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

OT74: Copan Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. A message from Tom Ash: “Time to take the 2017 Effective Altruism Survey, especially if you are an effective altruist, though you’re welcome to take it even if you’re not. If you took the survey last year and are short on time, take the donations only version.”

2. My last post listed a few studies suggesting there were relatively few long-term personality-related effects of childhood abuse. @SilverVVulpes on Twitter pointed out to me a few studies that seemed to show the opposite, Lynch et al and Alemany et al (I’m a little confused by the latter’s β values; are they missing a decimal?) I will have to look over these more to see what I think of them.

3. Thanks to everyone who took the survey last open thread. People were pretty strongly opposed to splitting the comment section in two, and I won’t try it.

4. Bakkot has added some new features to the comment system, which you can read about here. As always, many thanks to him for all his hard work.

5. “Comment” of the week is the index for Bean’s many comments on battleships.

6. New moderation policy: I am getting very paranoid after the various physical and reputational attacks on people saying “offensive” speech, especially given some ominous noises from within what I previously considered a bubble of safety. In order to protect myself and non-anonymous readers of this blog, I am going to be more careful about allowing things that hostile parties could interpret as reason to go Middlebury on someone. I am banning the terms “human biodiversity” and “hbd” – this doesn’t necessarily mean banning all discussion of those topics, but it should force people to concentrate on particular claims rather than make sweeping culture-war-ish declarations about the philosophy as a whole. I will also be deleting without notice any comments that I consider to have too high a heat-to-light ratio, especially when they’re the easily-visible first comment in the thread. You won’t get banned for making these comments, because I don’t expect people to be able to predict which of their comments I will worry has too high a heat-to-light ratio, but if you predict your comment might get this treatment you may want to save it somewhere so you can repost it somewhere else. I anticipate only having to do this very rarely. I’m sorry about this and wouldn’t go to this extreme if I didn’t think it was necessary to protect this community’s ability to do what it does at all.

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1,228 Responses to OT74: Copan Thread

  1. Jason K. says:

    “I am going to be more careful about allowing things that hostile parties could interpret as reason to go Middlebury on us.”

    1: By self-censoring, you validate them.

    2: It probably won’t matter in the long run. Ideologies that seek purity will burn everyone that doesn’t capitulate eventually (Yes, modern Progressivism is a new strain of Puritanism). Eventually your choice will either be to face it or submit to it. Any other capitulation just buys time, and costs you your principles.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      1. Yes, much as how by not using drugs when there are cops around, I validate the War On Drugs.

      2. Another choice is to work long-term to change attitudes, without it being suddenly cut short by making a preventable misstep that ruins everything early on.

      • Jack Sorensen2 says:

        Are you worried about contributing to the issue you wrote about here, and maybe other places (i.e. that the fewer “good” places tolerate certain types of speech, the more those types of speech are associated with the worst cesspool-y stuff)?

        I say this as someone who, I’m guessing, is generally opposed to your views on the verboten topics.

      • Bugmaster says:

        > Another choice is to work long-term to change attitudes…

        Your chances of accomplishing this at all are already close to zero; but you can make them even lower by actively restricting discussion on any topic that deals with the attitudes you wish to (someday) change.

      • Cypren says:

        Count me as someone who is severely disappointed by this new moderation policy as well. I’ve generally backed your previous bans of terms on the grounds that they were not conducive to productive debate and generated toxoplasma-laden conversations. But banning discussion topics because jackbooted thugs are threatening people who acknowledge heretical ideas is beneath you, and beneath anyone who considers rational inquiry a more sacred principle than tribal identity.

        The only appropriate response to thugs threatening and doing violence is to deny them whatever they’re demanding, including through force if they make it necessary. Capitulation only leads to ever-increasing demands.

        I thought you were better than this.

        • sierraescape says:

          Scott is personally at-risk from this. The banned words are easy to work around (people are already calling it “human vibrant diversity” and the like) too. I think the current policy is an acceptable compromise between fair discussion, which is barely affected, and safety, which is [less barely] affected.

          My personal opinion is that this will do very little to improve safety, but it’s a small enough thing that it’s not worth debating. Though I would like some kind of deleted comment counter.

          • Barely matters says:

            Well, making predictions and bets are in the spirit of this blog. Would anyone like to take the position “After capitulating and banning the offensive words, ‘those hostile parties’ will be happily satisfied and leave Scott alone”?

            Because I’ve got 50$ here that says the exact opposite.

          • Aapje says:

            Taking such a bet gives you an incentive to incite a mob if need the money 😛

          • Barely matters says:

            After I made this post I started thinking that this would be better with a precommitment on my end to donate the proceeds towards the Scott Alexander Defense Force. Both in order to head off perverse incentives, and because if it gets to the point where we’re looking at an apology/attack spiral I’d really like to be able to help the guy out as much as possible. Same page, Aapje!

      • Matthias says:

        As a counterpoint I support your new policy. I don’t know whether it’s ultimately the right decision or not, but making concessions to form to protect content seems entirely a reasonable thing to try.

      • Alkatyn says:

        As a counterpoint to the people complaining I am totally in favor of the new deletion policy. I don’t have a particularly detailed comment, but I feel like the angry anti policy people are overrepresented here because selection bias.

        • LCL says:

          I agree, and believe this topic had started to take on some of the characteristics of the last banned topic.

          As in: this was one of the most diverse/mainstreamish places people felt comfortable discussing it, so it was an attractive place for proponents to evangelize or just make themselves visible. With the consequence that seemingly every post attracted “how this relates to [banned topic]” discussions, sometimes extended ones, even when there was at most a highly tangential relationship. And on posts with a little more relevance than that (though not necessarily direct relevance), [banned topic] would sometimes dominate the comments.

          I believe this curtails other discussion, through people either not wanting to wade into an existing [banned topic]-dominated comment thread, or just because overwhelming comment volume in itself curtails further discussion and [banned topic] comes to contribute to comment volume out of proportion to its relevance.

      • Procyon says:

        I think that your fear is unreasonable, and by comparing “hostile parties” to police in the vicinity you greatly overestimate their power and inclination to do harm here.

        First off, there is a distinction to be drawn between physical and reputational attacks: the former are far worse. But the probability of a physical attack on a non-anonymous commenter here for discussing certain topics, much less you for merely hosting discussion of those topics, seems extremely low. Sure, Charles Murray was attacked at Middlebury. Charles Murray also has a tremendously higher profile with regard to the topics in question than basically everyone here (maybe Steve Sailer is in the same galaxy? But I suspect he would vehemently oppose this change in policy), and even Murray wasn’t assaulted at home or anything but rather at a university where he attempted to give a talk. As far as I know, there is no example whatsoever for anyone being physically attacked by the kind of person you’re worried about for Internet-exclusive activity. I would be very surprised if anyone cared enough about an SSC comment to do physical violence.

        Attacks on reputation are another matter, and I agree that there is some risk for these occurring. To be clear, I think everyone commenting non-anonymously on the contentious topics in question already understands and accepts this risk and nevertheless finds the discussion worthwhile. You may argue that non-anonymous commenters on other topics, or even people who say that they read SSC, may be maligned merely by using the same blog as less politically acceptable individuals. Such attacks would be absolutely flimsy, however. Changing comment policy to safeguard against a theoretical completely meritless criticism feels very weak to me. Besides, we clearly have no lack of commenters who are willing to assume this theoretical risk, considering how populated threads get. In any event, to the extent that change in policy is designed to protect commenters and readers, it would seem sensible to ask them first if they desire such protection.

        That leaves you, Scott, as the host of this blog. To whom I say: have some courage! Indeed, you may conceivably suffer attacks on your reputation. You also have many, many people here who would be willing to defend you, who are happy to have a place for (well, mostly) open discussion here at SSC, who even donate to you because they enjoy your posts and the community here. I don’t mean to downplay the power of words, but there really is a limit to the harm this kind of attack can do, as opposed to a physical attack that is almost certainly not going to happen. You’ve built up something here, and while you’re within your rights to do whatever you want, I would still urge you to defend it, even when there is a nonzero risk associated with doing so. I don’t wish to be uncharitable, but I can’t think of another way to phrase the following: it’s hard to see this move as anything but cowardice.

        • Deiseach says:

          Charles Murray also has a tremendously higher profile with regard to the topics in question than basically everyone here (maybe Steve Sailer is in the same galaxy? But I suspect he would vehemently oppose this change in policy)

          Given that over on the sub-reddit someone is already claiming Steve Sailer is an anti-Semite, and another person is saying that any discussion of [forbidden term] is a bunch of scientific racists using SSC as a safe space, do you really think Scott is being unduly alarmist?

          That’s the sub-reddit which spun off here as a place for discussion. Imagine what unfriendly or looking for offence types would make of things! “This horrible site encourages anti-Semites and racists to propagate their dreadful views and is a safe space for hate speech which should be shut down immediately and the blog owner suitably punished for permitting foul things (which he must agree with, otherwise he wouldn’t have let them be discussed) on his blog!”

          • goddamnjohnjay says:

            Given that over on the sub-reddit someone is already claiming Steve Sailer is an anti-Semite.

            There are two movies in production about Edgardo Mortara, maybe one could tell the Steve Sailer story instead.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            My life story would need more explosions.

        • EGI says:

          Though I do not exactly agree on the possible severity of physical vs. reputational attacks the rest of this analysis is much more elaborate and to the point than anything I could write at the moment.

          Also I want to stress that while your object reasons for banning the banned terms

          …it should force people to concentrate on particular claims rather than make sweeping culture-war-ish declarations about the philosophy as a whole.

          may be debatable, the meta reasons are absolutely terrible, especially on a game theoretic level. If you give in to jackbooted thugs, you breed more of them and make yourself a target. So you do not give in to jackbooted thugs. NEVER. EVER. FOREVER. You should even try to visibly precommit to do the exact opposite of what they want whenever they threaten you, though I am not sure what this could mean in this case (perhaps lifting certain bans?).

          I do not know, if there is someone threatening you directly, but if so tell them go fuck themselves. You don’t even have that much to loose. You have a strong supportive community behind you which has demonstrated previously to be able and willing to help much less famous and cherished members in need than you are yourself. If my model of this community is not completely false, I am sure, that if worst came to worst and you lost your job due to something hosted on SSC you wouldn’t even have to ask to get more in monthly donations, than you are currently making on your job. I for my part certainly would contribute.

          If SSC is attacked directly there will be more than enough computer security people around this place to help you out.

          Concerning direct threats to your physical safety, I think Procyon is correct that these are very unlikely to occur and even if they should occur they are – in most cases – relatively straight forward to deal with, since the people making the threat need to show up in person and almost always break the law in the process.

          So, please do not degrade this haven for the free and reasonable exchange of ideas by restricting speech for the wrong reasons. If you think some words are prone to generate more heat than light or some commenter is prone to trolling, fine, go forward and ban them. You tended well to this garden over the last years, so I will not question you there. But never yield to the PC-police.

          Lest I am accused, that demanding bravery while remaining anonymous myself isn’t exactly honest, my name is Marcel Müller and I live in Cologne in Germany.

          • Deiseach says:

            But Scott is very vulnerable to real world reputational damage, especially if he wants to be a psychiatrist in California. I may be mistaken, but my impression is that it is so heavily Blue, that any reasonable practice in a big city will turn green and topple off the perch if there is any chance of unpleasantness about someone with undesirable opinions applying to be part of it.

            As for physical violence, I don’t think that he’s at risk of that (though as I said, it is possible to track him down in real life and if some idiot decided to go ‘punch a Nazi’ who knows what would happen?) I think he’s more concerned for any commenters who give real world names on here getting tarred with guilt by association, and maybe a few of the more foam-flecked college activists thinking they’re being big and brave by confronting Nazis and racists turning up on their doorsteps.

            Ordinarily “you don’t pay ransom” is a good idea, and heaven knows Danegeld never stopped the Danes from extorting more, but right now (until things cool down a bit), discretion is the better part of valour. Once a few masked activists have had their collars felt by the police, the enthusiasm for punching, pepperspraying, and hitting with bike locks may dwindle astonishingly fast.

          • EGI says:

            But Scott is very vulnerable to real world reputational damage, especially if he wants to be a psychiatrist in California.

            Yes, possibly he may be, if and only if he insists on becoming a psychiatrist in California. I don’t know enough about the psych community in Califonia to have an opinion about this. As stated above, I do not think, that his financial security is at risk. Also if this is his concern he should stop hosting this blog or at least make this a pure psychiatry blog immediately, since half assed bans of certain words will not placate the mob (If a mob is indeed gathering, I don’t know if this is true).

            …but right now (until things cool down a bit), discretion is the better part of valour.

            This is not my assessment of the situation, but just baning a couple words for other reasons would have been discretion, saying “I preemptively give in to SJ-Mob” is painting a huge flashing target on your forehead. Here is a lot of “problematic” content to get offended by…

          • alwhite says:

            @EGI

            I’d be careful here. You’re making a whole lot of assumptions about someone else’s life which you have little to no actual knowledge of. When your stance is “I don’t know” the correct thing to do is to defer to the people who do know, namely, the person whose life it is.

        • abc says:

          I think that your fear is unreasonable, and by comparing “hostile parties” to police in the vicinity you greatly overestimate their power and inclination to do harm here.

          I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Scott isn’t engaging in “soft opposition” to free speech because he’s afraid of antifa. Rather, Scott sports censorship because he doesn’t want to hear ideas that make him feel uncomfortable, and fear of antifa is the fig leaf he uses to help him with his cognitive dissonance.

          I know rationalist norms require one to assume good faith, but at some point one has to update that assumption based on evidence.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I am a right winger, and I used to be one of the more prolific ones around here. I don’t think Scott is engaged in opposition to free speech, soft or otherwise. I am entirely comfortable with him deleting posts he thinks are going cause trouble, particularly given that he’s offered reasonable guidelines for how to conduct conversations around those topics without triggering deletion.

            For what it’s worth, I admire Scott and think what he’s doing is commendable, even when I disagree with his arguments.

          • abc says:

            I don’t think Scott is engaged in opposition to free speech, soft or otherwise.

            Have you seen his recent blog posts on the subject of the riots? He’s far to eager to use whatever flimsy justification he can get find to surrender to the antifa thugs.

          • Jiro says:

            I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Scott isn’t engaging in “soft opposition” to free speech because he’s afraid of antifa.

            I’d suggest something more plausible: Motivated reasoning. Scott does think, to some extent, that he should remove comments so he isn’t attacked by antifa. But his willingness to believe such things and his weighing of the probabilities is affected by the fact that banning such things is also very convenient for the reasons you describe.

          • random832 says:

            Rather, Scott sports censorship because he doesn’t want to hear ideas that make him feel uncomfortable, and fear of antifa is the fig leaf he uses to help him with his cognitive dissonance.

            This is not opposition to free speech. In fact, it’s the only interpretation that is not problematic in this regard. A very clear line needs to be drawn between people freely choosing to exercise their own property rights to not give someone a platform, and being coerced by faceless mobs into doing so, and that the former is okay and the latter is not.

            As has been said countless times when this has come up in the past, it’s his garden.

          • abc says:

            @Jiro

            Yes, that’s what I mean by cognitive dissonance.

            @random832

            A very clear line needs to be drawn between people freely choosing to exercise their own property rights to not give someone a platform, and being coerced by faceless mobs into doing so, and that the former is okay and the latter is not.

            As has been said countless times when this has come up in the past, it’s his garden.

            So why doesn’t he simply say “This is my garden and I don’t want any speech here that makes me feel uncomfortable”, instead of using increasingly flimsy excuses and hiding behind antifa?

            Because openly saying so would make it harder for him to claim, including to himself, that he’s a rationalist.

          • Glenn says:

            I want to preemptively endorse Scott dealing with this comment and this commenter as he sees fit — when I’m a moderator I find it especially fraught to decide how to deal with people who direct personal attacks at me about the very fact or policy of moderation, since of course silencing them for their personal attacks makes them feel personally validated. But I still think it’s the right thing to do.

          • PedroS says:

            At the risk of feeding the troll, I must state that there is no contradiction at all between being rationalist, open-minded, etc. and wanting to ensure that one’s garden is comfortable for oneself. A blog can obviously decide to dedicate itself to one set of subjects, rather than allow discussion to be hijacked by anyone with a particular pet peeve (whether race relations, political activism, etc). After all, feminist blogs do not have to “accept” discussions of nuclear war strategy on their comments, neither do catholic blogs have to accept that their comment sections are flooded with discussions of deep sea microbiology, etc. This is just common sense and overal this “division of labor” allows each community to use their “competitive advantage” in the most efficient way. This blog has a wide reach and audience because Scott writes interesting things. It is not reasonable for anyone to think that this audience (which is here because of Scott’s talent and intelectual honesty) must be made available to one’s own ranting against the wishes of the owner (or else entail the casting of aspersions on Scott’s character). Scott does not owe us anything, and his moderation/steering/banning/whatever is (unfortunately) a sine qua non condition to prevent the end of productive discussion. I am saddened by the motives behind his decision, but I would not dream of doubting his words: he has shown himself to be honest and full of integrity. And neither should you doubt him: after all, you are also (like me) writing behind the protection of a pseudonym, and (unlike Scott) you have not filled your comments with copious amounts of information which would allow a sufficiently motivated actor to identify you.

          • Deiseach says:

            That’s somewhat unfair, given that Scott is not doing this out of “somewhere out there some people don’t like this stuff”, it’s that people he knows/who know him/who move in the same social circles are beginning to look askance at his views or rather, what they consider to be his views given some of the commentary on here (see the sub-reddit where certain parties do think this main site is infested with scientific racists befouling the nest with their venom and assured of no pushback because Scott is giving them a safe space to express their awful notions).

            He doesn’t want to get stuck with the label of being a racist, and right now in Blue Tribe circles (which is where Scott comes from), this is about the worst thing you can be (along with being a homophobe/transphobe). It’s easy for me to say I don’t care tuppence if people think I’m a racist or a fascist or a bigot because I’ve got the conservative social and religious views which elicit this knee-jerk “you’re a big meanie!” cant and while I’ve very rarely had it directly thrown at me, I certainly have heard the kind of views I hold blamed for everything up to and including genocide.

            I’m on the other side of the Atlantic and nobody knows who the hell I am and in real life nobody knows anything about what I think or say online. I’m pretty much certain that even if future employers try Googling my real life name, it won’t turn up attached to anything, because I’ve never used it in communities online in any aspect.

            It’s different for Scott, and the threat is much more immediate because it’s happening with people who know him/know of him, so he’s at much greater and realer risk of taking a severe hit to his reputation which will adversely affect him professionally and in private life.

            He is under no obligation to be a martyr to please our views of what should be done or the right thing to do. And I am certainly not going to gloat over “Now you know what it feels like to be called a racist fascist bigot”, because Scott has always been fair-minded and even-handed and has always tried his best to cut back on “Speaking as a progressive-minded individual who is so much smarter and better than those knuckle-draggers who bitterly cling to God and guns, why oh why can’t they see the plain truth of the matter even when their betters explain it to them in simple easy language?”

            This has been a great place to hang out for discussion and for finding topics I’d never find elsewhere, and if the price of admission is Scott feeling the need for prudence for the time being, then I’m willing to pay it. If the price becomes Danegeld extorted by outside parties, then I’m up for a fight – but not until then.

          • Deiseach says:

            Rather, Scott sports censorship because he doesn’t want to hear ideas that make him feel uncomfortable

            Oh, come off it. If that were the case, there are a rake of us he could have permanently banned because we have views and approach matters from a different perspective and idea of the universe than he does. He could have instituted a “you must agree with this list” policy of things he will allow to be discussed and a list of things he doesn’t (and I don’t mean the banned words list).

            The easiest way for him to avoid hearing ideas that make him uncomfortable is to shut this whole place down and set up a new one that will be by invitation-only to those whose ideas he finds congenial. That he tolerates all kinds of discussion on here has gotten him accused of simultaneously being a right-wing stooge and a left-wing jellyfish.

            I’m not going to name any names, but we can all think of former commenters who left in a huff because “This site is plainly biased towards those horrible X-side persons and there’s no chance for Y-side persons to get a word in without being dogpiled!”, where X was either up-side or down-side and Y was down-side or up-side depending on the views of the person departing.

            Frankly, I’m surprised Scott has stuck it out this long, given he gets little to no gratitude for what he’s doing. And I don’t mean any of this as flattery, because I do appreciate being able to come on here and have a chat/exchange of views/good row/hey I never knew that before!, and I would be very, very sorry to lose it.

          • abc says:

            That’s somewhat unfair, given that Scott is not doing this out of “somewhere out there some people don’t like this stuff”, it’s that people he knows/who know him/who move in the same social circles are beginning to look askance at his views or rather, what they consider to be his views given some of the commentary on here

            Precisely, he’s experiencing cognitive dissonance between his desire to have the discussion stay within the limits his social circle would find acceptable, and his desire to be a rationalist and his desire to believe he supports rational discussion.

          • abc says:

            I must state that there is no contradiction at all between being rationalist, open-minded, etc. and wanting to ensure that one’s garden is comfortable for oneself.

            Yes, there is. Being rationalist requires updating one’s beliefs based on evidence, it’s perfectly possible that the evidence will point to conclusions that make one uncomfortable.

            A blog can obviously decide to dedicate itself to one set of subjects, rather than allow discussion to be hijacked by anyone with a particular pet peeve (whether race relations, political activism, etc). After all, feminist blogs do not have to “accept” discussions of nuclear war strategy on their comments, neither do catholic blogs have to accept that their comment sections are flooded with discussions of deep sea microbiology, etc.

            A better analogy would be a Catholic blog banning questioning the existence of God or a feminist blog banning discussion of sex differences unless they make women look good. Both those blogs may in fact have such policies, which is why we don’t tend to think of either Catholic or feminist blogs as bastions of rationality.

          • Nyx says:

            Precisely, he’s experiencing cognitive dissonance between his desire to have the discussion stay within the limits his social circle would find acceptable, and his desire to be a rationalist and his desire to believe he supports rational discussion.

            What exactly would SA taking a defiant stance on this subject actually achieve? Probably nothing. In fact, probably less than nothing, because as SA has pointed out himself, his most important writing by far is not his controversial nest-stirring culture war posts but his posts on Effective Altruism and to some extent the exciting (but worthless) culture war stuff mainly exists to get people in the door to read the actually important stuff. Being a rationalist doesn’t require you to sacrifice your life in defense of an ideological cause. It doesn’t require you to be rigid and doctrinaire.

          • abc says:

            What exactly would SA taking a defiant stance on this subject actually achieve?

            1) The discussion in the comments is more likely to converge to the truth.

            In fact, probably less than nothing, because as SA has pointed out himself, his most important writing by far is not his controversial nest-stirring culture war posts but his posts on Effective Altruism and to some extent the exciting (but worthless) culture war stuff mainly exists to get people in the door to read the actually important stuff.

            What effective altruism posts? I just looked through the archive and there appears to have been a total of one post related to EA this year. And even that was more about FAI than EA and had undertones of defending EA from the culture war.

            And honestly the problems that that make Scott feel unsafe having rational discussions of cultural issues in his comments are also going to interfere with the rational discussions EA needs in order to be effective.

          • Then supply some evidence. “It is obvious” is not evidence.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          “But I suspect he [Steve Sailer] would vehemently oppose this change in policy”

          No, I think Scott should do whatever he thinks best for his site.

        • My wife has worried for decades that my online activities would eventually result in a brick through our window or something similar. So far it hasn’t happened.

          On the other hand, she suggests that the development of social media has made it easier to organize mobs, so past experience may not be a good predictor of the future.

          • Neutrino says:

            There are legitimate concerns about putting oneself out there into the public sphere, even when done as anonymously as possible. I left what I thought was a supportive comment on a controversial topic another site. Someone took exception to that by leaving a ‘calling card’ by my front door a few hours later.

            Scott and others take personal risk and should have latitude to run their blogs with that risk in mind. Situational awareness and paranoia are at times closer than not.

        • alexsloat says:

          Physical attacks for Internet comments have happened – I’m thinking of a few high-profile examples of SWAT-ing(i.e., calling in a tip to the police that your political opponent is a dangerous felon who needs to be taken down forthwith) aimed at bloggers and the like.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve only heard of SWATting from the right. Has it also happened from the left?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nancy,

            Yes, it was one of the ways Wisconsin Democrats tried to counter the reddening of the state.

          • John Schilling says:

            It certainly has. Roughly speaking, most SWATting seems to be gamer vs. gamer. Most non-gamer SWATting seems to be stalker vs. celebrity. And most of the rest, the minority of SWATting that is clearly political in nature, seems to be coming from the left against bloggers and public figures on the right.

            When you talk about “SWATting from the right”, are you talking about gamers vs. their critics and counting the gamers as being on the Right, or have I missed any non-gamer right-wing SWATters?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, I was thinking of gamers.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Scott, can you expand a little on what you are worried about? I think I used the banned term in a previous thread, and wondering if I am contributing to the perceived problem.

      • gbdub says:

        This is exactly why you should have supported the OCI events at Harvard. You want to discuss a controversial subject or person because their ideas interest you. But you can’t/won’t because someone might “go Middlebury” on you.

        Well, OCI was willing to bite that bullet and risk the controversy so you wouldn’t have to. Maybe they aren’t as personally interested in those ideas as you were, but they wanted to support your ability to talk about them by normalizing it as best they could. Instead of thanking them, you condemned them. This is hugely disappointing.

        So we can’t pick a free speech fight, and now we can’t stumble into one either when our legitimate interests get threatened. How exactly are we supposed to change attitudes over time? That sounds more like “hole up and hope someone else does it”. And maybe that’s the right move. Maybe you personally have too much on the line to risk over this.

        You have to pick your battles and I can respect that. But own up to it! Don’t pretend this is anything other than a capitulation. Maybe a minor one, maybe a smart one, maybe a strategic one. But the bottom line is you’ve changed your mind about what’s appropriate to discuss not because you’ve been intellectually convinced, but because some thugs at Berkeley and Middlebury threw a tantrum and started smashing shit and you’re afraid they might smash you next.

        • mupetblast says:

          Love the message here, but I don’t think it actually applies. Scott is totally admitting that yes, it’s a capitulation: “I am getting very paranoid after the various physical and reputational attacks on people saying ‘offensive’ speech, especially given some ominous noises from within what I previously considered a bubble of safety.”

          • gbdub says:

            My last paragraph was directed more toward his comment above, rather than the OP, where he equates the censorious Middlebury types with the police, and suggests he considers this resistance by other means. But it was perhaps overharsh.

            Do you not agree with the rest of it though? With the free speech posts, Scott posited “don’t pick free speech fights” as a principled stance. His backing down here not only shows why picking free speech fights is necessary, but also makes his earlier stance seem less principled and more self-defensive.

      • Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff says:

        Only By Fire is Fascism Finished

        The vampire by sunlight or stake.
        The wolfman by silver in bone.
        The demon by book, chant and pentagram.
        The fascist by fire alone.

        Only by fire is fascism finished.
        This sin is demanded that your line may live.
        Only through fire is freedom reborn.
        Each generation pulls the sword from the stone.

        http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/myths_texts/only_by_fire_is_1.php

        • Bugmaster says:

          That’s a very inspirational, evocative poem. It evokes visions of brave young men marching through the streets, to diligently seek out the evil fascists hiding among us — so that they can be dragged out into the light, and set aflame for all to see. Night after night, day after day. And when they get too old to fight, these brave old men would pass on the wisdom to their children and grandchildren: how to spot a fascist, even when they look just like everyone else; how to build a pyre; how to steadily gaze into the flames, showing neither fear nor pity.

          This vision of the world is, historically speaking, quite appealing to people possessed of a certain frame of mind.

      • P. George Stewart says:

        “1. Yes, much as how by not using drugs when there are cops around, I validate the War On Drugs.”

        Well it’s not at that stage yet, is it? All we have at the moment is “thought police” who only get their way because of others’ moral cowardice.

        But continuing along the line of moral cowardice will get us literal thought police, sooner or later. Better to nip the nonsense in the bud now, while it’s still possible.

        “2. Another choice is to work long-term to change attitudes, without it being suddenly cut short by making a preventable misstep that ruins everything early on.”

        I’m sorry, I think that’s Pollyannaish. You yourself wrote some sterling stuff on the tactics of these people, you cannot believe that a quasi-religious secular cult is going to have its “attitudes changed” in any rational way. Just as with a religion, it has to be disempowered by people taking a stand, mocking it and dissecting it. Just as with any cult, all that works is de-programming – which means, putting up a mirror to people to let them see how ridiculous they look.

        “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” With this move, you’re giving that inch.

    • Machine Interface says:

      I used to be a free speech radical. Then the comment section of this blog and a few other places made me realise that “free speech” was just another ideological rally flag that could be just as blinding as any other such instance, that it could be a mind-killer just as any other terminal value always end up being.

      I’ve never met anyone who defended absolute free speech in effect, no matter how much they claim to do so. The discourse of free speech radicals seems to assume that there’s a clear cut distinction between speech and act, but what they advocate in practice betrays at least some awareness of the fact that the distinction between speech and act is fuzzy and continuous — how many free speech advocates defend the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater, to give a reprehensible order to a subordinate, or to practice doxxing?

      Nearly nobody objects when trollish, insensitive behavior are banned from a certain place – but somehow when this ban extends to certain categories of speech content, suddenly it’s a Capitulation to the International Neostalinist Plot.

      I have never been to any place that has “complete freedom of speech”, and I don’t believe such place exists or has ever existed. The actual distinction I see is between places that have explicit, clear and procedural censorship enforced by an authority, vs places that have implicit, fuzzy and chaotic censorship enforced by the crowd. Basically rule of law vs rule of honor.

      Rule of honor-based censorship has been the norm in the US from day one; it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The alt-right and their satelites have only become concerned about it *now* because they’ve only become the target of it *now* — but if the ideological dynamic of power was reversed, censorship would be happening exactly the same way, but targeting radical left instead of radical right idea (this is not even a hypothesis — you just need to look at any private, christian university in the US to see how much the “righteous” side values freedom of speech).

      • Kevin C. says:

        I’ve never met anyone who defended absolute free speech in effect, no matter how much they claim to do so… I have never been to any place that has “complete freedom of speech”, and I don’t believe such place exists or has ever existed. The actual distinction I see is between places that have explicit, clear and procedural censorship enforced by an authority, vs places that have implicit, fuzzy and chaotic censorship enforced by the crowd. Basically rule of law vs rule of honor.

        Similar thoughts from a very different direction:

        The state inherently has the right to suppress falsehood and enforce truth, people will never agree on what is truth and what is falsehood, and so here we are. You always wind up with a state religion, and denying it just makes its power informal and unofficial, which is worse than having an official and formal state religion.

        No one ever sincerely supports freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to peaceably assemble. We speak, associate, and assemble with the ultimate goal of stopping the other group from doing so. If we win, social justice warriors will lose – they will lose their jobs among other things, and will be forced to refrain from certain speech, certain kinds of association, possibly in order to keep their jobs, possibly in order to stay out of jail, possibly in order to avoid helicopter rides to the pacific ocean.

        (From the dreaded Jim’s most recent.)

        • Winter Shaker says:

          The solution is Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Association for us, but not for them, because our beliefs are sane and reasonable, and their beliefs are crazy and evil, and getting more crazy and evil every day.

          Wow. Whatever else you may say about Jim, the guy has a healthy dose of brass neck.

          • Kevin C. says:

            You should see his most recent, where he predicts war in about seven years, because that “is how long it takes the left to go full democidal.”

            As I’ve commented elsewhere here recently, increased “polarization” looks to me like more and more people on both sides coming to the conclusion that “this country isn’t big enough for the both of us.” Nor am I seeing much in the way of opposing trends to this dynamic. And yet people wonder why I despair.

        • Evan Þ says:

          If links to The Dreaded Jim’s blog stay up, I think I need to recalibrate my model of Scott’s new moderation policy.

          (Also, all in favor of The Dreaded Jim becoming his official title?)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What’s wrong with links? As long as he isn’t over here being a jackass, it seems fine on the face of it for people here to trawl through his blog for nuggets of non-jackass material. Or did I miss something in The Dreaded Jim Saga?

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’m perfectly fine with it too. What I was saying was that given how “hostile parties” have vociferously objected to linking Wrongspeech blogs in other places, I was under the impression that Scott’s new deletion policy would mean he’d delete any such links here.

            Given that he hasn’t (thank you, Scott!), I need to recalibrate my assessment of his new policy.

          • Jiro says:

            Evan: You’ve stumbled onto the priblem with Scott’s new policy.

            Namely, as an actual response to the danger from such hostile parties, Scott is massively underreacting. If Scott is really in danger, he should remove the links as well as do a whole host of other things (such as hide all the archives until he gets a chance to delete things from there). Perceiving danger and then only doing the subset of anti-danger measures that stifle discussion is odd.

          • Matt M says:

            Jiro,

            I disagree. My assessment is that Scott (accurately) believes that there’s already enough out there, reasonably traceable to him, that he can NEVER fully remove all of it. Therefore, a sufficiently motivated person will always have adequate material with which to attempt to take him down.

            So the question is whether he can reduce their motivation, and I think he can. Even just using a euphemism for the same type of discussion will deter someone who is only motivated enough to google “Scott Alexander AND [banned problematic term]”

            He’s not making it impossible to take him down, he’s just making himself a “harder target” if you will. Seems entirely reasonable to me.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’m glad to know that you support as a matter of principle the right of people to use violence and threats of violence against anti-war and civil rights protestors in the 50s-60s, for example, Machine Interface. After all, they were simply engaging in rule of honor-based censorship that has been a feature in the US from day one.

        Or we can be principled, and take the stance that it is wrong to try and harm someone’s livelihood or destroy their social life because we don’t like their speech, even if we undertake that harm and destruction as entirely private, non-governmental actors.

        • Machine Interface says:

          I do not support or oppose anything, let alone on principle (I have individual preferences, but they’re mostly only relevent to me and the realistically small circle of people I value).

          What I am seeing is that the majority of the contemporary complaints about censorship come from the tribe that was all too happy to use rule of honor-based censorship in the past when its ideas were in power, and which I strongly suspect would be all too happy to use it again in the future if they took back power. I am therefore in strong disbelief of the claim that they support “freedom of speech” as a matter of principle and much more inclined to believe that they support it only because right now it’s their interest to support it.

          I am also actually expressing support for rule of law-based censorship, and so I prefer Scott to cut topics he doesn’t want from the comments, warning us explicitely than he would do so, than the alternative of people bringing the culture war here. And if that means this comment section gets to see less people advocating racist policies in the name of genetics (because apparently “worshiping the gene pool as our Lord and Savior” is a good terminal value), that happens to be an outcome I find agreeable.

          • Wrong Species says:

            So you believe that free speech is just a smokescreen until they can take power again in which case they’ll restrict free speech, and your solution is take away that right? Why do you think we have that right?

          • mupetblast says:

            I’d be more prone to believe the idea that free speech is just a cynical ploy by racists to get there views out there if there didn’t exist a whole group of people known as old fashioned-liberals who really do believe in a robust (meaning not just government censorship etc.) defense of free speech. Wendy Kaminer, Dave Rubin, Bill Maher, Ace Backwords, Sam Harris, et la. and a significant portion of the ACLU.

          • doubleunplussed says:

            Sure, free speech has become a right wing rallying call. Lefties embraced free speech when they were on the receiving end of censorship and now righties embrace it now that they are.

