ data being lumped in together, and given that they have a total population of 64 million to our 4 million, I think there may be some variance in there).

        His foundational IQ work, from which all of these figures are being pulled, has some dodgy sampling going on:

        Other economists who reviewed the book also pointed to numerous flaws throughout the study, from unreliable IQ statistics for 81 of the 185 countries used in the analysis, to insecure estimates of the national IQ in the remaining 101 countries in the sample that did not have published IQ data.

        I think it is less likely that we Irish suddenly got 10-15 IQ points smarter in 2000 than we had been in 1980, and more likely that politically-motivated data-fudging was going on with the earlier measurements.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My understanding was that more than just Lynn’s work – I know he had political motivations, and I should have been more clear that the English have a long line in justifying whatever by appeal to the supposed nature of the Irish. However, I also was under the impression that there were more tests done than just Lynn’s, and it doesn’t just jump from 90 to 100 but improves more gradually. I was also under the impression that similar – maybe less dramatic, but similar – things had happened in other parts of Europe, including places where political axes being ground were less of a factor.

          Or, intelligence tests had northerners doing better than southerners in the US for a while, didn’t they?

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          That could be down to London sucking in high-IQ people form the rest of the UK. Cf coastal and middle Amercia.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, you suggest that instead of the argument being “poverty dragging Ireland down; Ireland has economic boom; better living conditions equal smarts”, it could be “poverty making smart Irish people move to London; Ireland has economic boom; smart people move to Dublin instead”?

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      HBD is yet another motte and bailey.

      The motte is that genetics matter, and that genetics vary by population.

      The bailey is that there aren’t systemic social/racial problems in the United States, and/or that racist attitudes are more or less correct; the implicitly-claimed reason black people are in the lowest social strata is that their genetics predispose them to be in the lowest social strata. Africa isn’t doing badly because of historical political reasons (read: imperialism and slavery), but because Africa naturally does badly, and therefore white people aren’t to blame. Asians are productive because of natural intelligence. Jews likewise. Etc, etc.

      The bailey is an incredibly attractive anti-social-justice position, rejecting social justice at every possible level; but it’s just reversed stupidity, not actual intelligence. Which of course makes it a very attractive reactionary position; it’s a precise opposition of the current mass stupidity.

      The truth, as always, is finicky and complex, and quite boring compared to the mythology. Unfortunately, the social taboo against acknowledging the importance of genetics (predetermination really bothers people for some reason) pushes back against the scientific truth involved in an indiscriminate way. The general counterarguments against HBD are thus artificially weak, revolving in large part around our societal revulsion towards predetermination.

      The substantive criticism is this: HBD isn’t racist, but the people who think it is important and revolutionary is; they buy into a racist mythology surrounding the actually quite boring science. The mythology is built on cherrypicking pieces of science to present, and pretending any conflicting evidence is ideologically biased.

      I rate the whole thing a “meh”, and the only reason I even bother to respond is that it’s an attractive trap for contrarian sorts, since they like to pretend it’s taboo science.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Orphan Wilde – “Africa isn’t doing badly because of historical political reasons (read: imperialism and slavery), but because Africa naturally does badly, and therefore white people aren’t to blame. ”

        Not sure I disagree with your overall comment, but I think there’s some nuance to add.

        People have a lot of different explanations for why, say, Africa or Haiti or the American school system is such a disaster zone. Ultimately though, I think they all boil down to two categories: “we can fix it!” and “nope, it’s fucked.” The longer a problem persists, and the more effort and resources are dumped into it without appreciable progress, the more people lean toward the “nope, it’s fucked” explanations and the less patience they have with “we can fix it” solutions, even novel ones. HBD seems pretty clearly like a “nope, it’s fucked” explanation, at least in the short term.

        I think this is the reason behind the growing hostility toward experts: if you tell people you understand how things work, and then you can’t actually make things work or your predictions fail, people stop listening to you or to anyone who sounds like you.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          if you tell people you understand how things work, and then you can’t actually make things work or your predictions fail, people stop listening to you or to anyone who sounds like you.

          There’s a bias in a significant percent, if not a majority of people, to favor solutions over the status quo.

          Unfortunately, unintended consequences. Every solution brings new problems out, and often doesn’t even successfully solve the original problem. I think, as a society, we’re starting to get cynical about the concept of solving social problems itself. Which is a good thing! Because I think the average “solution” actually makes things worse, and doubly so if enacted by government, since government solutions have a tendency to stick around regardless of their efficacy.

          But we’re not there yet, and in the meantime there’s a tendency, when people aren’t helped by an implemented solution, to blame the people the solution was supposed to help, rather than a flawed solution, owing to just-world tendencies.

