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2014 SSC Survey Results

A year ago I asked people to take a survey and said I’d post the results “soon”. Now it’s been a year and I feel bad, so here are some very quick and dirty survey results. Remember, all of this is hopelessly out of date. Remember also that because the LW Survey was going on at the same time, this is a survey specifically of SSCers who were not Less Wrongers.

Although SSC got about 10,000 hits per day last November, only 649 people took the survey. 32% were commenters and the rest lurkers. 85% were male, 11% female, and the rest decline to state their gender; 1.2% were trans, 95.9% were cis, and the rest declined to state. Ages ranged from 16 to 87 (!), with an average of 29. 88% were white, 3% Indian, 2% East Asian, 2% Hispanic, 1% black, and 0.5% Middle Eastern, with the rest declining to state.

Readers were overwhelmingly American at 63%. Other popular countries were the UK (9%), Canada (5%), Germany (4%), New Zealand (1%), and of course Finland (1%). American readers were most frequently from California (19%), New York (11%), Massachusetts (10%), Illinois (6%), Pennsylvania (5%), Texas (5%), and Wisconsin (3%). Massachusetts has the highest readership per capita, which I guess isn’t surprising. Not all readers from Massachusetts were able to spell “Massachusetts” correctly on the survey.

77% were straight, 4% gay, 13% bi, and 2% asexual. 26% were married, 27% in a relationship, and 45% single. 65% considered themselves monogamous, 8% polyamorous, and the rest undecided.

41% of readers have a bachelors’ degree, 18% a master’s degree, 9% a PhD, and 5% some kind of professional degree like MD or JD. 31% are students. The most popular professions are computers (33%), finance (7%), engineering (7%), and math (7%). Mean income is $72000 and median income is $47000, but this was limited to the subset of people who entered an income at all. Mean charitable donation was $30000 (!), which reduced to $1700 after removal of one outlier; median donation was $200. Mean percent of income donated was 2.4%; median was 0.5%.

Average IQ was 139, average SAT was 1480 by the old reckoning and 2220 by the new reckoning.

68% of people were atheist, 16% agnostic, and 19% religious, of whom 12% identified as “committed” to their religion. Religious background (regardless of present religious affiliation) was 35% Protestant, 27% Catholic, 8% Jewish, 3% Mormon, 2% Hindu. Ethics were 43% consequentialist, 14% virtue ethics, 6% contractualism, 6% natural law, 4% deontology.

On a political spectrum where 1 is farthest left and 10 is farthest right, the average person placed themselves at 4.6. 19% identified with the US Democratic Party, 7% with the US Republican Party, and 3% with the US Libertarian Party. Of the ideological affiliations available, the top four were social democratic (29%), liberal (23%), libertarian (22%), and conservative (9%). Readers were mostly neutral on feminism, human biological differences, and the minimum wage; they mostly supported gay marriage, environmental action against global warming, more immigration, and basic income guarantees.

10% of readers identified with the social justice movement, 2% with the neoreactionary movement, and 7% with the effective altruist movement, with much larger numbers “sort of” identifying with each. Two people identified as both social justice and neoreactionary, which must involve some interesting logical gymnastics.

Most people came here via links from other blogs. The blogs that linked the most people were Bryan Caplan’s (21), Marginal Revolution (20), Unequally Yoked (10), David Friedman’s (6), and Gruntled & Hinged (3).

People’s favorite post was overwhelmingly Meditations on Moloch (77), followed by I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup (36), followed by Who By Very Slow Decay (10).

Older readers were more conservative, both by self-identification and on all individual issues. There were few other interesting or unexpected correlations; in particular, IQ didn’t correlate much with anything except SAT score. Digit ratio did correlate with lots of interesting things, but I should make that into its own post.

Although this survey represented the non-LW SSC demographic, the results were very similar to the Less Wrong survey results in terms of demographics, IQ, chosen professions, et cetera.

If you want more data, you can also take a look at the recent survey on gender related stuff (more commentary here). Of note, this survey has about twice the percent female as last year’s survey, reflecting either a change in the population (unlikely) or a difference in who responds to gender-related versus non-gender-related surveys (more likely).

I couldn’t remember whether I promised survey-takers privacy or not, so I deleted all theoretically traceable data (mostly age and location) and the remainder is available for examination and further analysis here.

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641 Responses to 2014 SSC Survey Results

  1. Pku says:

    The one thing here that really surprises me here was the percent Jewish – I thought it would be much higher.

    Also, I secretly suspect there’s a tendency for northerners to be here – it matches the general tendency towards more emotional detachment, and explains the finns and people from Epic. (Edit: Also, ~20+ people from Wisconsin. I feel like this might make a good place to recruit for Rob Stark).

    • E. Harding says:

      Most of the Jews in that sample are probably atheist.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        No, the question specifically asked about background and not current religion.

        America is 1.4% Jewish, the rest of the world except Israel has very low percent. So we’d expect a 60% American population to be about 0.85% Jewish. In fact, it’s 8%, so a factor of 10x higher. That looks about like what I expected.

    • Technically Not Anonymous says:

      What’s the connection between rationalism and Epic?

    • jeorgun says:

      I’m ethnically Jewish, but looking at the spreadsheet, I apparently put Unitarian as my background.

      (I also put “lukewarm theist” despite not being remotely theist. I’m not really sure what happened there)

      It’s possible that there are a number of people who had similarly ambiguous backgrounds.

  2. PSJ says:

    After looking up IQ->SAT relations (here), I have a much lower opinion of IQs around the 140ish range. This seems to suggest that most people at Ivy league/top-teir schools have higher IQ means than the LW/SSC community while I had previously assumed the reverse.

    This also allays a lot of fears I had previously had about “this group of people has extremely high-IQ so I should be particularly careful about disagreeing with them.” It seems rational to partially discount our group’s opinions on pretty much everything we have disagreed with scientific consensus about, particularly in fields outside math/comp sci/engineering.

    • Lyle Cantor says:

      This makes a lot of sense, the average SAT score at Caltech is very close to perfect. It would be very hard to make a blog that selective. Probably Tao’s blog is.

      • PSJ says:

        Yeah, I definitely should’ve realized that beforehand, but I guess I was just being a bit too egoistic about the site 🙂

        And even then, when we think of Caltech or Harvard or the like, we often think of their brightest students, but the average person is about what you’d imagine a standard upper-middle class, bright-but-definitely-not-genius person to be.

        • Vaniver says:

          Note that the median reader of the blog does not comment, as less than a third do.

        • JRM says:

          That’s clearly not true of Caltech; the median student at Caltech is a genius. The median student at Harvard is also probably a genius.

          That doesn’t mean they’re right about everything. Whenever I see someone say or imply, “I’m smart so this will be successful/I’m smart so I am right,” that’s an obvious failure mode.

          (I attended an Ivy. As I am middle-aged, that is no longer relevant to anything, but is here as full disclosure. If you’re 25, it matters. If you’re 45 and the thing you want to brag about is what you did from 18-21, you may want to rethink your priorities. Or life. It is my impression that lots of people on SSC are smarter than the average Ivy student.)

          • stargirl says:

            What do you mean by “Genius?” Do you mean an IQ of 145 or higher. IF so this is true for Caltech and maybe true for Harvard. There are other less formal uses of “genius” where the median student at Cal-tech/Harvard is definitely not a “genius.”

          • Eli Sennesh says:

            Look, the median student at Harvard, CalTech, MIT, Oxford, Technion (ohai) isn’t a genius by any IQ definition, nor any practical definition. They’re a kid who started out very clever and studied fanatically for literally every exam, most of the time. Then they were fortunate to get into universities that put more effort into *actually teaching* and pushing their students to really get good at things.

            EXCEPT TECHNION, which AFAICT operates purely via selecting fanatically hard workers and them making them memorize lots and lots of passwords.

            My biggest surprise interacting with MIT people has been their immense willingness and effort to explain things in terms that actually make sense, as opposed to the obscurantism seemingly constantly operating in Old World universities.

          • Cliff says:

            Eli,

            How have you convinced yourself of something that obviously is not true? All you have to do is map the SAT to IQ. There is very little ability to game the SAT by studying for the test.

          • Linch says:

            “All you have to do is map the SAT to IQ. There is very little ability to game the SAT by studying for the test.”

            Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…nice joke.

            EDIT: I realize that this wasn’t perhaps very kind or necessary. To clarify, I taught standardized test prep in China before, and your statement here contradict my experiences entirely. Like, some test prep companies promise triple digit increases in *single sections* of the SAT.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            I know some people who attended Harvard who were outright geniuses. The majority of people I’ve known who attended Harvard (and most other good to great schools) are more about knowing how to grind and do well on tests. I never really cared about tests until the second half of college. I ended up in good schools despite grades that were all over the map but I figure part of this was being born in a mini-baby decline. If I was born a few years later, I wouldn’t have gotten into my undergrad because the competition got a fiercer.

          • nydwracu says:

            I know a few people at a few different Ivies. Every single one of them is dumber than the average SSC commenter, and that’s after a year or two of the SSC comments section going downhill. They’re at Ivies because they couldn’t develop a personality if you put a gun to their head.

            In Britain, the way to get ahead is to be easily blackmailed. America is more civilized than that: it selects its elite directly for conformity.

        • Anonymous for this post says:

          There are a lot of people at most elite schools (except Caltech) for whom the primary reason for admission was not their intelligence as measured by an SAT – artistic/athletic ability, demonstrated leadership skills, family wealth, family connections, or other interesting background. Not that downright stupid people get in, but you don’t have to be 99th percentile.

          I was at Harvard; my roommate said that in an art class he took, a couple people needed the instructor to explain sine/cosine/tangent.

          Student: “You didn’t say trigonometry was a prerequisite for this class.” Instructor: “I had assumed that it was a prerequiste for Harvard.”

          • Someone from the other side says:

            I graduated a top tier business school. Being at the 99th percentile definitely wasn’t a prerequisite there, either.

          • Deiseach says:

            my roommate said that in an art class he took, a couple people needed the instructor to explain sine/cosine/tangent

            Those are art students, though. Based on my very limited experience with people in art and education, you are lucky if they remember what day of the week it is 🙂

            I have had qualified art teachers teaching national school curricula asking me (as school clerical support) to fill out forms for them.

            I got used to being able to identify on sight who the applicants attending interviews for art teaching posts (everything from secondary school to continuing and adult education) before they even opened their mouth to say who they were and why they were there.

            All other interviewees: wearing the good suit or female equivalent; qualifications and credentials in binders; possibly even bringing a briefcase with them.

            Art post interviewees: roll up in paint-stained jeans or floaty scarves/dangly earrings but also with paint traces and empty-handed; “You mean you want to see my paperwork? Um, can’t you write to the university and ask them for it?”

            Lovely people all, and I never met one with a mean bone in their body, but anything outside their subject area – no 🙂

          • Anonymous for this post says:

            Yes. I’m sure they were very good at whatever it was that got them into Harvard. But there’s no way they were maxing out their SAT math scores.

            I should say, though, that the median student was certainly way into the 99th percentile.

        • Moebius Street says:

          but the average person is about what you’d imagine a standard upper-middle class, bright-but-definitely-not-genius person to be.

          I don’t think that’s correct. I didn’t apply to CalTech, but I did to MIT, and was rejected (I wound up going to RPI). That rejection was despite:

          * Highest SAT score ever at my high school (it’s hard compare SAT across temporal boundaries, so I won’t be specific).
          * Graduated #5 in class after only 3 years.
          * National Merit Finalist
          * Significant extracurriculars, etc.
          * Actual published work

          I claim that’s above standard “bright-but-not-genius”, but I was rejected outright.

          Or maybe I just interview badly 😉

          • Careless says:

            How the heck does a school have a “highest SAT score ever”? Was it new?

          • Linch says:

            Back in the bad old days, SAT scores at the upper ranges actually meant something, rather than “practically anybody at the 99th percentile, and plenty of people below who are good test-takers and really cared can achieve 1600/2400 with moderate effort.”

          • Cliff says:

            Linch,

            Are you from another country or something? 99th percentile on the SAT is well below perfect and that’s among people who take the SAT which is itself well above average. I went to the #1 high school in the country and not many people got perfect scores

          • Cliff says:

            Yes, it is completely absurd to suggest “a standard upper-middle class, bright-but-definitely-not-genius person” is the median student at MIT. I also was rejected by MIT despite having a near-perfect SAT score, near-4.0 GPA, reasonable extra-curriculars, etc. Of course I was hurt by attending the top public high school, which they only take the top 8-10 applicants from for diversity reasons.

          • Linch says:

            “Are you from another country or something?” My passport is not from the US, but I lived here most of my life.

            “99th percentile on the SAT is well below perfect”…yes, but people don’t exactly optimize their high school experiences to do well on the SAT. Indeed, Americans seem to have a pretty heavy cultural stigma against it.

            My claim is that high schoolers in the 99th percentile of intelligence/general pedagogical ability, are moderate/good test-takers* and really cared enough about the SAT to devote moderate effort into it can achieve 1600 or 2400.

            (1600 is more believable for me than 2400, since many intelligent people have significant writer’s block and can’t write that much under pressure. Still, that’s definitely something you could train to the test for.)

            By moderate effort I mean that the SATs can be as important as 1/3 of how much public colleges will want to admit you, so at least in theory you should be willing to devote a sizable fraction of the time you spent on grades and extracurriculars on the SATs…as far as I could tell, pretty much nobody in America, even Asian Americans, do that.

            *If you think “good test taker” is too vague and doing the heavy lifting here, I just mean very basic things like:

            -Neurotypicality or compensating measures like Ritalin.
            -sleep and eat well
            -Strategic guessing ability
            -can focus for 4 hours straight w/o a significant ugh field.
            -Good understanding about the test makers. Ie, any reading passage about minorities is going to be positive about them, words you’re more familiar with are more likely to be the right answers earlier on in the test, words you’re less familiar with are more likely to be correct for later questions (though if you studied for the test, you should already know almost all the vocab for the SATs anyway).
            -knows how to fill in MCQ bubbles accurately and efficiently.

          • Deiseach says:

            (M)any intelligent people have significant writer’s block and can’t write that much under pressure. Still, that’s definitely something you could train to the test for

            Certainly you can train for it. The Irish state exam, the Leaving Certificate, is a written exam (with oral and aural components, and of course Art).

            This year it ran for something like between 4-6 hours per day over 8 days. Now, that’s depending on how many subjects you took and at what level (the minority/specialised subjects are examined last, so if – for instance – you took Hebrew, Russian, Music or Japanese, you’d still be turning up to the exam hall after everyone else was done), so everyone isn’t facing into that, but if you assume a minimum of 3 hours per day over about 5 days, that’s 15 hours of written material.

            English (which I am going to assume is much the same as your SAT) was 6 hours divided over 2 days. If a bunch of 17-18 year old Irish students at varying degrees of ability can manage that, I’m going to presume the same for Americans.

            (The SAT actually seems to be more like the Matric as it was known in my day; most of the universities have since dropped it in favour of the Leaving Cert results).

          • onyomi says:

            Doesn’t the advent of Kaplan and other test-prep agencies also skew the SAT-as-IQ-indicator?

            By intensely preparing a student for the SAT specifically one could make it appear as if her IQ had gone up by 10 or 20 points in a month (to go by the SAT-IQ correspondence charts), though obviously that wouldn’t be the case.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Cliff:

            “Yes, it is completely absurd to suggest “a standard upper-middle class, bright-but-definitely-not-genius person” is the median student at MIT. I also was rejected by MIT despite having a near-perfect SAT score, near-4.0 GPA, reasonable extra-curriculars, etc.”

            You seem to be assuming that what would’ve had to change to get you into MIT is that you would’ve had to be *smarter*.

            I disagree. You’d have had to *optimize for MIT*. If you got those SAT scores (and/or grades and/or extracurriculars) just because you naturally earned them just by learning and doing what interested you…then you might’ve actually had an easier time optimizing for MIT if you’d been *less* smart. And more conscientious and better informed about exactly what MIT wanted.

            Holding conscientiousness equal, increased smarts tend to mean increased drive toward pursuing *your own* intellectual interests instead of wasting time on what MIT wants. Only if what MIT wants happens to perfectly match both the topic and the level that works best for you will it be *easy* to do what they want. The further you depart from that, whether by differing interests, lower IQ, *or higher IQ*, the more conscientiousness it takes to give them what they want (instead of what actually maximizes your own actual learning).

            You weren’t rejected for not being smart enough. You were rejected for not being an exact enough fit to what they wanted/expected.

            Also the SAT has become easier to game in recent years. Moebius obviously predates that (as do I, so I do know what they’re talking about). But Linch is right about how it is today.

          • Linch says:

            onyomi->The results are even more obvious when you look at test-prep programs in China, which are typically more intense.

            That said, if you could train on previous IQ tests, and devote significant time to doing so, you can probably see a 10-point increase in your measured IQ score as well (assuming that your initial IQ score was far enough away from the ceiling).

            This is not to say that Stanford-Binet is a bad test, or that you can increase your IQ by nearly a standard deviation in a month (which is patently absurd): this is just a special case of Goodhart’s law.

            Cord Shirt->My guess is that the SAT was still gameable during your time, just less so.

          • science says:

            In NYC some selective kindergartens (I know) use IQ tests for admissions purposes and parents prep their kids.

            Supposedly the test administrators keep an eye out for familiarity and spoil the results if the child prepped, but they must not do so consistently given that prepping is still a lucrative business.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Linch: Yeah, probably.

            Do keep in mind that when the test was initially designed, they tried to make it as hard to study for AKA game as possible because they were trying to find (what they thought of as) “smart kids who’d been wronged by bad schools not of their choosing,” but with recent redesigns, they’ve tried to make it easier to study for/game in order to find (what they think of as) “determined, hard-working kids who’ve been wronged by the previous focus on kids with natural talents they did nothing to earn.”

    • GCBill says:

      It’s possible that some elite schools’ student bodies would average above an IQ of 139, but I’m skeptical that any actually do. Keep in mind that whenever a test of ability is used as part of selection criteria, you can expect some regression to the mean upon retest. This is especially true for the folks who took the SAT more than once and were admitted because of their best scores (which is a lot of people), and it’s not like school publications report the students’ lower scores either.

      The data we typically see is comprised of mostly best-takes of people who (simply because of the admissions filter) can already be predicted to have performed better than they would on an “average” day. Naturally, this will lead to an overestimation of IQ.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Caltech doesn’t use test scores for selection…

        • GCBill says:

          Really? That’s not what their website implies:
          https://www.admissions.caltech.edu/content/how-apply-first-year-applicant
          https://www.admissions.caltech.edu/content/admissions-process-first-year-applicants
          Still, any place that doesn’t and averages above our SAT scores would edge us out in the IQ department for sure.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            OK, how about Deep Springs? (about same SATs as SSC).

          • Setsize says:

            What I’ve heard from people in Caltech admissions is that they find SAT I scores have almost no predictive value (as one might expect given their applicant pool), but they do find SAT II subject tests useful.

          • GCBill says:

            RE: Deep Springs, it looks like they currently request best SAT or ACT scores from domestic applicants:
            http://www.deepsprings.edu/admissions/application/
            I don’t know if this has recently changed or will change in the future.

            After looking into Caltech’s numbers and admission processes some more, I’m beginning to think they could still very well have an average student IQ of 140+. Though they are the only US school for which I would currently make that bet.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Huh. I thought that Deep Spring’s application process emphasized long essays, but it looks like that stage only eliminates 1/2-2/3, while the earlier stage that eliminates 80% is a more ordinary application.

            But going back to Caltech, I was wrong to say that they don’t use test scores, but question for regression is whether they use the particular test, namely SAT. As Setsize says, they really don’t use SAT M, just the higher SAT Math subject test. Probably the same is true of other engineering schools. They probably do use SAT V some

          • Careless says:

            OK, how about Deep Springs? (about same SATs as SSC).

            Deep Springs doesn’t even let you apply unless you’re above a certain SAT (or was it PSAT?) threshold. Or didn’t 18 years ago.

          • Gbdub says:

            @setsize – have the SAT IIs improved at all in the last 10 years? When I took the math, I got a total of two questions wrong, and ended up in like the 78th percentile. Neither error of mine was due to misunderstanding – I ran out of time for one, and the other was a simple arithmetic error. The subject matter was way too easy for the sort of people taking it (hence the percentile cliff – something like 5-10% got perfect scores) but it was material I hadn’t seen in years for that very reason, and you oddly weren’t allowed to use a calculator even for arithmetic, and I had to do long division by hand for the first time since middle school.

            Uggh I hated that test. This was despite scoring in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT. Also I think the rejection rate is so high at e.g. MIT that it’s a crapshoot to get in. To be blunt, they already have plenty of nerdy white boys with perfect test scores and fancy extracurriculars.

          • Urstoff says:

            That’s like how the GRE is (or at least used to be). A perfect math score was 92% percentile.

          • Linch says:

            170 on the Quant GRE is now 98th percentile. 🙂

            Still a terrible measure of mathematical aptitude, of course, but it’s getting better.

      • PSJ says:

        Still, even at just the 75th percentile, Princeton (first school I checked) already hits 2390, while ours is only 2320. Do people at SSC just not bother taking the test again if they did poorly? Retest gains don’t seem like they tell enough of the story to make the idea “average SSCer is about as smart as the average Ivy leaguer” inaccurate. We also have selection bias for who disclosed SAT scores (which was not every American above college age).

        • Deiseach says:

          Outside of the USA, I don’t know what other countries would have equivalent to your SATs. We have points for grades on the national standardised exam for the last year of secondary school in Ireland, but I haven’t the faintest notion how they’d compare, and it’s not really routine to take IQ tests (e.g. if I go by that online Ravens Matrices test I did, then my IQ is 99 – which feels about right, actually). Other damned furriners, please feel free to jump in here with your own countries’ usage!

          All I can say is that going by these results I am definitely not smart enough, rich enough, or educated enough to even be a lurker here 🙂

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            You’re more than respected enough.

          • Deiseach says:

            Flattery will get you everywhere, Who wouldn’t want to be anonymous 🙂

          • RCF says:

            I talked with some people from Chalmers, and they said that college admission in Sweden is based on SAT. I wasn’t clear on whether they meant literally SAT, or a Sweden equivalent, and when I asked, they said it was the Sweden equivalent.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            C’mon, Deiseach, that was in your area of weakness and you know it. Something that tested all your mental skills and balanced them all equally would give you a higher score–and you know it, you’ve discussed your extremely strong verbal skills often enough. Stop fooling yourself (or faking humility): Verbal skills are useful for general intelligence; your extremely strong verbal skills bring your general intelligence far above average.

            No, it doesn’t make you “even worse because now you haven’t even fulfilled your potential either” (as your depression might try to tell you); actually, trying to get through life with extremely strong verbal skills combined with average visuospatial skills causes problems. The relative weakness feels like a weakness to you (because it is), and frustrates you much more than it would if you really were average in everything. The strength makes you “too perceptive” and causes social rejection, and you don’t get a chance to figure out the problem (you’re smart; you need to tone it down around others) because your area of weakness has you convinced you’re stupid.

            Sorry, Scott, true and necessary. And Deiseach, I like you; I want you to stop denying your strengths. Sorry to butt in, I’ll stop now.

        • Phil says:

          I’m sort of confused as to why you would expect any blog to have a higher mean SAT score than Princeton, even one the skews pretty intellectual

          to be honest, I was (still am) entirely skeptical of a reported mean SAT score of 1480 (and also a mean IQ score of 139)

          seems like that would imply that the blog would have almost no penetration past a few highly selective educational institutions, (which doesn’t seem to be the case[though maybe that’s a function of readers who took the time to fill out a survey])

          • FedeV says:

            Yeah, I am *very* skeptical of self reported IQ and SAT scores. I guess it’s possible, but my experience is that online people grossly overestimate their own IQ.

          • Tibor says:

            FedeV: My thoughts exactly. I have no intuitive way to picture IQ 140 exactly, but it should be something around 0,5% of the population if I am correct. And that is supposed to be the mean IQ here. It probably does not go much above that, I dunno what the highest theoretical IQ the tests measure is, but if it does not go much above 150 it would mean more or less everyone has IQ around at least 135 here, in other words that pretty much all the commenters here belong to the 0,5-1% smartest people on the planet. I would guess maybe the 10-20% smartest, but not 0,5-1%.

          • brad says:

            As I understand it IQ tests taken before maturity aren’t very predictive of adult IQ (the quote I seem to remember is something like parents’ average is a better predictor). But most people I know who have taken an IQ test, took it before maturity — generally either to get into a G&T program or as part of an evaluation for learning disorders or similar.

            So where are all the many people on the internet that claim to know their IQs getting them from? Childhood IQ tests? Self administered tests? A silently substituted GRE equivalent? Were part of some university study? Evaluated as an adult for some condition that required an IQ test and had insurance pay for it? Paid serious money out of pocket as an adult to get a professionally administered IQ test? Are just making it up?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m more skeptical of self-reported IQ than I am of self-reported SAT. Most college-bound American kids take the SAT, and the ones that don’t take the ACT which is readily converted; both are single, well-defined tests. You can retake them, but that’s as much wiggle room as you’ve got. Short of outright lying, the worst most people are going to do is report their PSAT score as their SAT score or vice versa.

