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

OT90: Telescopen 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. Comments of the week: last open thread we talked about standing-room-only flights, and of course bean chimed in with some knowledge of the economics of airline travel (1, 2).

2. The rationalist community is holding various Solstice celebrations this month. I’ve been asked to advertise Seattle in particular, but there are other ones in NYC, Berkeley, Boston, Columbus, Nashville (Ohio), Silicon Valley, and Chapel Hill – see this site for details, and keep in mind some are as early as the 9th. Also, I think the Sunday Assembly is running a lot of them – the only ones I can certify as definitely rationalist-affiliated are Berkeley, Boston, Seattle, and (mostly) New York.

3. David Friedman (author of the legal systems book recently profiled here) is holding a San Jose SSC meetup at 3806 Williams Rd on Saturday 12/9 2:00 PM. Go for the interesting discussion, stay for the authentic medieval Islamic cooking.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

1,183 Responses to OT90: Telescopen Thread

  1. Alyosha says:

    Fellow Tennesseans, Scott is teasing us–that’s Nashville, OH.

  2. Daniel Frank says:

    Does anyone on here know someone who works for Sidewalk Labs and would be willing to put me in touch?

  3. Collin says:

    What’s been your cleverest investment?

  4. bean says:

    At Naval Gazing, I’ve finished the series on the Iowa. You can now read all 8 parts about the history of the greatest ship ever built. I’ll return to her (and her slightly inferior sisters) at some point, but I’ve found myself mostly focused on the ironclad/pre-dreadnought age in what I’m writing about now.
    Also, is my posting here helpful, or have enough people started checking Naval Gazing directly? I’m thinking of stopping posting links here.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I’ve typically read the post at NG before you post it here. The addition of pictures has been a great help for comprehension and reading pleasure.

    • quaelegit says:

      I still find the posting on SSC helpful, but I will probably still check NG if you stop cross-posting (just less frequently).

      On an unrelated note, I was talking to friends about D&D, and one described a game where his group blew up an entire enemy encampment by hitting one ammunition store, which set off the nearest ones, which set off etc.

      QL: “So it went up like a British battlecruiser?”

      *awkward pause*

      Third person: “Like a blimp?”

      QL: “Yeah, like the Hindenburg.”

      So congratulations, you have gotten battleships into my subconscious and made my references even more obscure 😛

    • Riothamus says:

      Please continue to post links here. I am uneven in my bookmark and feed maintenance, and this will mark the second time I have ‘discovered’ your posts.

  5. Doctor Mist says:

    Do people who comment here under a nom de plume find it awkward to go to meetups?

    (I’ve actually met David Friedman under my street name, though it was twenty years ago.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Whatever that blotch in central California is doesn’t seem to be centered around the Bay Area – more like Santa Cruz. My guess is whatever counties those are have very little population and a lot of what’s there are techies who commute to Silicon Valley – whose kids become techies in turn.

    • Deiseach says:

      They have left me stewing over how many breakthrough innovations we have missed because of extreme inequality.

      This is the kind of sentence that annoys me. Yes, definitely there are lost opportunities where someone does not get access to good teaching, or can’t go to college because they need to get a job to support themselves, or they’re stuck in the middle of a rustbelt where their best opportunity is a job as a packing line supervisor.

      But feck’s sake – “lost Einsteins” my arse. Some of us would stay lost even if you uprooted us at the age of two and dumped us into the California (or Minnesota also, I notice) red patch of Ultimate Innovation. This kind of “We could have had colonies round Alpha Centauri by now” pie-in-the-sky thinking annoys me because it’s based on nothing.

      Hey, maybe all that innovation happened because of clustering of the right kinds of businesses, start-ups, universities and rich people going “take my money and spin straw into gold!” in certain areas, and not so much because of “every school child has their maths test results analysed and the Bright Kids get put on the track to achievement by making sure they aren’t raised by poor parents”! Maybe the solution there is to force big massive entities like Google to relocate to Dogpatch, so the dungaree-clad barefoot young Einsteins of the locality have an opportunity to be exposed to MODERNITY? Except there are many reasons this would not work and you would be told why this would not work.

      How can we do so? We can stop showering huge tax breaks on the affluent and reinvest the money where it’s needed.

      Or you know, full socialism to smash the capitalism system which not alone inculcates but only survives because of inequality. I’d be sympathetic to that approach, comrade.

      We can work to narrow educational inequities.

      Nicely vague. How exactly would you implement that? Always remembering, some of us kids are thick and all the “narrowed inequities” are not going to turn us into programmer entrepreneurs filing fifty patents a day.

      Yet the new research also suggests there is one simpler approach to try.

      Oh yeah, here it comes: money approach is too expensive and inconvenient, teaching approach is gonna have us fighting entrenched attitudes, here’s the One Weird Trick solution!

      Children who grow up exposed to a particular type of invention or inventor are far more likely to follow that path. Growing up around patent holders for, say, amplifiers makes someone far more likely to become an amplifier-related inventor.

      Well, gorsh! You mean the inequality is baked into the system from the start? How are you going to remedy that – make every wealthy inventor/patent holder adopt and raise twenty barefoot Dogpatchians? I admit, I’d love to see you sell that one to the Silicon Valley innovator crowd 🙂

      Article has good intentions, but it is so head in the cloud: let’s assume there are a horde of kids who are really great proto-inventors out there, they don’t get a chance because they’re poor (or female, or minority), and what we need to do is, um, make sure they are the children of patent holders (who we’ve already established are likely to be not poor, not minority, and not from/living in deprived/non-urban parts of the country).

      • albatross11 says:

        You’re not going to turn someone who was barely bright enough to get through high school into another Edison, but you might convince someone who was going to go into some kind of STEM field to concentrate on one that is more about practical innovation rather than one that is more academic, or more day-to-day practical stuff. The same person might end up working as an software engineer at a big company, or alternatively working for a startup in hopes of being the Next Big Thing, and it’s easy to imagine how the culture and environment in which they were raised might affect that.

        • Senjiu says:

          How are STEM fields not leading to innovation?
          I think a bigger problem is that so much brainpower is used for finding clever new ways of making the masses click on ads or thinking up new ways of making sure a video isn’t shown if the ad was circumvented by an adblocker.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think that’s a good point – this article is talking about lost Einsteins, but what they are really asking for are more Edisons – guys and girls who are practical not theoretical, who are the engineers and not the cosmologists, the ones coming up with snappy ideas that can be patented for production.

          I mean, you do need the Einsteins and pure research, but if he’s asking for “fifty patents a day! a hundred patents a day!” then invoking Einstein is the wrong image.

    • OptimalSolver says:

      Are people born in the Bay Area genetically superior?

      Well, I’m willing to bet they’re more autistic than average.

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      If you asked me to identify the thinker who most exemplifies everything wrong with our current conversation on education and opportunity, it would be David Leonhardt.

  6. Odovacer says:

    This piece in the Washington Post is interesting:

    We don’t need to save endangered species. Extinction is part of evolution.

    I’m in broad agreement with it. Things change. We, Homo Sapiens, most likely wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for several mass extinctions in the past. In the future, our time will come too. Earth’s climate and surface have changed drastically throughout history. We should not bias the present so much, that we rob the future of any changes or new species.

    Now, I don’t think that humans and human development should go around polluting the environment and killing organisms willy-nilly; I think there should be efforts to protect nature, conserve the wilderness and life therein. Nature has definite value. However, I think some environmental causes and movements go too far.*

    Examples:California high speed rail
    Itchy Algae

    • Guy in TN says:

      I am a professional field biologist. I find this piece to be very frustrating. Comments like

      Conserving biodiversity should not be an end in itself; diversity can even be hazardous to human health. Infectious diseases are most prevalent and virulent in the most diverse tropical areas.

      come across as bad-faith contrarianism. Yes, of course some living organism can kill you and humans would be better off without Ebola. We all know this. But what you don’t know from reading the piece, is that without biodiversity, humanity wouldn’t last a month, because biodiversity creates the ecosystems we rely on to survive. Throughout the piece, he treats biodiversity as if it is irrelevant or counterproductive to human flourishing, when in reality biodiversity is a necessary part of our existence.

      I get that the author does not value preserving biodiversity in of itself, outside of human-survival interests. That is a peculiar moral viewpoint, but one that he’s allowed to have. I, however, enjoy going to zoos, aquariums, and taking wildflower walks. If these don’t factor into your moral equation, fine, but you have to consider that biodiversity DOES factor into many other people’s value systems.

      Studies have shown that when humans introduce invasive plant species, native diversity sometimes suffers, but productivity — the cycling of nutrients through the ecosystem — frequently increases. Invasives can bring other benefits, too: Plants such as the Phragmites reed have been shown to perform better at reducing coastal erosion and storing carbon than native vegetation in some areas, like the Chesapeake.

      And potatoes make more food than dandelions. This is not news. I don’t know why he spends the article dancing around the problem of how biodiversity interacts with ecology. Interconnected webs of species are what create the habitats we live in. Humanity still requires functioning ecosystems to survive. It is alarming to see an educated person dismiss this- does he not know how pollination works? Or food webs? Or how genetic diversity leads to greater resilience?

      And if biodiversity is the goal of extinction fearmongers, how do they regard South Florida, where about 140 new reptile species accidentally introduced by the wildlife trade are now breeding successfully? No extinctions of native species have been recorded, and, at least anecdotally, most natives are still thriving. The ones that are endangered, such as gopher tortoises and indigo snakes , are threatened mostly by habitat destruction

      The impact of invasive species on native populations is well documented. The native populations often decline or go extinct, and there is ample literature on this. Instead of an anecdotal observation, why not actually ask the scientists who monitor this sort of thing? Probably because they wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear. Once again, this comes across as a contrarian bad-faith argument.

      The sixth extinction is ongoing and inevitable — and Earth’s long-term recovery is guaranteed by history (though the process will be slow).

      His refers to the Sixth extinction four times in the piece. What he does not mention, is that in mass-extinctions, large land-dwelling animals are the ones that end up going extinct. His attitude of “The Sixth Extinction is happening, just get over it already” is far too glib for what would likely be the self-caused extinction of humanity.

      In summary, if the concept that species naturally go extinct, or knowledge that the Earth will eventually be engulfed by the sun is new to you, then I suppose this article could be informative. But conservationists know these things already, and we have reasons why we advocate for the conservation of endangered species, reasons that the author fails to address.

      • But what you don’t know from reading the piece, is that without biodiversity, humanity wouldn’t last a month, because biodiversity creates the ecosystems we rely on to survive.

        I still don’t know it–all I have so far is your assertion.

        I agree that if there were not quite a large number of species the ecology would not function well, if only because there are a lot of niches. But that doesn’t tell us whether eliminating, say, a random half of all species would or would not leave us significantly worse off.

        You pretty clearly believe it would leave us much worse off (“wouldn’t last a month”). Can you support that belief with evidence?

        • Guy in TN says:

          During mass extinction, ~75-90% of species go extinct. The survivors of extinction events are usually not large land-dwelling animals. If humans survive the Sixth Extinction, that would be an anomaly.

          Here is an article showing how body size effected survival rates during the Devonian http://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6262/812.

          It is also well known among scientists that being land-dwelling was a good correlator for going extinct during the more recent Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

          So chances are, humans won’t be among the survivors of the next mass extinction, because we still rely on ecosystems to survive. The effects of extinction events are something many scientists have studied. If I was going to publish in a major newspaper about how the Sixth Extinction is going to be a-okay for humanity, I would first want to interview some researchers in the field to make sure they agreed with the premise of “if human well-being is all that matters, the Sixth Extinction isn’t that big of a deal”.

          • quanta413 says:

            During mass extinction, ~75-90% of species go extinct. The survivors of extinction events are usually not large land-dwelling animals. If humans survive the Sixth Extinction, that would be an anomaly.

            This extrapolation is extremely questionable at best. Humans are anomalous in many ways compared to other animals. I don’t think the extinction probability of past large land-dwelling animals really tells us anything reliable about extinction probability of humans. How many other mammals are eusocial on the scale of millions? The 75%-90% range as defined is probably as good as the estimate gets.

            Additionally, looking at the classic examples, the Permian-Triassic extinction lasted somewhere between thousands and hundreds of thousands of years. The Triassic-Jurassic and Cretaceous Paleogene probably took less than 10,000 years but no guarantee. Considering the massive exponential changes in human technology of the last couple centuries, I feel comfortable saying that if humans wipe themselves out, it probably won’t be in a way that any of them foresaw in time to prevent.

            So chances are, humans won’t be among the survivors of the next mass extinction, because we still rely on ecosystems to survive.

            There is a rather distinct difference between “no ecosystem” (which humans currently couldn’t survive) and “massively changed ecosystem”. Humans have already thrived through multiple massive ecosystem changes they instigated. A lot of them were relatively local (continental scale), but still severe. Short of a runaway warming process where humans accidentally cook the earth or a global nuclear war of immense scale it is hard to see how humans could wipe themselves out within the next century or two. We may drastically lower biodiversity in the process of wiping ourselves out, but that’s pretty distinct from wiping ourselves out because we decreased biodiversity.

            I feel like you are conflating “humans wipe themselves out via massive physical changes to the environment which also happens to kill almost all life” with “humans wipe themselves out by lowering biodiversity through their current pattern of expanding their settlements”. The author of the piece is obviously talking about the second type of problem and not the first. Europe is 3 times as densely settled as the U.S. Japan and England are 10 times as densely settled as Brazil. These are very rough estimates since not all land is equally valuable and a lot of countries import food, but the local ecological functions of Japan and England are basically independent. And also independent from those of the U.S. and Brazil. If wasn’t for global physical interconnections through the atmosphere and ocean, humans could pretty clearly drastically increase in population still (and maybe they can anyways, all we know is we haven’t hit carrying capacity yet).

            The only real worries that could seriously threaten the entire human species have to be either global physical processes or humans murdering each other. Things like “global warming goes much faster than expected or we keep on slowly cooking ourselves for tens of generations”. Or “someone engineers biological weapon carried through atmosphere and it kills us all.” At least for the first problem, it’s pretty obvious at this point that no combination of governments in the world could react on time to prevent current projections with current technology or an easy extrapolation of current technology. Either there will be a major technological breakthrough, humans will adapt to a warmer climate, humans will engage in some sort of crazy geo-engineering scheme, or estimates will turn out to have been horribly off in one direction or the other. For none of these cases does the “loss of biodiversity” angle seem like a very useful framing of the problem. If biodiversity was maintained, but biomass productivity drastically dropped we’d still be screwed.

          • thirqual says:

            all we know is we haven’t hit carrying capacity yet

            We do not know that. For starters, we are only producing the amount of food necessary with the current population by using large amount of non-renewable energy sources.

            Now it is possible that we also will bootstrap from that to other sources of energy that will fill the same roles as (mostly) oil and coal. Possible is the key word.

          • quanta413 says:

            @thirqual

            Carrying capacity is not fixed over time. We could clearly build more nuclear power (which is non-renewable) and extend our consumption for a while yet. For that matter, we still have a lot of untapped oil reserves. In the longer run, we haven’t even come close to harvesting a significant fraction of the incident solar energy hitting the earth.

            In the really long run of course, the carrying capacity is zero because we’re swallowed by the sun. So at some point, we’ll both agree it goes to zero (probably long before the sun thing though). But I feel reasonable claiming the next 100 years is very unlikely to be where a downshift suddenly occurs.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Scale is the critical question here. I don’t know what that level of biodiversity is needed to survive. I’m skeptical of anyone who would try to put a number on it, due to humanity’s understanding of ecology being still in a basic stage.

            For example, in order to grow crops, you need soil. The thing about soil is that it has to be created by living organisms for organic accumulation. Row-crops are unsustainable at a given site, they rely on eroding down the previously built soil that that had built up from 1000s of years ago. We can’t create soil in a lab.

            And pollinators are necessary for a good portion of our agriculture as well. You don’t want all of your pollinators to be the same species, because of the threat disease might pose (see: honeybees). How many species of pollinator do we need to survive? And the pollinators need natural communities to live in, such as trees, other flowers, things for their larvae to eat. And plants their larvae feeds on also need mycorrhizae in the soil in order to live. The base level of biodiversity we need may be far larger than what meets the eye.

            I like to think of our biodiversity like a library. The loss of one book doesn’t matter. But at some point, those losses build up. It’s like asking “what is the most knowledge humanity can forget and still get by”. It’s not an easy question to answer, but at some level civilization collapses, and at an extreme level you could be faced with extinction. It’s not a question to take lightly.

          • For starters, we are only producing the amount of food necessary with the current population by using large amount of non-renewable energy sources.

            We are producing nearly twice as much food as is necessary to feed the current population, because a lot of it is used to feed animals and a significant amount to produce alcohol for fuel.

          • quanta413 says:

            @ Guy in TN

            I mostly agree with you that it’s a question of scale with a great deal of uncertainty. The author is a biologist and I think the author was trying to push back though against the tendency to view biodiversity as a terminal goal rather than mostly a byproduct of other goals. I assume he still deeply enjoys nature himself, but accidentally managed to come off too strongly (actually he later apologized more than I think was good for debate and I would have preferred he defended his points in more detail).

            But as to what I would consider closer to a terminal goal of directly benefitting humans: not wiping out the productivity of soil by draining an aquifer while piling salt on salt on salt into the ground, not wiping out pollinators, and not destroying low on the food chain producers. However as far as I’m aware, the most charismatic and beloved animals for ecological publicity (charismatic megafauna like lions) are among the least important to humans for sustaining environments etc. Humans kind of are charismatic megafauna and can pick up a lot of that slack even if we want similar looking ecosystems and not just healthy watersheds and sources of plants in an area. We’ve already devastated the big mammal population and clear cut a lot of forest in huge areas and those areas are still good for human living. I agree it’s bad to go straight to no forests, but forests are recovering in some areas as agricultural in those areas ceases (parts of the eastern U.S.).

            I would guess that the optimal pattern for human development will often involve rather severe reduction in biodiversity in some areas (wherever is best for intensive agriculture although we need to get better at soil management; this may involve constructing sort of minimal ecosystems for our purposes) in order to spare a larger area somewhere else. These areas might be productive areas of ocean with carefully sold/distributed rights to harvest fish, areas to hike and explore, a source of new molecules, and/or good targets for studying evolution. But as much as I like hiking and rock climbing, I don’t favor a framing that focuses on biodiversity rather than on keeping things habitable, high quality, and as cheap as possible for humans. And sometimes this will mean offing some rare animals. I’d prefer to think carefully about which sort of ecosystems and ecosystem functions are most important to humans so informed tradeoffs can be made. Rather than having political battles focus on a framework of sacred values (preservation vs unrestricted harvesting) and the charisma of particular animals or plants (dolphins and whales are more charismatic, but insects are way more important to humans).

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            We are producing nearly twice as much food as is necessary to feed the current population, because a lot of it is used to feed animals and a significant amount to produce alcohol for fuel.

            This is a non-sequitur. The comment you were responding to pointed out that we are producing our food in a non-sustainable way.

            Imagine that I earn $100k a year, I spend $200k a year and I’ve taken out a $300k loan with the local mafia. Then I have twice as much to spend ($400k) as I actually do ($200k). However, this is not sustainable because the mafia will stop wanting to give me loans at one point and then I’ll not only have to make do with $100k, but also pay back the loan. So what is really relevant is the gap between my spending and sustainable income.

            Of course, your belief seems to be that it’s likely that my income will increase sufficiently to not only pay for the current spending, but also the yearly spending increase & that the mafia won’t cash the loan with jack-booted thugs before that happens.

            There is no clear answer to whether you are right, but it is objectively true that you are in favor of taking more risks, effectively gambling with the lives of billions of people.

          • @Aapje:

            My point is not a non-sequitur.

            The quote I responded to started with “For starters, we are only producing the amount of food necessary with the current population by … .” We are currently producing much more food than is necessary with the current population, hence that quote was false.

            It is possible that we could produce the amount of food necessary for the current population without using depletable resources–we don’t know, since that isn’t the amount we are currently producing.

            but it is objectively true that you are in favor of taking more risks, effectively gambling with the lives of billions of people.

            That is not correct. All of the alternatives involve gambling with the lives of billions of people. The most drastic policy adopted in my lifetime to hold down population growth was China’s one child policy, which was quite literally a gamble with the lives of more than a billion people. Given that the predictions on which those policies were based turned out to be the precise opposite of what has happened so far–predicted increase in hunger and poverty in the third world, actual sharp decrease–there is some reason to suspect that the immense costs imposed by that policy were entirely unnecessary.

      • Deiseach says:

        His attitude of “The Sixth Extinction is happening, just get over it already” is far too glib for what would likely be the self-caused extinction of humanity.

        Yeah, the big extinction events take out whatever species are top of the tree at the time, and right now that’s us. Sixth Extinction would knock us off and let some scrabbling little whatsit get its chance to grab that empty niche and have its day in the sun.

      • jhertzlinger says:

        One big difference between humans and more typical large animals. Large animals are usually rare. The correlation between size and extinction is probably due to the correlation between rarity and extinction. I suspect that rare small animals did not fare well in past mass extinctions.

        Besides, humans have longer life expectancies in cold climates, dry climates, islands, isolated mountain valleys, and areas with a past history of “pollution.” All of those have a shortage of biodiversity.

      • Hey TN Guy, being a professional maybe you can answer a question of mine about bees?

        I keep hearing about how the loss of honeybees would be devastating to flora in the US. And yet, I’ve also heard that honeybees are an invasive species, and so weren’t here some hundred of years ago. Obviously they weren’t needed as pollinators before they came to the Americas. Are they needed so much now because agriculture has changed so much since Europeans showed up? Or is the “honeybee as pollinator” issue one more BS thing people say just because they don’t know any better?

        • Guy in TN says:

          Hi Mark, I’m glad to answer your question.

          You are right to point out the confusion, many pop-sci articles are missing some important aspects of the bee decline. Our primary pollinators in North America are not imported honeybees, but the native bees that were have evolved as part of the existing natural communities. The alarming thing about bee decline is that it is effecting all bees, including the native ones. For example the rusty patch bumblebee, native to Eastern North America, has declined so drastically that it was recently listed as an endangered species.

          Bees really are fantastic pollinators, that is no myth. Their hairy bodies are excellent at getting coated in pollen. (Some other insects, like butterflies, are actually poor pollinators, and are largely leeching off of rewards that the flowers would be better off giving to bees).

    • rahien.din says:

      Why doesn’t Chesterton’s Fence apply to “Should we drastically alter the environment?” Man vs. environment seems like the ultimate case of modernism vs. metis.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        This is a big, complicated, poorly-understood system on which our survival depends. Why shouldn’t I screw around with it in big ways I don’t really understand?

      • jhertzlinger says:

        If the parts of the ecosystem had been deliberately adopted, we might have to find out what problems they were supposed to solve. As far as I know, they haven’t.

        • rahien.din says:

          A Chesterton fence need not be deliberately adopted. It only needs to be consistently adhered to. Social customs largely evolve to solve problems in a non-deliberate manner – and yet these are the exact original subject of Chesterton’s conservative argument.

          IE, the “fence” could consist of a tree that fell across the road in a storm, and was never removed despite the local community’s ability to remove it. Chesterton advises just as much caution in removing that “fence” too.

          • The reason the current climate is what it is is not that people in the past decided not to change it, however–they didn’t have the power or knowledge to. So your point is irrelevant to the particular case being discussed.

          • rahien.din says:

            David,

            Rather than climate, do you mean biodiversity?

          • @rahien.din

            Probably. The argument holds for both–I’m more used to arguing about climate.

            In the case of biodiversity, it’s a tiny bit greater due to human choices over the past century or two.

      • quanta413 says:

        Leaving aside the correctness of jhertzlinger’s statement that this isn’t really analogous to the social traditions Chesterton’s Fence is about for the moment…

        How drastically altered are we talking here? Europe and a lot of the U.S. are already “drastically altered environments” relative to before humans reached them. Europe was once covered in forests; it also had lions. Now, not so much. Seeing as Europe is actually a pretty great place to live, whereas you can’t live past hunter gatherer stage in the untouched Amazon, Chesterton’s fence doesn’t really suggest not drastically altering just any environments. But treating it as conservationism focused on humans rather than pretending the pre-human environment was teleologically designed to support humans maybe suggests a few things.

        It suggests not making current continents significantly more polluted than modern Europe; it suggests not drastically altering the atmosphere or ocean. But we already have better arguments to be careful about this sort of things than analogies to Chesterton’s fence. Heavy metals at high enough concentration in your water will kill you and the same for lots of other things. We’re pretty good in the developed world at mostly avoiding this sort of things compared to how good we were at not poisoning ourselves in the past. There is however a lot of work to be done in other parts of the world.

        Enough methane and CO2 emissions will drastically raise the temperature, etc. But there are already very good reasons to be careful about attempting any drastic cutbacks via reducing consumption of what causes all the pollution humans put out. The only cautious and politically palatable route forward at the moment is attempting to reach a technological breakthrough. If the problem was taken more seriously, perhaps we could transition more of our baseload power to nuclear or have a carbon tax, but I’m not holding my breath. Too many people are scared of nuclear power. And some environmentalists groups have even proven willing to fight against attempts for a carbon tax if they don’t get other unrelated things along with it (proposition in Washington)!

      • Why doesn’t Chesterton’s Fence apply to “Should we drastically alter the environment?”

        Because the underlying argument for Chesterton’s Fence is that the fence is there for a reason, even if we don’t know what it is. The current environment was not designed for us and we were not designed for it–human evolution, not to mention primate or mammalian evolution, occurred over a period during which climate varied by quite a lot, and humans currently prosper over a wide range of different environments.

        It would make almost as much sense to claim Chesterton’s fence as an argument against the development of antibiotics or modern surgery or paternity testing. All of those changed features of the human condition–but not features that existed because past people or past civilizations had found them useful, or because past civilization that didn’t have them went extinct.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          How far back are you going? The XKCD temperature timeline doesn’t look too promising.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Compare xkcd to the analyses in wattsupwiththat and JoNova.

            I love xkcd, but as Penn Jillette says, “Don’t take dieting advice from a juggler.”

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I don’t want to get into culture war territory, so I’ll just say I’m sceptical. This doesn’t seem like a case where it is safe to bet on the contrarian view turning out to be correct.

          • gbdub says:

            Would the xkcd timeline even show the current warming trend if it happened 10k+ years ago? That is, is the resolution of our temperature proxies (ice cores, right?) for that period good enough to pick out a 50-100 year warm spell, without it just getting smoothed into the rolling average? If you’re going to make “unprecedented” claims, it’s important to be able to have accurate proxies at the ~decade order of magnitude (since the current warming is geologically speaking very short).

            Anyway, just a musing. The whole temperature proxy process is a bit of a black box to me.

          • rlms says:

            I’ve increased my estimate of the probability of significant climate change from looking at that timeline in the wattsupwiththat post. It doesn’t bode well for denialists if the most convincing way you can justifiably edit the xkcd to minimise the dangers of climate change is by saying “we have no idea how temperatures will change in the future, the rapid increasing trend over the past century might immediately stop, or it might immediately stop and change to a decrease” (i.e. not drawing the plausible increasing continuation line).

          • quanta413 says:

            I’ve increased my estimate of the probability of significant climate change from looking at that timeline in the wattsupwiththat post. It doesn’t bode well for denialists if the most convincing way you can justifiably edit the xkcd to minimise the dangers of climate change is by saying “we have no idea how temperatures will change in the future, the rapid increasing trend over the past century might immediately stop, or it might immediately stop and change to a decrease” (i.e. not drawing the plausible increasing continuation line).

            If we’re supposed to be autistic sticklers for Bayersianism at SSC, that’s not how properly updating your priors works. You just shouldn’t update. If you update in the opposite direction of bad arguments whenever you read them, your beliefs will swing about wildly and nonsensically. Incorrect inferences and poor data can’t tell you anything. As one of the gurus said, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @quanta

            I don’t think that’s accurate.

            Presumably, if he had expected Wattsup to have a better argument then he’s perfectly reasonable to update on the issue of ‘convingness of my opponent’s arguments’? And if one considers convingceness to be correlated with the correctness of the argument, then he should also alter that correctness. Although, obviously, it is easy to overshoot.

            Certainly, you can’t just keep reading bad arguments and have your posterior keep going up significantly. But you’d be making the same error if you just kept looking at good arguments and have your posterior change in that direction.

            THe isue is that you shouldn’t change much on the ‘quality of argument’ front and should change even less on the actual issue.

          • rlms says:

            @quanta413
            I’m not updating on a bad argument, I agree that seeing someone making completely stupid arguments for a claim should not lead you to disbelieve it. But the source Doctor Mist provided looks pretty respectable, so I think there’s a high chance that they would use the strongest evidence available. Since the evidence they present is weaker than I would have expected, it’s sensible to assume the actual strongest evidence is likewise weaker.

            This is analogous to damning with faint praise. If you say something “definitely has potential” (without any intention to deceive), that suggests it’s not very good at the moment.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            You are still doing it wrong. Follow the logic of the whole essay and not just the catchy title for the obvious extreme case. It doesn’t matter how nice somebody’s website looks or how smart they sound (although why you think this should correlate with their ability to make the best possible arguments for a point of view is beyond me; have you seen a lot of professor’s websites?), no matter how weak an argument they make it should not make you update in the reverse direction.

            On top of that, if you had followed the second link and not just the first then updated completely incorrectly (you should have just not updated), you would have seen much stronger counterarguments to the xkcd graph (although they may still be wrong, I’m not going to go untangle some monstrosity of gluing different data sources together and applying adjustments. Not worth the time). If your past data uses a 300 year average smoothing (roughly, it’s much nastier and less consistent than this), then any warming that is shorter than that in the past won’t show up. In fact, due to this, the data is already missing past warming periods we have historical records for in the medieval period. If you run the smoother all the way to the present, the sudden increase at the end isn’t sharp. But if you suddenly tack on more accurate year by year data and undo the smoothing, then the warming will look incredible because you’ve obliterated any periods of warming less than a few centuries long from the data.

        • benwave says:

          I feel like you’re representing Chesterton’s Fence here as ‘don’t change anything ever.’ Useful modern surgery exists today because we Do understand organs and processes in our bodies. Antibiotics exist because we Do understand chemical processes and the immune system. Chesterton’s Fence doesn’t require that we never remove a species from an ecosystem, only that we have really good understanding of the role of that species and good predictive power over what would happen were it to disappear in order to want to change it. Do we understand ecology that well? (that’s a genuine question, I am no ecologist)

          • I feel like you’re representing Chesterton’s Fence here as ‘don’t change anything ever.’

            No. It’s “before changing something think about whether there may be a good reason why it is as it is.”

            If it is as it is because people decided to make it that way or decided not to change it from being that way, there is at least a presumption there may be a good reason for it. If it is as it is because it just happened, with no human choices involved, there isn’t.

            Climate and species diversity are in the latter category, aside from a tiny increase in speies diversity due to recent preservation efforts.

        • rahien.din says:

          David,

          I disagree.

          The defining features of a Chesterton fence are 1. opacity of operation, and 2. adherence.

          The deliberateness or consciousness of the fence’s construction or source is not so important. If a tree falls across a road, and is then used as a fence, it is just as much a Chesterton fence as if it was deliberately constructed.

          Neither is the deliberateness or consciousness of adherence so important. (In fact, if people are consciously and deliberately using an object or custom for an intended purpose that it fulfills efficaciously, it is not opaque in its operations, and is therefore not a Chesterton fence.) If a tree falls across a road and then is used as a fence, without anyone exactly realizing that they are using it thusly, it is just as much a Chesterton fence as if it was used deliberately.

          I also contend that “for a reason” connotes a certain deliberateness which renders the fence too narrow. If Chesterton’s fence may only apply to opaque-but-efficacious artifacts [things which people deliberately constructed to play a role for human societies, which they continue to fulfill, though we no longer understand their operations], these are a subset of [things which play a role for human societies, which they fulfill though we do not yet understand their operations]. This latter category falls within the scope of how Chesterton’s fence operates in advising us caution (irrespective of the source or intent of the actual object or custom), and this caution is Chesterton’s true intent. Furthermore, things in that latter category are definitionally worth preserving or approaching with caution. We neglect this latter category at our hazard.

          If you want to restrict Chesterton’s fence to designed objects, you still need a word for this latter category. That word will operate in the exact same manner as your delimited Chesterton fence. It’s unnecessary.