            But there *are* those of us who supported free speech in both situations. It’s a tenable position to have, even if it’s not what most of the population is doing. Some of us have principles that we actually act consistently with, and we should be allowed to make arguments about whether freedom of speech is good or not in the abstract without having to be responsible for the motivations of others that we find ourselves bedfellows with.

          • “What I am seeing is that the majority of the contemporary complaints about censorship come from the tribe that was all too happy to use rule of honor-based censorship in the past when its ideas were in power, and which I strongly suspect would be all too happy to use it again in the future if they took back power. ”

            I don’t know how far back you are going. I cannot remember any incident in my lifetime of a left wing speaker being shouted down and prevented from speaking on a college campus because of his views. Can you offer one?

            The traditional exceptions for calling “fire” in a crowded theater or instructing someone to do something illegal are not honor-based censorship from the right but of an attempt to draw a line between speech and acts. What examples can you offer of past exceptions that were?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            What I am seeing is that the majority of the contemporary complaints about censorship come from the tribe that was all too happy to use rule of honor-based censorship in the past when its ideas were in power, and which I strongly suspect would be all too happy to use it again in the future if they took back power.

            but by the same logic, the original complaints about censorship came from the tribe that is now all too happy to use rule of honor-based censorship in the present when its ideas are in power

            you’re really just saying “I don’t like the ideas that are being banned so banning is good”. Well you’ve admitted it so oh well. I prefer strong norms of free speech which are preserved because, even if one side abandons them, the other picks them up immediately.

          • Careless says:

            @mupetblast: I’ll take “people who are not suing Berkeley for $600”

      • publiusvarinius says:

        The alt-right and their satelites have only become concerned about it *now* because they’ve only become the target of it *now* — but if the ideological dynamic of power was reversed, censorship would be happening exactly the same way,

        I don’t understand this. The alt-right did not exist until very recently, and has never been in charge of the country. How could they have been concerned about free speech before they came into existence?

        In any case, philosophers of political correctness have been making attacks on the First Amendment for at least two decades, see e.g. the long discussion of this phenomenon Anderson (1992!). Generally, the American “right” seems to have the better track record of supporting free speech, even during events like the 1960s campus revolts.

        What I am seeing is that the majority of the contemporary complaints about censorship come from the tribe that was all too happy to use rule of honor-based censorship in the past when its ideas were in power, and which I strongly suspect would be all too happy to use it again in the future if they took back power

        I am not sure which tribe you’re talking about here. Can you please clarify and give a few examples of honor-based censorship incidents from recent history?

        • rlms says:

          A proposed constitutional amendment saying “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” was passed the House of Representatives in every Congress from the 104th to the 109th (wikipedia). I’m not aware of any proposed anti-hate-speech amendments getting anywhere near that far.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            It would be fun if we could get a bunch of freedom of speech supporters, ideally with pre-existing right-wing bona fides, to participate in a public burning of the US flag to preserve the freedom it represents.

          • gbdub says:

            You probably could, if you’d commit to burning a Koran next to them.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Winter Shaker

            It’s cool. Horrible right wing fascist Antonin Scalia already concurred with part of the liberal wing of the supreme court at the time that flag burning was protected free speech in 1989 even though he found the act reprehensible.

          • MugaSofer says:

            It’d be fun, but would it actually be productive?

            My instinct is that burning a flag makes left-wingers like you only insofar as it annoys right-wingers, and burning a Koran makes right-wingers like you only insofar as it annoys left-wingers.

            The best burning stuff can do is win you allies from a larger group; at worst, you simply alienate both sides to no benefit.

          • Mary says:

            What’s amusing is that people who have no problem with burning flags as symbolic speech will sometimes jump through hoops to avoid admitting that so is burning books.

          • Deiseach says:

            Re: flag burning and Koran burning, Winter Shaker and gdub, I can tell you that back when P.Z. Myers was desecrating an allegedly consecrated host*, I was not one bit “oh, well, that’s all right then!” when he also tore up and threw in the rubbish bin a copy of “The God Delusion” as an ‘equal handed’ show of good faith that he wasn’t insisting on having his ‘sacred’ texts treated specially.

            Whatever about burning a flag, I would not appreciate seeing a Koran burned, especially if it was in the context of “this is what white American left-wingers like”, which shows as grave and deep a misunderstanding of things as Myers’ “Hey, I ripped up my presumed-sacred-values book as well, so that proves I’m not biased for or against anything!”

            OK, time for the anticlimax. I know some of you have proposed intricate plans for how to do horrible things to these crackers, but I repeat…it’s just a cracker. I wasn’t going to make any major investment of time, money, or effort in treating these dabs of unpleasantness as they deserve, because all they deserve is casual disposal. However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel. My apologies to those who hoped for more, but the worst I can do is show my unconcerned contempt.

            By the way, I didn’t want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur’an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

            *I sincerely hope it wasn’t actually consecrated; I don’t know if it was or not, given that he was relying on getting one via someone who said they could get a host from going up to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass. I was so angry about this, I was actually moved to not call down curses on his head but to pray the Angelus for a month for him (the idea being “pray for those that persecute you” and to try and avoid nurturing hatred in my heart for him). It didn’t cool me down about him, though I don’t hate him (I may think of him as a buffoon but it’s disdain not hatred), but I hope that it did him some good 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            What’s amusing is that people who have no problem with burning flags as symbolic speech will sometimes jump through hoops to avoid admitting that so is burning books.

            The phrase “burning books” calls to mind for me a concerted effort to seek out and destroy problematic books in the community, not an individual decision to burn one of your own books as a political statement. There’s a symbolic component, yes, but you’re also trying to limit access to the ideas in those books.

            Both the symbolic content and the goal of ideological purification bother me, but the latter bothers me a lot more. If you want to go out and buy a copy of, say, Mein Kampf and douse it in gasoline at a protest, then sure, that’s equivalent to flag burning. But it’s also not the central example to my mind.

          • Viliam says:

            P.Z. Myers … also tore up and threw in the rubbish bin a copy of “The God Delusion” as an ‘equal handed’ show of good faith that he wasn’t insisting on having his ‘sacred’ texts treated specially.

            It seems a bit… non-central… to choose texts of one’s political opponent as the best example of “my sacred text I don’t mind treating disrespectfully”.

            An analogy would be Trump saying: “I am okay with drawing carricatures of Muhammad, and to show you how fair and balanced I am, I am also okay with drawing carricatures of Clinton.”

            Tell P.Z.Myers to publicly desecrate something sacred to SJWs, and then watch him squirm. 😀

        • quanta413 says:

          rlms, if I understand the distinction being made here in the post being replied to that would be rule of law based censorship, not honor based censorship.

        • Jiro says:

          The alt-right did not exist until very recently

          It still doesn’t.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        And therefore you want to dismantle the one norm which protects us from the alt-right’s authoritarian fantasies and gives us the ability to criticize them? I’d rather not start taking helicopter rides anytime soon, and if that means letting the people who want to give me one complain that’s a price I’m willing to play. Any real attempt at censorship WHEN THEY HOLD THE PRESIDENCY AND CONGRESS is destined to fail and backfire massively.

        (And of course, centrist censorship can be just as dangerous to those seeking real change; being silenced because I’m an alt-left misogynist berniebro instead of because I’m a Jewish puppet who wants to destroy the white race doesn’t make me any more able to speak and organize. The thing about censorship is that it doesn’t allow the victims to make distinctions or prove their innocence.)

        • Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff says:

          “you want to dismantle the one norm which protects us from the alt-right’s authoritarian fantasies ”

          Oh puhlease park your “oppression” fantasy out in the long-term lot.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Less of this please.

          • Careless says:

            What, he’s supposed to ignore the batshit crazy?

          • honhonhonhon says:

            He’s supposed to use kinder phrasing, because to do otherwise is to invite escalation in turn, damaging the incentive of both parties to have a good-faith argument.

            Sometimes the flame contributes to the spice and can’t be removed without weakening the argument, but this isn’t one of those cases.

        • herbert herberson says:

          People always say this, but the First Amendment’s historical track record of protecting left-wing views in the face of more popular positions is spotty at best.

          Everybody knows the “fire in a crowded theater” line, but not everybody knows it comes from a Supreme Court case that unanimously held it was proper to imprison leftists for distributing this flier. If the First Amendment didn’t protect socialists distributing anti-war propaganda under a Progressive administration, I don’t care to count on it as a meaningful bulwark against an American Pinochet.

          • Brad says:

            That was before the First Amendment was effectively interpreted so as to protect free speech. It developed in fits and starts but Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957) is a very plausible starting point for modern free speech doctrine. Terminiello v. City of Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949) would be another plausible choice. In any event it is a phenomenon younger than some people alive today.

            The norm birdboy2000 is talking about, assuming it was ever a widely shared norm to begin with, is surely even newer still.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Sure, under current jurisprudence, the protections are there. But anything that was widely interpreted in a certain way in the past could be interpreted that way again. Not only is the First Amendment itself exactly the same, but the exception used in Schenck is pretty much still in place–Yates didn’t overturn it, it just inaugurated an era in which it would be applied far more narrowly.

            So long as a more-or-less modernist liberal order holds power, that’s good enough. But my reading of what birdman said is that it is a potential protection in the hypothetical case where that liberal order is breaking down, and in that case I am skeptical.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            I don’t believe relying on the first amendment is wise, viable, or sufficient. I also believe this makes it all the more important to defend free speech as a concept and social norm distinct from the constitutional right – just as the IWW and CPUSA did in their day.

      • Wrong Species says:

        So you used to be a free speech advocate until you realized it included people you don’t like. Way to take a principled stand.

        • mupetblast says:

          + 1

        • Anonymous says:

          Way to take a principled stand.

          As far as principles go, free speech is pretty artificial. And rightly regarded as optional if it’s not earning its keep.

          • Wrong Species says:

            What is the deal with this tactic? You’re not convincing anyone to drop free speech by attempting to show them that they are cynical assholes. Some of us have a sense of integrity and actually care about the things we profess to care about.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not trying to convince you. I’m trying to explain to you that someone might support free speech only as far as it produces good outcomes, and no farther. A pragmatic approach, if you will.

            AFAIK, there’s no rule that I have to consider your holy cow my holy cow, after all. I might just consider it to be a milk producing biotool, that gets scrapped into other comestibles when it fails to produce milk anymore.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Ah yes, “good outcomes”. I’m sure it’s just a nice side effect of promoting good outcomes that you get to silence people you don’t like.

          • Mary says:

            Free speech is indeed a counterintuitive idea.

            Like steering into a skid.

            That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ah yes, “good outcomes”. I’m sure it’s just a nice side effect of promoting good outcomes that you get to silence people you don’t like.

            Error has no rights.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Error has no rights.

            Neither does virtue.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Error has no rights.

            So you’re opposed to Miranda warnings?

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m neutral on them. They don’t seem to be implemented in plenty of places I consider civilized and nice to live.

            But I’m also uncertain what that has to do with the topic at hand.

          • The Nybbler says:

            http://www.library.georgetown.edu/woodstock/murray/1965ib

            The theory of religious tolerance takes its start from the statement, considered to be axiomatic, that error has no rights, that only the truth has rights, —and exclusive rights. From this axiom a juridical theory is deduced, which distinguishes between “thesis” and “hypothesis.” The thesis asserts that Catholicism, per se and in principle, should be established as the one “religion of the state,” since it is the one true religion. Given the institution of establishment, it follows by logical and juridical consequence that no other religion, per se and in principle, can be allowed public existence or action within the state (which normally, in this theory, is considered to be identical and co-extensive with society). Error has no rights. Therefore error is to be suppressed whenever and wherever possible; intolerance is the rule. Error, however, may be tolerated when tolerance is necessary by reason of circumstances, that is, when intolerance is impossible; tolerance remains the exception. Tolerance therefore is “hypothesis,” a concession to a factual situation, a lesser evil.

        • Machine Interface says:

          No, my anterior defense of free speech was in fact specifically toward letting racists be heard, so I knew perfectly well who I was defending.

          The point is that “free speech” is just another arbitrary value, not a Natural Necessity. I don’t see *the point* of defending racist speech anymore — it’s not like something I value would be lost if all racist speech ever was suppressed (a far cry from its actual state in any country, no matter how agressive their censorship apparatus is).

          I don’t believe the slippery slope argument applies in that case — the ideas that are censored are the ideas that are not in power, and opposing censorship “on principle” will not actually protect my ideas if the orientation of power changes radically, nor am I giving anyone “tools” to censor my ideas in the future by approving some censorship now: these tools have always existed and have always been used.

          In other words, a background level of censorship is the norm, and I can’t think of any place and time where this is not the case.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Free speech isn’t a dichotomy. There are various shades and some places have more than others.

          • Anonymous says:

            Meaning: There isn’t any truly free speech, only degrees of censorship.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s like saying there’s no such thing as freedom, just various degrees of slavery. That may be true but it’s meaningless. Obviously some forms of slavery are worse than others.

          • Anonymous says:

            You might be surprised to discover how much slavery goes on in western countries as a matter of course.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “You might be surprised to discover how much slavery goes on in western countries as a matter of course.”

            I know there’s a fair amount of slavery (sexual and/or domestic and/or production). What have you got in mind?

          • Anonymous says:

            Conscription. Compulsory public education. Judicial imprisonment.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which western countries do you imagine engage in conscription?

          • Anonymous says:

            The one I’m in, for instance. The one I used to live in also did that.

          • Synonym Seven says:

            I don’t see *the point* of defending racist speech anymore — it’s not like something I value would be lost if all racist speech ever was suppressed (a far cry from its actual state in any country, no matter how agressive their censorship apparatus is).

            Well…

            I don’t believe the slippery slope argument applies in that case

            Wait until they start telling you that your scientific thesis is racist if you quote Einstein and Dawkins but not Tyson or Washington Carver – or, for a concrete real-life ridiculous example, telling you that “picnic” is racist.

            The slippery slope isn’t “first they banned the racism, then they banned the rationalism”. It’s “first they banned the racism, then they broadened the definition of racism”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Nearly nobody objects when trollish, insensitive behavior are banned from a certain place – but somehow when this ban extends to certain categories of speech content, suddenly it’s a Capitulation to the International Neostalinist Plot.

        If you don’t want to convert the slippery slope from fallacy to fact, you either need to be an absolutist, or you need those lines. The fact that those lines exist do not make hypocrites of free speech defenders.

        that the distinction between speech and act is fuzzy and continuous — how many free speech advocates defend the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater, to give a reprehensible order to a subordinate, or to practice doxxing?

        The strategem of noting that things are shades of gray and using that to demonstrate that black is white (or #020202 is #FDFDFD, if you prefer) is tiresome. Yes, we can find edge cases. Most things aren’t. Most things that are proposed to be censored or actually censored are not. Suggesting that human intelligence is genetic, differs between races, and that this is historically significant is _nowhere near_ the line between speech and action. Suggesting that we would be better off under monarchy isn’t even on the same planet as the line.

        The alt-right and their satelites have only become concerned about it *now* because they’ve only become the target of it *now

        The alt-right (and the alt-light) have largely come into existence as a result of the censorship. If things which are obviously true are only being said by the likes of Vox Day, while everyone else pretends they’re false, Vox Day gets a boost.

        (this is not even a hypothesis — you just need to look at any private, christian university in the US to see how much the “righteous” side values freedom of speech).

        No, I think not:
        http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/bernie-sanders-speaks-liberty-university

        Not that they value it that well in general. Just that at this point in history, they’re doing better than the other side.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Then the comment section of this blog and a few other places made me realise that “free speech” was just another ideological rally flag that could be just as blinding as any other such instance, that it could be a mind-killer just as any other terminal value always end up being.

        To me, it’s an acknowledgement that, because truth is unknowable and must always be searched for, that banning any kind of speech, especially those that hold ideas, will limit your knowledge of truth. Moreover, it will prevent the spread of truth, because those who hold the ideas you disagree with and have banned will simply not be convinced of your correctness.

        Rule of honor-based censorship has been the norm in the US from day one; it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The alt-right and their satelites have only become concerned about it *now* because they’ve only become the target of it *now* — but if the ideological dynamic of power was reversed, censorship would be happening exactly the same way, but targeting radical left instead of radical right idea (this is not even a hypothesis — you just need to look at any private, christian university in the US to see how much the “righteous” side values freedom of speech).

        One could argue that traditional conservatism and the alt-right are not particularly aligned. But the rest of your theorem stands; some people, perhaps many people, are simply partisan to the core.

        But regardless, the norms they support in their partisanhood are good for the nation as a whole, because they can also be used against them. Moreover, so long as one side takes up the banner, the norm can be reasonably preserved, and the clear hypocrisy shown by the other side abandoning the banner aids in this. So…I’m fine with it, overall, especially because I think there are some people, like me, who just like speaking their mind and who know they don’t know everything either.

        Nearly nobody objects when trollish, insensitive behavior are banned from a certain place – but somehow when this ban extends to certain categories of speech content, suddenly it’s a Capitulation to the International Neostalinist Plot.

        As I alluded to earlier, I am not a free-speech absolutist, so much as I am a free-ideas absolutist. Of course, the judgment of speech as “ideas-free” would be an easy mode of censorship, which brings danger to a shift from “free speech” to “free ideas”, but I think the latter is a better thing to support. In this regard, trollish behavior clearly does not attempt to bring ideas to the table, whereas unpleasant ideas are still ideas – left or right wing, by the by. Think of “heat vs. light”, to shamefully appropriate the words of our host. Speaking personally, I have never supported the bans of any political partisans, even those who antagonized me personally, though I did download an add-on to Chrome to block one of them, due to a large quantity of trolling being mixed into the partisanhood.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I’ve never met anyone who defended absolute free speech in effect, no matter how much they claim to do so. The discourse of free speech radicals seems to assume that there’s a clear cut distinction between speech and act, but what they advocate in practice betrays at least some awareness of the fact that the distinction between speech and act is fuzzy and continuous — how many free speech advocates defend the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater, to give a reprehensible order to a subordinate, or to practice doxxing?

        Strong agreement, at least with this part. A lot of reactionary thought, and some of Scott’s older posts, posit that a good world would be one with a diversity of regimes and and ability to vote between them with your feet. Well, if we apply that to the world of speech, we see that almost no one is voting for truly free speech with their feet (or, more accurately, clicks). Time and again, people who participate in online conversations chose ones that are moderated, that are focused, communities with boundaries and norms who exclude the people who violate those norms.

        Me, I’m much more willing to support an archipelagoism that only applies during the brief moments I engage in political speech rather than the actual geography I live in….

        • Nornagest says:

          Choosing a venue to hang out in online isn’t like choosing a country, it’s more like choosing a newspaper and a coffee shop. Some people like the Times and canned easy-listening over their half-caf soy lattes; some people like the Post and donut-shop coffee with sugar and cream; some like the Berkeley Daily Planet and punk rock. Very few people want to read a random jumble of pages salvaged from a recycling bin while being shouted at by a homeless person.

    • Deiseach says:

      Jason K., it’s relatively easy to identify Scott and his place of work in Real Life so anybody sufficiently motivated could quite easily engage in a poison pen campaign to make it very hard for him, especially as he has stated he wishes to go into practice as a psychiatrist in California. It wouldn’t take too much at all to make him sound like a risk to a practice looking for a new partner out there.

      I was already thinking there seemed to be a split between the commentariat on here and those over at the sub-reddit, where I often see comments about how right-wing we all are on here or how there’s some nest of [forbidden term] supporters being all scientifically racist over on the main site. And those are people broadly in tune with what SSC is doing, so can you imagine if some of the Professionally Aggrieved got a bee in their bonnet about Slate Star Codex being problematic on race, and decided to do some Nazi punching?

      Right now there is so much crazy out there, it’s not worth the risk unless you have nothing to lose, and Scott has a lot to lose (and so do we, if we lose him and this place).

      • Brad says:

        Maybe he’s worried about being punched, but he’s probably just got a bigger version of the same problem I have.

        I strongly hesitate to forward Scott’s essays even though I think they are excellent and would be well received because of the comment section here. It isn’t just a matter of being right wing, though there is that, it is the kind of right wing. We’ve got Sailorites, Moldbuggians, and even some followers of Jim. I worry that if I forward one of Scott’s posts people are going to look at the comments section and even if I put a big disclaimer assume that I am secretly make Trump memes out of frogs in my spare time.

        That’s just me — I don’t write the site and my social group is probably not as left as Scott’s. So I imagine it is ten times worse for him.

        • gbdub says:

          Is there any comment section that’s not terrible though? I mean, you can’t even forward a CNN article without the worst sort of partisan nastiness attached to the bottom. At least the nastiness here is more interesting/ weirder.

          If someone is going to condemn you for enjoying an interesting article because they don’t like the comments – well, that seems like a problem with them, not you. Most people I encounter seem well aware that “content” and “comment sections” are two very different beasts.

          Though I wonder if Scott could setup his site such that it’s possible to share an article without the comments?

          • Joe says:

            Journalists at large news sites don’t ever really engage with their commenters: don’t reply to comments, don’t mention comments they received on previous articles, don’t talk about specific regular commenters, don’t even acknowledge the existence of the comments section at all. Scott does all of those things (as do many bloggers). I think this approach prevents Scott from ever being seen as completely separate from his commenters in the way a CNN journalist is from theirs.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Though I wonder if Scott could setup his site such that it’s possible to share an article without the comments?

            That’s an interesting thought, something like http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/23/ot74-copan-thread/#show_comments=false? Bakkot! what say ye?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I third the request for a way to share an essay without the comments. I don’t have any problem with the comments section myself but, you know, no need to add distractions, right?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Personally, I like the comments section here enough to recommend reading it whenever I share SSC posts. We almost never shitpost. We actually call each other out when it happens, and we keep bringing up the comment quality question every so often. We’re genuinely concerned when we think we’re getting only one side of a story. I think the comments stand out among the vast majority of forums, and encourage everyone to comment in a way that makes them continue to stand out.

          • Bakkot says:

            Done: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/23/ot74-copan-thread/?comments=false. Only hides them for people who have JavaScript enabled, mind – which is very nearly everyone outside of certain mostly idealogical CS people.

            This would be better done on the WordPress end, but doing so would take longer.

            Side note: I can’t (or at least don’t) read every comment in every open thread! If you want me to see something, bring it up on the github or message me on reddit or IRC or something.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Bakkot, your script doesn’t require just js, but also local storage. People without local storage are a pretty small demographic, but you are tailoring it for them by explicitly checking. Maybe you should move out of the check the stuff that doesn’t depend on it: hide & parent buttons and this new feature. In the distant past, the green borders pretty much worked without storage, as long as one manually copied a date into the box (which is now more robust to format than it used to be).

          • Bakkot says:

            Update: there’s now a link to the commentless version under “Share this:”.

            @Douglas Knight: Sure, I could do that. I honestly hadn’t realized there was such a demographic: local storage works on IE8+, and disabling it entirely (vs merely having it clear on page exit) seems like it would break a lot of the web.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Bakkot, if you’re really testing for IE7, then it makes sense to just turn off the whole script and not worry about what part of it you can salvage for IE7. But if that’s what you’re doing, I think you should test for it more directly.

          • Bakkot says:

            @Douglas Knight: I’m not intentionally testing for IE7. I just haven’t been putting in any effort to support it.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Thanks for adding this!

          • Brad says:

            Thanks Bakkot!

          • Bakkot says:

            Update part 2: works the same, but now in the backend instead of in JS, so pages will load faster without comments and they will still be disabled if the viewer has JavaScript disabled.

            As a side effect, there’s no “Link to page without comments” added when you’re viewing the comment-less version of the page. Not sure how I feel about this. Maybe there should be? Maybe there should be a link to the page with comments? I dunno.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Note that when you view without comments the twitter and facebook share links are to the version with comments.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Douglas Knight, that sounds perfectly good to me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The important point is that it’s not documented that the share button shares something different than what the user sees. Moreover, someone reading the without comments version probably doesn’t even know that there are comments.

            I also think it’s bad that it’s the default, but it sounds like it would be a hassle to fix.

      • mupetblast says:

        Yep. While typically it’d be good for one’s career to be cited by famous people and publications, unfortunately they’re the WRONG people and publications. Praise from Ann Coulter, Steve Sailer and the likes of Weekly Standard and EconLog not only don’t help with advancing in the upper echelons of California professionalism (at least of the coastal, white collar type), but actively hurt.

        I saw the germination of Scott’s current (budding?) predicament two years ago: http://bit.ly/2dSz54I

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I’m OK with the actual policy; in fact, I would not be averse to a topic ban on sweeping culture-war generalizations of all kinds, not just the newly-banned thing. At the same time, it’s a pity that intimidation should have played a role. As a way of shaking my tiny fist at this state of affairs, I’m posting under my real name from now on. (I’ve been ‘Cerebral Paul Z.’ up to now.)

      • Evan Þ says:

        That does seem possible, but (a) my horror at explicitly giving in to terrorists far outweighs the appeal of that topic ban in my mind, and (b) we’d need to find some clear way of saying what is and what isn’t a sweeping culture-war generalization. If I say that all Trump supporters are Estonian-murderers, does that count? What if it comes at the end (or beginning) of a passionate argument about Russia’s expansionist foreign policy and how Trump risks splitting up NATO and cozying up to Putin? What if I don’t use the term “murderer” but just say they hate Estonians? Or that they dangerously disregard Estonian lives?

        If I modded a forum with this policy, I’d ban everything with “murderer” or “hate,” whether or not it comes with an argument, but let through “all Trump-supporters dangerously disregard X.” But that would need to be clear from the start – and not inaugurated with someone saying he’s giving in to terrorists.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          …they dangerously disregard Estonian lives

          Blue, black and white lives matter. Nothing is ever a coincidence 😛

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          My impression has always been that topic bans here, as opposed to specific-word bans, worked by Scott knowing a comment about a banned topic when he sees one, and removing it manually. If instead it has to be done in automation then no, this particular topic ban wouldn’t be practical.

      • gbdub says:

        For what it’s worth I agree with this take. I’m fine with the policy, annoyed by the stated reason. Actually I felt the same way when Scott announced the first reign of terror, when he made a comment about how he basically needed to clean up his comment section to avoid attracting the wrong sort of attention from his social group – fine policy, bad reason.

        Maybe Scott should just stop explaining himself?

        • Matt M says:

          Maybe Scott should just stop explaining himself?

          100% agree

          He’s trying to be too nice. Would be far better off saying “I’ve decided to do X. Because this is my site and I can. If you don’t like it, leave.”

        • Zodiac says:

          Maybe Scott should just stop explaining himself?

          That would definitely lower my opinion of him and by extension that of SSC.
          I like Scott very much for being transparent of his thought processes, epsecially does regarding the comment section. It makes me think that he feels as part of the community and respects the commenters instead of just putting out his articles for signalling and potentially resume building.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That would definitely lower my opinion of him and by extension that of SSC. I like Scott very much for being transparent of his thought processes, epsecially does regarding the comment section.

            Likewise.

          • gbdub says:

            I was not intending to be taken seriously there.

            Still, explaining himself definitely makes me think more of Scott. This particular explanation makes me feel less of him though, and for this case, the less outweighs the more.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            rather a bad explanation than no explanation at all

    • akarlin says:

      …getting very paranoid after the various physical and reputational attacks on people saying “offensive” speech, especially given some ominous noises from within what I previously considered a bubble of safety. In order to protect myself and non-anonymous readers of this blog, I am going to be more careful about allowing things that hostile parties could interpret as reason to go Middlebury on someone. I am banning…

      Only been 6 months since I left Amerikwa, and it already seems like an alien planet to me.

    • Levantine says:

      I’m surprised at how many comments are devoted to a fairly cosmetic censoring that Scott Alexander anticipates to enact “very rarely.”

      Energetic reactions over small things often lead (due to exhaustion, apathy, misplaced focus) to failure to react over much more important matters.

      If I were in his place, I might have first started to do the censoring I want to do, and informed about it immediately afterwards.
      Things happen, -> the webmaster reacts, -> we the mere visitors accept his choices (and eventually make a few humble suggestions)
      That sequence looks more sensible to me than the webmaster telling us of his intents based on how he feels “paranoid.”
      … Unless … perhaps behind this there was a desire to have us express all kinds of views about it, perhaps for nourishing his mind, or for creating a more communal atmosphere.

      • Jiro says:

        I’m surprised at how many comments are devoted to a fairly cosmetic censoring that Scott Alexander anticipates to enact “very rarely.”

        The actual deletions are rare. The chilling effect is huge.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          do you hold off on posting things you want to say for fear of being censored? I know I don’t, but I’m curious if any of the people worried about censorship here actually feel this chilling effect personally.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes. You’ll notice that just last Saturday in this very thread, a little downthread of here, I stopped myself from responding to “reasoned argumentation” for fear of censorship.

            Since seeing some of the posts Scott’s actually been leaving up since then, I’m not sure I would’ve had the same reaction now. (At the time, there were only two dozen or so comments in the thread, so I had no idea how Scott was calibrating his new policy.)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Huh. I saw the part about “if your post gets deleted, you will not get banned for it”, and resolved to ctrl+c before posting anything relating to vibrancy, and beyond that didn’t really worry.

  2. Siah Sargus says:

    Battleship index is actually Bakkot’s comment right now. dope and could totally be part of a great coffee table book on battleships.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks, fixed.

    • cassander says:

      The definitive battleship coffee table book has already been written, but you can read all the content for free at robert farley’s old blog

      • bean says:

        Looking that over, it appears that he and I are trying to do very different things. He was looking at every ship individually, while I’m most interested in the technical side and the broad sweep of design/use history. Also, I refuse to consider any book ‘definitive’ that I haven’t heard of by now, unless it’s a very new release. That one fails on that criteria, too.

      • Protagoras says:

        In what sense is LGM Robert Farley’s old blog? His most recent post there is yesterday. Or did you just mean old in the sense that it’s been around for a long time?

        I did enjoy the Sunday Battleship Blogging when it was going on.

  3. esainane says:

    I suspect you may have forgotten to increment the open thread counter, OT73 has already been used at https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/09/ot73-i-lik-the-thred/

  4. Evan Þ says:

    I’m flatly and vehemently against the unannounced censorship. If this community isn’t able to survive without such censorship, perhaps it should not survive, and you should shut down this blog with one last post “I am shutting this down for my personal safety” as a testimony to the world we live in.

    At the very least, you should announce the posts you’re deleting, perhaps by editing them to say “DELETED BY ADMINISTRATOR.” That will allow discussion to move on with less disruption, avoid confusing people who might have noticed the post before deletion, allow people to notice how few posts you’re deleting, and give better feedback with fewer chilling effects.

    About the new additions to the banned terms, I’m equivocal. I get that general discussions of that whole subject usually generate more heat than light, but – in a world where numerous people are dismissing all claims of the form “Group A has more of this intelligence-related genetic trait than Group B,” it can be very useful to have a term to refer to that whole category of claims. And, I say this as someone who believes there is nowhere near sufficient evidence for any claim of that form.

    • reasoned argumentation says:

      And, I say this as someone who believes there is nowhere near sufficient evidence for any claim of that form.

      If brain size differences as measured by MRI and skull volume isn’t “sufficient evidence” you’re willfully dishonest – coincidentally like the famous “scientist” who faked evidence denying those claims. At least Gould acknowledged that he had to fake evidence to cover up an obvious case. Even Scott knows that it’s blindingly obvious – hence the banning of discussion.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Apparently this site is not a suitable place for rational discussion anymore, but since I believe the answer I would give anyway will satisfy the censors:

        Does brain size have substantial correlation with intelligence? Brain size is larger in many animals than in humans. Hemispherectomy survivors definitely have >50 average IQ, according to this one study, about as many of them show >15 pt IQ increase after surgery as show >15 pt IQ decrease. (Admittedly, n=71, and it doesn’t break out the <15pt change group.) These are extreme examples, but IMO they show we shouldn't assume a correlation without evidence.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          Does brain size have substantial correlation with intelligence?

          Yes. About .33. That you don’t even know that when it was the first question you asked shows that your ignorance is willful and the pose of “well, I’m just not convinced” isn’t because of lack of evidence but because it undermines your position.

          Arguing for the absence of a correlation is, of course, ridiculous anyway unless you’re a creationist – brain tissue is metabolically expensive – on top of that larger skulls put selective pressure on women to have wider pelvic openings and longer gestation periods (pelvic girth differs by race in exactly the way you’d expect, gestation period differs by race in exactly the way you’d expect – both of which are costly).

          Scott’s and the Middlebury and Berkeley rioters’ position is the only tenable one – “you’re not allowed to talk about it”.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Warning that the first paragraph of this was unnecessarily mean, that Evan never denied that it did, and continuing to use this style of interaction here will get you banned

          • Evan Þ says:

            If I were to post the response I would have posted last week, phrased with the charity and politeness I would have used, it is significantly possible that your subsequent response (and perhaps mine as well) would be deleted; and it would appear to subsequent readers that you had dropped the argument.

            Perhaps someday we shall meet somewhere which is more welcoming to uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate.

          • Anyone else think Reasoned Argumentation is Eugene Nier?

          • publiusvarinius says:

            Anyone else think Reasoned Argumentation is Eugene Nier?

            Oh yes, Eugene Nier, the Fethullah Gülen of Less Wrong.

            On a serious note: I’m not aware of any algorithm for reliably detecting Eugene, so I don’t know if your accusation is true. And even if you’re right, I’m fairly sure it’s neither kind nor necessary, but very harmful to the discussion.

            If you have reasonable suspicion that the poster is an undercover Eugene Nier, out here to sow the seeds of discord, please at least inform us about the “tells” that – according to you – give him away.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Slight tangent: african grays have very small brains, and I think the “special sauce” section of their brain isn’t isomorphic to the neocortex of mammals.

            Re: who is and who isn’t Eugene: who cares, whether one is an asshole is what matters.

          • rlms says:

            Whether or not people are Eugene Nier is relevant because he’s banned here.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Jim and John Sidles are also banned, and have been commenting without issue, recently.

            And that’s an easier problem, because there is no question of identity, just a question of enforcement.

          • rlms says:

            Jim was banned again, and the second-most recent Sidles alt was also banned.

          • John Sidles had been commenting and was outed without any objection.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sidles is a special case. He is banned for being incomprehensible, in a very bizarre way, more than anything else. He is also extremely resistant to being honor bound, which is bizarre for someone so loving of the code of a certain military outfit.

            If his failure to be honor bound by site norms were to become commonplace among others, registration policies would change again.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I really want to ask John what he makes of Trump selecting his central example of “empathic anti-Trumpian warrior spiritualism” to be SecDef but I don’t expect a coherent answer.

          • Does brain size have substantial correlation with intelligence?

            Yes. About .33.

            Do you know if that is controlling for other variables, most obviously body size? My impression is that larger animals tend, ceteris paribus, to have larger brains, and there might be other and less obvious such relations. That’s relevant to evaluating evidence on the implications of brain size in human populations.

          • Protagoras says:

            I give Eugene part of the blame for the decline of Less Wrong (yes, there were lots of other factors, but his abuse of the karma system definitely didn’t help), and fully support any effort to keep him out of places that are still worthwhile. And it is true that among the many flaws he’s notorious for is a willingness to bypass the rules, so I’m fine with people trying to be on the lookout for him. But he’s not as distinctive as, say, Sidles, and I at least don’t see what would make it obvious that this is definitely him. Further, I think it’s probably best that accusations of attempted ban evasion come with actual evidence, rather than being in the form of suggestive questions.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Are comments that mediate between Navy Cmdr Sheri Snively’s Heaven In The Midst Of Hell: A Quaker Chaplain’s View of the War in Iraq (2010), and USMC Gen (now SecDef) James Mattis’ thoughtful introduction to that book, experienced by SSC readers as so “incredibly annoying” as to be ban-worthy?