          • Corey says:

            There’s a bias in a significant percent, if not a majority of people, to favor solutions over the status quo.

            Are you sure? Have you ever tried to get any group of people to change, well, anything at all?

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Corey –

            Yes. Your framing, however, reveals your problem: You’re telling a group of people that they, personally, need to change; that they, personally, are part of the problem. That’s a losing proposition, you’re just going to make them dig their heels in.

            Don’t convince them to change. Convince them the world needs to change, even though it will be hard. Play to their egos, make the solution an accomplishment, rather than the absolution of a sin.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Orphan Wilde – “I think, as a society, we’re starting to get cynical about the concept of solving social problems itself. Which is a good thing!”

            I’d agree. but it you change from believing problems can be solved to believing problems can’t be solved, that necessarily involves a new theory about how things work. If structural oppression theory fails to believably describe the world we see, what replaces it?

            “But we’re not there yet, and in the meantime there’s a tendency, when people aren’t helped by an implemented solution, to blame the people the solution was supposed to help, rather than a flawed solution, owing to just-world tendencies.”

            That may be, but I think a great deal more of the blame gets vectored toward the people pushing the failed solution. Obviously there’s a fair amount of overlap between the two groups, but I’ve met a lot of red tribers who viscerally hated “liberals”, and none at all that hated black people as a group.

            In any case, even if I’m wrong and you’re entirely correct, what is to be done about it? You can try to resist that tendency, I can try to resist it, but I don’t think society as a whole can resist it. I think backlash is probably inevitable.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            FacelessCraven –

            Blaming poor people for being poor, given welfare, isn’t the same as hating them; it’s just “Well, if they weren’t earning their poverty, they’d use the help we offer to get out of it”. There’s a subtle difference there.

            As for what we should do about it – that’s a solution mindset. Maybe we shouldn’t; maybe doing something will make things worse in some unexpected way.

            Because cynicism about solutions isn’t the same as not believing solutions can exist. I’m for incremental improvements with frequent rollbacks; that’s an approach that solves problems, understanding that no single improvement is going to actually solve the problem.

      • Nelshoy says:

        I don’t think my personal views fit neatly into the motte or Bailey. I believe there are significant genetic differences between population groups, which probably include less than 1 SD differences in average intelligence. Mentioning this out loud isvery taboo and will get you in a mess of trouble if you are somewhat important and the media picks it up. These differences aren’t important for much of anything in daily life, but are “revolutionary and important” when crafting policy, where the default unchallengeable assumption in most fields is environment as the cause of any inequality. Of course there are real environmental inequalities too that should be addressed, and acknowledging genes shouldn’t stop that from happening.

      • NOTA says:

        You can get through a long and thoughtful newspaper or magazine article on the black/white performance gap in education without ever seeing reference to the large and persistent IQ score gap between blacks and whites. That seems like a pretty damned important piece of information to have in mind when evaluating arguments about the cause of the performance gap in education, and yet it’s almost never brought up in this context.

        This is a place where actively excluding data is making our public discussions a lot dumber. And indeed, I’d say this is what taboos *do*. This is why intellectual taboos are a bad thing–they make some kinds of evidence and information and arguments unacceptable, independent of whether they’re correct.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Presumably, people who write those articles often assume that the same things that cause the performance gap in education also cause a performance gap in IQ tests. That seems pretty plausible; both are closely linked to intelligence.

          • cassander says:

            Except they will usually insist on talking endlessly about the performance gap, while insisting that the IQ gap is fake or irrelevant, and racist to even mention in the first place.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          And I could go through a long HBD article about the “large and persistent IQ score gap between blacks and whites” without ever seeing reference to the fact that the Flynn Effect is continuing in force for black, but not white, people in the US. Which is to say, the gap isn’t quite so persistent, and is indeed gradually eroding.

          Reversed stupidity isn’t intelligence, and HBD-as-racism isn’t correcting dumb public discussions, it’s just increasing the overall stupidity of the discussions by being dumb in a opposing way. It’s a bravery debate in one sense, and trolling in another; bravery debates, because HBD advocates want to play the put-upon victims baselessly accused of racism for standing up for Science, and trolling, because in the next breath they want to talk about how inferior black people are.

          It’s childish nonsense. There are good arguments to be had in the space about the role genetics plays in social stratification – but somehow it’s always about race, instead.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            And I could go through a long HBD article about the “large and persistent IQ score gap between blacks and whites” without ever seeing reference to the fact that the Flynn Effect is continuing in force for black, but not white, people in the US. Which is to say, the gap isn’t quite so persistent, and is indeed gradually eroding.