          Better that we call them all “Chesterton fences.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            The deliberateness or consciousness of the fence’s construction or source is not so important.

            –@rahien.din

            In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

            This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.

            — G.K. Chesterton

            If it were literally erected by accident, or if it did in fact grow there, the second paragraph demonstrates that the principle does not apply.

          • John Schilling says:

            “The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. ”
            G.K. Chesterton, 1929

            Per the source, it would appear that deliberate agency is a key element to Chesterton’s fence. And I concur: Some intelligence actively having decided to devote substantial effort to [X], is much stronger evidence of the general desirability of [X] than it simply having happened by accident and not having been found worth the bother of changing.

          • rlms says:

            You can argue that Chesterton’s fence applies to the combination of the environment and human adaptations to it, but I think that’s a bit tenuous. However, the more general conservative principle “be wary of drastic irreversible change” is definitely relevant.

          • rahien.din says:

            The key concept is adherence.

            Let’s call Chesterton’s bluff : a tree falls across the road, blocking all transit. The local community starts using it as a fence – they adhere to it as a fence. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.”

            I presume that you, the intelligent type of reformer, would reply, “Despite the fact that the local community is adhering to this fallen tree’s presence, it wasn’t constructed deliberately by humans. Therefore I don’t see the use of it, either. I will allow you do destroy it.”

            Or, say a band of escaped lunatics had built a genuine fence, to which the community then adhered and allowed to persist. The origin of the fence is revealed to the reformers. You would similarly claim, “Let us clear away this fence the lunatics built.”

            You would be dead wrong in both instances. And Chesterton would count you so.

            The key passage in the second paragraph is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.” IE, if it appears that someone saw a reasonable reason for keeping an object or custom, we should be cautious about removing it.

            There is nothing in that passage about deliberate agency, and there needn’t be. If I leave a tree in the road after it falls, that is evidence that I had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody.

            And sure, if an object or custom appears deliberately constructed, that provides evidence of a reasonable reason. But if a community adheres to an object or custom, that is also evidence of a reasonable reason. Chesterton provides us examples of common-sense reasoning here, but he does not delimit or restrict common sense.

            In fact adherence is more essential. Chesterton fences are operationally opaque, and inconvenient. This means that, regardless of the intent in their construction, they would be quickly destroyed by any non-adherent community, long before the pair of reformers could arrive. We only ever encounter Chesterton fences because someone adhered to them.

            So Chesterton’s fence is in fact an admonition to caution when we must choose between adherence and non-adherence. Deliberate agency is in no way necessary.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Or, say a band of escaped lunatics had built a genuine fence, to which the community then adhered and allowed to persist. The origin of the fence is revealed to the reformers. You would similarly claim, “Let us clear away this fence the lunatics built.”

            You would be dead wrong in both instances. And Chesterton would count you so.

            On the one hand, we have Chesterton’s words as quoted by John and I. On the other we have your headcanon. I’m going with Chesterton. It is true that there might be other reasons for retaining the fence built by lunatics; they are not the reasons given by the Chesterton’s Fence parable.

          • rahien.din says:

            The Nybbler,

            we have Chesterton’s words as quoted by John and I

            I’m going with Chesterton.

            No, you’re arguing for a particular interpretation thereof. But you’re wrong.

            I would agree that evidence of design and deliberate construction would increase our confidence that a certain artifact is a Chesterton fence. I do not agree that such evidence would be necessary.

            As I pointed out, the operative statement is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.” Deliberate agency in construction is not necessary to satisfy the “reasonable reason” condition. Adherence, however, is absolutely necessary.

            The examples Chesterton uses are prefatory. They support or explain that operative passage but do not delimit it. For instance, escaped lunatics who build fences invariably do so with deliberate agency. If deliberate agency is necessary and sufficient to bestow the title of Chesterton’s fence, well, Chesterton did not seem to think so. The reason why he uses these examples is to demonstrate the reasonable-reason criterion, not to delimit the fence to designed artifacts.

            And this is in keeping with how we use the concept of a Chesterton fence. It is frequently (and appropriately) applied to the types of social customs that were not deliberately or consciously designed for the important societal roles that they fill nevertheless.

            The only defense that you can muster is “Well your interpretation is just headcanon.” (Which is an admission of defeat…)

          • Controls Freak says:

            the operative statement is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.” Deliberate agency in construction is not necessary to satisfy the “reasonable reason” condition.

            You’re correct. Deliberate agency in construction is not necessary to satisfy the “reasonable reason” condition… but that’s not what it’s trying to do. Instead, deliberate agency is sufficient for “reason”, after which, we must understand the “reason” so we can determine whether it’s a “reasonable reason”.

            escaped lunatics who build fences invariably do so with deliberate agency. If deliberate agency is necessary and sufficient to bestow the title of Chesterton’s fence, well, Chesterton did not seem to think so. The reason why he uses these examples is to demonstrate the reasonable-reason criterion

            First, I think you’re wrapping more into the concept of “bestow[ing] the title of Chesterton’s fence” than is warranted. Second, you’re simply fighting his direct quote. He didn’t say that deliberate agency was necessary and sufficient for reasonable-reason. Instead, he said, “It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street.” That is, even if deliberate agency -> reason, it is possible (though highly improbable) that the reason was, “Actual crazies in some isolated incident.” Presumably, we can still go learn that reason (I imagine such an event would be local publication fodder) and determine that it wasn’t a reasonable reason.

            this is in keeping with how we use the concept of a Chesterton fence. It is frequently (and appropriately) applied to the types of social customs that were not deliberately or consciously designed for the important societal roles that they fill nevertheless.

            Example? Generally, social customs were originated by people, who deliberately chose to perform those actions. Presumably, they had reasons for choosing to perform those actions rather than to not perform those actions. They might have been good reasons; they might have been bad reasons. All Chesterton’s fence tells us is, “Go figure out the reason for cases of deliberate agency.” That is, the only claim is ‘deliberate agency -> reason’. This is why your previous claim:

            Let’s call Chesterton’s bluff : a tree falls across the road, blocking all transit. The local community starts using it as a fence – they adhere to it as a fence. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.”

            I presume that you, the intelligent type of reformer, would reply, “Despite the fact that the local community is adhering to this fallen tree’s presence, it wasn’t constructed deliberately by humans. Therefore I don’t see the use of it, either. I will allow you do destroy it.”

            …doesn’t work either. You’re just denying the antecedent.

          • albatross11 says:

            Regardless of Chesterton’s intent, though, most social norms, religious practices, language, manners, neighborhoods, communities, etc., are more evolved than consciously made. And yet, decisions to bulldoze them and replace them with something rationally planned out will often work pretty badly.

          • rahien.din says:

            Controls Freak,

            I agree that agency is the salient issue. I also agree that if a thing seems to be designed, this increases our certainty of human agency – it demonstrates agency of construction. However, I do not agree that the appearance of design is necessary or sufficient to call something a Chesterton fence.

            In order for a Chesterton fence to remain standing, each person who encounters it must allow it to persist. This is what I mean by “adherence.” If a thing could have (or should have) been destroyed, but everyone who has encountered it has withheld destruction, agency has been exercised – the appearance of adherence demonstrates agency of permission. Adherence is an iterative process, by which successive humans exercise agency. Therefore, the greater the evidence of adherence, the greater the evidence of agency. Thus, adherence is sufficient to fulfill Chesterton’s “good reason to believe it owes its existence to human agency” criterion.

            Adherence is also necessary. Chesterton fences that are not adhered to will, definitionally, be destroyed, and thus can not be inspected. The subset of Chesterton fences that appear designed but have not been adhered to is definitionally non-existent. Therefore, the appearance of design is entirely dependent upon the appearance of adherence, and adherence is more necessary than design.

            The appearance of design is not necessary. Chesterton’s (and his fictional reformers’) primary criterion is whether the object has a use. If an object or custom’s use is not transparent, but there is the appearance of permissive agency, then Chesterton demands that we consider that it does have a use. This holds whether the object or custom appears designed or appears non-designed. The obvious metaphor is a tree that has been pushed into the road to form a fence, which appears non-designed but should be regarded as a Chesterton fence nonetheless if there is evidence of adherence.

            Increasing appearance of design may paradoxically decrease our confidence in a Chesterton fence. A mysterious but well-maintained ten-foot section of two-foot-high ornate, gilded wrought-iron fence at the bottom of the sea whose pickets spell out “EAT AT JOE’S” in Morse code and whose crossbars are wrought in the shape of a DNA double helix is a highly-designed object, and that appearance of design greatly increases our confidence that this object only exists due to a high degree of human agency. It also decreases our confidence that this fence is fulfilling a societal role. One aspect of its degree of design is its remoteness from human interaction, and another is the high probability of self-indulgence as its only purpose. When the appearance of design decreases our confidence that the object or custom has a use, our confidence that it is a Chesterton fence (an opaquely-useful object) also decreases.

            You claim that I am fighting his words, and this is false. His operative statement is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody.” This applies equally well to designed and non-designed objects or customs. There is nothing in that operative statement that demands deliberate constructive agency.

            As I have stated, Chesterton’s explanation of his metaphor is like a prefatory clause : this description helps explain but does not delimit the operative statement. Its interpretation is subject to the operative statement, and to the facts that adherence is necessary and sufficient, but the appearance of a reasonably-reasoned human construction is neither necessary nor sufficient. If you disagree, say why.

            Instead, I would claim that you are only casually inspecting his words as quoted, without considering their true purpose, and thus are restricting the valid and essential societal role that this philosophical artifact was intended to play.

            If those things are not true, then we must accept this corollary to Chesterton’s fence : if a custom or object does not appear to have been deliberately designed for the role it might fill, then you may safely destroy or modify it without trying to understand it.

            This corollary is not reasonable. As has been noted, this would grant permission to destroy our evolved social customs without examining their use, which is exactly counter to the spirit and purpose of a Chesterton fence.

          • skef says:

            I don’t really want to take up the interpretive question of what counts as a “Chesterton fence” as he used the term. But if we stipulate that a “reason” for the thing is needed, that interpretation might not cut at a good joint.

            Presumably for there to be or have been a reason for something, an agent must have undertaken to make or preserve the thing for that reason. So nothing that evolves has a reason for it.

            But it seems to me that the relevant question is “Does this thing have a function?” And it’s commonly accepted that evolution produces “functional things”. The heart’s function is to pump blood, for example.

            So the scenario that Chesterton describes does not seem importantly different than the one posed by an open chest cavity. “What’s that thing doing? Does it really need to be there?” Sometimes you’re pointing to an appendix*. Usually you’re not.

            The complex interrelationship between species is not as tightly coupled, but there is a good deal that we don’t grasp, and our confidence that we won’t press on one or another tipping points rests on that incomplete understanding. The human extinction standard is also questionable. What if we tipped a point that killed, say, half a billion people? Wouldn’t that be really bad?

            So I support the view that there are Chesterton-like reasons not to pull blocks from what could be the Jenga tower of ecology.

            * I refer to the now-contested historical view that the appendix serves no purpose.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For instance, there is almost no one who thinks that our wilderness fire-suppression methods for the last 100+ years wouldn’t have been improved by first answering the question “what purpose do wildfires serve?”

            And of course wildfires themselves have no agency, nor are they intentional. But we still would have been better off if we answered the question.

          • rahien.din says:

            skef, HeelBearCub,

            You are saying it better than I did.

            Another example that occurs to me is deer hunting.

            Way back when, deer hunting probably played an important role in simply feeding people. Now, it has evolved into more of a sport or pastime, one result of which is the luxury of venison. The other, more societally-important result of modern deer hunting is keeping the deer population in check, now that there are no longer large predators roaming their habitat.

            This more important result is relatively opaque to certain modern, deer-loving reformers. (And, I presume, not truly the hunters’ primary concern.) And so, in certain places deer hunting was outlawed. This led to an explosion in the deer population and a subsequent increase in accidents and highway deaths – deer and human. Closer to the heart of the deer-loving reformers, it led to sicklier deer. Tragically, the initial proposed solution was “Pay professional hunters to cull wild deer” rather than “Make money off hunting licenses.”

            Deer hunting was a Chesterton fence. It was serving a role that to the modern reformer was woefully unapparent, and stopping the practice of deer hunting led to unforeseen consequences. (Now that we know the role that deer hunting is playing, it is no longer a Chesterton fence.)

            Moreover, despite the initial design of deer hunting (hunt deer for food) it has evolved out of that role into a non-designed and largely non-deliberate role (cull the wild deer herds). Though I am sure that hunters are aware of the societal benefit they provide, I believe that a hunter’s intent is not specifically to provide this benefit as though fulfilling a duty, but rather, simply to enjoy themselves.

          • Controls Freak says:

            In order for a Chesterton fence to remain standing

            Again, that’s not what the argument concludes. At least now you’re spelling out what you meant before by “bestow[ing] the title of Chesterton’s fence”, but you’re still just wrong about what it actually concludes. It does not conclude that the fence must remain standing. It concludes:

            when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

            You can come up with other claims regarding what counts as a reasonable reason, but that’s simply a different claim

            You claim that I am fighting his words, and this is false. His operative statement is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody.” This applies equally well to designed and non-designed objects or customs. There is nothing in that operative statement that demands deliberate constructive agency.

            ‘deliberate agency -> reason’. Not the other way round.

            if a custom or object does not appear to have been deliberately designed for the role it might fill, then you may safely destroy or modify it without trying to understand it

            Please please please stop denying the antecedent.

            deer hunting

            Huh. You seem to have presented some reasons. Now, we could presumably engage in a post-fence analysis, and we may or may not end up allowing you to destroy it. Fancy that.

          • rahien.din says:

            Controls Freak,

            Time out.

            I have been enjoying this discussion, but I don’t get much from your most recent response. You seem frustrated. And I am not confident that you follow me.

            For instance :

            You’re still just wrong about what the argument actually concludes. It does not conclude that the fence must remain standing.

            Correct. It doesn’t. We agree? You don’t seem to understand my claim.

            Furthermore :

            please please please stop denying the antecedent

            You are not invoking that fallacy correctly.

            Denial of the antecedent is a fallacy because there may be multiple P’s that lead to the same Q. IE, if P then Q does not imply if !P then !Q. [If I am in London I can go see a clock tower] does not imply [if I am not in London I can not go see a clock tower], because there are other other cities that have clock towers.

            But this fallacy does not apply if there is only one P that leads to Q, IE, iff P then Q does imply if !P then !Q. [If and only if it I am in London then I can go to see Big Ben] does imply [if I am not in London then I can not go see Big Ben], because there is only one city with Big Ben.

            Simply stating a claim and its appropriately-formulated counterclaim does not necessarily fall under “denying the antecedent.”

            Besides, you may be better-served by stating what you think my claim is, and a more appropriately formulated counterclaim. Lobbing fallacy titles doesn’t help either of us in this discussion. Otherwise, I think I interpret this all as further evidence that you don’t understand my claim.

            Furthermore, your original invocation thereof :

            All Chesterton’s fence tells us is, “Go figure out the reason for cases of deliberate agency.” That is, the only claim is ‘deliberate agency -> reason’. This is why your previous claim is merely denying the antecedent.

            ..is restated : “Your previous claim is merely denying the antecedent, because the only claim within the Chesterton’s fence argument is ‘deliberate agency -> reason.’ ”

            “The only claim is ‘deliberate agency -> reason’ ” is the very claim I am contesting. You seem to have led off by inadvertently begging the question, somewhat.

            This too is evidence that you just don’t follow me.

            I’m not confident that me typing even more words is going to resolve that – this is genuinely lack of skill on my part. If there is anything you wish me to clarify, let me know.

          • Controls Freak says:

            “The only claim is ‘deliberate agency -> reason’ ” is the very claim I am contesting.

            You’re right. You’re doing a piss-poor job of this. Start again. Source your claim in his actual quote:

            In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

            This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.

            For example, points like:

            But this fallacy does not apply if there is only one P that leads to Q, IE, iff P then Q does imply if !P then !Q

            …are nowhere to be found in that quote. So, perhaps you could point out to me exactly where he has said, “If and only if deliberative agency, reason,” or, “If deliberative agency, reason, plus there is only one thing that can produce a reason.”

            You have tried forcing ‘reason -> deliberative agency’ into his quote multiple times… and then proceeded to argue, “But look, !P doesn’t imply !Q.” In quote:

            if a custom or object does not appear to have been deliberately designed for the role it might fill, then you may safely destroy or modify it without trying to understand it

            This serves you in no fashion. We agree that !P does not imply !Q… because you haven’t established that he said anything about Q implying P.

            Skef (whose comment you endorsed) embraced exactly the same problem:

            Presumably for there to be or have been a reason for something, an agent must have undertaken to make or preserve the thing for that reason.

            Show me exactly where Chesterton said that.

            you may be better-served by stating what you think my claim is, and a more appropriately formulated counterclaim

            You keep assuming he said ‘P iff Q’, and he didn’t. He said ‘P->Q’.

            EDIT: At best, you tried:

            The key passage in the second paragraph is “Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.” IE, if it appears that someone saw a reasonable reason for keeping an object or custom, we should be cautious about removing it.

            …but you simply moved the “reasonableness” too early. Through the entirety of his statement, the reasonableness remains unknown. It’s not until after the reformer comes up with the reason that we can determine whether it’s reasonable or not. At that point, he thinks we may go ahead and actually decide what to do. The caution warranted by Chesterton is during the period when the reason isn’t even known, much less its reasonableness value.

            You tried various versions of, “But we can have reasons to keep things even if it wasn’t from deliberative agency.” Skef embraced this:

            the scenario that Chesterton describes does not seem importantly different than the one posed by an open chest cavity. “What’s that thing doing? Does it really need to be there?” Sometimes you’re pointing to an appendix*. Usually you’re not.

            …but that’s entirely downstream and separate from Chesterton’s claim. Things can have functions, they can have reasons (dare I say they can have teloses) without having deliberative agency. Great! That’s another, different argument for caution.

          • rahien.din says:

            Controls Freak,

            Controls Freak : You’re doing a piss-poor job of this. For example, points like: “But this fallacy does not apply if there is only one P that leads to Q, IE, iff P then Q does imply if !P then !Q” …are nowhere to be found in Chesterton’s quote. So, perhaps you could point out to me exactly where he has said, ‘If and only if deliberative agency, reason,’ or, ‘If deliberative agency, reason, plus there is only one thing that can produce a reason.’

            [Ron Howard voice] Meanwhile, in the exact subthread to which Controls Freak had replied : [/Ron Howard voice]

            rahien.din : The deliberateness or consciousness of the fence’s construction or source is not so important.

            The Nybbler : If it were literally erected by accident, or if it did in fact grow there, the second paragraph [of the Chesterton quotation] demonstrates that the principle does not apply.

            John Schilling : Per [Chesterton’s words], it would appear that deliberate agency is a key element to Chesterton’s fence.

            rahien.din : There is nothing in [Chesterton’s words] about deliberate agency, and there needn’t be.

            The Nybbler : On the one hand, we have Chesterton’s words as quoted by John and I. On the other we have your headcanon. I’m going with Chesterton.

            rahien.din : No, you’re arguing for a particular interpretation [of Chesterton’s words]. But you’re wrong. I would agree that evidence of design and deliberate construction would increase our confidence that a certain artifact is a Chesterton fence. I do not agree that such evidence would be necessary.

            I will recap :

            The “iff P then Q” statements were made to me in response to my original question, and it was claimed that they were plainly evident in Chesterton’s writing.

            I countered that no, such statements are not plainly evident in Chesterton’s writing.

            I have spent a lot of words to demonstrate why they are not valid interpretations of Chesterton’s writings. In fact, my use of the logically-valid form of antecedent denial in the case of iff-then statements was intended to demonstrate that these “iff P then Q” statements are not valid interpretations of Chesterton’s writings, because they violate the use/purpose/spirit of Chesterton’s writings*.

            So we appear to agree on this very important point.

            * Ironically, I am treating Chesterton’s fence in the manner of a Chesterton’s fence…

            ETA: clarity

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I wasn’t around at the time, but I imagine the old topic ban on two-tailed T-tests came about more or less like this.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The “iff P then Q” statements were made to me in response to my original question

            No, they weren’t. Nybbler and John started from ‘deliberative agency -> reason’, and said, “If there is no deliberative agency, then the implication ‘deliberative agency -> reason’ doesn’t apply. That is, they said, “Chesterton claimed P->Q, but if you’re starting from !P, we can’t use P->Q to say anything.” Where, exactly did either of them say anything about “iff P then Q”?

            You’re still trying to mangle claims of ‘Q->P’ into the words of people who never said that. I mean, how in the world do you read:

            If it were literally erected by accident, or if it did in fact grow there, the second paragraph [of the Chesterton quotation] demonstrates that the principle does not apply.

            …in any way other than…

            If it were literally erected by accident, or if it did in fact grow there [if !P], the second paragraph [of the Chesterton quotation] demonstrates that the principle [P->Q] does not apply.

          • rahien.din says:

            Controls Freak,

            You seem to be genuinely angry. I’m happy to put forth further effort, I’m not confident that either of us is currently getting much out of our conversation. (Also, this thread has been succeeded.)

            I don’t agree with what you’ve written in your last reply, but I’m merely going to register that disagreement. If you want to continue discussion, you could email me at fuht.onepn@tznvy.pbz

            Thanks for helping me learn a few things in greater detail.

            Cheers!

            rahien.din

    • yossarian says:

      In my opinion, one of the biggest troubles there is that the people who care too much about the endangered species and similar issues are also against the ways to prevent that extinction in useful ways. It is like, those people would say (not a real example, just theoretical) “we are against the global warming as it will kill the polar bears”, but if you suggest a genetic modification of those polar bears that lets them survive the warming (and become actually useful for humans, maybe?), they would say that they are against that, too.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      A lot of this feels like just-so-ism to me. Saying we should go with whatever extinction happens presumes that whatever goes extinct was going to do so anyway. There’s no rule saying all extinctions are fine, any more than there is one saying they’re all regrettable. Although I do appreciate reminding us that the former case can exist.

      Moreover, there was a point in earth’s history where biodiversity was exactly zero on any scale you’d care to define, and now it’s “better” on that scale. Granted, it took a few billion years, but now that’s it’s up and running, you could pave over any 100-mile square of the world and it would likely grow back something within two generations. I feel as if our main concern should be more subtle than simply the reading on the biodiversimeter, but rather whether what moves in is something too expensive to live with, relative to the expense of managing whatever ecology we have right now.

      Meanwhile, the general benefit to biodiversity is supposed to be similar to that of investment portfolio diversity. If that’s the case, then there might be a way to hedge disease threats by preserving small biocultures in relatively small parts of the world, possibly even in labs. Preserving entire rainforests makes less sense, since much of that biodiversity is consequently inaccessible to us when searching for cures or hardy lifeforms, and much of that diversity is also evolving ways to hurt us at the same time.

  7. For anyone who missed it, and because I am getting in near the beginning of the thread, another meetup at our house in San Jose this Saturday.

  8. ManyCookies says:

    I stumbled across the last SSC survey results today. I view the commentators here and on the subreddit as pretty right-leaning, so I was rather surprised by the decisively left-leaning political spectrum graph from the survey. Am I just hopelessly biased and viewing anything to the right of me as right-leaning, or are the SSC commentators actually to the right of the lurkers?

    • US says:

      Not sure how you asking that question here and getting answers to it below would satisfactorily clarify the answer to this question. Unless thousands of people (lurkers) reply here, the answers you’ll get will be from but a subset of the people who originally answered the question in the survey. A likely biased subset. If the replies in the survey lean left, then most likely so do the readers (I don’t know or care, I don’t find politics interesting).
      It might be possible to condition on lurker status in the survey and see if the political preferences of non-lurkers are different from those of lurkers.

    • OptimalSolver says:

      If I recall, right-leaning SSC readers mostly fall under the autistic right, aka libertarianism, representing economic conservatism and social liberalism, rather than the more mainstream and socially-adjusted right that’s currently (always?) popular in the West, which espouses social conservatism and economic liberalism.

      Btw, I reckon that social conservatism-economic liberalism is the default worldview of the average, non-aspergic Homo Sapiens. The most natural politics for human groups is something like ethno-socialism.

    • Wolfy says:

      There are some left types who post here, but the vast majority do seem to be on the right-far-right-alt-right-libertarian axis. Post something critical of Trump and watch them crawl out of the woodwork, or just read the last hidden-open-thread where Trump was discussed, but only if nausea is your thing.

      As to why the left mostly only lurks? I do not know, it’s an interesting question though.

      • fion says:

        My suspicion is that it’s a positive reinforcement thing. As a left-winger* I find the comment threads a little bit intimidating sometimes, and I rarely get involved in political discussions here. (Having political discussions with multiple intelligent people who disagree with you can be educational, but it can also be exhausting, and it’s always time-consuming.)

        *I think it’s worth pointing out that I’m not from the US, so when I say “left-winger”, I mean actually left-wing, not just free-marketeers with a different colour of tie.

      • Post something critical of Trump and watch them crawl out of the woodwork

        I would be very much surprised if as many as ten percent of the people commenting support Trump. I suspect you are judging how right wing the commenters are relative to your immediate social environment, where roughly zero percent support Trump, not relative to the U.S. population, where considerably more than ten percent do.

        Also, you may be seriously underestimating how many of the people in your social environment support Trump or have other views that are heretical in that environment. As you may have noticed, people here occasionally comment that they don’t post under their real names because having their views on issues related to politics known by their real world associates would have negative consequences. In that respect, the online conversation may give a more accurate impression of people’s views than the realspace conversation–although of course, in both cases, you are interacting with a very nonrandom subset of people.

        • Brad says:

          It isn’t necessary to support Trump in order to bend over backwards to defend him and never get around to posting about the reasons you don’t support him.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Maybe all the times people calmly point out that he’s an embarrassing, unqualified charlatan go largely unremembered since they lack that hysterical emotional punch the media’s revenues are so addicted to.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Who’s bending over backwards around here to defend Trump? Every discussion I’ve read here involving Trump seems to be between people plainly critical of Trump on one side, and people also plainly critical of Trump on the other side, but trying to be more careful about how that criticism is applied.

          • albatross11 says:

            This.

            When the full propaganda press was on for the Iraq war, it got to where you almost couldn’t argue against the war without being asked why you liked Saddam and plastic shredders and rape rooms and Uday and Qusay. We got so used to everyone on TV or in print sticking in lots of “we all agree they’re horrible, let’s say some more about how horrible they are” that when you didn’t say that stuff, it came off like you were on his side.

            This same thing has happened w.r.t. Trump. So much of the world can’t say his name without mentioning what a fascist Nazi anti-Semitic homophobic racist woman-groping monster he is, that when you say “well, yes, Trump is a terrible president, but I don’t think he actually eats babies for breakfast,” it comes off as some kind of support for Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s not “never get around to posting about the reasons you don’t support him”, it’s “offer fairly bland unconcerned criticism of Trump, then get animated if someone uses the wrong word to criticize him”.

            Basically, blue-tribe is the preferred outgroup of most of the prolific commenters here. Therefore, it is the hate of things blue-tribe that animates the political conversations.

            “Trump is not a racist! He is not a Nazi!”

            Fine, what is he then? Find your own words to “correctly” describe the authoritarian, nativist, faux-populist schtick he uses.

            He is toxic to the political discourse and fundamentally incompetent for the office. He is doing damage to the country.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The saving grace of Ingsoc is that the Two Minutes Hate only goes on for two minutes.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            More toxic than branding roughly a third of the adult population as nazis or nazi sympathizers?

            Because that’s you literally right now.

            I mean you don’t like it when people imply that every Muslim refugee is a terrorist or a gang rapist, right? Well you’re directly stating that an order of magnitude more people are the equivalent of kill-on-sight war criminals. That’s worse.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            No, HBC is not “literally” branding a third of the Adult population Nazis or Nazi Sympathizers, at least not in the post you’re responding to. He’s not even figuratively doing so.

            @HBC

            He is toxic to the political discourse and fundamentally incompetent for the office. He is doing damage to the country.

            I’ll certainly agree with “fundamentally incompetent for the office” and “doing damage to the country”, though on that last one I suspect I draw the lines differently.

            As far as toxicity of discourse, I disagree primarily because I think that political discourse started going increasingly toxic around 2000 and hasn’t stopped. In that respect Trump is simply a secondary condition, not even a comorbidity. Doesn’t make him not a problem, but the distinction is important because if you just try to address the secondary condition without doing anything about the underlying one, the secondary condition just comes back worse, or the primary condition proceeds until even more drastic interventions are necessary.

          • “Trump is not a racist! He is not a Nazi!”

            Fine, what is he then?

            A demagogue. Since you asked.

            As I have said repeatedly here.

          • Incurian says:

            faux-populist

            Very good.

          • chroMa says:

            @Paul

            That comment made my day. Thank you.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Trump is not a racist! He is not a Nazi!”

            Fine, what is he then? Find your own words to “correctly” describe the authoritarian, nativist, faux-populist schtick he uses.

            I may or may not chose to do something like that, in a time and manner of my own choosing. Same goes for Trump’s other less-than-fanatical detractors here.

            In the meantime, if you falsely accuse someone of being a Nazi, who is not a Nazi, we are under absolutely not obligation to provide an alternate insult for the man before calling you out as a liar and deciding not to pay attention to you any more. If you want to insult someone, the burden is on you to pick an appropriate insult – and even then, to accept that not everyone who shares your distaste for the target will join in the fun. Failure to do either, marks you as a fanatic not worth paying attention to (except as a possible threat).

            Don’t call people Nazis who aren’t actually Nazis. Ever.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s an arguments-as-soldiers thing going on here. If I say “Trump eats babies for breakfast,” and you say “No, there’s no evidence of that, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s all made up by some dumbass Facebook meme you forwarded to all your friends,” it’s pretty natural (and wrong) for me to interpret that as you supporting Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Something I want to point out:

            I never said Trump was a Nazi.

            Nor did Brad.

            I venture to guess that there are very few “leftie” commenters here who have. Moon. Someone else who is also banned (… knight maybe?)

            What said is that plenty here “offer fairly bland unconcerned criticism of Trump [if any at all] then get animated if someone uses the wrong word to criticize him”.

            Trump positions himself as a [faux]-populist, nativist, demagogue with impulsive authoritarian tendencies. Getting animated about whether it is appropriate to call Trump a racist or a Nazi is missing the forest for the trees. Maybe he is not “Nazi”, but “Yahtzee” sounds pretty close. People here are supposed to be steel-manning these things.

            Calling the scientist who wore a handmade shirt with comic book characters on it a misogynist is wrong in a way that calling Trump a Nazi is not. There is a difference between these two “mistakes” in nomenclature.

          • Deiseach says:

            Fine, what is he then? Find your own words to “correctly” describe the authoritarian, nativist, faux-populist schtick he uses.

            Which then leads on to “If he’s a Nazi then the people who voted for him must also be Nazis”, which means calling the 46% of voters who voted for him all Nazis and we’re back where we started.

            Including arguing over:

            Something I want to point out:

            I never said Trump was a Nazi.

            Ah come on, if you say “Trump is not a Nazi! Fine, what is he then?” that does sound like “I’m saying he’s a Nazi”. I’m trying to rephrase what you said, and I’m still coming up with variants like “If Trump is not a Nazi, then what else is he?” and “If you would not call this kind of person holding these views a Nazi, what would you call them?”

            I’ll accept your claim that you did not mean he was a Literal Actual Nazi, but the way it was put could lead to that kind of misinterpretation. Maybe better to leave out “Fine, what is he then?” which does carry the implication “Fine, what is he then (if he’s not a Nazi, you can’t, he’s a Nazi)”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            1. I don’t call Trump a Nazi.

            2. Other people (not here) use the phrase Nazi to refer to Trump.

            3. Scott, you, and plenty of excercised about how awful and unfair it is to accuse Trump of such a thing.

            4. I point out that Trump is a (faux)-populist, “nativist” demagogue with impulsive authoritarian tendencies.

            5. You accuse me of practically calling him a Nazi.

            Now, if 4 isn’t accurate, you can get exercised about it.

            But since 4 is, in fact, accurate, I would vastly prefer that people here be concerned about 4 and not be far more concerned about people using the term “Nazi” to refer to a populist, nativist demagogue with authoritarian tendencies.