            IQ, on the other hand, can mean anything from a professionally administered test you took when you were sixteen, to a professionally administered test you took when you were seven, to a quiz on OKCupid. There’s more room for overreporting, and more incentive for some parties to overreport you.

          • name-shii says:

            I’m also always very skeptic of IQ scores, specifically Americans (sorry, American friends), online. I don’t know why, but to me it feels like American IQ scores are always higher than the scores of virtually any other country. But I’ll come back to that later – first let me give you some background info.

            I took the German Mensa IQ test when I was 22 (I didn’t really want to enter Mensa, but it’s just 50€, so …). Before the test started, the examiners were very insistent that the test were of the harder variety so it could record higher scores with more precision than most “normal” tests (losing precision in the lower scores, of course). They then went on to explain that even this test only really produced reliable results up to maybe 150. Most Germans never take on an IQ test in their life. So the people I talked to there were probably the people in my city most likely to get the required 130 points. I got 131 (so juuuust enough for Mensa, even though I didn’t join, see above). I met some people from there for a few beers after we all got our results. I think two got results slightly above 135, most got in, and one ore two just missed with like 128 or 129. As was my expectation – nobody would take an IQ test if it’s not free or non-optional unless they had a realistic chance for an above average score.

            Online I’ve encountered some people from other European or Asian countries who had IQs (if I dared ask) in that same range. All very bright people, in my subjective opinion; most of them students at pretty good universities. (Obvious group selection biases are obvious.) My girlfriend is a student at Tokyo University. She got tested at 18 (don’t know which test) and got 136. I’m just spitballing here, but I’d guess the median IQ at most of these universities is something between 120-130 points.

            Some of the Americans I met in my life, online or offline (it’s not a great sample, maybe 30-40 people I’d either be comfortable enough to ask stuff like that or who like to post that information without a care in the world (mostly the LW tumblr crowd), had never taken an IQ test. All who HAD scores though were heavily skewed above 140. Like maybe there was somebody with a score below 130, but not more than one. Some claimed to have been in the 160s or even above that. This gets worse with historic figures which are routinely assigned IQ scores of above 200. Looking at the data above, we got at least one person with a 197 score here.

            I’ve never found out why that is. There seem to be no papers on US-IQ-tests measuring stuff differently. Maybe Americans actually are, on average, 20 IQ points more intelligent than the rest of the world. Maybe my group selection bias regarding Americans selects differently from all other country groups. The people I’ve met online with an IQ of 160 or higher seem to certainly be on par with my real life friend with the highest IQ (143) – quick thinkers, quick on the uptake, usually reasonable information gatherers and extractors. But they don’t seem to excel her by much, if at all.

            This is all highly subjective and riddled with anecdotal evidence of course. But it’s still something I wanted to share, and maybe other people had similar experiences – or totally different ones that imply the opposite!

          • Nornagest says:

            Part of that might come out of the fact that people of average intelligence or higher usually don’t take professionally administered IQ tests in the States unless they want to be in MENSA as an adult, or someone thinks they deserve to be in an accelerated program as a child. This leads to obvious selection bias issues, made worse in the latter case by the fact that childhood IQ scores often aren’t very stable. Anyone can take half-assed online IQ tests, and many do, but those have their own obvious issues.

            That said, anyone who claims an IQ above 160 can generally be assumed to be full of shit until proven otherwise.

          • Anthony says:

            American IQ testing on young children still (as of when I was a young child, anyway) uses the “mental age/chronological age” method, which exaggerates higher IQs over the adult “1 s.d. = 15 points” method.

            I was told I scored some ridiculously high number when I took an IQ test when I was 5. While I’m fairly certain my IQ (using the SD method) is over 130, I have my doubts about it being over 145, even though my SAT score says it’s somewhat higher than that.

          • science says:

            Whoever said he has an IQ of 197 is either lying or mistaken. Given that in a population of 7 billion people you’d expect the entire planet to only have 0-1. The problem of designing a test accurate at that level should I hope be obvious.

            Actually, anything north of 145 is suspect. If you read the validation studies published by the test designers you start to see scary error bars and/or iffy reasoning when you are that far away from the center.

          • Careless says:

            Not necessarily. The way child IQs are calculated, you can wind up with a score that high.

            But not an adult IQ. That’s not even testable.

          • Quixote says:

            America is at least 5 times larger than any European country. If a top school in Europe is filled with people who are 1 in 2000 level intelligence than a top school in the U.S. Is filled with people who are 1 in 10,000.

            People who seem similarly elite from the U.S. probably are more impressive and higher IQ.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Quixote, that is a reason to expect the US IMO team to be better than the same sized IMO teams from European countries. But the size and number of the top schools that we are comparing vary from country to country, as does what they select people for. Germany just doesn’t concentrate people in top schools, which may be relevant to name-shii’s experience. On the other hand, he mentions the University of Tokyo, the top school in a big country.

            Caltech is often compared to the École Normale Supérieure. Caltech admits 250 undergrads each year, while ENS admits 100 in the science wing. Since America is more than 2.5x as populous as France, you might expect Caltech to be more competitive. But these are not the only top schools in their countries. Many people who could go to Caltech choose to go elsewhere. Whereas I think that French schools are seen as having a more definite order. Similarly, in England, Oxford and Cambridge are very clearly the best, but their admissions goals are more like those of Harvard than Caltech or ENS.

          • Careless says:

            Since America is more than 2.5x as populous as France, you might expect Caltech to be more competitive

            Perhaps in a universe where Caltech admitted nothing but American citizens. I know nothing about the French school, but I am going to bet very heavily that Cal has a much higher percentage of foreigners than the French school, and therefore a more elite student body

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Caltech undergrads are about 10% foreign. That’s smaller than my error bars on the size of the class!

          • Careless says:

            Ok, I find that shocking. Looking it up, it’s 45% Asian but only 8% international.
            Wow.

            edit: also, their URM percentage is completely (ludicrously) impossible to square with their claimed lack of AA.

            Second edit: but the wiki of the French school suggests that it requires a test that no one who is not in France would take for admissions, so 8%>0, even though I grossly overestimated the international student percentage at CT

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Careless:

            Not necessarily. The way child IQs are calculated, you can wind up with a score that high.

            But not an adult IQ. That’s not even testable.

            I know you’re basically right, but I also know you’re kind of oversimplifying. So…

            You seem to be thinking of ratio IQ. About which you’re right. And I’ll add that I support what they’re doing in using ratio IQ for kids at the extremes, because “in the trenches,” it really is more useful for predicting a child’s educational and even social needs. This despite the drawback that scores can’t easily be translated into percentile / rarity estimates. (For a kid, knowing “what this kid needs” is just…more important than knowing “how rare they are.”)

            But. There’s also a way for childhood *deviation* IQ to be higher than adult IQ, and yet, quite possibly more accurate (in a sense, read on) too. There really is an actual conflict between the fact that IQ becomes more and more heritable with age, and the fact that extremely high IQ is harder to measure *accurately* in adults.

            This shows up on the Woodcock-Johnson as well as statistical extrapolations that have occasionally been created on the fly when someone has encountered an unusually high-(raw-)scoring child.

            On pretty much every IQ test ever designed, the norm sample just isn’t that big. It’s usually about 200-300 per age. That means that even above +2 sd a lot of the scores are *already* statistical extrapolation.

            (This is what science was calling “iffy reasoning.” It is indeed “iffy” if your sole goal is being accurate as to rarity–that is, matching scaled scores to accurate percentiles.)

            Further extrapolation is no more inaccurate; it’s only not routinely done because the need for it is so rare. (But yes, it is potentially not a match to actual rarity. But…it is still measuring actual differences in whatever-IQ-tests-measure.)

            Most IQ tests are scored like the Wechsler, which I’ll use as an example. You’ve got raw scores: number of items correct (or points scored, for items which can earn 1-3 points per item). Then you’ve got subtest scores, where each subtest’s raw score is matched to a norms table (which is part extrapolation) to give scores in the form mean=10, sd=3. Then you’ve got a sum of subtest scores which is matched to another norms table (also part extrapolation) to give the final IQ (and subscale, as in “verbal comprehension index” etc.) score(s).

            Test designers generally feel that for a clinical population, the test does not need to discriminate outside a range of -2 to +2 sd. They deliberately eliminate questions that distinguish individuals in the norm sample outside that range (because these questions are “too easy/hard and will annoy the subject and reduce accuracy”). So scores outside that range tend to become wholly extrapolations (anyway). They are based on finding the mean and standard deviation for the raw score for the norm sample of the given age, then mapping it to mean=10 sd=3 for the subtest; and then finding the mean and standard deviation for the sum of subtest scores for the norm sample of the given age, then mapping *that* to mean=100 sd=15. (Again, “iffy reasoning” from the POV of measuring rarity / getting accurate percentiles.)

            So the first problem is that the tables have to be tables. They can’t go to infinity. Subtest score tables generally stop at 19 or 20 (IOW, +3 sd on that subtest). The test may assign someone with a raw score of 25 a subtest score of 17, someone with a raw score of 26-27 a subtest score of 18…and everyone with raw scores anywhere from 28-40 a subtest score of 19. (Same thing happens at the low end.) It’s failing to discriminate, not because there’s any reason to think the difference isn’t real, but just because…they had to stop the table somewhere. The test designers know that this makes the test less accurate for subjects with extremely high (or low) raw scores; they just don’t think it matters.

            Second problem: On a test like the WISC where the same questions are given to children ages 6-16, or the Woodcock-Johnson where the same questions are given to people from preschool age through old age, the same raw score obviously generates a higher scaled score in a 6-year-old than a 16-year-old. By even age 12 on the WISC, many subtests can’t record every score (there may be a difference of only 1 raw score point between a subtest score of say 15 and 13), reducing their accuracy, and tending to err on the side of lower scores.

            Finally: The same child may “reach a personal ceiling”–miss enough items for the test to be stopped, establishing that is really as well as they can do–on all subtests at age 6, but on no subtests at age 16 (because the test isn’t hard enough). This child will record a higher score at age 6, *and the higher score will be more accurate*. Well, more accurate for their ability at 6 than the second score is for their ability at 16–because the issue of decreasing environmental influence is real too. But *both* problems are real.

            Now, the Woodcock-Johnson actually does give deviation IQs as high as the mentioned 197. They are extrapolated, with all the potential mismatch-to-actual-rarity that implies. They are only given to young children, for the reasons described above. They are not, though, based on any kind of ratio calculation.

            Similarly, when a psychologist has occasionally found a child who, say, got a raw score of 40 on a subtest where the raw score for their age that mapped to a subtest score of 19 or 20 was 28…psychologists in that situation have been known to return to the test designers for further extrapolations. When subtest scores only go to 19 or 20 simply because the test designer thought few subjects would ever need them to go any further…and are already extrapolations anyway…you’d be curious too, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you want to extrapolate (further) too?

            Some psychologists did. That’s why they asked the Woodcock-Johnson folks to include those extrapolations in the…scoring software. And now that there is such a thing, they don’t have to use just tables anymore…they can build the formula into the software. And with the Woodcock-Johnson, they did.

            With a kid like this, even if the extreme nature of their childhood score was due to no environmental influence whatsoever–even if they continued to *have* the exact same degree of difference–the same kid at an older age wouldn’t have the opportunity to *show* this difference. At the older age, now the raw score of 40 just *barely* maps to a 19…or even, at an even older age, a 16…and *there are no more questions*. This person hasn’t (necessarily) dropped in IQ. The test has just become less able to distinguish between individuals at the extreme. Because it’s run out of hard questions.

            That’s because it’s easy to come up with questions that are hard for a typical 6-year-old. It’s a lot harder to find questions that are hard for a typical adult. Or a smart adult. A typical adult can judge what’s the right answer to a question that’s hard for 6-year-olds. A typical adult cannot judge what’s the right answer to a question that’s hard for smart adults. For that…you *need* a large norm sample. Which…most IQ tests don’t have. Most test designers don’t think they need one.

            So someone really could have a deviation score of 197 from a childhood Woodcock-Johnson. And there’s an argument for it actually being more accurate–or, at least, more accurate to that person’s ability at that age–than any official test could be about their ability now.

            So whoever gave that score could be in the situation I described. OTOH, maybe it *is* the Stanford-Binet LM score you seem to be thinking of. *However*…there *is* also an earlier attempt at correcting SB-LM scores toward deviation scores! It’s called the Pinneau correction. The old Pinneau norms tables are based on calculating the standard deviations *of the norm sample’s ratio IQ scores* by age. The tables just list the results of (((ratio IQ score)-100)/sdforage)*16+100. The SB-LM manual also lists that formula, for any math-literate testers who care to use it for kids who score above around 168-170 (which is as high as Pinneau’s *tables* go, but remember, the tables are *completely* generated by the formula, they are *no different*).

            Nowadays we mostly think the Pinneau correction doesn’t generate scores which match the expected percentiles. I’m deliberately not saying it’s “inaccurate” because as I said above, it actually is pretty accurate for predicting what kind of schoolwork a kid needs. What it does is correct the initial ratio IQ score for the minor developmental spurts and slowdowns that are typical. (IIRC the sds range from 11-24 for different ages. So not a *huge* difference, but still.) It makes the score more likely to generate accurate “mental ages” in the future. It’s a good tool to have. But high-ratio-IQ kids are more common than you’d expect if you assumed ratio IQ was distributed normally. So though Pinneau-corrected IQs were intended to be deviation IQs, we now know they don’t work for *that* purpose, even if you correct for their sd being 16 instead of 15.

            But you can see how someone with an old Pinneau-corrected IQ might not know we now think it’s not a deviation IQ. That too may be what happened here.

            So you’re right. Except for the oversimplification. It may actually make sense sometimes to prefer (some kinds of) childhood IQ.

            If this blog is attractive to people at an extreme, I’d like to know that. If it’s even just attractive to people who were extreme as children and that affected their psychological development–I’d like to know *that*, too. 😉

          • Some possibly relevant data on U.S IQ scores…

            I went to the University of Chicago Laboratory School, an elite private school, possibly the best in Illinois. At some point one of the students managed to copy the school’s list of student IQ’s and passed it on to the rest of us. So I have seen, but don’t have a copy, of the figures for one elite private school. The students would have been seventeen or younger—I have no idea at what age they were tested.

            The highest score on the list was 183. There was at least one other in the high 160’s. My vague memory is that most were above 120, probably a majority above 130.

            At a later stage I was a councilor at a camp for gifted children. The highest IQ we were told was 201. That was a very bright boy of about 11, so part of the explanation may have been the mental age/chronological age definition. I wouldn’t be astonished if he was as bright as, or brighter than, the average adult. My memory was that there was at least one other kid in the 160’s or so.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Yes, those were probably Stanford-Binet ratio IQ scores. For those tested in about 1975-1995, they were probably Pinneau-corrected. (Later testers tended to move to deviation IQ tests, which from the POV of “predicting kids’ needs,” depressed scores.)

          • science says:

            I’ve replied twice now, only to have my comment eaten by the software, so this is going to be terse.

            Cord Shirt, good post but:

            1) I think you softball the problems with extended scores when you say they might not be reasonably comparable to adult IQ. Given the scores that now multiple people have cited it is highly likely that these numbers are not valid in a normal curve model.

            2) I disagree that the not-IQ-scores-but-something numbers are necessary or particularly useful for the children assigned them. Once a child is off the charts at 145 he needs a carefully tailored education and development program, not an off the shelf gifted curriculum. Maybe even before that.

            Given that you already need to do a tailored program I tend to think that the further extrapolated numbers and associated adjectives (e.g. profoundly) are more about parental ego than about guiding program design.

        • zz says:

          My SAT score was 1500/1600, which I considered very low. I never retook because my plan was to spend my first year at college at the local junior college, which allowed cross-registration with a local private college, which has a killer math department, where I took courses not offered at the junior college as if I were a student at the private college at no extra charge.

          (This plan gets points for cost-effectiveness, knocking off gened requirements with little work, and actually working, but loses points for giving you crappy preparation for any courses in your major and making it hard to develop a social group when you go off to a four-year school: it was my first year there, my second year in college, I was considered a junior, and took most of my classes with seniors. I have more fb friends at Harvard than the four-year school I attended.)

          • Urstoff says:

            That’s some framing when a 99th percentile score is considered very low.

          • zz says:

            When I was 13, I scored 1090 (560-m/530-v; 62 and 56 percentiles, respectively, at the time). Gaining 100 points/year is disappointing, especially because I’m convinced that, had I been allowed to self-study from the AoPS textbooks instead of attending class, I could have made an 800-m within two years.

            Also, I was/am mostly disappointed by the 750-m—97th percentile the year I took the SATs. I recall incorrecting this one question where you had to factor something like 2x^2 + 3x + 1, and I hadn’t factored anything in ages (I was taking calculus as a junior), and then I panicked and spent the last several minutes of the section failing to factor it.

            So, yes, much disappoint.

          • Linch says:

            lol, I’m pretty sure SAT scores stop being meaningful way before 1500.

            Like, a single mistake means you can’t get a perfect math score. Past the 95th percentile (heck, probably past 650), the SAT math measures things like patience way more than it measures mathematical aptitude or logical ability.

          • Cliff says:

            Linch,

            Again, where would you come to a conclusion like that? It is very wrong.

          • Linch says:

            So, I took the SATs back in 2009. I made a single mistake in the math section and got a 770. If I recall correctly, that puts me at the 98th percentile, meaning that at least a *full percent* of people who took the test on that one session (recall that many people take the test multiple times) got a perfect score on the math section.

            Look, on a multiple-choice test with no partial credit, how plausible is it that a single question can have enough precision to meaningfully differentiate between the upper percentile of ability?

            A test that can plausibly test for the upper ranges will be something like the Chinese gaokao (which has never had a perfect score since its inception) or the Indian IIT-JEEs:

            http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/IIT-JEE-average-scores-double-cutoff-goes-up-to-190-from-178/articleshow/6021912.cms

            I’m not sure what the SATs test for (they correlate moderately well with freshman GPAs, so obviously it tests for something), but “fluid intelligence in the upper range” simply isn’t it.

          • bbartlog says:

            It’s been a long time since I took the SAT, but I did take it after the 1995 re-norming and saw in the scoring details that it was possible to miss answers and still get a ‘perfect’ 1600 score. Maybe they changed it at some point thereafter, but I’m surprised that one miss on the math section would drop you that much. Seems like that would imply that they ended up making the problems easier at some point, and the result of that is that the test ends up being less sensitive to intelligence per se and somewhat more sensitive as a measure of conscientiousness.
            In any case, the test is really easy compared to what it was in 1984 or so, when I first took it.

          • Linch says:

            bbartog->It’s still possible to get a 1600 while getting some questions wrong, but pretty much all of the leeway is in the Critical Reading section. See here*:

            http://blog.prepscholar.com/how-to-calculate-sat-score

            So it’s almost certainly true that there’s less variance/more verbal IQ predictive value in the SAT Critical Reading section than the Math. Still, most of the difficulty comes from a long vocab list, and if you don’t think it’s possible to “game” the test by memorizing vocab, you haven’t been to China 😛 (heck, my impression is that most America-bound Chinese students assume that ability to memorize vocab is what the SAT *tests for*).

            So yeah, modern SAT has a pretty low skill ceiling.

            I’m sure the older SAT had a much higher skill ceiling. However, I would not bet that it’s necessarily more difficult to “game” by getting a (at the time) impressive SAT score. Scott or somebody who studies psychometrics can contradict me if I’m wrong, but if I recall correctly you can get significant score increases on even actual IQ tests if you study for the test (which is why psychometricians kept quiet and pre-Internet people had a very hazy conception of what types of questions are on IQ tests), so my prior is very strongly against “the older SAT is in this magical category of things that are basically immune to Goodhart’s law.”

            *Incidentally, the range the official ETS guide gave is too optimistic at the upper end for math, only a very “hard” test will have it so that one mistake will drop you by 10 points. This is well-known by people who teach the SAT:
            http://qr.ae/Rw5C5L
            “To reach a 770+ on math, you’ll basically need to miss no more than 1 problem. Even if you’re great at SAT math, it’s very easy to make a careless mistakes on this portion of the exam that would prevent you from getting such a high score.”

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Linch:

            When Kaplan first appeared on the scene, the College Board studied its effects and decided the amount it improved scores was within the standard error and not worth worrying about.

            (Sorry to repeat myself but) That was back before they announced with much fanfare that “SAT” no longer stood for “Scholastic *Aptitude* Test” because it no longer focused on measuring aptitude because measuring aptitude was unfair to those with less of it.

            IOW, test prep always helped some, but after they deliberately changed the SAT to be “fairer to those who want to improve their scores by working hard,” it…became easier to improve your score by working hard.

            As for IQ tests, the small score boost from remembering having worked on those specific items before is why you’re not supposed to give the same person the same test again within about a year. (After a year, for most people the effect will have worn off. Though people who initially got very high scores are rumored to remember and keep the boost for longer. 😉 )

          • Linch says:

            Cord Shirt: My claim, in other words, is that if it takes a year for the training effects of a *single instance* of taking an IQ test to wear off, then it’s implausible that you can’t “train for the test” by eg. taking a mock IQ test 3 times a week for several months leading up to the test. For the IQ test to have any meaning, you have to assume that people don’t train for the test (or alternatively, that everybody trains for the test ~equally) Do you think this claim is incorrect?

            I suspect Kaplan was very inexperienced when it first came on the scene. Also test prep programs in the US are significantly less rigorous than their counterparts in China.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Linch:

            The training effects of an IQ test are from remembering the specific items. You could similarly “study for” a specific IQ test or administration of the SAT if you got the specific items and memorized the answers, also known as “cheating.” (Which I know Education Realist thinks goes on with the SAT.) There was one famous instance of this with an IQ test–Justin Chapman. This is also what may have been happening with the NYC private schools.

            Practice on the same *type of* IQ test item rather than the *exact same* item–“eg. taking a mock IQ test 3 times a week for several months leading up to the test”–has much less of an effect. But yeah, it may have some effect–I mean, that’s the theory on the cause of the Flynn Effect, that it’s cultural shifts in what types of thinking get more practice.

            On aptitude tests such as IQ tests and the old SAT, the practice effect of *type* of item is most pronounced going from “no practice” to “some practice.” There’s not much difference between “some practice” and “lots of practice.” (Each individual test publishes info on this type of practice effect.) With high-stakes aptitude tests like the old SAT, the assumption and hope is that everyone has at least some practice–those with no practice are going to have inaccurately low scores.

            Since the new SAT has moved away from aptitude, it’s now easier to practice for. One of the recent adjustments that made it easier to game is when it switched from drawing vocabulary questions from a very large bank of unusual words that show up in classic literature, to a much smaller bank of “more familiar” words. When you’re reading along and encounter a word you’ve never seen before, figuring out an approximate meaning from context on the fly (so you can just go on happily reading and don’t need to stop to check a dictionary)…takes g, and memory for these “incidentally learned” meanings is correlated with g. When the test’s word bank is larger and more esoteric, people who know the meanings are more likely to be people with incidental knowledge of this kind. When the word bank is smaller and consists of more “familiar” words, it’s a lot easier to just pick a batch of words you hope reflects the word bank and just study the heck out of dictionary definitions. As test prep programs do.

    • bluto says:

      Keep in mind that the older the SSC userbase skews the lower the SAT scores are likely to be. They’ve recentered the SAT a few times (the biggest was around 1996 where a median male score went from about 920 to 1030 and perfect scores shifted from 1 in 50-100,000ish events to 1 in 1500 ish events). An average age of 29 means that a decent fraction likely took the test when scores were much lower.

      • PSJ says:

        I only looked at the SAT 2400 scores and the median there is 2240 (Scott used mean, which was misleadingly low). Pretty much exactly like most top-tier schools.

      • Linch says:

        “average SAT was 1480 by the old reckoning and 2220 by the new reckoning.”

        (I independently verified that those were average sums for people who entered scores out of 1600 and 2400, respectively)

        2220*2/3=1480. So if there’s a selection effect by having older people take the poll, it’s a very small one.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The publication of the 25th and 75th percentiles by colleges distorts them. First, colleges optimize those two point scores at the expense of the distribution. Second, the 75th percentile is the sum of the 75th percentile M plus the 75th percentile V, not comparable to 75th percentile total score that we have. Third, even without such distortion, colleges might have weird preferences (source, page 7(8))

    • stargirl says:

      I do not understand why you say the average IVy LEague Person is higher than SSC. Here is a list of colleges by SAT in the old method: http://www.forbes.com/sites/schifrin/2014/08/04/top-100-sat-scores-ranking-which-colleges-have-the-brightest-kids/

      Here is it in the new method: https://www.collegeraptor.com/Rankings/Details/MedianSAT

      In both rankings “SSC the college” would be around 10th. Cal Tech always has the highest test Scores by far. But many of the School’s that did better than SSC did only slightly better. Are you using “Ivy league” to mean the Top 10 schools or something. SSC is below the “top10 schools” average. But I think it is actually doing better than the actual Ivy League. And regardless SSC has the same score on the “old SAT” as Columbia and Stanford.