            They can also be good at forgetting to mention that the supposed black-white gap cannot be detected in some non-US countries with mixed populations.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is what I mean. “The Flynn effect in the US has halted for whites but continues for blacks, indicating an environmental issue” and “the gap doesn’t exist in some countries” are better arguments than “IQ tests don’t really measure intelligence, they just measure test-taking ability”, which is not uncommon to hear.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            dndnrsn –

            Which is why I insist that HBD racism tends to be reversed stupidity, and why I believe it is so appealing to contrarians; the opposing arguments tend to be terrible.

            But that shouldn’t surprise us; it’s a major part of why motte-and-bailey arguments tend to be persuasive at first glance. When one side retreats to the motte, the counterarguments, which were aimed at the bailey, start looking ridiculous and dumb and clumsy and out of place. It takes two or three engagements with a motte and bailey to figure out where the retreat will happen and head it off with arguments that will stand on their own even after the retreat.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah. Sadly, views on these issues have changed (from “the English are one race, the French are another, the Egyptians are a third, etc” to a conception of a few races and a different way of thinking about superiority and inferiority, and from that to anti-racism) due largely to the argumentum ad baculum and various other incentives.

            As for social stratification, intelligence, and genetics, it might be worth reading the book “The Rise of the Meritocracy” by Young. It’s an odd sort of sociological treatise written as a history from a hypothetical future.

          • a noN mous(e) says:

            Sadly, views on these issues have changed (from “the English are one race, the French are another, the Egyptians are a third, etc” to a conception of a few races and a different way of thinking about superiority and inferiority, and from that to anti-racism) due largely to the argumentum ad baculum and various other incentives.

            No, just that use of language has changed.

            You can speak meaningfully about group differences between Italians and Swedes. You can speak meaningfully about group differences between Celts and Germanic people. You can also speak meaningfully about group differences between whites and Asians. If the only strains of humans that are ever encountered are all European descended, then the differences between Serbs and Spaniards look large. If you routinely encounter groups that are much further separated – to the extent that one group lacks genes from a different species of hominid that is a significant part of another group’s ancestry that changes perspective.

            #cce0ff and #002966 are different. #ffc2b3 and #ff3300 are different. If the context you’re discussing only includes the blues, the blues look more different from one another. If the context you’re discussing only includes the reds, different. If you throw all 4 colors together then the blues clump together and the reds clump together.

            Beagles and dashunds are different breeds but both hounds. Smooth fox terriers and Manchester terriers are different breeds – both terriers. They all have dog behavioral traits in common, in contrast to wolves. Group them in with wolves and contrast them to, say, beavers. The canis group has a lot in common, etc.

            It’s that race is a social construct thing – classic motte and bailey. Motte – “race is a social construct” (you actually can speak meaningfully about the English race compared to the French race if you wanted to so where you draw the line depends on what you’re discussing) to the bailey – “race has no predictive value” – of course it has predictive value.

      • Vaniver says:

        I rate the whole thing a “meh”, and the only reason I even bother to respond is that it’s an attractive trap for contrarian sorts, since they like to pretend it’s taboo science.

        OW, what would an actual taboo science look like? How can we tell that HBD is on the ‘not taboo’ side of the line?

        • sweeneyrod says:

          “taboo science”

          It’s time for this SSC open thread’s discussion of Galileo! Warning, said discussion mainly consisting of paraphrasing The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown.

          • Deiseach says:

            Warning, said discussion mainly consisting of paraphrasing The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown.

            No, I’ll leave Galileo alone, someone else can take the field on that. I quote Mr Flynn because he did the job of corralling all the material in one handily available location, but there are other sources out there.

            See, I’m old enough to remember things like the Ladybird books as a child and being taught that Galileo invented/discovered X Y and Z, and then in subsequent decades this has been rowed back on (with lesser or greater degrees of shamefacedness) as people went for the facts and not what the publicity machine (and the appealing narrative of the Lone Genius combined with Martyr For Science) said, and then to see people indignantly declaring that no, nobody (including Galileo) had ever said he invented/discovered X Y and Z, how dare you cast aspersions on the Lone Genius Martyr For Science!

            I don’t dispute Galileo’s real greatness, but there was a large streak of glory-hound in him, he created a lot of the problems for himself, and it was very convenient down the centuries first for anti-Catholic Protestant polemic and then anti-Christianity/pro-Enlightenment scientific polemic to contrast the Brave Seeker for Truth standing up to the Entrenched Forces of Superstition and Darkness.

          • LHN says:

            And to some extent it was counterproductive, insofar as it suggests that freedom of expression is important for Brave Seekers of Truth, so that once someone has demonstrated enough negatives it’s not so bad if they’re shut up. It would probably be better if people took the lesson a) Galileo was a major scientific figure who made important advances (but not every advance) within a community of like-interested correspondents and competitors, b) Galileo was kind of a jerk who picked unnecessary fights, and c) notwithstanding b, it still wasn’t right to make him recant and live under house arrest.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          OW, what would an actual taboo science look like?