            Fortunately for the ethnically, religiously, and cognitively diverse Marines that Cmdr. Snively counseled, Gen. Mattis did not see fit to banish her “incredibly annoying” SJ-presence from the combat theatre that he commanded.

            Is there a lesson here, for the SSC’s Mattis-fans?

          • Deiseach says:

            “Marshayne”, you’re slipping! That last comment was brief, positively intelligible, and didn’t give me a headache trying to work out if it came to a compliment or not!

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Dang, Deiseach! 🙂 The signature headache might have been provided by a selection of doubt-inducing SJ-positive (even comedic) passages from Snively’s Heaven in the Midst of Hell.

            Definitely a sense of humor is helpful in reading Snively, in dealing with the suffering, tragedy, and horror … and the sympathy and courage too … that she describes so vividly.

            Inconveniently, my personal copy has been donated to the local Friends library … the Friends having a centuries-old tradition of tolerance — even an outright predilection — for “incredibly annoying” SJ-positive works, faiths, and practices. Their carefully tended libraries help to ensure that the Friends do not forget.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            I have no idea who Eugene Nier is.

          • Nornagest says:

            Anyone else think Reasoned Argumentation is Eugene Nier?

            I don’t think Eugene has it in him to tone it down that much. He’s basically the John Sidles of the right: more coherent, more aggressive, and less smug, but just as impervious to reason.

          • I would like to point out that asking for corroboration is a a way of gathering evidence.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            I would like to point out that asking for corroboration is a a way of gathering evidence.

            If I went to your neighbors asking them if they also think you are a child molester, I was just trying to gather evidence would be a poor excuse. I should (at the very least) clearly indicate a strong basis for my opinion, along with the question.

      • Mars says:

        Brain size differences don’t even come close to accounting for gaps in IQ currently observed between human populations though. Admittedly however they may count as evidence that an unequal distribution of “intelligence-related genetic traits”exists.

      • Deiseach says:

        brain size differences as measured by MRI and skull volume

        Oh come on, I didn’t believe that when Sherlock Holmes said it first time round* and I don’t believe it now. “Large volume = big brain = must be doing something with all that so smarter” doesn’t follow. It’s like saying all tall men must be as strong as Captain America – some guys are tall and muscular, some are tall and lanky, some guys are tall and fat; big frame does not mean ‘lots of muscles’ does not mean ‘really strong’.

        I admit I’m not up on my brain science, but isn’t it connectivity rather than plain volume that makes the difference? Otherwise we will have to say that the smartest creature on earth is the blue whale, which it very well may be, but we’re the dominant species even if we’re dumber (going by raw brain-to-body ratio).

        *The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle:

        “I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce that this man was intellectual?”

        For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose. “It is a question of cubic capacity,” said he; “a man with so large a brain must have something in it.”

        • Suzana Herculano-Houzel did some wonderfully clever research on scaling factors between neurons in brain size between different animals. The short story is that by putting brains in a blender you can do much better at finding out the average number of neurons per cubic centimeter. In primates there seems to be a linear relationship between number of neurons and volume but with most sorts of animals it’s quite sub-linear.

          • Deiseach says:

            If we’re going to go for the brain-inna-blender experiment as a measure of intelligence, I had better say nothing more about “can we volunteer so-and-so for this?” because it would be uncharitable 🙂

        • Fossegrimen says:

          Actually big frame does mean strong. We’re talking populations here, not individuals.

        • Mars says:

          Brain volume is quite simply positively correlated with IQ. Obviously it’s not just volume that makes the difference

          http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Pietschnig%20et%20al_in_press_-_Meta-analysis_brain_volume_intelligence.pdf

          you do run into a few problems with the brain size argument namely arctic people having really large brains but not doing so well on IQ Tests. Also the largest difference in brain size is I believe found between men and women yet there is little if any average difference in IQ/g between them

      • How would brain size relate to the geneticness or non-geneticness of intelligence at all? The brain is a physical object so any difference in intelligence is going to be a difference in something physical. But that doesn’t tell you whether that difference is genetic or environmental. And the first environmental correlate of intelligence I googled, iodine deficiency, does correlate with brain size.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m deliberately not saying I’ll do that, because I find I’m several months behind in reading reported comments and banning people because it’s such an annoying process to have to record every banned person. I know it doesn’t seem like this should be a big deal, but trivial inconveniences.

      I might just do the [deleted by administrator] thing.

      • Anonymous says:

        I might just do the [deleted by administrator] thing.

        Highly appreciated, since Weird Things happen to a post’s children when you delete it.

      • Tibor says:

        I wonder if instead of doing this annoying and huge amount of work you could not simply post a disclaimer of some kind on your website (“the opinions of the commenters do not represent the opinions of the author…bla bla bla”) and only have an autoban to obvious spammers etc. I’d also include an advice to the commenters to simply ignore other commenters they find unreasonable and deserving of a ban. This saves you a lot of work, gives you a good “defence” against any aggressive bigots who don’t like some opinions because you clearly stated that this has nothing to do with you and as for the non-anonymous commenters who get threatened, well, that’s an unfortunate risk that they have to undertake (I assume that those who are threatening them are not commenters here, otherwise you can simply ban people who threaten others and justify it by no tolerance of suppression of free speech or you can just say “comment at your own risk” and leave it at that if you don’t want to get involved).

        • gbdub says:

          This is an interesting point. In some ways, the more actively you moderate, the more you can be held responsible for what’s left.

          If you have a wild bramble patch on your back forty, you can hardly be faulted if it has some weeds. But if you have a manicured garden, you’re more apt to be criticized on your choice of tulip color.

          • You should see the comments on Robin Hansons blog…ir maybe not.

          • Tibor says:

            @TheAncientGeek…: As long as it is moderately easy for the commenters to find the comments they are interesting to them and interact with them, I don’t see it as much of a problem if there are some comments that are horrible or insulting in any way. I would make sort of a “rules of conduct and what to expect” page pup up when you’re registering as a commenter where you are informed of this policy and that you essentially won’t complained that some commenters are bad. And if Scott decided to be really fancy, he could let individual accounts set ignore to other commenters or even words. Then, if you think someone is an idiot not worth your time or too offensive or whatever, you can block them for yourselves while still letting anyone who has a different opinion interact with that commenter.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        If the real obstacle is recording, stop recording!

        Also, if your main concern is the first comment, figure out if you can rearrange comments.

      • Evan Þ says:

        On reflection overnight…

        I get your point about trivial inconveniences. Would it be too blocking to at least promise to keep count of how many comments were deleted? As it is, perhaps you already deleted fifty more comments to this thread; I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, but it would’ve left no trace. Maybe not fifty, and probably not this thread (I trust you) but one on the next Open Thread? Two?

        As I said on the subreddit, my model of those hostile parties you talk about in your OP says they would already be outraged by our conversation about whether censorship is a good idea, so I can only guess at what standard you might be using and how frequent your hammer will come out.

  5. vollinian says:

    So I’m a bit uncertain about “soda tax”.

    Berkeley’s seems to be working ($116,000 revenue in the first month of operation, 21% decrease in sugar sweetened beverages, survey reports 63% increase in bottled or tap water consumption). The Mexican tax seems to be generally successful, but again the long term effects, well, need time to be vindicated. I’m not familiar with the French one, nor those of other countries. The UK is going to implemenet such a tax in 2018.

    Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) tax serves as a financial disincentive to curb SSBs consumption, and generate revenue to aid relevant health programmes. Should governments implement sugar sweetened beverages tax?

    I know the New York City one was a disaster, mainly because of the vehement oppositon from Big Soda, which resulted in many holes in the ban and made it ineffective. It wasn’t really an SSBs tax, so much as a “Soda Ban”, as other countries have legislated or have plans to do so. Many states in the US already have sales tax, but SSBs are often exempted since they are considered part of the diet.

    A study published in the American Economics Foundation on strategies promoting healthier food choices found that informing the public of the caloric content of food and beverages generate no impact. Another study found that calorie messaging policies such as calorie labelling, which is one of the existing policies, proved to have little to no impact.

    So it seems that the “obesity epidemic” or just the harms excessive SSBs consumption brings can’t really be solved by educating the public alone. I’m aware that cutting sugar consumption isn’t an open-and-shut case to end obesity, I’m actually more confused about the harms of fructose or excessive dietary sugar consumption (and the whole Gary Taubes “sugar is bad, it’s the reason why people are fat” thing), but drinking soda seems to be generally unhealthy, with obviously calories with no nutritional value, laods of fructose, and may cause tooth decay especially in children and childhood obesity.

    SSBs tax had been criticised as being regressive in nature. Well, in the same vein, tobacco tax has been just as regressive? The lower socioeconomic group can receive the most health benefits if their consumption is effectively curbed by the tax. The demand of SSBs such as sodas, fruit juice, Starbucks’ many sugary drinks, seem to be elastic, since they aren’t a necessary part of diet and can be easily replaced by tea or water that are readily available.

    Still, it seems to be a political minefield, with politicians shouting government intervention in people’s lifestyle, and the tax being regressive. Research on this topic seems to be biased, with research funded by Big Soda suggesting no connection between soda consumption and obesity. On the other hand, WHO has deemed SSBs tax to be effective.

    I’m sure some of you have seen pictures of stacks of sugar cubes per beverage, and it’s quite horrifying. One can is pretty much already the recommended daily sugar intake. As “government intervention in people’s lifestyles” go, tobacco and alcohol did require government intervention, and it seems excessive sugar consumption warrants it too.

    SSBs is a pretty good starting point since collecting tax isn’t as difficult as, say, a general dietary sugar tax. Governments can look at international experience, and the results can be used to justify the tax, unlike more radical policies that have little to no evidence to support as they are novel policies. Again, we just have to restrain from buying soda and fruit juices, it doesn’t seem to be much pain to me. If I wanted to drink, then sure, I just need to pay a bit more than before. (I very seldom drink soda, and I almost never drink other SSBs.)

    So should governements legislate SSBs tax? Some Americans seem to oppose the idea because of Bloomberg’s New York “Soda Ban”. It seems to me that Big Soda is acting kind of like Big Tobacco back in the days. I’m leaning towards yes (and we should probably wait a bit to see the results, especially the UK one) but I’m still uncertain.

    • Deiseach says:

      I love the idea of “Big Soda” 🙂

      Okay, with that out of the way – probably it’s a good idea in general, but:

      (1) Is this going to be a revenue generator, so that if people really do stop drinking fizzy drinks, the loss in revenue will mean it has to be made up somewhere else? If Berkeley is getting used to having $116,000 extra per month and starts using that to fund programmes, what will they do when the revenue drops? Cut those programmes (and then be open to public criticism)?

      (2) Will it really have an effect to stop people? People may decide they’ll take the tax hit because they like their fizzy drinks, and cut back on their food budget elsewhere to compensate – all those healthy raw veggies, for one place?

      (3) As has been pointed out (and I know this is not disinterested), fruit juices have a lot of natural sugars themselves, quite as bad as any fizzy drink. If the idea is to cut back on sugar consumption, is the government going to slap a ‘sugar tax’ on fruit beverages? If not, I can see court cases about “fizzy drink manufacturer claims fruit beverage manufacturer is getting unfair advantage via discriminatory treatment”.

      (4) I think in advance of the sugar tax being brought in, fizzy drink manufacturers are exploring using things like stevia as a sweetener to replace sugar. So is the tax on sugar, or is it on fizzy drinks? Is the idea “stop consuming excess sweetened beverages” or is it “drink plain water”?

      It may be a good idea but it has to be done sensitively; nobody likes Big Brother peering into their shopping basket and going “I know better than you, you can’t have this”.

      • Regarding (1) I’ve always thought that tying your revenue from a certain tax to a certain purpose is a bad idea in general.. The politics are bad and the inherent future sclerosis is bad too.

        For (2), that’s why economists are always talking about marginalism. It isn’t the average consumer of sweetened drinks that will stop consuming them but the one that was closest to stopping anyways. And the average consumer won’t suddenly stop consuming all of them but stop for those drinks that were most marginal, when they could have gone either way on getting a soda in that circumstance.

        • gbdub says:

          For (1) there’s the old libertarian joke, “if we tax alcohol and tobacco to get people to use less alcohol and tobacco -tell me again why we tax income?” Anyway, that at least speaks to the difficulty of balancing “revenue generator” with “behavior modifier”.

          I don’t think the regressiveness of the tax should be dismissed so easily. You’re creating indulgences, where the wealthy can do whatever they want and the poor need to make careful choices to avoid punitive taxes.

          Also, fizzy beverage taxes, like tobacco taxes, make me uneasy because once you’ve nudged the marginal consumers, you’re basically making money off of addicts, who had enough to worry about without the tax.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, fizzy beverage taxes, like tobacco taxes, make me uneasy because once you’ve nudged the marginal consumers, you’re basically making money off of addicts, who had enough to worry about without the tax.

            Not to mention there’s an escalation effect.

            What does the government view as the “ideal” amount of coca-cola consumption in society. I assume the actual answer is “zero,” but of course, nobody would ever admit this.

            So you introduce a small tax, and some people cut back. But then you want more people to cut back, so you raise the tax. But then… and so on, and so forth. Don’t taxes represent well over half the cost of cigarettes in most locations now? Why on Earth should we believe that they won’t continue to do the same thing with soda? It seems to me that it’s far easier to fight the battle of “do we tax it at all or not” than it is to “we’ve already agreed it’s morally acceptable to tax it, so do we leave it at 10% or raise it to 20%”

          • For (1) there’s the old libertarian joke, “if we tax alcohol and tobacco to get people to use less alcohol and tobacco -tell me again why we tax income

            To encourage people to invest and save.

          • Matt M says:

            We also have extra taxes on that, AFTER the ones you already pay for earning the income.

          • Yes, certainly all taxes are going to be distortionary. In theory by taxing sugary drinks we’re harming current consumer’s pleasure for the benefit of their future health which we think they discount too much. But of course that is us imposing our value judgements on them. Which should never be comfortable but maybe it’s better than taxing things we genuinely like such as, as you point out, income.

            But yeah, the regressivness sucks and political economy followons of giving the government a stake in vice suck.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @gbdub

            I don’t think the regressiveness of the tax should be dismissed so easily. You’re creating indulgences, where the wealthy can do whatever they want and the poor need to make careful choices to avoid punitive taxes.

            Rather than indulgences, wouldn’t a better analogy be to sumptuary laws?

          • gbdub says:

            Meh, it’s somewhere in between. These laws don’t say poor people can’t drink soda (or if they do, it applies to everyone), just that if you commit the sin, you have to pay the tax.

          • Careless says:

            Don’t taxes represent well over half the cost of cigarettes in most locations now?

            Cook County is implementing a 1 cent/oz tax, which is already almost 100%, and that’s on the low end of the soda taxes being implemented.

          • Nornagest says:

            Almost 100%? How cheap are the sodas in Cook County?

            A 12-ounce can of Coke cost fifty cents when I was growing up, and it’s only gotten more expensive since.

          • LHN says:

            A 2-liter bottle at the grocery store ranges from 99 cents to $1.25, so it’s a 53% to 67% tax on those.

            Which will hit me hard as a heavy consumer of diet Coke. I’ve been trying to map out the most convenient groceries over the DuPage border, though the legislature is debating a statewide version that might make the issue moot. I’ll still doubtless wind up paying hundreds a year between restaurants and times when it’s not convenient to drive a dozen miles to shop.

            (And I’m not sure how they’re going to handle restaurants with free fountain refills.)

          • Careless says:

            Almost 100%? How cheap are the sodas in Cook County?

            I typically pay $.79 per 67 oz.

    • Mary says:

      No, it should not legislate them. It should keep its nose out of such decisions. It meddles enough already.

    • publiusvarinius says:

      So it seems that the “obesity epidemic” or just the harms excessive SSBs consumption brings can’t really be solved by educating the public alone.

      I don’t think we can make this conclusion just yet, particularly because the public was never actually educated on the harms of excessive SSB consumption. Based on my daily interactions with people outside the university demographic, most everyone is painfully unaware of the relationship between sugar and calories, the relationship between calories and health, and even the relationship between calories and body fat. Their discourse about diet is in the style of “fat makes you fat”.

      Perhaps mandatory inclusion of disturbing pictures (a la cigarette boxes) would help, and I’m confident informative text along the lines of “did you know that sugar causes your fatness of the arse?” would very effective, and much more helpful than a sign saying 2450 kJ.

      • quanta413 says:

        Perhaps mandatory inclusion of disturbing pictures (a la cigarette boxes) would help, and I’m confident informative text along the lines of “did you know that sugar causes your fatness of the arse?” would very effective, and much more helpful than a sign saying 2450 kJ.

        This sounds like one of those possibly good plans that will never happen because of how insensitive it would seem to many people.

        Pictures of encrusted arteries like the pictures of a smoker’s lungs on cigarettes maybe?

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Where I live, the argument for sugar tax is that the government pays for your healthcare, so that when you deliberately do something that increases your healthcare expenses, you will be taxed to make up the extra cost. This of course also goes for tobacco, alcohol etc.

      Frankly I think this is fair enough.

      • Radford Neal says:

        So, when your country introduced government-funded health care, did its advocates not only say, “You’ll get treated without having to pay!”, but also, “And by the way, we’ll take this as justification for regulating every detail of your lifestyle”?

      • publiusvarinius says:

        HIV management is extremely expensive. Given the correlation of homosexual activity with AIDS, would you support a gay tax?

        • Fossegrimen says:

          As soon as the number of HIV cases* amounted to a noticeable drain on healthcare resources, sure.
          For comparison, we don’t have a skydiving tax either and quadriplegics aren’t exactly cheap.

          If we’re going there, African immigrants are a larger number of HIV cases than gays……

          • John Schilling says:

            As soon as the number of HIV cases* amounted to a noticeable drain on healthcare resources,

            How about $20.8 billion? Is 20.8 billion dollars noticeable to you?

            So, taxation. About 3% of the US population is gay, but that 3% makes up 67% of HIV infections. So, estimate 64% of HIV/AIDS treatment spending is due to gay people acting gay. Divided among ~6 million homosexuals between 18 and 65, and the appropriate Pigouvian “gay tax” would come to about $2200/year. And really, that’s probably going to be $4400/year on gay men.

            That, or we could acknowledge that using public health costs as an excuse for “sin taxes” is a bad idea and we shouldn’t do that.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If we’re going there, African immigrants are a larger number of HIV cases than gays……

            Uh, if he pointed out the first thing he’d probably be more than happy to concede the second thing. With apologies to the gentleman if I misjudged.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            With apologies to the gentleman if I misjudged.

            Cigarette tax and sugar tax are actual things, diabetes tax and lung cancer tax are not on the table. An African immigrant who has HIV at the time of immigration is analogous to a lung cancer victim.

        • quanta413 says:

          There are 1 million people in the U.S. with HIV. That seems like a pretty significant expense to me. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html

          And I’d bet that skydiving accidents are much more likely to be instantly lethal than to leave you a quadriplegic. I don’t think the state pays for people’s funerals, so we should be o.k.

          That said, let’s really stretch this analogy past the breaking point. It’d be hell to catch people evading. An more equivalent situation would be if all sex was regulated and the government taxed you per act of anal sex (with an additional tax if you don’t wear a condom). Or maybe the government can just figure out if any sex toys encourage behavior that leads to HIV transmission and tax those.

          Given that the above paragraph will sound totally insane to almost everyone even if we only taxed some sort of theoretical sex toy that made you act stupid, I guess the question is why regulating the contents of the stomach is not problematic. Regulating stomach contents probably would be a problem if people did it in secret in the privacy of their own homes.

          Or maybe we can just pull the old tax break switcheroo and tax all food more then give special exceptions to healthy foods.

          Oh, but back to the original point

          the argument for sugar tax is that the government pays for your healthcare

          Fascinating! However, since the government won’t be paying for my healthcare after I stop working for them (in about a year) and medicare will probably have been slashed to oblivion or the country have collapsed financially by the time I’m old enough to use it, can I assume that soon I will be granted reprieve from this tax? (For all the soda that I don’t drink; it’s the principle of the thing, I swear).

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Regulating stomach contents probably would be a problem if people did it in secret in the privacy of their own homes.

            As those of us in opposition to the War on Drugs have been saying for years 🙂

          • quanta413 says:

            As those of us in opposition to the War on Drugs have been saying for years 🙂

            True. But it would be an improvement if we went from banning weed to just taxing it.

            So at least soda taxes are usually considered before soda bans.

            I guess the country is moving one way on one thing and the opposite on the other.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “we only taxed some sort of theoretical sex toy that made you act stupid,”

            This sounds a lot like alcohol.

          • quanta413 says:

            This sounds a lot like alcohol.

            Your comment is so obviously true and yet it didn’t even vaguely occur to me beforehand. I’m… not sure why.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            quanta413,

            One answer is that it isn’t reasonable to expect yourself to think of everything.

            My guess is that you fixated on a sex toy as a device, and it didn’t occur to you to ask whether there was already something functionally similar.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            My guess is that you fixated on a sex toy as a device, and it didn’t occur to you to ask whether there was already something functionally similar.

            That seems as good as any explanation I could hope for. I shall strive to expand my horizons! Errr… as soon as I figure out if doing that in this area is a good idea or not.

        • James Miller says:

          Subsidizing sexbots, not taxing dangerous sex, is (long-term) a better way of mitigating the externalities of sexually transmitted diseases.

      • Matt M says:

        Where I live, the argument for sugar tax is that the government pays for your healthcare, so that when you

        This is the #1 reason why I oppose government involvement in health care. Because it DOES then allow them a legitimate excuse to micromanage your life. Why stop at soda? Why not have 1984-style mandatory morning calisthenics?

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Indeed, why not? We already have mandatory education. And the problem with the world of 1984 is not the mandatory calisthenics.

          • Matt M says:

            Pretty sure the mandatory calisthenics were meant as a symptom of the larger problems with the society, not as a “at least Hitler built the autobahn” type of “great idea aside from being promoted by bad people” sort of thing.

          • Spookykou says:

            They wouldn’t have to be mandatory, taxes for doing bad things and tax breaks for doing good things. You don’t have do the morning calisthenics, but if you do here is a little money. I think there was a ted talk once about the gamepocalypse(despite the name, I think the person giving the talk was in favor of it, or I am misremembering the name) where everything you do is recorded for points and healthy life style choices get you discounts on health insurance/dentist, etc.

            Although, didn’t Gwern have a post once about how it is hard to know if exercise actually has any health benefits because it’s really hard to do good exercise intervention studies?

      • Cheese says:

        Agreed. I find it somewhat weird that some of the replies to you are of the ‘well that just gives government justification to fiddle with everything remotely related to health!’.

        No, it doesn’t. It’s fairly well accepted in most of these countries (mine included) that big ticket items with clear causal relationships (alcohol and tobacco for now, hopefully some illicit drug categories soon) are fair game for taxation. There’s a fairly robust debate in my country at the moment regarding sugar taxes, but I don’t think you’d find too many on the street vehemently opposed to it. Ditto gambling advertising restrictions, that’s more the current debate. If someone were to massively overstep (to take the examples conjured below) with something like an exercise mandate or a gay tax, you’d see that particular government marched fairly quickly out of office.

        I’m not sure I have too much time for slippery slope arguments sugar taxes leading to exercise taxes or the appropriateness of gay taxes. Like many things, it is a matter of trade off and the general societal opinion here is that we very much fucking like having a comprehensive healthcare safety net, we recognise that there are some big-ticket items that increase risk, and we’re fairly comfortable with the cost of those being artificially increased both to discourage consumption and partially fund the care. I drink an absolute shitload of piss, at least compared to the health authority guidelines, at prices that an American would consider comparatively outrageous; and that’s fine. Even your average blue collar worker understands reasonably well that there are trade-offs to be made, but there is a mark where more weird and restrictive ideas put forward by politicians have been shot down extremely quickly.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not sure I have too much time for slippery slope arguments sugar taxes leading to exercise taxes or the appropriateness of gay taxes.

          Given that alcohol and tobacco taxes have already led to sugar taxes, I think maybe you should make some time for that argument. Furthermore, the justification “the government pays for your healthcare, so that when you deliberately do something that increases your healthcare expenses, you will be taxed to make up the extra cost” skips the slope and takes the whole thing in one giant leap.

      • Whether tobacco increases health costs is very very unclear. Last I checked (long time ago, not familiar with literature), was that the strongest arguments were that for a life-span tobacco reduces health costs, since, well, you don’t live as long, and are more likely to die of an acute illness (e.g. heart attack).

        • herbert herberson says:

          I’ve often wondered how much of the health cost increase we’ve seen in the last few decades is due to the decrease in smoking, between both the effect you mention and the fact that nicotine is an appetite suppressant and therefore presumably inhibits obesity. I doubt it’s terribly significant, but I bet it’s more-than-zero.

        • hls2003 says:

          This was my understanding as well. I haven’t seen the numbers recently, but I recall seeing something that long term elder care (nursing homes, dementia, etc.) account for a larger share of U.S. expenditures than cancer care. If that were true, I would expect the increase in mortality from cigarettes to reduce lifetime costs overall by reducing long-term care and increasing premature mortality (and not just from relatively expensive cancer, but also from “cheap” causes like sudden massive heart attacks or strokes). The least expensive option, in terms of purchasing health care, is a funeral following a sudden death. It’s not a nicer or healthier world, but I would think less expensive.

        • Aapje says:

          AFAIK the health care costs are pretty much a wash. There is a big financial benefit in that smokers get far less social security + pensions.

    • BBA says:

      As I’ve pointed out in the past, the “soda ban” was nobody’s ideal policy. Bloomberg had wanted a soda tax, but the city government can’t levy a tax without the state’s permission, and the American Beverage Association lobbied the state heavily to kill the proposal. So instead Bloomberg pushed his soda ban through the city health board, making it a condition of getting a passing grade on a restaurant’s health inspection. This was both a stupid policy and a ridiculous attempt to stretch the health board’s authority. For the latter reason, it was killed by the courts; for the former reason, soda taxes have been dead ever since.

      Now I’ve been reading that since the city can’t unilaterally increase the cigarette tax, our current Mayor de Blasio has proposed just ordering cigarette vendors to increase their prices. I’m sure that the nice polite Park Slope liberals who came up with this policy would never dream of buying loosies on the street, but that’s what this would encourage.

      The overall lesson I take from this is “allocation of powers between levels of government can lead to perversely counterproductive policies” rather than “all attempts to legislate morality are doomed, so don’t even try” but YMMV.

    • mupetblast says:

      Big Soda as the new Big Tobacco. Well put.

      I hadn’t seen that Berkeley news. Thx for link. I supported by Bloomberg’s “soda ban,” which folks were hostile to on the right and which elicited eye-rolls from even portions of the left for being petty and paternalistically technocratic. (Or is that technocratically paternalistic?)

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you like government paternalism, you should like soda bans and taxes. I don’t, so I don’t.

      However, even if you are a paternalist, you might want to consider the wisdom of having the government micromanage your diet. The government doesn’t actually _know_ what’s good for you. Nutrition science is in a terrible state, and downstream government recommendations on nutrition tend to be political footballs. So you could be signing yourself up for the government “encouraging” you to eat whatever Archer-Daniels-Midland and Monsanto want to sell you, not what’s good for you. Soda is pretty inconsequential here; there’s no reason to believe it’s good for you, and while it’s delicious and does no harm in small quantities, a paternalist probably wouldn’t consider that sufficient. But they won’t stop there.

      • rlms says:

        Where do you think they will stop?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Where do you think they will stop?

          They won’t stop, not on their own. There will always be a next food to promote or ban.

          • And that’s tied to the careerism inherent in any gov. area of intervention. The government doesn’t conjure an objective entity to, on the margin, solve some issue, then maintain it. It brings in young PhDs, legions of lawyers, and plenty of other ‘experts’, who rarely–if ever–suggest their bureau doesn’t need any more funding or power.

            My heuristic for new gov policies is rarely the single measure itself, but it’s imagining how far a team of fresh lawyers from Harvard and Yale will try to run with their slice of new power to create powerful government careers for themselves.

          • Government is tettible except when comparred to everything else.

    • Stationary Feast says:

      I’m against sugary drinks taxes even though I’m on a low-carb (and therefore low-sugar) diet. I also think Americans generally ingest too much sugar, but this is partially an aftereffect of the fat-hate of the 80s that hasn’t gone away yet. In my view, prepackaged low-fat cookies with extra sugar dumped in to make them palatable again is a step backwards from cookies with sensible amounts of butter in them.

      I generally take a dim view of governments’ ability to legislate this sort of thing for the better, and so I’m mildly displeased; I still see the food pyramid being taken seriously. One of the problems with Bloomberg’s soda tax is that it didn’t tax sugar-laden coffee drinks and fruit smoothies; it doesn’t do anyone any good to be driven from soda to Gatorade and sugared-up frappuccinos.

      In case anyone here is interested in diet advice, the first step is to stop drinking sugar.

      • dodrian says:

        When I switched from drinking coke to diet coke I lost 10lbs without making any other diet/lifestyle changes.

        While I’d be happy to recommend doing the same to anyone I meet, but I too am opposed to the government charging people for not wanting to do that.

        • John Schilling says:

          Fortunately for you, the government doesn’t seem to be interested in charging people for not wanting to do that. The Philadelphia “soda tax” applies to both coke and diet coke. Neither are virtuous. Only unsweetened fruit or vegetable juices and fresh, pure water are suitable for replenishing our precious bodily fluids.

          • dodrian says:

            Argh! I’m even more outraged and against it now that I realize it affects me too!

            One of the weird inconsistencies appears to be that 100% fruit juice is ok, but using apple juice to sweeten another juice isn’t. So if I’m reading it right, 100% cranberry is ok, 100% apple is ok, but 30/70 apple/cran isn’t?

          • Brad says:

            They may be mixing apple juice concentrate instead of apple juice. It’s a way to add a lot of sugar without putting sugar on the label. Same with grape juice concentrate. I’ve even seen evaporated cane juice.

            For the record I oppose sugar taxes.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Seconding, I lost a lot of weight by mostly cutting soda out of my diet.

    • Randy M says:

      This reminds me of a hilarious billboard I pass on the 605 down here, which warns parents that “soda, sports and juice drinks promote obesity.” It took me several miles to realize that the ‘sports’ was a modifier on drinks and referred to Gatorade etc.

  6. Scott Alexander says:

    I just added to my prediction page: “In terms of final winner of the French election, my odds are 15/60/10/15 for Fillon/Macron/Le Pen/Melenchon respectively.”

    What does everyone else think? No fair waiting to see who wins the first round.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’d but a higher percentage on Le Pen, but sounds roughly accurate. Macron and Le Pen seem the only candidates who have a chance.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Why? My impression is that Fillon and Melenchon also have a chance – anyone could make the runoff, and everyone beats Le Pen in the runoff unless something really surprising (ie much more surprising even than Trump) happens.

        • Anonymous says:

          I was under the impression that Macron and Le Pen were in the same ballpark and everyone else was behind. According to the Telegraph, at least, Macron and Le Pen are leading, and the only ones with a 20%+ share.

          I expect Fillon’s and Melenchon’s electorate to substantially go for Le Pen in the finals; she seems closer to their positions than Macron is.

          • quarint says:

            I expect Fillon’s and Melenchon’s electorate to substantially go for Le Pen in the finals; she seems closer to their positions than Macron is.

            You are right that Mélenchon’s positions are very close to Le Pen’s, but most of Mélenchon’s electorate comes from the Parti Socialiste, which is also the parti Macron comes from. And, more importantly, it is the party who has always had the highest disgust for Le Pen and the Front National, who they see as racist and anti-democratic. Currently, polls say 62% of Mélenchon’s electorate will vote for Macron and only 9% for Le Pen.
            Fillon’s positions are closer to Macron’s on all matters except immigration. Currently, 48% of Fillon’s electorate is expected to vote for Macron, and 33% for Le Pen.

          • Subb4k says:

            You are right that Mélenchon’s positions are very close to Le Pen’s,

            This is plain untrue. There is plenty to dislike/fear about Mélenchon’s policies, but close to Le Pen’s there are not. Le Pen’s economic policies are closer to state capitalism than anything, still oriented towards serving the rich (for example: lowering inheritance taxes) and screwing over the workers and poor (for example, it’s a lie that she wants to reduce the working week : in practice she wants to make it easier for industry branches to increase it). Not to mention the fact that Le Pen is openly and very obviously anti-immigration and Mélenchon openly pro-immigration. Basically the two things they have in common is expanding public investment in various sectors (although not in the same form) and leaving (or preparing to leave) the EU.

          • quarint says:

            There is plenty to dislike/fear about Mélenchon’s policies, but close to Le Pen’s there are not.

            No, this is untrue.
            Both want to keep the working week at 35h, I don’t know where you get that Le Pen is lying about it, but it doesn’t matter, she is explicitely stating it and it made a good share of the working class vote for her.
            They have basically the same international policy, not only on the EU, but also on Russia, interventionism, and NATO.
            As you said, they both have major public investment plans, but both these plans are accompanied with protectionnist policies.
            Even Melenchon’s speech about immigration has noticeably changed these last months, he’s gone from “let’s welcome them all” in 2012 to “let’s help make the situation over there better so they stay at home and leave us alone”, which helped him catch a non insignificant part of Le Pen’s electorate in the last weeks.

      • Tibor says:

        Le Pen has a very low chance in the second round as long as she goes against anybody except for Melenchon (who also has a low chance against everyone except for Le Pen).

    • vollinian says:

      Le Pen’s vow to ban wearin headscarfs in public because of “secularism”, really shows that she doesn’t know the meaning of secularism.

      Is Le Pen France’s Trump?
      She might have a larger chance to win, if France’s reaction to her is similar to that of Trump. France is definitely experiencing more refugee and their impacts on the French society. The (terrorist) attacks in Paris only severes the hatred some French might hold agaisnt immigrants and refugees. Le Pen’s stance might win more votes, similae to Trump’s tactic. So I’d put a higher chance on Le Pen.

      Also, is mentioning Macron’s marriage to his teacher meaningful? The media certainly does mention his marriage to his teacher.

      • Anonymous says:

        Le Pen’s vow to ban wearin headscarfs in public because of “secularism”, really shows that she doesn’t know the meaning of secularism.

        The commoners don’t know it either, and they couldn’t care less about it. They’re not even all that much for it, by any meaning, since by and large they are not atheists/agnostics. Secularism is at best orthogonal to their interests, at worst (like now) actively harmful.

        Also, is mentioning Macron’s marriage to his teacher meaningful? The media certainly does mention his marriage to his teacher.

        It is highly unusual for the man to be substantially younger than the woman in a relationship. She’s almost 25 years older than him. And an adulterous divorcee, too. Heaven only knows what they see in each other.

        • neaanopri says:

          If there is a commonly accepted definition, used by real people politically, then why not just use what they mean? I’ve seen (and used) secularism to be sort of a “state promotion of atheism and discrimination against religions”, sort of as an atheist version of Islamism. This seems to be what LePen is advocating, and I think that “secularism”, as an analogy of “islamism”, is a decent word for it. I would call the ideology which supports religious freedom “religious liberalism”.