    • Irenist says:

      @PSJ:
      Speaking of IQ->SAT relations:
      What’s the deal with that table? I had my IQ tested as a young kid, and it came back as rather lower than the IQ supposedly implied by my SAT score per that table. Is the table wrong? Or was my IQ test wrong? Could my IQ actually have increased between grade school and high school?

      Relatedly: Depending on how common the sort of mismatch I just mentioned is between IQ and SAT scores, I imagine that would throw a monkey wrench into some of the self-reported results here? Maybe? For instance, Scott writes that average IQ was self-reported as 139, and average old-school SAT as 1480. But that table you linked to (which I assume is for the post-1994 but pre-contemporary tests?) says that 1480 on the SAT ought to correlate with 143+ IQ, not 139. So either that table is wrong (possible), I’m totally misunderstanding the table (VERY possible), or there’s some kind of weird mismatch between the self-reported IQ and the self-reported SATs?

      ETA: Just looked up some LSAT to IQ conversion tables. They’re all over the place–in my case, one of them gives me a higher IQ than I was tested for as a kid, and another gives me a lower one. Seems like a bit of a mess.

      • Urstoff says:

        Simple variance given that you only took each test once (I’m assuming)? How precise are IQ tests?

        • Irenist says:

          Only took each test once, yes. Also, I see your point about the variance–the table does mention standard deviations, after all. But I still think that raises an issue for self-reporting: given that such variance is possible, and the likely human tendency to recall the more flattering variants, isn’t that going to skew the results?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            At this point, I’m beginning to think that my “Duh, I dunno, but a college professor tried hard to recruit me to Mensa” might count as pretty objective, though not indicating any level to be proud of, here. (I didn’t take the survey.)

          • baconbacon says:

            What scores are you going to report to colleges? The most flattering ones.

      • Psmith says:

        Depending on when you took the SAT, verbal and math scores might have been renormed since the compilation of IQ/SAT data. “It’s a mess” is a decent summary.

      • Anthony says:

        I had my IQ tested as a young kid, and it came back as rather lower than the IQ supposedly implied by my SAT score per that table. Is the table wrong? Or was my IQ test wrong? Could my IQ actually have increased between grade school and high school?

        Table – probably not, though check out SAT year, because, as pointed out by others below, it’s been “renormed” a few times. But there is still variation – the correlations aren’t perfect.

        IQ test – maybe. Even if you were trying to do as well as possible, there’s some random variation. If you were having a bad day (including things you might not have realized would affect your performance then), your score could be low.

        IQ increase – definitely possible. The correlation between childhood IQ and adult IQ increases as you approach age 16. If your brain development was a little slower than average, your childhood IQ would have been lower than your ultimate adult IQ.

      • Careless says:

        While the SAT is, functionally, largely a test of IQ, it’s also a test of knowledge. Studying more in high school (especially on the verbal side) will get you to score higher

      • Anthony says:

        And now that I look at that table, I see that my SAT scores indicate a much higher IQ than I believe I have (about 15 IQ greater than my optimistic estimate), and I know I’m pretty smart. So I think there’s something wrong with it.

      • jonathan says:

        I’m pretty confident that table is BS. They seem to assume that +1 SD on the SAT is equivalent to +1 SD in IQ. But this is wrong, because the SAT is not an IQ test, it is only highly correlated with IQ.

        I remember reading somewhere (in an academic source) that +1 SD on the SAT should be interpreted as predicting about +0.6-0.7 SD on an IQ test.

        Using round numbers, that means 200 points on the SAT equals 10 IQ points. If a 1000 SAT score corresponds to a 108 IQ, that means a 1600 corresponds to a 138 IQ, not 152 as they report.

        • science says:

          The SAT is normed against test takers (those who intend to apply to college), while IQ tests are theoretically normed against the whole population. With no other information we should expect a median SAT score to correspond to a higher than median IQ, not lower.

          The less than perfect correlation should show up as noise (widened confidence interval) rather than a shift down.

          • Anthony says:

            That’s not inconsistent with the SD on the SAT being tighter than the SD for population IQ. And Jonathan’s comment leaves me thinking that his adjustment is fairly accurate, as it leaves me with an SAT-IQ correspondence that’s believable about my IQ.

    • JDG1980 says:

      This also allays a lot of fears I had previously had about “this group of people has extremely high-IQ so I should be particularly careful about disagreeing with them.” It seems rational to partially discount our group’s opinions on pretty much everything we have disagreed with scientific consensus about, particularly in fields outside math/comp sci/engineering.

      Is there any evidence at all that having a high IQ is correlated with holding correct beliefs in areas outside one’s field of expertise?

      Off-hand, it’s easy to come up numerous examples of unquestionably eminent high-IQ individuals who held weird, wacky beliefs in subjects unrelated to those for which they gained fame. Linus Pauling was a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, but when he tried his hand at dabbling in medicine, almost everything he promoted is considered by the scientific community to be quackery. Sir Isaac Newton is perhaps one of the 100 most important people in human history and was clearly smarter than at least 99.999% of everyone who ever lived; that doesn’t mean I need to accept his weird interpretations of the Book of Revelation.

  3. Pretty much anything financial belongs to “extremistan” where the mean is less useful, because it is dominated by the richest outliers.

    • Tibor says:

      I would be careful about “everything financial”. Prices of rice do not follow that pattern, wages in most professions do neither. Narcissus Taleb (I just cannot help calling him that after reading Black Swan) makes some pretty good points but also is prone to grandeur and overestimating the prevalence of the cases where conventional models do not work. And his self-love is, well, something one has to live with while reading his book 🙂

      https://www.stat.berkeley.edu/~aldous/157/Books/taleb.html

      I think this is a good and balanced review of his book.

      • PGD says:

        Economists always use a log normal distribution for wages, in any profession, because the distribution is very skewed. That does not make it ‘extremistan’ necessarily, if you think that correction works as it often does, but wages are always quite skewed

        • Tibor Mach says:

          Is it? I would be surprised to see a heavy tailed distribution when looking at wages of factory workers or accountants for example.

  4. XerxesPraelor says:

    ~20 people from Wisconsin? Now I wish we had a meetup some time.

  5. Nick Anyos says:

    Most surprising to me: “19% religious, of whom 12% identified as “committed” to their religion.” Expected this to be much lower.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Me too. (I say, as one of the 12%.)

    • E. Harding says:

      Is that 12% of 19% or 12% of 100%?

      Why’d you expect this to be much lower? I expected it to be higher.

    • Vivificient says:

      Maybe the more religious SSC readers are less likely to also be LessWrong readers?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Very likely. At least in my opinion, LW has much more blatantly atheistic content, and an air of “of course we’re all atheists,” while here feels much more like, “you’re religious? Tell us about it!”

        • Deiseach says:

          Less Wrong – or at least Yudkowsky’s – position is pretty plainly “If you’re religious, you are wrong because – “. He even had a post up about how you cannot be a scientist and religious, because that means you fail the first basic rule of evidence evaluation, so until you are properly instructed in how to recognise fairy tales don’t bother coming round pretending you accept how gravity works.

          At least on here you are not considered to be better occupied dangling by your tail from a tree branch than cluttering up the place, if you’re religious 🙂

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I think it was more that you can be a scientist in the limited domain while you are actually wearing your labcoat, doing the tests, and yet be religious in the rest of your life, and that it’s a disturbing tell about the low state of human rationality generally, that even people who are capable of applying the full range of self-deception-avoidance techniques at work are still capable of believing with such high confidence in such low-probability things as the supernatural claims of mainstream religions – that is, it’s not that religious people are particularly stupid, it’s that religious people are simply a colourful example of general human stupidity. At least, that was the impression I took from ‘Raising the Sanity Waterline’. Do you remember which post you are talking about?

          • Deiseach says:

            I may have mis-read the piece, Winter Shaker, but what I took from it was that you may be wearing a lab coat and calling yourself a scientist and plugging the right variables into the equation and getting the right answer, but you aren’t a scientist.

            It’s an interesting idea in that it seems to flow in a parallel direction with scientism – that “scientist” is not just a job but a whole way of being and thinking. I don’t think we’d expect “lawyer” or “doctor” or “policeman” to be quite so all-encompassing, in that being a member of a particular profession or in a particular job means you must think a certain way and approach everything from that angle*.

            It’s something that I’m more accustomed to from a religious angle, I have to admit. I can understand the general idea that the type of mind attracted to science, particularly as a career, runs along certain lines; and indeed that the philosophy of science (as distinct from science itself**) may require this overarching approach: that part of science is rational weighing up of evidence, and if you are honest about this, and do it properly, then the only correct answer you can come up with is agnosticism/functional atheism.

            Which is rather presuming the conclusion that has to be proved, no? If rationality can only lead to the conclusion that belief in deities (using that as an umbrella term for non-materialism***) is nonsense, that you only do rationality correctly when you arrive at this conclusion, then you have already decided on the “right” answer before doing your evidence-weighing.

            It wasn’t “These people have come to a different conclusion using rational evidence sifting”, it was “These people haven’t even tried or if they’ve tried, they’ve done it wrong because they are not coming to the only correct conclusion”.

            *But if you flip it around, imagine using such an approach to “Why should it make a difference to my taste in art, or indeed my ability to play music well, if I’m an atheist or not?” Imagine NO YOUR PREFERENCE IN WHAT KIND OF CAKE YOU LIKE MUST ALIGN WITH YOUR ATHEIST PRINCIPLES, down to the smallest detail of everyday life.

            **Whether you cheer for the Mighty Reds or the Plastic Blues, vote Green or Umber, like cooking or prefer mud-wrestling, or consider you are actually a unicorn spirit in a primate body has nothing at all to do with your ability to put on a lab coat and work out how to improve that batch of nerve gas or anti-malaria drugs just as efficiently, productively, and accurately as the most pristinely pure Truly Scientific Mindset Scientist at the bench next to you.

            Or should William Campbell’s recent Nobel Prize in Medicine be revoked because he’s not a Real Scientist, as he has some kind of religious belief? Someone who is a model Effective Altruist, as he was instrumental in persuading his employers to make Avermectin free?

            ***Again, I’m using this very broadly; I don’t mean to attribute Materialism strictly defined as such to anyone associated with LessWrong, or at least not those happy to identify as Materialists.

          • Andrew G. says:

            Most likely the post in question is Outside the Laboratory:

            Now what are we to think of a scientist who seems competent inside the laboratory, but who, outside the laboratory, believes in a spirit world? We ask why, and the scientist says something along the lines of: “Well, no one really knows, and I admit that I don’t have any evidence – it’s a religious belief, it can’t be disproven one way or another by observation.” I cannot but conclude that this person literally doesn’t know why you have to look at things. They may have been taught a certain ritual of experimentation, but they don’t understand the reason for it – that to map a territory, you have to look at it – that to gain information about the environment, you have to undergo a causal process whereby you interact with the environment and end up correlated to it.

            (emphasis in original)

          • RCF says:

            “that you only do rationality correctly when you arrive at this conclusion, then you have already decided on the “right” answer before doing your evidence-weighing.”

            This presumes that anyone who has concluded that atheism is the right answer must have done so without ever having weighed the evidence for it, which is a truly bizarre position.

            Religion is, by definition, anti-rationalist. If you truly have weighed the evidence correctly and somehow concluded that God exists, then your belief in God is not a religious belief, but a rational belief. It’s like the term “alternative medicine”, if it worked, it would just be called “medicine” (some exceptions, but mostly true). If a belief were reasonable, it wouldn’t called a religious belief, it would just be called a “belief”. Or “fact”. The term “religion” exists solely to convey that people shouldn’t expect there to be any real reason for believing something, and it would be gauche to ask anyone to actually justify it.

            So until you can provide peer-reviewed papers conclusively showing that the Pope has unique access to a transcendent being responsible for the creation of the universe, I’m going to consider Catholicism a load of BS. You cannot have it both ways: you cannot insist that your beliefs are exempt from rational inquiry, and complain that when people dismiss your beliefs as unscientific/irrational/etc., they are being closeminded/bigoted/prejudiced, etc.

            And no, I don’t think that “scientist” is a job. Scientists can get jobs, but their job isn’t “scientist”. “Athlete” isn’t a job, either. Steph Curry’s job isn’t “athlete”, it’s “point guard”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Religion is, by definition, anti-rationalist.

            I don’t know what dictionary you’re using there, but it sure isn’t Merriam-Webster. “Religion” is just another category we use, and isn’t defined by its relation to rationalism any more than “chemistry,” “politics,” or “fashion” are.

          • Nathan says:

            The idea that faith means accepting everything blindly is one I’ve only ever heard from atheists. As far as I’m concerned “religion” just means “collection of opinions about supernatural stuff”. I don’t believe in God the way I believe in love or justice, I believe in God the way I believe in rocks.

          • RCF says:

            @Nathan

            “The idea that faith means accepting everything blindly is one I’ve only ever heard from atheists.”

            If you have not, at the least, heard religious people treating their beliefs as not needing rational justification, that is something I have difficulty believing. I find this idea that ” ‘faith means believing without reason’ is an atheist misconception” to be a motte bailey tactic on the part of religious people. Atheists aren’t making up some special meaning of “faith”, they are using the dominant meaning of the word.

            “As far as I’m concerned “religion” just means “collection of opinions about supernatural stuff”.”

            That’s not how the word is used.

            “I don’t believe in God the way I believe in love or justice, I believe in God the way I believe in rocks.”

            You think the existence of God is as clear as the existence of rocks?

          • Protagoras says:

            @Nathan, Have you read Kierkegaard? Or perhaps he was a secret atheist. But he seems to have a non-trivial fan base among Christians, who seem to find his view of faith plausible. And Kierkegaard definitely had the the view that faith is in defiance of anything rational.

          • Troy says:

            On the alleged definition of faith as “believing without evidence,” this poll is instructive: https://www.facebook.com/UnbelievableJB/photos/pb.114021982003563.-2207520000.1446942436./1003898413015911/?type=3&theater

          • RCF says:

            @Troy

            I did not introduce the claim that “faith means believing without evidence”. I find it a bit dishonest to rewrite my claim in a different form, and then argue against it. Not needing to justify beliefs is the bailey of faith. That most Christians claim the motte meaning of the word when asked is not in any way contrary to the claim that this is a motte bailey situation.

          • RCF says:

            @Glen Raphael

            A distinction should be made between “Even after taking E into account, P(H) is still very low” and “E doesn’t significantly increase P(H).” Where the line of “strong” is is somewhat subjective, but people seeing the Statue of Liberty disappear is significant evidence towards the claim that the Statue of Liberty did in fact disappear. Your continued rejection of the claim is not due to witnesses statements lacking evidenciary weight, but the extremely low a priori probability that you assigned to the claim. Troy seemed to be making a similar error in asserting that if we can still believe H after seeing E, then E cannot be strong evidence against H. It’s possible to continue believing a hypothesis after seeing strong evidence against it, and it is possible to continue not believing a hypothesis after seeing strong evidence for it.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @RCF

            Fair, but the tomb thing is also weak evidence in the sense that stronger evidence might conceivably exist – and doesn’t. In the case of the statue, Copperfield puts up a curtain so we can’t see what he’s doing – the actual disappear/reappear happens in private, unseen, to obscure the narrative. If he could actually make the statue invisible or transport it elsewhere he wouldn’t need a curtain, he could just do it in plain sight and that would be a much more convincing demonstration of actually having the claimed magic power.

            If we apply this notion to the resurrection the claim seems to be that Jesus died and his body seemed exactly like a normal dead body right up until nobody was watching it and only then did it disappear. To a magician, that seems suspiciously convenient.

            Had anyone actually seen what happened to the body, that would provide much stronger evidence that something supernatural happened to it. But the mere claim “something was set down over here, and then a while later we checked again and it wasn’t there any more” doesn’t sound particularly miraculous.

        • Jaskologist says:

          While Scott and Yudkowsky are both atheists, and pretty serious about it, Yudkowsky is cut from the r/atheist mold, and is actively hostile towards believers. The Sequences seem to take atheism more as an axiom than something worth thinking about, and say so at every opportunity. It doesn’t help that often when they make factual statements about matters of religion, they are embarrassingly wrong, which leads informed believers to take the other claims less seriously.

          Scott doesn’t feel the need to take unrelated swipes at religion every other post, and when he does discuss the topic, it is in his characteristically thoughtful and respectful manner. He may still be wrong, but at least he’s not not even wrong.

          • Calien says:

            I’ve always thought of Yudkowsky as being very different from the r/atheism type. When he mentions religion it’s as an example of whatever his main point is, as opposed to aiming to talk about religion. When I started reading Sequence posts, I thought “yay, someone who just happens to be an atheist, instead of going around making fun of religion”. It hadn’t really occurred to me that that’s compatible with talking about religion way more than necessary.

            Also, his writing played a large role in my deciding I was an atheist, and that content includes a large proportion of the sequence posts I’d read at the time, so on reflection I’d agree he brings it up a lot.

          • Matt says:

            Indeed, theism is the ubiquitous, canonical example of obviously wrong group think on LW (compared to feminist tumblrism here)… I find the whole situation … just bizarre. I get the feeling that Yudkowsky’s relationship with religion is just shy of seething vitriol. Anyone who does not believe Atheism, the one true belief, fails the shibboleth of rationality, and should be shunned –
            http://lesswrong.com/lw/i8/religions_claim_to_be_nondisprovable/eid.

          • Careless says:

            I think that almost anyone who was raised as a theist and later became an atheist is going to have an angry atheist phase.

            Some of us grow out of it, others don’t.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” I find the whole situation … just bizarre.”

            Why? If religion is wrong, then it is in fact the ubiquitous, canonical example of obviously wrong thinking. You can’t exactly be an atheist without believing that.

            “Anyone who does not believe Atheism, the one true belief, fails the shibboleth of rationality, and should be shunned –”

            If you strip out the applause lights in your statement we get

            ‘people who believe atheism is the rational position don’t believe religion is the rational position’

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Samuel Skinner
            > ‘people who believe atheism is the rational position don’t believe religion is the rational position’

            I should think the, er, logical-Captain position is refraining from jumping to conclusion in either direction.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I should think the, er, logical-Captain position is refraining from jumping to conclusion in either direction.”

            Why? “what position is more supported by evidence” is something that we can provide an answer to.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Conclusion” and “answer” are not quite the same thing. There’s a spectrum that runs from, “I think X but !X is still within the realm of possibility”, to “I know X, but I can see how someone else might reasonably believe !X”, all the way to “Only fools could believe !X and we should all mock them”. We don’t have a concise terminology for this, but “conclusion” would seem to point to the more conclusive end of the spectrum.

            And if your plan is to engage in mockery of the dissenters, or otherwise denounce them as irrational and drive them from your intellectual company, then I submit your standards ought to be a bit higher than “is more supported by the evidence”.

          • Peter says:

            Even further end point, “Everyone actually believes X and those claiming to believe !X are lying trolls or something like that.”

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Samuel Skinner, John Schilling

            I thought ‘Bayesianism’ and ‘Consequentialism’ might name a couple of attitudes I’ve always had. Not to come down on one side or the other in an unclear situation, but to think of probability of x or y (or more or less and in between) and be constantly revising one’s estimate. To try on various working hypotheses or models by focusing on actions and consequences. When it looks like two opposing models lead to the same action/consequence, don’t hang up on deciding which one is The Only Truth, but get busy doing the action (keeping and eye open on both hypotheses, in hopes of useful ideas turning up). Especially when one or both hypotheses are non-falsifiable.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I think that is a fair description of the difference between Eliezer and Scott. And certainly there are parts of the Sequences where I’m like: this would be a perfect link to send to this religious person, except that the unnecessary digs at religion will probably put them off from giving it a fair hearing (‘An Alien God’ is a good example).

            But to be fair to Eliezer, from the outside, religions look like the sort of things that ought to be the low-hanging fruit of rationality – the kind of thing that you reject at about the same level of honest skepticism that it takes to reject homeopathy, astrology, crystal healing etc.

            There isn’t really any better evidence in favour of mainstream religions’ core supernatural claims than there is in favour of those other things (unless mainstream theists are sitting on some stunning data that they’re not sharing with the rest of us) … and yet mainstream religions are still quite popular even among very smart people. That probably tells us something interesting about the architecture of the human brain, but you can still understand someone being frustrated, going “You are smart enough to reject astrology, homeopathy, etc; how can you possibly not also be smart enough to reject Orthodox Judaism?”

          • Troy says:

            But to be fair to Eliezer, from the outside, religions look like the sort of things that ought to be the low-hanging fruit of rationality – the kind of thing that you reject at about the same level of honest skepticism that it takes to reject homeopathy, astrology, crystal healing etc.

            There isn’t really any better evidence in favour of mainstream religions’ core supernatural claims than there is in favour of those other things (unless mainstream theists are sitting on some stunning data that they’re not sharing with the rest of us) … and yet mainstream religions are still quite popular even among very smart people.

            There are plenty of Christian evidentialists (I won’t speak for other religions), and a community as interested in philosophy as the LW/SSC community ought to know that. Many philosophers give what they take to be evidence-based arguments for theism in general, and Christian theism in particular — e.g., the contributors to this volume: http://www.amazon.com/The-Blackwell-Companion-Natural-Theology/dp/1444350854. Perhaps you don’t agree with their arguments, but they’re not exactly hiding the evidence that they take to support their religion. Some philosophers, like Richard Swinburne, Tim McGrew, or Robin Collins, to name a few, even present their arguments in an explicitly probabilistic manner.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Troy:

            You really have to separate out “natural theology”—i.e. the attempt to prove the existence of some sort of God through reason—from dogmatic Christianity. I regard the former as wrong but fairly reasonable; the latter cannot be defended by rational argument.

            I note that all of the arguments in that book (except for the last one) are not attempts to prove the truth of Christianity in particular. And the “argument from miracles”, that the best explanation for the “miracles” in the New Testament is that Jesus actually is God, is just shockingly silly.

          • RCF says:

            @Samuel Skinner
            “If religion is wrong, then it is in fact the ubiquitous, canonical example of obviously wrong thinking. You can’t exactly be an atheist without believing that.”

            You can’t even be a Christian without believing that. For instance, if you’re a Catholic, then you have to believe that not believing in Catholicism is a ubiquitous canonical example of obviously wrong thinking. If you’re a Protestant, you have to believe that not believing in your particular denomination of Protestantism is a ubiquitous canonical example of obviously wrong thinking. Barring some wishy-washy Unitarian-type theology, you can’t be a Christian without believing that the overwhelming majority of Christians are wrong. And not wrong about trivial matters, but about crucial matters that everyone should be able to figure out.

            @John Schilling
            “And if your plan is to engage in mockery of the dissenters, or otherwise denounce them as irrational and drive them from your intellectual company, then I submit your standards ought to be a bit higher than “is more supported by the evidence”. “

            Who is doing that? There is a difference between mocking a belief, and mocking people who hold it. If someone has come to a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence, how is that not irrational?

            @Troy

            “Many philosophers give what they take to be evidence-based arguments for theism in general, and Christian theism in particular ”

            You are responding to the claim that either there isn’t good evidence for Christianity, or Christians are being secretive about their evidence. To this claim, it is not legitimate to respond that there a lot of Christians that have presented evidence that they believe is good. The issue is whether there is publicly available evidence that actually is good. And I think that it is safe to say that Christians decide that Christianity is true, and then go looking for evidence, rather than first finding the evidence and then concluding that Christianity is true. Even in the cases where someone claims to have previously been an atheist, assuming the person isn’t dishonest (which most Christian apologists are), they still have been steeped in Christian culture and brainwashing.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            RCF
            “For instance, if you’re a Catholic, then you have to believe that not believing in Catholicism is a ubiquitous canonical example of obviously wrong thinking.”

            Religions based on divine revelation are not based on obvious rational principles (er, to be exact, they are based on evidentiary claims).

          • Troy says:

            @Vox: You really have to separate out “natural theology”—i.e. the attempt to prove the existence of some sort of God through reason—from dogmatic Christianity. I regard the former as wrong but fairly reasonable; the latter cannot be defended by rational argument.

            If ‘dogmatic Christianity’ just means ‘Christianity’ (as the contrast with ‘some sort of God’ suggests), then, historically, most Christian natural theologians thought that not only theism but Christianity in particular was supported by the evidence — the evidence for Christianity in particular being primarily historical, of course. William Paley, for instance, who is best known today for defending the design argument, published a book called A View of the Evidences of Christianity, in which he argues that there is strong historical evidence for the Christian miracles that does not exist for miracles claimed by other religions. While modern commentators tend to portray Hume as starting and ending the conversation on evidence for miracles, in fact most of his arguments had already been stated and responded to by Christians such as Thomas Sherlock.

            I note that all of the arguments in that book (except for the last one) are not attempts to prove the truth of Christianity in particular.