          Varies; it could take the form of protests about the research being done, a la stem cell research, or it could look like nothing at all – that is, there is nothing there – for sufficiently taboo science (like non-consensus scientific theory in the Soviet Union).

          How can we tell that HBD is on the ‘not taboo’ side of the line?

          The research is still publicly ongoing and, except when somebody says something stupid, nobody cares.

          • “and, except when somebody says something stupid, nobody cares.”

            Do the Summers and Watson cases count as somebody saying something stupid? If so, does “stupid” mean “obviously false” or “obviously likely to provoke a negative reaction?”

          • Anonymous says:

            David Friedman, do you endorse Watson’s theory that there’s a link between sex drive and skin color? That this is why there is such a thing as “Latin Lover” but not “English Lover”? Do you, like him, refuse to hire overweight people? Do you think fat people are happy and thin people are ambitious?

            Would you characterize any of the above as “dumb”?

        • Don’t knock the Galileo discussions. I didn’t know about the Tychonic model, didn’t realize that there was actually a good empirical argument against the heliocentric model.

      • AnonBosch says:

        As someone with a background in genetics, this post is pretty much spot-on to me. Have we established that genes matter? Yes. Does the fact that genes matter prove any particular social and/or political theory? No, and fuck off.

        • It doesn’t prove any particular social or political theory but it refutes claims which are important support for some such theories. Differences in outcomes by race or gender are not clear evidence of discrimination if there is a plausible alternative explanation.

          It’s like the relation between evolution and religion. Darwinian evolution doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist. But it destroys one of the most convincing arguments in favor of God’s existence, the Watchmaker Argument, by offering a plausible alternative explanation of what we observe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Clear evidence of prior discrimination makes for a pretty strong prior.

          • Clear evidence of past discrimination gives you a pretty strong prior that there was past discrimination. It doesn’t tell you whether that is a significant cause of current outcomes. If there are lots of potential employers and half of them won’t hire me because they are prejudiced against me, the effect on my welfare is negligible. If they are prejudiced against my ethnic group which consists of five percent of potential employees, the same is true.

            There is clear evidence of discrimination against Jews through much of the 20th century, including universities with explicit limits on how many they would accept. Yet Jews didn’t end up with below average outcomes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Completely different starting conditions, not comparable levels of legal discrimination.

          • If you can point to multiple groups who’ve experienced past discrimination and are now clustered in the high-outcome areas, and multiple other groups who’ve experienced discrimination and who are now clustered in the low-outcome groups, it seems fairly obvious that past discrimination isn’t a strong driver of outcomes.

            Starting conditions are huge, of course; pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is hard for people of any group, and if you bring in a bunch of foreign poor people into an indifferent or hostile culture, many of them will stay poor throughout their lifetimes.

            But when you can point to the black people who moved to the cities from the war-torn South where they were persecuted and had very little, and then to the Jewish people who moved to the cities from other countries where they were persecuted and had very little, see them living together in the same ghetto, and track very different outcomes, you can either play god-of-the-gaps with specific cases of discrimination, or you can admit that past discrimination does not always correlate with current performance.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            400 years of chatel slavery, 100 years of official Jim Crow in this country, 50 years of slowly abating after affect of the previous 500 years, in population sizes large enough to be permanently segregated. And for most of that time they are cut off from literacy, something that is never the case for the Jewish population.

            Then you have the fact that Jews in the U.S. came here voluntarily, while blacks did not. Jews retain their culture and can create their community. Jews had freedom of movement and access to levers of government.

            Imagine the Nazis had won and maintained the slave labor camps in perpetuity, rather than pursuing a final solution. Would we after 400 years of slavery then state the Jews are responsible for their unequal outcome? Regardless of what the state of Jewish intellect was?

            Which means that no matter the proximate cause of unequal outcomes, morally there is an ultimate cause.

          • Loyle says:

            I’m always reminded of this bit by Chris Rock whenever this subject comes up.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLKvYB7CeAY

            Sorry for wasting your time.

          • Wohoo, misery poker!

            I’ll raise you a few centuries of assorted massacres, confiscations, exclusions. And while there were certainly exceptions for individual Jews who managed to get a good thing going, so were there exceptions to racial animus in America. The claim that Jews as a whole had access to the levers of government throughout their history is somewhat extraordinary, given how little that ended up preventing the aforementioned massacres, confiscations, and so on. As I said, you can totally god-of-the-gaps this, and very carefully gerrymander your theory of causative oppression to match just one set of groups. It’s just not a very persuasive argument to me, when I can look at the search space of world history and look for groups who had been enslaved for a long period of time, groups who were forced into relative cultural isolation, groups whose enslavement was tied to the economic development of a rising world power, and note that very few factors in and of themselves predict outcomes centuries after the oppression itself stops.