            When you are completely unconcerned about 4, I take exception. Because leaders who fall into category are quite dangerous.

            Yes, there are things that make Nazis unique from 4. Being those things doesn’t make you a literal Nazi. But Nazi is a central example of the class comprised of 4s, so making a great deal of hay about the misapplication seems to miss the point entirely.

          • I point out that Trump is a (faux)-populist

            How do you distinguish between a (faux)-populist and an ordinary populist?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Actual populists have policy preferences that are actually populist.

            Trump has almost no true policy preferences.

          • Actual populists have policy preferences that are actually populist.

            How can you tell? Populists who are successful enough to get attention express policy preferences that get them political success. Unless you can read their minds or have enough information on the rest of their lives to figure out their real preferences, how do you distinguish true from false?

            Also, doesn’t your definition of “actually populist” depend a lot on your beliefs about what policies have what effects? Bernie Sanders conducted what I would describe as a populist campaign. For someone who agrees with his political views that makes him a real populist. If I disagree, think the policies he supported would make life worse for most people, should I label him a faux-populist?

          • Matt M says:

            Actual populists have policy preferences that are actually populist.

            Trump has almost no true policy preferences.

            Disagree. I always thought the standard definition of populism was basically someone who simply selects popular positions for the sake of obtaining power, and doesn’t really have strong philosophical beliefs of their own.

            In this case, Trump would be the platonian ideal of a populist…

            If your deeply held and well founded philosophical beliefs happen to also be really popular, I don’t think you’re a populist, you’re just pretty fortunate!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Doing something merely popular is not populism.

            Populism is a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by solidifying and mobilizing the animosity of the “common man” or “the people” against “privileged elites” and the “establishment”.

            When he says things that are similar to:
            “Those guys in Washington are screwing you because the system is rigged and nobody know how it’s rigged better than me. Only I can fix it.”

            That is talking the talk of populism.

    • Zorgon says:

      Am I just hopelessly biased and viewing anything to the right of me as right-leaning, or are the SSC commentators actually to the right of the lurkers?

      I’d suggest perhaps both?

      By which I mean I think the suggestion from fion above (that left-wingers, particularly of the SJ variety, have to exhaust willpower reserves to post here since they are almost certain to be challenged) is likely true, but I think it’s also likely true that you’re interpreting certain signals (lack of specifically inflected vocabulary, the presence of unburnt witches, and so on) as coding “right wing”, since that seems an extremely common response to SSC from those left of centre who have not already been stung by purity crusades.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think the commenters here include not very many mainstream American conservatives, and a whole lot of people who are both broadly right wing and serious outliers w.r.t. the rest of the world. Think h. beady, all trite, ethnonationalist, libertarian, and Moldbugian views.

        Even a few people espousing such uncommon views seems like a lot, if you’re used to more common political and social ideas.

        • My impression, possibly biased, is that the most striking set of outliers is the one I am part of. There are a significant number of anarcho-capitalists here, almost certainly more than Trump supporters. Given that Trump supporters are more than ten times as numerous as libertarians, judged by the most recent presidential election, and only a small minority of libertarians are anarchists …

          The Neo-reactionaries may be even rarer in the general population, but I don’t see as many of them here.

          I should probably add that I’m guessing that well over half the people who comment here are in the U.S., so I’m using the U.S. distribution of views for comparison.

      • Brad says:

        > interpreting certain signal

        You mean like the phases:
        > unburnt witches
        > stung by purity crusades
        ?

        To my mind these signals are being interpreted quite correctly.

        • As signals of right wing views or of hostility to parts of the left? Those are not the same thing. I suspect there are quite a lot of people who voted for Hillary or, earlier, for Bernie who share that hostility.

        • Zorgon says:

          I can’t imagine why Leftists people that have been “stung by purity crusades” would have issues with doctrinarian Leftists showing up to tell them how they’re right-wing monsters, can you?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      The comments section definitely leans right, but there’s also the issue where the “left-right” divide here mostly concerns cultural issues, rather than economic ones. So you have people who consider themselves “left-wing” arguing for “right-wing” positions.

      That’s just a limitation of a single axis political discrimination, even if people are frequently pretty clustered.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Name a right-wing position that is actually an outlier here?

        Even things like equal rights for gay persons, which is the default consensus here, will be spoken about as if it is a right-wing position. In other words, there is actually denial that the right deserves criticism for their position on things like gay rights.

        You see very little desire to actually criticize standard right wing positions.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Name a right-wing position that is actually an outlier here?

          I suspect that the following are all significantly under represented compared to their prevalence in the general population.

          – Explicitly Natalist and pro-life veiws.
          – Opposition to gay marriage and skepticism towards the wider LGBT etc… agenda
          – Trump voters
          – non-utilitarians
          – Creationists, young Earth and otherwise.
          – Theists in general

          • Anonymous says:

            Check, check, pass, check, check, check.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:

            Do you realize that I anticipated this response and I that I already responded to it?

            For example: I say “creationists comprise a rump, or even an outright majority, of the Republican party. This has negative impacts on policy decisions”.

            The response I get is not “Yeah, that’s true.”

            The response I get is “No they don’t. No one believes in the literal creationist position, it’s just signalling and a way to tweak the noses of the liberals. Plus, there is nothing wrong with being a creationist you elitist who is sneering down your nose at us.”

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Who said that?

          • Randy M says:

            There were several comments at some point recently to the effect of “Questions about literal 7 day creationism may be interpreted as questions about tribal affiliation rather than of factual beliefs.”
            The rest of it I don’t recall.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            That is not a literal quote. It is merely meant to be illustrative of the kind of argument made.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            There were several comments at some point recently to the effect of “Questions about literal 7 day creationism may be interpreted as questions about tribal affiliation rather than of factual beliefs.”
            The rest of it I don’t recall.

            Because there are important differences between small-c creationists and Young Earth Creationists, but polls insist on fuzzing them together. I for one believe “This has negative impacts on policy decisions” applies to the latter but not to the former, and am sick to death of people pushing the conflation to tar all theists with the YECs’s batshittery. Anyone who (rightly) speaks up for moderate Muslims should know better.

          • Anonymous says:

            (YEC is heresy.)

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I don’t find it very convincing when you can’t actually produce a single comment stating that and have to paraphrase. I cannot judge how correct/charitable you are like this.

            Gobbobobble certainly seems to dispute your claim that it was total denial and suggests that it was an attempt to counter a too strong perception of outgroup homogeneity.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje: Please remember these principles next time you are tempted to summarize what, say, “SJWs” or “feminists” believe without providing specific citations.

            For the record, this is probably the conversation HBC is talking about. Sample:

            I also put stock in “everyone realizes this question is often used as a proxy for tribal affinity, therefore, if you’re red tribe, you answer that you are YEC, even if you aren’t literally, to show tribal solidarity and because you don’t want to be on the same side as those obnoxious blue-tribers”

            I do not think HBC’s summary is excessively uncharitable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            I wasn’t thinking specifically of that series of comments, but it is a good illustration of the form of the conversation.

            It’s relatively common here.

            Another example would be various conversations that have occurred around “Gay Cake Baking” where various people have denied that the conservative houses any animus towards gay people at all that’s just crazy and the whole thing is a non-issue just leave Britney those poor Christians alone.

            Another would be conversations around abortion where there is denial that (the rump of) Republicans actually want to ban abortion or want to deny it to as many people as possible.

            Another are conversations around whether (the rump of) the right maintains a belief in Obama quite possibly being (a) Muslim, (b) actually not born in the US.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Another example would be various conversations that have occurred around “Gay Cake Baking” where various people have denied that the conservative houses any animus towards gay people at all that’s just crazy and the whole thing is a non-issue just leave Britney those poor Christians alone.

            It’s not mutually exclusive for a segment of conservatives to be anti-gay and a segment of liberals to be anti-Christian. What sort of justifications are you seeing for Gay Cake CW that isn’t of the form “This person doesn’t like gays and we shouldn’t force them to”?

            Another would be conversations around abortion where there is denial that (the rump of) Republicans actually want to ban abortion or want to deny it to as many people as possible.

            This is literally what being pro-life means (modulo some qualified exceptions depending on how toxoplasma’d the participants are). Where are you seeing pro-lifers that deny this?

            Another are conversations around whether (the rump of) the right maintains a belief in Obama quite possibly being (a) Muslim, (b) actually not born in the US.

            You can mock whackadoodle rump segments with nutty ideas when you stop vociferously denying that “SJWs” are thing worth conversation.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Your average mainstream Republican in the US is probably much more openly retrograde than the average right-winger here, even if the latter holds some views that are more extreme than the former. Emphasis on the “openly,” obviously, as we can’t look into people’s hearts of hearts (and I think misgendering people is a rules violation here?) but the political atmosphere in the US as a whole is one where a mainstream right-winger will misgender, support bathroom bills, etc, whereas SSC is a place where you have reactionaries and occasional crypto-fascists who don’t do those things.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            I feel like you only read the first sentence of what I wrote. See my response above to hylankcg.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You’re right. I think I read a lower post, then kicked it up a nesting layer. There is a tendency here for the right-wingers here to wash their hands of mainstream Republican tendencies, while not extending left-wingers the same courtesy.

            EDIT: And then it took me two tries to get this post to the right layer.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Name a right-wing position that is actually an outlier here?

        -Support For Trump. (I can think of 2-3 frequently commenting Trump supporters, tops)

        -Opposition to Gay Marriage. (again, 2-3)

        Off the top of my head. Can you explain what you mean by “Even things like equal rights for gay persons, which is the default consensus here, will be spoken about as if it is a right-wing position” ?

        • Anonymous says:

          Can you explain what you mean by “Even things like equal rights for gay persons, which is the default consensus here, will be spoken about as if it is a right-wing position” ?

          gets the divining rod

          One interpretation of that statement is that the mainstream right has assimilated the new status quo concerning “gay marriage”, and is now in opposition to whatever new madness the left is cooking up.

          Another is that the old status quo could very well be said to be an equal rights position (and so is the new one, but that’s beside the point). Under the old rules, your orientation did not matter, only your sex did. Under the new rules, neither your orientation nor your sex matters.

        • skef says:

          Off the top of my head. Can you explain what you mean by “Even things like equal rights for gay persons, which is the default consensus here, will be spoken about as if it is a right-wing position” ?

          I believe HeelBearCub is saying that those on the right here who support gay marriage often portray the issue as “settled” and therefore not really a left/right thing, when in fact there is still a good deal of opposition to gay marriage on the right.

          • albatross11 says:

            Unless you exclude such opposition from the left by definition, there is also a fair bit of opposition to gay marriage on the left. This is probably just the nature of rapid social change.

          • skef says:

            there is also a fair bit of opposition to gay marriage on the left.

            And so with abortion, leaving us to quibble about the relative significance of different fair bits.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          @GreyAnon

          I don’t think so. I have a hard time believing HBC would complain that the problem with SSC right-wingers is that we’re agreeing with a traditionally left-wing position. That’s generally what a political victory looks like, although in this case that’s affected by the fact that I think most of here are non-standardard right wingers who never disagreed in the first place.

          I believe HeelBearCub is saying that those on the right here who support gay marriage often portray the issue as “settled” and therefore not really a left/right thing, when in fact there is still a good deal of opposition to gay marriage on the right.

          If that’s correct, then to the extent that’s the case, I think A) that’s because it reflects our own personal views, and B) is there really a “good deal” of opposition? My impression is that it IS settled, and there is about as much danger of moving back towards throwing gay couples in jail for sodomy as there is of Roe v. Wade being overturned: that is, basically none, barring a serious reversal of the opinion trend lines.

          RLMS’ classification filed me as “right wing” which I won’t dispute, for sufficiently eccentric values of right-wing, but I spend at least as much time in other venues and IRL arguing with conservatives as with liberals, and I haven’t had to make an argument in defense of gay marriage in YEARS. Now the arguments are over transgendered people.

          • skef says:

            and B) is there really a “good deal” of opposition? My impression is that it IS settled, and there is about as much danger of moving back towards throwing gay couples in jail for sodomy as there is of Roe v. Wade being overturned: that is, basically none, barring a serious reversal of the opinion trend lines.

            I don’t think think it’s an exaggeration to call Roe V. Wade the prototypical left/right issue in the United States. So, accepting your premises, “likelihood of being reversed” doesn’t seem to be a good measure of what HeelBearCub is talking about.

            I think it’s more that the position “gay marriage opposition — that’s not on us” exists simultaneously with Eich martyrdom and “they want to force us to throw them a fucking parade” worries. There is an ongoing subtext of the disaster of liberals making those who object to gay marriage, or gay relations of any kind, unemployable. That’s not incompatible with those concerned just using that particular issue (repercussions for public objections to gay marriage or gay relationships) academically, but it doesn’t tend to come across that way.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            To get my attention, simply “@Anonymous” is preferred.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:

            @skef has correctly interpreted what I am saying.

            In other words, even for issues on which commenters disagree with the majority position of red-tribe and/or Republicans, they have no interest in expressing disagreement with that position, rather reframing it as if is it not the actual position held by those they support. This is essentially a tribal solidarity play.

            Perhaps the “exception that proves the rule” is the immigration/borders debate, where the libertarian-right will disagree with the “nativist”-right.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            even for issues on which commenters disagree with the majority position of red-tribe and/or Republicans, they have no interest in expressing disagreement with that position

            I’m going to have to go back and look for some OTs on Gay Marriage, the whole Transgender Rights/Bathroom thing, and so on, because I have to admit I’m skeptical.

            rather reframing it as if is it not the actual position held by those they support. This is essentially a tribal solidarity play.

            Define “support” in this context? As in vote for? give money to? If you mean “agree with on a given issue”, that seems like a tautology.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:

            This conversation feels slightly circular at this point, but, at the risk of repeating myself, “those they support” are conservatives and/or red-tribe and/or anyone who is the enemy of blue-tribe.

            The context of this conversation was the general bent of the commentariat, so I intended “support” to be interpreted in that context.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            I get what you you meant by “those they support”. My concern was the generality vs. specificity of “support”. I can only control my own actions, and I think I’ve done a -fairly- good job weighing in with my opinions on issues where I don’t entirely line up with mainstream conservative opinion, but I’ll certainly try to be more vocal in future. Beyond that, I’m not sure what else I can do, short of prefacing my comments on unrelated topics:

            i.e. “I disagree with the conservative mainstream on handling of immigration and gay marriage, but on the current topic of gun rights…” etc.

          • rlms says:

            I think the behaviour HeelBearCub is talking about is certain people engaging in pedantry and whataboutery rather than disagree with mainstream right-wing orthodoxy. For instance, in discussions of gay marriage, making the completely useless point that gays have always been able to marry (people of the opposite gender). More generally, this happens a lot with Trump/Hillary. There aren’t many explicit Trump supporters here, but you’d still struggle to find a conversation about one of Trump’s bad points that didn’t end up with someone claiming “but Hillary… !”.

            The people who do this don’t necessarily agree with the mainstream right on e.g. gay marriage, but for whatever reason they seem unwilling to be outspoken against them. I think you are “one of the good ones” — I don’t recall you engaging in this annoying behaviour, and I think I remember you pushing back against an anti-Islam argument at one point.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I think the behaviour HeelBearCub is talking about is certain people engaging in pedantry and whataboutery rather than disagree with mainstream right-wing orthodoxy.

            I mean, if the above chain is to be believed, even that is not enough. If you don’t explicitly denounce the right-wing people/ideas/things you don’t agree with, while also acknowledging that they’re a part of american right-wing mainstream politics, you’re being… dishonest, or evil, or something, I’m not even sure what the accusation here is anymore.

          • Jiro says:

            “Whataboutery” here is called “isolated demand for rigor” and is a legitimate criticism.

    • bean says:

      I’d totally buy commenters being to the right of lurkers. There aren’t a lot of places someone right-wing can go for smart discussion, so we gravitate here. The same isn’t true of left-wingers, and I’d totally buy a lot of them being driven off because dealing with smart people on the other side is hard. (This is not a criticism. I will often avoid political threads here because I just don’t feel like it.)

      • thirqual says:

        It’s true that there is smart discussion from right-wingers in this comment section.

        There’s also basic right-wing crankery (especially the American flavor), and it gets no push-back from the smart conservatives commenters.

        Left-wingers/liberals/socdems, on the other hand, are here and everywhere more eager to fight among themselves.

        • JulieK says:

          I think pushing back against cranks is a waste of time. The cranks won’t change their mind and the non-cranks already agree with you.

          • gbdub says:

            A boot forcing you to write intelligent, point by point refutations of every Sidles post, forever.

          • quanta413 says:

            What JulieK said. I don’t want to have a coronary trying to argue with someone of the likes of say… Jim. I argue with people who I disagree with but who aren’t crazy. I don’t need to convince someone of anything to gain from the interaction, but I do need them to post coherent responses that I actually have a useful framing for.

          • Nornagest says:

            A boot forcing you to write intelligent, point by point refutations of every Sidles post, forever.

            You know the old joke about playing chess with a pigeon?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            The pigeon only moves his roo-koo?

          • Nornagest says:

            @Aapje —

            The pigeon will knock over the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around like it won.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            When I was learning Portuguese, I came across the phrase ‘pomba enxadrista‘ – given as the closest expression in native Portuguese words to what we would call a troll in English (though they have also imported the English word in verb form: trollar), but it literally translates as ‘pigeon chess player’, and indeed appears to be drawn from the Eugenie Scott quote about creationists.

        • keranih says:

          There’s also basic right-wing crankery (especially the American flavor), and it gets no push-back from the smart conservatives commenters.

          Asking as a right winger (of the socio type) who has an interest in non-crankery discussions (of both the nutjob and annoyed spectrums of ‘cranky’) – can you expand on this? What *specific* “basic right wing crankery” do you see getting “no” push back? This is the sort of thing I’d like to know was annoying people across the aisle.

          This is not to say that this would necessarily get a change – a vital part of most conservative/libertarian pov is you ain’t the boss a me – so there would be a fair amount of “yeah, yeah, whatever, I’m ignoring that” rather than overt disagreement in response to a comment where there was a lack of agreement. (Or: where a sufficent number of left-leaners were already jumping in. In my non-universal experience, right wingers are less apt to dogpile – or, are less apt at doing so, possibly due to apathy & lack of social competence.)

          I would also warn people against assuming all other persons shared their own culture and taught responses to different things – what looks like factual support might not be emotional support, and vice versa.

          • thirqual says:

            Especially grating for me are the ecology, climate change, economy where it interacts with natural resources, and quasi-conspiracy theories about the motivations and morals of people who disagree with them on those subjects.

            (I finally have a project rolling to work with climate scientists, I’m waiting for my hush money)

            (I worked with oil industry researchers before (as an academic), I did not receive any hush money from them)

          • quanta413 says:

            quasi-conspiracy theories about the motivations and morals of people who disagree with them on those subjects.

            I agree that this thing is actually bad. However, I also think its a waste of time to argue about. I’m glad Brad is willing to pushback against Birthers or whatever, but I’m not going to spend my time on that.

          • jasonbayz says:

            “economy where it interacts with natural resources”

            You still believing in peak oil?

          • secondcityscientist says:

            @keranih For me, the base level lack of empiricism that doesn’t get pushed pack on is the irritating thing, especially at a rationalist website.

            So a few OTs back, someone post some baloney about Chicago’s municipal elections, and Democratic primaries being the only accountability elections – which would be a neat trick, because Chicago municipal elections are non-partisan and there are no Democratic primaries. If you don’t understand how a thing works even at the most basic, elementary levels, why are you talking about it like you do? Especially when it’s used in service of nonsense right-wing talking points.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I might have a blind-spot here, so I am also interested in the crankery. A lot of the real world conservatives I deal with are very close to the Obama-is-a-Kenyan-Socialist, His-Name-Was-Seth-Rich variety. The various Red Pill boards I sometimes read have a whole host of other crankery that goes even beyond the Birther stuff.

            It’s possible I am over-looking the crankery, but is that happening here?

            I’ve argued against other conservatives elsewhere that AGW is a real thing and not a made-up conspiracy, but I haven’t read much here about it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Chicago municipal elections are non-partisan

            While you are correct that there are no party primary elections, this is a pretty credulous statement. It’s officially non-partisan, in that they don’t put a letter by your name on the ballot, but that doesn’t stop people from noticing which way your wind is blowing.

            The spirit of the statement was not exactly outlandish either: getting the backing of the political Machine still goes quite a long ways here.

          • secondcityscientist says:

            this is a pretty credulous statement.

            It’s not credulous, it’s the structure of the elections. I don’t mean “non-partisan” in the sense they aren’t Democrats, I mean “non-partisan” in the sense that the parties don’t control ballot access. Yes, someone can get the backing of Democratic Party apparatus, and then leverage that into an electoral victory by having the Democratic Party help them get more votes than their opponents. But getting the support of the Democratic party establishment doesn’t keep every other Democrat’s name off the ballot the way a partisan election would. There were four people running for Alderman in my ward during the last election, and they ran in the real municipal election, not in some tiny-turnout Democratic primary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve argued against other conservatives elsewhere that AGW is a real thing and not a made-up conspiracy, but I haven’t read much here about it.

            I think you must just buzz past it. There has been plenty, in long exhaustive threads.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Just to mention an episode that made me lose respect for a number of people here, during the election there were several regular posters who were either endorsing or “I’m not saying I’m 100% convinced of this, but…” right-wing conspiracy theories about Hillary’s health.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Did anyone express more concern about Hillary’s health than Donna Brazile?

            I just added this to my list of “conspiracy theories that turned out to be true.”

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Philosophisticat

            right-wing conspiracy theories about Hillary’s health.

            What sort of conspiracy? The fact that Hilary was in a conspiracy with the DNC is accepted and admited to at this point. In other elements, we discovered that members of the media were sending her the debate questions and the like.

            The existince of the conspiracy is known at this point. And even The Washington Post (The Fix) responded to the ‘Hillary was just overheated’ claim, by pointing out that the temperature was only 80 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/11/hillary-clintons-health-just-became-a-real-issue-in-the-presidential-campaign/?utm_term=.9303264836cf)

            Taking it as given that they were wrong in their explanation of the weird glasses, the collapsing and the lies, what is the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ doing that is useful?

          • Philosophisticat says:

            This is the sort of stuff that was being cited favorably by commenters here.

            https://www.dangerandplay.com/2016/09/11/sick-hillary-collapses-on-camera-is-saved-by-her-handler-clintoncollapse/

            If you think this was all totally reasonable, then thanks for making my point.

          • @Thirqual:

            Especially grating for me are the ecology, climate change, economy where it interacts with natural resources, and quasi-conspiracy theories about the motivations and morals of people who disagree with them on those subjects.

            (response to a question about what he meant by right wing crankery)

            I can’t tell from this whether views that disagree with you on those subjects count as crankery, or only some specific and not specified ones.

            I have long argued that we do not know either the magnitude or the sign of the net effect on humans of AGW. Does that claim fit your definition of crankery? If so, do you think you could yourself list all of the major effects positive and negative, with some rough estimate of magnitude?

            I have no idea what your “economy where it interacts with natural resources” is about. Are you familiar with Hotelling’s analysis of the economics of depletable resources? That’s the framework I would expect an economist to use.

            Also, you made a strong statement about people on the right never objecting to errors by other people on the right. I offered a counterexample from a few days ago (assuming you count libertarians as on the right–if you don’t there isn’t a right wing bias to comments here) and I don’t think I have seen you either retract your claim or support it.

            So far as attributing bad motives to one’s opponents, that’s generally undesirable behavior in argument, but it seems in my experience to be at least as common by the climate orthodox attacking the skeptics as in the other direction.

          • Aapje says:

            @Philosophisticat

            My recollection is that various people, including me, thought that there was non-zero objective evidence for this theory & that others got very irritated over debating this question at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            It doesn’t seem like all that big of a stretch that a presidential candidate in the last month or two of the campaign might be hiding some health problems. And it doesn’t seem disqualifying to me that someone might suspect this was happening, after (say) Hillary Clinton collapsing on 9/11.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I’m not going to relitigate the debate, which was about a supposed neurological disorder and seizures and took place before Hillary’s pneumonia-related collapse. I consider the quality of the evidence cited in that discussion (I picked the wrong batshit Mike Cernovich post, by the way, it was this one: http://www.dangerandplay.com/2016/08/06/hillary-clinton-stroke-seizure-coughing-fits/) intellectually embarrassing crankery. Obviously, some of the other discussants disagree. Draw whatever conclusions you like.

          • engleberg says:

            Okay, most people agree with both:

            @It doesn’t seem all that crazy that a presidential campaign might be hiding some health problems-

            and:

            @batshit Mike Cernovitch post-

            So, why doesn’t The Lady’s Home Journal routinely have respectable doctors putting the case for and against every presidential candidate’s physical health? A strong focus on the personal health of the principals is inevitable in any politics without democracy. There’s too much money in presidential campaigns for it to pass for a New England town meeting or even Cicero’s De Oficiis. We accept thousands of armed bodyguards for a president. Why don’t we routinely see respectable ‘they might plotz’ articles about candidates in their seventies? Leaving it to outcasts makes it worse.

        • bean says:

          There’s also basic right-wing crankery (especially the American flavor), and it gets no push-back from the smart conservatives commenters.

          I think this depends on your definition of ‘crankery’. If this is your biggest exposure to conservatives in person, then I’d guess some of the open Trump supporters would look like cranks. Personally, there’s nobody here who is likely to commit the mistake I saw on my facebook feed recently of claiming that “the $900 billion/year we spend on welfare for illegals should go to veterans instead”. And yes, I pointed out the absurdity of that number ($900 bn/yr is 25% of all federal spending). That, I’ll classify as crankery.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’ve seen a fair bit of outlier right-wing belief getting pushback from people I think of as broadly on the right. David Friedman and I[1] both pushed back on some of the anti-Islamic stuff posted by Conrad Honcho; John Schilling pushed back on a lot of the apologia w.r.t. the Charlottesville rally.

          [1] David knows a lot more about Islamic law and culture than I do, so his comments are quite a bit more valuable. OTOH, it’s a stretch to put him on the right.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I agree that some right-wing commenters push back on crazy/stupid right wing people here, which is very helpful.

            I also agree there are a lot of right wing people here that are some combination of crazy/stupid. Which is not helpful.

            I agree with Scott’s general take on trying to deal with this — “I will just ban people based on fairly arbitrary criteria having to do with virtue ethics/my taste,” but I disagree with where he draws the line (waaaaay too permissive of tire fire level stuff).

            In terms of general strategy, I think LW/LW-sphere loses by associating with/tolerating alt right/Moldbug types. In other words, a lot of downside, not a lot of upside.

            From the LW/LW-sphere point of view, they would be a lot better off if abovementioned folks had their own forum, a sort of upscale Ask-The-Donald. Of course abovementioned folks will never agree to be driven off, because they are free-riding on an existing community infrastructure, while adding very little to it.

          • Randy M says:

            There was a spin-off during the [early banned term] era. It was called More Right, and in typical [banned term] aristocratic style, did not allow commenting beyond the occasional “letter to the editor.” The adherence to bygone norms was quaint but ultimately probably counter-productive.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            To paraphrase Kent Brockman: “I said it before, and I will say it again — aristocracy simply doesn’t work.”

          • Anonymous says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            Funny how it gets reinvented all the time in places avowedly anti-aristocratic.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Of course abovementioned folks will never agree to be driven off, because they are free-riding on an existing community infrastructure, while adding very little to it.

            It’s not even so much that this claim is false, so much as “why does it apply more specifically to these people than to other people” ?

            I ride on norms of good faith and I provide them to others too, except to actors I specifically have marked as bad faith, and even then I give some faith to them. Have I done anything to build the infrastructure? Why or why not? Come to think of it, have you? Why or why not?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            My experience is these folks don’t change their mind and won’t change the subject (e.g. Eugene Noir + his army of sockpuppets).

            The LW/LW-sphere isn’t really about these topics.
            Hence the “free-riding.” I am here because I am interested in biases, cognitive and otherwise.

          • I also agree there are a lot of right wing people here that are some combination of crazy/stupid.

            I see very few people here, right or left, who fit that description.

        • There’s also basic right-wing crankery (especially the American flavor), and it gets no push-back from the smart conservatives commenters.

          Assuming you count libertarians as conservatives, that isn’t true. I fairly often point out problems with right-wing arguments on issues such as Islam, where I have some expertise to contribute.

          For instance, a mere three days ago, someone else claimed:

          Islam divides people into believers and infidels, and infidels are subhuman and you can do whatever you want to them

          Rape, enslave, murder, no problem.

          I responded:

          That is not and has never been orthodox Muslim doctrine. A Muslim killing or raping a non-Muslim has committed a crime under Islamic law.

          Is that sufficient evidence that what you just posted was false, or do you want me to dig farther back than Open Thread 89.75?

          • thirqual says:

            I think you feel targeted by my post. You are indeed one of the commenters I was thinking of in my post.

            You are indeed one of the commenters I’m thinking of. The typical✝ libertarian (both local to this site and prominent as in what libertarian politicians say and vote for) takes on ecology and natural resources are right wing crankery and you are one of the examples. See also every discussion of climate change in this comment section. Could be worse, like item 4 here, so I suppose I should not complain too much.

            Note that this comment does not address your selective use of logic when answering others, as in the non sequitur pointed out by Aapje in this thread.

            ✝many libertarian-id people in and around SSC have very non-typical libertarian views on those issues.

          • You are indeed one of the commenters I’m thinking of. The typical✝ libertarian (both local to this site and prominent as in what libertarian politicians say and vote for) takes on ecology and natural resources are right wing crankery and you are one of the examples.

            That was pretty nearly the orthodox view of Julian Simon on population forty years ago. Does the fact that the orthodox view he was criticizing has turned out, so far, to be strikingly wrong in its predictions give you any pause?

            I understand that you may not want to debate these issues here, but do you think you could if you wanted answer my challenge on the issue of net effects on humans of AGW–list major positive and negative effects with some rough idea of their size?

            Or does this get us back to the recent discussion of inside/outside views, where your defense for labeling my position as crankery is not that you know my arguments and can answer them but that you are confident that the authorities you trust agree with you?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          There’s also basic right-wing crankery (especially the American flavor), and it gets no push-back from the smart conservatives commenters.

          Eh, can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s a simple matter of limited time and interest. I’m not particularly motivated to push back on something like the Birther stuff last thread because other people were already doing a fine job and with better references than I have access to off the top of my head.

          I don’t have much to contribute that someone else hasn’t already covered, and I see no particular need to add a “Yeah, what HE said!” simply to establish that I’m One Of The Good Ones(tm).

          • Nick says:

            I don’t have much to contribute that someone else hasn’t already covered, and I see no particular need to add a “Yeah, what HE said!” simply to establish that I’m One Of The Good Ones(tm).

            Tangential, but I’d prefer not seeing such things anyway. One rebuttal, if it covers the important points, is enough for me, and dogpiling is a potentially serious problem (one I’ve been guilty of too). I’m often tempted to chime in with a “Yeah, what he said” too (and that’s across the political spectrum; I feel a pang of guilt whenever I don’t say “I agree with Brad,” because I feel like every time I’ve responded to him it’s been to disagree) and about 95% of the time I decide not to. Encourage the opposite and—in my admittedly super biased opinion—we might as well be instituting one of those comment rating systems and turning commenting into a popularity contest.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:

            That’s all well and good.

            But not everyone here is playing by those rules. Plenty of “Yeah, and …” posts.

    • gbdub says:

      Why do we do this seemingly every other open thread?

      If left leaning posters and lurkers devoted the effort they currently put into grumbling about how right wing this place is, and hand-wringing about how the near-right posters don’t sufficiently denounce the far right cranks (do YOU like arguing with cranks of any stripe?), then the over representation of right wing readers would be “solved” to the extent that it’s a problem.

      Rant off. Anyway, the real answer is “the comments are right leaning, but not in a way that really matches the way the USA as a whole is right leaning, and also there’s a good chance that whatever online place you think is centrist is probably somewhat left-biased relative to an objective weighting”. Or even more simply, the answer to both clauses of your question is “yes”.

      • Deiseach says:

        Maybe we need a hammer and sickle open thread where all the crushed and oppressed left-leaning throw off their chains and freely and boldly comment on whatever in however a manner they like, while the scowling right-leaning running-dog lackeys keep quiet?