            Quite so, but that doesn’t mean that they’re irrelevant to evaluating the evidence for Christianity. If the evidence from the general nature of the universe, religious experience, and so on, makes likely the existence of the classic omni-God, then Christianity, along with other religions that affirm the existence of that God, become live options as the correct theories about how that God has revealed himself in the world. At that point it behooves us to look into the evidence for and against those religions more specifically.

            And the “argument from miracles”, that the best explanation for the “miracles” in the New Testament is that Jesus actually is God, is just shockingly silly.

            With respect, I think this simply betrays an unfamiliarity with the actual arguments. The arguments of the McGrews for the reliability of the Gospels and for the resurrection in particular, as well as the arguments of Christian biblical scholars such as N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, and Mike Licona are extremely careful, historically well-informed, and (in the case of the McGrews) philosophically sophisticated.

            @RCF: You are responding to the claim that either there isn’t good evidence for Christianity, or Christians are being secretive about their evidence. To this claim, it is not legitimate to respond that there a lot of Christians that have presented evidence that they believe is good. The issue is whether there is publicly available evidence that actually is good.

            I think the evidence is good. Of course atheists presumably do not, but I submit that most atheists, including most LW atheists and most atheists on this site, do not even know what this evidence is.

            Let me submit a challenge to both Vox and RCF. Can you tell me what kinds of arguments Swinburne, McGrew, Wright, Keener, Licona, or any similar philosophers or Biblical scholars use to support the claim that the New Testament is historically reliable and that the resurrection is a historical event? What are their reasons for thinking this? (That is, their stated reasons — I’m not asking for psychological speculations about their wishful thinking.)

          • RCF says:

            I find this “You have to address the specific authors that I name” a bit illegitimate. No matter how many apologists I read, there will always be some that I’m not familiar with. I am familiar with the dominant apologist arguments. They are such arguments as:
            1. The Bible says X, and how/why would X happen unless Jesus came back from the dead?
            2. X is evidence for Jesus coming back for the dead, but I’m not going to present any evidence that X actually happened.
            3. We have lots of copies of really old version of the Gospels, therefore Jesus came back from the dead.
            4. I have a very strong belief that Jesus came back from the dead/personal relationship with Jesus, therefore Jesus came back from the dead.
            5. I think that people act in a certain way that would conflict with Jesus not coming back from the dead (e.g., no one would possibly believe in the Resurrection unless it actually happened).

            If there are arguments other than the ones I’ve seen, then Christians themselves don’t think that they are as strong. The fact of the matter is that the dominant form of Christian evangelism is Chick tract-type argument by assertion. To believe that Christianity is true and supported by the evidence, one has to believe that billions of people are aware of a crucial truth that it is vital for everyone to know, and instead of presenting logical arguments for this, the vast majority have instead decided to harass nonbelievers with idiotic and in many cases abusive “arguments” that no one in their right mind would find persuasive. I spent eight years in CCD without seeing a single good reason to believe in Christianity. If someone were to spend eight years studying evolution, and never come across one good reason for believing it, and then someone came along and said “Well, have you read these evolutionists?”, they would be justified in thinking this is some variant of the Courtier’s reply.

            The fact of the matter is that Christianity doesn’t present itself as a proper epistemic exercise. It just doesn’t look like what would be produced by people motivated by a search for truth. People in possession of objective truth just don’t act like Christians do. When someone acts like merely making other people aware of their beliefs should be enough for other people to accept those beliefs, that’s a characteristic of delusion, not truth. When you look at Christians pushing Christianity in schools, it’s not material that appeals to the students’ intellect. Rather, it’s clearly an attempt to brainwash children through the Dark Arts. Nor do Christians respond to objections by presenting logical arguments; rather, they respond with vicious bullying.

            The top Google result for “evidence of Jesus’ resurrection” is http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection

            It asserts a principle of “inference to the best explanation”, which, instead of looking for H such that P(H|E) is maximized, looks for H such that P(E|H) is maximized, which anyone with basic understanding of hypothesis testing should know is flawed. It also asserts that

            1. The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
            2. Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
            3. As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.

            There is no external evidence presented for these claims, just the Bible, fallacious arguments, and vague references to other supposed evidence. Claim after claim is defended not by external evidence, but by simply making another claim. For instance, we know Jesus came back from the dead because the tomb was empty. We know the tomb was empty because the claim that it was empty was accepted shortly after. And we know that because … ?

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            The historical evidence for the Resurrection is the main reason I’m a Christian, as opposed to a generic theist.

          • Troy says:

            @RCF:

            I find this “You have to address the specific authors that I name” a bit illegitimate. No matter how many apologists I read, there will always be some that I’m not familiar with.

            I think it’s reasonable to ask someone who claims that there is no good evidence for Christianity (Vox made that claim, not you, but you seem to endorse it) whether they are familiar with the best evidences presented. I grant that different people will differ on what they take to be the best defenders of Christianity or any other view, but Richard Swinburne is almost certainly the best known and most well-respected evidentialist Christian philosopher, and N.T. Wright is almost certainly the best known and most well-respected historian writing in defense of the historicity of the resurrection. (McGrew is not as well-known, but his acumen for probability theory makes him an appropriate figure to point LW and SSC readers to.) It’s not unreasonable to expect an atheist who insists that Christians have no good evidence for their claims to have a passing familiarity with their work, even if it’s only second-hand.

            I am familiar with the dominant apologist arguments. They are such arguments as:
            1. The Bible says X, and how/why would X happen unless Jesus came back from the dead?
            2. X is evidence for Jesus coming back for the dead, but I’m not going to present any evidence that X actually happened.
            3. We have lots of copies of really old version of the Gospels, therefore Jesus came back from the dead.
            4. I have a very strong belief that Jesus came back from the dead/personal relationship with Jesus, therefore Jesus came back from the dead.
            5. I think that people act in a certain way that would conflict with Jesus not coming back from the dead (e.g., no one would possibly believe in the Resurrection unless it actually happened).

            Only a couple of these are even close to the arguments presented by philosophers and Biblical scholars like those I mentioned above, and then only as caricatures of the very general form of their arguments.

            and instead of presenting logical arguments for this, the vast majority have instead decided to harass nonbelievers with idiotic and in many cases abusive “arguments” that no one in their right mind would find persuasive.

            That many people who believe X give terrible arguments for X is not strong evidence against X. If it were, we could never rationally believe anything about politically controversial subjects, because most people give terrible arguments about politically charged topics.

            Nor do Christians respond to objections by presenting logical arguments; rather, they respond with vicious bullying.

            Again, it’s unreasonable to say that and shout “Courtier’s reply!” when presented with the numerous counterexamples that exist among Christian philosophers, historians, and Biblical scholars.

            The top Google result for “evidence of Jesus’ resurrection” ishttp://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection

            It asserts a principle of “inference to the best explanation”, which, instead of looking for H such that P(H|E) is maximized, looks for H such that P(E|H) is maximized, which anyone with basic understanding of hypothesis testing should know is flawed.

            The relation of IBE to Bayesianism is debated in the philosophy of science, but I think most Bayesian philosophers agree that IBE can at least function as a useful heuristic for Bayesian reasoning. (Tim McGrew has a nice paper on this, “Confirmation, Heuristics, and Explanatory Reasoning.”) If you look at an argument at a popular apologetics site, it will most likely be phrased in this non-technical manner. Many Christian philosophers present their arguments using probability theory, including Swinburne and McGrew.

            It also asserts that

            1. The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
            2. Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
            3. As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.

            There is no external evidence presented for these claims, just the Bible, fallacious arguments, and vague references to other supposed evidence. Claim after claim is defended not by external evidence, but by simply making another claim. For instance, we know Jesus came back from the dead because the tomb was empty. We know the tomb was empty because the claim that it was empty was accepted shortly after. And we know that because … ?

            I didn’t read the whole essay, so I can’t speak for it, but I do think that each of these claims is true and supported by the evidence. Making the full case for that involves attempting to answer such questions as (1) Who wrote the Gospels? (2) When were the Gospels written? (3) What evidences do we have for the reliability of the Gospels? etc. That case cannot be presented in a comment box, or even an essay the length of the one in the link (although if we continue this conversation I can indicate what evidences I find most convincing on particular points). If you really want to see that whole case, I’d recommend Tim McGrew’s YouTube series on the Reliability of the Gospels, available here: http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/11/audio-resources-by-tim-mcgrew.html

            Let me ask you this. Call the above alleged facts F1, F2, and F3. Do you agree that P(F1&F2&F3 | Resurrection) >> P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection)? In other words, do you agree that these facts, were they true, would provide strong evidence that the Resurrection occurred?

          • RCF says:

            @Troy

            I think it’s reasonable to ask someone who claims that there is no good evidence for Christianity (Vox made that claim, not you, but you seem to endorse it) whether they are familiar with the best evidences presented.

            I think that it’s reasonable to ask that you actually pay attention to other people’s posts before responding to them. Vox never claimed that there is no good evidence for Christianity. Vox claimed that if there is good evidence, it’s not well advertised.

            I grant that different people will differ on what they take to be the best defenders of Christianity or any other view, but Richard Swinburne is almost certainly the best known and most well-respected evidentialist Christian philosopher

            And yet your tone strongly suggests that you expect most people to not be familiar with him. Look, you may have come up with a categorization specially for Swinburne for which he comes out on top, but without cherry-picked standards, C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell are of the same, if not higher, general level of prominence as Swinburne. The top Google result for “most famous Christian apologist” is this list. McDowell is 10, Lewis 12. Swinburne is not on the list. He’s 91 on this list, to Lewis’s 51 and McDowell’s 59. He’s not on this list, while Lewis is 4. I’m not sure that “courtier’s reply” is even the right label for this, because you’re not even saying “You have to read up on this subject”, you’re saying “You have to read up with the specific authors that I name.”

            It’s not unreasonable to expect an atheist who insists that Christians have no good evidence for their claims to have a passing familiarity with their work, even if it’s only second-hand.

            Given that I’ve read both Mere Christianity and Evidence that Demands a Verdict, as well as quite a bit of other Christian apologetics, if I have not been exposed, at least second-hand, to Swinburne’s work, then that is because other Christians do not find him important enough to reference. And again, I’m not claiming that I know with absolute certainty that Christians have no good evidence. I am simply claiming that the world is highly inconsistent with Christians having good evidence.

            I am further claiming that if you’re going to go around making claims with massive amounts of inferential distance, it’s not reasonable to say that they can’t be rejected without extensive research. The burden of proof is on you.

            Only a couple of these are even close to the arguments presented by philosophers and Biblical scholars like those I mentioned above, and then only as caricatures of the very general form of their arguments.

            And yet they appear in the very first Google result for “evidence of Jesus’ resurrection”. They appear in Evidence the Demands a Verdict. They are staples of popular apologetics. So either your claim is false, or you’re making a No True Scotsman argument.

            That many people who believe X give terrible arguments for X is not strong evidence against X.

            It most certainly is. It’s much more likely that terrible arguments will be given for false statements than for true claims, therefore terrible arguments are strong evidence against a claim.

            If it were, we could never rationally believe anything about politically controversial subjects, because most people give terrible arguments about politically charged topics.

            You have gone from “strong evidence” to “conclusive evidence”, which if I’m being charitable and not taking as outright dishonesty, shows an appalling lack of intellectual rigor, and is itself strong evidence against your claims being true; if you can’t recognize such blatantly fallacy, your claim that Swinburne has strong arguments counts for little. Just because there is a strong piece of evidence against a claim, does not mean that we can’t rationally believe it. Furthermore, there are significant differences between the Resurrection claim and most political claims.

            Nor do Christians respond to objections by presenting logical arguments; rather, they respond with vicious bullying.

            Again, it’s unreasonable to say that and shout “Courtier’s reply!” when presented with the numerous counterexamples that exist among Christian philosophers, historians, and Biblical scholars.

            You have taken that claim out its context, namely that I was talking about Christian responses to objections to religion in public schools. When someone objects to public schools pushing Christianity, they do not get logical arguments in response. Rather, they get rape and death threats. “Let us brainwash your children or we’ll kill you” is simply not the sort of position one should expect from people who actually have reasonable reasons for their beliefs.

            The relation of IBE to Bayesianism is debated in the philosophy of science, but I think most Bayesian philosophers agree that IBE can at least function as a useful heuristic for Bayesian reasoning.

            Evaluating myths is an area where IBE becomes close to useless, because given pretty much any story, the universe in which that story is most likely to be told is the universe in which the story is true. A book about a girl named Bella who falls in love with a vampire named Edward is more likely to be written in a universe in which a girl named Bella actually falls in love with a vampire named Edward, than in a universe in which vampires do not exist.

            Let me ask you this. Call the above alleged facts F1, F2, and F3. Do you agree that P(F1&F2&F3 | Resurrection) >> P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection)? In other words, do you agree that these facts, were they true, would provide strong evidence that the Resurrection occurred?

            It’s significant evidence. But given your previous equivocation between “strong evidence” and “convincing evidence”, I’m reluctant to say it’s strong evidence.

            Keep in mind, however, that this cuts both ways. That is, to claim that this is strong evidence, you have to claim that P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection) is very small. And if you agree that P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection) is very small, then your opponent is justified in demanding a lot of evidence for F1&F2&F3. For instance, if you claim that P(F1| ~Resurrection) < 1/million, then you're committing yourself to presenting more than 20 bits of information showing F1. You can't just say “Well, if the tomb wasn't empty, someone probably would have pointed it out.” You have to show that the probability of no one pointing it out is less than one in a million. I’ve seen a lot of apologetics that doesn’t seem to respect this principle. They will say things like “If the Resurrection is true, then you should accept Christianity”, implicitly accepting that the Resurrection is highly unlikely, but then they’ll say things like “The evidence for the Resurrection is a large as for any other event in ancient history”, implying that they don’t face an evidentiary burden for the Resurrection greater than for any other historical event.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ Troy:

            do you agree that these facts, were they true, would provide strong evidence that the Resurrection occurred?

            That “in other words” version isn’t a reasonable restatement of the math, but my answer to the restatement is: No. Those facts being true would be at best extremely weak evidence that the Resurrection occurred, if by occurred you mean a miracle happened.

            To see why, consider that in 1983 David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. We have eyewitness testimony to that effect and you can find video of it on youtube or old VHS tapes.

            Does this constitute strong evidence that the Statue briefly stopped existing in that location such that light could pass through it, or does it merely suggest that some people think this is what they saw?

            The claim that a body was briefly misplaced in a tomb 2000 years ago is pretty small potatoes as far as miracles go. Even if the text wasn’t just completely fictional and some people at that time who expected to find a body did fail to find it where they were looking, you also have to consider the possibility that the body disappeared as part of a hoax, a magic trick, or other deception deliberate or accidental. If our choice is between “miracle”, “mistake”, or “deception”, I’m discounting the first one pretty heavily.

            According to wikipedia, Swinburne coined these two principles for the assessment of religious experiences:

            Principle of Credulity – with the absence of any reason to disbelieve it, one should accept what appears to be true (e.g., if one sees someone walking on water, one should believe that it is occurring)
            Principle of Testimony – with the absence of any reason to disbelieve them, one should accept that eyewitnesses or believers are telling the truth when they testify about religious experiences.

            Applying those two principles to Copperfield’s antics reaches the same conclusion as applying them to the Resurrection. When you see or hear about something which is on-the-face-of-it crazy, that is a reason to disbelieve. It’s also reason to suspect deception or confusion.

          • Protagoras says:

            I am familiar with Swinburne (and not just from Wikipedia). When someone cites him as providing compelling evidence for the truth of Christianity, it makes me think I am unlikely to be impressed by any of their other allegedly compelling sources either.

          • Troy says:

            @RCF:

            I think that it’s reasonable to ask that you actually pay attention to other people’s posts before responding to them. Vox never claimed that there is no good evidence for Christianity. Vox claimed that if there is good evidence, it’s not well advertised.

            Sure, but as I’ve said, these are well-known thinkers.

            Look, you may have come up with a categorization specially for Swinburne for which he comes out on top, but without cherry-picked standards, C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell are of the same, if not higher, general level of prominence as Swinburne. The top Google result for “most famous Christian apologist” is this list. McDowell is 10, Lewis 12. Swinburne is not on the list. He’s 91 on thislist, to Lewis’s 51 and McDowell’s 59. He’s not on this list, while Lewis is 4. I’m not sure that “courtier’s reply” is even the right label for this, because you’re not even saying “You have to read up on this subject”, you’re saying “You have to read up with the specific authors that I name.”

            Lewis, McDowell, et al. are more well-known among the general public than Swinburne because they are, by and large, writing for popular audiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re serious about evaluating the evidence for a position, it’s best to look at the most respected academics in the fields dedicated to studying the area in question. Philosophy of religion is the domain most committed to evaluating the evidence for and against religious positions in general. New Testament scholarship is the domain most committed to evaluating the evidence for and against the historicity of the resurrection in particular. Swinburne and Wright are, respectively, at the top of each field. (I note that Wright is on two of your lists, and McGrew on one.)

            (I think the same is true of atheism, for what it’s worth. I think the New Atheists give awful arguments, but I don’t think one should conclude from that there are no good arguments for atheism. Instead one should look at the best atheist/agnostic philosophers, such as J.L. Mackie, William Rowe, Paul Draper, and Antony Flew. Although I don’t generally agree with their arguments, I think these authors are careful and sophisticated in their arguments against theism, and deserve careful consideration.)

            Given that I’ve read both Mere Christianity and Evidence that Demands a Verdict, as well as quite a bit of other Christian apologetics, if I have not been exposed, at least second-hand, to Swinburne’s work, then that is because other Christians do not find him important enough to reference.

            Both of those books were written before the majority of Swinburne’s corpus.

            It most certainly is. It’s much more likely that terrible arguments will be given for false statements than for true claims, therefore terrible arguments are strong evidence against a claim.

            I disagree. It’s likely that terrible arguments will be given for most claims, because people are bad at arguing. I teach philosophy. Most arguments undergraduates come up with are bad, regardless of the subject matter. This in spite of the fact that college students are, presumably, more intelligent than the average member of the population.

            Moreover, it’s likely that the majority of the arguments given for claims which people are emotionally invested in will be bad, because people are motivated reasoners.

            “If it were, we could never rationally believe anything about politically controversial subjects, because most people give terrible arguments about politically charged topics.”

            You have gone from “strong evidence” to “conclusive evidence”, which if I’m being charitable and not taking as outright dishonesty, shows an appalling lack of intellectual rigor, and is itself strong evidence against your claims being true; if you can’t recognize such blatantly fallacy, your claim that Swinburne has strong arguments counts for little. Just because there is a strong piece of evidence against a claim, does not mean that we can’t rationally believe it.

            You’re right, I made an unwarranted leap there. A top-heavy Bayes’ Factor does not imply a high posterior probability.

            I still maintain that it’s evident from politics that emotionally charged topics bring out bad arguments on all sides. The majority of political arguments are bad, often very bad. The answer isn’t to conclude from progressives/conservatives making bad arguments that progressivism/conservatism has nothing going for it, but that we ought to look at the best arguments each side has to present. (If there’s a ‘basic tenet’ of SSC, I take it this is it.)

            You have taken that claim out its context, namely that I was talking about Christian responses to objections to religion in public schools. When someone objects to public schools pushing Christianity, they do not get logical arguments in response. Rather, they get rape and death threats. “Let us brainwash your children or we’ll kill you” is simply not the sort of position one should expect from people who actually have reasonable reasons for their beliefs.

            Let me say this, because I don’t want to come across as defending the indefensible. A lot of Christians give bad arguments. A lot of Christians have confused epistemologies. Worse, a lot of Christians are cruel and abusive towards those who disagree with them. It’s clear that you’ve had very negative experiences with such Christians. While I don’t think Christians are unique in these sins, and while I don’t think all Christians are guilty of them (that generalization is what I was objecting to earlier), I think it is a stain on the Christian community that so many of us behave this way towards non-Christians. I also think that many churches shirk their responsibility to familiarize Christians with the evidence for Christianity.

            If you think that Christians haven’t done enough to make available the best evidence for Christianity, then take me to by trying to rectify that fact by pointing you to the authors and evidences which I think are most significant.

            I have to wrap this up for now; but I do plan to return to your comments about the resurrection when I get a chance.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Richard Swinburne? ‘looks up his view on theodicy’
            http://www.cengage.com/philosophy/book_content/0495094927_feinberg/introductions/part_1/The_Problem_of_Evil/swinburne.html

            “Swinburne accounts for the presence of natural evil in much the same way. On his account natural, evil provides opportunity for humans to have the complex responsibility necessary for good lives. It does so in two ways. First, the natural processes that result in evil allow humans to either exploit them to harm others (a moral evil) or fight them to do good. For example, humans can learn about diseases to help spread disease or fight it.”

            How exactly is he different from standard theologians? He sounds exactly the same.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Samuel Skinner
            “Swinburne accounts for the presence of natural evil [and of human evil, apparently — houseboat] in much the same way. On his account natural, evil provides opportunity for humans to have the complex responsibility necessary for good lives. It does so in two ways. First, the natural processes that result in evil allow humans to either exploit them to harm others (a moral evil) or fight them to do good. For example, humans can learn about diseases to help spread disease or fight it.”

            I would say that doesn’t make sense to me as an answer to the problem, but perhaps David Friedman could tell me what I’m missing.

          • Troy says:

            @Protagoras:

            I am familiar with Swinburne (and not just from Wikipedia). When someone cites him as providing compelling evidence for the truth of Christianity, it makes me think I am unlikely to be impressed by any of their other allegedly compelling sources either.

            I should say that I think Swinburne’s arguments are a mixed bag. His presentations of the fine-tuning argument and the argument from miracles are pretty good, and he is savvier than most Christian (or atheist) philosophers about the epistemology of cumulative case arguments and the need to, e.g., argue for a not-too-low prior probability for claims like theism and the resurrection. I’m not as happy with the way he presents the argument from religious experience, and I don’t think his response to the problem of evil is very good (a point on which I am in agreement with Samuel Skinner above).

            Although I’ve focused on Swinburne because of his fame, in my opinion the philosophers who do the best job defending theism in general and Christianity in particular are Robin Collins and Tim McGrew, in their work on fine-tuning and the argument from miracles, respectively. (As for responding to the problem of evil, I still think John Hick’s Evil and the God of Love is one of the best theodicies out there.)

          • Troy says:

            @Glen:

            Does this constitute strong evidence that the Statue briefly stopped existing in that location such that light could pass through it, or does it merely suggest that some people think this is what they saw?

            RCF is right to distinguish between the posterior probability of H, P(H|E), and the degree to which E raises the probability of H, which, holding the prior P(H) fixed, is a function of the Bayes’ Factor P(E|H) / P(E|~H).

            In the case at hand, though, I think that P(E|~H) is not too low, so that what you are saying impacts the strength of the evidence too. That’s because Copperfield is a known magician, and so the probability of the statue appearing to disappear, given that it in fact has not, is much higher than it would be otherwise. I don’t think we have similar independent evidence for naturalistic explanations for the main facts adduced in support of the resurrection. (Jesus was known as a wonder-worker, of course, but it’s not plausible that he could pull off a “trick” of being arrested and crucified to death by the Romans and then appearing to come back to life. It’s more plausible that someone else would have, say, stolen his body, but we have no independent evidence for this, and some evidence against it.)

            The claim that a body was briefly misplaced in a tomb 2000 years ago is pretty small potatoes as far as miracles go. Even if the text wasn’t just completely fictional and some people at that time who expected to find a body did fail to find it where they were looking, you also have to consider the possibility that the body disappeared as part of a hoax, a magic trick, or other deception deliberate or accidental.

            Of course I agree that we have to look at other explanations. I don’t think that there’s good independent evidence for any such naturalist explanations for any of the individual data points. Hence, their priors are low, and P(Fn|~Resurrection) is low for each F.

            Even so, if there were only one such data point — say the empty tomb — then, even though the prior of (say) the body being stolen is low, and even though we have some evidences against that story, it would likely still be more plausible after the fact than the resurrection. But I think that the cumulative weight of the evidence, including the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances to multiple disciples, the conversion of Paul, the spread of the Christian Church, as well as prior testimony about Jesus’s ministry, is so strong that the posterior probability of the resurrection in light of all these facts is quite high.

            Bringing in the other thread here (which I think is where RCF intended it), let me also respond to this:

            If we apply this notion to the resurrection the claim seems to be that Jesus died and his body seemed exactly like a normal dead body right up until nobody was watching it and only then did it disappear. To a magician, that seems suspiciously convenient.

            Had anyone actually seen what happened to the body, that would provide much stronger evidence that something supernatural happened to it.

            People did see what happened to the body — they saw the resurrected Jesus. The empty tomb is one data point. The appearances of Jesus to the disciples are another.

          • Troy says:

            @RCF, continuing on my earlier comment:

            It’s significant evidence.

            Okay, good, I’m glad that we have a point of agreement.

            Keep in mind, however, that this cuts both ways. That is, to claim that this is strong evidence, you have to claim that P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection) is very small.