            However, I think that shared culture across ethnic groups is really important, and explains a lot of outcomes by itself. Having the people around you really value literacy, education, thrift, and diligence is much more of a predictive factor than this bit of history or that bit of genome.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “400 years of chatel slavery, 100 years of official Jim Crow in this country, 50 years of slowly abating after affect of the previous 500 years, in population sizes large enough to be permanently segregated. And for most of that time they are cut off from literacy, something that is never the case for the Jewish population.”

            …You seem to be arguing that the black population’s experiences over the last several hundred years have left an indelible imprint on them that remains regardless of current conditions. what is the functional difference between this and HBD?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Robert Liguori:
            You know it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write?

            Yes, Jews were discriminated against. No one is arguing against this. But it wasn’t chatel slavery followed by Jim Crow. And post 1964 to now, I’m finding it implausible to claim that US Jews and Blacks were subject to equal amounts of discrimination.

            So pointing at differential outcomes from 1964 to now, when the two groups started with far different resources of various kinds and were subjected to different amounts discrimination just doesn’t seem to hold much of any water.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            How do we fund schools in this country? And does the differing resources then available have much of anything to do with genetics?

            This is just one small example of how government policy and law combines with simple societal preferences and facts to impose differing burdens on various communities.

            If I am a Jew today, and I move into a white middle class neighborhood, is this in any way remarkable? What if I am black? What if I am Irish, Italian, Greek, Polish, etc. How do this differing societal expectations serve to slow the dilution of the effects of 500 years of official racism? Does that have anything to do with genetics outside of melanin content?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “You seem to be arguing that the black population’s experiences over the last several hundred years have left an indelible imprint on them that remains regardless of current conditions”

            A good snappy name for this belief would be Social Lamarckianism.

          • “How do we fund schools in this country? And does the differing resources then available have much of anything to do with genetics?”

            I’m curious–are you in favor of a voucher system? It’s the simplest way of giving poor people access to the same level of free schooling as rich people.

          • HBC:

            What’s your view of the Romani?

            Four centuries as slaves in Romania. A thousand years of exile from their homeland. Extended periods of prejudice, including times when they were banned from countries, other times of forcible sedenterization.

            I’m not sure how they are doing in America at present but the pattern that came out of their experiences looks wholly different from that of blacks. My guess is that the explanation in that case is not genetics but culture.

          • Sandy says:

            The Roma as I understand them are a weird admixture of Northern Indian, Central Asian and Slavic. It is surprisingly difficult to find data on their outcomes in the United States, but I suspect it is not great.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “How do we fund schools in this country? And does the differing resources then available have much of anything to do with genetics?”

            Indeed not. So can we fix it, or is it fucked? If we can fix it, why did we wait till now to start doing so? Half my friends are public school teachers; from talking to them, my confidence that we can fix anything at all via the educational system is not high.

            More generally, these comparisons seem to indicate that the problems holding the black community down are internal to that community and probably self-perpetuating, rather than being continuously externally imposed. It doesn’t really matter whether the mechanism is genes or memes if we can’t fix it. So can we fix it? What evidence do we have of successful attempts at social engineering for minority groups? Do we have any that aren’t a horror story from start to finish?

            [EDIT] – I think that influence and consensus are finite goods. Failed social policies erode them, and getting them back is not an easy thing to do. Burning through our current supply endlessly iterating solutions for the wrong problem is probably a bad idea and may be a disastrous one.

          • HeelBearCub, with regards to starting conditions at a given point determining outcomes, well, that was also examined in detail.

            I cheerfully concede that it may be possible that America lucked into One Weird Trick which indelibly damaged American blacks, when other, different patterns of discrimination didn’t appear to do so for other minority groups…but as was said, “We’re not going to hire you because you were permanently damaged by the legacy of your great grandfather’s time.” doesn’t sound like a winning answer to anybody at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            If we can fix it, why did we wait till now to start doing so?

            So many reasons. Most of which you know. Some of which you are unwilling to recognize.

            Roughly, American culture broadly hates people who are poor viewing poverty as moral failure (I don’t think that’s actually very unique) and is heterogeneous in a way that very few other countries are. Combine those two elements together and you have every community fighting to keep their resources completely local.

            Combine that with the firm belief of some that black people are less than white people, and you have even more reticence to address poverty by integration.