        • JulieK says:

          Didn’t we do one of those a while ago?

          • quanta413 says:

            I think it turned out that it wasn’t very fun for them because the people complaining the most about it really just like complaining about the right-wing bias here. Taking it away by turning down the volume of Deiseach just leaves less fun things to complain about.

            …Ok that was mean so more accurately maybe only Deiseach turned down her volume for a thread or two and the rest of the libertarians and conservatives don’t want to play nicely with this idea, and that’s why it didn’t work.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I skipped that thread also.

          • hlynkacg says:

            As did I.

          • Iain says:

            The idea of having the right-wing posters go quiet for a thread was, I recall, almost entirely pushed by people on the right. I thought it was silly at the time, and I still do.

            The argument has never been that the presence of right-wing arguments hurts our delicate left-wing feelings and we need a safe space to blossom. The argument is that:
            a) As a factual matter, the commentariat leans right.
            b) Mostly as a result of that, there are more low-effort boo-lights style posts directed against the left.
            c) The quality of conversation would be improved if there were fewer low-effort boo-lights style posts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:

            (c) is the big point.

            But in addition, I feel like there is a fundamental asymmetry to the argumentative style which really rankles. Essentially the repeated demand for charity, while failing to give it. The consistent standing on technicalities, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Agreeing with HeelBearCub and Iain. The standards of charity and precision drop noticeably when “The Left” is being discussed.

      • quaelegit says:

        We do? I (feel like*) I haven’t seen the specific topic of “is it just me or is the comment section pretty right leaning?” come up recently at all. I can’t think of any such discussions since I started following the OTs really closely in ~August. (But that’s weak evidence because I’m bad at this “recall an example” memory skill.) Maybe I’m conflating this question with discussion of the survey results, which I feel like WAS pretty common earlier in the year but has died down a lot.

        BUT: @ManyCookies and other people in this thread —

        I think I remember either an SSC post or comment thread that analyzed the survey data split up by “the whole survey” vs. “commenters”, but I can’t find it in the archives. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Seems like it might be helpful to the discussion here.

    • Brad says:

      the SSC commentators actually to the right of the lurkers?

      As far as I can tell, the regular commentators (based on duck typing) are to the right of the survey and the effect is even stronger if you weight it by number of comments or words. As compared to US politics it is a strange sort of right but the nonetheless easily identified as right.

    • rlms says:

      My estimated stats for comments on the most recent 100 posts (covering the 10% most prolific commenters, who account for about 80% of comments):
      Left-wing: 24%
      Right-wing: 34%
      Libertarian: 21%
      Other: 6%
      Unknown: 14%

      Details from the last time I did this here. List of commenters I put in each category (ordered by prolificacy) here.

      • quanta413 says:

        Damn, I haven’t broken the top 100 this time. Not sure I did last time either.

        Corrected I did, I am stupid.

      • quaelegit says:

        Thank you for linking this! And of course for doing the analysis in the first place. 🙂 It was the first thing the OP brought to mind, but I didn’t remember who posted it or when.

      • Mark says:

        Considering that this is actually an “other” blog, others are badly underrepresented in the comment section.

        Something must be done.

        First order of business – right and left wingers should stop attacking each other.

        It alienates political weirdos.

        • Mark says:

          I would say my political position is skepticism of both economic and social liberalism as coherent views, but coming, ultimately, from a liberal place.

          If I believed in Nazis, I would punch them.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’m still libertarian, not right wing, despite that list. I called for legalization of heroin a few OTs back, fer cryin’ out loud.

      • Nornagest says:

        I see I’m getting sorted as libertarian rather than “other” now. Was happier with the latter, to be honest.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have no objections to my classification.

      • Chalid says:

        Thanks for doing this!

        I don’t know if you want to more work on this, but I’d be interested in what happened if you ran the statistics counting only posts relating to politics. Ideally culture war stuff too, but that is probably much harder to classify.

      • Incurian says:

        If you were to run the numbers on posts rather than posters, would the results be much different?

        • rlms says:

          Those stats are adjusted for number of comments (so I’ve assumed that proportion of political comments is roughly the same for different people). Without adjusting, the figures are 23% left, 29% right, 13% libertarian, 6% other, 29% unknown (there are a lot of infrequent commenters who I couldn’t classify).

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve assumed that proportion of political comments is roughly the same for different people

            I doubt this is true. For instance, I think I’ve reduced the amount of advocacy posts over time and it isn’t a large percentage of my posts, although if you count all my posts as “posts by right wingers” it might seem more lop sided here.

            (eta: You’re plenty fair to make the assumption for modeling purposes.)

          • rlms says:

            Sure, I should’ve said that the variations in each group average out to be roughly the same.

          • Incurian says:

            Thanks.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Huh. Just now noticed I was classified as right wing. I don’t think it affects the results much, since I don’t comment as much. But for the record, I believe libertarian is a much more accurate first approximation of my political views.

        (I might defend right-wing viewpoints on the basis of having grown up with what I consider right-wingers a lot longer, but they’re simply not me.)

        Was there an explanation of how you made your decisions? I think we’re collectively probably working from a lot of different definitions.

        • rlms says:

          There’s no firm boundary between libertarian and right-wing (in terms of the categories), I decided fairly arbitrarily based on my perception of how vocal people were about economics vs how vocal they were about social issues. Or rather, that’s what I remember doing last time, and I copied the categories of people who appeared in the last list across.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think the median SSC commenter is someone who is

      -somewhat right of centre economically compared to the US as a whole, in the “but MARKETS!” sense
      -in some ways, more socially liberal than the US as a whole (eg, I think the question “are trans women women?” would get a higher “yes” % if posed on SSC than if posed to all Americans)
      -but, completely terrified that the “Hairdye NKVD” or whatever you want to call it is going to come and get them

      And this last one really sets the tone. Charity when talking about the left, or certain segments of it, withers, standards of precision drop, etc. Stalin would probably be more popular here than the standard-issue left-wing college activist.

      • Randy M says:

        What does NKVD stand for in this context? I get what it refers to, but I can’t suss out the specific referents.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        I think you have an excellent point. I created an account to reply to this post, but asked myself before I did “Am I in a position to weather a harassment campaign?”. I am aware that this is a very low probability event, but have seen enough people harmed by such things that it weighs on me regardless. I attempt to remain charitable towards college activist types (I don’t like the term SJW) and their positions, but I am aware that I sometimes fail.

        P.S. I now agree with the commenters who have requested a confirmation dialog on the report button; I hit it unintentionally when initiating this reply. Dndnrsn, please accept my apologies.

      • Deiseach says:

        Stalin would probably be more popular here than the standard-issue left-wing college activist.

        Are you saying we don’t need fifty Stalins, comrade?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Comrade, are you suggesting that one Stalin is not enough? Your lack of confidence in his ability to do the job himself has been noted.

          • Deiseach says:

            Comrade devoted to the revolutionary struggle, your dedication is exemplary to us all, but you seem not to understand that it is not enough for us to expect Stalin alone to do the work of advancing the inevitable triumph of the proletariat, since that allows us to sit back and devolve responsibility onto the Comrade Leader. We must all become Stalin, as it were. Not fifty but a hundred, a thousand, a million Stalins!

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        Stalin would probably be more popular here than the standard-issue left-wing college activist

        He probably would. He’s better read, was more thoughtful, and had more interesting things to say, and was wrong in more interesting and illuminating ways than any possible campus SJW.

        • quanta413 says:

          He’d also get around to liquidating me from the comments section somehow; possibly followed by real liquidation. I’ll pass on him. I can probably outrun at least some college activists.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            It depends on whether we are talking about Stalin as an individual or Stalin as the head of a state apparatus. There are commenters here whom I would resist violently if they became dictators, but whom are quite harmless as keyboard warriors with no plausible way to gain power.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let’s put it another way. If someone came here and started talking Stalin-apologist talking points, they would probably get more reasoned debate, fewer boo lights, more charity, than if someone came in and started talking campus-left-activist talking points.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            There have already been people come in and talk campus-left-activist talking points. Several times, it seems. (It’s going to take years for me to read back all the archives.)

            In general, they did not measure up, and most of their reaction to people responding to them was performance of outrage that not everyone immediately concurred with every one of their points / stands / demands / naked asserations.

            I kind of wish that someone would, and do a better job of steel-manning their position.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m simply observing that they get an amount of dogpiling around here that far more offensive ideas do not get.

            Steelmanning their positions is interesting, but inevitably runs into the problem that there is a major difference of worldview which affects everything. Trying to steelman someone’s position, when you have a significantly different set of priors, is hard not to turn into arguing for something like their position, but using your priors. Sort of like transposing a piece of music for a different instrument.

          • Randy M says:

            Stalin-apologist

            Nope, I think you’re failing charity & modeling now. Stalin is a big bug-a-boo on the right–haven’t you seen discussions about Hitler that find people adding in “but Stalin was worse!”?

            I doubt you’ll find a right winger, let alone one here, who thinks Stalin is any better than modern SJW in anyway other than not being an immediate threat.

            If you meant to say “the talking-points Stalin used” or something, than maybe. But that’s not Stalin-apology.
            The reason Stalin was hated was the mass death in pursuit of that rhetoric, and that’s the key thing that would need to be apologized for.

            I’m simply observing that they get an amount of dogpiling around here that far more offensive ideas do not get.

            You seem to expect more debate about more obvious matters. I’m not sure why you would. Strength of belief about a matter is not the only factor determining how much push back it will get.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            Maybe I’m expressing this poorly. I’m not saying they wouldn’t get pushback. But I don’t think they’d get a certain sort of low-effort dogpile. “The kulaks got what they deserved and Ukrainians are all lying fascists” would get more substantial responses than activist-left shibboleths.

          • Anonymous says:

            I doubt you’ll find a right winger, let alone one here, who thinks Stalin is any better than modern SJW in anyway other than not being an immediate threat.

            Stalin was good for at least one thing – stopping the leftism spiral. You weren’t allowed to be to the right or to the left of Stalin while Stalin was calling the shots. Historical Stalinism was, AFAICT, culturally to the right of the nowadays Cultural Marxists. In a way, he was to Russia sort of like Napoleon was to France, only more genocidal.

          • Randy M says:

            Probably because that sounds like A)trolling, B)obviously wrong to all intelligent readers, C)not remotely a threat to anyone in an English speaking country, whereas something like, say, “White privilege exists and significant steps need to be taken for any sort of justice in America” is much more likely to be someone arguing a position they hold, relevant to many here, and arguably true–hence the argument that ensues.

            Who is not familiar with the expression “don’t feed the trolls?”

            Stalin was good for at least one thing

            Okay, well, WTF do I know?

          • If someone came here and started talking Stalin-apologist talking points, they would probably get more reasoned debate, fewer boo lights, more charity, than if someone came in and started talking campus-left-activist talking points.

            @dnd.. Yes but reasoned debate on SSC depends a lot more on the quality of the argument than the distance from the mainstream. I pride myself on listening to even outrageous opinions if they are rationally presented and make some sense. I am sure there must be some extreme fargroup opinions that are actually correct, but they just haven’t gotten a fair hearing yet. On the other hand, if I hear an opinion essentially identical to what I’ve heard 100 times before, and it didn’t make sense the first time, then I have less patience. It’s the 100 times before that somewhat explain the dogpiling of SJW’s (although I do agree that dogpiling is rarely a good thing).

            A Stalin apologist is much less common, so is likely to get a polite audience while we try to suss out the point of view. A true apologist won’t get very far past that polite introduction, as folks point out the 10’s of millions dead. But if someone tries to argue for a new communist revolution sans all the dead, and makes a rational argument, I am interested.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes but reasoned debate on SSC depends a lot more on the quality of the argument than the distance from the mainstream.

            Yeah, this is a place where we once politely requested someone to steelman holocaust denial for us!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Yeah, this is a place where we once politely requested someone to steelman holocaust denial for us!

            Pretty sure that the people criticizing the most prolific commenters see that as a bug, not a feature.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:
            Almost no one here gives any truck to holocaust denial. Asking someone do a shit ton of transcribing work so you can either a) actually educate a soul in danger of being lost to dark forces, or b) demolish another crappy argument for holocaust denial seems like the kind of thing SSC can be very good at.

            If holocaust denial failed to get demolished here, then I would that to be a bug, not a feature, but I don’t think that was happening.

      • I think the median SSC commenter is …

        In order to define a median you need an ordering.

        The pattern you describe exists, but I doubt it is true of a majority of commenters, which it would be if that was the variable you were ordering on and your statement was correct.

        I, for example, am not “completely terrified that the “Hairdye NKVD” or whatever you want to call it is going to come and get” me. I have sympathy for those who do feel that way–their worries may be legitimate in their circumstances. But I spent twenty-two years in a leftish Silicon Valley university and never had any problem with people attacking me because my political views didn’t fit with theirs.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          You have tenure.

          • quanta413 says:

            Does Allison Stanger have tenure? Even if she didn’t, I don’t think that’s the only determining factor here.

          • You have tenure.

            Actually, since I recently retired, I don’t have tenure any more. But I did.

            I didn’t have tenure when I came to SCU, about twenty-two years ago, or at any of my previous positions. I made no attempt to conceal my views then, and saw no need to.

          • JulieK says:

            I think things are more polarized now than 22+ years ago.

          • @JulieK:

            You may well be right. But having tenure wouldn’t protect me from forms of hostility short of trying to get me fired, and I haven’t experienced those in recent years either.

          • James Miller says:

            @David,

            It would be very easy for you to get lots of publicity if you were ever mistreated because of your political views. This gives you some protection.

          • Brad says:

            ITT everyone explaining to DF why his experience can’t possibly be representative. Have any of you considered that you might be the outliers instead?

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            There is some evidence that economy students are strong outliers in being far more selfish than other students, which suggests that the field may be far less attractive to a certain kind of person. It seems to me that the power of SJWs often derives from them taking advantage of the lesser ability of high-empathy people to resist those who wrap their abuse and authoritarianism in an anti-oppression message. Economists may not be as susceptible to this. Authoritarians tend to gravitate to places where the resistance is weak.

            Furthermore, even though Friedman’s beliefs are an obvious threat to the least capable in society from the perspective of social-democracy, the ‘Hairdye NKVD’ doesn’t seems to rally around the least capable, but rather around highly capable people who supposedly are held back. In other words, they primarily fight for the well-being of the highly capable black person or white woman, not the working class black person or white woman.

            In other words, Friedman is probably their fargroup more than their outgroup.

          • Brad says:

            Long winded question begging is still question begging.

            Take this sentence:

            It seems to me that the power of SJWs often derives from them taking advantage of the lesser ability of high-empathy people to resist those who wrap their abuse and authoritarianism in an anti-oppression message.

            It’s just assumed without arguing that:
            A) SJWs exist
            B) They have power
            C) They deliberately manipulate people
            D) They are abusive and authoritarian
            E) That high empathy people are particularly vulnerable to them

            You present yourself as some kind of sociological expert on so-called social justice warriors but give not the slightest hint as to where this expertise is supposed to have come from or what it is backed up by.

            Did you really think this was a good faith effort to answer to the question “Have any of you considered that you might be the outliers instead?” To my mind you might as well have just said ‘no’.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            A) SJWs exist

            Look, dispute their influence, numbers, general relevance, or coherence as a grouping all you like, but can we please knock off the “SJWs? What’s that? I ain’t never seen one” schtick?

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            Zero good faith. OK.

            You just keep complaining about how others make toxic posts while snarking all over the place.

          • @James:

            1. I think you overestimate how prominent I am, or have been over the past forty years or so. I’m a big fish in two fairly small pools and a medium sized fish in one larger pool.

            2. At least one of my colleagues was also a libertarian, was not especially prominent, and so far as I know suffered no serious harassment for her views.

          • beleester says:

            @Aapje:
            I don’t think that “you are asserting without support that SJWs have enough power to get someone fired at will, and then adding additional assertions to explain why they can’t get someone in the economics field fired” is a bad-faith argument. Your argument only makes sense if someone already shares your worldview that SJWs should have enough power to fire any professor they want, and therefore you need to come up with a special case to explain why economists are immune.

            But the alternative argument, that they simply don’t have enough power to fire anyone they want, is much more parsimonious and equally plausible from my perspective. They seem like they have a lot of power because unjust, CW-related firings can make national news, but the odds that any given college professor will become the centerpiece of the culture wars are quite low.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Stalin would probably be more popular here than the standard-issue left-wing college activist.

        substitute stalin for lenin and this is just part of the ongoing thing I keep saying to you; leninism (or communism, or however you want to call it) is a fringe part of the left now, and intersectionality (or Social Justice, etc) is its core

        yeah there’s a lot of left communists but a lot of it is just as an add-on near as I can tell; they believe in equalizing race, sex, and then class as an extension of the idea of equalizing everyone, but they didn’t read Marx and have an epiphany. Moreover, the committed ones (think Current Affairs) clash with these guys at a low level. But not higher than that because it’d cause them problems. Especially since they (probably accurately) think that class should come first.

        Anyways I don’t know how true specific parts of this statement are but I think it’s basically accurate on the whole and I also think that explains the problem; intersectionality is marked by a lot of really negative behaviors and by a lot of resistance towards people who try to point that out. Those against it even as a low level are potential allies; those for it accumulate badwill, as does the ideology, and with bad will comes outgroup framing (and thus outgroup homogeneity), plus bad faith. Personally, I try to be accurate about intersectionality – I think that’s more than enough to do it in. Some may object to what I view as accurate, and certainly have before.

        • lvlln says:

          Personally, I try to be accurate about intersectionality – I think that’s more than enough to do it in. Some may object to what I view as accurate, and certainly have before.

          Kind of an aside, but this reminds me of me noticing recently the same message coming independently from 3 of “intersectionality’s” whipping boys: Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, and Milo Yiannopoulos, who are center-left, center-right, and med/far-right respectively, all claiming to believe that the best thing to do right now is to always tell the truth. Of course, what is true and what is false can be under contention, but at the least it seems clear to me that “intersectionality” is very open about wanting to stamp down on things that are true if they believe that such true things lead to injustices – which is to say, “truth” is nothing more than a tool to use and discard as needed.

          And I’m also reminded of my noticing recently a lot of people saying that the way to resist totalitarianism is to always tell the truth, and that fear of telling the truth is a sign that things might be headed in a bad direction.

          No idea if any of this means anything, but certainly I think trying to be as accurate – and honest – as possible when describing “intersectionality” – or any other ideology, really – is likely to serve all of us well in the long run (even if it might cause lots of suffering to some of us in the short run, of which there’s no shortage of examples).

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a whole thread of discussion (we’ve had it here) about whether there are areas in which either:

            a. All discussion should be suppressed.

            b. True statements should be suppressed, perhaps to be replaced by reassuring / socially beneficial lies.

            IMO, you can come up with lots of examples of times when truthful statements can cause a lot of trouble, but a systematic policy of suppressing truthful statements to maintain social cohesion seems like its enormously worse overall–like giving yourself cancer to cure your cold.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think the bailey definition of intersectionality before it gets expanded out with lots of unwarranted implications is mostly fine actually. It’s not a super insightful idea but neither is it without value.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think the bailey definition of intersectionality before it gets expanded out with lots of unwarranted implications is mostly fine actually.

            allow me to make a radical argument: the bailey version of everything is fine, and anything you think isn’t is just the motte

            I don’t know if that’s actually true and there’s a whole lot of tricky word games I could play so it’s pretty hard to prove me wrong but uh, you know, just wanted to say that even though I agree with the statement, it might not really mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

            (Wanting to ensure the sun rise is fine, it’s just that once it gets into daily human sacrifice it’s a problem. Etc.)

          • quanta413 says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Yeah, it’s pretty hard to actually go against your statement except for some maybe really crazy ideas (Like the idea that the earth is not roughly spherical; I can’t think of a bailey there). I don’t have the energy to try right now although it might be interesting to try. But your statement might be true in a sense.

            But yeah, I agree that the bailey motte being true in this case doesn’t count for too much compared to the motte bailey. It’s kind of a shame though, because I think there are some interesting baileys mottes in cultural marxist spaces, but I don’t feel like I gain much from entering the dumpster inferno that is their standards for discussion.

            EDIT: Edited because I do not remember my medieval siege warfare analogies correctly.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Motte is the minimal, modest, maximally defensible position or definition.

            Bailey is the broadest, most rhetorically advantageous, harder to defend position or definition.

            I think you guys are using it backwards again.

          • quanta413 says:

            @ Lysenko

            Dammit. Thanks. Edited the one I still can. Fucking castles.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think you guys are using it backwards again.

            my official position on this is that, due to the fact that I’m bad at remembering stuff like this and that it’s pretty easy to derive the context, I refuse to learn which one is which

            but maybe I’ll try again once I finish up finals, and thanks for the correction

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEMous:

            Motte is like moat, which is probably a more familiar word for “castle defenses”.

            If those sort of word associations help you.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            And the bailey is what you bail out of when the heat’s on.

          • rlms says:

            Or motte is like mound (I’m not sure how etymologically similar they actually are).

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If those sort of word associations help you.

            They do, and thanks

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’ve been through Miniluv and the hairdye NKVD already got me, so implying it’s paranoia really isn’t going to work.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Can you expand on that to the extent you can without piercing pseudonymity?

          (is that even the grammatically correct formulation?)

        • dndnrsn says:

          “Thinking something is an outsize threat” and “paranoia” are not the same things. The occasional person gets mobbed. It happens more in some industries than others. The commenters here are, I think, on the whole more worried about the threat personally and the overall threat to society, much more worried, than I think is reasonable. I did not say that this was paranoid, nor did I mean to imply that. There are many other cases where people are inordinately afraid of something that I would not consider paranoia, either. As far as I’m concerned, the major threat of campus-left activist types (besides to their own mental health, as they tend to adopt ideas and styles of rhetoric that require reducing or eliminating their emotional defences and cause them to interpret everything in a way that certainly increases their overall levels of stress and unhappiness) is in the backlash they will provoke/are provoking.

          To put it another way, if someone says “a shadowy cabal is harassing me using microwaves” that’s paranoia. If someone living somewhere safe says they’re concerned about the threat to them of violent street crime, that’s having an outsized estimation of danger.

          • albatross11 says:

            Compare with fears of being wrongfully shot by the police. Sometimes this happens, and it’s genuinely awful when some innocent guy gets shot because the cop pulling him over misinterpreted something he saw, panicked, and started blazing away. And yet, it doesn’t happen very often per year, given the size of the country.

            There’s simultaneously:

            a. A real, unjust, bad thing that sometimes happens to innocent people.

            b. A huge culture-war/outrage-farming incentive to do saturation coverage of some of these rare cases to get lots of other people scared and mad.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            It also happens more to people with certain traits. Like, for example, nerdy & more autistic people. Hmmm, where can one find many such people?

            PS. Scott Alexander was bullied by SJ people. Scott Aaronson almost castrated himself because of the extremist parts of SJ ideology. In general, SJ ideology seems to be a basilisk to many scrupulous people, who self harm due to it. Many nerds have experience with SJ people moving into and changing their hobby spaces, pushing them out. Etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is that the case? If it is, by how much? Is it enough of a threat to justify the level of fear some people here feel?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            There is no objective way to measure this kind of complex risk and there is no objectively right level of risk adverseness. People’s priorities also differ. A person who is into quilting (or whatever) and is pushed out of the only local quilting circle by politicization of his hobby may feel that a major part of his well-being is taken away. His next door neighbor who is into stamp collecting may not face any of that and may not feel threatened at all.

            How can you tell if a person is right given their personal situation when you probably don’t have a full picture of any of us?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Would you talk that way about airplane accidents – one thing people tend to really overrate the chances of? You could apply the same reasoning, after all.

          • Aapje says:

            Airplane accidents are one kind of bad outcome, which mostly scales linearly with number of flights (when assuming first world airlines), but not really with any other personal aspects. Passengers with bad social skills aren’t worse at making planes stay in the air. We also have very solid statistics on the number of accidents and the number of victims, so you can just calculate the numbers. So you can quite objectively calculate a person’s risk based on their yearly number of flights.

            Furthermore, you can also calculate that many people take bigger risks with much less fear, which gives an objective indication that they have an outsized estimation of the danger of flights or an undersized estimation of other risky behavior (or don’t merely care about the risk, but are upset about the lack of control).

            The concerns that people have about SJWs and SJ people is multi-faceted. It’s personal risk of being witch hunted, negative effects on the culture of hobby spaces, fake science in service of an agenda, discriminatory policies being instituted, memetically strong lies being spread with various effects, expectations of the future, etc. There is no solid research that is done into the size of most of these effects and no reason to believe that it can’t get keep getting worse, except for backlash (it requires historical ignorance to believe otherwise). Furthermore, personal traits probably have an immense effect on the risk profile in many different ways.

            I really doubt that you could somewhat accurately describe the risk profile that those who strongly oppose/fear SJ(W) people believe they have, on these many dimensions. Furthermore, I also doubt that you could somewhat accurately describe their traits and circumstances that are relevant to their risk exposure. I think that they can do both of these things a lot better for themselves than you can do it for them. So, while it is perfectly possible that some/many of them exaggerate, I don’t see how you are in a position to judge that.

            If you had merely called them out on their lack of hard evidence, that would be valid, but by claiming to know better than them, you are making a claim that is less reasonable than those whose claims you dismiss as being unreasonable. After all, you actually have less information to base your claim on, nor do you even bother to address the complexity of the claims.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This seems like the exact opposite of the approach people here tend to take regarding the value of “lived experience” when stuff where the statistics are spotty or nonexistent comes up.

    • Randy M says:

      When this complaint was first being raised, we had a handful of common self-declared communist posters. I think they’ve migrated to tumblr since. Maybe the complaint had an aspect of self-fulfillment (in the prophecy, not self-help sense) as I think it’s probably more true now than it used to be.
      But, then again we also used to have more outrageously re– erm, significantly dexterous posters, like Jim or Spandrel that were banned or got bored.
      SSC overton window doesn’t reach as far in either extreme, imo, but the median has probably gone rightward.

      • rlms says:

        I think Spandrel popped up again recently (as 天可汗).

        • Randy M says:

          True, but if you have to phrase it as “popping up again” that seems like an exception that proves the rule.
          We’re talking about common commenters (Commonters?) who set the tone, not very sporadic posters.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m pretty sure 天可汗 is nydwracu, who I don’t think was the character behind Spandrel?

          Still probably more dextrous than the current average, though.

          • rlms says:

            I might have got them confused. All those people look the same to me.

          • James says:

            Ah, cool! I always liked nydwracu (sp?).

          • Nick says:

            I recall him switching from nydwracu to 天可汗 mid-argument several threads back, which should be findable with some digging, so I’d put a high confidence it’s him and not spandrel.

          • Randy M says:

            天可汗 is definitely Nyd, who is not Spandrel, who has also recently made a few posts but only on one thread, I think. Nyd was “novel responsive-ary”, but not inflammatory or rude about it like, say, Jim. I too would like to see him post more–but, fwiw, while I was irritated by multiheaded, I wouldn’t mind more posts from that perspective as well.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, I always liked nydwracu too. He’d come out with these really extreme positions, but there was real insight behind them, and I never got the feeling he was doing it to be edgy or to wind people up.

            Multiheaded’s a lot ruder, but still obviously bright, and I wouldn’t mind hearing more from them if they can tone down the gulag fantasies.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        a handful of common self-declared communist posters

        Indeed so. It is much fun and illuminating to go archive binging back into the comments of posts here years past.

        I know the term “lol” is overdone, but I really literally did lol when one such poster enthusiastically posted verses from “The Internationale”, like it was some sort of persuasive argument.

        It’s too bad they ran away. If they can’t support their outlook under Scott’s umbrella, that is more evidence that they can only make their argument from the barrel of a gun.

      • quaelegit says:

        >erm, significantly dexterous

        I have no content-ful response to your comment, but I thought this was hilarious.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Isn’t citizencokane a communist?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You’re confusing Spandrel and —.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      As a lurker commenting for the first time, I may have some insight to offer here. The survey results tracked my perception of the commenters here pretty well in this regard.

      In my experience, people with mixed political opinions tend to classify themselves further to the left than others classify them. I am one example of this. I support strong individual rights (including gun rights), basic income, moderate immigration policy, and targeted regulation of free markets. I support the stated goals of the social justice movement but am deeply uncomfortable with their willingness to deploy harassment tactics to achieve them. I am an atheist and generally think that religion has too prominent a role in American public life. I vote a mixed ticket and vote in the Democrat primary, but have not yet voted for a Democrat for president. I answered “3” on the survey’s political spectrum question, and believe that this is still an accurate representation of my personal beliefs. Scott’s description a while back of “bleeding heart libertarians” is probably the least wrong political label I could apply to myself, though it’s far from a perfect fit.

      People on both sides of the aisle seem to weight points of disagreement more heavily than points of agreement when estimating someone else’s position on the political spectrum. For example, I have several Democrat friends who assume I’m a Republican and several Republican Friends who assume I’m a Democrat.

      So I think your observation is explained by the intersection of two biases (in some proportion that I don’t feel qualified to speculate on). First, as a person on the left, you’re more inclined to see others as being on the right. Second, many of the sorts of people who find SSC valuable are inclined to see themselves as further to the left than many would expect.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My 2¢:

      I think the issue stems from the perception that you only need one right wing opinion to be a rightist but to be a leftist you need the whole slate of left wing opinions.

      So if you’re a gay atheist in favor of drug legalization but you’re an immigration skeptic, you’re a rightist. If you’re in favor of wealth redistribution and anti-racism but you’re also a traditionalist Catholic, you’re a rightist. If you’re a bleeding heart libertarian in favor of gun control and single-payer healthcare but you know the FBI crime statistics, you’re a rightist.

      So of course we “out-number” leftists. We’re the union of literally every ideology which isn’t #currentyear left-liberalism.

      • Brad says:

        That can be entirely reasonable depending on what people choose to post about. If you, on rare occasion, offhandedly mention that you are in favor of wealth redistribution and anti-racism, but post multiple times a day about how evil abortion is, then yeah it make sense to consider you are right wing poster.

        But I disagree there is an asymmetry. If a poster spends all his comments on calling other posters racists and talking about white privilege, but happened to have mentioned one time that he was a traditionalist Catholic no one would consider him a right wing poster.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I know what you’re alluding to, because you say this constantly, but to be honest I don’t really see it.

          For example, I don’t really see Deiseach as being “a right wing poster,” at least not in the sense in which I am.

          She’s very very skeptical about IQ and holds entirely conventional blank-slatist views on the heredity of intelligence. She’s equally skeptical of free trade and capitalism, with a definite class warfare vibe. And she’s vocally in favor of expanded social services with the caveat that she expects them to be properly managed. Whenever those topics come up, and they come up often, you’ll find her commenting from a left wing perspective.

          She’s more Catholic than Nancy Pelosi, so that means she’s on the right regarding abortion and gay marriage, and she’s not a big fan of the Clintons personally. But that just makes her a bog standard Christian Democrat. If she’s counted as right wing on that basis, there’s not much ground left to the left.

          • Brad says:

            What about Aapje? He’s my central example of a right wing poster that bizarrely counted as on the left.

            As for Deiseach is a tough case because of the non-US bundle of positions, but I think you are soft peddling some of it.

            For example some of the extended “it’s your own damn fault you are having problems” rants about social welfare cases go well beyond “with the caveat that she expects them to be properly managed.” It shades into something close to Reagan-esque. Likewise “not a big fan of the Clintons” is way underselling it.

            I agree there isn’t any of the H B D stuff, but that’s hardly a litmus test for the right. There’s hardly an elected politician in the country that goes for that.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            What about Aapje?

            To be honest I don’t really have a strong impression of his politics as a poster. I mostly remember him posting apolitical things.

            Going back through the last few OTs, it looks like he’s opposed to disparate impact and “listen and believe” but also in favor of porn and reducing the stigma associated with welfare recipients. So kind of vaguely centrist?

            Maybe I just missed something but I’m not seeing him as strongly left or right.

            I think you are soft peddling some of it.

            I guess it comes down to orthodoxy versus orthopraxy?

            The practice of the left is to fight to increase social welfare and to defend it against any threat of decrease. The doctrine is that there’s no such thing as welfare fraud or “undeserving poor.” If you show up at mass every week but you don’t think that 1 = 3 makes mathematical sense, are you in communion or not?