          But since definitions were made for humans after all, thoughts?

          • rlms says:

            I think “religious liberalism” implies “liberalism that is religious”, not “liberalism about religion” (and “liberalism” is barely defined anyway). I like secularism in the commonly used government-stays-out-of-religion sense, and I wouldn’t like to see the word co-opted to only refer to the French/Soviet kind. But I think it is generally clear which kind is being referred to. Calling the French kind “aggressive secularism” seems clear to me (although possibly would be considered a loaded term by it’s proponents).

            Complicating matters is the fact that French “secularist” policies are only partly about government non-interference; they are partly about making general-seeming rules on an unprincipled anti-Islamic basis, which is the opposite of secular by the other definition.

        • Ketil says:

          I don’t think the marriage matters much to the French, they (and Europeans in general) have a stronger sense of not mixing private and public life – in contrast to Americans. And I hope I don’t offend anybody, but I suspect many might even respect him all the more for it.

          Heaven only knows what they see in each other.

          I can think of a myriad things. Why would you even make such a comment about somebody else’s love life?

          • Anonymous says:

            Because I was explaining to vollinian why people will comment on the marriage – because it is highly unusual and objectively counterproductive, however much it might make sense to the parties directly involved.

      • Shiney says:

        It’s hardly out of the range of what the French seem to mean by secularism given that, headscarves are currently banned in french schools. Also Burqas and Niqabs are banned in France so it’s not as if she’s starting the process of dictating to people what they can or cannot wear.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think he means that secularism isn’t supposed to oppress religions, but rather disregard them entirely where governance is concerned.

          • Shiney says:

            My point isn’t that this is what good secularism should be. It’s that she’s using what the French mean by secularism rather, than what people outside of France see as secularism.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fair enough.

          • Christian Kleineidam says:

            Anglo-secularism isn’t about oppressing religion but that doesn’t mean that the same goes for the French kind. Plenty of priests died in the French revolution.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Le Pen’s vow to ban wearin headscarfs in public because of “secularism”, really shows that she doesn’t know the meaning of secularism.

        Secularism in France has always tended towards the aggressive “No religion in public!” variety rather than the more liberal “The government won’t favour one religion over another” kind.

      • …ban headscarves..

        No more visits from QEII, then.

        • The Nybbler says:

          No more visits from QEII, then.

          Of course not, she was retired in 2008. I don’t know if she ever did make port in France.

          Oh, you mean the OTHER QEII. Diplomatic immunity.

      • Tibor says:

        She’s a lot more socialist in economic policy than Trump (who is not exactly a free-marketer either). If the term national socialism did not refer to something specific and still a lot more radical than her, it would fit her perfectly.

      • Wander says:

        Is Le Pen France’s Trump?

        I’m really sick of people making this comment about right wing European politicians. A French career politician has very little similarity to Trump, because there’s more to politics than immigration policy. What was unique about Trump is that he was a total outsider with no connection to the established system, and le Pen is not only already a politician, but also comes from a family context of other politicians.

        • Tibor says:

          She also wants a 35 hour working week and a bunch of other things of that character. If you have to compare her to US presidential candidates, you’d have to go for a mix of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

      • quarint says:

        Also, is mentioning Macron’s marriage to his teacher meaningful? The media certainly does mention his marriage to his teacher.

        This is completely irrelevant for the overwhelming majority of French people. It’s a funny topic, but not something people base their vote on.

    • mnov says:

      The 10 for Le Pen is interesting, given how badly she loses (in the polls) against every other candidate. So does 10 reflect mostly the odds of a massive polling error (since Le Pen would need to outperform by 9 points in the poll that is best for her in the matchup that is best for her [1]).

      Otherwise I guess it’s the likelihood of a big terrorist attack that actually makes her more popular? I think over the past decade 30% per year for Europe as a whole was correct, so 10% for just 1 month seems high, and I’m not sure an attack in Spain or Germany would do as much\enough for her as one in France.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Come to think of it, if we’re right we could make a lot of money. I just bet big against Le Pen in this market. Anyone want to tell me I’m wrong?

        • Luke Perrin says:

          It seems like there’s currently an arbitrage between PredictIt and Betfair, but both of them favour Le Pen much more than you do.

        • Deiseach says:

          Looking at Paddy Power’s odds, the betting seems to be that Le Pen will make it out of the first round, but that Macron will be President.

          I don’t know if that’s any help to anyone considering putting real money on the election 🙂

        • bleedingheartcapitalist says:

          Just made a 13% gain in 2 hours betting against Le Pen on PredictIt based on this. Now the real question is whether PI is a small enough market for SSC recommendations to move the market!

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m not sure an attack in Spain or Germany would do as much\enough for her as one in France

        There may not have been any one single big attack, but over the past week there have been small incidents, which may (and I’m only saying ‘may’) influence some voters for Le Pen’s message about getting tough.

    • arabaga says:

      Yeah, this seems basically right. The only (somewhat) significant change would be that I think Le Pen should actually be like 5% (I’ll give the difference to Macron).

      I actually bet the maximum I could on No against Le Pen at PredictIt. She would have to massively outperform in the first round for me to even begin to reconsider that.

    • Edmund Nelson says:

      I’d bet against macron, my 20 to your 20. (i’ll pay you in cash today if need be)

      let me explain why you overrate macron

      macron and Le pen are the 2 most likely candidates to make it to the second round. Le pen is roughly 75% to make it to the second round, macron has a 60% chance of making it to the second round (would be higher but the herding effect is too strong.) Melechon and Fillion both have reasonable chances of making it through as well. Herding Is REALLY strong this polling season so we can expect higher swings from the polling average than normal.

      Macron’s only is a 70% favorite after the election to make it to the finals, and 60*70 ~.4 , my friends think it’s more like 70% favorite to make it to second round and 70% in the general, While macron beats le pen and fillion 7-3 macron vs melechon is very close. more like 6-4, and macron has a very good chance

    • fictional robotic dogs says:

      i played around with this in a rough monte carlo model that considered different levels of error in round 1 polling (used current huffpo average + sd from 3-7 % points), different levels of error in runoff polling (used current h2h averages + sd from 10-15 % points), and different odds of a terror attack (1-10% chance of boosting le pen’s pre-polling-error chances by 20 % points).

      after ~3 million simulations,
      macron: 62%
      melenchon: 16%
      le pen: 11%
      fillon: 11%

      so i’d say your estimates are at least consistent with the current polling data!

    • Subb4k says:

      I think you’re underestimating Macron. Knowing that polling errors cut both ways, I expect that his chances of making it to the second round are more like 75% than 60%. And if he makes it the odds of him losing are very low. Yes the attack on Thursday doesn’t help and hasn’t been polled for, but I don’t expect the impact to be that big either.
      But I’m bad at predictions, especially unlikely things, so I won’t put a number on the other three. Anyway it’s not like it makes a big difference if I think Le Pen has a 1% or a 5% chance of winning.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t know, but I wonder if I’m the only one disappointed that the guy doesn’t spell his name Mācrōn.

      • Evan Þ says:

        You know, in the backstory to the fantasy novel I wrote several years ago, there was an infamous warlord-turned-emperor named “Macron, Victor of Pamydal” because he was the first to seize the impregnable imperial capital Pamydal in battle.

        I wonder, should I be hoping this Macron doesn’t turn out anything like him; or hoping that he does reinvigorate France?

    • Cerby says:

      Something I haven’t seen discussed at all is the fact that this kind of election happened before. The 2002 election saw Jean-Marie Le Pen reach the runoff with ~17%… then get utterly crushed with only a single point increase when almost everybody else, from Chirac’s moderate-right voters to the entire left wing, voted against him.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_presidential_election,_2002

      • quarint says:

        This is oversimplified. Marine Le Pen is not her father. They have many differences. The father was a capitalist, and an antisemite. His electorate was the elderly. Le Pen is a socialist, and she is anti-muslim, and her electorate is very young. And no one expects Le Pen to get crushed the way her father did, she’s expected to do about 40% in the second round.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d take Le Pen at even odds, just because it’s still the silly season.

      • hlynkacg says:

        …and Toronto is the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Never mind, Toronto just lost to Washington in overtime. Looks like their 50 year drought will continue.

        • Montfort says:

          no longer.

          But Edmonton is, and Ottawa, for at least another week or so.

          Actually, the no cup club is looking reasonably good as well so far, with the blues, capitals, and predators all surviving to round two (with the unfortunate casualties of the wild and blue jackets).

    • christhenottopher says:

      So first round results are in now, and it looks like the final polls actually did a really good job of predicting the outcome. Here’s the summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_French_presidential_election,_2017#Graphical_summary_2

      This result seems to look pretty good for Macron especially with Harmon and Fillion backing him now (Melenchon hasn’t supported anyone at the moment and my guess is he won’t support either but that his voters will either lean Macron or stay home). The accuracy of the French polls here also bodes well for Macron, it doesn’t seem like there’s a “shy Front Nationale” voter happening.

      Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Macron pretty much has this election in the bag barring some extreme scandal (which not being in government for very long does mean he hasn’t had much time to do scandalous things), and nothing that happened in the first round indicates to me that the conventional view is wrong. But anyone has a different update after seeing those results?

      • arabaga says:

        I agree.

        I am now more confident Le Pen will lose than I was before the first round. I now think that Macron has a ~98% chance of winning. The polls were very accurate, as you mentioned, and confirms that there is nothing special this year compared to 2007 and 2012 that would make them less accurate in the second round.

        Le Pen is down by more than 20 points to Macron. That kind of a polling miss would be completely unprecedented.

        I am currently max No on Le Pen (bought before the first round) and max Yes on Macron (bought after projected first round results came out) here: https://www.predictit.org/Market/2449/Who-will-be-elected-president-of-France-in-2017

    • Kevin C. says:

      On the topic of the French election:

      So, I read up on the leading candidates in the French election, and there’s a difference from American politics that rather stood out. Specifically, what constitutes an “outsider”? Because the press seem to use that and similar words frequently to describe Emmanuel Macron. However, consider his CV (Wikipedia). When he wins, he’ll be the fifth consecutive French president to have attended Sciences Po. He graduated from the ultra-elite ENA. And Finance Minister is not exactly an unimportant position. I mean, his predecessors in that position include former presidents Sarkozy, Giscard d’Estaing, Auriol, Doumer, Raymond Poincaré, and Marie François Sadi Carnot; and other notable figures like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or, if you want to go back far enough, the likes of Servien, Fouquet, and Jean-Baptiste Colbert. I could keep going on (Rothschild?).

      So, is French politics and government that much more — how do I put it? — insular, elite-dominated, and “Old Word” as compared to American politics that this really is what constitutes a maveric outsider?

      • Chouchani says:

        This is indeed a frequent point made by Macron critics. I do not believe it is sufficiently grounded though (I am voting for Macron, though I am not a part of En Marche).

        First of all, Macron does qualify as an “outsider” in the sense that “En Marche !” is a recent initiative, independent of the traditional French parties (Les Républicains (LR) and Parti Socialiste (PS)). It is a recent movement, and has grown with impressive speed.

        Of course, a lot of people who have joined the movement used to be or are still a part of PS or LR, in addition to other personalities who embody the elites, including Wolfgang Schaüble, Michael Bloomberg, or (sigh) Bernard Henri Levy. Macron also seems to benefits from the lenience of a significant part of the French media.

        However, En Marche claims it wants to renew the French political landscape: it has stated its will to limit multiple offices, increase control over the deontology of officials, and much of the people who will run for En Marche in the legislatives this summer will never have held office previously. (https://en-marche.fr/emmanuel-macron/le-programme/vie-politique-et-vie-publique)

        You are right however in mentioning Macron’s education, and ENA has become the paragon of French elitism. The comparison to the US does not hold, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, the French educational system is by no means optimal, and at times it is worse than the that of the US.

        Still, ENA doesn’t have legacy admissions, and neither do any of the “elite” French schools (ENS, Ecole Polytechnique, Sciences Po, etc…). These schools select based on ranking exams, which have allowed at least some social mobility in the past (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Élie_Cartan, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Pompidou). Many different factors have stifled French education’s (partly romanced) reputation for meritocracy in recent times, but it is undeniable that Macron’s attending ENA or Sciences Po does not rest on his social origins as much as e.g. Bush’s attending Yale. This means that French politics is not as “elite-dominated” as US politics in the sense that the top political elites reproduce less than in the US (Le Pen aside, but that’s just ironic)

        Still, claims about elitism often allude not to the causes for Macron’s being part of the elite (the mechanics of building an elite), but to the consequences, i.e. the fact that people from a few schools hold an important part of the political power. This is undeniable, and even less surprising given the fact that upon graduating from Ecole Polytechnique or ENA, you actually owe some years of service to the state, which means that you spend a few years building yourself a network in the administration (e.g. ENA’s (in)famous promotion Voltaire -class of 1980- which included around 3 CEOs, ambassadors, a few ministers, François Hollande, etc…) (e.g. the Commission Attali, which seems a least in part like a giant networking opportunity). Macron does kind of embody this technocratic elitism.

        One may argue though, that technocratic elitism – though suboptimal – is preferable to the dynastic elitism in the US (I don’t know to what extent this is an actual issue in the US, I only know about the obvious examples of the Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton families), as people actually learn stuff about administration at ENA…

        To sum up:
        French politics is elite-dominated, as shown by Macron’s CV.
        My opinion (still unsure though) that it is less insular dominated than the US, since the elites renew more (relative to the US, there is a HUGE problem in social mobility in France, but arguably (a) less than in the US (b) more than when Macron was a student)

        • Kevin C. says:

          My opinion (still unsure though) that it is less insular dominated than the US, since the elites renew more

          They may “renew more” biologically, but do they renew more ideologically? They may recruit their “next generation” from “other people’s children” rather than their own, but if those individuals are sufficiently assimilated (or indoctrinated, if you prefer) to the elite beliefs, is the elite truly any less insular? Is a memetically-propagating small elite truly better than a biologically-propagating one?

  7. stickfigurine says:

    Why Copan? Here’s a picture I took in Copan when I rode through about a decade ago:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/lhoriman/2999319651/in/album-72157608547028017/

    It’s a large stone carved in such a way that when you sacrifice a captured warrior and put his head in the bowl, the blood runs down the curved portions in spiritually meaningful way. Or so I was told – although it seems credible given the general popularity of human sacrifice in prehispanic american cultures.

    There were several of these stones about.

    (hi! fairly new reader, first time poster – I’m guessing the name of the thread is just for fun?)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Why Copan?”

      Every open thread title has been a pun on either the word “open”, the word “thread”, or something closely related. Now I’m curious how many other people haven’t noticed this and are just really confused.

      • SuiJuris says:

        The post titles (and especially the open thread titles) are one of my favourite things about this blog. I can hardly believe there are many people who haven’t noticed, but maybe. Is there something about people who always skip titles and headings?

      • davismx1 says:

        FWIW I’m pretty sure that photo is of Tikal and not Copan.

      • JulieK says:

        “Every open thread title has been a pun on either the word “open”, the word “thread”,”

        …or “comment.” I often don’t get the jokes, though.

    • nacht says:

      I also was searching for a deeper connection as I have been to Copan ruinas. I knew the pun aspect, so it made me think it had something to do with the fortress-like temple with sanctioned human sacrifice, and the new treatment of harsh topics in need of pruning out.

      But Copan does sound like Open ! Go with the simple one

      • stickfigurine says:

        I think that must be what threw me off – Copán is not pronounced like “open”. The accent makes it sound like co-PAHN. And I haven’t been around long enough to notice the recurring theme.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Scott: Any chance you’ll update the comments page to include the new rules and/or the list of banned terms?

  9. ksvanhorn says:

    Am I misunderstanding this? It sounds like you are saying that (1) people have made threats (actual physical attacks?) against other people whose opinions they didn’t like, and (2) …your response is to reward these thugs by placing restrictions on their victims?

    Did you consider reporting the threateners/attackers to the police?

    You wrote:
    > I am getting very paranoid after the various physical and reputational attacks on people saying “offensive” speech… I am going to be more careful about allowing things that hostile parties could interpret as reason to go Middlebury on someone. I am banning the terms [omitted to avoid ban]

    • ksvanhorn says:

      The above is the fourth time I posted that comment. The first three times the comment mysteriously failed to appear… because one side effect of the ban is that you have to be careful when quoting Scott’s own words.

    • Evan Þ says:

      As I said on the subreddit, if this caution is warranted, it says horrendous things about the state of the United States, and perhaps Scott, me, and all our other American readers should seriously consider emigrating.

      • Kevin C. says:

        To where? However bad limits on free speech have become in the US, is there really anywhere better? Particularly when you consider the robust interpretations of the 1st Amendment still (for now) practiced by the US Courts, as compared to the legal limitations upon speech in, say, most European countries?

        • Anonymous says:

          Emigrate to one of the two competing Great Powers, and you can badmouth America and Americans and everything American all you like.

          • bean says:

            Q: Is it true that there is freedom of speech in the Soviet Union the same as there is the USA?

            A: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the White House in Washington, DC, and yell, “Down with Reagan!”, and you will not be punished. In the Soviet Union, you can stand in the Red Square in Moscow and yell, “Down with Reagan!”, and you will not be punished.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            One of my favorite Soviet jokes (picked up from a compilation of Reagan telling Soviet jokes) runs roughly,

            An American and a Russian are arguing about their two countries. The American said, “Look, in my country I can walk into the Oval Office, I can pound the President’s desk, and I can say, ‘Mr. President, I don’t like the way you’re running this country!”

            The Russian responds, “I can do that, too!”

            “You can?”

            “Yes! I can walk into Mr. Gorbachev’s office, pound his desk, and say, “Mr. Gorbachev, I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his country!”

          • Jiro says:

            That’s a version of the same joke.

        • Evan Þ says:

          That is, unfortunately, the question. I’ve got a couple places in mind (one of my parents’ very paranoid friends already moved to Chile; sadly I don’t speak Spanish so well), but I haven’t yet felt the need to actively investigate.

    • Mark says:

      Isn’t this the Charles Murray thing?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      There is apparently a great deal of cloak-and-dagger censorship going on, but I don’t understand how it works and I wish more people (possibly through sock puppets) could get explicit about this stuff and name names. Like how Freddie DeBoer and Glen Greenwald do, with their series on “here are people threatening and/or lying about me in writing.”

      Yes, we know about some examples but I think they are different phenomena:

      1) We know about the Mozilla CEO and that Northwestern professor, but these are weird cases. Scott isn’t going to decide that he is a PR liability for SSC and step down, nor is he going to get caught up in a shadily understood and rapidly evolving legal system specific to the blogging industry.

      2) We know that in-person rallies by college-age people are leading to violence more in the recent past than in the less recent past (possibly due to the total lack of organization that social media has made possible).

      • gbdub says:

        I don’t like “eye for an eye”, but if Scott really is getting explicit threats, I would have zero problem with him publishing/reporting those threats. No reason censorious thugs should not face consequences for their actions as well.

    • I’m confused about what parties this is coming from or directed to, but Scott I just want to agree with the comment that you should loudly publish very specific information about any threats, even if you feel you have to make defensive changes to site policies. You’re one of the fairest minded people around, and you’ve got a very large audience who I’m sure would be pretty cranky with anyone making threats in your direction!

  10. 420BootyWizard says:

    I am getting very paranoid after the various physical and reputational attacks on people saying “offensive” speech, especially given some ominous noises from within what I previously considered a bubble of safety

    This is saddening news. From the perspective of an occasional lurker, this seems unnecessary, but it’s not my place to comment on that, nor to invalidate your feelings. There’s really nothing else to say except :[

  11. Bugmaster says:

    Scott, I think you’ve got to make the same choice that other, much larger outlets are facing: either keep your site “family-friendly” by heavily restricting discussion on controversial topics; or, face the consequences of allowing spirited debate, such as loss of reputation and loss of income. So far, every major outlet (e.g. YouTube, Reddit, etc.) is either leaning toward option (1), or had embraced it fully.

    Rationally speaking, option (1) is probably optimal in terms of long-term survival of your site; unfortunately, it has a hidden cost: it devalues your site to the point where it doesn’t do anything interesting other than merely survive. This is great if all you want is to earn money from advertisers, but probably not so great for anything else.

    • Alejandro says:

      This comment assumes that the only “interesting other than mere survival” thing about this blog is the discussion in the comment about “family-unfriendly” topics. From my point of view, the primary interesting thing about the site is is Scott’s own essays on general rationality, meta-tribalism, scientific method, etc., and the secondary one is a community that clusters broadly around his philosophy and can fruitfuly discuss many object-level topics over a background of useful shared meta concepts (“Moloch”, “Toxoplasma”, and so on). Having some of the object-level discussions be over inflammatory topics that cannot be rationally disucssed at many other places would be a valuable third thing only if such discussions were actualy rational and informed by meta-level concepts, if they generated more light than heat, if they didn’t devolve into the usual culture-war bickering and point-scoring. My impression is that the community tends to fail at this; not all the time, but enough that these discussions are plausibly in general negative-value for the site rather than positive-value.

      • registrationisdumb says:

        This comment assumes that the only “interesting other than mere survival” thing about this blog is the discussion in the comment about “family-unfriendly” topics.

        The fun things about arbitrary lines in the sand is that you can gradually rewrite them till they’re on the other side of the beach.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Option (2) is miserable though, have you seen the Marginal Revolution comments section? Scott’s past performance is way, way better than either of these options.

  12. Mark says:

    Is there any way that a betting market can account for unknown unknowns?

    You should require better odds to bet on something far in advance, because there is a greater possibility of the current situation changing – your current knowledge is worth less.

    If the result of a bet is subject to sufficiently complex (and unpredictable) influences, it should make it more difficult for a market to exist – each individual requires a margin on any bet to account for unpredictability. But, there will be a tendency for only those bets that don’t account for the unknowable (or discount it) to be the only ones that are made, since these will be the ones with the smallest margin.
    So betting markets don’t correctly account for unpredictability.

    But if unknowns can operate in either direction, does this matter? If unknowns can operate in either direction, and aren’t accounted for by the market, does it make more sense to bet for outsiders?

    • Mark says:

      We’ve got a die and you can place a bet on one of two options: (a) the die shows 1 (b) the die shows one of the numbers 2-6.
      There is a chance, which we can’t quantify, that the die has been tampered with in such a way that either (1) 1 will never appear or (2) 1 must appear.

      Given that we have no information about how likely tampering is, is there a 1/6 chance of hitting the 1? If we have no information should we assume that (1) and (2) are equally likely, which would make (a) a more favourable bet? (Improve the chance above 1/6)

      Since we have no clear information about how likely the tampering is, the tendency is going to be to discount it, even though the existence of this possibility makes outsiders more attractive. We don’t know how far we should discount it, so those who don’t are going to be the ones who make the market.

      I suppose if people are aware of this it’d be why you get seemingly higher than expected probabilities for unlikely outcomes, where there are plenty of things that could go wrong (for example Mme Le Pen).

  13. Anonymous says:

    Anyone up for the euphemism treadmill RPG?

    Roll 1d4:
    1: Anthropoid
    2: Featherless Biped
    3: Hominid
    4: Terrestrial Sophont

    Roll 1d6:
    1: Organic
    2: Constitutional
    3: Genomic
    4: Anatomical
    5: Biotic
    6: Inherent

    Roll 1d6:
    1: Heterogeneity
    2: Dissimilarity
    3: Variety
    4: Distinctiveness
    5: Unlikeness
    6: Peculiarity

    • cactus head says:

      Human Vibrant Diversity

      • Deiseach says:

        Human Vibrant Diversity? Speciesist! Are you claiming other species are not equally vibrant and diverse, indeed even more so than our own? 🙂

        • bean says:

          Some definitely aren’t. The California Condor springs to mind, although I’m sure there are many other examples.

      • Anonymous says:

        Human Vibrant Diversity

        That sounds more like what the Alt-Right crowd call misbehaving minorities.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Comment may have been tongue in cheek, but constantly shifting euphemisms really are a solution to this problem and we should explicitly embrace them.

      • Zodiac says:

        As somebody who not always follows all comments and may have stretches of time when I can’t read them at all I would be very worried about not being able to keep up with the terminology.
        That has already happened in fact. Or do you think it is plainly obvious to anyone who the Death Eaters are? Took me awhile till I came across an explanation.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s one of those trivial inconveniences that cheaply reduce the size of the problem. The problem being “people talking about stuff the host doesn’t like”.

      • Murphy says:

        That only works in the long term if the speakers are anonymous and constantly shift identity. Otherwise 15 years from now when the witch hunters come after you they play the game of “lets go through everything he ever wrote and quote snipe”

        Of course things you wrote 15 years previously while up to date at the time vs the euphemism treadmill will at that point in time not read so well and will be quoted to show what a monster you are.

        shifting euphemisms is not a sollution, it just kicks the can down the road and sets individuals up for a fall long term.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          But the witch hunt will not be permanent, so kicking the can down the road is enough. Scott’s up against a mob, not an Inquisition.

          • Kevin C. says:

            But the witch hunt will not be permanent

            [citation needed]

            Less snarky, do you have any kind of timeline estimate on that? How far down the road do you expect the can needs to be kicked?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I like “Blood Purism” to keep up the HPMOR theme. Okay, okay, the banned philosophy isn’t against interbreeding per se, but it’s still a gesture in the right direction. Or perhaps “Blood status” to account for that?

      • Anonymous says:

        Featherless Biped Genomic Peculiarity isn’t really about blood purism, it’s entirely orthogonal – although I can see blood purists pointing to FBGP as the justification for their blood purism. You could just as easily take FBGP and use it as justification for massive, government-sponsored miscegenation.

        • Evan Þ says:

          You could just as easily take FBGP and use it as justification for massive, government-sponsored miscegenation.

          Which would mean you’d get a sea of people mediocre in X for any given X multi-gene genetic quality. You’d lose the disadvantages of a sub-population with less X, but you’d also lose the advantages of a sub-population with greater X. When X is intelligence, I don’t think that’s worth it, and if artificial intelligence really is right around the corner that’d make it even more not worth it. And, the impression I’ve gotten is that most advocates of the theory agree with me on the tradeoff.

          • Anonymous says:

            From the perspective of the people capable of implementing such a thing, I’m not sure a mass of mediocre people wouldn’t be a more attractive prospect than loads of intelligent people competing for the implementors’ positions.

      • Wrong Species says:

        On the subreddit, someone said “muggle realism”.

        • Anonymous says:

          How does that make sense? I mean, I’m all for sticking with the Harry Potter euphemisms, but I’m not sure I get that one.

          • Jiro says:

            Muggles are part of the same species as wizards, but they have less capability than wizards in a measurable way.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Wizards and Muggles maps (roughly) to “race”.

          • Zodiac says:

            So, if I want to participate on SSC in the future I better start reading those gods-knows-how-many pages of Harry Potter, huh?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s only a matter of time before SSC becomes indistinguishable from Harry Potter fan fiction.

    • JulieK says:

      [Banned term] is already a euphemism. Why not just go with “scientific racism?”

      • Anon. says:

        Because, per wikipedia:

        Scientific racism is the pseudoscientific study…

        • Anonymous says:

          Hmm. I’ve got InfoSextant, so I can’t even go to Wikipedia without a hassle, but it seems to be a little more objective on IG:

          Scientific racism is the use of scientific and pseudo-scientific techniques and hypotheses to support or justify the belief in racism, racial inferiority, or racial superiority, or alternatively the practice of classifying individuals of different phenotypes into discrete races.[1][2][3]

      • Anonymous says:

        Because scientific racism is not the same thing. FBGP is just the factual part, without the racial purity angle.

      • Murphy says:

        Only in the same sense that the concepts of heritability, survival of the fittest and genetics are really a euphemism for promotion of capitalist concepts and anti-communist sentiment.

    • S_J says:

      I’m awfully late to the game…

      But if I wish to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Hotel Bravo Delta, am I allowed to refer to it in that manner?

  14. Jugemu says:

    Not thrilled about the new restrictions – this is pretty much the only place on the internet for sane, reasonably polite discussion of controversial topics across the political spectrum.

    It sounds like you’re under some kind of threat though(?) so maybe this is the best we can do. There’s always the subreddit I guess.

    • honhonhonhon says:

      >maybe this is the best we can do
      Can always reallow anonymous commenting, but it’s up to Scott whether the uptick in insults is preferable to restricting controversial topics.

      • John Schilling says:

        There’s a limit to how anonymous Scott himself can be, and any aggrieved “victim” who can’t find his anonymous offender to target can probably justify going after the host instead.

  15. liskantope says:

    This question is particularly aimed at other people who who research something abstract or otherwise too specialized to explain in down-to-earth terms to the layman: how do you respond to questions in social settings about what you work on? This has increasingly been an issue for me, to the point that I dread the inevitable “What kind of math do you work on?” question when I go out to a social event where I’ll meet new people. But I get the impression that most others in my situation don’t have that much difficulty with it. I’d elaborate, but I have to leave in the next few minutes to go out somewhere (where hopefully I won’t be asked what kind of math I do :P).

    • Eltargrim says:

      My line of work isn’t too abstract in general (glass science), but the second I start talking about specifics (changes in property as related to structure as divined by various techniques) the eyes start glazing over.

      I dodge this in part by lying (“I do MRI of glass!” [no I do not]) and in part by talking about neat applications of the glasses I work on. I’m not involved with the application side, and some of them are wholly theoretical, but in my experience that’s what people want to hear. A typical conversation will go something like this:

      “So what do you do?”

      “Oh I’m a glass scientist.”

      “Glass? What’s there to know about glass?”

      “Well, window glass is pretty well understood, but sometimes we need new and different types of glasses for new applications. For example, my glasses can be used to make lasers or optical computers!”

      All of this ignores the fact that window glass has a ton of ongoing research, my work is several years removed from the application phase, and that the really cool part of my work is developing new methods to probe glass components that have previously been inaccessible, but it keeps the conversation going rather than getting bogged down in the pedantry that I love and hold dear.

      A previous coworker of mine who was doing even more esoteric stuff just said “physics” and refused to elaborate. I think at one point she just said she wasn’t allowed to talk about it and changed the subject.

    • Chalid says:

      Just start with a tremendous oversimplification and see where the conversation goes. Back when I was a physicist I’d say something like “I study superconductors.” If they try to change the subject I let it happen gracefully. If they asked what a superconductor was then there are some interesting spiels that can be given about the general topic. And if they actually already knew about the topic and are interested then I’d give a less-tremendous oversimplification and then iterate.

    • Iain says:

      In many contexts, “what sort of math do you do?” is just a polite social question. It is intended to express general interest in your life, rather than specific curiosity about your area of research. It is totally acceptable to just respond with “I study the uniqueness of associative, bounded, completely Cardano scalars” (preferably with your own area of research, instead of a randomly generated one), with a smile on your face to acknowledge that this probably sounds like gibberish. At that point, your interlocutor can make the appropriate “well, that certainly sounds very mathy!” responses and you can move on to a different topic. Feel free to play up the unfamiliar terminology you include in your summary. If it helps, you can think of this version of the conversation as a demonstration that you are indeed a fancy math wizard: all they want is a brief example of your inscrutable arcane wisdom, and they can go away happy, so the more you play it up, the better.

      If they are genuinely interested in the details of your research, they can ask follow-up questions. At that point, it’s probably useful to have a lies-to-children level oversimplification of your research. It doesn’t have to be about your research directly; my Master’s thesis was about type-based alias analysis in C compilers, and my standard spiel for parties started with a very high level description of what a compiler does: “Programmers write code in a language that humans can understand…”, with flappy typing hands as a visual aid, and so on. You’re just giving them a rough idea of the world you live in.

      If they’re still asking questions afterwards, then it is safe to assume they have genuine interest, so you can assess how much mathematical knowledge they have and start trying to build towards your research from there.

      Where does the conversation normally go off the rails for you?

      • liskantope says:

        I agree in general that initial questions in the arena of “What do you work on?” are most often asked mainly for social politeness, but I very often get the impression that there’s something else behind the ones that are directed at me (could well be misreading a lot of the time). The idea of math research attracts a different sort of curiosity from a lot of other science research, I think. For one thing, it’s not such common knowledge that there is such a thing as current math research — I often get the question “What is there still to research in math? Isn’t it all figured out already?” The very notion of math researcher seems to be itself a curiosity, and I think people ask for specifics to get a better feel for it. (Although apparently there’s some of this attitude in regard to research in much less abstract things like glass, as evidenced by Eltargrim’s comment above.)

        I wouldn’t say the conversation goes off the rails exactly, just that I stumble around a lot not knowing where to begin because I have no idea of the questioner’s math background and I’m trying to feel it out. In some cases where I meet the questioner at their level of math knowledge quickly and am feeling energetic and articulate enough to give a somewhat-understandable description of the rough flavor of my research, they usually follow up with a mystified inquiry as to how this would be applied. I definitely don’t have much of an answer to this. The best I’ve come up with (which I usually give nowadays but I’m getting super tired of it) is something like “Well, the only possible applications I consider are for other questions in pure mathematics, but maybe someone can apply my work, someone else can apply their work, etc. until eventually someone in another area like physics or economics sees an application and this research has a very concrete effect. I only consider immediate applications, though, nothing that far down the road.”

        Basically, it’s just usually a very awkward, clumsy conversation which I’m so bored of by now that (despite being a person who in general has little trouble hiding impatience) I have to fight not to let my face visibly fall when the question comes. I can’t blame people for asking, of course, so I do try to give a decent answer.

        • Iain says:

          Reading between the lines, it seems like maybe you end up feeling a bit defensive about the lack of practical applications of your work. You don’t have to. In your shoes, I would respond to questions about how my research related to the real world with a cheerful shrug: “I just come up with the math! Figuring out what to do with it is somebody else’s job.” There are plenty of cases where seemingly impractical mathematical research has suddenly turned out to have practical implications. One example is elliptic curve cryptography, which significantly reduced key sizes and made your internet connection with your bank faster and more secure, all thanks to group theory and number theory. (I suggest adding computer science to your list of fields that might find applications for your research; we’re constantly stealing stuff from you guys.)

          I assume that you are doing math research because you find it interesting and fun, rather than because you expect it to have an immediate impact on the world. There is nothing wrong with that. You are going to make a much better impression if you are earnest and confident about the abstract nature of your work.

          • liskantope says:

            I think you are basically right on all counts. Indeed I do feel a little insecure deep down about the lack of practical applications of my work, and the fact that I’m attracted to it on a gut level because it’s interesting and beautiful without caring about applications. This is not entirely without reason, as I (or at least my line of work) have been criticized to my face by some science students and even other (more applied) math students I’ve known. And I’ve internalized some of that. But I’m not usually met with such criticism from people I meet at parties, at least not so openly. Heck, by far the most common emotional reaction is “OMG, you must be such a genius, I could never imagine doing that!”, which is a far cry from being looked down upon.

            I believe your advice about being completely earnest and unapologetic is the right suggestion, and I’ve already been trying to go that route. I’ve even brought up elliptic curve cryptography because my research does potentially have bearing on that, although I hardly know the first thing about how ECC works or how it’s helped us already (on the latter, probably less than you know). Part of the problem here is that I’ve never gotten around to researching such applications as well as I could have. Anyway, depending on the particular day and social interaction, I have talked about my work in a preemptively defensive way and in an unapologetic, enthusiastic way. I guess I should keep trying to hone a tendency towards the latter rather than the former.