            We don’t need to fix the black community, we need to allow the black community to become just another community like Irish or Italian. We stopped thinking of Italians as uniquely criminal even though north-eastern US mafia crime families remained Italian for a long time. That allows for integration. It lets Italians feel comfortable marrying and living outside the Italian community in a way that is only very, very recently started to become available to black people.

            If I were to speculate on one thing that is genetic, it’s that the distinct features of African heritage are different enough from Eurasian heritage that they persist reliably identifiably in children of multiple heritage. I’m not fully confident if that’s actually true, but it seems so, but if it is that makes it harder to integrate early on.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            You surely aren’t contending that Roma in Europe are a counterpoint that proves centuries of slavery don’t effect later outcomes, are you?

            Roma in the US is a different cohort, and not a comparable one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Robert Liguori:
            That post doesn’t really examine my contention. Persistently and repeatedly damaging a full 40% of your population might in fact result in the entire state being poorer, which isn’t a counter to the idea that the damage you did to the black population actually damaged them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            I don’t know how the entire country funds schools. Here in NJ, the wealthy areas (mostly white — both Jewish and Gentile — and Asian) fund them mostly through local property taxes. The poor areas (mostly black and Hispanic) are funded mostly through statewide income tax. To a greater amount, per pupil, than the wealthy areas. The poor areas still perform badly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            When you say

            We don’t need to fix the black community, we need to allow the black community to become just another community like Irish or Italian.

            you understand that you mean destroying those communities, right? Irish and Italian communities in the United States barely exist any more, they are mere remnants.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Again, examine my contention that the issue is segregation. You don’t solve that by merely raising per pupil spending.

            Have you read “All Souls: A Family Story from Southie” by Michael Patrick Macdonald? That is one example of the effect of segregated poverty that happens to have been all “white”.

            But we don’t regard that as an “Irish” issue to be solved by thinking this must clearly be an example of the unfitness of Irish genetics. No one thinks “No way Chip Kelly can be a successful NFL coach because he is Irish”. No on thinks “Matt Ryan can’t be an NFL Quarterback because he is Irish”. And that is because outside of the specific local involving the segregated poverty, we don’t regard “Irish last name” or “black hair and black eyes” as telling us much.

            Yes, Macdonald spends time in the book lamenting the loss of the unique community in which he grew up. “Gentrification” is an issue where I think we potentially be better about retaining unique cultural aspects of community without failing to integrate, but I think there may be sort of Type 1/Type 2 trade-offs that may be intractable.

            Still, I don’t see anyone actually clamoring for north-east Italians to stop saying “gabagool” instead of “capicola”. It’s possible to retain unique cultural markers and still be integrated.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            You brought up school funding and differing levels of resources, and now you say that isn’t important? Why did you bring it up, then?

            A few linguistic remnants related to Sicilian dialect and Italian foods don’t make a community. I’m half-Italian (and say “cap-ih-coal”); my various cousins on that side are at least half-Italian and are scattered to the four winds. None, as far as I know, live in an area with a recognizable Italian-American community. The area their parents and our grandparents grew up in is no longer Italian-American; a few now-elderly Italian immigrants and children of immigrants remain, but it’s mostly Hispanic now. For all practical purposes, that particular Italian-American community has ceased to exist. This is what results from integration.

            It probably would be a good thing if the same happened to US black communities. But there are a lot of roadblocks to that. Some common to the immigrant communities; the attitude of “stick to your own kind” seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Some not common, like, well, the whole bad history starting with slavery. And some just because the black community is quite large; we didn’t have entire Irish or Italian American cities, for instance. It’s also not something “community leaders” will ever endorse, for obvious reasons.

            I don’t think distinctive appearance is a large factor; East Asians and South Asians seem to be able to integrate with majority-white communities fairly easily.

          • “Roma in the US is a different cohort, and not a comparable one.”

            Where do you think Romani in the U.S. came from?

            About two-thirds of them are Vlach Rom, meaning descendants of the Romanian Romani.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            How about you address my whole comment to you. The first point makes an important reference point for the second.

            I think you should actually understand this, therefore I it seems reasonable for me to assume you are deliberately ignoring the actual point. You do this frequently.

            See our recent conversation where you asked for greater detail on “my” model of why hiring won’t necessarily increase if the current last employee is “profitable” (by economists’ definition, which is different than a business majors or an accountant), at which point you simply failed to respond to anything other than my request for you to clarify the implications of the definition of profitable you were using.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            You brought up school funding and differing levels of resources, and now you say that isn’t important? Why did you bring it up, then?

            Did I say it was not important? I did not.

            Note, I originally said it was “one small example”. If one has congestive heart failure, emphysema and lung cancer, we might successfully manage the first two and still not have the patient survive.