            With the Clinton family, it’s certainly true that disliking them is evidence in favor of someone being right wing. Just like if you heard that someone listens to country western music. But a lot of yellow dog Democrats, my father included, hate Hillary Clinton and love country western music. Despite Her best efforts, the left is not defined by personal allegiance.

            I agree there isn’t any of the H B D stuff, but that’s hardly a litmus test for the right. There’s hardly an elected politician in the country that goes for that.

            Sorry if I was unclear, I was thinking more in terms of ordinary voters and not career politicians.

            There are a lot of things that many people believe but are never said in Washington DC. In fact that’s probably why our President is a reality TV star instead of a lawyer or general this time around.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What about Aapje? He’s my central example of a right wing poster that bizarrely counted as on the left.

            Aapje is Dutch. When you live below sea level up becomes down, left becomes right, and consonants become vowels.

            More seriously, US/Euro(/RotW) differences are further evidence that having only two buckets to shove politics into is fundamentally flawed.

          • albatross11 says:

            One way I can see for the comment threads to feel more right-wing than the commenters really are: there are common beliefs / claims floating around that seem factually wrong or at least questionable, and many people here will challenge them. (An example is Scott’s post about people claiming Trump is a racist, when the evidence for that is fairly weak.)

            It is easy to read that as “Scott’s posted a pro-Trump essay.” But of course he did no such thing, and he’s made his low opinion of Trump pretty clear. He just published an essay disputing one set of claims about Trump. He may be right or wrong in that essay, but it’s not supporting Trump, and it’s a hell of a stretch to call it right-wing.

            Similarly, lots of us (Scott especially) have disputed a lot of SJW type rhetoric and claims and arguments. This is true, even though Scott appear, as best I can tell, to support most of the policy goals of SJW types. It’s easy to read this as Scott somehow being opposed to, say, gay rights or women in science or something. But of course Scott’s actual stated positions support those things.

          • Deiseach says:

            Being fair to Brad I would self-identify as on the right, especially as social liberalism goes even more towards the left in my own country, so he’s not unreasonable to say I am conservative/right-wing (though I possibly may not be as right-wing as he thinks, or maybe I am more right-wing than I think).

            My social welfare rants are not “there should be no social welfare, let the bums starve in the streets” because I do think social welfare is a necessary part of a working society in the modern age; too many stories from my family’s past generations of people getting sick and dying from not being able to afford sixpence for the dispensary doctor. What I do rant about are the ones that are gaming the system, and getting themselves into situations where they expect someone else to clean up their mess for them, and do nothing to learn from the experience or avoid repeating it the next time. There are misfortunates who cannot look after themselves and will be exploited and will always need help because, for instance, they will happily hand over all their dole money to a ‘friend’ who then disappears (or uses it to buy drugs) and leaves them in the lurch, and they can’t then understand “but I have no money, I can’t buy food, why can’t you give me more money now instead of telling me wait until next week for my next payment?” and I have nothing but sympathy for those people (and a lot of anger for the inflexibility that is built into the system).

            But the slick operators and sly entitled ‘it’s my right to get what I want when I want it as I want it and it’s racism/sexism/other ism if you refuse me and I have all the rights and no personal responsibilities’ – I have no sympathy for them.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: Theodore Dalrymple?

          • Aapje says:

            Burkian conservatives and other true rightists are my far-group, because they are very rare in my social environment & they are politically powerless and face repercussions for their opinions in my country. I strongly favor the powerless and oppressed, so I have natural sympathy for them. They deserve criticism, but they get disproportionate amounts of it, so I don’t see the point of going out of my way to add onto that.

            One of my strongest motivators is environmentalism and I have pushed back against global-warming critical posts here a quite a bit. I’ve voted for the Dutch Green Party, despite also believing that they have beliefs that threaten my individual welfare.

            I regularly push back against (ancap) libertarianism and in favor of regulation, welfare, etc.

            I criticize mainstream feminism for being sexist and too traditionalist in many ways, as well as often not believing in the most credible scientific explanations. I don’t see science denial as legitimate progressiveness.

            Pretty much the same is true for anti-racism. It’s especially disturbing to me that racial segregation seems to be getting popular on the extreme left, which used to be an extreme right position.

            I oppose large scale migration to my country because I believe that the carry capacity is being/has been exceeded. I think that many pro-migration advocates close their eyes to many of the negative consequences and especially how those negative consequences land mostly with the lower class. I don’t see migration to the West as a solution for mass persecutions or war for various reasons and favor spending loads of money to support refugees in the region they come from. I think that this will help refugees more than letting in a large bunch of refugees and then spend some decades fighting a cultural war to get these people integrated/assimilated (which is decreasingly possible, because current mainstream leftist dogma is that people should maintain their culture). Such a conflict then makes much more effective interventions impossible and otherwise makes it much harder for the West to make advances that benefit humankind.

            Not letting refugees drown in the Mediterranean, but giving lots of money to countries in the region used to be an extreme right position in my country, but it is rapidly becoming the centrist position.

            I think that the current EU destroys welfare states and demands EU-level solidarity that doesn’t naturally exist, which doesn’t work and will end up creating great animosity between nations and destroying the EU. Also, it’s not democratic enough, an extremely non-representative elite is make (extremely risky) decisions (ignoring the dominant expert opinion) without properly being held to account.

            So…basically I am extremely miffed at what the left has been turning into over the last decades and especially the authoritarian arrogance with which dissenters are/were silenced, excluded and getting faux concern, while their concerns are systematically ignored. I feel betrayed in how it has mostly forgotten about helping the lower classes and has started bullying them. I also have huge issues with the centrists, center-right and extreme right.

            I’m fine if you call this anti-left, for today’s mainstream leftism, but I don’t see how that necessarily makes me right-wing.

            Anyway, the entire left/right dichotomy is bullcrap, so those labels are pretty meaningless anyway.

            PS. I am also just weird, for example, I really like gun technology and I also support fairly strict gun control. Most people seem unable to have such a mismatch between their personal ‘likes’ and political positions.

          • Aapje says:

            I feel compelled to remark that I find it quite rude to have people speculate on my beliefs, but then don’t bother to respond when I give more information for them to base their assessment on. Apparently, they like to make claims with bad information and then don’t even feel the need to state whether better information changes that assessment.

            This goes especially for the person who brought me up here initially.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Aapje,

            Sorry dude, I didn’t mean to insult you. I just didn’t think I had anything to add to your correction. I’m also sorry for forgetting that you’re Dutch, which is a very weird failure of memory.

            In the spirit of the season, do you have any opinions one way or the other on Zwarte Piet?

          • Nick says:

            Describing Deiseach as right wing for her positions on social welfare strikes me as odd considering she was the loudest supporter of welfare some months back; I remember that what got her banned was wishing, in the most rhetorically awesome way possible, hellfire and damnation on someone claiming that no one deserves welfare. In fact, as I recall what prompted her so-called “it’s your own damn fault” rants were people responding very positively to them because they came from her own personal experience in social work. I for one certainly enjoyed reading them and never got a have-you-tried-kill-all-the-poor vibe from them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            The vibe is more “have you tried killing everyone?” She is not a fan of people in general, by self-description.

            That in itself doesn’t make her left or right, and on social welfare she is to the left on the US political spectrum. But she also doesn’t generally get animated by attacks on social welfare from the US.

            Whereas she seeks out left-wing positions to get angry about.

          • Brad says:

            If you feel so compelled, by all means remark away.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            No worry, Brad and I are in a passive aggressive snark duel, which will end with pistols at dawn (or the silent treatment).

            As for Zwarte Piet, it seems pretty clear to me that the objections primarily stem from a increased disapproval of racism against black people & a belief by some (black) Dutch people that racism is holding them back. The actual racism is quite hard to address since very few are willing to defend it and not all that is blamed on racism is actually caused by it. So because of Toxoplasma of Rage reasons, the actual fight is over something that is not intended as racist, not perceived as racist by most people and which does very little to actually harm black people.

            Zwarte Piet is a Dutch/Belgian addition to the Saint-Nicholas tradition, which is somewhat similar to Santa Claus except not created by Coca Cola. Like many traditions involving gift giving, eating candy and spending time with family, it’s very emotionally significant to many people, who see it as an important part of their culture. So it’s perfect for the culture war, since people will show up for the fight who will defend it tooth and nail, while on the other side you have people who didn’t grow up with that tradition and thus can’t understand why people don’t just give up the tradition.

            Because a truthful case against Zwarte Piet is quite weak, most of the objections are falsehoods. For example, it is claimed that Zwarte Piet is a slave of the white Saint-Nicholas, even though there is no traditional story where he is a slave. There are stories where he is just a servant and stories where is a freed slave who voluntarily became his companion. To support the claim that he is a slave, it is claimed that he is dressed as a slave. Simply looking at pictures of Saint-Nicholas and actual American or Caribbean slaves shows that this is nonsense. Zwarte Piet has also always worn shoes, which slaves were not allowed to wear.

            A more accurate objection is that Zwarte Piet is a black stereotype. It’s certainly true that especially in the past, but also occasionally today, there were and are depictions that were quite stereotypical (huge red lips and such). As Dutch society has become less racist, this has mostly disappeared, which I support. IMO, the current depictions generally have no substantial stereotypical black elements to them. If anything, Saint-Nicholas comes off worse, as he is now often presented as a demented old man who needs to be saved by Zwarte Piet.

            However, the critics believe that having blackface/a black character is racist in itself. I disagree. I don’t see why eliminating black characters from a tradition makes our society less racist or more diverse. Blackface also has a big practical advantage. Many traditions involve hiding people’s actual identity behind masks to liberate the role-players from their normal identity, in their own eyes and the eyes of the audience. Saint-Nicholas hides his identity with a huge beard, which works because he is an old man. Zwarte Piet uses blackface for a similar effect. So family members (or famous actors) can play Saint-Nicholas or Zwarte Piet, while the children remain oblivious to this (deceiving children is a major part of the tradition).

            Anyway, I think that the supporters of Zwarte Piet have been quite reasonable in listening to reasonable demands and don’t see why unreasonable demands should be catered to.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Aapje,

            Makes sense.

            It makes me think about football mascots to be honest. My highschool had an (American) Indian mascot. The locals loved it and the native tribe which the team was named after officially endorsed them. Ultimately none of it mattered and recent arrivals who were offended successfully removed the mascot anyway. As far as I know they still haven’t gotten a replacement mascot.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nick, thank you, but I worked in social housing (not social work); my boss’ boss had a background in social work and was a lovely, kind, warm-hearted woman while I would be totally unsuited for such a career – as you can tell, my advice to a hypothetical client would be more along the lines of “Have you tried not being stupid?”

            Le Maistre Chat – since I worked in social housing, I have more of an appreciation where Dalrymple is coming from 🙂 But he’s still a bit too far to the right for me – I agree that some people do seem to make the same obvious mistakes over and over again and seem to expect magic fairy godmother help to drop out of the sky for them, but I disagree on the remedy; some people genuinely do need help and it’s not their fault.

            Where I’d agree with him on learning to parrot activist rubbish is the example I think I’ve quoted on here before; the pair of white Irish-ancestry but born and raised in England sisters, who plainly had learned in their schools that kind of lingo, defaulting to “That’s racism!” “You’re racist against me because I’m English!” when they didn’t get their way.

            Considering that everybody involved was white and Irish (or at least, as said, second-generation Irish), ‘racism’ was not the flaw here (the real problem was “you are not feckin’ well entitled to what you are looking for”). But they’d plainly learned (from attending public schools in multicultural London) the orthodoxy that the proper response to not getting what you want simply because you want it was “racism! this is racism!”. But declaring assumed anti-English prejudice (when they were basing part of their entitlement to social housing on being children of Irish people from the locality who had gone to England and so under the regulations had “a local connection to the area”) to be “racism” was ridiculous whatever way you look at it.

          • Nick says:

            Deiseach, sorry if I misrepresented—I recalled that you had an office job of some kind relating to welfare, so “social work” was too broad of me.

          • Deiseach says:

            No problem at all, Nick; I’ve been so scathing about “bloody social workers”, this is karma coming back at me or something 🙂

        • gbdub says:

          That can be entirely reasonable depending on what people choose to post about. If you, on rare occasion, offhandedly mention that you are in favor of wealth redistribution and anti-racism, but post multiple times a day about how evil abortion is, then yeah it make sense to consider you are right wing poster.

          I think this still covers up an important distinction. Calling someone “a left/right wing poster” bakes in the assumption that the person holds corresponding views on all/most topics. Brad, you may not intend that implication but I think most everyone else reads it that way. “You are a poster with strong right-wing views on abortion” is more precise and entirely fair.

          I think it is largely true that the posters here come from what Scott would call “blue tribe” backgrounds and/or currently reside in “blue tribe” environments. It is likely that their personal bubbles are politically liberal (I am intending to keep blue/red and liberal/conservative distinctions… distinct). If they want to talk about liberal policies and blue tribe values, they have plenty of opportunity to talk about that outside of SSC. But SSC may be the one place they can have reasonably intelligent discussions about their unorthodox right-wing views without risking being a pariah in their local bubble.

          And really, it makes sense for people with unorthodox or strong views on a few issues to talk mostly about those issues, even if they mostly agree with their local bubble on other issues.

          For example, consider a straight-ticket Democrat voter who nevertheless leans Trumpist on immigration issues. They believe strongly that Democratic electoral success requires moving right on immigration. In a discussion among Democrats, they may try to steer the discussion toward right-wing views on immigration. Does that make them a Republican? Of course not! They are a Democrat trying to shift the views of the party on immigration. The fact that they talk mostly about their views on immigration is because their views on the other Democratic planks are already accepted and unnecessary to discuss.

          Basically, it’s important, I think, to take SSC in context. Yeah, in a vacuum the comment section is a discussion of views that lean right. But in context, it’s a bunch of blue tribers discussing the limited subset of their views that are unorthodox or even taboo amongst the blue tribe. If everyone here is a right winger, why are they posting here instead of NRO, or Breitbart, or Instapundit, or so on? I think it’s largely because, while what they discuss here may align with certain views on those sites, taken as a whole, the posters here would on the whole really not fit in with more red tribe or more conservative spaces.

          • albatross11 says:

            It also strikes me that positions on specific issues among SSC posters may not fall nearly as nicely onto a left/right spectrum as is the case among the general public.

            My intuition is that a lot of the way that issues cluster on the ideological spectrum is due to going along with your side, rather than having a common logic. If that’s right, then we should expect that the more people have thought through individual issues on their own, the more likely they are to have opinions that differ from their tribe/party/etc. SSC seems to me to attract people who are unusually willing to think through issues themselves, and to consider conclusions that are quite different from what their neighbors believe.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            I think this still covers up an important distinction. Calling someone “a left/right wing poster” bakes in the assumption that the person holds corresponding views on all/most topics. Brad, you may not intend that implication but I think most everyone else reads it that way. “You are a poster with strong right-wing views on abortion” is more precise and entirely fair.

            I see what you are saying but I think, maybe ironically, the way I’m looking at things is more charitable to the outgroup.

            If right wing is pejorative then what you are saying makes a lot of sense. We wouldn’t want to call someone a right wing anything unless we were really sure. But if right wing is just some descriptor then it is no big deal to call someone a right wing *poster* even if “IRL” he is a left wing *person*.

            Each poster knows how he votes, what organizations he belongs to, what his full range of political and ideological views are, how he treats other people. Each of the rest of us only can read what he chooses to post. I don’t see anything wrong with characterizing the output of those posts as they are.

            Especially if we need to round off to a first order approximation — as we often do — it makes sense to say “oh yeah the SSC comment section is pretty far right”. If the context makes more detail appropriate then, sure, get into the question of religious conservatives vs libertarians vs H B D vs blue tribe dissidents vs etc, etc, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            I see what you are saying but I think, maybe ironically, the way I’m looking at things is more charitable to the outgroup.

            If right wing is pejorative then what you are saying makes a lot of sense.

            It’s not so ironic considering not everyone has the ability to define what is pejorative.
            That is, the average person does not see his opinions as wrong, even when they map 50+% to the right wing, but that doesn’t mean he can’t turn on popular entertainment and see more contempt towards the right than the left and not want to take up the label. So they aren’t right-wing, they’re “a moderate/liberal who thinks for themselves”, etc.

            I’m going to stop before I bust out words like “internalized” and feel like a sociologist.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – I think your position might be self-consistent, but idiosyncratic. That is, you may not define left/right as potentially pejorative, and accepting your definitions your position makes perfect sense. But you can’t unilaterally declare that, and outside of you, labelling the SSC comments as “a pretty far right place” is going to carry some serious negative connotations that may not be well deserved. That is, to you, “right wing poster” just means “posts mostly right wing arguments”. But when you say “right wing poster” other people are going to interpret that as “right wing person with generally right wing views”, and you have no control over that interpretation (unless you describe your whole theory, but at that point you might as well just describe the poster more precisely).

            Besides, even if it isn’t pejorative, “right wing poster” is still a poor descriptor for your original example. They aren’t a right wing poster, because they are not a right wing generalist. They are a pro-life poster. Being pro-life makes you (in the US) more likely to be generally right wing, but there are plenty of left wing pro-lifers, enough to make the assumption low value (so why make it if you don’t have to?)

            Now, if your comment section is made up of a pro-life poster, a free-trade absolutist, a pro-gun poster, and an anti-illegal-immigration firebrand, who all exclusively comment on their pet issue, it might make sense to call your comment section right wing, even though labeling any of the posters right wing (might) be unfair.

      • Deiseach says:

        to be a leftist you need the whole slate of left wing opinions

        It certainly seems that way. I’ve mocked on here before the “women will be devastated by Trump’s victory as it threatens reproductive rights” kind of reporting, where it’s assumed ALL women want this one thing in the same way, hence ALL women will, should and must vote for the party promising they love, love, love Planned Parenthood. Women are treated as a monolithic block who must share the correct views (or else they’re gender traitors, not real women, etc).

        There is the expectation that naturally, if you’re a decent, caring human being, you will have the whole smorgasbord of Acceptable Opinions: you’ll be all about checking your privilege, pro-LGBT+ rights, pro-abortion rights, want the highest possible minimum wage, of course have the right opinion on climate change, probably tending more now to being inclined to vegetarianism if not outright veganism, etc. etc. etc.

        That someone might have congruent opinions with you on (say) old-school Labour issues like unions and working week hours and pay but not be in lockstep on structural racism or ‘it is a human rights violation and should be a prosecutable crime to call someone ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘xie’ even if it’s an honest mistake” is not acceptable and seems to be becoming regarded as unthinkable. Have the wrong opinion on any one of the slate, and you’re One Of Them (the deplorables).

        • flemm says:

          probably tending more now to being inclined to vegetarianism if not outright veganism

          In my experience, left-wing people (in the sense you’re talking about) tend to be much more hostile towards vegetarianism than right-wing people.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’m sure you’re right. They have to put up with so much more of it.

          • Nick says:

            Is this a general trend? All of the vegetarians I know lean or are on the left.

          • flemm says:

            Is this a general trend? All of the vegetarians I know lean or are on the left.

            I don’t know. I haven’t met very many actual vegetarians (mostly just people that eat fish-meat instead of beef, and think that somehow makes them vegetarians), and I can’t find any reliable demographic data on vegetarians, but about half of the vegetarians I do know voted for Donald Trump. I do know that in India, where probably the majority of the world’s vegetarians live, vegetarianism is associated with right-wing Hindu nationalism.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s funny to watch the international Left flip values when criticizing Hindus. “Hindu nationalists evilly harass Muslims accused of killing cows!”

    • jasonbayz says:

      Maybe it’s not a distinction between commenters vs lurkers but regular readers but occasional readers? There were 5,500 responses.

      • quaelegit says:

        No, I’m pretty sure OP is talking about perception based on the comments section vs. results of the survey of readers. I don’t think any of this allows us to distinguish reader frequency, and that frequency would have much less bearing on the discussion than the commenter/reader divide.

        (Although one divide I think might be interesting — unfortunately don’t think we have any way to observe/analyze — is the divide between commenters in the Open Threads, lurkers in the OTs, and readers (possibly could split by regulars/occasional) who avoid the OTs. Hmm, and now this has me wondering if people judge the comments section leaning more by the OTs or regular posts more. I definitely judge by the OTs — especially the hidden threads — because the regular blog posts seem to very a lot more.)

        • Randy M says:

          the regular blog posts seem to very a lot more.

          I would like to see the word “veryance” be introduced as a word for “measure of how extreme a position is.” ie, “Despite the veryance in the academic social sciences political views, there is surprisingly little variance.”
          Or,
          “The rationalist position on ai threat shows great veryance from the public position, but remarkably low variance.”

          Because I have an affection for effective affectation.

  9. OptimalSolver says:

    How scientifically plausible is implanting knowledge directly into a human’s brain?

    Like, is it realistic to think that, given the inefficiency of conveying information to another human through verbal or written language, it may one day be possible to “download” knowledge directly into a mind?

    Basically, human A wants human B to know something, some complicated state of affairs that may be misunderstood if communicated through the ambiguity of language, or maybe it’s a simple packet of information, but human A wants human B to absorb it as quickly as biologically possible. It would also have the benefit of being completely unambiguous. The new knowledge human B has is identical to that of human A.

    Note that I don’t necessarily mean Matrix style “I know Kung-Fu” learning. Nothing that requires muscle memory, just the transmission of semantic knowledge, or facts about the world, that one human wants to transfer to another.

    The information also doesn’t need to be “true,” it’s up to the receiving human to verify it, but the receiver will be under no uncertainty as to what the sender means.

    • Bugmaster says:

      As far as I understand, as of now this is not merely highly improbable, but may in fact be impossible to achieve under the laws of physics we live in. This may in fact be impossible even if you postulate the existence of some sort of quasi-magical nanotechnology, which is itself very likely impossible under our current laws of physics. Human brains are just not similar enough.

      • even if you postulate the existence of some sort of quasi-magical nanotechnology, which is itself very likely impossible under our current laws of physics.

        Could you expand on that? If quasi-magical nanotechnology means Drexlerian nanotech, I can’t see any problem with it from the laws of physics.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you’re going to say something is impossible, there needs to be a pretty strong justification for why you think so, not just that it seems hard. What scientific law says that it can’t be done?

    • Protagoras says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as Bugmaster, but moving information from one brain to another via language is something we have complicated evolved systems to do. You seem to be imagining something that bypasses all that, which could only work better if it had substitute systems for accomplishing what our existing systems do (primarily, as Bugmaster notes, coping with the fact that brains are not all that similar to one another by translating the information from brain A’s encoding to some neutral format and thence to brain B’s encoding). So while I don’t agree with Bugmaster that it would be impossible, it would be enormously difficult.

    • James C says:

      My best bet is that, like a lot of sci-fi technology, this is feasible but not practical. I don’t really know for certain, as brain research is still in its infancy and there might be a big breakthrough that makes this simple and easy, but I doubt we’ll see a huge change there.

      The biggest problem is, most likely, human brains are large neural networks that build upon set pathways that all converge on a roughly similar human experience. Trying to plug and play memories between these two systems would be like trying to open a Scrivener file with Word, both handle text but are simply not storing data in a way that’s readable to the other. That’s not even considering how different neural states might affect the stored data. Leaving aside non-neurotypical persons (for example, how would you render a schizophrenic’s hallucinations to someone who’s never experienced such a thing) Human memory is a very limited and malleable thing. Things change in size based on how scared someone is of the object, and their memory of events can be radically reshaped by things like phrasing and priming.

      Now, this does bring me to a second point. Just as files can be converted its plausible that memories could be too. This does impact the whole ‘unambiguous’ part of your premise as any translation will have to make alterations and assumptions. It’s also, likely, a huge technical challenge. Unless memory is markedly more modular than currently thought there’d be seven billion (and counting) different formats that would all need to be interchangeable for memory transfer. A surmountable task, but not a small one by any measure.

      Finally, there’s also an issue of reading. People have intrinsic bias, and at the neurological level this could be considered a facet of how they process information. If you give someone a memory about a clown you liked and they’re afraid of clowns, will they remember it with joy or fear? It’s another level of ambiguity that can creep into the system, and is especially worrying if memories turn out to be as lazy as some theorise. Communicating unambiguously might actually be easier in written form.

      ‘I met my best friend, Tim, at the coffee shop near work.’ Is pretty clear. A memory might be:

      ‘[I] met [Best Friend], at [Shop [Coffee]] near [Work]]’

      Which could end up being read at meeting the receiver’s best friend near their office and very strange.

      Anyway, tldr: possible yes, simple very much no.

    • Aapje says:

      @OptimalSolver

      I suspect that the best chance to get something like that is cybernetics, where the human brain is augmented by a device that can store facts, do lookups, do calculations, etc. Basically, a smartphone connected to the brain. Of course, the question is whether it’s possible to connect the brain to such a device.

      • Yes, this is what I was thinking. The human brain is inherently limited in the amount of knowledge it can contain, or access. So I think having direct access to a large non-organic memory core seems to me to be the ideal solution. We don’t know if this is possible, but I don’t see why not.

        I think the idea that one can receive knowledge outside of language is wrong-headed. It is language that humans excel at. Think about how animals communicate. Humans are many orders of magnitude better at communication than animals, and it is because of language. Of course language has ambiguities, but much less than any other method of communication.

        • Aapje says:

          We don’t know if this is possible, but I don’t see why not.

          People are working on the part where a computer can detect when you think: “Siri, what is the capital of The Netherlands?”

          Step two is to feed the answer back into the brain, which may be very hard to do directly, because we evolved to interpret our senses. I’m not sure whether you can just add a high-resolution sense. But it seems plausible that we can make people hear voices or perhaps even see things.

    • engleberg says:

      @I don’t necessarily mean Matrix-style ‘I know kung-fu’ learning-

      You’d think by now there’d be a coffin version of Dance Dance Revolution. Type in some labanotation, get in the coffin, strap the old bod to servomechanisms, be pushed through the physical motions of Baryshnikov or Bruce Lee. The body stuff is bound to be easier than the brain stuff.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My understanding is that you’d need sufficient knowledge about the recipient to be able to go in and implant the information in such a way that they’d want to believe that it’s true.

      Plus, at some point, you would have to buy an airline.

  10. fahertym says:

    Is income inequality in an ostensibly democratic, mostly capitalist Western country a net harm to society in and of itself?

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know, but it seems that the only two stable states are “high inequality” and “near-universal poverty”.

      • rlms says:

        According to Wikipedia (1, 2), the Gini coefficient of the USSR in the 80s was significantly higher than that of the Nordics, and comparable to the US’s. Furthermore, having high inequality (as measured by Gini coefficient) seems to be pretty strongly correlated with near-universal poverty in the present.

        • Anonymous says:

          I stand corrected.

          Though it does raise the question of just how communist/corrupt the USA is.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Measuring the Gini coefficient of money in a society in which money is an insignificant source of power is stupid. But it’s not just an error, it’s propaganda. Soviet money existed solely for the purpose of getting you to make this error.

          • Placid Platypus says:

            Why would Soviet money exist for the specific purpose of making you think the USSR had high inequality? Wouldn’t they want to suggest inequality was lower than it was, rather than higher?

          • rlms says:

            @Placid Platypus
            I assumed Douglas Knight was referring to Anonymous’ error in thinking that the USSR had relatively low inequality. As you say, the fact that their actual inequality was higher than suggested by their Gini coefficient strengthens my argument.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, PP, exactly, Soviet money was manipulated to make it look like the Soviet Gini was as low as that of America, which is low by world standards. I should have been clearer than “this error”; I meant RLMS’s trusting of numbers and putting it in the same general range as developed countries, not the precision of America vs Sweden, or his general conclusion, which is correct and from which communist countries were outliers. It is mildly surprising that they could not make it as low as Sweden’s (if they failed, which I don’t buy because I don’t trust comparison between different sources), but that is false precision.

      • Aapje says:

        Anonymous,

        Scandinavia doesn’t seem particularly unstable (and in so far that it is, it has more to do with migration issues, with is orthogonal to wealth distribution within a country).

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think there’s a value to reducing inequality at the top and the bottom, so to speak.

      At the bottom, people who can’t take care of themselves not getting some kind of help is socially corrosive, and heartless to boot. Meanwhile, those who can take care of themselves being in a position of precarity is also socially corrosive, morally troubling, and potentially dangerous – people will only want to play by the rules if they feel they’re getting a fair shake. My ideal society would be one where Joe Schmoe who plays by the rules can work a 40-hour week, have a decent apartment somewhere safe, decent food and medical care, have time off to crack open a cold one with the boys, the occasional vacation, etc. That’s a good society and stable.

      At the top, I think it’s also socially corrosive to have people who are so wealthy they are completely disconnected from the rest. The biggest disconnect isn’t between the guy flying business class and the poor schmoes flying coach, or the person driving the BMW versus the people on the bus, but between first class/BMW and private jet/chauffeur. You don’t want a little article in the newspaper about how some hedge fund manager dropped several million on his daughter’s sweet 16, and you don’t want there to be people who think a 500k salary is poverty-level. Having people with that level of power who are disconnected from everyone but other super-rich is dangerous.

      • John Schilling says:

        My ideal society would be one where Joe Schmoe who plays by the rules can work a 40-hour week, have a decent apartment somewhere safe, decent food and medical care, have time off to crack open a cold one with the boys, the occasional vacation, etc. That’s a good society and stable.

        I’m pretty certain we have that society in the contemporary United States, except that we have to at least pretend that the medical care is The Best Possible and not admit that we are settling for “decent”.

        You don’t want a little article in the newspaper about how some hedge fund manager dropped several million on his daughter’s sweet 16, and you don’t want there to be people who think a 500k salary is poverty-level. Having people with that level of power who are disconnected from everyone but other super-rich is dangerous.

        Has there ever been a society where this wasn’t the case? I’d have a hard time thinking of one. There’s always a gilded class, and if they try to disguise that by not having actual money and just trading in favors as members of the nomenklatura, I don’t think that many people are actually fooled by that. And the people at the very top of the decision-making heirarchy, are never going to be people with firsthand experience with questions like “do I risk paying the rent late so I can have a mechanic check on the funny noise in the car’s transmission?”

        If you think there is a society anywhere that didn’t suffer that sort of inequality, I’d seriously like to know what you think are the best candidates.

        Because I think you’re wrong about the guy driving a BMW and flying business class not mattering. That guy always exists, but if we stop recognizing him as “rich” and treat him as part of the (upper) “middle class”, and particularly if he’s middle management at Joe Schmoe’s factory or office, then Joe can start to feel like he should have those things to – which will never be the case for the million-dollar birthday parties. This leads to the Schmoes spending themselves into debt for BMWs they can’t afford, and feeling resentful about economy-class seat pitches rather than astounded that they can fly across a continent at Mach 0.9 for a couple day’s wages.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That society does not exist in the contemporary US. There’s plenty of people who are in precarious situations despite following the rules and doing what amounts to 90% of their best.

          And, no, there’s never been a society where there weren’t outta-sight rich people. But that doesn’t mean it’s good, and I think there’s more of those people/they’re more disconnected than there were, say, 50 years ago.

          You do make a good point regarding “everyone should get a BMW.”

          • Brad says:

            A decent apartment somewhere safe does a lot of the work. (So does decent medical care, but we collectively have been around and around on that one.) In objective terms we are living in a golden age of safe neighborhoods. There a few small exceptions here and there in e.g. parts of Chicago, but by and large safe is used as euphemism for desirable. Some of those elements of desirability are objective — like length of commute and park space, but there is a large positional element. And it is built in to the definition of a positional good that no everyone can get the best ones.

          • John Schilling says:

            I assumed “Joe Schmoe” was meant to refer to the average or median American; sorry if I misinterpreted that.

            But just as every society has its very rich without necessarily being dangerous, bad, or unstable (and I’m not convinced their mere number matters as much as you do), every society also has its very poor and yet we don’t consider them all to be dangerous, bad, or unstable. Outside of the extremes, how many Americans are in “precarious situations” in spite of their willingness to settle for a decent apartment somewhere safe, and how many bought that precariousness by insisting on a decent apartment in the Bay Area or a five-bedroom house somewhere else (and with it the home equity that allows them to imagine they can afford a BMW)?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            A golden age compared to the 70s, 80s, 90s, but maybe not compared to the early 60s, or the 50s. As for “decent apartment somewhere safe” I don’t mean the most desirable apartment somewhere desirable, but somewhere without roaches where you won’t get stabbed.