          • Iain says:

            This is a pretty good primer on elliptic curve cryptography, although it’s written by a mathematician for computer scientists, which may or may not be what you want.

            My party-level summary would be: asymmetric encryption (which is what lets you establish a secure connection with your bank’s website) is based on the idea of intractable problems: computations that are easy to perform, but hard to reverse. If I give you two large prime numbers, it’s easy for you to multiply them — but if I give you the result, it’s really hard for you to figure out which two prime numbers went into it. Back in the 70s, some computer scientists (Diffie and Hellman, for the record) came up with a clever trick using public keys and secret keys to turn the problem of factoring large numbers into a way to encrypt data so that nobody can read it except the person you are sending it to. We still use variations on that today. The problem is that, as computers have gotten faster, we’ve gotten better at brute-forcing the answer to factorization problems, which means we have to use even bigger keys, which is kind of a pain. So cryptographers asked themselves: “are there any other math problems we could use instead of factorization?” And they read a bunch of math papers, and they found this one field called “elliptic curves” that mathematicians had been poking around with for quite a while, and it turned out that it worked really well: it’s a harder problem than factorization, so you get the same level of security with smaller keys, which makes everything that wants to communicate securely that much faster. Nobody knew, when mathematicians started work on elliptic curves, that they would be so useful; they just seemed interesting and fun, to the sort of person who finds math interesting and fun. But interesting math problems have this weird tendency to turn out to be secretly useful, way more often than you’d expect.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It occurs to me, after reading Iain’s layman’s view of elliptic curves, that rationalists would benefit from a well-documented list of examples of lines of research, or other pursuits, that were explicitly known to have no practical application, and then were later found to have such.

            So I’m expressly ruling out things like Fulton’s Folly, or the Space Race – people pursuing a project with a use in mind, or a hopeful use in mind, which everyone else thought was nuts or not worth the expense. …although I’d consider the Space Race to be only a step away from this. Mostly, I’m thinking of pursuits for which the only apparent utility was the intellectual stimulation or aesthetics of its practitioners.

            Such a list would be useful for analyzing the expected benefit of what now might seem like flights of fancy.

          • Brad says:

            What about tensor calculus? Would it have been thought to have any practical applications when it was being worked out in the 1890s?

          • Iain says:

            Quick disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on elliptic curves, or the history of research on the topic. I did check the applications section of the wiki article to verify that elliptic curve cryptography was the only thing there, but it’s possible that there were other intended uses that I don’t know about. I was only going for “talking to laypeople at a party” levels of accuracy.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            So far as I know, movements of planets were recorded for millennia for no practical purpose, and then paid off amazingly with the discovery of gravity (or at least off-earth gravity, since ballistics is a practical subject) and eventually very useful satellites.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz I think a lot of that recording was done for the practical purpose of making astrological determinations. It may not have worked, but it wasn’t being done out of pure abstract interest.

            There were also special cases where astronomical records had real practical utility, like observations of Sirius to predict the Nile flooding. But I’m not sure if the planets were useful in that way prior to the discovery of universal gravitation.

          • Randy M says:

            But for much of those millennia, weren’t they suspected of having some practical purpose, some divination or portent necessary to understand?
            Also, they are associated with other stellar observations useful in devising calendars for predicting seasons, no?

            edit: beat to it by LHN.

          • Controls Freak says:

            A couple of you have hit on my go-to example here – Einstein. Everyone knows Einstein; everyone loves Einstein; Eistein is easy for the lay public to understand as “big deal” and “cool”. But for Einstein to have been successful, the world needed Riemann, who we can describe as a somewhat obscure mathematician working on “non-practical maths”. It’s easy to go one step further and say, “…and without Einstein, GPS satellites don’t work.” Everybody uses GPS and knows exactly how having it affects their lives personally.

            I love crypto, but I find it a bit more difficult to tell a story that way. It doesn’t really matter which example you choose; just pick one that let’s you map from, “Here’s a guy who did Nothing Math; here’s a guy who much later took Nothing Math and turned it into Something; it’s so obvious that Something affects your life that I don’t even need to say it.”

          • S_J says:

            It occurs to me, after reading Iain’s layman’s view of elliptic curves, that rationalists would benefit from a well-documented list of examples of lines of research, or other pursuits, that were explicitly known to have no practical application, and then were later found to have such.

            There was a professor named George Boole, who wanted to create an abstract system of symbols to codify logical statements into a formulaic, mathematical process.

            The symbols and rules created by Boole are often used in mathematical proofs. Aside from helping lawyers or philosophers diagram logic of their arguments, this system didn’t seem to have much practical use.

            More than a century later, electronics technicians used Boolean logic to construct electrical circuits that symbolized True and False with the On and Off state of the voltage. Complex structures using these logic gates and On/Off states could represent numbers in a binary format, and perform arithmetic on the numbers.

            These devices were used to create the first electronic computer systems.

            Boolean logic turned into something incredibly useful for designing/building the technology of the digital-computer world.

    • cassander says:

      So as Iain says, that question is usually just boilerplate conversation smalltalk. Start with very vague generalities, and if people express interest, dig deeper, e.g. When people ask me where I’m from I say California. If they ask what part I say “San francisco, do you know the bay area” If they say yes, “Near Menlo park.”

      Basically, you probe to their level of interest/understanding while giving them plenty of chances to say no and end the conversation thread.

    • Controls Freak says:

      …well, what kind of math do you work on? I generally feel that a narrative can be constructed for most anything.

      The generalization of my current strategy is to think back to when you were just getting into your field. At some early stage, someone described things to you in a way that was a bit over your head, but was also a huge simplification of what was to come. Think of the first time this happened where the description reasonably divides your area from “all of math”. That’s the description to use.

    • Vitor says:

      I have struggled with this in the past. Nowadays I tend to give a simple reply that allows the other party to ask follow up question or change the topic, as others have said.

      One thing I found has been helpful is to have a concrete example, no matter how tangentially related to your actual research, that gives that first glimpse of intuition which is critical to understand that your entire area of research is “a thing”, and to have a path planned that gets you there with a gentle difficulty curve.

      For example, I work on algorithms for computing Nash equilibria in combinatorial auctions with incomplete information. Sounds like a mouthful. But in a 5-minute conversation I can often get across what a mechanism actually is and why we need to study them in equilibrium, without actually saying those two words (“…so, if we charge the highest bidder the second-highest price that was offered, we are basically doing the optimal speculation for them and they will want to tell us their true value!”). This is already quite a substantial point and people come away from the conversation with that “aha!” feeling.

      Obviously I don’t get that far most of the time, but the important thing is that I structure the conversation in such a way that I can in theory get there, rather than hitting this awkward wall of complexity that just instantly kills the conversation.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Math elevator pitches are hard.

      I would try to connect it to the type of stuff a layman would know. So for example if you work on abstract algebra, I would mention rubik’s cube and mention how this type of work lead in the past to being able to solve polynomial equations (Galois theory). Most people have struggled with quadratic equations in algebra class, and might appreciate that cubics and quintics may be annoying and non-trivial to solve. If you work on analysis, mention laws of motion, getting airplanes to fly, etc. Set theory leads to building logical reasoners and expert systems, etc.

      In my case, it’s relatively straightforward: “Hey remember that one time all the pollsters got the 2016 election predictions wrong? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had ways of NOT doing that?”

    • andrewflicker says:

      Take a page from those of us in business- I usually say “I work in e-commerce”, which is technically true and says basically nothing about my skills or daily work beyond “probably knows how to use a computer”.

      EDIT – And if they ask “what do you actually do in e-commerce”, I tell them I manage pricing across several websites. (And leave out the math, game theory, automation, etc.) It’s easy enough in math to say “I’m a mathematician -> I study X -> X is an advanced form of Y”. Those three levels will exhaust most casual inquiries.

    • hlynkacg says:

      So my degree is in math, my default short answer for is “signal/data analysis” or “I beat information out of electrons” if I’m feeling snarky.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I used to work in what could be tersely described as “applied ontology” – semantic integration of databases. I used to have to take multiple stabs at explaining what I did in an engaging way. An example:

      “Suppose I told you of two databases that tracked two businesses’ customers and their contact information. Each business wants to retrieve the emails of everyone who bought something in the previous 30 days. There’s a common query language that both databases use. Will the same query work against both? Why or why not?”

      Depending on the audience’s background knowledge, we might go briefly into how databases work in the abstract. But eventually – if the conversation went in the direction I desired – we would talk about the difference between syntax and semantics, which themselves are just fancy words for “how something is written” and “what it actually means”. Everyone understands this, even if they’re not used to the jargon. And they eventually cop to the idea that computers have a really hard time representing meaning the way people do, in ways that they also understand. They just haven’t thought about it.

      In some really important ways, this challenge bottlenecks nearly all of modern day information processing. It was fun to watch people when they understood the nature of this bottleneck. And I never even had to say the word “ontology”.

      What we would say were things like tables and columns tend to have different names, because the databases were built by completely different teams at different times, and the chance that they’d use the same name for everything is so low that you’d end up with a query that works for one that would give you an “unknown table” error on the other. And worse – sometimes the columns don’t map 1:1 to each other; one puts a full person’s name in one box, while the other splits it into first and last name, etc.

      Fixing this requires a lot of clever thought, especially when you try to solve it in a way that works for anything – from customers and contact info to tank serial numbers to bank transactions to biopharm data – and will work / scale for the next several decades.

    • tanuki says:

      My view is that people don’t come to parties to be educated. I used to try and explain a little about abstract algebra, but most of my victims would never talk to me again.

      I now have two lines of defence. First is to change the subject. Practice saying without a pause: “I do mathematics what do you do?” (the lack of punctuation is intentional). If they still ask for more details, maybe something like “Abstract algebra, but that’s only for weekdays. On weekends I play the guitar.” The only way I’ll go into any technical detail is if the other party asks a question in a way that suggests they already have an interest in the subject — “Oh, does that have anything to do with Golay codes?” or something.

      Second is to have some anecdotes ready: quirkly personalities in the department, the challenges of teaching online, travel stories from conferences, something about the lifestyle or social aspects of doing mathematics. There’s usually plenty of interesting non-technical facts about your work life if you think about it.

  16. Tibor says:

    What is a smart way to reduce cancer risk/increase the chance of early diagnosis (in general not for a particular kind of cancer)?

    Quite a few members of my family had or (unfortunately) currently have cancer, a different type of cancer each time and my cousin actually died of it (bone cancer in the spine, not much one can do there), so it made me thing about how to approach it in a smart way. There is this institution of a preventive check-up in the Czech medical system where you’re expected to see your familiy doctor every 2 years for a general check-up (it’s entirely covered by the insurance). That is better than in some other countries (I was surprised that there is no corresponding thing in Germany) but I think it still won’t do you much good in this case.

    So my current idea about how to approach it is to look at a couple of cancers with the highest incidence rates (possibly weighted by the ease of treatment and lethality) and maybe go to a check-up every year scanning for these cancer types (obviously one cannot search for all cancers).

    Other than that, obviously not smoking, but I don’t smoke anyway and I don’t drink much alcohol either.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’m not a doctor, but besides not smoking and not drinking heavily – exercise, decent diet, don’t get too much sun?

      • ConnGator says:

        A small but growing minority of doctors are now advocating more sun, rather than less, for vitamin D purposes.

        • Tibor says:

          I’m fairly pale and I think additional sun (with sunscreen) might be rather a good thing. One doctor also told me to eat more fish…

          In any case, I was going more for early detection, whether the approach I outlined sounds like a good idea or whether one could improve it…or possibly even be more relaxed about it . I figure that seeing the doctor once a year for a chech-up is not taking so much more of my time and it could cut the expected time of cancer detection quite a bit.

          The ideal thing would be if I could get my hands on some cancer statistics – different kinds of cancer by incidence and by how the recovery chance decreases with time of detection. That way I could figure out what the best check-up rate should be and what cancer types to pick for that. I would not want to go for a check-up more than twice a year. That is as often as I go to see the dentist, which is not really very annoying. I’m thinking that if I can make the time to see the dentist twice a year, where at worst I can face a bit of pain and a nontrivial payment for an artificial tooth/teeth, then it probably makes sense to do the same amount of precaution with something that can kill me.

          • Deiseach says:

            The ideal thing would be if I could get my hands on some cancer statistics – different kinds of cancer by incidence and by how the recovery chance decreases with time of detection.

            I’d go for the backwards approach here: I’m assuming you’re male, so you’re very unlikely to be at risk of ovarian cancer, for example. So if you phrase the question “I am a [ethnicity] [gender] [age] with/without [pre-existing conditions], what are the types of cancer most likely for someone of that background?”, you might have a better idea what you should be concerned about at a particular stage of your life.

          • Tibor says:

            @Deiseach: Yes, that’s another thing to consider. Actually, ovarian cancer is in fact what my mother is fighting right now (fortunately it seems to be looking relatively optimistic at the moment).

          • Stationary Feast says:

            Isn’t this the sort of thing 23andme (and other similar direct-to-consumer genetic testing services) can tell you where caution is the most useful?

          • Cheese says:

            I find this interesting in that one of the things we’re currently struggling with in cancer screening is that we might actually be doing too much surveillance in certain areas. With the current level of screening for prostate we’re producing net negative utility for people. Breast is kind of debatable as well. But that’s partially an issue with biomarkers/the fact a lot of our screening tests aren’t that great. I think your best bet would be to try and find a good GP and discuss where they think the best trade-offs are.

            The fish thing I presume is just a throwaway just in-case omega-3 FA’s is actually as good as we think it is (maybe *slightly* reduced risk of some cancers). Another one you could throw in is coffee (again *slightly* reduced risk of most but a very slight uptick in pancreatic if I recall correctly – there’s some very good reviews you can find on coffee with a quick google scholar). Insoluble fibre (i.e. vegetables and whole grains) is very probably quite useful for decreased colorectal risk – you mention already having the low alcohol consumption.

            I’d be wary of the sun thing, it’s highly dependent on context and i’ve seen people who should know better (i.e. GPs and medical students) get it wrong. It really depends on the UV index where you live. For example, where I live it is consistently 10+ so any more than about 15 minutes face and hands is probably tipping the balance too far. If it’s say, consistently under 3, then go for your life without sunscreen.

  17. Alkatyn says:

    Since we are on the subject of censorship Id be in favor of banning topics that don’t result in productive discussion but just repetitive arguments. In a similar way to how /r/subredditdrama bans “surplus drama” topics.

    I think having the comment section contain useful content is a higher priority than aboslute free speech. And it would be easier to find and reply to interesting content if it wasn’t hidden between unending threads of “Is x literally hitler”

    • Tibor says:

      I completely disagree, in fact I’d say just ban obvious spambots (which can even be done automatically) and leave everything else up. It is not that difficult to simply ignore people you consider unreasonable, it is easier for Scott to administer and it leaves the judgment of what is and is not reasonable up to every reader. Alternatively, one have the comment section in two versions – one filtered one and another unfiltered one (safe for the spam bots) and it is up to you which you observe. To make the filtered one more readable, you might want to delete all comments of a deleted comment even if they are reasonable.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        We have had whole rafts of people complaining about the volume of reasonable comments.

        Surely you can see the failure mode.

        • Tibor says:

          Is the failure mode that some people will filter out reasonable people they don’t like? I don’t see it as a failure mode. The people who do that are unlikely to be interesting to talk to themselves. If they don’t interact with me (I humbly consider myself a reasonable commenter), then they save me the trouble.

          If the sheer amount of comments is a problem, then one can solve it by changing the structure to a more forum like rather than by banning.

          Personally, I usually quickly scroll through the topics to see if there is anything I like and sometimes I CTRL+F some commenters that I think often have interesting things to say if I have more time. And if I post something myself, I usually then just CTRL+F my name and follow the threads I started (which is what I’m already doing here now), ignoring the rest. I might be missing some interesting threads that way but essentially in a random way (as I tend to scroll through the first indentation level first unless the thread is already very long when I see it first) so I don’t think it creates an impenetrable bubble for myself.

        • Brad says:

          This isn’t like libertarianism where proponents can claim all sorts of magical properties on the basis that there aren’t good counterexamples — there’s plenty of places on the web that are total free for alls and they are awful.

          • Tibor says:

            There are and they vary quite a bit based on what people they attract. Do you think this would turn into the level of facebook or Youtube political video comments if Scott stopped moderating? I think that is wrong and if Scott’s site attracted the same people he could not keep up with the traffic to keep the comment section worth reading anyway.

          • Brad says:

            If I recall correctly Marginal Revolution was one of the top other blogs in the most recent survey of SSC readers. It’s comment section is both unmoderated and unreadable.

            Is it a matter of dogma for you that this would work?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [T]here’s plenty of places on the web that are total free for alls and they are awful.

            Trouble is, there are also plenty of places on the web that are moderated, and they’re maddening.

            So maybe this is like libertarianism…

            ETA: I kinda agree with quanta’s point about needing community norms here, provided they are truly community norms, not just Scott’s. We have to police ourselves, or else it’s largely pointless. (To some extent, we do already police ourselves. We obviously care, to the extent comments like these exist.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, we have to police ourselves.

            But community norms and actual enforcement of rules (that are both rigid enough and flexible enough) work together. Neither is a whole unto itself.

          • Brad says:

            Trouble is, there are also plenty of places on the web that are moderated, and they’re maddening.

            So maybe this is like libertarianism…

            True. But there are no good fora that are unmoderated and there are good fora that are.

            Moderation is necessary but not sufficient. Perhaps the same thing could be said for government …

          • Tibor says:

            @Brad: I just looked at the Marginal revolution and the comments section. On the front page at least, there are no articles with at least 100 comments. That alone makes it hard to compare it to the SSC.

            Scott admits himself that he cannot keep up with the reported comments, so most of it is unfiltered anyway (apart from the autoban of course). Be it as it may, the simplest way to solve it is some empiricism, which is really easy to do here – Scott could stop filtering (again, save for the spambots) for a couple of weeks and then we’d see how well it goes. If it turns out you were right and no moderation makes the thread unreadable, then I concede I was wrong. If not, you should do the same. Even if you are right, there are ways to make everyone happy – instead of having Scott do all the work and still receive threats from angry people, the system could let each user (we are all registered now anyway) to set up his own “ban list” of terms as well as users. If you log it, you don’t see the filtered content. It would require some amount of one-time work effort but then significantly less work from Scott afterwards.

            Finally, I have to say that I really don’t like your tone in this discussion. You seem to be somewhat aggressive for no particular reason. What you write essentially reads as “haha this is as stupid as your stupid libertarianism you stupid libertarian!” I ignored it at first but if you keep it up like this, I will not continue in this discussion.

        • quanta413 says:

          This isn’t like libertarianism where proponents can claim all sorts of magical properties on the basis that there aren’t good counterexamples — there’s plenty of places on the web that are total free for alls and they are awful.

          As someone with libertarian-ish beliefs on many other things, agreed on this point. Any community of significant size that is a total free-for-all quickly degenerates into an internet cesspool. Of course, badly moderated areas also degenerate into cesspools (see: Twitter). We have to have some community norms here.

          I think it’s kind of odd to get rid of a phrase similar to “featherless biped organic heterogeneity” but to not get rid of discussing specific claims related to such or banning a lot of other stuff that generates much more heat than light too since I think some other chunk of culture war can easily replace it and be just as nasty, but if he’s just being careful before banning too many discussion topics or his goal is just to throw off the morality police maybe it’ll kind of work? I doubt it.

          If I was Scott, I’d probably just kill my blog to protect my career. I’m not sure that there’s a winning outcome here as the comments section continues to grow and the blogs tendrils spread.

          • mupetblast says:

            “If I was Scott, I’d probably just kill my blog to protect my career.”

            That may be necessary. Journalist Chuck Ross killed his blog Gucci Little Piggy before moving to DC and writing for…the Daily Caller. Yes, even to move into rightwing journalism.

          • Matt M says:

            That may be necessary. Journalist Chuck Ross killed his blog Gucci Little Piggy before moving to DC and writing for…the Daily Caller. Yes, even to move into rightwing journalism.

            Sometimes this is required by the new employer. Something of a “who will subscribe to read your stuff behind our paywall if they can see it all on your old site for free” reasoning.

          • Tibor says:

            I think you overestimate the amount of moderating that Scott does and the scope (in terms of breadth) of the community here.

          • If I was Scott, I’d probably just kill my blog to protect my career.

            Are you assuming that his career makes a greater contribution to the world than his blog? Produces a larger income than the combination of his patreon and royalties from his writing, if he chose to produce it commercially, would?

          • Brad says:

            Doctors are at the high end of both income and job security curves. Independent essayist are near the bottom of both.

            I don’t doubt that Scott would do well next year and the year after if he decided to ‘go pro’, but twenty years from now?

            People that risk loving don’t go to med school in the first place.

          • JulieK says:

            “If I was Scott, I’d probably just kill my blog to protect my career.”

            If it comes to that, how about requiring registration to read Scott’s articles (other than inoffensive ones, perhaps)?

          • quanta413 says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Are you assuming that his career makes a greater contribution to the world than his blog? Produces a larger income than the combination of his patreon and royalties from his writing, if he chose to produce it commercially, would?

            Not sure about first question; didn’t think about it. Off the top of my head, I’d give something like 80/20 odds his career would produce a larger income than the combination of his patreon and royalties over the course of the rest of his life. And I think the downside risk (monetarily) of writing is a lot higher even though it could come out ahead.

          • Anon. says:

            If I was Scott, I’d probably just kill my blog to protect my career.

            Why not kill the career to protect the blog? I’m sure Scott’s a good psychiatrist, but I’d bet he’s not a 99.99999th percentile psychiatrist. He is a 99.99999th percentile essayist though.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Anon.:
            I suspect it’s because the salary of even a 50th-60th percentile psychiatrist is several orders of magnitude larger than that of a 99.99th percentile blogger; and also because food vendors keep asking for money in exchange for their goods, as opposed to asking for essays.

            So I understand what Scott is trying to do, but I don’t appreciate the way he is going about it. It would be more intellectually honest to put up a post saying, “sorry, due to practical reasons I have to choose between my career and my blogging, and I choose my career”, then erase all other posts and lock down the site.

          • I suspect it’s because the salary of even a 50th-60th percentile psychiatrist is several orders of magnitude larger than that of a 99.99th percentile blogger

            I doubt it, at least if we expand “blogger” to “author,” which is what Scott is. Let me guess that there are a million serious writers, in which case a one in ten thousand writer would be one of about the hundred best writers. My impression is that successful writers make a decent living, so I’ll guess that the hundredth best makes a hundred thousand a year, probably more. I doubt that the median psychiatrist makes ten million a year.

          • Brad says:

            David Brooks is about as successful at the written punditry business as one can be without openly shilling for advertisers. If you took his 2016 income, what percentile of doctors do you think it would be more than?

          • Careless says:

            David Brooks bought a $4 million house a few years back. He’s making much more than average doctor money. A $4 million house would be a bad purchase for what, 95% of doctors?
            edit: wow, are their property taxes low. Sounds like he’d only be paying about $20,000 on a $4 million house. That would be $80,000 here.

          • Brad says:

            He may not have bought it for $4M, but that’s a good data point.

    • JulieK says:

      I would favor banning (1) posts that condemn groups (e.g. SJW’s) without justification and (2) back-and-forth debates about which group is worse (“Your tribe did ABC!” “Well, your tribe did XYZ!”).
      I would also encourage us to taboo “left” and “right” in favor of more precise terms.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I would also encourage us to taboo “left” and “right” in favor of more precise terms.

        Sinister and Dexter? One’s kinda creepy, and the other’s a serial killer.

        • Protagoras says:

          While I think it might be cool to identify as sinister, I fail to see how this suggestion would increase precision.

        • JulieK says:

          Keeping the same underlying categories and merely giving them new labels is the exact opposite of what I am proposing.

          For example, one commenter here has said that “the right is in favor of hierarchy and the left is in favor of equality.” Rather than saying “the right” and thinking “people who favor hierarchy,” it would be better to just say what you were thinking.

          • Jaskologist says:

            A) Those descriptions of right and left are very much in dispute.

            B) What if the primary thing really is the tribal label? What if people don’t pick an idea and then find that this places them on the [right|left] so much as they find themselves on the [right|left] and then adopt the ideas associated with it? Your change would then be a less accurate way of describing the situation.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I would also encourage us to taboo “left” and “right” in favor of more precise terms.

        What would be good terms for the respective adherents to Arnold Kling’s three axes (civilization/barbarism, oppressor/oppresed, freedom/coersion)? And what’s a good, non-pejorative term for us opponents of egalitarianism and supporters of hierarchy?

        • soreff says:

          >And what’s a good, non-pejorative term for us opponents of egalitarianism and supporters of hierarchy?

          How about “Champions of Structure”?

          (my own inclination is distinctly in the opposite direction…
          I think we could use a 21st century Robespierre…)

  18. Tibor says:

    What is your take on the so called “Science March”? There was this “march for science”, apparently in several cities, mostly in the US but also in Europe, including my current university. A couple of my colleagues (including my PhD advisor) took part in in. However, my opinion of this is very low. It seems to be a very vague thing with no particular goals from what I gather, other than something like “global warming is real and Trump is bad” and even that is not worded explicitly. The thing that annoys me the most is that shouting slogans in a crowd is almost antithetical to the scientific method, if your goal is to actually promote science and scientific thinking in general, then this seems like the worst possible way to do it. If you enjoy being a part of a crowd/tribe and want to score some virtue points, well, then it’s probably your thing.

    But maybe there are some people here who would like to defend the idea and if so, then I’d like to read that, hence this comment.

    • Yeah. I went to my first protest march against the immigration ban in January because finally there was a protest that was specific, actionable, and about a thing I cared about. “Fix global warming” is a thing I agree with in general but I’d want to know the plan before throwing my weight behind any particular group and protest marches are inherently things without any nuance. And “Science is good” is also a thing I agree with but while the US right is certainly against science to the extent that they’ deny that they say man made climate change is a myth the left is also anti science on things like personality research. So I’d rather they not politicize my science.

      • Tibor says:

        In addition to my other objections, what puzzles me in particular is how it is even relevant to Germany. Trump is not the German president (and even if he were, the president of Germany has close to zero power).

        If we just stick to global warming – in Germany, there are even deposits on plastic bottles imposed by law so that people don’t throw them away (there is a large one on those plastic bottles which cannot be re-used which makes no sense to me, because there are trash cans for sorted plastic around and you could simply throw them to one of these instead of taking them back to the supermarket). So the government is hardly anywhere close to saying that there is no man-made global warming.

        At the same time, Germany decided to close down all of its nuclear powerplants because people got scared after Fukushima (Merkel originally planned the exact opposite – prolonging their functionality by 2 decades I think, but then the public opinion changed and so did change her “opinion”). The result of that is that this has to be mostly covered by coal plants and the total German emissions are growing. However there seems to be nobody protesting against that, even though it seems rather anti-scientific to me.

        • Fluffy Buffalo says:

          I was at the Science March in Munich. The main thrust of the speakers I heard was that while things are going okay in Germany, it is important to show solidarity with scientists in other countries (the US, Hungary, Russia…) and to protest anti-scientific movements everywhere (anti-vaxers, climate skeptics etc.) everywhere. That seems like a reasonable position to take.
          And someone distributed flyers for a demonstration against global warming in two weeks.

          • Tibor says:

            See, this is what annoys me a bit. I don’t think that anti-vaxers are really an issue, particularly not in Europe and not quite anywhere really. They are a weird fringe group and generally a waste of time to argue with. They do not care about what any scientist says and other people generally don’t care about what the anti-vaxers say. Also, how much more credibility than a regular Joe do I have as a mathematician when talking about medicine? OK, I might be able to spot problems with statistics better than him but that’s about it. What sometimes bothers me is that people somehow assume that if someone is a Scientist, he knows Everything (there’s this quite fitting joke where two engineers meet and say something like “given how much of an engineer I am, I worry about getting the surgery”…it’s a bit more funny but I forgot the proper wording 🙂 ).

            Also, I am not quite sure about how scientists in the US, Hungary or Russia are threatened or anything (and how walking through Munich would help them if they were). If it is about state funding of research, how is a march in Munich going to influence internal (and rather specific) politics of the US or Russia? Another thing is that I don’t think Germany is actually doing it well. Getting rid of nuclear power strikes me as incredibly stupid and unscientific as long as you’re actually concerned about carbon emissions. Also the decision to do that was based on momentary popular opinion, that’s hardly a scientific approach from the government. It is a weird quirk of some parts of the “green” movement, especially in Germany and Austria, to reject nuclear power (although they are some people who are very concerned about global working and advocate nuclear energy at the same time). Of course, there are issues with nuclear power as well but if you want to use the magical word Science you should really address those things properly, otherwise you’ll be (quite rightly) seen as just another group of activists. If the position is “everyone should do it the way Germany does”, then there’s something fishy about the whole “Science” part of this march.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            > to protest anti-scientific movements everywhere (anti-vaxers, climate skeptics etc.)

            Did anyone have anything to say about the anti-GMO movement?

          • Jiro says:

            The main thrust of the speakers I heard was that while things are going okay in Germany, it is important to show solidarity with scientists in other countries (the US, Hungary, Russia…) and to protest anti-scientific movements everywhere (anti-vaxers, climate skeptics etc.) everywhere. That seems like a reasonable position to take.

            The problem with that is that people’s knowledge of details of other countries’ politics is usually terrible and has more to do with media and Internet outrage than with what’s actually going on in those countries.

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro: Indeed. I sort of live in two countries and even though they are neighbours, the media in each of them (well, German media do not write much about what happens in Bohemia at all, but occasionally they do) give a very distorted picture of the other country. And like I said, neighbouring countries, not even all that different in culture, despite some differences in politics (but pretty much just along the lines of refugee politics and nuclear power, Czechs are also more euroskeptical than Germans, but that is also true of probably any other country in the EU). So then I wonder how distorted is the stuff I read about France, Greece, Poland or Hungary.

            Also, I noted that the BBC and Die Welt report in very different manner about the Brexit and generally in German media the British are now “evil right-wing populists who are going to end up a 3rd world country because of their stupid decision to leave the EU” (I’m exaggerating but not very much). I don’t live in the UK so I have to go with the British media (mostly the BBC), but yeah, generally the media are pretty awful, especially when they write about other countries. Unfortunately, there is usually a language barrier in Europe. I speak 5 (and understand 6, since Slovak is mutually intelligible with Czech) European languages at least to the extent of being able to read basic news but even if I spoke them perfectly, I would still not understand the vast majority of European media and I’d have to rely on what others write. Still, understanding at least two or three languages gives you some insight, since you can compare media from different countries and the perspectives are often more different than those of different media in the same country, so even though they all often write very distorted things about other countries, hopefully it somehow averages out.

            And occasionally, there is a great journalist who actually writes well-researched and well-argumented articles. Unfortunately, those typically have several pages and so most people don’t want to read them.

        • Zodiac says:

          Well, global warming is a global issue. I know many people that say we in Germany shouldn’t care about our emissions since the US and China don’t and all we do will just impair our economy. This probably won’t help a single bit but in many peoples minds doing something, even if it has a miniscule chance of helping, is better than nothing.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, effectively replacing nuclear power with coal is worse than doing nothing in terms of carbon emissions. Also, waiting for better renewable technology to come up – so that it is truly competitive (and this is something that is likely going to happen in not a very far future) – might on net be also better even from a strictly ecological perspective. Instead of building a lot of inefficient wind and solar power plants and replacing them a decade or two later, you can wait until the technology matures properly at which point everyone has a natural incentive to go into it. And by letting the economy go at “full speed”, you get to that point a bit faster as well.

            More importantly, I’d be ok with this if it called it self “green planet march” or whatever, but I don’t like the motte and bailey tactics where you officially say “this is just all about supporting/defending science” when in fact you are for or against some particular policies.

      • Jacob says:

        I remember a representative talking about an immigration bill (different one, a few years ago, I forget the specifics). Before the vote, 5 people called and told him to vote No. He voted No. After the vote, 100 people called and were angry he had voted No. I’m assuming the rep exercised some of his own judgement, but at the same time, it would’ve been a lot better to hear those 100 phone calls before the vote rather than after, they could’ve easily changed his mind.

        I’d want to know the plan before throwing my weight behind any particular group

        Smart and reasonable Marches are a great way to find those groups, connect with them, and learn what their plans are.

        • John Schilling says:

          The five people who called before the vote are the ones who were paying attention, and may still be paying attention when the next election rolls around.

          • Jacob says:

            The point of marches is to make more people pay attention and keep it up.

          • John Schilling says:

            Have you ever seen a march where it was clear, or even feasible to determine, which specific piece of legislation the protesters were demanding the legislature pass or kill? Because that’s what matters to a legislator, and I don’t think I have.

            If you just want people to pay attention to the fact that e.g. Those Dastardly Republicans Are Anti-Science, then every GOP congressman knows that all of the marchers are going to vote against him no matter what his legislative record may be, because he’s got an (R) after his name.

          • Iain says:

            Some percentage of the people who attend rallies get fired up and start making calls, writing letters, and attending town halls. Those sorts of activities really do sway votes on individual bills.

          • Chalid says:

            Have you ever seen a march where it was clear, or even feasible to determine, which specific piece of legislation the protesters were demanding the legislature pass or kill

            Well, the last bill of any significance in Congress was Obamacare repeal and a quick google finds protests both for and against (with “against” being much larger).

            Rallies against Obamacare repeal

            Tea Party allies rally for Obamacare repeal

      • Careless says:

        I went to my first protest march against the immigration ban in January

        What country do you live in that had an immigration ban? Hadn’t heard about that.

    • Brad says:

      I can’t speak to the German context but in the US marches are mostly pointless and have been for decades. Looking historically it seems like the most effective marches, rallies, and protests are those that at least contain the threat or whiff of violence — from at least one side or the other.

      • Iain says:

        I think this underestimates the degree to which large demonstrations serve as rallying points for movements. The Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration was not designed to convince Trump’s supporters to abandon him; it was designed to show his opponents that they were not alone, and build energy for the political movement against him. There hasn’t been much talk about it on SSC, but there are lots of signs that the Democratic base is fired up. Republican politicians have been facing huge crowds when they return to their districts for town halls. The Democrats went from 30% in November to 45% in the recent special election in Kansas. Jon Ossoff was less than 2% away from winning a first-ballot majority in Georgia, and has a reasonable chance of winning the run-off. If the Democrats can sustain this level of energy, the Republicans are going to get smushed in the 2018 midterms. Big rallies help keep people involved.

        In unrelated news, Democrats are ahead of Republicans in partisan identification among scientists, 55-6.

        • Brad says:

          I did simplify a little bit. There are some possible benefits to marches, but I think they are so often overstated that it helps to err in the opposite direction.

          One is the ubiquitous “raising awareness”. In some cases that can be very powerful, but where we are already dealing with common knowledge I think it is fairly useless. We already knew that more than half the country strongly disapproved of Donald Trump. The woman’s march didn’t add much in the way of the stock of common knowledge.

          The other is movement building. Again, I don’t dismiss that in general. Getting people to go out and march gets them to commit mentally in a way that makes it more likely that they’ll open their wallet and/or go out to the voting booth down the road. It’s the same reason many charitable organization solicit all but useless untrained volunteers — not for free labor but to get them to identify with the organization. But I’m not sure the contemporary march organized on social media and without any kind of real messaging, leadership, or followup is suited to movement building. They seem to deliberately eschew effective techniques for movement building for some odd reason (I have the sense this dates back to Occupy Wall Street, but it may go further than that.)