            As to your point about integration and “destruction” of community, if I go to Little Italy in New York it’s a shell of it’s former self and has largely been absorbed by China Town. I can both look back wistfully on what Little Italy was, look for ways to preserve some of it’s unique characteristics, and still not regard this the result of any attempt to “destroy” the Italian American community.

            Another example, we can look at farm an rural life and see loss of community brought about be economic and social change, look for ways to preserve many of the unique and positive aspects, attempt to induce a strong desire of those from that community to stay in as well as attract those from outside it into those communities. But we don’t recommend that suburban and urban communities regard rural communities with scorn as a means of preserving the rural community.

            Certainly, rural communities look at urban adoption of some of the aspects of rural communities as inauthentic. There is disdain for adoption of various styles of dress by Brooklyn hipsters, yet I don’t think we look at preservation and re-invigoration of canning or knitting as somehow bad.

            We can both integrate and preserve. Yes, when we remove the barriers of segregation this will unavoidably result in the loss of some community markers that were only kept in place by those barriers. If people really, really want to retain that kind of apartness, they can follow the model of the Hassidic Jews or the Amish, but I really don’t see how the ubiquity of the bagel or the loss of segregational pressures on Jews in the US can really be regarded as bad.

          • Jaskologist says:

            US Roma are different from European Roma in the same way that all of our immigrant populations are: they’re the people who left.

            Absent that, it seems like if US Roma succeed and their Euro counterparts do not, that would be supporting evidence that something in European discriminates against/holds down Roma, and likewise that something in US culture does the same to blacks.

          • “If people really, really want to retain that kind of apartness, they can follow the model of the Hassidic Jews or the Amish”

            But they have to “really, really” want to.

            I mentioned the Romani, which I’ve been reading a good deal about for one of the chapters of the book I’m currently working on. My guess was that the tolerance of North American societies would eventually erode their system, which depended to a significant degree on barriers that made members of the society very unwilling to leave it–barriers based both on the Romani attitude to non-Romani and the outside society’s attitude to them.

            A book was published a month or two back by Anne Sutherland, who wrote a very good book on them quite a long time ago. She stops short of saying that the system is collapsing, but it’s pretty clear that it is.

            That isn’t necessarily a bad thing–may well be a good thing from the standpoint of the individuals concerned, although some certainly express regret. But it is evidence of the difficulty of maintaining a noticeably different culture within a relative tolerant society.

        • a non moUs(e) says:

          HeelBearCub says:

          How do we fund schools in this country? And does the differing resources then available have much of anything to do with genetics?

          Here’s 100% conclusive proof that you started with the conclusion (zero group differences! evolution doesn’t work on brains!) and reasoned backwards:

          Highest expenditures per student[1]
          School district Expenditures per student ($)
          Newark Public Schools, New Jersey 30,742
          Buffalo Public Schools, New York 29,023
          Camden City Public Schools, New Jersey 26,826
          District of Columbia Department of Education 26,661
          East Orange School District, New Jersey 25,190

          —————————

          Lowest expenditures per student[1]
          School district Expenditures per student ($)
          Joint School District, Idaho 5,673
          Bonneville Joint School District No. 93, Idaho 6,079
          West Covina Unified School District, California 6,126
          Nampa School District, Idaho 6,234
          Idaho Falls School District 91, Idaho 6,260

          From the first google hit on “greatest spending per pupil school district in the us” (no quotes).

          Your denial of group differences is pure evil. It results in hugely disproportionate murders and rapes from blacks because the measures necessary for them to co-exist peacefully in society are deemed “racist”.

          You do not have the moral high ground. More people in New York City were murdered by blacks during the decade of the 80s than there were lynching victims (of all races). Murders and ruin in all American cities is on you and people with your beliefs – not some vague effects of 200 years ago – real live current day atrocities.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Care to elaborate on “the measures necessary for them to co-exist peacefully in society”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “One small example” != “my entire thesis”.

            Stop tilting.

          • multiheaded says:

            What a classic SSC comment thread.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Crowned by the classic multiheaded contentless drive-by snark.

          • a non mouS(e) says:

            HeelBearCub says:

            “One small example” != “my entire thesis”.

            No, your thesis is invalidated by it being in contradiction with millions of different facts about reality. Evolution didn’t stop at the neck and brains are subject to evolution.

            What the one “small” (it’s not small) example proves is that you don’t give a damn about evidence. You throw out claims that are not only not true but are the opposite of true because you started with the conclusion and worked backwards.

            “Blacks do worse in school because of lack of funds”
            “The most funded school districts in America are all overwhelmingly black”
            “… My thesis still stands!”

            Of course it does.

    • Maware says:

      Just racism for the Mensa crowd.