            @John Schilling

            When I talk about precarity (which is SO a word, spellchecker) I’m thinking more about employment. People getting by from short term job to short term job. Or, going a bit upmarket, university teaching being done by untenured profs and PhD students increasingly.

            I suppose what I’m trying to say is that getting the hard end of things should be restricted to people who don’t play by the rules – who either break the rules, or legitimately are lazy screwups, or whatever. This is a bit utopian, yes.

          • And, no, there’s never been a society where there weren’t outta-sight rich people. But that doesn’t mean it’s good

            Could you expand on why it is bad? I can see three possible answers:

            1. Because the money should go to poor people who need it more.
            2. Because the existence of such people makes other people worse off (for example, John’s BMW point for the level below this one).
            3. Because such people have too much political power.

            These are all quite different arguments–one of them might be true and the others false. Is your reason one of them or do you have another?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Uhhhhhh, mostly 3, really. I don’t think it’s good that you’ve got a class of people who have so much wealth and power. Especially today, thanks to transportation, communications, etc technology, and with the ways the economy has changed.

            A super-wealthy class more loyal to itself than to the peasants isn’t a new thing, but a super-wealthy class the wealth of which doesn’t come from land, or from owning all the factories in such-and-such a place… Kings were by and large not great rulers, but a king who screwed up too bad would probably end up sans head; he can’t just pick up his land and go to the next opportunity.

            It’s not just that they’re extremely powerful, it’s that they can potentially move their skin out of any individual game, so to speak.

            I am probably speaking heavily out of emotion here.

          • Uhhhhhh, mostly 3, really. I don’t think it’s good that you’ve got a class of people who have so much wealth and power.

            Thanks. I think my reaction is the opposite. They are neither wealthy nor powerful in comparison to the whole rest of the society–the richest individual in the U.S. has total assets more than an order of magnitude below the annual expenditure of the U.S. government. But they are wealthy enough to provide the privileged minority solution to some public good problems–one individual pays for what benefits many because the benefit to him is enough to make it worth doing.

            In the political context, I think we are better off with both Soros and the Koch brothers than we would be with neither.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            Interestingly, I think you’ve just re-invented the argument for giving the franchise only to landowners.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn

            A golden age compared to the 70s, 80s, 90s, but maybe not compared to the early 60s, or the 50s. As for “decent apartment somewhere safe” I don’t mean the most desirable apartment somewhere desirable, but somewhere without roaches where you won’t get stabbed.

            I’ll accept that for the sake of argument. But for how much longer before that? If the 50s and early 60s were some historically anomaly is everyone really entitled to live in that anomaly?

            I come at this from having been a gentrifier several times. Even in a neighborhood where someone occasionally gets stabbed, which I agree isn’t ideal, that’s not at all the same as you are going to get stabbed. Stabbings aren’t randomly distributed.

            If someone spends a large fraction of his income, or worse still makes a highly levered bet with more money than he has, to live in a “good neighborhood” it’s hard for me to have a lot of sympathy when he complains that he can’t make ends meet. I’ve lived in “bad neighborhoods” and I know from personal experience that “good neighborhood” is a want not a need. So it’s a like a guy with a Ferrari complaining that he can’t afford to take a vacation. Yeah he choose somewhere else to put his luxury dollars. That’s how it works.

          • Randy M says:

            If the 50s and early 60s were some historically anomaly is everyone really entitled to live in that anomaly?

            I’ve been meaning to start a conversation in one of these threads hitting on this. Specifically, how much of what we think of as the “American Dream”–how living in a suburban house on one income with a dependable car, should be an option for everyone–is the result of the decades following WWII, in which American industry was largely untouched by a war that greatly damaged every other industrial nation?

            Even the casualties that the US suffered in the war may have had the silver lining of paving the way for integration and allowing more women into the middle class work force without immediate reduction in wages.

            Meanwhile, Germany, England, France, Russia, China, Japan, had a need for US goods that could fuel a steady expansion at the same time the development of rapid mass media could shape the perception of normal. How much of American exceptionalism comes from getting to fight in wars that haven’t touched our mainland for 150+ years?

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        One of the most striking things about the current concern over inequality is the extent to which it’s driven by the resentment of the near-rich towards the ultra-rich. I still think that someone who’s capable of driving a BMW and flying first class and experiencing it as deprivation, is disconnected from the rest of us in a more profound and potentially dangerous way than your hedge-fund manager.

        • Brad says:

          I agree that’s what is going on. It seems like the most complaints about the 1% come from the 5% and 10%. But is a plausible alternative explanation to just plain envy (which to be clear I think is a good null hypothesis) that these guys being nearer to the 1% have better visibility into the ways that they (ab)use the power their wealth gives them?

          A sort of far-group vs out-group argument?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Good point. I don’t think it’s 5% or 10% vs 1% though. It’s more, like, 1% vs 0.1% or whatever. The top percentile income in the US starts a little under $330k. That’s a ton of money by any reasonable standard, but a corporate lawyer making that is probably rubbing elbows with people who are top 0.1%, which starts around $1.5 million. In comparison, top 5% begins a bit above $150k, and top 10% a bit under $120k.

        • albatross11 says:

          Paul:

          I feel the same way about someone who’s sitting in a heated house with wood (not dirt) floors and no leaks in the roof, with indoor plumbing, who experiences it as deprivation.

          What’s experienced as deprivation obviously depends on your expectations, and it’s not obvious that this is wrong, even though it can lead to (does lead to) a kind of hedonic treadmill where you feel like real success = being able to afford one notch higher quality of {house, car, furniture, etc.}.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Quality of life for Joe Schmoe is an important metric that doesn’t get enough attention. Right-liberals talk like economic freedom is more important than all the negative externalities put together, while the left comes across as believing that Joe is a privileged SOB who deserves nothing because there are so many poor Muslims and transgenders to put on the welfare rolls.
        F that. If Joe plays by the rules, he should be able to find a 40 hour a week job that pays enough to support children in a safe neighborhood, not to mention able to find a future mother for his children without being tried for crimes against feminism or losing out to rich polygamists.

        • albatross11 says:

          That leads us to questions of what a good life looks like, and how to support it. And there you get back into culture war stuff.

          For example, I strongly suspect most people (with a US upbringing, at least) are happiest in something like a standard marriage where they have a steady job, a house, and a couple of kids. I suspect genuine membership in a community (church, private club, active in the neighborhood, scouts, whatever) is really important for this. I think single motherhood is usually pretty bad for the mom and the kids and the surrounding society, whereas stable married couples having kids are usually pretty good for the mom, dad, and kids, as well as the surrounding society. (Similarly, PUA types who go in for lots of casual sex are making the world a worse place.)

          That leads to a certain set of ideas about how to make society better, which may or may not be mainly about government policies or laws. Steve Sailer talks about affordable family formation, which seems like a pretty good thing to aim for. Charles Murray talks about all the ways the lower class has lost all kinds of social capital and well-being over the years (more unwed births, less community involvement), and that strikes me as stuff I wish I knew how to reverse. I’m religious, and think most people would benefit from some kind of church, but I also think that those uninterested in church would still benefit from some kind of cohesive community involvement–private clubs, lodges, scouts, whatever.

          That’s in some sense a conservative worldview, even if I don’t particularly think the government is the right mechanism for doing anything about it. (I mostly don’t–we could maybe tweak public benefits or family law to make things a bit better, but mainly this is about people deciding what to value and how to live their lives, and the law is an extremely blunt tool for shaping that.)

          • but I also think that those uninterested in church would still benefit from some kind of cohesive community involvement–private clubs, lodges, scouts, whatever.

            At a tangent, a good deal of this that I have observed is hobbies, in my case mostly the SCA.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            a good deal of this that I have observed is hobbies

            That worked for me too, but my hobbies kept getting invaded by the culture war.

            One of my last holdouts just announced Maoist style struggle sessions about “consent” in the Facebook group, with all the associated mindkilling. Refusal to participate is being noted.

          • Kevin C. says:

            That’s in some sense a conservative worldview, even if I don’t particularly think the government is the right mechanism for doing anything about it.

            The question, then, is what is the right mechanism for addressing the problem? Or is there no such mechanism, no effective way to address the issue? Perhaps the asymmetry between creation and destruction; it could be that social capital can be lost quickly but only built and accumulated very slowly.

          • Baeraad says:

            Conservative worldview or not, I’m inclined to agree – so much so that I’ve sometimes thought about just pushing my atheism down and starting to attend church, just for some sense of being connected to the rest of the world. I don’t think I could, though, and anyway church attendance is really low where I live. Another option I’ve considered are charity causes, but those seem to only want donations, not volunteers.

            At a tangent, a good deal of this that I have observed is hobbies, in my case mostly the SCA.

            To an extent, yes, but hobbies have the drawback that you need to be really interested in something to be able to make it the main component of your sense of community. And also…

            That worked for me too, but my hobbies kept getting invaded by the culture war.

            … yeah, that.

            I think that for something to be a community, it needs to be a) at least weakly mandatory (as in: no one’s going to forcibly drag you to church every week, but your neighbours will Disapprove of you if you don’t show up) and b) very difficult to get pushed out of. Hobbies always failed at the first, and they’re increasingly failing at the second.

            I don’t know, really. About the best idea I’ve come up with is that we should try talking to our neighbours and coworkers more, those being the two groups of people we share a mostly-non-alterable circumstance with and who can’t easily get rid of us. Oh, and be nicer to our relatives, if we happen to have them.

            ETA: Also on the subject of hobbies, my main one is roleplaying. And the roleplaying hobby is actively lecturing you to not treat it as a community. People are always quoting the Geek Social Fallacies at you, and what are those supposed Fallacies except different ways that people behave like their hobby is a community?

            It’s not just that our society isn’t helpful in forming community bonds, it’s that it often actively fights back against it and tells us that such bonds are to be avoided.

          • Randy M says:

            If you’d like a long, somewhat rambling but quite interesting review of a book that touches on the loss of community from a perspective I hadn’t seen, try OSC on Third Places.

          • Nick says:

            ETA: Also on the subject of hobbies, my main one is roleplaying. And the roleplaying hobby is actively lecturing you to not treat it as a community. People are always quoting the Geek Social Fallacies at you, and what are those supposed Fallacies except different ways that people behave like their hobby is a community?

            It’s not just that our society isn’t helpful in forming community bonds, it’s that it often actively fights back against it and tells us that such bonds are to be avoided.

            This sort of environment sounds really unfortunate and I’m sorry. Personally, though, while I’ve heard mention of Geek Social Fallacies on the Internet, I’ve never heard them in person. In my roleplaying group in college, we were, frankly, suffering from a serious case of numbers 1, 2, and 5 on this list. I’m personally a good bit to blame for this; I really pushed the “don’t ostracize” angle and felt a good bit of guilt when I arranged things that by design didn’t include people I really didn’t want along, and I was too afraid of the consequences to be willing to criticize friends and group members who, frankly, needed it*.

            I hear what you mean about things moving away from being a community, but here’s one of my concerns: the geek social fallacies, at least if that list is representative, at best produce dysfunctional communities. Sure, people should be accepted as they are, but “as you are” does not have to be e.g. Captain Halitosis, to use one of its examples. And yes, ostracizing is unpleasant and frequently used for evil, but so are a lot of things, and used virtuously it’s a good and effective peer pressure tool.

            That said, I’m not as sure as I probably sound. I’ve heard the testimony of folks who rely on such communities as their “refuge”; I’m not sure that’s healthy or that the status quo is the best way to do things, but I’m concerned that sometimes that’s someone’s only option. In other words, dysfunctional communities are better than no communities. And my thinking on this lately is that actually, if the community bonds were stronger, fallacy 2 could be defeated (family members and close friends can generally get away with criticizing one another, after all). 2 being to my mind the most pernicious, I think the others could be defeated or neutralized as well with that one out of the way: all that takes is a recognition that these are fallacies and that these ways of thinking are fixable. But this is just speculative.

            *This whole section is me, so bad—letting things fester because I thought confronting them was the worse option:

            GSF2 has extensive consequences within a group. Its presence in substantial quantity within a social group vastly increases the group’s conflict-averseness. People spend hours debating how to deal with conflicts, because they know (or sometimes merely fear) that the other person involved is a GSF2 carrier, and any attempt to confront them directly will only make things worse. As a result, people let grudges brew much longer than is healthy, and they spend absurd amounts of time deconstructing their interpersonal dramas in search of a back way out of a dilemma.

          • Randy M says:

            And the roleplaying hobby is actively lecturing you to not treat it as a community.

            A Hobby is not a community, at least not in this sense. But a local manifestation of it might well be. Do you mean lectured on-line in forums, or in person at meet-ups?

          • albatross11 says:

            First, I do think that social capital of this kind is easier to destroy than create.

            Second, I think government policy is a blunt instrument for dealing with most problems, including this one. There are places where we can maybe improve things around the edges, often by getting government to stop doing something destructive instead of getting it to fix something.

            Third, most of the useful things that ever get done aren’t done by government. Communities aren’t built by passing a law, but by lots of people getting involved with one another and establishing ties and institutions. Getting involved in a church, or a local club or hobby, or a political party/movement at the local level, or boy scouts/girl scouts, or local sports leagues, or a local chess club, or whatever–that’s how you build a community.

            Fourth, a bunch of stuff in modern US culture leads toward increasing atomization and isolation. Our media culture is corrosive as hell, and undermines all kinds of traditional values and norms of behavior. But there’s a lot more going on there. I’m not sure how to make that better, but it sure feels like the brokenness in our media culture is one part of the loss of communities. (Maybe it was just offering TV as an entertainment that provided the opportunity to stay inside and avoid talking with the neighbors.)

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            … but by lots of people getting involved with one another and establishing ties and institutions …

            Until the culture warriors show up, and invade and ruin them.

            They permit no realm, no magisteria, no reservation, no preserve, no space free from them. They invade all, and destroy all they invade.

            Bitter? Me? Yes.

          • Brad says:

            Look at that. From hobby to hobby horse in one post.

          • Baeraad says:

            Sure, people should be accepted as they are, but “as you are” does not have to be e.g. Captain Halitosis, to use one of its examples.

            I would consider bad breath a perfect example of things you should not get thrown out of any community worth of the name for, to be honest.

            In other words, dysfunctional communities are better than no communities.

            That’s what I (tentatively) think, yes. I think human beings need some kind of larger context, and these days, there’s very slim pickings for those. Whether you enjoy rolling dice to hit an orc for 1d8+1 damage may be an absolutely horrible basis for a collective identity, it’s also the best thing a lot of people can come up with. And if the resulting communities are rickety, shambling horrors because they’re artificial and lack a healthy foundation, well… colonoscopy bags ain’t pretty either, but they’re better than nothing.

            (though I’ll admit that I can sympathise with people who, to take a related example, just want to play games without being “gamers,” especially when “gamer culture” has a pretty hefty impact on what actually gets put into games – no matter how desperately some people need their own subculture, shouldn’t there be an option to enjoy a certain type of media without constantly being hammered by the often-questionable aesthetics of that subculture? I dunno. It’s an unhappy situation all around)

            And my thinking on this lately is that actually, if the community bonds were stronger, fallacy 2 could be defeated (family members and close friends can generally get away with criticizing one another, after all).

            That’s a good point. If your group stays together exactly as long as it remains fun and no longer, then everyone who has a vested interest in keeping it together will be terrified of rocking the boat. If everyone accepts the group staying together as an end in itself, then you can have a blazing row and spend the next six months giving each other the stink eye… but the world won’t end, and eventually you might manage to move past it.

            I can tell you that I’ve roleplayed with people I’ve absolutely despised, and still felt it was a valid use of my time. But then, that’s because I do in fact see “make roleplaying happen” as a goal in itself that goes beyond social interaction… so maybe you can’t form a true community if you’re intentionally trying to form a community, but only as a byproduct of trying to achieve something else? I dunno.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Baeraad

            Put me down as seconding your entire first paragraph. And your last — the ways in which our society actively dissolve and fight against strong community bonds seems like one of the most important things to consider and address when it comes to figuring out how to (re)build community. Plus the bit about hobbies as a poor substitute.

            My unhappy suspicion is that to have the sort of thing that meets your (a) and (b) takes religion[1]. And, looking at the broad, global secularization trends, my further suspicion is that we’re in the middle of a centuries-long transition between religious forms, comparable to the “Axial Age” — as the old faiths prove unworkable for the demands of the new social and political structures. But, while the old ways are declining, and increasingly preserved only through deliberate disengagement from society (the Benedict Option/Amish model), it seems workable new ones have yet to emerge. Plenty of my fellow far-Right folks have been saying things to the effect of “we need a new religion”, but one cannot simply create a new religion on demand[2].

            Or it could be the case that nothing can or will emerge to fill the void, that the human need for community cannot be met healthily under the conditions of modernity, and we will either be replaced by the better-adapted Vile Offspring, or else collapse, and the Amish inherit the earth.

            @Randy M

            Thanks for that link. Yes, the role of America’s zoning laws[3] and broad car ownership[4] are definitely significant. And I very much like that “third place” term. Plus, that bit about the need for men’s places and women’s places. Of course, the part that I have myself frequently said similar things regarding is the lack of unstructured, outdoor play for children. I’ll probably try to find a copy of that book.

            @Nick

            On one hand, I’ve apparently been pretty lucky at avoiding spaces where those “Geek Social Fallacies” have been in operation. But then, I’m a spergy introvert with a tiny social circle who’s never much participated in even “geeky” social activities in any sizeable group, so that may be why.

            That said, I agree that dysfunctional communities seem better than total atomization, and that fallacy #2 seems to be the big one

            @albatross11

            often by getting government to stop doing something destructive instead of getting it to fix something.

            Indeed, but that is a both a challenge in and of itself, and a necessary but far from sufficient condition.

            Communities aren’t built by passing a law, but by lots of people getting involved with one another and establishing ties and institutions.

            Far easier said than done, particularly given the atomizing trends you note.

            Fourth, a bunch of stuff in modern US culture leads toward increasing atomization and isolation. Our media culture is corrosive as hell, and undermines all kinds of traditional values and norms of behavior.

            The media is almost certainly part of it, but I figure there are plenty of other factors with similar magnitudes. The nature of modern educational systems, and reduced ability of our children to socialize with adults, or outside their age groups at all (see Randy M’s link). The economy, with the decline in stable long-term employment and rising “gig economy”, and the concommitant demand for mobility and “rootlessness”. Secularization and the decline in traditional, communal religion. Diversity and everything Putnam wrote about in “Bowling Alone”. The assortive mating and class stratification that come with our highly-effective meritocratic sorting (and Murray’s “Coming Apart). And yes, just the development of TV alone probably eroded social ties. There’s plenty of “brokenness” beyond just media culture, and I don’t see how these trends can be meaningfully opposed.

            I’m not sure how to make that better

            What if it can’t be made better?

            @Standing in the Shadows

            I recently saw a bit of discussion on Tumblr[5] about this; more specifically, what comes after? Once a place gets “devoured” (their term) by the expansionist culture warrior faction, does it simply remain “devoured” forever, so that more of the world falls irreversibly into their domain, and, a la DrBeat, all is lost and only sweet, sweet death shall save us? Or does this sort of thing ‘burn itself out’? But then, what’s left after it burns out? Metaphorical ashes and wreckage, where everyone stays in their tiny safe bubbles and never reconnects? Or are there “green shoots” that come back, with new immunity to the tactics by which the “culture warriors” invade? Nobody in the discussion had much in the way of first-hand experience with “post-culture-war” spaces — they were mostly folks who either left or were forced out when the “invasion” came, and have yet to try to return — so it was long on speculation. Any insights?

            @Brad

            Less of this, please.

            [1]by a broad, anthropological definition of “religion”, as per the likes of Stephen Prothero.

            [2]Unless you’re L. Ron Hubbard.

            [3]Put me down as another who thinks that the Japanese zoning system is more rational, though I doubt, for reasons of crime rates, politics, and culture, that it would prove near as workable here as there.

            [4]Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice also holds the rise of automobiles and of suburbs as contributing to both “urban anonymity” and the decline of local control over the criminal justice system.

            [5]Which, due to the nature of the platform, was lacking in the further depth I wish it had possessed.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Baeraad

            And if the resulting communities are rickety, shambling horrors because they’re artificial and lack a healthy foundation, well… colonoscopy bags ain’t pretty either, but they’re better than nothing.

            I think you meant “colostomy bag”, not “colonoscopy”. But otherwise, yes, I agree.

            If your group stays together exactly as long as it remains fun and no longer, then everyone who has a vested interest in keeping it together will be terrified of rocking the boat.

            This relates to why I tend to push back against the valorization of “exit” in many of the circles I frequent. Because it encourages people to leave whenever things get tough, which brings atomization. Remember, Socrates chose death over exile, and ostracism is traditionally a serious punishment (recall earlier discussions of Friedman’s book, the Amish and the Romany, etc.). But instead, we rootless moderns rebrand “exile” as “exit”. As you noted earlier, the people we most need to increase interaction with are family, neighbors, and coworkers — which are those we do not, to a great degree, choose to “share a mostly-non-alterable circumstance with”.

            It is indeed “an unhappy situation all around,” and it looks like every trend is toward it getting worse, not better. (Well, at least we can look forward to stronger, healthier communities for the few survivors in the permanently-preindustrial future after civilization collapses.)

          • Nick says:

            It is indeed “an unhappy situation all around,” and it looks like every trend is toward it getting worse, not better. (Well, at least we can look forward to stronger, healthier communities for the few survivors in the permanently-preindustrial future after civilization collapses.)

            I’m enough of a Christian contrarian to say “But Benedict Option!” Of course, I’m neutral on the question whether the Benedict Option stands any chance of working, so take that with a grain of salt.

            A number of other interesting points raised; I’ll try to respond after work.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nick

            I’m enough of a Christian contrarian to say “But Benedict Option!”

            Are you putting it forth as a counter-trend, pointing towards community-building rather that atomization? Well, first of all, that would require it to be an extant trend, rather than a mere (vague) proposal.

            Of course, I’m neutral on the question whether the Benedict Option stands any chance of working

            I’m not. I’m a frequent reader (though not a commenter) over at Dreher’s, and what I’ve seen there, and elsewhere, does not make me at all optimistic as to any possible effectiveness — particularly as Dreher takes great pains to distingush “BenOp” from “going Amish.” Because as I read the stats and trends on “the secularization thesis,” anything short of the Amish or Kiryas Joel models seems grossly insufficient to resist “universal culture” and the “atomizing” trends. And, as I and others have pointed out in previous SSC discussions, these have distinct advantages specific to them not readily available to any group who would try to emulate their example.

            More importantly, such groups also already have strong communities with “thick” social ties. And they have not so much “demodernized” as simply resisted Modernity from the beginning. It’s one thing to maintain one’s community and culture against Modernity and dissolution, it’s another to rebuild them, against the trends, after they’ve already to a significant degree succumbed. (Maintaining an intact building is easier than rebuilding a partially collapsed one, holding one’s position against a current is easier than moving upstream, or whatever metaphor you prefer.) I see little evidence that this latter is at all possible.

            We do, at least, seem to be in agreement that it takes (strong, organized) religion. But while you almost certainly disagree, I don’t see (non-Amish) Christianity as being at all up to the task.

            A number of other interesting points raised; I’ll try to respond after work.

            I look forward to it.

          • Baeraad says:

            I think you meant “colostomy bag”, not “colonoscopy”. But otherwise, yes, I agree.

            Drat. Yes, I guess that’s what I meant. And here I actually did take care to check that it was actually a word – I suppose I should have thought to also check that it was the right word…

          • Nick says:

            I would consider bad breath a perfect example of things you should not get thrown out of any community worth of the name for, to be honest.

            I wasn’t suggesting anyone be thrown out of a community for bad breath. But bad breath is also a perfect example of the kind of thing honest criticism and, if necessary, peer pressure ought to put to rest. And ostracism when used as peer pressure is not exile*, since ostracism is conditional and temporary by design; I’ve seen it fail before the desired effect is achieved simply because the folks employing it get tired of it.

            *I’m aware the term is just as often used for the sort of indefinite exile that e.g. bullied children are subjected to, so mea culpa if my narrower use here was confusing.

            Whether you enjoy rolling dice to hit an orc for 1d8+1 damage may be an absolutely horrible basis for a collective identity, it’s also the best thing a lot of people can come up with.

            Yeah, totally. But my specific concern here may be a bit different than yours; I’m thinking in particular of neurodivergent or socially awkward folks for whom the norms (if not always the culture) of geek communities like an RPG or gaming group make for an easier fit. In these cases you must in certain respects accept someone as they are, and it’s hard to know where to draw the line… it’s easy this way to fall right into GSF #2. This is getting uncomfortably close to a CW topic, but it was some of the discussions following the reproductive ants thing that got me interested in this. Digest those and I think you’ll understand where I was coming from here, and where the second-guessing that I voiced above still comes from; that it’s not my job, or anyone’s, to enforce Mainlander norms on the Islands, and whatever my motives, doing so may well be destructive, as Patterson suggests in the case of the tech industry:

            Many of the tools and jargon that Sumana Harihareswara, formerly of now-defunct feminist protection racket the Ada Initiative, calls the “inessential weirdnesses” of tech — a term borrowed from activist and sociologist-of-activism Betsy Leondar-Wright, but mutilated into a conformity-promoting shadow of its former self — are inessential to managers and most neurotypicals, but relevant to the people who actually make technology. Technical terminology is as essential for precise communication about math and computer science topics as names are for precise communication about other people. And given that both email and IRC support text, standalone graphical, and browser-based interfaces, how is anyone harmed when some developers choose a console interface and others choose a GUI? These are faux-concrete concerns, presented in the name of “inclusiveness,” but conveniently serving to put those filthy nerdy console jockeys in their place in the business pecking order — firmly beneath the modern, progress-loving types who write the checks. “Our preferences align with yours, non-technical founders and executives,” their subtext coos. “We’ll help you totalize them across the people whose effort keeps your customers’ money coming in.”

            So to recap, since this has gotten really long and rambling: I hope you can see how a few years ago, coming off of essays like that, I felt attempts at enacting even fairly basic standards may well be the Mainlander telling the Islanders how to act, but, looking back, may well have been me falling into an overly strict interpretation, namely Geek Social Fallacy #2. Hence the origin for my current concern as well as my second-guessing.

            That’s a good point. If your group stays together exactly as long as it remains fun and no longer, then everyone who has a vested interest in keeping it together will be terrified of rocking the boat. If everyone accepts the group staying together as an end in itself, then you can have a blazing row and spend the next six months giving each other the stink eye… but the world won’t end, and eventually you might manage to move past it.

            I can tell you that I’ve roleplayed with people I’ve absolutely despised, and still felt it was a valid use of my time. But then, that’s because I do in fact see “make roleplaying happen” as a goal in itself that goes beyond social interaction… so maybe you can’t form a true community if you’re intentionally trying to form a community, but only as a byproduct of trying to achieve something else? I dunno.

            I think we’re still coming at this from different angles. I agree with the first paragraph, but the second paragraph confuses me—it sounds to me like all else being equal the second one is more like a real community, and the first one sounds more “strictly business”—like [generic, not specifically] you feel free to take your toys and go someplace else if someone’s wrecking the sandbox. But an exit strategy would quickly dissolve a community like that; so what means are being employed to keep it together, are you just tolerating the folks who wreck the sandbox, or are you using criticism or some form of peer pressure to bring them in line, or what? I ask because it sounds from the second paragraph like you believe the first is more like a real community, insofar as it’s united by a common purpose outside of just “keep folks together.”

            I’ve written a lot now and I still want to respond to Kevin… I’ll try to get back to this later today.

          • Baeraad says:

            # Nick:

            I’m afraid that I feel very confused as to what you’re saying – you seem to be linking to three articles arguing in favour of accepting people (or at least groups) on their own terms, and then you say that they explain why you are in favour of stricter in-group policing?

            Of course, if you’re just trying to say that you’re in two minds on the subject, I can relate to that. I don’t see any good solutions anywhere either. I think I instinctively err on the side of tolerance, though, due to being very conflict-averse – to me, pointing out bad behaviour is in itself terribly bad behaviour, so the behaviour pointed out needs to be really extremely bad to justify it.

            As for how to keep a “real” community together, I guess the idea I was fumbling at was that it’s not something that you do from within, but something that is at least partly enforced by existing conditions. Traditional communities are based on simple geography – you’re going to see everyone all the time whether you get along with them or not, so you’d better learn to get along with them. Or if everyone is coming together to get something done that matters beyond their relationships to each other, then they need to manage to work together on the task at hand and the only reason for someone to get exiled is if they are being a hindrance to it.

            As for the halitosis, I maintain that that’s one step removed from complaining that someone is victimising you by going around looking ugly – though I’ll admit that I have an abnormally weak sense of smell, which may play a part in that perspective. :p

          • Nick says:

            Baeraad,

            Right, I knew this was going to be confusing because I presented my more recent view first…. You’re right that I’m of two minds. A few years ago I was convinced to be much more tolerant; after seeing the results of that I’m less sure, and thought the Geek Social Fallacies (part. 1, 2, and 5) were a good codification of the assumptions I made which I think were in error.

            I think I instinctively err on the side of tolerance, though, due to being very conflict-averse – to me, pointing out bad behaviour is in itself terribly bad behaviour, so the behaviour pointed out needs to be really extremely bad to justify it.

            I’m very conflict averse too, and I worry that this assumption—that pointing out bad behavior is itself very bad behavior—is a bad one. When I say above that I think it produces dysfunctional communities, I want to be clear that actually functional communities, by contrast, don’t need to abide by it. That’s not to say that they never do, or that they abide by some particular principle of straightforward criticism or something, but I think it’s generally a feature of dysfunctional communities and not functional communities. So if someone quotes GSF #2, it had better be followed with, “and friends deserve to know when they’ve gone wrong, and deserve to be told it tactfully and charitably” and not some awful alternative like “and incidental group acquaintance #342 deserves to be told off” which it might, in your experience, have been cover for.

            As for how to keep a “real” community together, I guess the idea I was fumbling at was that it’s not something that you do from within, but something that is at least partly enforced by existing conditions. Traditional communities are based on simple geography – you’re going to see everyone all the time whether you get along with them or not, so you’d better learn to get along with them. Or if everyone is coming together to get something done that matters beyond their relationships to each other, then they need to manage to work together on the task at hand and the only reason for someone to get exiled is if they are being a hindrance to it.

            Yeah I agree that—at least generally—a community is not a totally voluntary thing (your original other condition, I note, is that things be weakly mandatory). And your and Kevin’s examples of neighbors, coworkers, etc, are good ones. Need-based is another good one, with churches and other organizations fulfilling people’s religious and social needs.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Randy M

            Found a copy of The Great Good Place (2nd edition) at my local library, and have already checked it out and started reading. What’s interesting is the age: the 1st edition was 1989, and this one is 1999. And yet most of it identifies trends that are still relevant — because they’re still ongoing, and even worse now. On the other hand are the parts where it’s age shows: when he talks about “VCRs and satellite dishes”, and the total absense of the internent.

          • Baeraad says:

            I’m very conflict averse too, and I worry that this assumption—that pointing out bad behavior is itself very bad behavior—is a bad one. When I say above that I think it produces dysfunctional communities, I want to be clear that actually functional communities, by contrast, don’t need to abide by it. That’s not to say that they never do, or that they abide by some particular principle of straightforward criticism or something, but I think it’s generally a feature of dysfunctional communities and not functional communities. So if someone quotes GSF #2, it had better be followed with, “and friends deserve to know when they’ve gone wrong, and deserve to be told it tactfully and charitably” and not some awful alternative like “and incidental group acquaintance #342 deserves to be told off” which it might, in your experience, have been cover for.

            Okay, now I think I see what you mean. And it’s true, the people I know who live in more close-knit communities tend to be pretty vocal about what they don’t like about their neighbours, while at the same time showing every sign of genuinely caring about those neighbours. So excessive politeness may indeed not be a feature of a healthy community.

            On the other hand, I question whether excessive politeness is the cause of an unhealthy community or just a necessary measure to keep it from going from “unhealthy” to “dead.” Like I said before, fandoms and hobbies don’t make for very stable communities – they’ll shatter if you put some strain on them. So if one of those is the only source of togetherness you can hope to have, your choice might just be to bite your tongue and let other people get away with acting badly, or else see the whole thing either break apart?