          In any event, within the United States I’ve seen many mass movement that fizzled accomplishing little if anything and nothing that even came close to the Vietnam protests, much less the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t think the Iraq War ended even one day earlier than it would have absent those massive protests.

          • Iain says:

            In the immediate aftermath of the Women’s March, I was seeing this passed around a fair bit. It is a detailed manual for movement-building, with a lot of references to the Tea Party and the lessons that can be learned from its success. Empirically speaking, although it is too soon to be certain, it looks like the left is doing a pretty good job of movement building.

            To the extent that Vietnam protests were more effective than Iraq protests, it seems to me that a lot of the difference can be explained by the abolition of the draft. Vietnam directly affected a much larger segment of the population. Given that one of Obama’s big advantages over Clinton in the 2008 primary was that he didn’t vote for the war, it is ridiculous to say that those protests didn’t have any effect. They created common knowledge that a large segment of the Democratic base opposed the war, which is an incentive for Democratic politicians to promise to end it — which is what eventually happened.

            Flip the question around. If the Democratic base were completely apathetic about the Iraq War, are you confident that it would have ended not a day later?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            You’re probably right about Vietnam. The protest movement declined significantly after the draft ended.

          • Brad says:

            @Iain
            Obama wasn’t in a big hurry to wind it down after he was elected. Heck, in a certain sense it isn’t even over today (among other indicia we still have troops in Iraq and the AUMF is still law).

            Inasmuch as the protests helped Obama win versus Clinton, would a counter-factual Clinton administration have pursued a different policy there?

            Anyway, not one less day may have been a bit much but I don’t think they were especially effective. Even the Vietnam ones weren’t. They started really getting going in 1964 and the war didn’t end until 1973 when Richard Nixon was President.

          • Iain says:

            On the first day of his presidency, Obama met with military leadership and asked them to start making plans to end the war. It took another couple years to actually get the troops out, sure, but compare that to LBJ, who campaigned in 1964 on the claim that he would not escalate the War in Vietnam and then … did not do that.

            I think the most relevant point of comparison for the current rallies are the Tea Party marches during Obama’s first term. I don’t know how you would assign a precise number to it, but it seems obvious to me that the momentum of those rallies had an impact on the energy of the Tea Party movement, which in turn had a significant impact on the 2010 midterms. Do you disagree?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t necessarily disagree with anything in your previous comment, but I would caution using the tea party as an example of anything worth emulating.

            Yes, they had an influence upon the 2010 midterms. And that’s basically the only thing they had an influence on. Even as quickly as two years later, they were insufficient to stop the GOP from nominating the most milquetoast of RINOs, who himself lost to Obama pretty handily. I know some have attempted to draw a line from Tea Party to Trump, but I’m personally not buying it.

            If the left’s goal is to have an impressive showing in the 2018 midterms then fine, hold them up as the ideal. But man, as a right-winger I hate to say this, but come on letftist dudes, have some self respect, you can do better

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Even as quickly as two years later, they were insufficient to stop the GOP from nominating the most milquetoast of RINOs,

            Yeah, that’s why the Freedom Caucus doesn’t exist, Eric Cantor is still Majority leader, and Boehner is still Speaker of the House.

          • Brad says:

            I admit I didn’t think of the Tea Party when mentally going through my list of protest movements of my lifetime.

            I don’t know / remember too much about the internal workings of the movement. Were marches / protests / rallies a big focal point?

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, that’s why the Freedom Caucus doesn’t exist, Eric Cantor is still Majority leader, and Boehner is still Speaker of the House

            .

            wow, personnel changes

            what have any of those people done to meaningfully advance the tea party agenda?

            Freedom Caucus STOPPED obamacare repeal because it wasn’t pure enough. Paul Ryan denounced and opposed Trump numerous times during the election.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You are the one who specifically brought up the absence of personnel changes, saying that all the Republicans were RINO squishes (which is sort of oxy-moronic, but whatever).

            Yes, the Freedom Caucus were no votes on the Trumpcare bill.

            Are you saying that makes the RINOs?

          • Iain says:

            @Brad: Yeah, the Tea Party held a number of rallies and protests. Nate Silver estimated over 300K (spread across the country) on April 15, 2009. The September 12, 2009 Taxpayer March on Washington was purportedly the largest conservative protest in the history of DC.

          • Matt M says:

            I did not mean to say that ALL Republicans are RINO squishies, I was meaning to refer to Mitt Romney specifically.

            And a lot of the “tea party” people who came in 2010 ended up being generic neocons in the long-run

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I really think your position is essentially incoherent.

            You started with this:

            Yes, they had an influence upon the 2010 midterms. And that’s basically the only thing they had an influence on.

            And I just don’t see any support for that idea. Even in 2012, Romney was really just the last candidate standing after all the fringe candidates showed themselves to be incompetent (as candidates, at least) in one way or the other.

            And yes, the Republican base is fractured, and many times the base voters want impossible things (like balancing the budget by eliminating foreign aid). But that doesn’t mean the general anger that mobilized the Tea Party hasn’t affected Republican positions, and their is definitely a Tea Party rump of elected officials who feel secure enough in their positions that they feel confident they can simply say no to Republican leadership.

            The Tea Party members aren’t a majority of elected officials, and they won’t compromise, so you shouldn’t expect them to actually pas much in the way of legislation.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m just wholly unconvinced that in an alternate reality where the tea party never happens, society as a whole is any different than it is today. Yes, the names on certain congressional offices are different, but does that have a tangible effect?

            It probably depends on whether you see the tea party as “helped the GOP win more seats than it otherwise would have” or “replaced mainstream GOP people with farther right GOP challengers”

            I guess it’s possible that without the freedom caucus, Trumpcare goes through. That’s about all I can see.

        • cassander says:

          >The Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration was not designed to convince Trump’s supporters to abandon him; it was designed to show his opponents that they were not alone, and build energy for the political movement against him.

          To the extent the march was designed, and that extent is low, it was designed to gratify the egos of the participants much more than it was to accomplish anything. If you talk to people who marched, and I have, virtually all of their comments will be about how it made THEM feel. The justification of the march was as you say, but that’s not what it was for.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            And this is appropriate. The intended audience of a protest is the protesters, and secondarily the sort of people who almost joined the protest. If you can make your side feel good about participating in politics you are more likely to win.

          • cassander says:

            I would say that in a rational protest, the intended audience is elites. a mass protest behind an issue is basically shouting “If someone leads with this, we will follow”.

            And I’m not at all sure that marching in a protest counts as participating in politics. At best, it’s a sort of gateway drug to political participation. ANd while that’s not nothing, it’s also not quite something.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s very hard to credibly signal that your feelings on an issue will affect how you vote, especially at an aggregate level.

            Marches, in that they are an indication of how much effort you are actually likely to spend, make a decent signal at the aggregate level.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s very hard to credibly signal that your feelings on an issue will affect how you vote,

            Call your representative’s office, ask to speak to the staffer handling H.R. 123XYZ, make a brief statement of the form, “I think you should support/oppose 123XYZ for [logical reason that acknowledges representative’s own goals]. Done.

            especially at an aggregate level.

            Ask your like-minded friends to do the same.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Calling a representative can be effective. However, there are reasons why it doesn’t work in the same way marches do.

            1 – An individual call takes far less time and effort than attending a march, so it is a weaker signal of how much effort you are willing to engage come election time.

            2 – Calls are most effective when they target your own representative, muting the signal of the overall size of the movement.

            3 – Converse to 1 and correlated with 2, a significantly large march signals to all politicians at the same time. There are thousands, upon thousands of politicians at the federal, state and local level. An individual calling all of these is infeasible.

            4 – Phone calls are essentially private, and therefore don’t signal to other potential coalition members that an individuals efforts will be supported by a whole communities efforts. Successful marches are more supportive of continued action because they energize participants.

            You feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow. No walls needed. *

            * – I probably have to explicitly say this is a Pink Floyd reference.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            There is, however, some tension between HBC’s first and last points. The net psychic cost to you of participating in a march is the time and effort you put in, minus the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow. I suspect that the typical march is populated mainly by the sort of people for whom the subtraction works out to a net benefit. (In conservative curmudgeon circles such people are known as TWERPS: Those Who Enjoy Routinely Protesting Something.)

          • John Schilling says:

            1. That goes against everything I understand about effective political activism, and the people I learned from have run unambiguously successful campaigns with specific legislative accomplishments. Calling your congressman may require less absolute effort, but it is effort narrowly tailored to signaling “I really care about how you, Congressman Bob, vote on HR 123XYZ”. Participating in a march is mostly taken as signaling your desire to hang out with cool people and earn ingroup status with the right tribe, and to the extent it also signals political commitment it does so without specificity.

            2. This is a feature, not a bug. Your congressman cares about your views mostly because you can vote for or against him, and if there’s any uncertainty about that his staff can pin it down during the call. Marches, he has to add a correction factor for how many people in the march might not be registered voters in his district.

            3. An individual calling a thousand politicians is infeasible, but an individual conducting a protest march without being ridiculed is also infeasible. If you’ve got a march’s worth of protesters, you’ve got enough to call a thousand politicians, maybe a hundred times over.

            4. Voting is also essentially private, so the private signal of a phone call more reliably signals the relevant commitment. If you can only motivate the masses en masse, if your means of energizing the faithful will dissipate on the way to the telephone, it will likely also dissipate on the way to the voting both and the prudent legislator will thus deprecate it.

            You can’t personally change the vote of a hundred or a thousand legislators. You’re not supposed to. There’s a chance that you can change the vote of one. All by yourself, without anyone else’s help or participation. More likely, you can be a noticeable part of the process by which one legislative vote is changed. And if you want to be part of some grand movement of thousands of people that sways hundreds of votes, you’ll get more mileage out of setting up a phone tree than you will out of marching.

            Won’t be as much fun, though.

        • yodelyak says:

          Right. Pointing back to the blue-eyes-blue post, large rallies are the only place where people who don’t trust polling (or who don’t trust polling not confirmed by other experience, or who don’t trust polling to gauge intensity as well as preference, or etc., etc.,) can acquire knowledge that feels *public* rather than private or shared. And for some kinds of collective action problems, only public knowledge (or near-equivalents like quasi-public knowledge in small, thriving communities with rewards for heroics) will do. Hence, rallies are important. But for the crowd’s experience of itself, not for the spectators.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          There hasn’t been much talk about it on SSC, but there are lots of signs that the Democratic base is fired up.

          are you sure that rallies are causatory instead of endogenous

          K that was a hot sentence and I bet you already foresaw the objection. But it really does seem to me like people are just fired up anyhow, regardless of rallies, and that they hold rallies because they are fired up, and that this does not necessarily fire them up more.

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, I’m sure that to some extent rallies are a symptom of enthusiasm, rather than a cause. Unless you assume that every single person who gets interviewed saying “this was my first rally, and now I’m all fired up and I’m going to get more involved” is a liar, though, it seems pretty clear to me that rallies have at least some causal power. Moreover, given the difficulty of teasing out causation in this case, we kind of have to settle for correlation — if you see a large rally, then you should assume that the people holding that rally are likely to be fired up politically in the near future, even if you aren’t sure whether the energy caused the rally or vice versa. In either case, you should probably take the rally seriously.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Unless you assume that every single person who gets interviewed saying “this was my first rally, and now I’m all fired up and I’m going to get more involved” is a liar, though

            do such exist? Certainly strong evidence if so.

            In either case, you should probably take the rally seriously.

            I take anti-Trump sentiment seriously, at least as a political force. I’m just not willing to concede that the rallies have much to do with it.

    • Jacob says:

      I took part in a major city in the US. I think there are two major points

      1. Emotional inspiration. I know scientists and/or rationalists like to (at least pretend to) be above such things, but for real humans (which includes scientists) it matters. Seeing hundreds or thousands of people all willing to take a day to stand out in support of something can help drive motivation through the everyday drudgery of calling/writing your representative, signing online petitions, and so on.

      2. Connecting individuals and groups. I was there with a group and were spreading our message on an electoral reform a large number of people had never even heard of. It’s basically a good Schelling point for political activism (note: I personally am very left but my group is non-partisan, we attend right-leaning events as well). We had some skeptical people asking what data we had to support the idea, which is totally fair, and I responded to their concerns. No they aren’t going to form an opinion based on a 2-minute interaction but maybe they’ll follow up and do more research. I joined this group based on talking to a canvasser at the Womens March a few months ago.

      We had a lot of people asking “what can I do to help” and I responded with some combination of donate-money/volunteer your time/call your state rep about this bill (having a specific bill number really helped). Obviously one (or even a few hundred) weekend marches aren’t going to fix everything. But it’s part of the process. Long-term change requires sustained long-term activity.

    • smocc says:

      I’m a physics PhD. Back when the march was first announced I seriously considered taking a trip down to DC for it. This was right after the “gag order” on the EPA. It seemed to me like a serious, concrete issue that I cared about and was actually related to attitudes towards scientific output.

      Then it turned out that the whole gag order thing was bad reporting and it was a non-issue. I continued to watch the march organization to see if there were any other issues I felt were appropriate to march about, but I saw none, and so I did not march.

      What’s more, I worry that they’re doing more harm than good when it comes to helping people develop healthy attitudes towards science. We already have a problem in the US that “science” is often actually a euphemism for “Blue Tribe values and political desires.” (“What people say they “believe” about evolution is a measure of who they are, culturally. It’s not a measure of what they know about what’s known to science.”)

      As far as I could see, the major specific issues addressed by the March were mainly environmentalist issues. Science may tell us about the environment, but it doesn’t tell us what we ought to do about it. To pretend that it does misrepresents what science is actually about, and, I fear, poisons people’s minds against listening to the things science actually does tell us in the future.

      So I chose not to participate based on a desire to not accidentally strengthen the erroneous connection between “support for science” and “support for Democratic politics.”* Perhaps by participating I could have helped change the tone of the March, but given the whole political context of the thing I highly doubt that was possible.

      I would kind of like to think that I was too cynical about this and that it wasn’t as political as I thought.

      * I am not necessarily against Democratic politics. I am against making “science” a term of political combat.

      • Matt M says:

        I think we dealt with this a lot in a previous discussion, but just to reiterate, I think it’s a very grave tactical mistake to rally people under the cause of general blue tribe social justice issues and label it as “scientists marching for science.”

        To the extent that Trump seems to have any consistent pattern of behavior, it seems to be “reward your friends and punish your enemies.” The notion that somehow you will improve the situation for science and scientists by marching around with giant signs saying “SCIENTISTS ARE THE ENEMY OF TRUMP” seems unlikely.

        I guess you can go full Godwin and make claims about appeasement and declare that the best thing to do is boldly stand against him, come what may. But then let’s be honest about what’s really going on here (virtue signaling) and what isn’t (a legitimate attempt to improve the situation for the scientific community). If you want Trump to help the scientific community, then convince him that they are his friend and not his enemy. This march does the exact opposite of that.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Well, Trump is the enemy of scientists, so… These types of deep funding cuts are enemy action.

          It all sounds nice and abstract to you, but what would you think of your boss if he decided to slash your salary 20% one day?

          • Matt M says:

            If I knew he had the power and the inclination to reduce it another 50% if he really wanted to? Shut up and keep my nose down and begin looking for another job. I certainly wouldn’t stand on my desk and start ranting about how he’s literally Hitler.

            It makes sense for many scientists to be anti-Trump. I’m not disputing that. But maybe organizing covertly and helping fundraise for Democrats is a better tactic than standing up on a soap box and yelling “THAT GUY WHO CONTROLS MY DESTINY IS EVIL I TELL YOU! EVIL EVIL EVIL!”

          • Controls Freak says:

            what would you think of your boss if he decided to slash your salary 20% one day?

            That would massively depend on why he chose to do so. If it was for personal performance reasons, I’d have to decide whether it was justified by such. If it was for abstract programmatic reasons or because the organization was going bankrupt or something otherwise unrelated and not personal, I’d likely just prepare my CV for one of many non-federal-government employers who would like to give me a bag of money for producing units of science.

          • quanta413 says:

            Well, Trump is the enemy of scientists, so… These types of deep funding cuts are enemy action.

            It all sounds nice and abstract to you, but what would you think of your boss if he decided to slash your salary 20% one day?

            There is approximately 0 risk of a 20% cut to science funding whatever trump says. Scientists don’t need to march. They can just apply backroom pressure and lobbying power and move on like a corporation would. No blowback risk, keeps visibility nice and low. NSF funding has been on a strong upward trajectory for several decades, even a 5% decrease for one year is largely meaningless in the long run (where the long run is a mere 5 to 10 years).

            I would be more inclined to take scientists’ grumbling about overall government funding seriously if they didn’t omit the pertinent fact that their funding is almost always going up.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Matt M: thanks for the hot tip, re: how to resist effectively, will take it under advisement, to be sure. 🙂

            Controls Freak: getting folks to produce basic science is one of those “coordination problems” we hear so much about that the private sector isn’t very good at.

            quanta413: You should apply your ample gifts for predicting the future accurately to making money rather than commenting here!

            In fact, where were you in this election cycle? Did you predict Trump? Did you not predict Trump? Were there any other “approximately 0% chance” events in 2016 you flagged in advance?

            What science funding trajectory does or doesn’t do over time is sort of besides the point — if you fuck with people’s money, or even propose to do so, you are their enemy. That’s just how life works.

          • Matt M says:

            FWIW, I bought about $500 worth of Trump shares to win the GOP nomination on predictit when they were priced at something like 22 cents per share (below Jeb, Cruz, and Rubio)

          • gbdub says:

            So is this march more likely to make Trump and his allies rethink their position, or confirm that they were right to undercut a group of opponents?

            “Give us more money so we can oppose you more effectively” is not a particularly effective pitch.

            As someone who cares about science, but is indifferent about Democratic electoral success, I was hoping the march would make more deliberate efforts to be actually nonpartisan by doing some outreach to Reublicans.

          • quanta413 says:

            You should apply your ample gifts for predicting the future accurately to making money rather than commenting here!

            In fact, where were you in this election cycle? Did you predict Trump? Did you not predict Trump? Were there any other “approximately 0% chance” events in 2016 you flagged in advance?

            Cute. An irrelevant tangent. Is this how you do science as well? But I’ll answer anyways. That would have been a much harder to prediction to make what with republicans and democrats winning the presidency over the last several decades with odds not different enough from 50/50 to make it worth trying to be clever.

            The trajectory of NSF funding on the other hand… I mean sure, their budget has tripled in constant dollars since 1983 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Science_Foundation#Budget_and_performance_history

            and their funding has been pretty steady for the Obama Presidency other than a massive temporary increase due to the ARRA that was mostly ended after two years with no massive protests complaining about that. And it increased across the term of President Bush before that. And across the term of Clinton before that. And Bush Sr. before that. And Reagan before that.

            https://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/NSFFundingbyAccountConstantDollars.pdf

            Or you can look at total federal nondefense R&D spending if you’d like. Sure that’s not all basic science and includes a lot of engineering and stuff but close enough. It even decreased significantly a few times. http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/FunctionNON%3B.jpg

            There were some massive cuts in the mid 60s due to declines in spending on the space program which is why we all of course remember the march for science during the Johnson Presidency.

            Or we could look at spending including defense spending I suppose although we’re really adding a lot more development stuff. And I’m not aware of anyone marching in the street to protest massive decreases in defense spending. But hey, why not?

            http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/DefNon%3B.jpg

            Now we finally see massive fluctuations in funding due to the defense category. I mean, it doesn’t really fit the narrative at all and scientists didn’t take to the streets when that funding went off a cliff, but hey.

            What science funding trajectory does or doesn’t do over time is sort of besides the point — if you fuck with people’s money, or even propose to do so, you are their enemy. That’s just how life works.

            It’s exactly the point. If you have many decades of trajectory to go off of, you can easily tell whether someone has a meaningful chance of doing what they claim. You can also tell if a group of people actually march in the street every time their funding gets a significant cut or if they only do it when the zeitgeist of the group lines up well with that.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            People don’t use grant money to oppose Trump, politically, except insofar as Trump’s policies are stupid in a way scientists can quantify. They use it to pay their salaries, pay their student’s and postdoc’s salaries, and to do academic travel, buy lab equipment, and so on.

            Proposing salary cuts to your political opposition seems to be the modus operandi you are suggesting here. Is that what you meant to suggest?

          • quanta413 says:

            Proposing salary cuts to your political opposition seems to be the modus operandi you are suggesting here. Is that what you meant to suggest?

            Unfortunately, that kind of is how politics often works. What gbdub is saying is you don’t want to solidify the people in power as your public enemies.

            That’s also why I advocate backroom lobbying over marching in the streets in this case. Scientists are already a well established group with their own lobbyists etc. Trump can’t win jack in a more ordinary backroom political fight but he can cause a lot of damage in media circuses, so you should avoid those.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Ok, since we now established that (a) Trump proposed deep science funding cuts and (b) this is because Trump views scientists as his political opposition, all we are arguing about now is the most effective way for scientists to oppose Trump, their political enemy.

            You seem to suggest marches are counterproductive, as did another dude upthread. That’s all fair enough.

            I am not super interested in debating resistance tactics with you, though. For one thing, I don’t think you are really here to help me.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Ilya

            getting folks to produce basic science is one of those “coordination problems” we hear so much about that the private sector isn’t very good at.

            That is an abstract claim that varies across discipline and is a matter of policy. I was responding to your attempt to make the issue concrete and personal. If you’re retreating back to, “I have political reasons to favor [budget],” then I think we’re back to square one.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            It’s not an abstract claim. If we compare “units of science” produced by governments vs private entities starting in, say 1945, there would be no comparison at all.

            So your “polishing off your CV to produce basic units of science in the private sector” is a silly plan. Nobody cares about set theory, for example, in the private sector.

          • Controls Freak says:

            If we compare “units of science” produced by governments vs private entities starting in, say 1945, there would be no comparison at all.

            Honestly, I think you might be surprised. Four years ago, pre-Trump’s-budget-proposal-not-happening, we dropped below 50% (according to NSF).

            So your “polishing off your CV to produce basic units of science in the private sector” is a silly plan.

            Non sequitur. Of course, the whole thing started off with a non sequitur (the “let’s make it personal” business), so it’s not surprising that you’re still unable to keep things straight in your head.

            Nobody cares about set theory, for example, in the private sector.

            Pretty much nobody in gov’t cares about set theory, either. Especially in NIH/EPA/DOE (the main orgs we’re talking about). Set theory exists because universities think it should exist, regardless of whether there is significant funding available.

            Let’s be straightforward. NIH/EPA/DOE don’t give a shit about set theory; NSF is small. Let’s ignore the arguments of how we should actually divide basic/applied research (I can hop that fence daily). NSF’s budget is $7.5B right now; that article has them reporting $86B in basic research. I’m definitely not pro-Trump, and I’m definitely pro-research-spending, but you have to just ignore reality if you think that a document which doesn’t even mention NSF is a death-knell to set theory.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think anything not explicitly named or isn’t the military is slated for roughly a 10% cut.

            If you get a deep salary cut or a layoff (as I expect some soft money folks on the margins would face with these cuts) in the private sector, you would look for another job, but you wouldn’t find your previous place of employment exactly endearing.

            If you do the kind of academic work where you can’t switch over to big pharma or get a job at google/facebook/etc, or some similar type of consumer of certain types of PhDs, you have to change careers or become unemployed.

            My point is: (a) a company that cuts your salary or lays you off is not a friend of yours. They may have their internal logic, but your friends they are not.

            (b) In coalition politics, it’s “show me the money.” The correct level of research spending, and basic/applied split, and federal/private split are completely irrelevant when it comes to political popularity and “who your friend and who your enemy is.”

            The fact of the matter is, the idiot in charge of the budget proposal apparently tried to augur Trump’s speeches to figure out what to cut. But again, good or bad reasons are not really relevant. This conversation is really about what we should expect from constituents. And any constituency, be they scientists, corn farmers, union workers, programmers, or what have you, will not regard you as a friend as a default if you fuck with their money, for any reason. It will take a rhetorical genius to change this default.

          • what would you think of your boss if he decided to slash your salary 20% one day?

            What would I think of you if you loudly announced that your boss was an evil man and all right thinking people should oppose him–and I then discovered that the reason was that he had cut your salary?

          • Aapje says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            Government funding of science was X – 20% in the past. You didn’t protest then.

            You are clearly merely being self-interested. You favor direction pushing, because you have a science job right now and you want to keep it. But you clearly didn’t care about the people who didn’t have a science job when science funding was X – 20% in the past; nor do you actually have a reasoned opinion on the optimal level of science funding. You merely want it to keep going up so your job is safe.

            I understand your desire to keep your job, but your desire is not pro-science, it is pro-Ilya Shpitser.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Units of science” is a vague thing. I’ve talked with a man who thought he was doing good research, but it was proprietary for a company.

            I expect there’s a lot of such research, and it’s not as though it’s just hidden away, but it’s also likely to have less effect than research which is made public.

            Or is it?

            If a company is paying for research, it might be less likely to incentivize research which is mere signaling, or lost in the noise of research which is mere signaling.

            So much of what happens with research is covert.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Of course I am being self-interested — like any other political constituency. That’s what I am trying to say!

            (It so happens cutting science is bad for everyone, given ROI on research vs ROI on other things fed puts money in.) But that’s a separate discussion — right now the discussion is me trying to explain that science and scientists are not a magical magisterium somehow immune from usual coalition politics forces.

          • quanta413 says:

            I am not super interested in debating resistance tactics with you, though. For one thing, I don’t think you are really here to help me.

            It’s true I have no interest in helping you personally. I think the politicization of science over time (by many groups, many of which aren’t scientists) is probably bad for science but believe that the social dynamics of U.S. society make it likely to increase even more in the future. I do have a deep investment in science itself though even if I don’t care about scientists as a group much more than I care about any other particular group of people.

            Resistance tactics is a rather overblown phrase though considering the term would normally be applied to a struggle for civil rights. It’s fine to be self interested, but this is a fight between two powerful interest groups neither of which is even slightly oppressed and their allies.

            EDIT:

            right now the discussion is me trying to explain that science and scientists are not a magical magisterium somehow immune from usual coalition politics forces.

            I totally agree they are vulnerable to such political forces. I don’t think anyone is disagreeing about that.

            I disagree about whether it’s wise to give in to these forces and hitch your political wagon to a larger set of causes and a specific tribe rather than be as neutral as is reasonable and appear even more neutral. (not Social) Scientists have a lot of social capital built up as a group across both parties because they usually are viewed as less interested in worldly things and more interested in “the truth”. However true or untrue this myth may be, it’s useful a useful myth for scientists.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            See, the thing is, I am in a double bind here.

            I could not contest this, and let you paint me as a hypocrite.

            Or I could mention all the protest and resistance stuff I have been doing, on behalf of all sorts of communities (of various levels of “disadvantage”) that are currently being victimized by Trump et al. But I would then be accused of virtue signaling, probably.

            Your painting of the fight over funding as a fight of a privileged group means you do not at all understand the academic environment. Grants mostly fund an army of students, and postdocs. People who work very hard, very long hours, on very complicated problems, and for very little pay. And who would have no end of difficulties due to funding cuts.

            Of course, I _also_ previously brought this up, and the fact Trump’s idiotic travel ban affected a lot of postdocs and grad students — and was promptly accused of myopia.

            Given this double bind I find myself in, and previous history, my proposal is: how about you stop policing my phrasing and take a flying leap, and I am going to go ahead and keep using language how I wish. Does that sound good?

          • quanta413 says:

            Or I could mention all the protest and resistance stuff I have been doing, on behalf of all sorts of communities (of various levels of “disadvantage”) that are currently being victimized by Trump et al. But I would then be accused of virtue signaling, probably.

            Actually, I view this as irrelevant to the question at hand which is metaphorically something like “are scientists actually David fighting Goliath (Trump)”? If you want to go fight for acceptance of trans people in the bible belt or something, I commend you but it has no bearing on the position of scientists in the social and political hierarchy.

            Your painting of the fight over funding as a fight of a privileged group means you do not at all understand the academic environment. Grants mostly fund an army of students, and postdocs. People who work very hard, very long hours, on very complicated problems, and for very little pay. And who would have no end of difficulties due to funding cuts.

            Of course, I _also_ previously brought this up, and the fact Trump’s idiotic travel ban affected a lot of postdocs and grad students — and was promptly accused of myopia.

            Surprise. I am one of those underpaid people working where funding is already very tight. I already could lose my position given a 20% funding cut and it would suck, but that doesn’t influence my beliefs on overall effects of things much. I’m not at risk of harvesting crops for 12 hours a day in the central valley; I’m at risk of having to enter the job market a little suddenly and having some financial trouble for a year or two. Academics (in the “hard” sciences and math and a lot social sciences too really) are almost always people who have reasonable other options (often better paid or with more reasonable hours) if they are willing to take them so I conclude that many of them think it’s worth being paid less than industry in exchange for other intangibles.

            The fact that funding is spread over as many workers as possible to reach low pay rates relative to education level and has been for decades tells me a lot about how academics and universities operate but not much about current politics.

          • @Nancy:

            A few years back, I heard a talk by a British scientist, Terence Kealey, who has written a book about the economics of scientific research. He argues that quite a lot of basic research gets funded by private firms, for reasons analogous to the logic of the market for open source programmers.

            You have a company working in a field that is affected by developments in basic science, so you want to have prompt information on those developments. The best way to get access to such information is to have an employee who is part of the research, just as the best way to tap into the community working on an open source program your firm uses is to have an employee who is part of that community.

            Kealey also offered data of a couple of cases where government funding of a field went from zero to large over a short period of time, with no detectable effect on the amount of new knowledge produced in the field.

        • John Schilling says:

          Well, Trump is the enemy of scientists,

          Trump is the enemy of some scientists. So is pretty much every other politician, because there is no political party or philosophy that is aligned with Science!(tm) in all respects. See, e.g., the science we aren’t allowed to name any more, and it isn’t because Scott is afraid Trump is going to target him.

          Claiming “Science!(tm) supports My Tribe; the Other Tribe hates science!”, might help your tribe if you can get away with it. It is exceedingly unlikely to help science.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Trump is the enemy of all scientists who apply for non-military grant funding in the US. That’s not all scientists, but your distinction is super boring.

            Your attempt to muddy the water with rhetoric and existential quantifiers is not really going to work in this case, because people become suddenly very clear-eyed when money is involved.

        • Odovacer says:

          To the extent that Trump seems to have any consistent pattern of behavior, it seems to be “reward your friends and punish your enemies.” The notion that somehow you will improve the situation for science and scientists by marching around with giant signs saying “SCIENTISTS ARE THE ENEMY OF TRUMP” seems unlikely.

          I attended a talk in early March by Jo Handelsman (an associate director for science under Obama) and after the talk someone asked her about the Science March. She wasn’t exactly direct, but gave a somewhat similar answer. That is, to not make yourself enemies of the current administration.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Wide participation in the march of science with a concrete stance, re: funding cuts, global warming, etc. is useful. It sends a signal to the administration that a broad set of potential shitty policies they might consider will get yelled down by smart people with credentials who know what they are talking about.

      Scientists are widely respected, still, to the extent that Trump didn’t dare do his usual twitter schtick after the march was over. Public coordination of discontent and opposition, among this respected segment of society, to specific things is thus valuable.

      From my point of view, public displays of opposition from broad and/or respected segments of society contributes to the feeling in this administration that they are under siege, and widely disliked. It’s not any one thing — it’s constant protests, low poll numbers, the media drumbeat, investigations by the spooks into Russia ties, Spicer’s continued misstatements, etc.

      To the extent that one might not like the Trump administration, all these things are helpful in constraining them. I don’t know what Trump’s circle is thinking, but vanilla republicans are starting to wonder about the midterms, and are seeing signals of a pissed off and energized base on the left, even in seemingly red states. All this stuff is making them think twice about trying to railroad things in.

      The Bannon take is this is just opposition from “the Deep State,” but I think it’s just opposition from a huge chunk of society itself.

      Full disclosure: went to the DC march, have a rain-soaked sign to prove it.

      • Tibor says:

        I’d be completely fine with it if it weren’t labeled so broadly. “March for science” says nothing and everything. But it seems to be that some issues were actually quite spelled out and then I would call it march for “a particular issue/particular proposal about what do do with it” in some kind of a catchy phrasing.

        This way the problem is what others pointed out here better than I did – it feels like using the word Science as a poster child for some particular opinions and using scientist who might not have those opinions as sort of hostages. I remember there was some kind of a student demonstration in Prague a while ago (when I was a student there) and the media reporting that “students want this, students say that”. I was very angry about that, since I actually disagreed with quite a lot of what the protesters were saying (I don’t remember what it was about any more)and they were somehow sneakily including me in their group. This is somewhat similar.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Because marches with 20 word names are super trendy right now.

          Seriously, I don’t get why rationalists/rational adjacent complain about things that are roughly “water is wet”. Large movements will always look rounded off and “general”, even while having a slant that doesn’t include everyone who might possibly be part of that generality.

          Science funding has been derided by both the right wing and the red tribe for quite a while. This is a “reap what you sow” problem (maybe even both ways).

          • Tibor says:

            Why should you try to be super trendy? Sure, you can make your movement large that way but I’d rather associate with a small group of people who do not act like a mindless crowd.

            It might even be better tactically – instead of dissolving your ideas in a featureless mob you cultivate them and try to spread them more slowly but consistently and in a consistent undissolved form.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tibor:
            We are talking about moving elected officials.

            Now, sure, you can move elected officials with lobbying, but only so far. But they definitely are moved by their predictions about how primary and general election votes will end up.

            In order to show that your cause should be payed attention to, you need to be able to credibly signal something about vote totals. For a very long time in the U.S., all government funding has been automatically viewed as suspected of being wasteful (or politicians viewed the public as believing this). That means that politicians will only move so far via lobbying.

            So scientists need to signal they can mobilize voters on the issue, which necessarily means “large and simple”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Because marches with 20 word names are super trendy right now.

            “March for Research Funding” is only one extra word, and sums up what the protest seems to be about better than “March for Science” does.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            And you oppose the name “March for Life”?

            I certainly oppose pointless red herrings.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            Thanks for rescuing my comment from the wrong thread. I appreciate it.

            How is that a pointless red herring? It’s a march against abortion, not a march for life. I don’t actually oppose them saying they are a march for life, nor do I oppose them saying they are the pro-life movement.

            My broad point here is simply that names for groups are going to always be signals to meaning, and not meaning itself. Names are useful as maps and signals, they don’t stand in for mission statements.

            And especially when you have what is, at the moment, a one time event, you really can’t expect the kind of coherence people are asking for.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I was rebutting your implication that a name indicating the specific goal of the march would be too unwieldy (“Because marches with 20 word names are super trendy right now”) by coming up with a name that is both wieldy and informative about the march’s actual goals. The appropriateness, or otherwise, of an entirely different protest march calling itself “March for Life” is irrelevant to the discussion.

          • Brad says:

            The overwhelming majority of people on this planet don’t have painfully precise truth-telling as their highest value. This sort of thing seems to come up a lot here.

          • Tibor says:

            @Brad: Does it follow that you should not value it either or that you should not be annoyed at people who don’t? As I mentioned elsewhere in this OT – I am proportionally more annoyed the more I care about the people/idea because I want them to stay “true to their values”. Look at the SSC. Despite some occasional difficulties, people of very different opinions try to communicate politely and with a genuine interest in understanding the other person’s opinion. Wouldn’t it be nice if this became a general standard? I don’t expect it to happen any time soon, but I at least want to “hold the ground” and make sure the opposite does not spread even more.