            Yes, of course.

            And if you agree that P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection) is very small, then your opponent is justified in demanding a lot of evidence for F1&F2&F3.

            Given that the prior of the Resurrection is very low, which I agree that it is, then P(F1&F2&F3) will be approximately equal to P(F1&F2&F3 | ~Resurrection), so I agree that we’ll need a very top-heavy Bayes’ factor to overcome the low prior of F1&F2&F3.

            For instance, if you claim that P(F1| ~Resurrection) < 1/million, then you're committing yourself to presenting more than 20 bits of information showing F1. You can't just say “Well, if the tomb wasn't empty, someone probably would have pointed it out.” You have to show that the probability of no one pointing it out is less than one in a million.

            The second point only follows from the first if that’s the only evidence for F1. Perhaps you meant for that to be implicit. However, I think this condition is rarely met: with most of the F-s we have multiple lines of evidence for them.

            More significantly, the first point is only true if the information “showing” F1 includes information “showing” F2 and F3 (and any other F-s). This is because, although the F-s are plausibly independent conditional on Resurrection and conditional on ~Resurrection, they are not unconditionally independent. Since F2 supports Resurrection, and Resurrection makes more likely F1, then F2 is evidence for F1. So you can’t just dismiss F1 (say) on the grounds that the particular evidences for it (say, testimonies that it occurred) aren’t sufficient to outweigh its prior improbability; you need to look at the cumulative evidence for all the F-s.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Troy:

            Jesus was known as a wonder-worker, of course, but it’s not plausible that he could pull off a “trick” of being arrested and crucified to death by the Romans and then appearing to come back to life.

            Why not? And what makes this possibility seem LESS plausible than “an actual miracle occurred”?

            If the resurrection happened via a trick, there are several options, including:

            (1) The guy who got arrested and crucified wasn’t Jesus, just somebody who looked enough like him to briefly fool a couple of people (and everybody else believed those people).

            (2) The guy who showed up post-crucifixion claiming to be Jesus was somebody else (and people either fell for it or went along with it to tweak the Romans or gain insider cred).

            (3) the guy who showed up post-crucifixion claiming to be Jesus was a hallucination or an urban legend that people passed along to gain insider cred.

            (4) Or if both people were Jesus, then Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross but was rescued – somebody was paid to look the other way at some point while he escaped, possibly switching places with another doomed person.

            Given that Harry Houdini *often* escaped certain death via tricks and clever framing, why couldn’t Jesus have done it at least once?

            What makes the idea that it was a trick seem ESPECIALLY plausible to me is the whole Judas thing. The idea that the Romans needed an inside man to POINT OUT which person was Jesus because they didn’t know what he looked like…is just crazy. That tells us it must have been HARD to tell which of a bunch of plausible candidates was the true Jesus. Given THAT info, a simple explanation that fits the facts is that Judas didn’t betray Jesus – he pointed the Romans at somebody else.

            Suppose Jesus went into hiding while the Romans killed the “Jesus” they’d been pointed at. A few days later the rumor spreads that Jesus is still alive so a bunch of people who DO know what he looks like go search the tomb expecting to find his body and don’t, simply because it was never there! (They DO find other dead bodies in the tomb but none deemed notable enough to mention – it’s a tomb, what else would you expect to find?) Since he already has a reputation for doing wonders, they conclude that he resurrected.

          • Troy says:

            @Glen:

            Um, why not? Or rather, what makes this possibility seem LESS plausible than “an actual miracle occurred”?

            Again, it’s a cumulative case. I’m not saying that the antecedent plausibility of a trick is lower than the antecedent plausibility of the resurrection, taking nothing else into account. Both have a low antecedent plausibility, but the resurrection is the only hypothesis that explains all the data. Put otherwise, the antecedent plausibility of [(ad hoc explanation of Fact 1)&(ad hoc explanation of Fact 2)&(ad hoc explanation of Fact 3)&…] is lower than the antecedent plausibility of the resurrection.

            If the resurrection happened via a trick, there are several options, including:

            (1) The guy who got arrested and crucified wasn’t actually Jesus. Maybe Jesus had a twin or cousin or just somebody who looked *enough* like him to briefly fool a couple of people (and everybody else believed those people).

            Is this logically possible? Sure. But we have no independent evidence for it. It requires several unlikely events, including (a) Jesus having a doppelganger, (b) Jesus being willing to send this man to his death and then pretend to come back to life (for what purpose?), and (c) Jesus being able to persuade that doppelganger to go to his death pretending to be Jesus(!) or persuade others (how? through a proxy?) that the doppelganger is Jesus in spite of the doppelganger’s protestations of “you’ve got the wrong guy!” (And if the Gospels are even moderately accurate in their description of the crucifixion, it would have to be the first of these.)

            If it were true, it would at most explain Jesus’s resurrection appearances to the disciples. It would not explain the empty tomb, reports of the ascension, Paul’s conversion, the spread of the early church, etc. If some of the disciples were in on the trick, it wouldn’t explain all the disciples save John giving up their lives in attestation of having seen Jesus resurrected.

            (2) The guy who showed up post-crucifixion claiming to be Jesus was somebody else (and people either fell for it or went along with it to tweak the Romans or to gain insider cred).

            (3) the guy who showed up post-crucifixion claiming to be Jesus was a hallucination or an urban legend that people passed along to gain insider cred.

            Again, these are logically possible, but we have no evidence for them, they explain at most the resurrection appearances, and not the other data, and they don’t even do a good job of explaining the resurrection appearances. With respect to (2), the disciples presumably know what their teacher looks like, and they are unlikely to go to their deaths in defense of what they know to be a fraud. With respect to (3), group hallucinations that take place over multiple long stretches of time, in which a person appears to multiple people at once, interacts with them in complex ways like having one of them touch his hands and side, and does such things as fry and eat fish, are not psychologically plausible.

            (4) Or if both people were Jesus, then Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross but was rescued – somebody was paid to look the other way at some point while he escaped, possibly switching places with another doomed person.

            Given that Harry Houdini *often* escaped certain death via tricks and clever framing, why couldn’t Jesus have done it at least once?

            At a sufficient level of generality, it’s not implausible that a clever trickster could pull off a clever trick. But when we look at the details of the story, fraud hypotheses are not plausible, and even if they were they don’t explain a large part of the data at hand.

            What makes the idea that it was a trick seem ESPECIALLY plausible to me is the whole Judas thing. The idea that the Romans needed an inside man to POINT OUT which person was Jesus because they didn’t know what he looked like…is just crazy. That tells us it must have been HARD to tell which of a bunch of plausible candidates was the true Jesus.

            First, Jesus was, in the eyes of the Romans, just a backwoods upstart revolutionary. He was not famous in Rome. In some of the Gospel accounts, some Jewish leaders were present at Jesus’s arrest too, and they may have been more familiar with him. But even so, they didn’t have cameras or Google Image Search at that time, and Jesus’s image wasn’t carved on coins, like Caesar’s.

            Second, Jesus was arrested at night, in the dark. Even if some of the Jewish leaders had seen him in the daytime (say, preaching to crowds), they might not have been able to recognize him at night.

            Third, presumably Judas’s main purpose was to lead the Romans and Jewish leaders where Jesus was.

          • RCF says:

            Sure, but as I’ve said, these are well-known thinkers.

            They may be relatively well-known thinkers, but they aren’t well-known thinkers.

            Both of those books were written before the majority of Swinburne’s corpus.

            What?!? That’s … for the love of …

            You’re verging into Poe territory, here. Evidence that Demands a Verdict was written in 1999. Have there been major breakthroughs in archaeology during the last sixteen years? Christians have been claiming for two thousand years that Jesus came back from the dead, but it’s only in the last sixteen years that they’ve come across good reasons for believing it? I can’t criticize Christianity unless I keep up with the latest “research”? If I several hours of my life reading Swinburne and conclude he’s unpersuasive, is someone going to come along a few years from now and say “Oh, well, of course you don’t find the case for Christianity persuasive. You haven’t read this new author who just published a brand new book about the evidence for Christianity”? Either people in the twentieth century had good reason the believe in Christianity, or they didn’t. If they did, it’s reasonable for me to critique the case based on books written by the twentieth century. If they didn’t, then the claim that good reasons were later discovered doesn’t address the charge that their belief in Christianity was an example of failure of rationality.

            I disagree.

            You’re wrong.

            It’s likely that terrible arguments will be given for most claims, because people are bad at arguing.

            But it’s more difficult to give a good argument for a false arguments, so false statements will have more bad arguments.

            There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re serious about evaluating the evidence for a position, it’s best to look at the most respected academics in the fields dedicated to studying the area in question.

            This started with a discussion of whether religion is an example of failure of rationality. With regard to that question, what is relevant is what reasons the general public has for holding a belief, rather than what some ivory tower intellectuals think. Furthermore, who the most respected academics are is a nontrivial and subjective question. I don’t feel obligated to embark on a major research enterprise before commenting on Christian belief.

            Philosophy of religion is the domain most committed to evaluating the evidence for and against religious positions in general.

            While “philosophy” once included what’s now known as science, it now refers to a field of study divorced from empirical evidence. So that fact that religion relies on it is support for the claim that religion is a failure of rationality.

            New Testament scholarship is the domain most committed to evaluating the evidence for and against the historicity of the resurrection in particular.

            Whether the resurrection happened is a historical question. So if I want to know what evidence there is, I would turn to historians, not New Testament scholars. The fact that you have a special discipline is highly suspicious. The fact is, mainstream historians do not take the resurrection seriously.

            I think the same is true of atheism, for what it’s worth. I think the New Atheists give awful arguments, but I don’t think one should conclude from that there are no good arguments for atheism.

            There is no need for an argument for atheism. The atheist position has no burden of proof. You can’t prove a negative. Also, if atheism is true, there is no omnipotent being who wants us to believe in atheism. If Christianity is true, there is an omnipotent being that wants us to believe in Christianity … but has provided nothing but obscure and inconclusive evidence. An abundance of terrible arguments is consistent with atheism in a way that it’s not with Christianity. In fact, people being terrible at creating well-thought out arguments is, in a way, evidence for blind evolution.

            I still maintain that it’s evident from politics that emotionally charged topics bring out bad arguments on all sides.

            As I said, there are large differences between a claim about empirical historical fact, and political positions. And if the question of whether Jesus came back from the dead is emotionally charged, doesn’t that raise the question of why that is? If the evidence is so convincing, why can’t the evidence simply be presented, and people say “Okay, that settles it”? The very fact that Christianity appeals to people’s emotions rather than intellect is itself evidence against it. And why is that the success of evangelists increased the further they got in time and space from the alleged resurrection?

            It’s more plausible that someone else would have, say, stolen his body, but we have no independent evidence for this, and some evidence against it.

            That seems a bit question-begging to me. P(empty tomb|body was stolen) > P(empty tomb|body not stolen), therefore if there was an empty tomb, then that is evidence for the body being stolen. It’s only if you start with a bias for the resurrection hypothesis that you don’t see your evidence for the resurrection as also being evidence for alternative hypotheses.

            Hence, their priors are low, and P(Fn|~Resurrection) is low for each F.

            The probability of a stolen body is low prior to finding an empty tomb. However, once you find an empty tomb, its probability shoots up. P(stolen body|(~resurrection)&(empty tomb)) is quite high.

            But I think that thecumulative weight of the evidence, including the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances to multiple disciples, the conversion of Paul, the spread of the Christian Church, as well as prior testimony about Jesus’s ministry, is so strong that the posterior probability of the resurrection in light of all these facts is quite high.

            You do realize those are highly non-independent events, right?

            People did see what happened to the body — they saw the resurrected Jesus.

            And yet there are no contemporary written accounts of anyone seeing someone back from the dead.

            The second point only follows from the first if that’s the only evidence for F1. Perhaps you meant for that to be implicit.

            It is kinda implicit in saying “You can’t just say” (emphasis added).

            However, I think this condition is rarely met: with most of the F-s we have multiple lines of evidence for them.

            The point is that any burden of proof at one level follows to any lower level. If A is presented as evidence for B, then you need as much evidence for A as A is evidence for B.

            So you can’t just dismiss F1 (say) on the grounds that the particular evidences for it (say, testimonies that it occurred) aren’t sufficient to outweigh its prior improbability; you need to look at the cumulative evidence for all the F-s.

            The point is that if you’re using testimony to support F1, and using F1 to support the resurrection, the amount of strength that F1 adds to the resurrection can’t be larger than the strength of the testimonies. You can’t have evidentiary strength coming out of nowhere. If F1 and F2 aren’t independent, then the strength of F1 and F2 together is less than the strength of F1 alone plus the strength of F2 alone. And their total strength must be reduced by at least as much as the amount they support each other. If F1 supports H which supports F2, then you can’t use both F1 and F2 as evidence for H. That’s just a fancy way of having a circular argument.

            the resurrection is the only hypothesis that explains all the data.

            Not really. “Explains” is a subjective category, and there are lots of parts of the Gospels that don’t make sense.

            it wouldn’t explain all the disciples save John giving up their lives in attestation of having seen Jesus resurrected.

            What evidence do we have that that happened?

            group hallucinations that take place over multiple long stretches of time, in which a person appears to multiple people at once, interacts with them in complex ways like having one of them touch his hands and side, and does such things as fry and eat fish, are not psychologically plausible.

            But resurrections are totally plausible?

            First, Jesus was, in the eyes of the Romans, just a backwoods upstart revolutionary. 

            That’s the whole point: only a few people knew what Jesus looked like. So that destroys such arguments as “If Jesus’ body wasn’t truly gone, the Romans could have proved that he was dead by showing his body”, because who would know whether it was really Jesus’ body?

            Second, Jesus was arrested at night, in the dark.

            That’s pretty weak. It still shows that the number of people with anything more than a passing familiarity of what Jesus looked like was small.

            Third, presumably Judas’s main purpose was to lead the Romans and Jewish leaders where Jesus was.

            No, the whole “betrayed with a kiss” part shows that Judas was there because there were so few people who knew what Jesus looked like that they had to bribe one his close associates. No one outside of his inner circle knew what he looked like.

            I’d also like to point out that this discussion came about because of the objection to treating religion as an example of failure of rationality. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is indeed a massively irrational phenomenon. Claiming that its doctrines true doesn’t actually refute that. Christianity has spread through violence, brainwashing, and social pressure, independent of its truth value. It appeals not to intellect but to emotion and tribal psychology. If it were in fact true, that would be nothing but a coincidence.

          • Troy says:

            You’re verging into Poe territory, here. Evidence that Demands a Verdict was written in 1999.

            According to Amazon, it was written in 1972. Perhaps you have a more recent edition.

            Christians have been claiming for two thousand years that Jesus came back from the dead, but it’s only in the last sixteen years that they’ve come across good reasons for believing it?

            I’d be happy to point you to several books written several centuries ago that make a good case for Christianity, although it is true that they don’t have all of the historical data that we have today. For example (in ascending order of sophistication), the Sherlock, Adams, and Paley books here:

            http://historicalapologetics.org/collection/annotated-bibliography/

            For all I know, McDowell makes some of the same arguments in a more popular form. I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t read him.

            But it’s more difficult to give a good argument for a false arguments, so false statements will have more bad arguments.

            The original claim was that “It’s much more likely that terrible arguments will be given for false statements than for true claims, therefore terrible arguments are strong evidence against a claim.” However, if terrible arguments are likely for any claim, then their existence is not strong evidence against a claim.

            This started with a discussion of whether religion is an example of failure of rationality. With regard to that question, what is relevant is what reasons the general public has for holding a belief, rather than what some ivory tower intellectuals think.

            I was addressing the question of whether there is good evidence for Christianity that is widely available.

            While “philosophy” once included what’s now known as science, it now refers to a field of study divorced from empirical evidence. So that fact that religion relies on it is support for the claim that religion is a failure of rationality.

            Plenty of philosophers incorporate empirical evidence into their work, including Swinburne, McGrew, et al., because they are asking empirical questions. And blanket dismissal of a priori reasoning is self-refuting anyway, because questions about how to measure the plausibility of an empirical hypothesis given a body of evidence — i.e., questions about probability theory — are a priori (a point recognized not only by philosophers such as Carnap and Swinburne, but also scientists like Cox and Jaynes).

            Whether the resurrection happened is a historical question. So if I want to know what evidence there is, I would turn to historians, not New Testament scholars. The fact that you have a special discipline is highly suspicious. The fact is, mainstream historians do not take the resurrection seriously.

            For the most part, historians who do not also identify as New Testament scholars do not write about the resurrection. There are exceptions; Paul Maier, for instance, is an ancient historian who has argued in favor of the historicity of the New Testament. If you know of some more general survey of historians on their views on the resurrection, I’d be interested to see it. But for the most part the debate about the historical Jesus takes place within New Testament studies, both on the Christian and the skeptical side; and so if you want to see the first-order evidence, that’s where you should look.

            “It’s more plausible that someone else would have, say, stolen his body, but we have no independent evidence for this, and some evidence against it.”

            That seems a bit question-begging to me. P(empty tomb|body was stolen) > P(empty tomb|body not stolen), therefore if there was an empty tomb, then that is evidence for the body being stolen.

            This is why I said ‘independent evidence.’ In other words, we don’t have any evidence apart from the empty tomb for this hypothesis.

            “Hence, their priors are low, and P(Fn|~Resurrection) is low for each F.”

            The probability of a stolen body is low prior to finding an empty tomb. However, once you find an empty tomb, its probability shoots up. P(stolen body|(~resurrection)&(empty tomb)) is quite high.

            Letting Empty = the tomb is empty, and Stolen = the body is stolen, my claim was that P(Empty | ~Resurrection) is quite low, because P(Stolen | ~Resurrection) is low. It’s compatible with that that, as you say, P(Stolen | ~Resurrection&Empty) is high. Presumably the interesting quantities here, however, are P(Resurrection | Empty) and P(Stolen | Empty).

            You do realize those are highly non-independent events, right?

            They’re not unconditionally independent because they all support, and are explained by, a common cause, namely the resurrection. (If not for that dependence the whole argument would fall apart). I take it, then, that you mean that they are not conditionally independent given ~Resurrection. There I agree that not all of the events are, but I do think that most of the leading skeptical hypotheses do not explain all of the events — the body being stolen raises the probability of the empty tomb, for example, but it does not plausibly raise the probability of the conversion of Paul or the resurrection appearances. (You could fill in the story in such a way that it does raise the probability of one of these — e.g., say that person X stole the body with this purpose in mind. But unless we have independent evidence for this (in the above sense), then this will lose in prior probability what it gains in explanatory power.)

            And yet there are no contemporary written accounts of anyone seeing someone back from the dead.

            By ‘someone,’ I take it you mean Jesus. Then I disagree. The Gospels present themselves as historical accounts of the life of Jesus, and they record the resurrection appearances. I realize that you’re skeptical about the Gospels, and probably think they were written much later; I don’t agree but won’t get into that argument right here. Even if you do think the Gospels are late, 1 Corinthians is usually dated in the 50s and universally attributed to Paul, and 1 Cor 15 gives a list of the people to whom Jesus appeared.

            The point is that if you’re using testimony to support F1, and using F1 to support the resurrection, the amount of strength that F1 adds to the resurrection can’t be larger than the strength of the testimonies. You can’t have evidentiary strength coming out of nowhere. If F1 and F2 aren’t independent, then the strength of F1 and F2 together is less than the strength of F1 alone plus the strength of F2 alone. And their total strength must be reduced by at least as much as the amount they support each other. If F1 supports H which supports F2, then you can’t use both F1 and F2 as evidence for H. That’s just a fancy way of having a circular argument.

            The last claim is certainly not true; I’m going to respond to this in a new comment, though, because spelling out the maths will take some time.

            “Explains” is a subjective category,

            By ‘H explains E,’ I mean, roughly, P(E|H) > P(E) (given that H is explanatorily prior to E).

            “it wouldn’t explain all the disciples save John giving up their lives in attestation of having seen Jesus resurrected.”

            What evidence do we have that that happened?

            The martyrdom of James bar Zebedee is documented in Acts 12. Peter’s martyrdom is mentioned by Clement of Rome in the late 1st century and by Gaius in the 2nd. These are the martyrdoms for which we have the most early evidence, although we also have good evidence regarding the martyrdoms of some besides the 12, such as James the Just (listed in 1 Cor 15 as one to whom Jesus appeared) and Paul.

            That’s the whole point: only a few people knew what Jesus looked like. So that destroys such arguments as “If Jesus’ body wasn’t truly gone, the Romans could have proved that he was dead by showing his body”, because who would know whether it was really Jesus’ body?

            That the Romans didn’t know what Jesus looked like before killing him doesn’t imply either that they couldn’t produce his body after killing him or that his disciples wouldn’t recognize the body were it produced. (Perhaps you’re envisioning his disciples [how many of them? just the 12? the 70?] being in on the trick too. Then you can explain the empty tomb but the prior probability goes down, as you get more and more people in on a conspiracy, and it becomes harder to explain other facts, like the spread of Christianity and the willingness of the disciples to die for what they knew was a lie.)

            No, the whole “betrayed with a kiss” part shows that Judas was there because there were so few people who knew what Jesus looked like that they had to bribe one his close associates.

            Judas also led them to where Jesus was. Once he was there he (according to the Synoptics) identified Jesus with a kiss. The latter is not particularly strong evidence that very few people knew what Jesus looked like, only that those present couldn’t unambiguously identify Jesus in the dark at a time without artificial lighting.

            The fact of the matter is that Christianity is indeed a massively irrational phenomenon. Claiming that its doctrines true doesn’t actually refute that.

            If there is strong evidence for Christianity on which I and others reasonably base our belief in Christianity, then it is not universally irrational. It certainly was not irrational for the early Christians who saw Jesus resurrected or those to whom they witnessed. Beyond that I’m not much bothered by claims that many Christians don’t base their beliefs entirely rationally, because hardly anyone does that.

          • science says:

            If there was as strong a consensus among scholars that Virgil didn’t write the Aeneid as there is that the Apostle Matthew didn’t write The Gospel of Matthew, no one would be trying to claim otherwise.

            But since these apologists are trying to not only defend the resurrection (a hard enough task!) but also a huge body of church doctrine they also have to also defend all these subsidiary claims against the weight of evidence and expert consensus. That makes their argument on the primary claim much much less convincing.

            Even if you knew nothing about a subject, you’d be very skeptical of someone that claimed modern scholarship lined up perfectly with received tradition. Prior to the 19th century there was no such thing as a real historian. Everything we get from before then has to be carefully sifted and the wheat separated from the chaff.

          • Troy says:

            @RCF, following up on questions about evidence: in what follows, let R stand for the resurrection, and En stand for the evidence we have for fact Fn in particular (e.g., testimonial evidence that Fn is true).

            The point is that if you’re using testimony to support F1, and using F1 to support the resurrection, the amount of strength that F1 adds to the resurrection can’t be larger than the strength of the testimonies.

            Here I’ll have to ask you to define your terms. What is ‘the amount of strength that F1 adds to the resurrection’ and what is the ‘strength of the testimonies’? I presume that these are quantities defined in terms of probabilities. They can’t be the Bayes’ factors P(F1|R) / P(F1|~R) and P(E1|F1) / P(E1|~F1), because this statement would then be false.

            You can’t have evidentiary strength coming out of nowhere. If F1 and F2 aren’t independent, then the strength of F1 and F2 together is less than the strength of F1 alone plus the strength of F2 alone. And their total strength must be reduced by at least as much as the amount they support each other.

            Probabilistic independence is a tricky notion. What you’re saying here isn’t right because we’re talking about unconditional independence, or, if you like, independence conditional just on our background knowledge K. If we make that background explicit, what we’re saying is that

            P(F2|F1&K) > P(F2|K).

            However, it is plausible in this case that R screens off the F-s from each other: that is, P(F2|R&F1&K) = P(F2|R&K). If we were to draw a Bayesian network of the situation, we would draw an arrow from R into F1 and an arrow from R into F2, but no other arrows. This brings out that F1 supports F2 (only) by supporting R. Relative to R, F1 and F2 are independent.

            The posterior odds of R, given F1&F2, is given by the formula

            [P(R|F1&F2&K) / P(~R|F1&F2&K)] =
            [P(R|K) / P(~R|K)] * [P(F1|R&K) / P(F1|~R&K)] * [P(F2|R&F1&K) / P(F2|~R&F1&K)] =
            [P(R|K) / P(~R|K)] * [P(F1|R&K) / P(F1|~R&K)] * [P(F2|R&K) / P(F2|~R&F1&K)]

            It is clear from this formula that the confirmatory force of F1 and F2, as measured by the Bayes’ factors (the second and third multiplands) is not reduced by F1 and F2 being dependent relative to K via R. If it’s reduced by anything, it’s because P(F2|~R&F1&K) > P(F2|~R&K). That might be the case if F1 raises the probability of some skeptical sub-hypothesis of ~R that then raises the probability of F2. That possibility is what I’ve been arguing generally does not obtain for skeptical explanations of the Facts, but at any rate that’s not the means by which you were suggesting the evidential force of F2 is weakened above.