            Or if not break apart, then turn into something even worse. I mean, this isn’t all conjecture, is it? We’ve seen what happens to online communities that react to the anything-goes anarchy of the net at large by deciding to call out any sign of undesirable behaviour. That never seems to lead to a healthier environment – it just leads to one where everyone is paranoid either about others hiding badness from them or for having their own badness exposed.

            So I still think that excessive tolerance may be the best option in some situations… while admitting that those situations aren’t particularly happy ones. Unhealthy communities may be the best that some of us can hope for.

    • Lambert says:

      You mean doctors getting paid more than fast-food workers?
      I’d agree with the notion that there’s generally too much income inequality, but that the optimum amount is nonzero.

    • Senjiu says:

      When I read that earlier today it scared the crap out of me. It still does.
      It reminded me of this Eliezer Yudkowsky post from a month ago or so:
      https://intelligence.org/2017/10/13/fire-alarm/
      Because if that isn’t the smoke starting to fill the room and telling you that there might be problems just behind the next door I don’t know what is. What’s the next headline on the topic gonna be?

      I look at it a bit like a recipe that spells doom.. what combination of AI features do we need to be doomed and which of those do we have already?
      And how much time do we have left to to solve the alignment problem or make enough progress to come up with a solution that might not work forever but buys us enough time to solve the rest of it?

      I deeply fear that one day we’ll wake up and simply notice that it’s too late.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Want to make a concrete bet involving money on a specific thing you are worried about?

      • baconbacon says:

        Why doesn’t EY note predictions about nuclear fusion being X years off (or any number of examples)? Because he is pulling a bait and switch, trying to make threatening AI seem inevitable to the same degree that flight and the A bomb now seem inevitable.

        Why should we devote time and resources to AI issues when some madman could be in their basement using CRISPR to create a super virus that will wipe out all of humanity? We won’t know that it has happened until it is to late, but we can surely see the smoke (advances in gene manipulation) that make it possible. We absolutely have to do X, Y and Z right now (despite pretty flimsy evidence that X, Y and Z will prevent such an event from occurring).

        This isn’t just (potentially) a waste of resources, at the end of WW2 there was support for attacking/bombing the Soviet Union on the basis that once they got the bomb they would do it to us. These people got a lot of ‘smoke’ correct, they were right about Stalin being evil, ruthless and all kinds of mean, scary and nasty. You can be right and still be wrong.

    • actinide meta says:

      Architecture search is promising, and perhaps even scary, but I think this way of summarizing the news isn’t very useful.

      It’s really not very surprising, given how “simple” the architectures of these classifiers are, that (carefully targeted) automated search can find small improvements. While this is impressive, take a look at figure 6 in the paper. Basically the “meta-AI” is just barely outperforming “random search”. (The paper refers to random search, without irony, as “considered to be a very strong baseline”)

      So basically: it’s easy to slightly improve on the performance of human-designed CNN architectures, which like all human-designed architectures are optimized partially for understandability rather than performance alone.

  11. Deiseach says:

    Am I just hopelessly biased and viewing anything to the right of me as right-leaning, or are the SSC commentators actually to the right of the lurkers?

    We of the jack-booted right (because that’s the only right there is, as I am informed by hyperventilating concern pieces morning,noon and night) have tyrannised our way into seizing control of the means of production – sorry, wrong totalitarianism. Seizing control of the commentary boxes is what I meant to say.

    We drive off, by dog-piling, any poor liberal/leftist who dares raise their bowed head and timorously type out a tentative opinion of their own. You can see this in action by going back in the history and reading the plaints of the driven-off. A certain former temporary participant is particularly plangent about the Evil Right-Wingers who stoned them so hard, they were forced to flee for their lives and abandon their experiment in empathy (sample lamentation from over on their blog: “Kind of like how “rationality” is perverted to support alt-right eumemes at SSC”).

    Heh, heh, heh! Tremble before the fearsome conquering might of our eumemes, puny leftists!

    The Rightful Caliph is also too pure and good for this world, so is too charitable and inclined to see the best in others and ascribe good intentions to them, hence why he does not smite mightily with the ban-hammer and crush our infestation.

    Or, contrariwise, some of us are mouthier than others and when given a chance to express our opinions and views without being hopped on as “You’re a Nazi!”, we express ourselves with sprawling freedom and frequency, so we look more numerous and/or active than others who are not conservative/right-aligned/right-wing/alt-right/You’re A Nazi!

    • liskantope says:

      This is a phenomenon that [link to old SSC post which I think exists but am too lazy to look up]has been discussed before[/link]: the spaces which make a priority of being equally open to all parts of some ideological spectrum are going to get dominated by that part of it whose ideas are on the whole least tolerated elsewhere. I remember this being a major issues at /r/femradebates (haven’t checked up on there in a long time, though).

    • Wolfy says:

      We drive off, by dog-piling, any poor liberal/leftist who dares raise their bowed head and timorously type out a tentative opinion of their own.

      Well from what I’ve seen, pretty much, yeah.

      some of us are mouthier than others

      Indeed.

    • Zorgon says:

      It’s a little unfair to use b*******s as if they were a central example, don’t you think?

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s a little unfair to use b*******s as if they were a central example, don’t you think?

        If you are referring to the person to whom I think you are referring, indeed they were not a central example of anything except extreme narcissism (if you turn up here of all places, refer to your self-proclaimed genius while commenting in text speak, and expect to be uncritically acclaimed as ‘wow tell us all about your startling insights into the red brain phenotypic divergence!’ with no “prove it, show your workings”, then you have another think coming).

        But given that a substantial section of the commentors over on the sub-reddit like to roll their exasperated eyes about the right-wingers on SSC proper, given that the favourite accusation of bias by the left-leaning does involve “dog-piling”, and given that the person referred to above likes to toss off on their blog little bon-mots as follows, where people who don’t know the background to the ‘flouncing off declaring they’d been witch-hunted and online-stalked into a state of terror’ series of interactions are going to take their characterisation as fair, true and accurate:

        My first thought on seeing the images from Charlottesville was, hey, I know these guys! Looks like a random sample of the SSC commentariat.

        then I am going to snarl right back at them. In my turn I am tired of the whole “if you’re not a card-carrying Democrat or even better a member of the Socialist party, an ancap or some other variety of rare political specimen, then YOU’RE A NAZI” attitude all too prevalent right now*, and I’m going to be just as broad-brush about THE LEFT AS ONE HOMOGENOUS LUMP until maybe possibly it finally sinks in that “hey, maybe a guy proudly proclaiming himself to be a Marxist and a Socialist should not be quite so enthusiastic about the modern resurgence of McCarthyism, maybe, you think?”

        *EDIT: I don’t mean the general run of left-leaning/left of centre commentors on here, who are decent about not whipping out the YOU FASCIST RACIST NAZI card every time anyone challenges or disagrees with them, but this attitude is oozing in everywhere else online.

        • rlms says:

          Why do you read that person’s blog? And can I have a link? I enjoyed many of her comments.

          • Randy M says:

            I remember stumbling upon it by googling a phrase that she initially overused. But that was… about a year and a half ago, wasn’t it? Anyway, if you are looking for it now, it’s startlingly easy to find.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t follow it, I nipped over in the aftermath to see if I could figure out what the hell they were banging on about here with that social physics notion (it being their own blog, maybe over there they would DAMN WELL EXPLAIN IT?). Bad idea and I’m not going to waste more time fighting about or over it.

            If you want to read it, do as I did – with my advanced hacker online stalking skills – and Google the name they used on here, you’ll find it!

          • Aapje says:

            Here is the link (ROT13):

            uggcf://ovagpunbf.jbeqcerff.pbz

        • toastengineer says:

          “if you’re not a card-carrying Democrat or even better a member of the Socialist party, an ancap or some other variety of rare political specimen, then YOU’RE A NAZI”

          Ancaps and libertarians aren’t considered Basically Nazis? News to me.

          • quaelegit says:

            They definitely aren’t on SSC — David Friedman is basically the pinnacle of respectability around here 😛

            (Since I don’t hang out in any other fora where ancaps are common, I can’t speak to whether they’re are considered “BNs” elsewhere…)

          • toastengineer says:

            I didn’t mean on here; we were talking about, well, the kinds of people who like to call other people BNs.

        • Zorgon says:

          But this is what I mean. b*******s is pretty much the nadir of SSC commenters, which is an impressive feat considering some of the people we end up with.

          As much as I may disagree with some of the self-identified leftists here, none of the current crop are anywhere near as bad, and smearing them with the same brush as b*******s isn’t helpful.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Can someone please give me a hint?

          • rlms says:

            There used to be a frequent commenter here called bint chaos (no space). She was widely disliked, presumably for her alt-right beliefs about the violence inherent in Islam.

            (Epistemic status: trolling)

          • Aapje says:

            I think that she is better called alt-left, basically a SJW, but with reduced charity for Islam, rather than the opposite; which is arguably a more consistent belief system.

            Anyway, she said that she came here to learn to understand the Red Tribe using empathy, but she showed remarkable little ability to understand opinions different from her own or even accept that many people here are not Red Tribe. She also got schooled by David Friedman, who knows quite a bit more about Islam and many other topics than her and instead of admitting to being wrong, she just changed the subject and then later went back to the same claims. Mr Friedman is generally quite mellow, but I sensed him seething behind the keyboard, as she clearly managed to piss him off immensely.

            After a lot of unproductive discussions, she eventually got banned. The comments just before she got banned are a good example of her driving our esteemed David Friedman to despair.

        • Being a know-all, and using weird jargon. Two things never tolerated in the rationalsphere.

    • cactus head says:

      I see a lot of left wingers say that the SSC comments and subreddit are really right wing, whereas right wingers are more inclined to say that lots of left wing stuff is tolerated, or they mention Scott’s commie tumblr friends. But I see more complaining posts written from the left wing POV. That’s one of the reasons I think this place and the reddit are pretty right wing—just the way I like it 🙂

    • JulieK says:

      If you want to be snarky, how about “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    • DeWitt says:

      Am I just hopelessly biased and viewing anything to the right of me as right-leaning, or are the SSC commentators actually to the right of the lurkers?

      The left-leaning lurkers don’t much look forward to being treated as if they’re strawmen, as this post very, very well demonstrates, so they(we?) decide to spend their free time arranging flowers and drinking tea.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I know this is your default mode, and that it reflects your general dissatisfaction with the state of the world, or something like it.

      But seriously, why do you keep getting pass on this? Why is this aggrieved lashing out in enmity as a default posting style tolerated?

      This isn’t good argument. It’s not charity or steel-manning. You actively scan for the internet for things that will make you angry, and then post them here attributing them to people here that you perceive to be in your outgroup.

      • bean says:

        I’m pretty sure this was supposed to be a child of the ‘is the SSC commentariat right-leaning’ post above that got made top-level by accident.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I know that (also Deiseach makes this “mistake” a fair amount, and I think it is actually intentional).

          Note sentences like “(because that’s the only right there is, as I am informed by hyperventilating concern pieces morning,noon and night) “

  12. liskantope says:

    SSCers with extensive knowledge of psychiatry: what do you think of this Quora answer about depression? It sort of jives with some of the intuition I’ve gradually arrived at, but I really have no expertise whatsoever in this field.

    • rahien.din says:

      It’s bad.

      The first suggested reason is “The Red Tribe is doing terrible things, so of course people have the sads!” This seems really implausible, and useless, and flag-wavey, and spiteful. And wrong.

      The second suggested reason is : some sort of constructive interference between manipulative pharma companies, patients seeking quick fixes, and obliging doctors. That could account for some of the increase. But, consider what it would look like if A. the prevalence of depression was independently increasing, B. pharma companies were trying to capitalize on an expanding market, C. patients had heard there were effective medicines and were seeking them out, and D. doctors were confident in those medicines and willing to prescribe them. It would look exactly like the situation described in the Quora answer. The world in which B, C, and D occur in concert without A to incite them is much weirder. The world in which B+C+D+!A occurs only in the instance of illusory depression is even weirder than that! So this second suggested reason is actually the absence of a reason.

      • Garrett says:

        As someone with only tangential knowledge, I’d point out that most anti-depressants are now generic medications. If you look at this list of anti-depressants, you’ll see that almost none are covered by patents any more. The few which are, are in categories where there are lots of generics available. Just about every anti-depressant you can name from TV commercials, etc., is now a generic.

      • Nornagest says:

        The first suggested reason is “The Red Tribe is doing terrible things, so of course people have the sads!” This seems really implausible, and useless, and flag-wavey, and spiteful. And wrong.

        Yeah. But I do kinda wonder what living in a media environment where we’re all constantly being milked for outrage is doing to our mental health.

        That’s not either tribe’s fault (not the rank and file, anyway; there are institutions that I’d be happy to get out the torches and pitchforks for), but it’d probably end up looking like “the Red Tribe is doing terrible things” from the inside if you’re living in a Blue Tribe environment and aren’t feeling jaded or idiosyncratic enough yet.

        • rahien.din says:

          Causation could go the other way. Could be that we’re just full of outrage, and this is how we are currently milking it, and this is better. For instance, we’re not burning people alive anymore.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The use of antidepressants has skyrocketed since 1986 because doctors decided that Prozac worked and was safe, so they treated more people. In theory this is good, except that it doesn’t work for mild depression and it is probably less safe for patients than older antidepressants (though safer for doctors). But regardless whether this was a good idea, it has probably had a distorting effect on the diagnosis of depression, so it’s pretty hard to tell whether depression has increased, or just antidepressants. Generic Prozac entered the market in 2001, which is probably the explanation of the particular increase mentioned in the answer.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I should say that increasing the usage of antidepressants was an improvement over the status quo levels of use. But maybe it would have been better to use the older antidepressants.

  13. Machine Interface says:

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus on evaluating the intelligence of penguins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZmx0jml1jk (some pretty spot on jabs at IQ researchers).

  14. James says:

    People who know game (paging Nabil ad Dajjal?): what’s worth reading? I’ve read and liked Mark Manson’s Models. His emphasis on integrity rather than faking it and running routines suited me well. But I suspect it’s not the whole picture, and I’d like to read a bit more. But the rest of the material I can get hold of seems… mixed.

    I’ve seen “Juggler method” recommended by smart people, but I don’t think I was that impressed by the material I could find of his—basically a PDF of forum posts, I think. (Maybe he has better stuff that I missed?) Roissy turned me off (way, way off) at first, but on looking at it again (maybe after reading some worse stuff inbetween) it’s actually starting to look a little better—at least his prose is good, and I feel like the quality of thought is good enough that there might be some salvageable gems in amongst the dross.

    Are there any others that are good or might be useful?

    I might have some other related questions, but I’m reluctant to clog up Scott’s nice clean message board with them. If anyone’s willing to discuss this sort of thing by email, then let me know and/or drop me a line—you can see my email at the URL my username links to.

    • maintain says:

      RSD has pretty much taken over the seduction training market.

      • James says:

        But that’s a different question to whether they’re any good!

        Isn’t that Tyler Durden’s thing? I’m a little bit creeped out by him, admittedly coloured by his unflattering portrayal in The Game. (I don’t know whether that portrayal’s fair.) He strikes me as a little bit of a sociopath, and I’d prefer not to read them.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’ve watched some of their videos and it’s pretty impressive how they can walk up to girls and within minutes, seduce them. If they were frauds, then it’s impressive how long they’ve been able to sustain it.

          • bean says:

            Selection bias?

          • maintain says:

            Yeah, they record a bunch of videos and then only show the most impressive ones.

            On the other hand, is it really so hard to believe that people are going out to bars and meeting people and having sex with them? It’s not like it’s some improbable thing that requires debunking.

            I’ve met many men in real life who have good game. From what I’ve seen with my own eyes, nothing in RSD’s videos strikes me as improbable.

          • Matt M says:

            If you are a socially awkward nerd who finds it unbelievably difficult to even get even below-average girls to kiss you, and you mostly hang out with other people for whom that is true, then yes – men who are successful at regularly obtaining sex from very attractive women appear to be some sort of demigods. It just depends on your frame of reference.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Matt M,

            Personal question, and feel free to ignore it, but how old are you? Because your description here matches up with me and my friends pretty well in my early to mid twenties. Now in my early forties, I’m happily married with three kids, and most of those friends have been similarly successful in pairing off. Not easy to hear when it’s you, but it may just be that your time hasn’t yet come.

          • Matt M says:

            Early 30s.

            I sound more angry and bitter than I actually am, though. I have accepted the very strong likelihood that I simply will never have a normal romantic relationship and am fairly comfortable with it. No longer really actively trying to find one. Not worth the time/effort.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not worth the time/effort.

            Now *that* outlook I find bizarre.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m an extreme introvert who hates most/all social interaction with the exception of “netflix and chill” (both in the literal and suggestive sense).

            Not many women are willing to have a relationship that accommodates this. Or at least, not for less than $200/hr.

            As I advance in my career and make more money and have less free time, my time to myself becomes even more valuable. I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m an extreme introvert who hates most/all social interaction with the exception of “netflix and chill” (both in the literal and suggestive sense).

            I’ll give you three tries to guess what the lowest value of this here NEO-PI-R result is.

            Not many women are willing to have a relationship that accommodates this. Or at least, not for less than $200/hr.

            As I advance in my career and make more money and have less free time, my time to myself becomes even more valuable. I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

            I don’t want to be uncharitable, but that really sounds like sour grapes. (Nevermind that you don’t go to bars to find a wife. It’s like the antithesis of the place one finds wife-candidates.)

            What are your expectations of a suitable female for you?

          • I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

            I’m happily married and have been for decades, and spend essentially no time in bars or walking on the beach. It’s true that I met my current wife by going to folk dancing at the university where I was teaching at the time–a colleague’s wife had suggested it as a good place to meet girls–and I don’t particularly enjoy folk dancing.

            Or in other words, you should distinguish between activities that let you find a mate and activities you will engage in once you have found her. It’s worth bearing some cost in the former if the returns from the latter are positive. And I expect there are quite a lot of women who also don’t want to spend their time in bars or walking on the beach.

            None of that implies that your choice is wrong, just that it might be.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I don’t care at all whether Matt M finds a significant other or not, nor do I have any opinion on whether it would be worthwhile for him. He’s in charge of his own life!

            But I note that I know a lot of pretty strong introverts who have successful romantic relationships. And that I kind of doubt the power of insights that “guys who have no romantic success and seemingly little contact with women” have into women.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t, man, there are a lot of introverted girls out there. Mrs. ADBG spends most of her time listening to books on CD, knitting, watching the CW shows, etc. She does not like going out much, does not drink, and has few friends. I know a lot of women like this.

            But most of these girls do like SOME social activity. We had 25 people over for Thanksgiving and probably will have something like 20 over for Christmas. We usually have 20-30 people over my birthday, too.

            So, yeah, you’ll have to make an adjustment for these kinds of social activities, at least for the introverted girls I know. I do a know a guy or two that are so introverted they don’t even like these activities, and it’s definitely a sore point their relationships. But it’s definitely worth it, at least from the guy’s perspective.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t, man, there are a lot of introverted girls out there. Mrs. ADBG spends most of her time listening to books on CD, knitting, watching the CW shows, etc. She does not like going out much, does not drink, and has few friends. I know a lot of women like this.

            The problem is, as far as I can tell, extroverted men don’t necessarily prefer extroverted women. If anything, introverted women are in higher demand than average. So how do I meet a girl that sits at home knitting? I have no particular advantage here over the extroverted man. We’re both equally unlikely to meet her.

            But if we both happen to see her at some random public venue (work, grocery store, whatever) he’s a lot more likely to approach her than I am.

            I’ll also emphasize that yes, extremely introverted for me. Not slightly. Extremely. If it were up to me, I’d basically never leave the house. The whole reason I’m going hard into a lucrative but stressful career is the hope that I can retire in my mid-40s. Not to travel the world, but to move somewhere cheap and be a shut-in who plays video games all day. This is my aspiration for life. There are not many women who find that desirable. Even the self-described introverts.

          • Matt M says:

            What are your expectations of a suitable female for you?

            Human. Female. Puts out. Doesn’t nag too much.

            Those are my only demands. Everything else is a question of whether they are willing to put up with my habits.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ll also throw out that I think I have a lower sex drive than most men. Not zero, but lower than average. Which makes me less willing to sacrifice convenience and my own personal preferences to obtain female approval. I know a whole lot of guys who will move heaven and Earth for a slight chance at getting laid. Which is fine for them, but it’s just not really my style. And it’s further complicated by the fact that those guys are my direct competition. They want it more than I do, quite literally, so it’s only natural that I would lose out to them far more often than I would win.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, most girls will not find that desirable, and most guys will not find that desirable either. So your best bet is probably to just play MMOs and make friends with the girls that play those. I know several couples that met through WOW or Diablo or whatever.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. But even that’s tough. 90% of the “girls” I meet in WoW already have boyfriends. Like I said, introverted women are not waiting for introverted men. They hook up with the extroverted guys who approach them in real life.

            It’s “sour grapes” in the sense that I am annoyed that the universe is set up in such a way as to result in an outcome where I basically miss out on a nearly universal human experience. But at the same time, to the extent that you believe “some people are really better off just being alone” I definitely seem like a pretty obvious candidate for that, right. I’m pretty well suited to it. I’m annoyed that there aren’t more people who think the way I do and who would find my qualities desirable, but hey, such is life.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            I’ll give you three tries to guess what the lowest value of this here NEO-PI-R result is.

            Could you explain what that image/table you linked to is, and what we’re supposed to be taking away from it? (And how that’s relevant to this discussion?) Because I, for one, don’t get what you’re trying to say.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C.

            Ekstrawertycznosc seems Polish for extroversion and his score is 0-70, suggesting that he is in the most introverted tier of this test.

          • Viliam says:

            I think I have a lower sex drive than most men. Not zero, but lower than average. Which makes me less willing to sacrifice convenience and my own personal preferences to obtain female approval.

            I suspect you may see “obtaining female approval” as something separated from activities you actually want to be doing. Allow me to show you a different perspective: most (not all) things that “females approve” are actually good for you!

            Taking the first stereotypes that come to my mind, women prefer men who are tall, rich, fit, powerful, dominant, intelligent, good at telling jokes… uhm, I probably forgot some important things, but let’s work with this.

            Most of these traits you would want to have even if there was zero correlation with what women want, simply because they would benefit you personally. Being rich allows you to buy things you need or want. Being fit allows you to live longer and better. Dominant behavior and telling jokes are also useful outside sexual relationships, for example in your career. Therefore, even a rational asexual person should try to be more rich, fit, and socially dominant.

            In this sense, men are the luckier sex: what is expected of us correlates well with what is good for us. Imagine yourself as a woman: you would be expected to have big boobs, be submissive, and not exceed average intelligence — but big boobs are otherwise useless, and being submissive and dumb, or just being perceived as one, may hurt your career. Here we have tension between sexual and professional expectations. But for men, these things are much better aligned.

            Start exercising; not because women like it, but because it improves your life. Optimize your finances; not because women like it, but because it is good for you. Practice social skills; not because women like it, but because they are useful in million different situations. Etc. And if you do these things right, as a side effect women may suddenly become more interested in you. The worst case is that women will remain unimpressed, and you will only get a longer and more convenient life.

          • Matt M says:

            Most of these traits you would want to have even if there was zero correlation with what women want, simply because they would benefit you personally.

            But I don’t particularly care about any of those things. I want money to the extent that it enables me to, at some point in the future, do nothing but play videogames all the time. I hate exercising. I hate being social. I’m already more successful in my career than I ever possibly imagined I would be and have little to no motivation to advance further.

            I’m not super depressed or suicidal in any way, but I’m fairly agnostic towards living a long time. I don’t hate life, but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. It just is what it is.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Matt: it is 100% possible to learn to like exercise (possibly “retrain your mind/body.) Also consider that most people’s version of exercise is boring and unpleasant (running on a treadmill or doing circuits or whatever idiots in Planet Fitness do) but is also not actually good exercise.

            If you do actually efficient and effective exercise, the kind that works muscles and releases testosterone, you will like it more than you expect. Lift heavy weights hard, then rest a lot. Rock climb. Do some jiujitsu. Yes, I’m biased.

          • Anonymous says:

            Human. Female. Puts out. Doesn’t nag too much.

            Those are my only demands. Everything else is a question of whether they are willing to put up with my habits.

            OK, then you should troll the 29-35 demographic. There are lots of women who want to get married RIGHT NOW, and are willing to overlook a man’s weaknesses, as long as he can bring in the dough and make her pregnant. Just do your due diligence about finding out her true character; a review of her social media might help determine if she’s only suppressing her innate insufferableness.

            Oh, and never reveal that your standards are low. That won’t help at all.

          • Aapje says:

            @Viliam

            All those things have (sometimes enormous) opportunity costs, some people lack the traits to be good at those things and some people hate the experience of doing those things.

            Your argument seems little more than the typical mind fallacy, like a famous rock star telling others to get into a band to strike it rich and get groupies going after them. That is horrible advice for anyone who doesn’t have rock star talent. Now, your advice is probably right for far more men, because the requirements are lower, but they are not non-existent.

            I also fundamentally disagree that women only demand things from men that are good for them. For example, they commonly demand excessive stoicism, which is harmful.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Of course, such women are presumably the most likely to leave the guy after the children are old enough and/or resenting him for not fulfilling more of her desires than having a sperm/cash dispenser.

            That high risk of failure may be the best option for a very desperate man for whom being single is unbearable, or who really wants children or such, but it seems like playing Russian roulette.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            Sure, sure. I’m just taking his requirements at face value.

          • Viliam says:

            @Matt M

            I want money to the extent that it enables me to, at some point in the future, do nothing but play videogames all the time. I hate exercising. I hate being social.

            A day spent playing computer games, with no worries about tomorrow, not having to do anything physically nontrivial, and not having to meet non-rationalists… that sounds like a day in paradise to me, too. Okay, I wouldn’t want every day to be like that, and I also have dreams other than playing games (e.g. I would like to create my own computer game at some moment, and I enjoy giving lectures), but I understand the appeal.

            Still, maximizing your expected lifetime means (a) increasing the probability that you will indeed live to your retirement, and (b) increasing the time spent playing computer games when retired. There are pretty much just two things you need to do:

            1) Eat healthy stuff, which more or less means lots of fresh vegetables, no refined sugar, and very little salt. If that sounds unappealing, that’s only because you don’t know how to use spices. At the beginning, the new recipes will be difficult, but do them three times and it becomes automatic.

            2) The exercise can be minimized into 1 hour every other day, at your home, with breaks between the series spent browsing web.

            @Aapje

            All those things have (sometimes enormous) opportunity costs, some people lack the traits to be good at those things and some people hate the experience of doing those things.

            The costs of new habits are typically greatest at the beginning. With healthy food and exercise, the initial costs are to read some literature, to learn new recipes, to find where to buy stuff, to install some minimum exercising equipment, and perhaps to set up a system of reminders. That can easily take 2 weeks worth of time.

            But after this initial phase, you have the most important stuff at home, you know where to buy (or get delivered from) more stuff, you have memorized it, so now you barely spend any time thinking about it. It still costs you some time to actually cook the things and exercise; about 1 hour a day, if you do it right.

            Financially, healthy food costs about the same as unhealthy food, and exercising at home is free.

            Your argument seems little more than the typical mind fallacy, like a famous rock star telling others to get into a band to strike it rich and get groupies going after them. That is horrible advice for anyone who doesn’t have rock star talent.

            Oh yeah, I should remind Matt M of the greatest risk involved: if he tries this and succeeds, a few years later everyone will dismiss his success with “this was easy for you, because you were already born fit; go check your metabolic privilege!” /s

            More seriously, I don’t think this analogy fits here. If you try becoming a rock star, and you fail to get to the top, you spent a lot of time for maybe nothing. With healthy lifestyle, partial success still makes life better.

            I also fundamentally disagree that women only demand things from men that are good for them. For example, they commonly demand excessive stoicism, which is harmful.

            I agree; I specifically wrote about “most (not all) things that females approve”. Things like violent behavior and taking high risks for no good reason are stupid.

          • Matt M says:

            If you do actually efficient and effective exercise, the kind that works muscles and releases testosterone, you will like it more than you expect.

            Nope. I’ve tried lots of different “kinds” of exercise. I haven’t enjoyed any of them. It’s not that they were all unbelievably miserable, just significantly less enjoying than whatever else I would otherwise be doing with my free time. Exercise never makes me feel good, never makes me feel better, more energetic, etc. Yes – going without it makes me slightly fatter than I otherwise would be, which makes me less attractive to women. Oh well. Don’t care. My life is my own and I choose to live comfortably and spend my time on the things I most enjoy doing.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, then you should troll the 29-35 demographic.

            I have been. I have more success now than I did in my younger days, sure. But still not much.

            I guess at a high level, I have both explicit and implicit standards. My explicit standards are ridiculously low, as I said above. But, I also essentially refuse to change my own behavior to make myself more appealing to women. This, in a sense, creates a series of implicit standards that are rather high. Like, I myself have not said “I demand an introverted woman.” But if I refuse to compromise on my own introverted habits, that essentially creates a demand of “I require a woman who is fully comfortable dealing with an extremely introverted person.”

            And yes, when you start to add up all of my “implicit demands” (i.e. – here is what someone would have to be okay with to desire a relationship with me), the list gets long and exclusive, such that my inability to find someone makes perfect logical sense, hence the fact that I’ve given up on it.

            Whether or not this qualifies as me being “too picky” is probably up for debate. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that I have high standards. The only standards I have are that I won’t compromise when it comes to my inherent personality traits or my general comfort and philosophy in life.

            I’d also point out that when women talk this way, people generally look upon it positively as some sort of heroic thing. “My man needs to love me for who I am or I don’t need him!” Responses are always things like “Good for you, girlfriend!” And yet, when a man says something similar, it’s all “Shut up and work out more. Make yourself more appealing.”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      What is thy bidding, o summoner?

      I haven’t read much in the last few years so there’s probably a lot of good stuff out there that I’m unaware of. That said:

      The most helpful books I’ve read were Bang and Day Bang by Roosh V. Bang focuses on club game, which is hateful to me, but encapsulates the core insights. Day Bang refines that into a tool box which you can employ in the countless random encounters you’ll have with women during your daily life. They’re both pretty cheap so I won’t share the PDFs.

      The only big weakness of those is that their age shows a bit. They were both written pre-Tinder and so they’re focused almost entirely on face-to-face pickups. That’s still the best way to meet women but for the best results you’re going to want to supplement that with a dating profile. There are a lot of resources out there for optimizing your number of matches but I can’t recommend anything specific. Once you’ve matched though, normal text game as he discusses applies.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Edit: re-reading your post, this seems like the opposite of what you want. IMO it might still be helpful but maybe not for you right now.

        Also this isn’t exactly Game advice but there was an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit on supposed psychics and spirit mediums which really helped me tighten my Game.

        Cold reading is a set of techniques that “psychics” use to make it seem as though they’re very insightful. The gist is that you make vague statements that invite the person to volunteer personal information and then repeat that information back to them as though it was what you were originally saying and they just finished your thought.

        Another useful trick along those lines is the Barnum effect. I personally like to say two contradictory statements where both on their own are compliments. E.g. “I can tell you’re the kind of girl who wears her heart on her sleeve; it must be hard finding people who really understand you.”

        It sounds really dumb but nothing makes a woman feel more connected to you then this sort of “deep insight” about her personality. It does lower your estimation of women’s intelligence after a while though so be careful.

      • James says:

        Thanks.

        I’m one of the luddites around here without a smartphone, so I’m not that interested in Tinder game right now. I am on OKCupid, and I think my profile on there is decent, but I’m not really active on it right now, nor did I have that much luck with it when I was.

        I’m reading Day Bang now and quite like it, though I haven’t really put it into practice yet. I agree that it seems more ‘real-life’ and more practically useful than a lot of the night game stuff I’ve come across. I’ll probably try Bang next, even though, like you, I find clubs and club game loathsome.

        I’ll check the cold-reading stuff, but I doubt my own ability to deliver it without rolling my eyes so hard I put my back out. But perhaps I can swallow my pride (or should that be integrity?) and give it a go.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Day Bang more or less stands on its own but I recommend reading both because it was written with the understanding that you had already read Bang. So there are concepts which he kind of glosses over rather than devoting as much page space to.