          • Brad says:

            @Brad: Does it follow that you should not value it either or that you should not be annoyed at people who don’t?

            No and yes. It is fine to have oddball preferences, but it is unreasonable to expect other people to share them. If *you* want to smile at every person you meet, go right ahead. If want to insist that everyone smile at every person he meets, that’s horse of a different color.

            Despite some occasional difficulties, people of very different opinions try to communicate politely and with a genuine interest in understanding the other person’s opinion. Wouldn’t it be nice if this became a general standard?

            I think maybe you are wearing rose colored glasses.
            Consider this comment:
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/23/ot74-copan-thread/#comment-490754

            and reflect on the fact that posts like it are not particularly rare for this site.

          • Tibor says:

            @Brad: I skimmed over the thread and it does not seem like a flamewar to me. It’s not a thread I’d partake in, but I’d not say this is the standard here. Either I am avoiding threads that seem like a one-sided partisan rant or you are searching for them. In any case, there are a plenty of threads here whose standard is a lot better. If you look at something like facebook or even worse – twitter, the thread you linked to would be possibly above average in charity and openness. Also, how pessimistic is your outlook of the SSC comments section? If it is very negative, I wonder why you keep commenting (please do not misunderstand it as a veiled insult, I am genuinely interested in your reasons).

            As for the other thing, like I mentioned, I don’t expect people to behave like that, but that does not mean that I should to like it when they behave like a mob. Particularly when they take something that is indeed the best weapon against such behaviour – i.e. science – and bend it and twist it to make it their tribal emblem. Doubly so when those people are people who I generally like and sympathize with and whom I hence hold onto higher standards than the average.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            and reflect on the fact that posts like it are not particularly rare for this site.

            They are not rare in the sense that John Sidles’ types of posts are not rare. There is one person doing them. Well, two if you count the guy with the South Park gravatar.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            And several of us attempting to argue persuasively against them.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            For a very long time in the U.S., all government funding has been automatically viewed as suspected of being wasteful

            I sure hope so. That is a very good trend. There do seem to be a large group of politicians that do not suspect spending is wasteful (of course each tribe does this for different subsets of spending). Please please let’s vote for politicians who are skeptical of all spending.

            I hope that businesses take the same approach when they look at spending too (and I think this too happens too rarely).

          • Matt M says:

            Please please let’s vote for politicians who are skeptical of all spending.

            I’ll get on that as soon as Ron Paul decides to run for office again.

          • Brad says:

            They are not rare in the sense that John Sidles’ types of posts are not rare. There is one person doing them. Well, two if you count the guy with the South Park gravatar.

            The particular style is shared only be two posters but there is an entire taxonomy of logic and evidence free attacks on the hated enemies — variously called “feminists”, “the Left”, “progressives”, “SJ types, “SJW” and so on.

            Also, how pessimistic is your outlook of the SSC comments section? If it is very negative, I wonder why you keep commenting (please do not misunderstand it as a veiled insult, I am genuinely interested in your reasons).

            There are some parts I like very much and I should probably stick more to reading and responding to those parts. However, it is very alienating and distracting to be discussing some point about computers or law in one thread and two threads up have a huge circle jerk of people, including some of the same ones I am talking to, claiming without any justification that some of my friends and family are the pure embodiment of evil.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            However, it is very alienating and distracting to be discussing some point about computers or law in one thread and two threads up have a huge circle jerk of people, claiming without any justification that some of my friends and family are the pure embodiment of evil.

            Funny, I could use those exact words to describe “SJW”-leaning fora.

          • Iain says:

            Is it unreasonable to expect better from SSC?

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            However, it is very alienating and distracting to be discussing some point about computers or law in one thread and two threads up have a huge circle jerk of people, including some of the same ones I am talking to, claiming without any justification that some of my friends and family are the pure embodiment of evil.

            I would suggest that part of the problem is that you are oversensitive to the criticism. If you read a claim that (for example) a group has bias or a claim that they are insufficiently rational; as a claim that the group is ‘the pure embodiment of evil,’ then it is you who cannot deal with criticism of a group that he is part of/feels close to.

            A common defense mechanism to protect an emotional attachment is to interpret criticism as much more angry/unreasonable than it is and then dismiss it for being too angry/unreasonable. You appear to be doing this in your comment.

            My perception is that you yourself have no particular understanding of feminism and/or a desire to actually debate it at a level of nuance. For example, when I tried to find some common ground by discussing an article by (for me) the least objectionable ‘known’ feminist, you chose not to enter the discussion.

            In general, I consider the potential for deep discussions about feminism/SJ here to be very limited and IMO, the unwillingness of SJ proponents to actually engage on a serious level is a major issue.

            On most other topics, when people offer simplistic criticism, they are engaged by people who are actually willing to dive into the details to find the nuance. When there is simplistic criticism of feminism/SJ, the response is usually not to dive into the details, but ‘don’t be a jerk.’ Such a response is counterproductive, as it leaves the impression that the proponents of SJ have no defense…except to appeal to emotions.

            Your demand that the critics of SJ act better is not unreasonable, but won’t be achieved unless the proponents of SJ act better as well.

            PS. This criticism doesn’t mean that I think that you are ‘the pure embodiment of evil’. I just think that you are human…just like feminists/SJ people/etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            While the point that reasoned argumentation is good and usually undersupplied is valid, if you haven’t seen the frequent posts asserting that SJ is evil, I think you might not be paying attention.

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Funny, I could use those exact words to describe “SJW”-leaning fora.

            I suggest you complain about them there. I don’t go to left leaning forums and take out my frustration on being dogpiled or strawmanned on SSC by ranting and raving about how terrible alt-right people are. That would be dumb.

            @Aapje

            In general, I consider the potential for deep discussions about feminism/SJ here to be very limited and IMO, the unwillingness of SJ proponents to actually engage on a serious level is a major issue.

            There are maybe two SJ proponents that regularly post here (not me). If the only hypothesis you can generate for why that might be is “proponents of SJ have no defense” I suggest you need to think about it some more.

            But I agree that there’s no potential here for deep discussions about feminism/SJ. The solution isn’t to keep pissing into the wind, it’s to give up on trying. Which is exactly what you should do. There’s a whole world out there to talk about besides “feminism/SJ” and if you must there are lots of other forums too.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I see people who believe that mainstream SJ ‘winning’ has (on the whole) bad outcomes for society*.

            For me, favoring things that I believe have bad outcomes is not synonymous with evil. After all, I think that all humans are imperfect and thus favor some things that have bad outcomes for society. Yet I am not so misanthropic to see humanity as evil (but not as good either).

            Calling movements and people evil strongly implies that they seek bad outcomes intentionally and/or that they cannot be convinced to not behave badly and/or that everything they want is bad. In general, ‘evil’ is a highly emotionally manipulative term that implies a strict dichotomy between good and bad.

            So when you declare that I and others assert that SJ is evil, I feel that you are applying a framing that is quite unfair because it implies that I have more extreme beliefs than I actually do.

            Finally, I need to point out that you are defending a less egregious accusation that the one that Brad made. He claimed that others and I are portraying SJ people as ‘the pure embodiment of evil’.

            IMHO, ‘the pure embodiment of evil’ is a category that goes way beyond mere evil. To me it comes across as an accusation that I regard SJ as being similar to Stalin or the Khmer Rouge.

            Brad also claimed that we are calling all his SJ identifying friends and family ‘the pure embodiment of evil.’ This is even more false, as SJ is merely a part of people’s belief systems. So my claim that mainstream SJ does more bad than good doesn’t mean that I am claiming that SJ identifying people are doing more bad than good. I have seen no one else makes that claim, except perhaps for SJWs. But note that people have a special category here especially because they distinguish between the more extremist parts of SJ and the rest.

            So…if the goal is to make critics of SJ use more nuanced language, I suggest that this won’t be achieved by making extremely non-nuanced statements about SJ critics.

            * Given the current state of society and of SJ. I’m not talking about taking the vote away from women or such.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            If the only hypothesis you can generate for why that might be is “proponents of SJ have no defense” I suggest you need to think about it some more.

            I never made that claim. If you are going to repeatedly straw man me, while not addressing my rebuttals of your earlier straw men, I see no point in further debate.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje: Uh, did you actually follow Brad’s link?

            No, and no. Noticing the endless malice of feminism is forbidden, and whatever you said — no matter what it was, no matter how true it was — was wrong and needs to be “toned down” as long as it communicates the concept that feminism is anything but holy and sainted and perfect and a flawless justification for Popularity.

            They act based on nothing but malice and their ends are nothing but destructive and they win every single time because they are not just popular, they are Popularity, the pure apotheosis of status that is utterly unmoored from any positive action or trait, the power that comes with no responsibility. They get to keep lying and winning forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, because they are Popularity. No matter how wrong they are, no matter how obviously malicious they are, it is still the responsibility of everyone who hasn’t yet killed themselves at the intolerability of being alive to fawn over them and grant them respect and deference and attention.

            I do not think that Brad is exaggerating overly much when he says that this depicts his friends and family as the embodiment of evil.

            I generally think it is dumb to pick out specific posters and claim that they have an individual duty to take part in any given thread. That said, given that you just spent a good chunk of a post complaining about how Brad didn’t personally engage with a post you made a month ago, I think it is fair game to point out: if you would like SSC to include more nuanced discussion of social justice, why haven’t you responded at all to the nonsense I quoted? Your lack-of-nuance detector appears to be permanently jammed to one side.

            You keep wandering into this sort of thread and claiming that the feminists and other pro-SJ people of SSC refuse to engage in good faith. But look again at the thread that you linked in an attempt to prove that Brad was not interested in actually discussing feminism. There’s all sorts of engagement, from various perspectives. I responded myself. It all seems reasonably calm and nuanced to me — especially in comparison to the unhinged rant that I quoted above. Who, exactly, is dragging down the tenor of the conversation here?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            So when you declare that I and others assert that SJ is evil

            When did I declare that you assert SJ is evil?

            In fact, I specifically exempted you from that by saying if you hadn’t noticed that others were doing it, you weren’t paying attention.

            That is highly discouraging.

            As to the distinction between SJW and SJ, you might use those terms non-interchangeably, but there are plenty here who either refer to SJW as if it is the entire left, or specifically admit that they think SJ (and not SJW) is evil.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            As someone who’s silently noticed a lot of SJW excesses, I too found the blockquote (“endless malice of feminism” et al.) to be unhelpfully shrill.

            (Unless it was clearly offered as a rant. I think SSC is an okay place to rant, but I also think one is gonna have to make it clear that that’s what it is, or just let that emotion go elsewhere.)

          • DrBeat says:

            “How dare he notice how malicious we are! How dare he notice how consistently we take action to punish the unpopular for being alive! We don’t have to permit this, we’re inherently popular!”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            I think SSC is an okay place to rant

            Is it though?

            Rants are generally only accepted when they are against the accepted outgroup. If SSC has an accepted outgroup, that is should be considered counter to its principles, I would think.

          • The Nybbler says:

            How dare he notice how consistently we take action to punish the unpopular for being alive!

            Noticing such things is fine. Making generalizations and backing them up is IMO also fine. Just making the generalizations and ranting about them in histrionic language is not useful. And I’m speaking as one who largely agrees with you about what they are, at least about some core set of them.

            That is: I agree SJ (modern use, not the older one) is evil (not “the embodiment of evil”, at least not yet). I believe there is a distinction between larger SJ and SJWs, and that the latter are more evil in as much as they use evil tactics which are not required by SJ as a whole.

            I agree that they stand on their moral high horse and use it as an excuse to bully (the ant-launching articles and similar more general ones like “Why are Nerds So Sexist” from Vox and Pete Warden’s “Why Nerd Culture Must Die”)

            But just yelling about it in mixed company does no good, convinces nobody, and worse, sounds like one of them when they’re off on a rant about some imagined microaggression.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I do not think that Brad is exaggerating overly much when he says that this depicts his friends and family as the embodiment of evil.

            As said before, that’s just one guy, kind of like saying this place is full of people who think alt-Boeotians are the source of all evil. As for other people who are not as melodramatic, that’s where Aapje’s objection (correct or not) is relevant.

          • Brad says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            (Unless it was clearly offered as a rant. I think SSC is an okay place to rant, but I also think one is gonna have to make it clear that that’s what it is, or just let that emotion go elsewhere.)

            I’d rather it wasn’t.

            I’m reminded of part of Scott’s post on bravery debates:

            The religious and the irreligious alike enjoy making fun of Reddit’s r/atheism, which combines an extreme strawmanning of religious positions with childish insults and distasteful triumphalism. Recently the moderators themselves have become a bit embarrassed by it and instituted some rules intended to tone things down, leading to some of the most impressive Internet drama I have ever seen. In its midst, some people started talking about what the old strawmanning triumphalist r/atheism meant to them (see for example here).

            But there is – previously unappreciated by me – a large population of people for whom really dumb offensive strawmannish memes are exactly what they need.

            So fine, I acknowledge that there is some social value in having safe spaces for people to engage in circle-jerking about how terrible feminists are or social justice warriors or whatever. But I don’t see why it has to be this place. It’s inimical to everything else and so should be in a stand alone forum dedicated to that purpose. Probably something on 4chan already exists.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I have told DrBeat to tone it down multiple times, including very recently. However, I am not a stalker or parent (or mod) who will follow posters around and correct them each time they say something I disagree with.

            But I object to taking an outlier, who does get push back or who gets ignored, but who doesn’t actually get a lot of support, as representative for the people who object to SJ.

            Furthermore, I have a problem with the many comments that are about how SJ doesn’t get a fair shake over here, but the few comments that actually argue in favor of SJ based on its value.

            If you have people who oppose X, but you are unwilling to build a solid defense of X, you cannot expect those people to change their mind.

          • Brad says:

            @WHtA

            As said before, that’s just one guy, kind of like saying this place is full of people who think alt-Boeotians are the source of all evil. As for other people who are not as melodramatic, that’s where Aapje’s objection (correct or not) is relevant.

            And as I said before that particular style is just one of the many types of terrible posts when it comes to this topic.

            Would you seriously claim that the median post about feminists or feminism is as well argued and supported as the median post about battleships? Or science fiction novels? Court cases? Medieval Arabic cooking? Cognitive biases? Psychiatric disorders? Virtually any other topic?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Seconding what Brad’s saying. When talking about some things on the left, feminism being a notable advantage, the level of charity drops appreciably, and the level of sloppiness allowable rises.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            HeelBearCub wrote: Rants are generally only accepted when they are against the accepted outgroup. If SSC has an accepted outgroup, that is should be considered counter to its principles, I would think.

            Brad wrote: So fine, I acknowledge that there is some social value in having safe spaces for people to engage in circle-jerking about how terrible feminists are or social justice warriors or whatever. But I don’t see why it has to be this place.

            Clearly, I didn’t unpack my caveat and ended up poking my own argument in the eye. Trying it again: I think SSC is an okay place to rant, but I also think one is gonna have to make it clear that that’s what it is, or just let that emotion go elsewhere.

            So what I meant here was that I think SSC is an okay place to rant, provided one wraps it in language that makes it clear that “this is what my emotional side thinks about $issue, or it’s some fellow traveler’s emotional voice, and I recognize that there’s a rational voice that’s necessarily different”. If rants are like hand grenades, this’d be like me letting you all know that it exists, it blows up in this way, and I’ll demonstrate it by setting it off in this blastproof space off to the side that will let everyone see it without catching shrapnel.

            This space – SSC – is IMO expressly not a safe space (except for rationalists). Safe spaces aren’t really meant for opponents’ eyes. This space is. If anything, it’s a way for the opponents to safely see how a proponent reacts when they’re not thinking that hard, so that the opponents don’t simply end up with some weakman version of what drives proponents.

            Does that make more sense now?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            Sure that makes sense.

            I’m less inclined to think that the “blast room” actually exists in this space, though. If I start into a rant about wingnut dumpster fires, or mysognist assholes, or … I’m not sure any amount of caveating will insulate those people who are inclined to feel caught in the blast from feeling that they are, in fact, blasted.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Well, I concede that I’m arguing for an ought that is different from the current is.

            (Also: it’s my guess on what Scott’s ought is.)

            The takehome being: if we’re not blastproofing our rants (is there LW jargon for this?), and someone calls us on it, I’m betting the latter would get tacit support.

            (I can, at the same time, say that a lot of tacit permissivity to right-wing rants here is likely borne of their perceived lack of permissivity, if not outright dismissal, of right-wing views in non-right-wing media.)

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            And as I said before that particular style is just one of the many types of terrible posts when it comes to this topic.

            And that’s where Aapje’s criticism comes in, as I stated right after the sentence you quoted. Iain replied to said criticism by quoting that particular post, which is why I, again, stated that it was not a valid counterargument because it’s just one particular example.

            Would you seriously claim that the median post about feminists or feminism is as well argued and supported as the median post about battleships? Or science fiction novels? Court cases? Medieval Arabic cooking? Cognitive biases? Psychiatric disorders? Virtually any other topic?

            To be honest, I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough on any of those topics to make a fair assessment. Probably not, but there’s a pretty big gulf between “not to the standard of detail and knowledge with which bean talks about battleships” and “completely devoid of value”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @DrBeat – There’s replies in the other thread, if you’d like to engage. As for your comment here, how is someone on the other side who thinks they aren’t a utility-annihilating monster supposed to meaningfully respond to that? I disagree with you and am interested in an actual discussion, but that requires enough charity on your side to admit that there might be a non-monstrous case for your opponents. Right now you’re just ranting. This wasn’t the place for it when it was Earthly Knight, and it’s not the place when it’s you either.

            @Brad – “But I don’t see why it has to be this place. It’s inimical to everything else and so should be in a stand alone forum dedicated to that purpose.”

            Agreed. What would you like to see people do about it when it shows up anyway, though? Report vs not report? Ignore vs attempt to engage constructively vs snark back?

            “The particular style is shared only be two posters but there is an entire taxonomy of logic and evidence free attacks on the hated enemies — variously called “feminists”, “the Left”, “progressives”, “SJ types, “SJW” and so on.”

            It seemed to me a while back that there was too much of this going on, so I personally tried to back off posting as a whole, especially tried to back off posting anti-SJ stuff. It doesn’t seem to have helped. When people post anti-SJ stuff backed with evidence and logic, the volume of evidence- and logic-free attacks don’t go down, the total volume of anti-SJ content goes up, and it comes across as dog-piling. If the logic- and evidence-based posters stay quiet, the logic-free people keep posting anyway, and it looks like this is an echo chamber for deranged SJ haters. If the logical people engage with the illogical people on their own side, the total amount of anti-SJ content likewise goes up, and we get “SJ: abominable or literally the worst?”.

            Wat do?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            When talking about some things on the left, feminism being a notable advantage, the level of charity drops appreciably, and the level of sloppiness allowable rises.

            In my august opinion, this is for two reasons: firstly, feminism is a classic example of abuse of charity. When a group of people consistently seems to act one way and speak another, taking them at their word will only yield disadvantages.

            Now, that could be said for many groups and people, including even possibly me (I wouldn’t consider myself alt-right, but others might and the alt-right could easily be considered a charity-abusing group). The difference is that I will engage you with my arguments; even if you can’t take me at my word, you can at least examine my word and decide whether or not you agree with it. With feminism, it’s the exact opposite; the majority of feminists do not come out to play, and if they’re forced to engage with someone they will usually just call him a sexist, misogynist, and so forth. Yes, there are a few feminists here who will engage and without using these words and phrases, but in my experience they are few and far between. Consider how little mainstream discussion of the wage gap there is, despite it being nonsense. Because of that, it often defaults back to feminists as people and their aims, because it is so difficult to simply debate the arguments itself.

          • Protagoras says:

            In my experience, many feminists are perfectly willing to engage in person, in one on one or small group interactions. In mob situations, people behave differently. The internet produces far more mob situations than arise in real world interaction, so anyone who gets the majority of their impression of any group from its representatives on the internet will have a distorted view of the group.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @AnonYEmous – “firstly, feminism is a classic example of abuse of charity.”

            This is certainly an argument one could make. What would a counter-argument look like? What would be evidence that could convince you this argument is wrong?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            What would a counter-argument look like? What would be evidence that could convince you this argument is wrong?

            The feminists who say their primary goal is equality, acting against radical feminists who believe in no such thing, and acknowledging men’s issues in a way that isn’t perfunctory.

            As to Protagoras: Sadly, the problem is that feminism in general seems to act in mobs; protests, activism, and such is rarely individual. When a mob of people calls you sexist and demands your firing, that’s a problem, and I don’t care how reasonable those people can be outside of this. Which presupposes that they are; I haven’t quite found them to be.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            OK, so, FacelessCraven has already responded, but I’m going to say something similar but different.

            If you want to make the argument “feminism is an abuse of charity”, give some examples. Point out some cases of feminists doing one thing and saying another. And so on. What kinds of feminism do this? What kinds don’t? It’s a bit of a sloppy statement, it’s presented with no evidence, it’s extremely general – it should get picked apart, and if the topic was battleships, it would be.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            As a side note: this commenting system is quite annoying. Why can’t I simply click “reply” on sir Dndnrsn’s comment?

            Dndnrsn: A brief example: currently, America functions under the Duluth model of domestic violence, wherein it is nearly impossible to charge women for domestic violence; moreover, men receive very few resources, such as shelters and other such, meant for domestic violence victims. When feminists make a serious protest against this – a physical, live protest to government – I will believe that they are for general equality and I will be willing to reciprocate and build with them a better movement.

            Instead, an advertising executive makes a statement of his personal experience “Of all of the great women I offered a promotion to, 2/3ds turned it down” and is fired.

            Now, that’s a bit asymmetrical, and you might call the assessment unfair for that reason – asking people to shift their focus from one to the other is a bit odd. But my point is, radical feminists pull crap like that, stifling the conversation all the while, and moderate feminists let clear injustices go. If they’re not interested in tackling the Duluth model, how about disparate gender sentencing?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            Feminists, as humans do in general, fall prey to fallacies, mistakes, cognitive errors, tribalism, etc. The point is not to get into an argument over feminism: the point is that feminism gets less charity here when it comes to its fallacies, mistakes, cognitive errors, tribalism, etc than a lot of other movements do.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            the point is that feminism gets less charity here when it comes to its fallacies, mistakes, cognitive errors, tribalism, etc than a lot of other movements do.

            And I think that’s perfectly justified; feminists have a lot of power and they are actively using it to cause a lot of damage, all while claiming that they don’t – because, you see, feminism isn’t a monolith, which explains why you would remain in an ideology where all the most prominent members totally disagree with you.

            Side note: feminism is like the alt-right if Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos switched follower counts. Or switched amount of influence.

            Anyways, I take people’s points about questions regarding “the left” and “feminism” and “social justice” being nonsubject to rigor. But I also think there’s at least some merit to that – not enough to warrant it, but enough to warrant an understanding of its existence, I guess.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            It’s a march against abortion

            …and against infanticide. And against euthanasia.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “And I think that’s perfectly justified; feminists have a lot of power and they are actively using it to cause a lot of damage, all while claiming that they don’t”

            I don’t think they have as much power as you say, but I do think the refusal to admit responsibility for causing damage goes beyond ordinary defensiveness.

            I think it’s based in “With great power comes great responsibility”…. so the best way to dodge responsibility is to claim to have no power.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Brad:

            Would you seriously claim that the median post about feminists or feminism is as well argued and supported as the median post about battleships? Or science fiction novels? Court cases? Medieval Arabic cooking? Cognitive biases? Psychiatric disorders? Virtually any other topic?

            I think you’re stacking the deck here by choosing topics that are either relatively uncontroversial or quite technical. I don’t think that the average post about feminism here is worse than the average post about politics or religion, which are better comparisons than “battleships” or “medieval Arabic cooking”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            Regardless of the reality of the situation, whatever the reality is – I am not arguing on the object level. There are a lot of topics – including controversial topics! –
            where if you were to say “x causes a lot of damage, while claiming it doesn’t” there would be a big discussion over what is x, how can you subdivide x, what does it mean to say x is causing damage, blah blah blah. Whereas with feminism, it’s going to probably be a big ol’ rigourless dogpile.

            @The original Mr. X

            Does religion get discussed much around here? I can’t think of any religious position that gets treated like feminism does around here.

          • Brad says:

            @FacelessCraven (5:37 pm):

            Good post and good question. I’ve noticed and appreciated the changes to your approach to posting on anti-SJ here. I’m not sure there’s anything more you can or should do besides leading by example. I do think that posts along the lines of “I’m sympathetic to your overall position but …” are helpful, particularly if there is already a big thread going and so the ignore and hope it goes away option is already defaulted.

            In a larger sense, I’d like to see Scott add to his list (SJ, SJW, feminist, feminism would be good candidates to start) but I wouldn’t want him to feel he had to because he felt he in danger otherwise.

            @Mr. X

            I don’t think that the average post about feminism here is worse than the average post about politics or religion, which are better comparisons than “battleships” or “medieval Arabic cooking”.

            I think posts about religion are rather decent. I’ve learned quite a bit about Catholicism and some about American Protestantism over my time reading comments here. I think I’ve also developed at least a little more respect for people of faith.

            Even in politics there are some excellent posts. Consider Larry K’s (sorry don’t remember the full last name) posts on his experience as an elected official. Or the discussion surrounding brexit — sure there’s was a bunch of heat there, but there were interesting tidbits too.

            In contrast anything to do with so-called SJWs or feminists is invariably a dumpster fire.

          • lvlln says:

            AnonYEmous:

            Now, that’s a bit asymmetrical, and you might call the assessment unfair for that reason – asking people to shift their focus from one to the other is a bit odd. But my point is, radical feminists pull crap like that, stifling the conversation all the while, and moderate feminists let clear injustices go. If they’re not interested in tackling the Duluth model, how about disparate gender sentencing?

            Regarding this specific object-level question, as someone you’d probably characterize as a “moderate feminist,” I would answer that with, I’ve tried, but at this point, I’m keeping my head down just like you, because experience has shown me that attempting to call out those injustices from a feminist perspective gets me attacked by those you call “radical feminists.” Maybe that’s not a satisfying answer, and maybe that reveals me to be a coward, but seeing the destruction, pain, and suffering caused by the people you call “radical feminists,” I have no interest in sticking my own neck out. I do worry that if all people like me continued to act like this, the people you call “radical feminists” will end up permanently tarnishing the brand of feminism, and that prospect makes me sad, but push comes to shove, I care more about my own safety and health than the health of that brand.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @lvlln

            the people you call “radical feminists” will end up permanently tarnishing the brand of feminism

            It’s hard to determine permanence, but this has already happened to a significant degree.

            @Brad:

            In contrast anything to do with so-called SJWs or feminists is invariably a dumpster fire.

            My experience is that feminists and SJWs consider any commentary which contains opinions opposed to theirs to be a “dumpster fire”.

          • Brad says:

            I think it’s telling that more than one poster apparently finds it impossible to avoid sharing their object level opinion of feminists even where it is so clearly beside the point.

            @The Nybbler

            My experience is that feminists and SJWs …

            Exactly the kind of useless crap that never needs to be posted.

          • DrBeat says:

            I don’t think they have as much power as you say, but I do think the refusal to admit responsibility for causing damage goes beyond ordinary defensiveness.

            Name one other ideology in the Western world that offers college courses, all over said Western world, for the sole and explicit purpose of teaching that ideology to students.

            Name one other ideology in the Western world that has government agencies devoted explicitly and exclusively to promoting that ideology.

            Name one other ideology in the Western world where an accusation of not following that ideology is proof in and of itself that the accused is a horrible person who must be punished every single time he or she is perceptible.

            There are other cases of ideologies with this power, outside the modern West — those ideologies are Communism and Islamism.

            Feminism has inexhaustible and insurmountable power, which nobody is capable of noticing. Because feminism is popularity, and it is only “normal” and not worthy of notice when Popularity is given time and attention and respect and deference and resources.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            It is in general not possible to be both an advocate and a credible referee. This specific instance is no exception. You used the term “dumpster fire”, then complained that my commentary on that term is somehow out of bounds. That’s rather transparent.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And, a good example of what I mean here. What is a “radical” feminist? The sorts of feminists people here are objecting to contain very few actual radical feminists.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler
            Your “commentary” on dumpster fire was a anecdote about your supposed personal experience with very vaguely defined, but in any event quite large, groups of people. It offered no insight whatsoever into “dumpster fire” — not that any is needed. It just served as incidental vehicle for making hostile evidence free claims about the hated enemy.

            Like I said, exactly the kind of useless crap that doesn’t need to be posted.

          • Nornagest says:

            What is a “radical” feminist? The sorts of feminists people here are objecting to contain very few actual radical feminists.

            The answer to the first sentence is “one who believes gender roles to be inherently oppressive, and works to overthrow them”, but I’m not sure how true the second sentence is anymore. The lines between different strains of feminism are pretty blurry outside academic circles, and radical feminism is probably the most influential one; concepts like the patriarchy are radical inventions, and a lot of activists accept them and the rhetoric that goes along with them.

            Arguably this is because liberal feminism won so thoroughly that no one remembers the stuff it cared about was ever a live issue, but still.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @DrBeat

            Capitalism?

          • Nornagest says:

            Capitalism fails “accusation of not following… is proof that the accused is a horrible person”; being Communist has a stigma, but merely identifying as skeptical of capitalism generally doesn’t, especially in elite circles.

            You could argue for Christianity, though (fails government sponsorship in the US, but not in some other Western countries) or e.g. the American civil religion (meets all three points, but only if you think of it as an ideology).

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Name one other ideology in the Western world that offers college courses, all over said Western world, for the sole and explicit purpose of teaching that ideology to students.

            Well, depends on where do you stretch “Western World” to, but that doesn’t really happen around here… well, maybe in Sociology, but nobody actually cares about Sociologists, literally the most irrelevant science.

            Name one other ideology in the Western world where an accusation of not following that ideology is proof in and of itself that the accused is a horrible person who must be punished every single time he or she is perceptible.

            Most people don’t identify as feminists, not even most women. And this is with the motteest “yay Women” definition of feminism, not even looking at the uglier parts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            My point, again, isn’t to get into the object-level weeds. It’s to note that “radical feminist” means something, and the way people often use it – “unpleasant feminist” – is incorrect. Ordinarily this is a place where people are fairly scrupulous about pigeonholing things and about terminology. Far less so in this case.

          • The Nybbler says:

            was a anecdote about your supposed personal experience with very vaguely defined, but in any event quite large, groups of people

            Ah, and this:

            In contrast anything to do with so-called SJWs or feminists is invariably a dumpster fire.

            absolutely does not fit that description, right?

          • Nornagest says:

            The only other place I see “radical feminist” in this thread is in AnonYEmous’s posts, and they’re using it against “moderate feminist”. Which, yes, is incorrect; it describes a school of thought, not a level of commitment, though I’ll bet the people most attached to radical ideas (alongside a couple others, like Marxian feminism) are also those most committed to feminist ideology.

            So point for you, I guess, but I’m not sure it makes sense to be generalizing over the whole forum when it’s one guy doing it. Especially when the grounds for confusion that I described above exist.

          • Brad says:

            absolutely does not fit that description, right?

            No it doesn’t. I’m talking about posters in this forum, which is in the low hundreds at most, and in terms of regular posters less than 50. In terms of posts there are in the thousands or maybe low tens of thousands and they are all available to peruse in the archives. Further it is a comment on shared environment that all the people in the discussion have some familiarity with.

            Self identified feminists are in the tens of millions in the United States alone and who knows what “social justice warrior” even means or how many of them there are, if any.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Seems to me that you’re making a vague and vaguely defined complaint about a large body of work. Which makes your objection to my comment an isolated demand for rigor. But then, I pointed out it’s usually not possible to be a credible referee in a discussion you’re also holding a position in, and that applies to me as well as to you.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest:

            It’s something I see fairly commonly, not just here, but in general, even in the real world. A feminist is only a radical feminist if they either want to change society in huge and (thus the name) radical ways, or if they’re really good at skateboard tricks. Or of course both.

            This is a place that, supposedly, aspires to a higher level of precision and so on than is the norm in the wider world. This is a subject where that disappears.

          • DrBeat says:

            Capitalism fails because outside the US, accusations of not being a capitalist are not lethal poison. Also, economics classes are not universally to instill the values of capitalism. People can and do, frequently, go to economics class and get told that capitalism is bad for freedom and the economy, and not just in the “Fifty Stalins” way. Nobody ever went to a gender studies class and got told feminism is bad for women’s rights outside of “Fifty Stalins” criticism.

            Christianity obviously fails the test because accusing Jews and Muslims of not being Christian is something that destroys the accuser, not the accused. Also, “a few countries” having Christianity-promoting government arms is not the same thing as “everyone has it and does not even notice they are promoting an ideology because the ideology is so inassailably popular that people are not even capable of noticing that they are giving it more power”.

            American civil religion obviously fails because A: it would only possibly apply in America, not the entire Western world, and by the actual definition of American civil religion you gave me, B: they don’t have classes to inculcate students in American civil religion and C: visibly denying or flaunting the tenets of American civil religion is how Blue Tribe people instantiate their high social status, so accusations of not following it are not damaging.

          • Nornagest says:

            A feminist is only a radical feminist if they either want to change society in huge and (thus the name) radical ways, or if they’re really good at skateboard tricks. Or of course both.

            I don’t know if I’d go that far. The “radical” in “radical feminist” does not mean “committed” or “strident”; but at this point I’m not sure it means “revolutionary” either.

            Thing is, there’s a huge segment of feminists these days — certainly most activists, maybe most self-identifying feminists full stop — whose politics rest on ideas like patriarchy, rape culture, etc. Most of them are probably not e.g. gender abolitionists, but those ideas were developed by people who were. If you’re looking for a word to describe the intellectual tradition they belong to, “radical” is about the only one out there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest:

            There are a lot of academics whose methods rest on Marx, and whose intellectual tradition rests on Marx and related thought, but they aren’t revolutionaries either.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are a lot of academics whose methods rest on Marx, but they aren’t revolutionaries either.

            Exactly. We can say that someone employs Marxist analysis, or is a Marxist archaologist, without implying that they’re a communist revolutionary; seems to me that something similar ought to apply to radical feminist models.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest: the fact that there’s nobody the school of thought is named after, like with Marx, confuses it, though. If someone is a “radical feminist” – do they use or abuse the tools of 70s radical feminists or whatever, or are they an actual radical? The possibility for intentional and unintentional equivocation is obvious.

            Because the way you are putting it, a “radical feminist” could be on the one hand somebody writing about how choosing Netflix over HBO is a feminist act and justifying it using radical terminology and thinking, or on the other hand somebody who wants everyone to wear standardized jumpsuits and have all children raised in common.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s a bullet I’m willing to bite, at least for now. It’s too bad there isn’t something for radical feminism analogous to the Marxian/Marxist split in some branches of the humanities, but insisting on a narrow construction of “radical” leaves us without a way of talking about the ideas involved, and it seems to me that those ideas are more important right now than a tiny fringe of jumpsuit partisans.