            If F1 supports H which supports F2, then you can’t use both F1 and F2 as evidence for H. That’s just a fancy way of having a circular argument.

            In fact it must be the case that F1 supports F2 via R. For suppose that F1 and F2 were independent relative to K, so that P(F2|F1&K) = P(F2|K). Then, given the above conditional independence assumption, the Theorem of Total Probability gives us

            P(F2|K) = P(R|K)P(F2|R&K) + P(~R|K)P(F2|~R&K).

            P(F2|F1&K) = P(R|F1&K)P(F2|R&F1&K) + P(~R|F1&K)P(F2|~R&F1&K)
            = P(R|F1&K)P(F2|R&K) + P(~R|F1&K)P(F2|~R&K)

            As you can see, these equations differ only by one term, P(R|K) and P(R|F1&K) (the probability of ~R conditional on these is a function of these). Hence, since (by assumption)

            P(F2|F1&K) = P(F2|K).

            it follows that these terms are equal, i.e., that

            P(R|F1&K) = P(R|K).

            So in fact, F1 and F2 would be unable to support R if they were independent. It’s precisely because they support R that they are dependent.

            If we turn to other examples, it’s clear that this is generally how cumulative case arguments work. For example, the geological record and the existence of vestigial organs are both evidences for evolution by natural selection. If we observe the one, we should become more confident that we will observe the other, because we have become more confident that evolution is true. This doesn’t ruin the cumulative case argument; it’s the basis of it. (This is also a case where these facts arguably do not make the other more likely apart from evolution, i.e., given ~evolution, which strengthens the argument. I’ve been arguing that the analogue is true for the Facts Fn and the resurrection. In general this feature strengthens cumulative case arguments. The aforementioned paper by McGrew on Inference to the Best Explanation gives a formal proof of this.)

          • Troy says:

            @science:

            If there was as strong a consensus among scholars that Virgil didn’t write the Aeneid as there is that the Apostle Matthew didn’t write The Gospel of Matthew, no one would be trying to claim otherwise.

            Except, presumably, people who thought they had it wrong. Outside of the hard sciences, educated laypersons can often know enough about a field to recognize that experts are probably wrong — witness Scott’s posts about psychology, medicine, and sociology, for instance.

            But since these apologists are trying to not only defend the resurrection (a hard enough task!) but also a huge body of church doctrine they also have to also defend all these subsidiary claims against the weight of evidence and expert consensus. That makes their argument on the primary claim much much less convincing.

            I’m only concerned to defend those claims which I think are true, which does not include all those claims defended by any particular church. I do think that the Gospels were written by their traditional authors, but presumably any evidence for that proposition strengthens the evidence for the resurrection rather than weakens it, inasmuch as, if the Gospels were written by their traditional authors, it’s more likely that they would be trustworthy (given that, e.g., Matthew was an eyewitness to many of the events described in his Gospel).

          • science says:

            Sure *if* a convincing case could be made that Matthew wrote that gospel it would provide some evidence for the larger claim. But given that the weight of the evidence is strongly against it (just to give one minor example, the identical phrasing that lead to the Q hypothesis needs to be massive coincidence) arguing for it as McGrew does makes me update away from him being a serious scholar.

            Suppose there are two people that are making the following claims:
            1) 9/11 was an inside job
            2) 9/11 was an inside job and I know this because a ghost told me so.

            Which person has the easier job of convincing you?

            Or to take it from another angle — is there a general claim about the incompetence of historians, or is it just in the history of early Christianity that mainstream scholarship is supposed to be totally incompetent?

          • Troy says:

            Or to take it from another angle — is there a general claim about the incompetence of historians, or is it just in the history of early Christianity that mainstream scholarship is supposed to be totally incompetent?

            It’s a narrower claim. The methods used by skeptical New Testament scholars are generally poor, and are often not widely applied or respected in secular history. For example, highly subjective literary judgments are used to determine which texts are ‘interpolations’ or whether two texts could have been written by the same authors; books are dated late on the question-begging basis that they prophecy events that don’t take place until after the book’s traditional date; and, most damning in my eyes, the testimony of early historical sources as to authorship and dating are largely ignored. Most of Plato’s dialogues are not signed “by Plato”; we believe that he wrote them because all ancient sources who discuss their authorship agree on this point. Similarly, it was the unanimous record of literally every historical source who takes a stand on the matter up until the 4th century that Matthew and John were both written by disciples of Jesus of those names, Mark was written by a disciple of Peter, and Luke and Acts were written by the companion of Paul by that name mentioned in Acts. There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of these books; not even skeptics whose writings survive expressed doubts about the authorship of these books until Faustus in the 4th century.

            Your example of identical phrasing in parts of the Gospels is strong evidence that the Synoptic Gospel writers relied on each other or on a common source, but that’s quite compatible with their traditional authorship and even with their traditional ordering (i.e., Matthew, then Mark, then Luke, then John). Luke, for instance, explicitly tells us in his preface that he relied on other sources.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Troy
            “Is this logically possible? Sure. But we have no independent evidence for it. It requires several unlikely events, including (a) Jesus having a doppelganger, (b) Jesus being willing to send this man to his death and then pretend to come back to life (for what purpose?), and (c) Jesus being able to persuade that doppelganger to go to his death pretending to be Jesus(!) or persuade others (how? through a proxy?) that the doppelganger is Jesus in spite of the doppelganger’s protestations of “you’ve got the wrong guy!” (And if the Gospels are even moderately accurate in their description of the crucifixion, it would have to be the first of these.)”

            That sounds like a twin.

            “They’re not unconditionally independent because they all support, and are explained by, a common cause, namely the resurrection. (If not for that dependence the whole argument would fall apart).”

            The conversion of Paul is not explained by the resurrection. Paul experienced a vision and lost his sight for 3 days.

            “There I agree that not all of the events are, but I do think that most of the leading skeptical hypotheses do not explain all of the events ”

            You don’t need to explain all the events.
            http://lesswrong.com/lw/1j7/the_amanda_knox_test_how_an_hour_on_the_internet/

            “That the Romans didn’t know what Jesus looked like before killing him doesn’t imply either that they couldn’t produce his body after killing him or that his disciples wouldn’t recognize the body were it produced.”

            If only his disciples knew what he looked like, how would revealing the body help the Romans?

            ” the willingness of the disciples to die for what they knew was a lie.)”

            Or the Resurrection isn’t what made them believe in Christ; as such faking it would not have troubled them.

            “books are dated late on the question-begging basis that they prophecy events that don’t take place until after the book’s traditional date; and”

            Yes, they work off assuming someone could see the future is the least likely explanation. I’m not seeing why this is an issue. Should we take prophetic power as a default situation?

            ” Most of Plato’s dialogues are not signed “by Plato”; we believe that he wrote them because all ancient sources who discuss their authorship agree on this point.”

            I’m pretty sure we can trace the linkages among them; Socrates taught Plato for example.

            “Similarly, it was the unanimous record of literally every historical source who takes a stand on the matter up until the 4th century that Matthew and John were both written by disciples of Jesus of those names, Mark was written by a disciple of Peter, and Luke and Acts were written by the companion of Paul by that name mentioned in Acts. There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of these books; not even skeptics whose writings survive expressed doubts about the authorship of these books until Faustus in the 4th century.”

            Like the Donation of Constantine?

          • Troy says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            “They’re not unconditionally independent because they all support, and are explained by, a common cause, namely the resurrection. (If not for that dependence the whole argument would fall apart).”

            The conversion of Paul is not explained by the resurrection. Paul experienced a vision and lost his sight for 3 days.

            In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul connects his vision with the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. But if you want to say that, strictly speaking, the resurrection doesn’t explain Paul’s conversion, but rather they have a common explanation in divine action, that’s fine with me. The important point is that the resurrection makes Paul’s conversion more likely; whether this is through directly explaining it or making more likely an explanation of it doesn’t make a difference to it providing evidence for the resurrection.

            “That the Romans didn’t know what Jesus looked like before killing him doesn’t imply either that they couldn’t produce his body after killing him or that his disciples wouldn’t recognize the body were it produced.”

            If only his disciples knew what he looked like, how would revealing the body help the Romans?

            Again, it depends on what the skeptical hypothesis is. As skeptics are fond of pointing out about religion, if you’re vague about what your hypothesis is, it’s unclear what its predictions are. One skeptical hypothesis is that the disciples were honestly mistaken, thinking that Jesus was resurrected when he wasn’t, e.g., due to a mass hallucination or to being overly credulous to some people who said that Jesus’ tomb was empty (e.g., the women at the tomb). In this case producing the body would show the disciples they were wrong.

            Another skeptical hypothesis is that the disciples made up the whole thing. In that case, if those particular disciples were really the only ones who knew what Jesus looked like, maybe revealing the body wouldn’t help the Romans or Jewish leaders (although it would presumably still give people thinking of converting pause). But this hypothesis has other problems (the more people you get in on the fraud, the lower the prior probability; and you’re not able to explain the other facts, like the willingness of the disciples to die for what they knew was a lie).

            Or the Resurrection isn’t what made them believe in Christ; as such faking it would not have troubled them.

            It’s clear from numerous sources that the resurrection was central to the faith of the early Christians. e.g., here’s 1 Cor. 15:14-15: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.”

            When the disciples faced death, they did so in many cases in attestation of that fact. If the resurrection was just kind of a useful lie/exaggeration/metaphor for getting at deeper truths, you would think one of them would have recanted it when doing so would have saved them from death.

            “books are dated late on the question-begging basis that they prophecy events that don’t take place until after the book’s traditional date; and”

            Yes, they work off assuming someone could see the future is the least likely explanation. I’m not seeing why this is an issue. Should we take prophetic power as a default situation?

            Of course not; we should look at the cumulative weight of evidence, as always. Prophesied events occurring is evidence for late authorship given the assumption that the texts do not report actual miraculous events; it cannot be used as an argument for that assumption.

            “Similarly, it was the unanimous record of literally every historical source who takes a stand on the matter up until the 4th century that Matthew and John were both written by disciples of Jesus of those names, Mark was written by a disciple of Peter, and Luke and Acts were written by the companion of Paul by that name mentioned in Acts. There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of these books; not even skeptics whose writings survive expressed doubts about the authorship of these books until Faustus in the 4th century.”

            Like the Donation of Constantine?

            The Donation of Constantine purported to be from the 4th century but was not mentioned before the 8th (because that’s when it was most likely composed). By contrast, within two centuries of the Gospels we already have at least three clear attributions of traditional authorship for all four gospels (Tertullian, Clement of Alexandra, and Irenaeus of Lyons), one attribution of traditional authorship to Luke and John in particular (the Muratorian Fragment; the earlier part of it, which would likely have discussed Mark and Matthew, is lost), one attribution of traditional authorship to Mark and Matthew (Papias of Hierapolis), and the more general attestation of Justin Martyr that Christians possessed “memoirs” of Jesus, which were called “Gospels,” and written by apostles’ and their followers.

            ” Most of Plato’s dialogues are not signed “by Plato”; we believe that he wrote them because all ancient sources who discuss their authorship agree on this point.”

            I’m pretty sure we can trace the linkages among them; Socrates taught Plato for example.

            Yes, and we can do the same for the Gospels. For example, Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John.

            Augustine actually makes exactly this point in response to the 4th century skeptic Faustus, asking how we know the Hippocrates wrote the books attributed to him:

            “[B]ecause there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?” —Augustine, Against Faustus 33.6

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The important point is that the resurrection makes Paul’s conversion more likely; whether this is through directly explaining it or making more likely an explanation of it doesn’t make a difference to it providing evidence for the resurrection.”

            No, it doesn’t. A universe where Jesus has divine power and can alter things at will is less likely to have him do that to a single guy in a way others cannot see and more likely to do so in a way that cannot be faked. Claiming divine intervention while claiming God is all good makes your position less probable with each miracle because it makes each miracle have to be the absolute best way to achieve God’s goal.

            Miraculous events increase the probability of magic, not the divine.

            “In this case producing the body would show the disciples they were wrong.”

            The Romans response to people pissing them off isn’t ‘show them the errors of their ways’- it is ‘kill them’.

            ” you’re not able to explain the other facts, like the willingness of the disciples to die for what they knew was a lie).”

            Like the Golden Plates?

            “It’s clear from numerous sources that the resurrection was central to the faith of the early Christians”

            If someone is lying pointing to a statement where they claim they aren’t lying isn’t evidence against them lying.

            ” If the resurrection was just kind of a useful lie/exaggeration/metaphor for getting at deeper truths, you would think one of them would have recanted it when doing so would have saved them from death.”

            That isn’t a very solid foundation. If they thought the world was going to end, none of them would have recanted because it wouldn’t have gained them anything.

            “Prophesied events occurring is evidence for late authorship given the assumption that the texts do not report actual miraculous events; it cannot be used as an argument for that assumption.”

            Prophecy is a miraculous event; you are claiming all prophecy has to be taken seriously.

            ” By contrast, ”

            You do realize you have to deal with the relevant part of the analogy? The point was ‘fakes don’t get picked up even when they are blatant’ so you can’t use ‘people didn’t realize it immediately’ as evidence it wasn’t faked.

            “Yes, and we can do the same for the Gospels. For example, Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John.”

            Apologies; I was referring to the part that Plato’s work use Socrates as a mouthpiece and so the most likely person to have written them would be either Socrates or one of his students.

            This breaks down when the works value depends on the author.

            “How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?” ”

            Because we have third party sources attesting to them; we have Athenian plays that mention Socrates for instance. If unbroken chain of evidence was our standard, than the Emperor of Japan is divine because he can trace his lineage back to the Sun God.

          • Troy says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            “The important point is that the resurrection makes Paul’s conversion more likely; whether this is through directly explaining it or making more likely an explanation of it doesn’t make a difference to it providing evidence for the resurrection.”

            No, it doesn’t. A universe where Jesus has divine power and can alter things at will is less likely to have him do that to a single guy in a way others cannot see and more likely to do so in a way that cannot be faked. Claiming divine intervention while claiming God is all good makes your position less probable with each miracle because it makes each miracle have to be the absolute best way to achieve God’s goal.

            I think we’ve had this basic discussion before, in the context of fine-tuning (although I may be confusing you with someone else). In short, I think your argument vastly overestimates our ability to know God’s purposes and the best ways to realize those purposes. We’re not completely in the dark about these matters, but we’re also not all-knowing about them, just as we’re not all-knowing about what moves a chess grandmaster would make.

            At any rate, I’ve been engaging in this discussion on the presumption that my interlocutor grants that P(Resurrection | Theism) >> P(Resurrection | ~Theism). If you don’t grant that to my eyes incredibly obvious claim, there’s probably too much inferential distance between us to have a meaningful conversation about the historical claims of Christianity.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Troy, for the record, one of the reasons I’ve only commented briefly on this discussion is because it’s been clear to me all along that the inferential distance is almost certainly insurmountable. As a data point, I myself do not think it is obvious or true that P(Resurrection | Theism) >> P(Resurrection | ~Theism).

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I think we’ve had this basic discussion before, in the context of fine-tuning (although I may be confusing you with someone else). In short, I think your argument vastly overestimates our ability to know God’s purposes and the best ways to realize those purposes. We’re not completely in the dark about these matters, but we’re also not all-knowing about them, just as we’re not all-knowing about what moves a chess grandmaster would make.”

            Really shouldn’t have claimed God is omnibenevolent then; that sets definite limits on what God’s purposes and best methods to achieve them are.

            “If you don’t grant that to my eyes incredibly obvious claim, there’s probably too much inferential distance between us to have a meaningful conversation about the historical claims of Christianity.”

            If someone claims they got a call from Obama, it is possible they got a call. If a second person claims they got a call from Putin, the odds of the first call being genuine (misdial, favor from relative) drops and by the time we have a call from Merkel it is pretty obvious we are dealing with prank callers.

            The same goes with the resurrection; each additional miracle only increases the probability the miracles are real if it doesn’t pattern match with ‘false claim’ in which case the probabilities for a true miracle drop. Having Jesus talk to Paul to convert him and strike him blind fits in that category because it means Jesus is willing to directly talk to people to convince them. Omnipotent; why not do it with everyone? An all powerful being can do that so each additional miracle that implies limits increases the odds you are not dealing with an all powerful being.

          • RCF says:

            According to Amazon, it was written in 1972.

            You’re right; I did a quick Google search and didn’t notice that the 1999 date was for The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. This weakens my argument, but leave much of my point. On the question of whether Christianity is a failure of rationality, it does little to assert that there has been good evidence available since 2003.

            I’d be happy to point you to several books written several centuries ago that make a good case for Christianity, although it is true that they don’t have all of the historical data that we have today.

            You seem to have missed my point: if the Christian community (which you have dismissed as the “popular” audience rather than academic) has found McDowell to be on par with, or even more persuasive than, these other authors, it is reasonable for me to evaluate the case based on McDowell.

            The original claim was that “It’s much more likely that terrible arguments will be given for false statements than for true claims, therefore terrible arguments are strong evidence against a claim.” However, if terrible arguments are likely for any claim, then their existence is not strong evidence against a claim.

            But there are some claims for which the discourse is not dominated by terrible arguments.
            Also, as I said, the content of the matter under question is relevant. The existence of an omnipotent wanting me to be in communion with Him makes poor arguments in His favor less likely. Unless you’re proposing a quite unorthodox version of Christianity, you are asking me to accept that the human race is so perceptive of the Divine that we can trust that the authors of the Bible correctly perceived God’s will as to what they should write, the decision-makers who determined what books should be included in “the Bible” did so with divine inspiration, and the rise of the Bible as the dominant scripture is a reflection of divine will. And yet the fact that the vast majority of people can’t piece together a remotely logical witnessing of their relationship with Christ is not at all significant.

            This started with a discussion of whether religion is an example of failure of rationality. With regard to that question, what is relevant is what reasons the general public has for holding a belief, rather than what some ivory tower intellectuals think.

            I was addressing the question of whether there is good evidence for Christianity that is widely available.

            As I recall, though, that question arose due to opposition to the idea that Christianity is an appropriate go-to example of a failure of rationality. And I don’t think that you have shown that evidence is widely available. Even if Swinburne had good arguments, a good argument buried under an avalanche of bad arguments isn’t of much more use than no good argument at all. Besides the question of how someone would come across Swinburne, you’ve asserted that these arguments require extensive time investment; they cannot be presented in a comment or even on a web page.

            Plenty of philosophers incorporate empirical evidence into their work

            And plenty of doctors fly planes. If you were unable to find anyone but doctors to agree with your aeronautical claims, that would be quite suspicious.

            And blanket dismissal of a priori reasoning is self-refuting anyway,

            I’m not dismissing a prior reasoning. I’m saying that if your main method of persuasion is to try to get your audience to adopt an epistemology more favorable to your position, that’s rather suspicious.

            For the most part, historians who do not also identify as New Testament scholars do not write about the resurrection.</blockquoteAnd that says something about the historicity of the resurrection.

            This is why I said ‘independent evidence.’ In other words, we don’t have any evidence apart from the empty tomb for this hypothesis.

            I don’t see why you think that’s an important distinction to make. We have two hypotheses: resurrection, and stolen body. Both of them are supported by an empty tomb.

            There I agree that not all of the events are, but I do think that most of the leading skeptical hypotheses do not explain all of the events — the body being stolen raises the probability of the empty tomb, for example, but it does not plausibly raise the probability of the conversion of Paul or the resurrection appearances.

            As far as the Bayesian reasoning is concerned, it’s the total probability that matters. Whether we can come up with specific hypotheses is not the ultimate question. Thinking of hypotheses is just an aid to estimate probability. It seems quite clear to me that if you’re asserting that X is evidence for Y, then clearly X is not independent of people claiming that Y is true. So “the tomb was empty” is not independent of “people converted to Christianity”, conditionally or unconditionally.

            (You could fill in the story in such a way that it does raise the probability of one of these — e.g., say that person X stole the body with this purpose in mind. But unless we have independent evidence for this (in the above sense), then this will lose in prior probability what it gains in explanatory power.)

            If we’re evaluating independence, absolute prior probability isn’t relevant. What’s important are the conditional probabilities. People convert to a new religion all the time. The probability of someone converting to Christianity, given that Christianity exists, is quite high.

            The Gospels present themselves as historical accounts of the life of Jesus

            Nonsense. Certainly, the Gospels utterly fail modern academic standards for writing a historical paper. Now, you may respond that there were different standards back then, but there are two problems with that. One, the fact that people back then didn’t engage in as rigorous scholarship doesn’t change the fact that there are real reasons for the current standards, and failure to follow those standards does reduce credibility. Second, even if we have loose standards, the Gospels are clearly legends. Or, at the very least, there are passages that are clearly legends. Note that if the Gospel writers spoke with people who claimed to have personally witnessed the events, that makes the Gospels second-hand accounts (I’ve seen it claimed that they are first-person accounts, by which it was presumably meant “first-hand”, which is absurd). The genealogies of Jesus are clearly not even second-hand accounts. The Temptations of Christ are also not second-hand, unless the Gospel writers spoke with Jesus and/or Satan. The Annunciation similarly can be said with near certainty to not be a second-hand account. And so on.

            and they record the resurrection appearances.

            There is general agreement among scholars that the original version of Mark makes no mention of people seeing a resurrected Jesus, and such accounts were added later.

            By ‘H explains E,’ I mean, roughly, P(E|H) > P(E) (given that H is explanatorily prior to E).

            Well, by that standard, it’s easy to come up with a secular hypothesis that explains all the data.

            The martyrdom of James bar Zebedee is documented in Acts 12.

            Besides you using the Bible as a source, was James offered clemency if he recanted? And the rest of Acts 12 doesn’t help your case. It puts Acts as a fantastical account, and if we take it as true, it suggests that God was actively helping those most in his favor (why was Peter saved but not James? God comes across as rather capricious here.) If people believed that God would save the most devout followers, they might persist in proclaiming Christianity in hopes that God would save them.

            If there is strong evidence for Christianity on which I and others reasonably base our belief in Christianity, then it is not universally irrational.

            There are several billion Christians. Even if a few had good reasons, that wouldn’t change the fact that Christianity in general is irrational.
            As for the Bayesian stuff:

            The Bayesian factor is inversely related to prior probability. Therefore, the higher the Bayesian factor of an event, the less likely its prior probability is, and the more evidence is needed for it, and therefore the larger the Bayesian factor for supporting evidence is.

            If F1 supports H, and H supports F2, and the fact that H supports F2 is used to argue for F2, then it’s not legitimate to then use F2 to support H without taking into account the fact that F2 was argued for using H. Consider the following argument:

            I have two coins. One is fair, and the other one always comes up heads. I picked one of the coins at random and flipped the coin three times. The first two times, it was clearly heads, but I didn’t get a good look the third time. Clearly, it’s much more likely that it’s the always-head coin than that it’s the fair coin. Therefore, I can be confident that the third coin flip was also heads. If it were a fair coin, the probability of getting three heads would be 1/8, so I can plug 1/8 into the Bayesian formula to get the probability of having a fair coin.

            Clearly, this is not a legitimate argument.

            The math is a lot to digest, but it does seem that I have likely overstated the case. Certainly, if F1 and F2 are unconditionally dependent, then their combined strength is reduced, but you seem to be right that if they are only conditionally dependent, their strength is not reduced.

            As to this:

            In short, I think your argument vastly overestimates our ability to know God’s purposes and the best ways to realize those purposes.

            I find the “God works in mysterious ways” gambit to be of limited legitimacy. If you’re calculating P(E|H), you’re asserting that you’re reasonably confident what H consists of and what it entails. Saying we can’t know the mind of God seems like a way to duck falsifiability.

        • Not so much lately, but I’ve felt like something of an outsider at LW, and I’m an agnostic. Admittedly, I’m actually a militant agnostic– I don’t know, and neither do you. However, this isn’t something I push on people because that’s altogether too much work.

          Someone at LW asked me why I consider myself an agnostic, considering that my behavior is indistinguishable from that of an atheist. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but shouldn’t words count as behavior?

          In any case, I found that no, I strongly identify as an agnostic and not an atheist. I don’t think we know very much about what the universe is ultimately made of. We may not be capable of knowing. Being sure we know that there isn’t a God (however defined) makes no sense to me.

          This being said, I see no evidence that there’s a God which especially likes people.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz
            I strongly identify as an agnostic and not an atheist. I don’t think we know very much about what the universe is ultimately made of. We may not be capable of knowing.

            Ah, bingo.

            Here’s a quick, rough metaphor. View A (‘Materialist’) suggests bits of gravel randomly bumping into each other producing epiphenomena we care about. View B (‘Religious’) suggests strong patterns like whirlwinds and tides picking up bits of gravel and holding them together as apparent objects/people (actually temporary aggregates).

            This being said, I see no evidence that there’s a God which especially likes people.

            Certainly not one big Jehovah-type in charge of everything in one big organized structure. But some ideas like karma, Maya, Hindu/Jaina deities, spirit guides, etc, occasionally seem like metaphors worth employing, to some mild, reasonable, temporary extents.