          That said, putting it into practice ASAP is going to be better than waiting until you have a miniature library. This is a more, ahem, hands on sort of skill than anything and you’ll want practice. Set yourself a quota of approaches per day / week and see what works for you and what doesn’t.

          I’ll check the cold-reading stuff, but I doubt my own ability to deliver it without rolling my eyes so hard I put my back out. But perhaps I can swallow my pride (or should that be integrity?) and give it a go.

          Yeah I mean again this is just something that works for me. If it’s not something that you can naturally work into conversations then you should focus on other angles.

          As for integrity, we were all nice guys once. It’d be great to live in a world where women were attracted to good men but that’s not our world. Don’t feel guilty about doing what works.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’d be great to live in a world where women were attracted to good men but that’s not our world.

            It’d be great to live in a world where men did not assume they had an automatic right to the attention of any random woman, and if they don’t get it that is the woman’s fault for not sufficiently appreciating them, but that’s not our world either.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Ha, I feel like we might be heading down a rabbit-hole for this one…

            Niceness alone doesn’t seem to be an attractive attribute. You need to have other attractive traits, which includes being 6′ tall, having a square chin, playing guitar, sporting some stubble, driving a motorcycle, whatever. If you want to rely on “niceness” to attract girls (or guys for that matter), you’re gonna have a bad time. Your prospective dates will see a big “BOOOOORRRRRIIINNNNGGGG” sign on your forehead.

            The nicest guy I know falls into this category. He is boring as shit and has few friends because of it. He is at least average-attractive, dresses well, and is an architect, so his online profile got him a ton of dates. But, because he was insanely boring, he never got any second dates.

            He’s married now…I’m guessing mostly because he went through a match-maker and was matched to a girl who really, really wanted to get married, and hit that magical age of 30.

            There’s a few people who share his interests….like me! But the normies won’t dig him.

            It’s okay to be boring. I like to argue about Japanese monetary policy on internet blogs, and sometimes I play Dungeons and Dragons. But, you also might want to add in some non-boring stuff when you’re talking to the Normies. At least if you want to maximize your appeal.

            Nothing wrong with maximizing your appeal!

          • quanta413 says:

            As for integrity, we were all nice guys once. It’d be great to live in a world where women were attracted to good men but that’s not our world. Don’t feel guilty about doing what works.

            I agree niceness doesn’t really do jack one way or the other. But the alternate approach to improving one’s social abilities towards charlatan level (not that this is wrong per se, depends what you do with it) is to find dates with similar weird preferences to oneself.

            Granted, acting entitled to women (or men) because $$$ or degree or whatever will leave you cold and alone unless it’s a lot of money, but that’s because people who think that’s enough that people should even want to talk to you are at best boring boring boring like A Definite Beta Guy said. Although I mean it in a perhaps stricter sense. Dungeons and Dragons is great, and some of the women I’ve dated have really liked it too.

          • Anonymous says:

            Old-timey “dating” advice is meant for old-timey circumstances. Being nice impresses the parents, who will have a reasonable expectation that their prospective son-in-law isn’t a shiftless outlaw who will beat their daughter and leave them to pay for any kids. Since nowadays parents have next to zero influence over who a girl sleeps with, nevermind marries, the usefulness of the niceness has gravely decreased.

          • James says:

            As for integrity, we were all nice guys once. It’d be great to live in a world where women were attracted to good men but that’s not our world. Don’t feel guilty about doing what works.

            Well, yes, I’m not totally inflexible about this. And I’m certainly past the point of thinking that niceless per se is enough (though that was probably my naive starting point). But I still hope to find strategies that work without totally losing my innocence.

            Maybe it’s just a question of finding a persona that works without deviating too far from who I actually am. (Put that way, it starts to sounds a bit like what people call “congruence” in other contexts.)

            It’d be great to live in a world where men did not assume they had an automatic right to the attention of any random woman, and if they don’t get it that is the woman’s fault for not sufficiently appreciating them, but that’s not our world either.

            No need to be so prickly, Deiseach. For what it’s worth, Nabil ad Dajjal’s observation goes the other way, too, as I’m sure he’d be the first to admit: men aren’t exactly drawn primarily to virtue in women, either. As far as courtship is concerned, we aren’t living in anything like a Just World, on either side, and those who want to succeed will do well to acknowledge this.

          • Deiseach says:

            As far as courtship is concerned, we aren’t living in anything like a Just World, on either side, and those who want to succeed will do well to acknowledge this.

            If it were acknowledged, James, I’d be less prickly. But I’ve read one too many plaints of Nice Guys who would love to find a woman to marry and settle down and have a family with, but those hussies and floozies only want the Bad Boy studs who’ll treat them bad and dump them! and guys with a long list of demands starting with “first, a woman has to be a solid 10”.

            If it’s acknowledged “yes, generally when I’m looking for a woman sure I’d like to find someone to lead on to something more, but first impressions are I want an attractive – to my standards, which means generally accepted as hot – woman, not her plainer friend who may be a Nice Girl with a lovely personality who wants to find someone to settle down and have a family with, but she is not the leggy blonde I was looking for”, then great! But the Nice Guys often have this unstated caveat about “I want the Hot Girlfriend” and then blame women for (equally) wanting a Hot Boyfriend instead of Average Or Under It In The Looks Department Guy.

            Mainly I’m prickly because it was stated in absolutes: “women are not attracted to good men”. What, no women at all in the entire world? And what exactly is your criterion or criteria for judging who is a “good man”? I take leave to doubt that someone anxious to describe themselves as a good man in this context is not operating on the same level general as the ordinary claimant of “I deserve to go to Heaven, I’m a good person!” (where “good person” means only “I’m not a murderer or rapist”, not any great admixture of virtue in the core personality).

          • Anonymous says:

            @Deiseach

            Chill.

            Women strongly tend to want high-status, successful men. Men strongly tend to want young, attractive women. This has not changed since about forever. Both are willing to settle for someone on the same level of their respective totem pole, or at least did in living memory.

            The problem is that the institutions that enabled the bottom half of the bell-curve to successfully pair up, marry, have kids and remove themselves from the dating pool don’t exist anymore. Hence a lot of single men and a lot of single women, both with unrealistic expectations (“10/10 hottie”, “twenty-something millionaire”), with very little bargaining power to get what they want (part-time, low-wage employment, no homemaking skills, etc) and no clue how to make a good attempt at it (what with the matchmaking social systems offline), nevermind knowing what they want.

          • Matt M says:

            But the Nice Guys often have this unstated caveat about “I want the Hot Girlfriend” and then blame women for (equally) wanting a Hot Boyfriend instead of Average Or Under It In The Looks Department Guy.

            I’m obviously a little biased here, but I really really don’t think this is true. Most “nice guy” I know (including myself) openly acknowledge that we’re never going to get a 10. We’d happily settle for 5s. My Tinder strategy is to literally swipe right on every single person. My match rate is probably <1%. For most men of similar attractiveness and social skills I know, it's the same approach and the same result. And you want to tell me my problem is that I'm too picky and not willing to compromise?

            Mainly I’m prickly because it was stated in absolutes: “women are not attracted to good men”. What, no women at all in the entire world? And what exactly is your criterion or criteria for judging who is a “good man”?

            It’s a general point that is generally correct. For most women, a man being “good” is simply irrelevant. It’s not necessarily that they dislike goodness, it’s just not considered a positive. I think for most women “badness” isn’t necessarily a positive either, but the number of women who find “bad boys” appealing is certainly a lot higher than the ones who find “nice guys” appealing.

            In terms of “who is a good man” I refer you back to radicalizing the romanceless. No, you aren’t entitled to sex just because you’re not some crazy ax-murderer. BUT, if the crazy ax-murderers are having five women fight over them while most women you know say “Gee, I wish I could find a man who isn’t a crazy ax-murderer…. oh, yeah, I know you aren’t one, but not you either…” then I think you are entitled to at least stand up and start asking what in the fuck is going on here…

          • The Nybbler says:

            BUT, if the crazy ax-murderers are having five women fight over them while most women you know say “Gee, I wish I could find a man who isn’t a crazy ax-murderer…. oh, yeah, I know you aren’t one, but not you either…” then I think you are entitled to at least stand up and start asking what in the fuck is going on here…

            Of course this is the territory covered in Radicalizing the Romanceless (the Henry post). But I think if crazy ax murderers are doing well, you might want to buy an ax. And watch _The Shining_ (Jack Nicholson version) for tips on mannerisms. A little false signalling never hurt anyone… at least not as much as an ax to the neck.

          • rahien.din says:

            It’d be great to live in a world where men did not assume they had an automatic right to the attention of any random woman

            The idea of “rights” is too narrow. What people want to have is access to effective actions. (The exercise of rights is merely a type of effective action.) If men did not have the de facto right to women’s attention, it would look like [there is no strategy that reliably succeeds in getting a woman’s attention and men’s advances are usually rejected].

            If this thread is any evidence, men have access to an action that is effective in getting women’s attention : they can use these manipulative dating games. It’s effective. And it’s only effective because that’s what women are selecting as effective. So, in the only sense that is important, men do have the right to women’s attention, insofar as they are willing to perform certain actions which women have selected for.

            Women who complain about whiny nice guys are not fighting against male entitlement. They are simply reasserting the current definition of de facto male entitlement.

            Moreover, women who complain about nice guys are the female equivalent of nice guys complaining about women.

          • Matt M says:

            But I think if crazy ax murderers are doing well, you might want to buy an ax.

            Agreed, and that’s basically the premise of game.

            1. Women respond well to jerks.
            2. You want women to like you.
            3. Here’s how to be the appropriate level of jerk.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            So normally I’d avoid piling on, but since this is responding to my comment I actually have a unique perspective to add here:

            But I’ve read one too many plaints of Nice Guys who would love to find a woman to marry and settle down and have a family with, but those hussies and floozies only want the Bad Boy studs who’ll treat them bad and dump them! and guys with a long list of demands starting with “first, a woman has to be a solid 10”.

            I’ve heard this sentiment before online as well. Personally I suspect it’s a justification for not trying: you set the bar for success impossibly high so that you don’t feel as bad for giving up.

            That said, I think there’s something that you’re missing: a man who ends up married to a good girl typically sees that as a success on his part, whereas a woman married to a nice guy typically sees that as a failure on her part.

            Two illustrative anecdotes:

            1. When I was single, there were a few times where I was (knowingly or not) sleeping with women who had boyfriends or fiancees already. From the women’s descriptions these were great guys but the disdain their girlfriends / fiance’s felt for them was just unreal. It’s not just cheaters either: most of my female friends and co-workers describe the men in their lives in the same terms.

            2. My girlfriend is a wonderful woman and I’m lucky to have her. But in terms of looks she’s very plain: thin and healthy but about a 5 otherwise. The reason I dropped my two FWBs at the time and closed my dating profiles wasn’t because she was so much hotter than the competition, in fact it was quite the opposite. The traits which make her stand out are exactly those you would use to describe a prototypical good girl: chastity, fidelity, kindness and intelligence.

          • It’s been decades since I was on the dating/sex market and I was never very active or successful there, so cannot claim much expertise. But I think, partly from observation and partly from discussions here, that there is a real asymmetry in attitudes. As best I can tell:

            Some significant number of women find bad boys more attractive than they find other men.

            Men pursue the female equivalent not because they find them more attractive but because they think they are easier to seduce. Given equal chances of success they would prefer the conventionally virtuous woman.

            Am I mistaken?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Asymmetry is probably not super significant in terms of preferences. Guys and girls will both prioritize attractive traits for short-term relationships and prioritize companionship traits or long-term relationships.

            However, there is an asymmetry in what each gender desires. Guys typically have much stronger sex drives, and girls are in much, much higher demand. So the market outcomes and strategies for both sexes are obviously going to be different.

            Most of the Nice Guys bemoaning their poor fortune is because no one wants to date them, because guys are just in low demand in general.

          • Aapje says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            Which means that those high sex drive/desperate men have effectively messed up the situation for the low sex drive/less desperate men.

            It seems that this balances out somewhat when quite a few women get desperate to have a baby before their fertility greatly falls and/or for men who are willing to effectively dedicate their lives to earning money for their wives. For example, in the classified threads, the only women who seemed to place ads for men, were those who wanted a baby daddy.

            But this leaves men who are not interested in children and/or being treated as little more than an ATM in a bad position.

            Furthermore, relationships that end seem to often put men in a bad situation, far more often than for women. So the risks are asymmetric as well.

            So is it even worth it to try for a risk-averse man, who is ‘spoiled’ by not wanting an unegalitarian relationship, who doesn’t want to play or become a jerk? Why bother when the deck is so stacked against you?

          • Protagoras says:

            @DavidFriedman, I find sexually adventurous women more attractive than conventionally virtuous women; for me it is not just a matter of having a better chance with them (that may not even be the case; I seem to usually not be their type). But I do not know how common that is. Always hard to judge, since people lie so much (including to themselves) about basically anything connected with sex.

          • James says:

            @Protagoras: think I agree, for what it’s worth.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            @Aapje

            I probably wouldn’t use the term “desperate.” It’s just a market equilibrium. The only real problem is theoretically STRs, because unattractive girls will have a hard time landing an attractive guy for an LTR. It’s a revealed preference that a girl prefers a series of STRs with attractive guys, over a single LTR with an unattractive guy, if that is what she continually chooses.

            I do agree things get easier for guys, but I think it’s a combination of several factors. A big one is that guys become more attractive as they age because they get bigger, and more successful. The same guy at 18 and 25 can be the difference between Pee-Wee Herman and Thor (as in the case of my brother-in-law).

            There are certainly cases of women (and men) becoming more focused on LTRs as they get older, as STRs lose their appeal, much like going out to clubs and bars every night/weekend loses its appeal. This shift of focus to the LTR will benefit unattractive people of both sexes, but particularly unattractive guys, because that’s literally the only avenue where they can compete.

        • maintain says:

          Wait, you’ll read Roosh, but RSD is too extreme?

          Anyway, what Nabil said about putting it into practice is right: Go find some wingmen. Commit to going out a couple days a week. Commit to doing five approaches every time you go out. Accept that it might take you years to get good.

          (When you’ve done that, you’ll have your own opinion, and you won’t need to to ask whether a book will mislead you if you read it.)

          Did I mention you should find some wingmen? That part is really important.

          • James says:

            I’m aware that Roosh has a nasty reputation, and for all I know it’s justified, but I haven’t found anything really objectionable in the game stuff of his that I’ve read. But sure, I wouldn’t really trust, in fact would probably steer clear of, his opinions on anything else. And it’s not exactly that RSD is extreme, it’s just that Tyler creeps me out in some way I can’t exactly put my finger on. But I haven’t actually really looked at any of the RSD material, so maybe it’s not as bad as I’d like.

            The wingman thing is tricky. I’m not really friends with very many men! Least of all the kind who go out to pick up chicks. There’s one candidate I can think of, and I’ll ask him.

            I agree that putting things into practice is important and it’s time I did. I actually do OK when I do go out (which is seldom). I’m a passable flirt, sometimes even a good one, though without it leading to very many closes. But I think to get any better I probably need to start clocking some real hours grinding my skills.

            It’s been hard for me to put aside time for this up to now, because I have a full-time job and at least one really important project outside of my full-time job, and I’d been hoping to get the project to a certain level of done-ness before embarking on another one, but now I’m starting to think it’s time to bump game stuff up the queue.

  15. sustrik says:

    I’ve written this article about a community in Slovakia that has almost driven itself into extinction. It may be of interest to the crowd here: http://250bpm.com/blog:113 HN discussion thread here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15830623

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thanks for the link. I’ll add it to the list of people being very vulnerable to memes.

      • sustrik says:

        What list is that? Link?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Just a list I keep in my head. The biggest example is in India, where there are (I believe) still dowries and dowry murder.

          If you have a daughter and want grandchildren, the most sensible thing (unless I’m missing something) would be to encourage your daughter to marry someone from a different culture. There would be no risk of dowry murder, and you could contribute money to setting up your daughter’s household without being concerned that it would go to your son-in-law’s family.

          There’s also an Irish custom (probably no longer in play, and Deiseach will tell me if I’m wrong) of giving younger children to the Church– again presumably causing one to have fewer grandchildren.

    • quanta413 says:

      Thanks. It was very informative.

  16. TheEternallyPerplexed says:

    Are we witnessing the begining of Götterdämmerung (pinned thread on top)? Abramson presents a quite compelling story, meseems. (For a refresher, read the whole pinned thread.)

    What are your predictions for Trump, Pence, Kushner? For the GOP? The USA?

    • Zorgon says:

      I’ve put money on Trump being out of office by next year.

      • ManyCookies says:

        We talked about that once, I hope you got long odds on that bet! Mueller’s investigation looks serious, but impeachment in a year is nigh impossible. Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings took months even for a (relatively) straightforward perjury case tried by an opposition congress, and this’d be a complicated obstruction case tried by a supporting congress. And even if Mueller somehow finds a massive indefensible bombshell in the next year, I suspect Trump would be too proud to outright resign and would wait for the senate conviction.

        • gbdub says:

          What are your odds on Mueller actually finding any “bombshells”? They seem low to me, based on 3 assumptions:

          1) the whole thing has leaked like a sieve, so I doubt they are sitting on anything
          2) Mueller is already well outside the original scope he was supposed to be looking into (election interference) and digging around in the post-election activities of Trump’s staff
          3) we’re already into the frustrated prosecutors game of “I can’t prove you did anything illegal, but I don’t like you, so I’ll nail you for procedural nitpicks”. I.e. Flynn going down for lying about his probably legal activities, and Trump being accused of obstruction (not officially yet, but that’s what the left wing pundits are salivating over) for not admitting that he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI about his probably legal activities.

          Which is of course pretty much what the impeachment charges against Clinton consisted of – “you lied to us about the legal stuff you did!” and those were a farce too. But a farce driven by an opposition Congress who still wouldn’t convict. With a friendly Congress I doubt anything against Trump even goes that far.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mueller probably won’t find anything incriminating Trump directly w.r.t. the Russia probe, but will almost certainly find sketchy deals a la Whitewater or Hillary’s infamous Cattle Futures trade, and probably more and bigger ones, given Trump’s general lifestyle for the last several decades.

            That leaves the question of whether he will be impeached and removed given discovery of genuine wrongdoing from before he was president. Impeachment is about politics, not right and wrong–to impeach, they have to get a majority in the House to vote for it. To remove him from office, they need a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Both of those bodies are currently majority Republican.

            I think we can model the decision as follows: to a first approximation, all Democrats will default to voting to impeach/remove, and all Republicans will default to voting against that. (This assumes some plausible case can be made for impeachment, but I’m assuming Mueller will find *something*.)

            To overcome their partisan vote, each congressman has two things happening:

            a. His view of what each possible vote he may cast will do to his political future.

            b. His view of how important this issue is. (That is, you might vote in a way that would be bad for your political future if you thought the issue was important enough.)

            We might break Mueller’s possible discoveries into three categories:

            a. Serious national-security-impacting stuff, like actually knowingly working together with a Russian government disinformation campaign, or passing secrets to the Turkish government in exchange for campaign money, or whatever.

            b. Serious stuff that doesn’t impact national security, like having paid bribes and knowingly dealt with the mafia when building casinos in the past.

            c. Technical violations of the law that look like an attempt to get the bastard on *something*, like having violated some money-laundering/reporting or campaign-finance laws in some way that doesn’t look to have been otherwise particularly shady.

            In case (a), I think he’ll get impeached and removed–Republican congressmen will care enough to pay a price to get him out of office, and their voters will be less inclined to exact such a price.

            In case (c), he won’t be impeached, or if he is, he won’t be removed. Even Republican congressmen that despise Trump won’t want to burn down their political careers for such bullshit charges.

            Case (b) is the interesting one, and I’m not sure how that will go. It’s also a little worrying to me, because Trump could easily end up in a situation in which he knows that he’s a free man as long as he’s president, but that as soon as he leaves office, he’s likely to be indicted by federal or state authorities. I don’t think it’s a good situation to have the president have that kind of incentive to stay in power. It’s really a bad situation, IMO, when there’s no way to negotiate a safe way for him to step down (like having Pence promise to pardon him–that won’t work for state offenses, and it’s possible we get multiple states who could charge him).

          • Randy M says:

            as he leaves office, he’s likely to be indicted by federal or state authorities.

            What’s the statue of limitations on things you expect in this category? I don’t know Trump’s business practices, so maybe you expect things that happened a couple years ago, but it seems more likely to have been longer ago, statistically and due to less need and more risk as celebrity increases–perhaps mitigated by increasing hubris.

          • albatross11 says:

            That’s a good point. It’s quite possible he’ll have stuff in category (b) (serious violations that don’t really impact national security but aren’t obvious bullshit charges) that, for whatever reason, don’t really threaten to send him to jail, but might still be the basis of an impeachment attempt.

          • Randy M says:

            Impeachment as a sub-category of firing seems like a way to punish somebody when they are outside the limits of the law but have old skeletons come to light.

          • engleberg says:

            @With a friendly Congress I doubt anything against Trump even goes that far-

            I can’t name one D party congressman who could vote against impeaching Trump and still get re-elected. The R party congressmen are overwhelmingly as Never Trump as they dare to be and still face their next election. Trump has the luck of the Devil himself but he’s obviously going to be risking impeachment for the next four or eight years.

          • Deiseach says:

            Serious stuff that doesn’t impact national security, like having paid bribes and knowingly dealt with the mafia when building casinos in the past.

            Would that work, though? He’s never held political office until now, so any bribes and so on would be as a civilian. Yeah, he could be got on criminal charges but that would be the same as for any other citizen. Can he be impeached as a president for crimes committed in his non-political life? And if he could, that doesn’t really make things better for Hillary if the whole insider trading thing is correct and that was an offence committed in her ‘civilian’ life, if it could be used to unseat her via impeachment. Do the Democrats really want to risk opening a can of worms that could be used against any future candidate, unless they can be positively sure June Moon is so squeaky clean you could use her as an operating theatre? (And given all the sex scandals committed by liberal cause-supporting men being revealed all over the place now, can they ever be 100% sure any possible candidate does not have some skeleton rattling away in the far back of a closet?)

          • that doesn’t really make things better for Hillary if the whole insider trading thing is correct

            Not insider trading. The obvious interpretation of the evidence is that it was a bribe to her husband, conveyed by fraudulently assigning, after the fact, the trades that made money to her, the trades that lost money to the person paying the bribe.

            On your more general case, I think everyone assumes that impeachment has to be for offense committed in the office, not offenses committed in the past.

            I’m not sure what would happen if after a President was elected the DNA evidence turned up proving that he had committed a murder a year earlier. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t be tried for the murder until he left office, don’t know if he could be impeached for it but doubt it.

          • Witness says:

            @Deiseach and David Friedman

            My understanding is that a President can be impeached for basically anything that Congress is willing to impeach him for (limited basically by their willingness to set precedents and face their electorates).

            I wouldn’t place bets on the insider-trading scenario, but if there was a provable murder I’d bet on removal from office one way or another (impeachment if not resignation).

      • BBA says:

        That’s a sucker bet – he won’t resign and Republicans won’t turn on him. Peter Beinart agrees.

      • Brad says:

        At what odds? I’d certainly take the other side of that bet at even money.

        • ManyCookies says:

          It’s currently 2:1 odds on predictIt, I’d absolutely take the Remain side at those odds.

          • Brad says:

            Hmm. The only part I’m not sure of is about life expectancy. But I guess for a generic 71 year old man annual death probability is only 2.5% and so that shouldn’t change things much.

            I think I’m going to buy some contracts, thanks.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            Trump’s rich, “out of pocket replacement of all possible organs” rich. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about his health.

          • actinide meta says:

            “out of pocket replacement of all possible organs” rich

            Outside of science fiction, that doesn’t mean much. There are very few health situations in which an unlimited budget will make a big difference relative to what health insurance will pay for. Richer people do tend to live longer, but it isn’t because of better medical care (and probably largely isn’t causal at all).

          • Anonymous says:

            @actinide meta

            I know general well-being flattens out above upper working class, but does that hold for the far right of the bell curve?

          • ManyCookies says:

            How much does the promptness of medical treatment matter? The president has a doctor shadowing him, and the White House and Air Force One have emergency equipment+medication+operating tables.

          • Randy M says:

            How much does the promptness of medical treatment matter?

            Probably a lot. Treatment within an hour is a big deal for any kind of stroke/heart attack situation. In this case, though, it isn’t about being super rich, but about being president–I think Trump’s health prospects are not improved beyond baseline any more than Clinton’s would have been.

          • Brad says:

            Putting the cutoff at say $250M and above for “can buy organs for cash”. Do these guys disproportionately make it to 90 as compared to people worth, say $5 million?

          • Deiseach says:

            I know general well-being flattens out above upper working class, but does that hold for the far right of the bell curve?

            Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother lived into her 102nd year, and the current monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is now 91 while her husband is 96 (this is part of the problem with/for Charles; he’s now 69 years old, he’s been groomed to be the next monarch all his life and since she refuses to abdicate and there is no sign of her dying as yet, his entire life is wasted hanging around waiting and by the time he does become monarch, there may not be much time left to enjoy it – shades of Queen Victoria who lived to be 82 and her son, Edward VII who was 60 when he finally succeeded her and only reigned for nine years, dying when he was 69).

          • quanta413 says:

            Holy cow, I feel like I’m looking at a pile of money on the sidewalk. Gotta not be lazy and buy some contracts like Brad.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I wish I could, but apparently even if my job allowed it (answer unclear: the Missouri Gaming Commission doesn’t appear to have caught up with Prediction Markets) PredictIt seems to have cut them off at the pass by playing it safe and not allowing bets from my state…

          • Chalid says:

            The only part I’m not sure of is about life expectancy. But I guess for a generic 71 year old man annual death probability is only 2.5% and so that shouldn’t change things much.

            And 2.5% is almost certainly too high. I’d imagine that most of that 2.5% people who die at 72 have had some serious health events by 71.

          • rlms says:

            Non-Americans can use BetFair (currently at 50%).

          • Are any betting markets set up to use bitcoin? That would make it pretty easy for an American to bet on a market that U.S. law didn’t permit him to bet on. Similarly for restrictions on ordinary online gambling.

        • Zorgon says:

          It was at 4 to 1 at the time I made it. Probably shorter atm due to CBS tweets etc.

          Seemed like a vaguely amusing use for £20 that wasn’t earmarked for anything else.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I gotta say, within a year seems nearly impossible to me, and I think there’s a good chance Mueller has him dead to rights on actual Russia conspiracy.

            I don’t care if they get audio of him explaining his evil plan like a Bond villain, a Republican Congress ain’t gonna impeach.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, anything can happen, but I don’t think so. Everyone is getting really excited about possible impeachment and how far up the chain does this go, but they’ve already had to row back on “TRUMP ORDERED MEETING WITH RUSSIANS!” to “Somebody (probably Jared Kushner is the speculation) told him go meet the Russians”, which is not looking great as chances for “Finally a do-over and get the right result this time round!”

        The most recent dogged enthusiasm for an impeachment eventually fizzled out in “what the exact meaning of ‘is’ is” and I can’t see this going anywhere either (unless somebody pulls out real provable footage of Vladimir himself in person giving orders to Trump about what he is supposed to do and what the Russians are going to do when hacking the election).

        To remove him from office, they need a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Both of those bodies are currently majority Republican.

        I think some of the recent glee over the Democrat victories is precisely this; hoping to unseat the Republican majority/majorities in the midterm elections and besides finally getting power back, the delicious prospect of being able to get Trump because now the Democrats are in control in Congress.

        I don’t know how well that will work out, but we’ll see!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s been backpedaled even further. Now apparently it’s Kushner told him to talk to everybody on the UN security council (which includes the Russians) about supporting Israel.

          None of this is illegal and is part of the basic job of foreign policy.

          I would put the probability of Trump being removed from office at .001%. The Dems/left would be wise to stop pinning their hopes on impeachment (for what crime no one even knows) and instead figure out, I dunno, something to make people want to vote for them? Like jobs or taxes or healthcare or something? But instead I think they’re going to go into midterms screaming about Trump and Russia and lose.

          As a Republican this is fine by me. Never interrupt your enemy while they’re making a mistake and all that.

          • Brad says:

            None of this is illegal and is part of the basic job of foreign policy.

            One doesn’t have a basic job of foreign policy until he takes office. And it probably violated the Logan Act, but I’m of the opinion that the Logan Act is unenforceable for multiple reasons including desuetude.

            So I agree with your underlying conclusion (not sure I’d put it quite that low, but low) but not all your reasoning.

          • Randy M says:

            I recall Obama getting some mockery for his “Office of the President Elect” seal, at least from some right sources. I don’t know how much foreign policy, if any, he was conducting, though.

            I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, or if it should be changed due to new capability or norms, but getting a jump start on a job you have been given is a faux pas while conspiring to rig an election is “light treason.” If searching for the latter only reveals the former, it’s going to come off as a–what’s the technical term? nothingburger?

          • bean says:

            One doesn’t have a basic job of foreign policy until he takes office.

            This seems like a rather absurd claim. You’re the legally designated successor to the Presidency. You will be doing foreign policy very soon. Your transition team getting a head start on is exactly the sort of thing they should be doing to make sure that you take over the Presidency smoothly. It’s possible that Trump’s team went past the traditional lines for the president-elect’s transition team, but I don’t know that’s the case, and I’d like it proved before I care at all.

          • Brad says:

            The relevant historical predicates are: Kissinger allegedly intervening in Vietnam peace talks before Nixon took office and Reagan allegedly negotiating with the Iranians during the hostage crisis before he took office.

            Both have been subject to the type of strenuous denials that imply the people doing the denying would think it was wrong to do so.

            (The above is from memory, I wouldn’t swear to it.)

          • Randy M says:

            Buuuut…. not to pick nits, Brad, but the reason those cases may have been controversial, and hence memorable, is because they were interjecting themselves into the middle of active, hot conflicts at the time.
            I don’t recall in 2015 or mid 2016 very much talk about conflict with Russia (recall “the 1980’s called, they want their foreign policy back” from the 2012 election debates), and certainly no concurrent life-or-death conflict between us.

            Hold up (thinking while typing) if he’s meeting with Russia to start talks about going after Isis in Syria, that could be roughly analogous, then. Especially as it would be potentially a policy change.

          • Brad says:

            Isn’t the story that Kushner sent him out to lobby countries to vote down a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements? That conflict may not be the hottest it’s ever been, but it is certainly an ongoing conflict.

            My sense is that the norm is that the sitting President be given room to conduct US foreign policy until he leaves office. If the above is accurate they violated that norm. As I said they also likely violated the Logan Act, but I don’t think that law is enforceable today.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh… I’m generally in agreement with you except I see a qualitative difference between trying to get allies (or at least non-belligerents) on board with your incoming policy and interjecting yourself into ongoing, 2-party negotiations with a hostile foreign power.

            But it’s not really enforceable, because an elect (of the presidential, not calvanist sort) could just make a public announcement of not intending to enforce a deal if it includes x or y.
            To be above reproach, that’s the kind of thing that should be said to your predecessor in private–but there’s always the chance that it was, and they did not want to take that into consideration because of opposing policy views.

          • Iain says:

            One of the things that Flynn talked about was Israel.

            The other topic of conversation was the sanctions that Obama had just leveled against Russia for interfering in the election. That’s a pretty clear case of a hot issue. Flynn said “please don’t escalate”; Russia didn’t escalate; the next day, Trump tweeted “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”.

            My understanding is that Brad is correct that the Logan Act is a non-starter. Nevertheless, this is a pretty big norm violation (source):

            The Trump transition team ignored a pointed request from the Obama administration to avoid sending conflicting signals to foreign officials before the inauguration and to include State Department personnel when contacting them. […] Mr. Cobb said the Trump team had never agreed to avoid such interactions. But one former White House official has disputed that, telling Mr. Mueller’s investigators that Trump transition officials had agreed to honor the Obama administration’s request

            Hitting the ground running is one thing, but if your goal is a smooth transition, then you keep the State Department in the loop, instead of secretly calling up the Russian ambassador and then lying about it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now apparently it’s Kushner told him to talk to everybody on the UN security council (which includes the Russians) about supporting Israel.

            So how does “Trump is the president