            There’s some potential for motte-and-bailey abuse, but in practice taking the narrow view seems to shift the motte-and-bailey dynamic to feminism as a whole, which is even worse.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            OK, but “radical” vs “radical-influenced” maybe. In any case, this doesn’t really matter. My point is that this sort of conversation should happen a lot more, instead of someone just sort of tossing “radical feminist” out there without explaining what that means in context.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Trump proposed broad cuts to all non-military grants. That will affect a vast majority of scientists, and a vast majority of science. So yes it’s a general march in response to a general stupid thing Trump proposed to do.

          Duh? What did you expect would happen?

          • Acedia says:

            Duh? What did you expect would happen?

            Less of this kind of thing would be nice.

          • Tibor says:

            I agree that this is more relevant in the US where there is the clear goal of more science funding, although I probably still would not take part there either (I don’t like marches and demostrations, they are somehow too “collectivistic”…I suppose the only time I’d be willing to join one would be when it could directly lead to a push to change an oppressive regime or something like that). But in Europe I can hardly see it as anything other than virtue signalling.

          • So yes it’s a general march in response to a general stupid thing Trump proposed to do.

            Do you think you can estimate how much should be spent by government on science well enough to know if it ought to be the present level, ten percent less, or ten percent more?

            If not, I don’t see your basis for describing Trump’s proposal as stupid, other than status quo bias. Conflating “it makes me worse off” with “stupid,” which is what a good deal of the talk about the effect on scientists of the proposed cut is doing, is not convincing. Or scientific.

            To put the point differently, science as an industry is not the same thing as science as an intellectual project. The science industry, like the steel industry, can be expected to try to influence government policy in its favor. Both will do so by claiming that what is good for them is good for the country. In both cases, one would like more evidence than “he is proposing to spend less on us next year than last year.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            And you oppose the name “March for Life”?

          • Tibor says:

            @Heelbearcub: Was it perhaps addressed to me? Yes, March for Life is also a stupid name. I would generally like people to be more civil and less tribal…even networking can be done in ways other than marching on the street and shouting slogans. However, I care less about that than about science and how it is presented and interpreted. More importantly, it seems to be that science is almost antithetical to marching and demonstrating. It is supposed to use careful argumentation and evaluate opposing viewpoints carefully.

            Now a “march for keeping/increasing the research funding” would be ok (if that’s the point), there is no pretense that there is something “scientific” about the march. Of course, I am not expecting people to do that, but it would be a lot more honest. Since I have higher expectation of scientists (especially when they invoke Science) than for people who oppose abortions, I am more annoyed by this by any life marches. In general, I have higher expectations and demands from people I care about and at least partially sympathize with than from others. I want them to be the best they can be – if I relax my expenctations since “they are the good guys”, they will quickly cease being the good guys. It is the potential backlash that (at least partially) keeps people from the “dark arts”.

          • Trump proposed broad cuts to all non-military grants. That will affect a vast majority of scientists, and a vast majority of science.

            You believe that a “vast majority” of scientists are paid by the government? I doubt it.

            A quick Google finds”

            The US spent $456.1 billion for research and development (R&D) in 2013, the most recent year for which such figures are available, according to the National Science Foundation. The private sector accounted for $322.5 billion, or 71%, of total national expenditures, with universities and colleges spending $64.7 billion, or 14%, in second place.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Do you think you can estimate how much should be spent by government on science well enough to know if it ought to be the present level, ten percent less, or ten percent more?”

            Yeah, how about instead of looking at the algorithm I, an internet rando, am proposing for calculating science spending, we look at the algorithm the dude Trump put in charge of the budget proposal (the guy who actually matters) actually used.

            Do you think he made an argument either way? We know what he did. He poured through Trump’s speeches. Is what we are going to use to decide science spending, Trump’s barely coherent ramblings on stage?

            David, you are a pretty libertarian guy. Presumably you will be in favor of less rather than more fed spending. Presumably, in lots of areas there are strong libertarian arguments in favor of less fed spending. Presumably, there are strong libertarian arguments in favor of less science spending. That’s all fine!

            My question to you is: is the clown show in charge actually using any of that, or is this one of those stopped clock being right things, by your lights?

            My view is, even if we agree that there should be less science spending, the specific way in which things are currently being done should chill you to the bone.

            My actual views on fed spending are: STEM and infrastructure generally pay for themselves, at spending levels far larger than what we have here in the US. But again, this is a book-sized discussion.

          • Careless says:

            Ilya Shpitser: it is completely possible that both of you have stupid ideas. When they’re unsupported, well, you don’t come off any better.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Sure, it’s possible.

            The difference being, I am an internet rando and not a specialist in public policy. He is a dude actually in charge of policy.

            It’s almost like that saying came true with Trump’s people: somehow someone who drove a taxicab or cut hair got a gig running the country.

            In actual fact talking about ROI is at least a sensible thing to talk about when it comes to research spending. Is there any signal in your post at all?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “The truth of the matter is is the second law of thermo fluid dynamics says that the world progresses from order to disorder not disorder to order.”

            Above is a direct quote from a speech a guy currently being vetted for the Army secretary position made, re: evolution as a theory. There was more, something about rusting lawnmowers, and irreducibly complex blood clotting. “Magnets, how do they work?” level stuff.

            This is not really an isolated incident, the Trump strategy is to pick on ideology and loyalty, not basic competence or sanity.

            The thing is, I am not a specialist in setting policy, but I would go up against a clown like above on basically anything.

            You are placing your faith in a clown show.

    • Civilis says:

      At some level, the American left (at least the Democratic establishment part of it) has managed to develop an association between ‘Science’ and the left, and if the March for Science causes enough people to go “I like science, the Democrats like science, therefore I’ll vote Democratic” then it’s a net win for the left. Media coverage, at least by the quasi-centrist media, seems to have put a presentable spin on the march by highlighting the “science” aspects of it, so I’d wager in the short term the march had its intended effect. Further, if you’re trying to promote science rather than the left, making science popular is going to cause at least some bandwagoning; a lot of people talking about how science is important is going to make some people that didn’t think science was important realize how important it is.

      On the other hand, the more I think it over, the more Scott’s base point in the whole kerfuffle a few posts back seems to make sense. Any event like this is going to cause some people to go “I like science, the Democrats like science, therefore I’ll vote Democratic” and others to go “I don’t like the Democrats, the Democrats like science, therefore I don’t like science(1).”

      I think one of the differences is the March for Science tried to promote a generic ‘science’ without getting into specifics, while the free speech protests have a defined political argument. I’m biased, so I can’t say which is the better method for arguing your cause. The Free Speech cause takes a risk in that some people will say ‘I don’t like what the people they’re defending are saying, therefore free speech is bad’. The March for Science avoids getting too locked down on specific issues, but without specific policies is unable to focus on specific changes. I think it depends who the protest is directed at, the people that make decisions by emotion or by rationalization.

      (1) This is a simplification. The real risk is that people will assume that people arguing for ‘free speech’ and ‘science’ are just codewords for political positions. The long term effect is the same. If science were really under threat, I’d first assume that the people arguing for science were actually arguing for leftist political positions and be tempted to dismiss them out of hand.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Look, I don’t know to what extent the shadowy cabal of the american left is responsible here, but Trump, being a disruptor, had a way of changing all that and trying to court the scientific establishment.

        Instead he opted for proposing 20% NIH cuts and 10% NSF cuts. I don’t think we need to invoke shadowy cabals to explain his lack of popularity with scientists. If nothing else, follow the money. Scientists are a constituency like any other, and hate getting thrown under the bus.

        • Civilis says:

          Instead he opted for proposing 20% NIH cuts and 10% NSF cuts. I don’t think we need to invoke shadowy cabals to explain his lack of popularity with scientists. If nothing else, follow the money. Scientists are a constituency like any other, and hate getting thrown under the bus.

          I’m not proposing the existence of any shadowy cabal, just self-interest by all parties. Trump’s at a disadvantage in that his political base, at least in theory, is in favor of lower government spending in general, and thus at odds with a political group that wants money from the government. There’s no way to keep both sides happy, and almost all politicians choose their base. (‘Throw[ing] under the bus’ usually refers to sacrificing your own ally; it should be obvious that the ‘scientific establishment’ (as much as it can be considered to be a group) and the right have not been allies for quite some time.)

          Further, this isn’t the first round of the game, and the game will continue. By further tying themselves to the Democratic party and politics in general, they only encourage the Republicans to further cut federal spending on science. Scientists can politicize themselves and risk getting burned when their party is out of power, or depoliticize themselves and lose some ability to influence the government. The scientific community may be right to side with the Democratic party, but they have to take the bad with the good.

          And, from the right, I think it’s a good point: if we’re going to fund science with tax dollars, I want those dollars going to scientific research, not to lobby the government for more tax dollars. (You can’t honestly expect me to believe that all the time to prepare for this march was spent off the clock.)

          • quanta413 says:

            And, from the right, I think it’s a good point: if we’re going to fund science with tax dollars, I want those dollars going to scientific research, not to lobby the government for more tax dollars. (You can’t honestly expect me to believe that all the time to prepare for this march was spent off the clock.)

            From a large R1 university, I can confirm that the time I saw people here spending to prepare was definitely not off the clock.

          • Iain says:

            if we’re going to fund science with tax dollars, I want those dollars going to scientific research, not to lobby the government for more tax dollars. (You can’t honestly expect me to believe that all the time to prepare for this march was spent off the clock.)

            This is silly. What percentage of overall federal science funding would you estimate was spent organizing this march? 0.01%? 0.001%? I guarantee you that more federally funded science time will be wasted on Facebook tomorrow than was spent organizing the entire March for Science.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Are you implying marchers were paid, or accusing them of committing fraud? Go ahead and say what you mean.

          • quanta413 says:

            Are you implying marchers were paid, or accusing them of committing fraud? Go ahead and say what you mean.

            I don’t know what original poster is stating exactly, but I am stating exactly what I said and implying nothing. You can imagine that I’m implying a shadowy conspiracy or you can interpret things in the obvious way. They spent time organizing for the march while at work (sending e-mails, deciding things, etc.). This is very similar to browsing facebook or reddit during work (which they also do as Iain mentions) and not really any more of a waste. That this would imply accusations of fraud is a pretty large leap.

            But if you would like to pretend that scientists are paragons of human virtue who would never mingle work with not work, that’s your prerogative I guess.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:
            “On the clock”?

            When the next wave of grant funding is being applied for, participation in the march for science won’t count for anything. The results of the last round will matter.

            And I’m betting almost all of these people are salaried anyway.

          • Civilis says:

            Iain:This is silly. What percentage of overall federal science funding would you estimate was spent organizing this march? 0.01%? 0.001%? I guarantee you that more federally funded science time will be wasted on Facebook tomorrow than was spent organizing the entire March for Science.

            Ilya:Are you implying marchers were paid, or accusing them of committing fraud? Go ahead and say what you mean.

            If it’s fraud, it’s the same as using the internet to browse SSC when you’re supposed to be working; not much taken individually, but it adds up. And don’t just limit this to this particular march; again, this march is just a small part of a larger ongoing political process. It might not mean much when Jane Grad Student copies a few leaflets on the government’s dime, but when there’s “Richard Windsor” level federal employees playing both sides of the game, it can add up.

          • quanta413 says:

            When the next wave of grant funding is being applied for, participation in the march for science won’t count for anything. The results of the last round will matter.

            And I’m betting almost all of these people are salaried anyway.

            It’s true they are all salaried anyways because how else do you get so many hours of work from someone for so little pay. So no one is literally on the clock.

            Honestly, it’s no one’s fault here, but I’m just especially irritated right now about this sort of thing because some of my time in work meetings- that are supposedly about the science we are doing– is being wasted on irrelevant political shit when I could be doing work. I should probably just drop it and bring it up in a few months after it all blows over and I won’t be annoyed about time lost.

          • Civilis says:

            I’m not the only one that’s reached the same conclusion:

            I have considerable sympathy with the scientific community’s worries about the Trump administration. Indeed, I gave Trump a mostly failing grade on science policy when he was running for president. But Berezow is all too right that the marchers risk turning the scientific enterprise into just another special interest group in the eyes of the public. If that happens, scientists might someday find themselves right down there in the bottom of the polls with the press and Congress.
            – Ronald Baily at Reason.com (http://reason.com/archives/2017/04/21/scientists-march-on-washington)

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Scientists _are_ an interest group. They are a group and they have interests in how government decides certain things. This is because they largely rely on the government for funding, and funding is very important for their careers.

            In what world are scientists not an interest group? Scientists were even an interest group back in Leibniz’s day in the sense of having to lobby their benefactors.

            You are basically engaged in special demands for rigor here. Politicians don’t dare to fuck around with funding of important interest groups in battleground states, for obvious reasons. This is no different — fuck with funding, and expect some pushback.

          • Scientists _are_ an interest group.

            And, like other interest groups, they try to cloak their self-interest in the rhetoric of what is good for the country. Quite a lot of people who don’t believe that when it’s the steel industry or the soft drink industry take it as obvious gospel truth when it’s the government funded science industry.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            The issue is that there are goals that have widespread support in society, like:

            1. We want to develop new technology that makes people’s lives better
            2. We want to figure out objective truth

            And there are tribal goals:

            A. We want to have nice jobs in science
            B. We want to use our ‘pull’ to implement the agenda that our tribe favors

            The issue is that when the latter goals become dominant, you destroy the value of science in the eyes of many people. Lots more people are OK with scientists that produce things that they see a benefit from, than scientists that produce nothing that makes their lives better. Lots of people like objective fact, but far fewer people favor pseudoscience that is used to push ideals by faking the evidence.

            A and B are in direct opposition to 1 & 2. A lot of people are worried that we are moving more and more to A and B.

            For me, the way you frame things is telling and reflects very badly on you. If you were to say: there are parts of science that do a very poor job, but it is wrong to indiscriminately cut funding from all parts of science, because it hurts the parts that need more funding, not less; then I’d agree with that.

            But right now you are engaging in tribalism and selling it as science.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            No, hah. You completely misunderstand. Read back through my posts about this.

            People say: “whoa whoa whoa, Trump is not anti-science! Where did you get this?”

            Me: “Because he’s messing with science money, and science is a constituency just like corn farmers.”

            As long as people are clear that scientists are a constituency, and therefore it is both NOT SURPRISING and an INTENDED RESULT (if you are on board with the coalition politics project, which I know our edgy friends aren’t) they would view Trump as a political enemy, purely on those grounds, we can then have another conversation about

            (a) How much we should invest in research as a % of GDP.

            (I think quite a bit, compared to what the fed spends on silly things. Especially important to not cut very tiny numbers that do useful things, e.g. the EPA).

            (b) What algorithm an administration should use for figuring this out in practice.

            (That’s a harder question, but I would at least try to math out the ROI, and think hard about externalities — say 50-100 years out).

            (c) Is the algorithm the mental giant Trump put in charge of the budget proposal actually a good algorithm.

            (Of course not — he said what algorithm he used, and it makes me laugh).

            Those are all separate conversations!

            It’s not _tribal_ goals. It’s _constituency_ goals. Cut out the rhetoric games — this is just how coalition politics always works and always will work until you manage to bring the Hapsburgs back. It’s a problem statement/definition that this is how constituencies will respond.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            I wasn’t arguing that you shouldn’t see Trump as anti-science or protest him. I’m arguing that you/they are doing so in a tribal manner that is not smart if you actually care about science as a value.

            Scientists have had great success in the past by trading on broad support for the basic tenets of science. The advantage of such a strategy is that you are appealing to people’s self interest by claiming to work for their benefit. Conservatives like computers (to name one technology we have thanks to science). Progressives like computers. So if you sell science as ‘we give you computers,’ you get broad support by people who feel that by giving you money, they get benefits for themselves. That you get your selfish desires (of having a job that you like doing) met as well is a nice side effect (for you). However, using this win-win strategy limits you: you can only profit in this way if you actually uphold the basic tenets of science and thus remain credible. I see this as an important check on the corruption of science.

            If you argue your case based on a constituency, you are using an oppositional model: we want things, you have to sacrifice for us. This is a much weaker strategy that trades on being liked as a group, so that people want to give you stuff to the detriment of others. When the strategy is being liked and when scientists are overwhelmingly liberal, the logical outcome is the politicization of science: scientists start doing things that liberals like, stop doing research that give ‘wrong’ outcomes, start framing the outcomes in a biased way, etc. In other words: the tenets of science get abandoned when they conflict with tribal ideology. This, in turn, harms science as it starts fabricating things, which means that its predictions become poor. So in time, it even becomes devalued in the eyes of the liberal masses, because it doesn’t achieve results.

            Just look at the media. They got into a polarization spiral where news is presented based on ideology and the result is a drastic drop in the confidence by the public in the media. If you look at the Gallup polls, you see that it’s not the case that one tribe began to trust the media more, everyone trusted them less. So polarization is not even a win-lose scenario, it is lose-lose.

            What I care about is that the tenets of science get upheld and what greatly worries me is that you and many other scientists seem to be politicizing science, which IMO will inevitably corrupt and devalue it. If people actually want to destroy something good that is very sad, but when they destroy it by misguided attempts to help it, that is tragic.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Scientists didn’t start this.

            Seriously, science and science funding has been derided for quite a while now by the US coalition on the right. Each part of the coalition finds their own reason to speak against it, though.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            If you get accused of abandoning the tenets of science, it seems to me that the smart strategy is to prove the accusers wrong, not right.

            IMHO, the grey tribe exists because there is a group of people who favor progressive terminal values, but who believe that the blue tribe has dogma that makes them wrong on some issues and that results in (partially) justified criticism by the red/grey tribes.

            Criticism is threatening, even/especially if it is partially correct, but the wrong response is to rally around the ingroup, including the bad elements, rather than improve your tribe. The former strategy makes people feel good, the latter strategy makes people act good.

          • gbdub says:

            I think we should back up a bit here, in that I don’t think Trump’s proposed cuts to e.g. NSF or NIH were particularly “targeted at enemies”. Rather he seems to be attempting to cut non defense spending across the board.

            The EPA is a different story, but I think the distinction is important. As much as anything, the march was about “science based policy making” which these days is a euphemism for “support left-wing proposals to address climate change and other environmentalist causes”. (The organizers also push for diversity in science, another partisan issue, but environmental stuff seemed to dominate the signs I saw)

            So NSF can push for funding merely for self-interest and the good of basic science, but when they start aligning themselves with partisan policy proposals, that starts making them look like “enemies”.

            Basically all I’m proposing is that those in favor of basic science stick to pushing for basic science, and some of that involves reaching out to Trump or at least Republicans with “here’s how/why what we do is good for you”, not just “you are all stupid anti-sciencers because you don’t support our global warming proposal, you can give us our funding but we’ll still hate you”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Scientists didn’t start this.

            Seriously, science and science funding has been derided for quite a while now by the US coalition on the right.

            And the US coalition on the right has been derided by scientists for quite a while now, too. I’m not sure the scientists didn’t start this, but it goes back to at least 1947, so “who started it” is probably a moot point. There is a large block of scientists, almost certainly a small minority but a highly vocal one, which has been conspicuously anti-Republican for several generations, and it should come as no surprise that the GOP returns the favor. The pro-Republican or anti-Democrat scientists (or those whose research just happens to align that way), aren’t generally so vocal; I’m not sure that buys them any more tolerance.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            If you get accused of abandoning the tenets of science

            Scientists keep getting accused of this regardless of any stance they take. In a different time, it may be the left-wing that does this for effect (vaccines and GMOs are an example, but they have not yet reached any sort of power to effect “don’t fund basic science”)

            Right now, that pressure is overwhelmingly on the right, and has been for quite a while. You can trace it back to the coalition Reagan made into an alloy, or all the way back to John Birch.

            Of course, the idea I keep trying to forward is that this continues to be an urbane/non-urbane divide. The “egghead” scientists are looked at askance by the non-urbane, unless the science is applied science, but not even always then. As an aside, this one of the reasons I generally love “Smarter Every Day” (Destin Sandlin’s youtube channel, etc.)

            If you force the scientists into the left-wing coalition, don’t be surprised when they note where they are.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling:

            If you want to make the case that the Doomsday Clock is an obvious partisan attack against Republicans, you are going to need to provide more evidence than a link to a Wikipedia page. In 1947, the man with his hand on the big red button was Truman, a Democrat. I can imagine a case for calling the 2007 addition of climate change partisan, but that leaves you with a 60 year gap to explain.

            Which adjustments of the clock do you think betray an antipathy to Republicans? It looks to me like all of the largest movements towards midnight have occurred under Democratic presidents: -4 in 1949 under Truman, -5 in 1968 under LBJ, and another -5 in 1998 under Clinton.

          • Civilis says:

            If you want to make the case that the Doomsday Clock is an obvious partisan attack against Republicans, you are going to need to provide more evidence than a link to a Wikipedia page. In 1947, the man with his hand on the big red button was Truman, a Democrat. I can imagine a case for calling the 2007 addition of climate change partisan, but that leaves you with a 60 year gap to explain.

            Republicans aren’t synonymous with the right. The Doomsday Clock is political advocacy against American politicians at the behest of a leftist political coalition. The fact that some of the politicians it was used against may have been left of the American middle generally does negate that they were targeted from their left for holding foreign and defense policy views common to the American right.

          • Iain says:

            @Civilis

            The Doomsday Clock is political advocacy against American politicians at the behest of a leftist political coalition.

            This is silly. The Doomsday Clock is political advocacy against the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons. The reasons given to believe that the risk of nuclear war had changed seem to me to be reasonable and even-handed. Is there anything on the list here before 2007 that you think they got wrong?

            If “nuclear war would be bad” is a political attack against the American right, maybe the American right has some thinking to do. This really doesn’t seem like a case where “the US coalition on the right has been derided by scientists”, which is what John Schilling originally claimed.

            Edit to add: It is also not the case that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists were a bunch of wilting flowers who simply didn’t understand the importance of mutually assured destruction. For example, this old news article cites the 1981 general manager of the meeting as saying “the superpowers developed weapons for war-fighting rather than deterrence”.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I assume that you agree that people have a tendency to misjudge outgroups due to a confluence of cognitive biases (such as confirmation bias, expectation bias, negativity bias, stereotyping, out-group homogeneity, etc).

            As such, people have a tendency to assume that the average opinion of their outgroup is worse than it actually is and that the average opinion of their ingroup is better than reality.

            The logical result of science becoming dominantly left-wing is that group-think develops that is tribal and not truthful. My argument is that scientists ought to recognize this and fight it. If they don’t, they kill science by abandoning objectivity. Ultimately, no one can destroy your values, but yourself. I fear that scientists are doing what no alt-right (or whatever outgroup gets the blame) could do: give up scientific values to fight a mirage.

            Why a mirage? Because the actual evidence of a war against science by Republicans is measly. Past Republican presidents didn’t lower science spending. They didn’t fire global warming researchers. What they did was make different political choices, which is not inherently anti-science, because science is about figuring out the consequences of choices and doesn’t mandate what outcomes people should aim for.

            Even if politicians don’t accept scientific predictions, science is not fundamentally under threat unless scientists (and not just the few working for government agencies) are barred from making the scientific predictions they believe are correct.

            If you look at the base, 62% or Republicans say government investments in basic science pay off in the long run. So the idea that Republicans are against science is counterfactual. It is a mirage established by focusing on Republican support for a few controversial issues. And even there the lack of support is greatly exaggerated with 47% of Republicans believing in climate change.

            Ultimately, Trump is not doing anything that is a fundamental threat to science. Cutting 10 or 20% sets science back, sure. But these kind of cuts happen in businesses routinely. He is not cleansing science of people with wrongthink. The opposite is happening, as all the facts show: conservatives are disappearing from science.

            The actual problem right now is not that there is an viable threat that progressive scientific voices are silenced. The actual threat is that no one with heterodox views will be left to point out their biases and that scientists get in a completely absurd state where they believe that they are oppressed despite running the show.

            Fighting shadows means that you cannot win. The only thing that will happen is that you smash up your environment and/or hurt yourself.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is silly. The Doomsday Clock is political advocacy against the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons. The reasons given to believe that the risk of nuclear war had changed seem to me to be reasonable and even-handed. Is there anything on the list here before 2007 that you think they got wrong?

            Quite a bit on the specifics, before, during, and after 2007. Plus, at the meta level, the idea that atomic scientists are more qualified than any other group of random citizens to provide a quantitative assessment of the risk of nuclear war.

            The Doomsday Clock is not merely an assertion that “nuclear war would be bad”, but a specific prescription of how to avoid nuclear war. Insofar as both major parties in the United States would prefer to avoid nuclear war but have different ideas of how best to avoid that, insofar as war itself is a political act, any such prescription is inherently political.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling:

            Sure, but “this group of scientists disagrees with the Republican consensus on how to prevent nuclear war” is not at all the same claim as “the US coalition on the right has been derided by scientists for quite a while now” — particularly given that the “Republican” consensus in question is shared by more than a few Democrats.

            And for the third time: instead of simply asserting that the Doomsday Clock’s assessments are self-evidently anti-Republican, would you care to give a single example from your link that demonstrates this antipathy? I can buy an argument that they were wrong, but the idea that anything from the 20th century on that page counts as an act of aggression against the American right is silly.

          • Civilis says:

            Sure, but “this group of scientists disagrees with the Republican consensus on how to prevent nuclear war” is not at all the same claim as “the US coalition on the right has been derided by scientists for quite a while now” — particularly given that the “Republican” consensus in question is shared by more than a few Democrats.

            It’s a data point, and it was just an example of the first data point he could find. I didn’t think it contentious that a lot of environmental and anti-nuclear groups, traditionally on the left, cloak themselves with the mantle of ‘science’. Ultimately, it might be a chicken and egg problem to determine whether their political ideology motivates their science or the science motivates their politics.

            I was surprised to find only three groups in Wikipedia’s ‘Political advocacy groups in the United States’ with Scientists in the name. Two of those are small and defunct, the third is the ‘Union of Concerned Scientists’, founded in 1969 and active on a number of traditionally leftist causes.

            I tried looking at it from the other end by looking for relatively apolitical science groups. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is billed as the ‘world’s largest general scientific society’, but all of the advocacy described by a quick search is from the past 20 years (and all left-wing). On the other hand, its president between 1951 and 1972 was Kirby F Mather, described as ‘a social activist and critic of McCarthyism’ and ‘well known for his commitment to progressive social causes’. It appears that Dr. Mather’s politics date back to the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial”, suggesting the feud between at least some scientists and some American politicians dates back even longer than John Shilling suggested.

          • Iain says:

            If you’re looking for an example of an anti-nuclear group cloaking themselves in science, maybe the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a bad place to look. Einstein and Oppenheimer both sat on the committee at various points. Moreover, there is a difference between laypeople claiming the mantle of science to attack Republicans, which is what you’re talking about, and scientists themselves making partisan attacks against the American right, which was John Schilling’s claim.

            As you seem to have discovered in your search through Wikipedia, there aren’t actually a lot of highly partisan organizations of scientists, relative to other demographics in society. The largest potential exception to this is climate change — an issue on which the scientific community has been repeatedly attacked by large segments of the American right as a bunch of lying con artists. It is pretty hard, if you actually look at the evidence, to sustain a claim that scientists shot first, or with anything resembling the same level of force.

            (The Scopes Monkey Trial is a weird example to bring up, since the scientists in that case were unambiguously correct. Scientists didn’t have a bias against William Jennings Bryan; reality did.)

          • Civilis says:

            If you’re looking for an example of an anti-nuclear group cloaking themselves in science, maybe the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a bad place to look. Einstein and Oppenheimer both sat on the committee at various points. Moreover, there is a difference between laypeople claiming the mantle of science to attack Republicans, which is what you’re talking about, and scientists themselves making partisan attacks against the American right, which was John Schilling’s claim.

            I’m not talking about non-scientists cloaking themselves as scientists, but political movements that include scientists cloaking political arguments as scientific arguments. The Doomsday Clock is a political argument made by scientists, not a scientific argument. That it was made by major scientists doesn’t make it any less an political attack by people on the left side of the American political spectrum against a center-right political position.

            As his biography on Wikipedia helpfully reminds us, “Einstein’s political view was in favor of socialism and critical of capitalism, which he detailed in his essays such as “Why Socialism?”. Einstein offered and was called on to give judgments and opinions on matters often unrelated to theoretical physics or mathematics. He strongly advocated the idea of a democratic global government that would check the power of nation-states in the framework of a world federation.

            It took me several readings to catch this line, but “offered and was called on to give judgments and opinions on matters often unrelated to theoretical physics or mathematics” suggests Einstein is a good example of a scientist using their credentials to expound outside their area of expertise. Why else would you ask him about something like politics or economics if you didn’t think his name and status as a scientist would lend weight to his answer?

            It is pretty hard, if you actually look at the evidence, to sustain a claim that scientists shot first, or with anything resembling the same level of force.

            On the contrary, it’s telling that we’re seeing the real intersection of science and politics with the debate on the issue of nuclear disarmament, rather than climate change. There was no funding or research at stake with nuclear disarmament; if anything, nuclear disarmament would put the nuclear scientists out of a job. If the scientists got involved, it was out of politics, not because it was a response to a political attack on scientists. That most of the nuclear disarmament groups have migrated on to various political ‘environmental justice issues’ (such as the Doomsday Clock adding climate change) is a sign that they’re invested in a common political ideology rather than a specific scientific cause, and it’s why the right distrusts them. They were con artists (or ‘willing dupes’) before, why should we trust them now, especially when they still want the same thing?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – “As you seem to have discovered in your search through Wikipedia, there aren’t actually a lot of highly partisan organizations of scientists, relative to other demographics in society.”

            Club of Rome? Nuclear Winter? Socialism/Communism generally? Skinnerism/Blank-Slate-based advocacy generally? Eugenics? Probably we can toss hardline right-wing economics in there as well, free trade, deregulation, etc.

            Granted, most of those are broad movements rather than specific organizations. I think I could probably get the specific organizations that did the grunt work for each. Scientists using the imprimatur of Science for their not-particularly-scientific political advocacy seems like a pretty long-standing problem, and one where I’m pretty sure scientists shot first.

          • Matt M says:

            It took me several readings to catch this line, but “offered and was called on to give judgments and opinions on matters often unrelated to theoretical physics or mathematics” suggests Einstein is a good example of a scientist using their credentials to expound outside their area of expertise. Why else would you ask him about something like politics or economics if you didn’t think his name and status as a scientist would lend weight to his answer?

            Linus Pauling made himself an entire second career as a left-wing activist!

          • random832 says:

            @Aapje

            The issue is that there are goals that have widespread support in society, like:

            1. We want to develop new technology that makes people’s lives better
            2. We want to figure out objective truth

            And there are tribal goals:

            A. We want to have nice jobs in science
            B. We want to use our ‘pull’ to implement the agenda that our tribe favors

            What happens when #1 and/or #2 interferes with other people’s tribal goals? It gets declared to be B, to the detriment of science when they want to find out the objective truth about whether cigarettes or asbestos or toxic waste hurt people or whether global warming is happening.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            It’s interesting that you assume that the tribal goals that 1 & 2 conflict with are those of the red tribe. My claim is that the blue tribe also has tribal goals that conflict with 1 & 2. This is the entire concept behind Haidt’s push for heterodox academy: to prevent a single ideology from dominating, which leaves their tribal goals unchallenged.

            Where I think that the blue tribe is going completely off the rails when it comes to science is that they have a narrative of oppression of blue tribe values, despite the facts showing that the blue tribe has become far more powerful in science and that it is the red tribe who feels oppressed in that setting.

            Oppression of the red tribe has increasingly become a blue tribe value, rather than convincing people by reason; and this is something that a lot of people here have been very concerned about and opposed to. Of course, oppression results in push back and the value of democracy is that nobody can bully you to vote a certain way in the voting booth.

            From my perspective, this has created a lot of confusion in the blue tribe, as the policing of their environment has created bubbles where few dare to speak against blue values, yet this domination of blue tribe values in blue tribe bubbles hasn’t resulted in blue tribe domination in the voting booths.

            So…one thing that can happen is that society falls apart and increasingly forms their own bubbles where nonsense is taken as fact. The red tribe dismisses global warming and the blue tribe dismisses that diversity hurts trust.

            What can also happen is that the tribes become less insular. This requires that the tribes get a reality check and give up their one-dimensional models of being oppressed and accept that irrationality, bias and ressentiment is not just something that only the other tribe is sensitive to.

        • cassander says:

          I’ll bet that whatever your definition of scientist, they voted against him at least 10:1. That was before he made any science cuts, before he proposed any, even. I suspect there’s more to their animosity than self interest, and that he has absolutely no way of courting them in a politically feasible way.

        • Ransom says:

          A cut to NIH or NSF is a priori bad? “Anti-science”? Why?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            In practical coalition politics, that’s what it reduces to. If you favor policies that outsource American jobs, you will be painted as anti-American jobs.

            If you favor policies that reduce grant funding for science, you will be painted as anti-science.

            If you throw X under the bus, you are anti-X. That’s what anti-X means.

            Saying “I am not anti-X” is cheap words. Fucking around with money is what matters, and what people actually pay attention to.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Following the money is a reasonable idea, but… the planning for the March for Science, and its public announcement, began before Trump announced his budget proposals. Since I do not believe in time-reversed causality, I’d have to say that “follow the money” isn’t the answer here. Rather, Trump was already unpopular with scientists.

        • gbdub says:

          I think there are three distinct forms of “science advocacy”, broadly:
          1) Doing politics so you can do more science, e.g. public education on the benefits of science, lobbying/marching for more science funding.
          2) Using science to do politics, e.g. scientists advocating for various climate change policies.
          3) Doing politics internal to the field of science, e.g. advocating for more ethnic diversity among scientists and other social justice causes within the “science” as an institution/practice.

          The march seemed to feature all three to varying degrees. Item 1 seems “apolitcal/nonpartisan” (you’re doing politics, but not along a traditional left/right dividing line), the other two are more contentious.

      • liskantope says:

        Any event like this is going to cause some people to go “I like science, the Democrats like science, therefore I’ll vote Democratic” and others to go “I don’t like the Democrats, the Democrats like science, therefore I don’t like science(1).”

        I think there will be much more of the former than the latter. The abstract institution of Science itself (rather like Education, freedom of the press, or “caring for our veterans”) has never been broadly controversial in America.

        • Civilis says:

          As I pointed out in the footnote, the real fear is not that people will stop liking science or free speech, but that people will assume that anyone in the political process that talks about “science” or “free speech” is using it as a code word for tangential political positions. Then, when a real threat to science or free speech comes up, it will get lost in the political noise.

    • Odovacer says:

      Does anyone know if engineering organizations or many engineers participated in the Science March? IIRC, engineers tend to be more conservative than scientists, and I believe there are more engineers than scientists, though there is obviously a lot of overlap.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Does Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering count? A lot of folks from there went (including me). Or are these still “scientists” to you?

        • Odovacer says:

          Thanks for the answer! I don’t quite understand your third sentence however.

          Edit: I have found a list of organizations that officially endorsed the March for Science.

          The lists from the actual March’s website are here and here.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            ‘Do folks with PhDs who do research but are in an engineering school of a research university count as “engineers” or “scientists” to you’ is what I meant.

          • Odovacer says:

            @Ilya,

            I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of overlap between scientists and engineers, but sometimes you can draw boundaries between them, e.g. field ecologist vs. mechanical engineer. Are they both engineers? Are they both scientists?

            I brought this up because of people in this thread, and many others, talking about how the March for Science could be seen as just a cover for vaguely leftists goals, e.g. diversity in science, global warming, anti-Trump, etc.. If there was a lot of representation of engineers, or conservative scientists, then this would help dispel those notions.