          • Comment Reader Not Usually a Poster says:

            Being raised agnostic, before the internet became commonplace, it was a bit of a shock to me to see how just how evangelical both sides of the debate can be. Atheists and the argument that basically boiled down to “get off the fence” being by far the most common. I have found this is caused by a combination of two things: the convert is always the most eager and a general disrespect for the conclusion “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” seems to imply to many people: that well then you really have not thought about it, otherwise you would have come up with some sort of conclusion.

            The best I can do is to try and explain that to me agnosticism means: saying you know something you cannot know is the worst form of wrong, and I have yet to meet an argument that proves definitive enough for the size of the issue. I call it Fundamentalist Agnosticism, so as to give my argument the validity of a named belief system with capital letters and an adjective just like something respectable. 😉

            Either of you ever watch the show Closer to the Truth? It is the closest thing I have to a Bible/The God Delusion.

            While I am getting things off my chest, pointing out you can disprove the Bible to most agnostics makes as much sense as saying you can disprove Thor. Not that SSC is the type of place that would happen.

          • “Being sure we know that there isn’t a God (however defined) makes no sense to me.”

            I think the usual definition of “atheist” is not someone who is sure he knows there is no God but someone who believes there is no God. Most things we believe are believed with evidence short of proof, so with something short of certainty.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The original interpretation is correct. 12% of SSC respondents were committed theists.

      • Troy says:

        I thought that that must be the correct interpretation — surely more than 12% of SSC readers who would bother to call themselves religious are committed to their religion.

        Interestingly, the percentage of theists is very close to that in the PhilPaper survey of professional philosophers: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

      • Deiseach says:

        12% overall?

        Now we can start demanding representation and accommodations for our minority status!

        Now we can be a protected minority!

        So, the rest of you 88% – ever considered you might be “non-theist by default”? Remember, if you don’t have strong feelings of identification with your assigned non-theism, this may be indicative! 🙂

        • The Anonymouse says:

          I <3 you, Deiseach.

        • stillnotking says:

          I’m definitely “atheist by default”. I didn’t realize that people actually believed in religion until I was, oh, 7 or 8 years old. Probably because my earliest religious reading material was Greek and Norse mythology, with the odd Bible story thrown in. It freaked me out when I realized many adults didn’t regard the Bible as fiction. Still does, sometimes.

          Your comment helped clarify the “cis by default” theory for me! I’m not sure I really understood what that meant until now. I’m still not sold on it, but I think I get it.

        • Nornagest says:

          If that’s supposed to be a reductio, I don’t think you made it to absurdum. I’m definitely atheist by default. That’s just what happens when you’re raised secular and never see the image of the Virgin Mary in your pancakes or anything.

          That doesn’t mean I’m secretly theist in my heart of hearts or anything, of course. Bottom line is I still don’t believe in any gods; I just got there by way of not being converted by any theistic religion, rather than the more common means of deconverting from one. But it does say some things about my relationship with religion or lack thereof. (I don’t fully understand the anger often found in the deconverted, for example.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Ego-dystonia, I would guess. Anger in the deconverted. They’ve lost a part of their identity they considered important, quite against their will (or with some cooperation but regret on their part, I guess) and are angry at the identity loss, like a pitcher developing a case of the yips that never ends, or a pro gamer developing some fault in hand-eye coordination.

            Gratuitous generalization from the specific case though; YMMV

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do we find anger in those who travel in the opposite direction?

          • Deiseach says:

            Tsk-tsk-tsk, Nornagest. Let me pose you the thought experiment:

            “Suppose you woke up on Sunday morning and found yourself going to Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help where you will be the lector. Would you be distressed or not?”

            If you don’t immediately fall to the floor screaming and clawing at your face at the very prospect, then I submit – you may be more “theism-fluid” than you have previously considered 🙂

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nornagest:

            I was raised in a non-theistic household, and I still sometimes feel anger at religion. It’s not the only thing I get angry about, or even the thing that makes me angry the most—I’ll save that honor for socialism.

            It just makes me angry because it’s so stupid and yet so pervasive. It makes me angry to see otherwise intelligent people taken in by it, to see them twisting the whole structure of their beliefs to accommodate it.

            It makes me angry to see its barbarism staining the highest rational achievements of human civilization. And it makes me angry to see it undermining every cause with which it associates, from free will to individual rights to capitalism—by making it seem as if these positions can only be defended on faith and thus making their opposites seem more rational.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Suppose you woke up on Sunday morning and found yourself going to Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help where you will be the lector. Would you be distressed or not?”

            How does this particular congregation feel about Dagon, Our Father Below? I could probably preach a pretty good sermon if there’s enough ceviche in the tabernacle.

        • Eli Sennesh says:

          I was religious once. Then I realized that any kind of religion *not* committed to miracles, eschatology, or anything else that would pin down a *prediction* was unfalsifiable at the cost of being emotionally draining, an extremely heavy Pascal’s Mugging, and just generally sociopathic. I also found out that where Orthodox Jews are a non-tiny minority, they leap straight into the hokey-ass territory of miracles, eschatology, and fighting a decades-long ethnic conflict with a pastel-colored worldview.

  6. Oscar_Cunningham says:

    “Mean charitable donation was $30000 (!), which reduced to $1700 after removal of one outlier”

    The detailed data shows that the outlier donated $12 million, but has a much smaller annual income. So I guess this is someone who donated their life savings all in one go. Which is a shame because I was looking forward to a game of guess-the-billionaire.

    • PSJ says:

      I have a fairly high prior on “it’s not true,” but life savings all-in-one-go could be plausible.

      • Deiseach says:

        Proceeds of ethical bank robbery? 🙂

        • Leif says:

          I once did some back-of-the-envelope calculations using numbers from Breaking Bad and from a paper about the harm of meth, and determined that if you cooked meth and donated proceeds to the AMF, you would save at least 100 times as many lives as the people who would die from using using your product. Earn to give. 🙂

          • JR says:

            Somehow I don’t think a TV show about this would be good PR for EAs…but I still really, really want to see it.

          • Linch says:

            Depending on how it’s framed, it could very easily be good publicity for EA.

            Associating an obscure position with a famous bad person will turn most people off it, but can easily increase the total number of people interested.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Alternatively, bearing in mind that he works in computing, he could have gotten a $12 million payoff from a successful stock option or from selling a startup.

    • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

      Donating large inheritances is fairly common. Given that estimates for the 99th percentile in net worth were $1.5-8 million a decade ago, the territory around the 99th percentile is largely made up of professionals that have spent a lifetime scrupulously saving (as opposed to successful stock optioners), the heritability of IQ and IQ’s correlation with income, the unusually high IQ of the population here relative to the general population, and the generally high altruism… A donated inheritance seems very plausible. I figure it more likely than a stock option windfall.

      • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

        Okay, since Linch is asking for Bayesian estimates, I’ll be more specific about why I think life savings/inheritance is likely. But I suck at Bayesian stuff, so I’ll leave that part as an exercise for the reader.

        The IRS estimated that the 99th percentile in net worth was about $1.5m about a decade ago, and the Federal Reserve estimated around $8m. Distribution among the top 1% is hard to find, but for the sake of argument we’ll say that between 1 in 200 and 1 in 2000 people in the general population have $12m or more. So with a sample size of 649, the probability that at least one person has >= $12m is 28 to 96%. If we assume that IQ is strongly correlated with wealth, things get even better. Let’s say that the probability that in an average IQ of 139 population, an individual has between 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000 chance of having >= $12m. Then we are looking at about 52 to 99.9% chance of at least one person having that much money to donate.

        So there looks like really good evidence for the existence of twelve-millionaire SSCers. If we open things up and count not just the SSC survey respondents, but their parents too, we’re looking almost 2000 [semi-]independent samples, which gives something like 68 to 99.9999997% chance that at least one of them is a twelve-millionaire. This is of course not a very rigorous thing to do, but it is instructive. Suffice it to say there is a really, really good chance that an SSC survey respondent (or their parents) is filthy stinking rich. (Obligatory Zoidberg: “Trust me, two out of three doesn’t cut it!”)

        In addition, about 80% of the top 1% are “stealthly” about it. They do not even tell their family how much money they have. The testator kicks the bucket, and some estate lawyer asking the heirs what they want to do with the money is the first anybody has ever hear about it. We live in a society that very much looks down upon “unearned” wealth, and where an incredible amount of self worth and identity stems from the job someone does (and “heiress” is the worst possible job to identify with). Also, heirs tend to treat their windfalls differently than other windfall recipients. While lottery winners may buy Lamborghinis as fast as they can sign for them, heirs are more cautious. They are much more likely to actually or psychologically separate the inheritance from their other assets, and often try to do what the testator would want instead of what they want. Consequently, donating an inheritance is anecdotally quite common. But I don’t have any good numbers to begin an estimate from.

        I have a sense that stock market (and other) windfalls are a couple orders of magnitude less common than life savings/inheritance. Anecdotally, investment advisers never talk about their lottery winning clients, or their stock market millionaires, or their sold-a-startup millionaires. It is always a professional or business owner that saved diligently their whole life and is worried sick that their several million wont be enough to retire on. Unless they knock off suddenly, in which case it is an heir that had no idea they were going to be getting that much money. I mean, sure, those other things obviously happen occasionally, but it is so infrequent that nobody ever sees fit to mention them in serious discourse about the financial planning business.

        So given that other windfalls are significantly less common, and other windfall recipients are significantly less conscientious about what they do with the money, I think it would be much more unlikely. Probably more unlikely, even, than a typo/trolling, but I don’t have a well defined reason for thinking this.

        Anyway, I promised myself I would go to bed sooner tonight. Promise broken.

        Edit: Also, the FR conducts a survey, while the IRS attempts to estimate it by looking at reported income. The IRS method is usually considered superior because it more closely matches the effective net worth: how much the individuals can actually spend. But because most assets are tied up in things that are hard to liquidate and/or do not generate income (houses, retirement accounts, etc), my impression is that the IRS methodology probably underestimates the total wealth. The survey method–just asking the respondent to add up the value of all their stuff whether it generates income or not–seems more likely to capture the actual total. Because, for example, nobody is living in the house anymore and it can be sold, I am inclined to believe that the effective value of an inheritance is likely to be closer to the higher estimate than the lower. This of course means I think that the probability of sufficiently wealth survey respondents is closer to the higher than the lower.

        • Anthony says:

          So what are the odds of a LW reader having a dekamillion-dollar stock option payout that they could donate?

          What are the odds that the donation was $1.2 million or $120,000, and the donator accidentally typed in extra zeros?

        • sov says:

          What’s the probability of someone with that much money actually taking the time to honestly fill out a survey? I’d wager it lower than your average-wealth reader.

    • Linch says:

      What are people’s Bayesian estimates for stock windfall/life savings/inheritance/typo/troll/other?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Ooh, first time I’ve been explicitly asked for a Bayesian estimate…

        ~30% troll
        ~25% selling a startup or other one-time business income
        ~15% stock windfall
        ~7% life savings
        ~5% it’s actually normal for him (and his $100,000 income this year was abnormally low for some reason)
        ~3% typo
        ~15% other.

    • Anonymous says:

      >Which is a shame because I was looking forward to a game of guess-the-billionaire.

      Well, Marc Andreesen (net worth ~$600m) reads this blog (or at least he’s tweeted links to it several times).

      • Scott Alexander says:

        So does Jaan Tallinn. Dustin Moskovitz linked to it once, but I don’t know if he reads it regularly. Also one other billionaire who I don’t know if they mentioned it publicly so I don’t want to out them.

        I am keeping track of this in case I ever find some kind of really important EA opportunity that needs lots of money right away. I thought that DRACO thing might have been one, but further research suggested it wasn’t, and I’m not going to waste my rich readers’ goodwill until I’m sure.

        • Artemium says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Thiel checks it out now and then. He seems like a kinda of guy who likes unconventional thinking with his support for MIRI, Seasteading and Urbit. I suspect he is probably not a fan of the anti-libertarian FAQ though.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            I suspect he is probably not a fan of the anti-libertarian FAQ though.

            It’s called the Non-Libertarian FAQ. Several prominent libertarians (e.g. David Friedman, Bryan Caplan, and Robert Murphy) have endorsed SSC, so unless Peter Thiel is somehow particularly concerned with ideological purity, he’s unlikely to see that FAQ as a problem.

    • It could also be someone whose compensation is primarily bonus-based. Steve Jobs famously received an annual income of $1, but of course that didn’t count the value of stock and other compensation he received.

    • Anonymous says:

      The donation could easily have been a conservation easement in a community with enormous land values. Consider the most philanthropic town in America – it’s in a state with no income and no inheritance tax, that attracts retired rich people from everywhere. Charitable giving on this level is normal for this demographic of mostly conservative, self-made men.

  7. Jordan D. says:

    Whoa, there are more people from my state than I’d thought! I’ll bet they’re hiding in Pittsburgh or something.*

    I’m still suspicious of these IQ scores, but I do like how they precisely match the LessWrong survey’s reported average. Either there’s a lot of exaggeration at exactly the same level or you’ve got a pretty stable level at which people are interested in rationalisms. Or there was a community split right down the middle. Or people cheated and took both surveys.

    *In case anyone wonders, Pittsburgh is a lovely city now. Seriously! Scott Adams vouched for it and everything!

    • XerxesPraelor says:

      CMU focuses on bayesian statistics in its statistics, its decision sciences, and its philosophy courses, as well as having a very algorithmic approach to stuff in general. I’m guessing quite a few other people are from there. I’ve also had someone in the humanist league here witness to me about HPMOR.

  8. Douglas Knight says:

    How does the gap in preference explain Princeton’s curve? Are you assuming the paper’s model, that it’s about commitment?

    (The authors assert that almost all curves look are S shapes, but they don’t say whether Yale’s or Princeton’s magnitude is more common.)

    • PSJ says:

      Yeah, I took it off after I realized it didn’t really explain what I was saying. You’re right to be skeptical.

  9. Acedia says:

    How common is it to actually know your IQ (based on a legit test, not one on a website)? I have no idea what mine is and nobody I know in real life seems to have ever been tested either. All New Zealanders, if it matters.

    • Nombringer says:

      I think it’s a regional thing.

      I’m in NZ as well and nobody whom I know personally has taken one either.

    • nydwracu says:

      I was given an IQ test in high school as part of a psychological evaluation, which was required of me because my parents were savvy enough to recognize the benefits of convincing the bureaucracy that I was crazy. (There were benefits — they decided to expel as many people as they could to cut attendance after the higher-ups forged the projections to justify firing teachers to free up budget money for themselves, and it’s much harder to expel someone who the bureaucracy thinks is crazy. Then I dropped out.) But the only reason I know my score is that I managed to get a copy of my evaluation, which I don’t think is supposed to happen.

      Incidentally, they’re still using Rorschach tests.

      • Cord Shirt says:

        In the US they’re legally required to provide the parents with a copy of the evaluation. See Navigating the Special Education Maze, Bad Teachers, or ldonline.org. Whether *you* got to see a copy was supposed to be up to your parents, but your parents absolutely were supposed to get a copy.

    • Siah Sargus says:

      The biggest problem I have with self-reported IQ scores on a blog that values intelligence and critical thought, is that they are strong incentives to exaggerate upward, and very little in the way of detecting it if it’s subtle enough. I’m sure that’s not a new or controversial sentiment. I think there is an interesting solution, though. Use demographic information that is also likely to be exaggerated – height, weight, penis size, and compare it to the normal distribution curve of those numbers in the general population. This would help establish a level of credibility to the IQ claims – whether they are exaggerated or not. While it is very unlikely, but still possible, that the average commenter here is genius-level it is vanishingly unlikely that the average height is also six feet, and voidishly unlikely that the average erect penis length is above five inches. I honestly beleive that we could have our own little isolated pocket of high IQ, but I think we need more proof than self-reported scores.

      • discursive2 says:

        I’m guessing it’s less outright lying (it takes a certain flavor of low self-esteem to inflate one’s scores on an anonymous survey, one that might not be totally compatible with a blog dedicated to intellectual honesty), and more that if you score particularly well you’re more likely to be proud of and thus remember and report. So using penis size as a benchmark might not work particularly well… Rather than a general “dishonesty factor”, it just might be the percent of the population reading this blog on the extreme edge of the bell curve.

        • GCBill says:

          I also wonder to what extent smart people are more likely to get tested, seeing as that IQ scores are often used for “gifted” programs and the like. For instance, I have to imagine someone who is approaching +4 SD IQ is likely to stand out to his/her teachers without much effort, whereas a lot of +2s and maybe even some +3s will slip through the cracks depending on factors such as class size and individual effort. If I’m right about this, then it’s likely that high IQs are oversampled in general, which is going to bias any self-report independently of dishonesty. This is all conjecture on my part, but it sounds plausible enough that now I’m second-guessing the 139 average too.

          [Prediction: this issue has already been discussed in at least one LW survey results thread. Right now I am too lazy to check if this is true. Idea: measure this tendency as a function of the likelihood that a person reports an IQ score based on his/her SAT score.]

          EDIT: This was checked and ruled out in the 2013 LW survey, so I expect it won’t be an issue here. Thank you, Douglas Knight.

        • Adam Casey says:

          >”So using penis size as a benchmark might not work particularly well” … ” the extreme edge of the bell curve.”

          Did you just?

      • Anonymous says:

        That assumes that people here and on LW are likely to care about as much about exaggerating their weight, height, and penis size as they are their intelligence. I’m not sure how likely that is.

      • US says:

        Like Anonymous above, I’d question the validity of the other indicator variables mentioned (e.g. height, penis size).

        As for lying, let’s recall Ariely on this topic: “the central thesis is that our behaviour is driven by two opposing motivations. […] we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. We want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and feel good about ourselves […] On the other hand, we want to benefit from cheating […] as long as we cheat by only a little bit, we can benefit from cheating and still view ourselves as marvelous human beings. […] In short, I believe that all of us continuously try to identify the line where we can benefit from dishonesty without damaging our own self-image.” (The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty).

        If some people included in the survey have provided inaccurate/exaggerated IQs, the most likely model of lying to me would be one where these people added a few points to their estimate; you go from 120 to 125 or 130, you don’t go from 120 to 150. Let’s say half didn’t lie (I know I didn’t) and the other half added 10 points to their IQ (this would be a conservative (i.e. high) ‘average tweak’, in my opinion) – then the average IQ is still 134. This is still very high – the cutoff for the top 1% of a N~(100,15) distribution is around 135. I incidentally recall that Razib Khan’s blog got an average reader IQ of 135 in one of his surveys a few years back.

        I think there are reasons to be skeptical of the precision of the estimate and I’d bet against the estimate being an underestimate of the average reader IQ, but I don’t think lying is the major problem here. If all that’s going on here is some subtle deception, the deception is unlikely to matter a great deal.

      • Deiseach says:

        Use demographic information that is also likely to be exaggerated – height, weight, penis size, and compare it to the normal distribution curve of those numbers in the general population.

        I dare you to ask me for my self-reported estimate of my penis size 🙂

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s not like you can’t measure a, hm, negative value.

          • Deiseach says:

            If you want to measure, um, the capacity of the scabbard to receive as against the length of the sword to insert –

            – I think I shouldn’t go there 🙂

        • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

          Pool ball capacity??

        • keranih says:

          And now I’m really curious if the survey wanted cup size.

          • Anthony says:

            Such a survey would not produce usable data, at least among Americans, as very many women wear the wrong size bra, and there is no consistency in reported size across different clothing manufacturers (and sometimes even within single manufacturers).

          • Siah Sargus says:

            At Anthony, I think it’s downright awful how poorly women are sized in America. Big chain stores seem to act like nothing above dd exists, because they don’t carry higher. And the inconsistensies regarding band sizing are starting to trend towards vanity sizing alarmingly quickly. It seems like every other woman I see has an ill-fitted bra, usually too snall, and it is worse than just merely unflattering, it’s damaging. We talk about “raising the sanity waterline” for science and rational thought; someone needs to do that for women’s fashion. Bras are designed to support and elevate, not squeeze and suffocate. Someone needs to raise the bra.

          • Careless says:

            Bra-size evangelists are something I did not know existed until recently, and am glad to learn exist for “interesting universe” reasons

          • Anthony says:

            Careless, a friendly acquaintance of mine has opened up a bra store specifically because she’s a “bra-size evangelist”.

            (“A Revelation in Fit”, in Oakland, CA. The website has lots of information about how bra sizing is just wrong, including how it got that way.)

            My personal interest in the issue is as a visual consumer. Quad-boob looks terrible, and is one common symptom of mis-fit bras. There are other ways to mis-fit bras which aren’t as awful, visually, but which tend to be less comfortable for the wearer.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Nancy: Ha.

            I don’t wear a bra. If I absolutely have to wear something, I have a bikini top that works OK.

            What annoys me is how newer shirts expect more push-up. I have shirts purchased in the ’90s and ’00s that still fit fine. They expect that you’re either braless or just wearing it for support (to “keep things…where you left them,” as a men’s briefs ad once said, while displaying a Newton’s cradle…hey anyone else remember that? That was a good ad 😉 ). Newly purchased shirts OTOH expect that you’re wearing a *push-up* bra. The darts are in the wrong place.

            Uh, but anyway if you wanted to ask for bra size you could maybe link to one of those sites that give instructions how to measure and just ask everyone to do that? Since different sites have different procedures, you’d have to pick one, though.

            Summary of methods: http://bustyresources.wikia.com/wiki/Bra-fitting_method

      • Irenist says:

        Well, as I said upthread, it seems like various IQ tests/IQ correlations from other tests may not line up that well. So there need not be lying of any kind to get skewed self-reports–just people systematically choosing to remember the test/correlation that gives them the highest score.

      • onyomi says:

        Seems like self-reported IQ is probably even more vulnerable to inflation than penis size if, as many seem to think, online IQ tests are not very reliable, and the SAT correspondence is not exact (if it could be exact then it would be an IQ test, which it is not, right? …though maybe people just don’t want to describe it as such?). Most people know how to use a ruler and still probably fudge upward when self-reporting penis size (plus the fact that the people who are proud of their IQ score/penis size are more likely to report). That said, I am looking forward to the results of next year’s SSC penis/cup size survey.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not sure how facetious we’re all being, but I genuinely would like to see penis size and other physical attributes.

    • I don’t know mine. Is there any way I can get tested without having to pay for it? As far as I know, all of the online tests are basically garbage.

      • US says:

        “As far as I know, all of the online tests are basically garbage.”

        I think if you want an accurate test you may have to pay for it and get away from the computer screen. From what I recall about Scott’s question in the survey that was also implicitly Scott’s position; I believe people were told not to report online test results – the IQ estimate had to be derived from a ‘formal test’ of some kind.

        I can’t recall what I paid for my Mensa membership test, but it was relatively cheap (significantly cheaper than the membership fee…) – this may be your best option; they usually test multiple people at the same time so there are economies of scale at work there compared to paying a psychologist for a private test. If you take the admission test and qualify for membership you do not necessarily commit yourself to also becoming a member; the membership decision is a separate decision (at least that’s the way it works in Denmark).

        • Tibor says:

          By the way, what’s mensa like? I’ve always had quite a distaste about an organization of people whose chief purpose is to trumpet to the world how smart they are. Being a maths PhD student I would probably pass their bar, but I don’t think I would want to be associated with those people. But perhaps I misjudge them.

          • US says:

            (This ended up being a very long reply, sorry!)

            I’m no longer a member because I ended up never going to any of the events. Lately I’ve been wondering if I should rejoin because I’m very lonely and I have a hard time figuring out how to meet people who are like me (you don’t know anything about me, but a minute or two on my blog should help – I’ve often thought this would be the most efficient way for me to quickly introduce myself to other people; see the link above my name) in Real Life, but I haven’t rejoined yet and at this point I don’t think I shall either. However a couple of years ago I went to some of the social events and I guess I was a sort of semi-active member for some months, so at least I have some impressions.

            I had been warned beforehand by a good friend who had been to a few events some time back that she did not think most of the members in my area are/were very ‘interesting’ (her word, not mine), and that although she thought I should definitely give it a shot, as I was very lonely, I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high. Given my experiences at the social events in which I participated, I’d have to agree with her that most of the members aren’t really all that extraordinary; they’re like Normal People (…too much like Normal People for my taste), just smarter. Beforehand I’d sort of imagined they’d all be super accomplished and very knowledgeable about all kinds of different things (relatedly: I imagined for most of my life that I was not smart enough to become a member and I only got tested in my late 20s).

            I don’t have a great deal of patience with people who think too highly of themselves (…this would incidentally in my opinion, as someone with chronic low self-esteem and long-standing depression, be most people) and as a general rule I find people who are full of themselves insufferable, and so I was of course beforehand worried that I wouldn’t like the people there because Mensa probably selected for jerks who figured they’re better than other people because they’re smart, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. Three variables I care a lot about when I try to figure out if repeated social interaction with another individual might be desirable are intellectual curiosity, knowledge, and kindness. Most of the people in Mensa that I met were kind and most of them definitely were not bad people, but they didn’t score nearly as high as I’d thought they would on the other two variables (they’re not curious enough (about the things I’m curious about), and they’re too ignorant (about the things in which I’m interested)). Even so they were nice and accepting, and you felt welcome.