    • ChetC3 says:

      The relevant science is very interesting, but unfortunately the bulk self-identified HBD-ers prefer hysterics to scholarship. Pages and pages and pages about how unthinkably cruel it is that other people think HBD-ers are scumbags, followed by twice as many pages of ranting about what scumbags their critics are, and with only a couple throwaway references to the science they’re supposedly so keen on scattered throughout.

  16. VK says:

    I was reading an article about GiveDirectly facing challenges with its basic income experiment – many of the intended recipients are refusing cash transfers, out of either skepticism or fear of being taken advantage of. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be living your normal, day-to-day life, and then learn that some far-off foreigner wants to give you enough money to live without working… Perhaps a Nigerian prince who would like help moving his fortune to the United States?

    In all seriousness, I wonder how they will deal with this problem – how can they build trust within the community that they will still be there in 10 years, and that there are no catches?

    • pku says:

      How is this possible? Aren’t there enough charities working in Africa that they’d at least be familiar with the concept?

      • suntzuanime says:

        I believe it was one village where a particular rumor spread about their particular program.

      • Deiseach says:

        Would you believe some guy who walked up to you in the street, said he was working for a charity, and promised to give you a couple of hundred dollars a week for ten years for absolutely nothing, no there’s no catch, honest?

        I don’t think the people in Africa being trialled on this are being stupid or ungrateful, they’re showing admirable common sense. Haven’t we all been told there is no such thing as a free lunch and money doesn’t grow on trees?

        And how many “sponsor a child” charities saw people sign up to support kids, then drop out after a couple of years? I have no idea, but there must be some, and that would also make people give less credence to “some Western guy has promised to support you for years”.

        • LHN says:

          Sure. Even leaving aside spam which is mostly filtered, my answering machine regularly gets calls telling me I’ve won a free vacation (almost certainly a time share sales pitch) or some other too good to be true offer.

          I occasionally muse on some philanthropist at the other end mystified that they’re unable to give away free trips to Disney World or cruises or whatever. But I don’t regard it as likely enough to pursue the question. (I idly wonder what bona fides or signals it would take to convince me to at least try to check it out.) I don’t really blame people in another culture for likewise regarding “Free Money!” as more likely to be a scam than a genuine offer.

        • Vaniver says:

          Would you believe some guy who walked up to you in the street, said he was working for a charity, and promised to give you a couple of hundred dollars a week for ten years for absolutely nothing, no there’s no catch, honest?

          A tenuously related version of this happened to me, and there in fact was not a catch. (It helped that it was because I was affiliated with the charity he was interested in.)

          But this calls to mind someone else who apparently had only every come across pranked money on the street (for example, a dollar bill with excrement smeared in the middle).

    • nelshoy says:

      Explain it to them? Bring some pictures.

      GiveDirectly is a pretty simple concept. Every culture on earth has communal sharing. Also, they aren’t being asked for a down payment like prince Abali, they are just giving them money. I don’t imagine you’d have to convince more than a year people in a community. Seeing your neighbor get free cash no strings attached for a few months is probably mighty convincing.

      • Gazeboist says:

        As I recall the suspicion is that the money will not be (could not be!) as reliable as they (Give Directly) say it will be. This then transitions into the suspicion that the money, if it is actually reliable, is in some way unsavory. Otherwise why would they be giving it to us? (say the intended recipients)

      • Loquat says:

        There’s also suspicion that the money is associated with cults or devil worship, or otherwise will eventually have a price even if it initially seems like the people who accept are just getting free money. Because why would a charity give a year’s worth of income to everyone, no strings attached, including the people that aren’t poor by local standards? You have to admit, it’s kind of a weird concept if you’ve never heard of Basic Income before.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Ever hear the line “Beware Romulans Jews Nigereans bearing gifts”?

        • Tibor says:

          Isn’t it (originally) Greeks bearing gifts (as a reference to Troy)? At least in Czech it is.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m pretty sure you are correct.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Isn’t it (originally) Greeks bearing gifts (as a reference to Troy)? At least in Czech it is.

            Yep:

            Ne credite, Teucri:
            Quidquid est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.

          • Dahlen says:

            timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

            Flashback to high school, when my asshole teacher would dramatically intone this sentence at some girl with a Greek name every now and then. No particular reason. He just took turns mocking people, because (1) he felt like it (2) he was in cahoots with school inspectors and couldn’t get thrown out.

          • Tibor says:

            Yes, I was going to write Danaeic gift first, but I don’t know how to spell it properly in English.

      • Deiseach says:

        Every culture on earth has communal sharing.

        Yeah, in your own locality amongst family, neighbours and people you know or at least have heard of and can, if necessar