            Beforehand I’d sort of figured Mensa meetings would be places where people would be discussing new developments in number theory, theoretical statistics, cancer research, etc. That was not the case (though I did at one point have a discussion about the last of these topics one evening with a nuclear physicist working with radiation treatments at a local hospital – and come to think of it we actually also talked a bit about statistics at another occasion, though not in much detail). Current events, politics, personal stuff, etc. took up a substantial proportion of the time people spent talking during the weekly meetings (or at least that’s how I remember it). Some people will definitely like such interactions and when having conversations about these topics it’s important to keep in mind that Mensa is mostly a social organization; you can make friends in Mensa who’ll care about how your week went, and for some lonely people with high IQ this may be very desirable; a highly intelligent high-school dropout working as a janitor or a shop assistant might well need something like this a lot more than you do. You can brag about your IQ without being a member of Mensa – the people who are active members and continue to pay the membership fees for years are the people who derive benefits from the social stuff which for many members is what Mensa is all about; people who like to have the option of going down there on a Tuesday and have a place to share dinner with nice people who make them feel welcome, people who enjoy the board game weekend every month, etc.

            Back to the members: My impression was that whereas many people had areas of expertise where they knew a lot of stuff, the programmers could not be expected to know anything about personality psychology or econometrics, and to the extent that people displayed interest in fields outside their own they clearly had a very superficial knowledge at best, and they didn’t read/hadn’t read the textbooks. I concluded that they weren’t the sort of people I had been looking for.

            As for this one: “an organization of people whose chief purpose is to trumpet to the world how smart they are” – I have already talked a bit about this, but I’ll repeat myself here. I figured along the way that perhaps the chief purpose of Mensa from the viewpoint I had of the organization was to arrange weekly meetups, so that people could have a pleasant evening with ‘like-minded’ (at least in terms of IQ) people in a setting where you felt welcome and accepted. The occasional weekend picnic as well, or a look behind the scenes at a local hospital or university. Etc. I think it looks a bit different from the inside. On a related note the question of privacy sometimes pop up in intraorganizational discussions because there are members who prefer to keep their membership hidden from other people and privacy is thus a recurring concern in a variety of contexts. Back when I was a member I had almost no friends, this was part of why I became a member, but/and I had many acquaintances who had no idea I was a member and who I’d prefer did not know. I don’t think this is an uncommon way to approach this, at least in Denmark. As already mentioned, an actual membership adds nothing to the admission test result.

            My experience is based on one small element of the Danish branch of Mensa. I have no idea if some of the US organizations/sub-branches are full of smug, arrogant jerks who think they’re better than everybody else – they might be. If they are, I think that’s a shame.

          • Tibor Mach says:

            US: I guess, that’s a good point with the membership being unnecessary to provide one with something to feel superior about, the test suffices. I suppose that for a high-IQ shop assistant, this can be meaningful, because most of the people he meets during the day are likely not going to be able to tell him anything he would find intellectually interesting. Then again, I doubt there are many high-IQ janitors or shop assistants. Even a school dropout can pick in programming, but of course, not everyone likes it (although I don’t see how being a janitor can be a preferable career).

            Anyway, thanks for the thorough reply 🙂

          • US says:

            You’re welcome.

            A few more related remarks…

            “Then again, I doubt there are many high-IQ janitors or shop assistants.”

            My impression is that they are more common in the US than they are in Europe. Anyway it’s true those people are relatively rare, but the point is that Mensa is also a place for those kinds of people and that the organization actually may play in important role in such people’s lives. There are also highly intelligent college dropouts doing boring work they’re very much overqualified for, and highly intelligent school teachers and social workers for example. Some members are people who do not have much contact/interaction with other intelligent people during their daily lives, but some may also just be people who are curious to get to know some new people (if you’re a math professor you’ll mostly be spending your time talking to other mathematicians – but maybe you’d like to get to know a few doctors or psychologists as well, and the alternative to Mensa might be a book club or a cooking class), people who’ve talked to a friend who had nice things to say about the other members, family members of a new member/new romantic partners of an active member, people who are lonely and would like to find new friends, …; it’s hard to paint a picture of the average member – the only admission criterion is high IQ.

            In the context of intelligence and ‘perceived superiority’, I on second thought do think active membership may sometimes play a different role than does the test result itself. This is because people are often to a significant extent judged based on whom they interact with socially. If highly intelligent people are perceived to be higher-status then being a member of Mensa should/will be judged differently (‘he is intelligent, and he has intelligent friends’) from just having a high IQ (‘he is intelligent’) – in this context active membership might be argued to ‘add’ something to the test result (what is ‘added’ might also however be negative, e.g. if the other person’s impression is that members of Mensa are arrogant jerks). This might matter both in terms of self-perception and in terms of social signaling etc. There’s probably a subgroup of insecure members who’re not performing as well in life as you might have expected them to do from their high IQ who use Mensa and Mensa-related activities to cope and build self-confidence; ‘at least I’m smart, and my membership of Mensa proves this’ (…’even if I’ve been unemployed for 7 months and didn’t manage to finish my education’) and ‘my membership of Mensa and the fact that I’m frequently interacting with other smart people means that I’m better than all those stupid people in (superficially) similar circumstances’. If you’re an active member there’s potential repeated reinforcement, and there wouldn’t be if you just got a test result. I assume some of the hostility among non-members towards Mensa is directed towards such people. Some of whom incidentally might also be janitors or shop-assistants who also use Mensa to satisfy unmet social needs.

            On a slightly related note I think one might be tempted in this context to question whether perhaps similar mechanisms/dynamics may sometimes play a role in terms of people’s motivation for participating in online debates (for example on sites like SSC), but that’s a different discussion (which I have no desire to go into).

          • Sophie Grouchy says:

            @Tibor- I’m a highly intelligent nanny married to a highly intelligent janitor, and I know lots of highly intelligent underemployed people.

            The constant focus on Ivy Leagues and programming, and the assumption that if you’re not doing those things you must not be “highly intelligent” is one of the major reasons I don’t get along with the rationality community in general.

          • Tibor says:

            Sophie: I did not want to be obnoxious and I’m sorry if I sounded like I am. What I was trying to say is that if you have a high IQ, programming is a relatively easy way to earn good money without having to have a formal education and one can learn it for free (at the cost of time only) online. I don’t know of any other career that has these traits, maybe except for foreign language teachers to some extent (which earns you less money but is maybe more interesting than programming for some people because you get to meet and interact with a lot of new people all the time).

            That said, I do not enjoy programming very much. I like coming up with an algorithm, I hate having to code it and debug it. My field is theoretical (but that will probably change to a bit more applied after I finish my PhD since I am quite sure I won’t stay in the academia) maths, at least to the point where probability theory is theoretical (people who study functional analysis or set theory in depth would probably consider probability theory as something applied, statisticians and all the applied fields people mostly as something theoretical). That means I do not really have to do a lot of programming and the main reason I try to do some on occasion is that I expect having to know some in a future job (I also like to play with the programs once they are finished 🙂 ). If that were not the case I would probably not find it sufficiently interesting to do.

            But still I have to wonder – why would one find being a janitor preferable to either programming or language teaching? I guess you get to have a lot of free time being a janitor, so basically you can read a lot of interesting stuff while getting paid. The pay is low, but if your utility function of money is decreasing fast enough, it might be enough for you. I know a guy who I suspect to be highly intelligent, who is a law school dropout and who does a bit of janitoring and a bit of translating. He spends most of the time during his one job either doing the other (when at the reception, he can translate) or reading loads of articles and books (I could never keep up with that amount). So I guess it has its perks, but for me, the money would not be enough and I would have a feeling of “could have done something more fulfilling” and while I like reading about lots of various stuff I also think one should specialize in something, otherwise he is wasting his potential. Also, to one degree or another everyone judges you by what you do and janitor does not score very high in terms of status in probably any group*. Essentially, I it seems to me that a janitor is a preferable career for someone who has a choice (which a smart person does) only if you value having a lot of free time to read about things extremely highly (maybe there are some other perks of the job but I cannot think of any).

            *Status depends on the perspective. Steffi Graf or Martina Navratilova are very high status for tennis players, but for me they are not, at least not beyond the “look, someone famous” bit (those two are also the only tennis players that I remember by name 🙂 ). Rick Durret or Thomas Liggett are high status people for me, despite the fact that probably nobody save for mathematicians, or maybe just people who study probability theory to a point, has ever heard about them and even if they had, they would not just give them the same amount of credit as they would any other person in the category “maths professor”).

          • Mark says:

            “why would one find being a janitor preferable to either programming or language teaching?”
            A job that leaves your mind free might be preferable to one that forces you to think about something you find exceptionally dull?
            You might want to do something obviously useful?
            Don’t like office politics/bullshit?

            Personally, I would *love* to get a job as a street sweeper or a gardener – but unfortunately it’s actually really difficult to get those jobs. Far easier to just burble out some bullshit and get paid for that instead… smile smile smile!

          • Tibor says:

            Mark: As a language teacher you don’t have to do much thinking either. I think that anything someone is willing to pay for is obviously useful, it is less clear with tax-paid stuff. There does not have to be any office politics either if you just work for yourself.

            …maybe if you hate both talking to people and programming 🙂

          • Mark says:

            “As a language teacher you don’t have to do much thinking either.”

            As a former “language teacher” (in Japan), I can tell you it’s a lot easier to think of something else when you’re sweeping the floor as opposed to trying to engage in conversation/mouth platitudes at someone. That’s the true horror of the service industry scut job.

            “I think that anything someone is willing to pay for is obviously useful, it is less clear with tax-paid stuff.”
            Hmmm… all I can say is that you must take more care with how you spend your money than I do…

            “There does not have to be any office politics either if you just work for yourself.”
            True

          • Tibor says:

            Mark: I did some language teaching myself, albeit only as a part time job. Of course, while you talk to people you cannot think about other things. Which is why I said that a janitor would be a good choice for someone who values free time (well, free…you still have to be physically present at work, even as a janitor) much more than an average person (who would prefer the extra pay from a more demanding job). But as a language teacher you finish teaching and at that moment you don’t have to occupy yourself with anything job related – which was your example of a disadvantage of being a programmer as opposed to being a janitor.

            Useful – depends on how you define usefulness, I go with “something is useful if people want it”, it seems the least arbitrary (otherwise one is at danger of actually defining useful thing as “stuff I like”…not sufficiently meta 🙂 ). And while you can probably trick someone into buying something they will regret afterwards, you are unlikely to be able to do that continuously (unless you are selling very addictive drugs or something). If nobody is genuinely interested in what you do, you will soon find yourself unemployed, if someone is, than it is tautological for me with “what you do is useful (for someone at least)”.

          • Mark says:

            “I go with “something is useful if people want it””
            Yeah…. fair enough… but, I think we have to distinguish between consumption “choices” made due to system one processes, and those that have actually been thought about.
            Also, some people are completely indifferent/unconcerned about certain sums of money, so their purchases at that level can’t really tell us much about their preferences (and across the economy, these can add up)

          • Sophie Grouchy says:

            Tibor: In my husband’s case: He grew up in a very strict and insular religion where he was homeschooled and then got married and had children very young. Now, I would say it was a mix of factors, including the fact that he has a union job (so leaving it to try something else is a big risk since he has built up seniority there that he would lose), and it’s at a location that he can walk to. I doubt he’ll be able to save up enough to buy a car so that he can work elsewhere. And his current house (where he’s been for a long time) has very low rent that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to find elsewhere. I know he eventually wants to move back to his parents’ land in the hills (where there aren’t many programming jobs anyways), so a big time investment doesn’t make much sense.

            For me… I really really can’t stand programming. Trying to find bugs makes me want to break things. And I make more as a Manhattan nanny with a decade of experience than I would at almost any sort of entry level job. (My husband and I don’t live together)

          • Tibor says:

            @Mark: I would say that people’s preference for a small amount of money is small, but it will always be positive (as long as the amount of money stays positive). If you suggests otherwise, you run into problems. Utility functions are sublinear (so that f(a+b)< f(a)+f(b)) because you get more from an additional unit of stuff if you have less of it. 1 cup of ice cream is great if you like ice cream (who the hell does not like ice cream?!) if you have none, the same cup is revolting if you just ate 10 of them. But then if for x sufficiently small f(x)=0, it will be zero or negative for any x, in other words, if you are indifferent between getting a small enough sum of money and nothing, you have to be indifferent or have a negative preference about getting any money at all.

            Note that getting a 1 cent coin is not nothing, it is a nuisance (because those coins make your wallet heavy and the value of each one is not worth its value).

            @Sophie: I guess that makes sense.

          • Mark says:

            @Tibor
            ” I would say that people’s preference for a small amount of money is small, but it will always be positive (as long as the amount of money stays positive). ”
            I think it depends on the situation – there are certain amounts of money I’m simply not going to think about – perhaps it isn’t strictly the case that I will *always* be indifferent… if you offered to add 1 cent to my bank balance, I might say yes … but in any real world situation it simply isn’t an amount I am ever going to think about.

            “If you suggests otherwise, you run into problems. Utility functions are sublinear (so that f(a+b)< f(a)+f(b)) because you get more from an additional unit of stuff if you have less of it. "
            Isn't money an exception to this? Otherwise, why would people play the lottery?

            I was helping my mother out with something a few years ago and I realized that she was paying for gym membership despite only having gone to the gym once, and not telling anyone else she was a member. She was quite reluctant to cancel it even when I offered to do the work for her. [She had had some kind of episode due to high blood pressure when she went for her induction and had no intention of ever going again.]
            People are weird.

          • Chalid says:

            In the office buildings I’ve been in, the night janitors seem to have a ton of free time. No one monitors how long it takes to do the job so they finish up rather quickly and then watch TV, talk on their phones, etc. And I’d guess being an office janitor is not particularly dirty/unpleasant (if you don’t mind cleaning chemicals). After all, the space is professionally cleaned every day so filth doesn’t have much of a chance to accumulate, and anyway the workers themselves have an interest in keeping the place clean between cleanings (no one wants to lose a client/sale because of a dirty toilet).

            That said, they did seem to be very vulnerable. For example, we asked one to place the trash cans differently one day for and she did; the next day asked us for a signed note from us saying that we’d requested it, because her manager was threatening to fire her for not doing her job. (Low monitoring means high punishments of perceived infractions…)

          • A blog run by an medical intern probably isn’t the best place to complain about hours and stress, but coding professionally can be *really* stressful, involve late hours, etc.

    • BBA says:

      I had my IQ tested as a child – don’t remember the precise score, and it wouldn’t be applicable to me now anyway.

      At the time I was a prodigy, and proud of it. Nowadays when I hear “IQ” I reach for my gun.

  10. roystgnr says:

    “Mean income is $72000 and median income is $47000, but this was limited to the subset of people who entered an income at all. Mean charitable donation was $30000 (!), which reduced to $1700 after removal of one outlier; median donation was $200. Mean percent of income donated was 2.4%”

    Are the charitable donation figures likewise limited to the subset of people who made some donation?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The charity mean and median are computed out of the ~400 people who answered the question, including ~100 who answered 0.

    • Rose says:

      From philanthropy.com

      In states like Utah and Mississippi, the typical household gives more than 7 percent of its income to charity, while the average household in Massachusetts and three other New England states gives less than 3 percent.

      • Murphy says:

        That’s likely related to the Mormon practice of tithing in Utah.

        Direct social pressure to donate publicly to the local church is quite powerful.

        • Parker says:

          Yes, that’s correct — tithing is 10% of income, plus monthly “fast offerings” that are generally earmarked for the poorer members.

          But direct comparisons with other charitable giving is difficult, because though many would list that 10% contribution as “charitable”, that money goes towards building magical palaces in third world countries (to put it uncharitably) or to maintain chapels. The Mormon church doesn’t say what exactly they do with their money, though.

          • rose says:

            actually, from what i read during the last election when I got interested in Mormons, Mormons are incredibly generous and helpful to everyone in their community in need. yes, of course they build churches, but they also build warehouses of food and goods for those in need and volunteer networks to help distribute it within personal relationships, so it is effective in restoring those on hard times to higher functioning.

            comparisons of Romney and Obama’s charitable giving are a dramatic example of the differences between snarky liberals who think religious people are awful while they are so caring, and what personal caring in action looks like. this said by an atheist, who does not tithe, but has the rationality to respect what moral heights of generosity piety leads to.

            my main charity used to be the environment. I served on a land trust board in Massachusetts and we flew in a consultant to advise us on fundraising. I remember how surprised I was to learn that the liberal states are the stingiest, and the most conservative the most generous in all charitable sectors including the environment.

            here are some examples of what religious inspired giving looks like. it is mind boggling to those of us who are secular and don’t know anyone like this personally:
            a fellow volunteer pastor at the Romney’s Massachusetts church, explained that while building his business and earning his millions and raising five boys, Romney volunteered two evenings a week and every weekend — ten, fifteen, twenty hours a week — in acts of personal service and pastoral counseling.

            He met with those seeking help with the burdens of real life…unemployment, sickness, financial distress, loneliness…single mothers raising children, couples with marital problems, youths with addictions, immigrants…individuals whose heat had been shut off.

            Typical of Mitt Romney, he let others give the sermons. He did the work. He did not delegate kindness: Mitt shoveled snow for the elderly, brought meals to the sick. He led by example. “Mitt’s response to all who came was compassion in all its beautiful varieties. He had a listening ear and a helping hand.”

            “I treasure every minute we served together,” sums up Bennett.

            I can hear Democrats scoffing. Bennett obviously loves Romney as his mentor and friend. That is just the point. Bennett worked with Romney for “thousands of hours over many years” and took over the job when Romney left. Romney earned Bennett’s love and respect and loyalty by his empathic, compassionate love of and service for his fellows.

            Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/in_a_kindness_competition_romney_wins_over_obama_by_a_landslide.html#ixzz3qg8fObDK

            another example: Then we heard from Pat and Ted Oparowski. “Evening ,folks. My wife and I are people of modest means. I made my living as a professional firefighter for 27 years.” There followed rip-your-heart-out testimony about the many tender kindnesses of Mitt Romney to their 14-year-old son, David, dying of cancer, thirty years ago. The cameras panned over an entire convention hall in tears.

            I felt keenly that these bereaved parents were on stage because they want the country to benefit from the blessings a deeply good and kind President Romney will bring to us all. Love of family, gratitude to Mitt, and love of country brought them to that stage.

            “The memories are still painful, but we wanted to share them with you, because David’s story is part of Mitt’s story, and America deserves to hear it. …the true measure of a man is revealed in the …quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters. This is the time to make that assessment.”

            Romney arranged a fireworks party on the beach to bring David a time of joy; he gave him solace and respect by helping David write a will, to leave his prized possessions to his best friend and brother. “How many men do you know who take time out of their busy life to visit a terminally ill fourteen-year-old?” asked Pat, the boy’s mother. “We will ever be grateful to Mitt for his love and concern.”

            If you prefer statistics to anecdotes:

            Americans are the most generous people on earth, with some exceptions. A typical middle-class American family give 3.5% of their income to charity. Multi-millionaires such as the Obamas and Romneys average 6%. The working poor give 4.5%, the most generous of all. Welfare poor (at the same income levels) give nothing.

            Before deciding to run for president — that is, before their giving level would be of interest to voters — the Obamas gave between 0.4% and 1% of their income to charity. This is closest to the giving level of people on welfare.

            At that time, State Senator Obama and Michelle were Harvard-educated lawyers, in professional jobs, with a combined income that put them among the top 10% of earners (that is, above $112,000). Michelle and Obama’s combined earnings were $181,507 to $272,759 each year from 1998 to 2004. And they gave the same percentage single mothers on welfare give.

            The contrast between Obama and Romney leaves Obama looking even worse. Obama is running against one of the most charitable men in America. Mitt and Ann Romney gave an average of 14% of their income over a twenty-year period. In addition, they both have served others through prodigious levels of volunteer work, serving primarily ghetto youth, at-risk teenagers, inner-city girls, families with sick children, and fellow congregants.

            What charities did then-State Senator Obama and Michelle choose? They gave the most money to the Reverend Wright’s hate-filled church. Their other choices: literacy, an African dance group, and CARE, a group that fights global poverty. The Obamas also illegally listed a $13,000 donation to the Congressional Black Caucus as a charity. Nice.

            liberals say they prefer to give through their politics more than personally, as if one precluded the other. but political “caring” so very often turns out to help themselves more than others.

            Barack Obama , before ascending to the Oval office, was hired by Bill Ayers to co-chair the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, meant to improve education for Chicago’s children in the public school system. Obama was given control of nearly 100 million dollars to help children struggling to learn the reading and math skills they’d need to get jobs and make lives for themselves.

            For Obama, charity clearly began by helping himself. Instead of giving the money to improve reading and math skills, Barack Obama and Ayers gave the 100 million dollars to left-wing causes and groups useful to Obama’s political campaign. ACORN was a major beneficiary. So was the Developing Communities Project, run by Greg Galuzzo, Obama’s first boss, who trained directly under Saul Alinksy. Ayers’s “small schools movement” was funded.

            … individual schools built around specific political themes push students to “confront issues of inequity, war, and violence.” … The point, says Mr. Ayers … is to “teach against oppression,” against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

            Obama’s and Ayers’s performance in helping poor schoolchildren with Mr. Annenberg’s $100 million was measured. The schoolchildren they were supposed to help showed zero improvement. The Chicago School Superintendent blasted Obama for completely wasting the money. He accused Obama of working to undermine his own successful efforts to improve public education.

            Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/11/obamas_cold_heart.html#ixzz3qg9YmSUI
            Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

          • Parker says:

            I don’t doubt the Romney v Obama angle.

            > Romney volunteered two evenings a week and every weekend — ten, fifteen, twenty hours a week — in acts of personal service and pastoral counseling.

            But I do think that this ^ is the extremely charitable outlook. “Pastoral counseling” sounds great, but in practice (and speaking from experience here) this often involves things like meeting with teens one on one to enquire about masturbation habits or whatever, or, in many cases offering really, really bad advice. (We call this leadership roulette — it’s very possible Romney offered great advice…but for every Romney there’s a lot of leaders who have no business counseling and in fact do much harm.)

            My main point though is that the tithing probably shouldn’t be taken into account when comparing charitable giving, since the church itself admits that tithing doesn’t necessarily go towards charity.

    • RCF says:

      “Mean percent of income donated” is an ambiguous term. Adding up all the money given, and dividing by the total income, will generally give a different answer than averaging all the individual percentages. The former is arguably the most reasonable definition, but was probably not how it was calculated. Just one of the ways in which the concept of “average” is misused.

  11. I would be unsurprised that Mediations on Moloch was the highest rated post except that this was specifically for non-LW folk and the conclusion of that post was “we need friendly AI or we’re all fucked.”

    Perhaps some non-LWers didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to do this survey?

    • FacelessCraven says:

      I’m not hugely invested in the friendly AI debate, am also not a LWer, and think that’s probably one of Scott’s best posts. The description of Moloch gives you a completely fascinating new way to look at the world and its problems, completely apart from any proposed solutions.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think I might be one of the few people who doesn’t like it much, then. Moloch is more or less a personification of externalities, something people already had a perfectly good word for, a word that I think people’s use of was more measured and precise than how the term ‘Moloch’ seems to be used a lot of the time, which is by pointing at something one doesn’t like, throwing up one’s hands and saying, “Moloch did it!”. It’s unhelpful because it obscures the actual issues involved. If I were Scott, I would totally taboo the word Moloch.

        I think some of Scott’s examples can be solved fairly easily (e.g. the fishing pollution problem, obvious solution is transferrable quotas). Other examples are patently silly, the example that stuck in my mind the most was capitalism. Scott tells us that capitalists have to pay their employees subsistence wages or else their products will cost more than those of their competitors and they will be run out of business. But at the same time, capitalists have to pay their employees 100% of their profits, or else their employees will all go and work for someone else. In reality, these forces counteract one another such that the equilibrium is not at either extreme after all.

        On top of that, the question of how well you can defend your garden depends entirely on what weapons you have and what weapons everyone else has. There will generally be a limit on how effective weapons you can get, such that spending beyond that point will not gain you much or any extra leverage. It could be that this limit is above the level of wealth that any garden can produce, such that everyone has to pour everything they can into defense and whoever has the most resources gets to dominate everyone else. But it doesn’t seem obvious to me that that’s the case.

        EDIT: oh, and I forgot that the Vegas thing was in here too. The mistake here seems obvious. Vegas is almost certainly an imperfect use of resources, as in the absence of the uneven regulatory conditions Scott talks about, I suspect it might well be better to have gambling more widely dispersed across the country. Even within these conditions it is still amost certainly an imperfect use of resources, if only because perfection is a very high bar. But this has nothing at all to do with gambling being an unwise move, rigged against the player. How many people go to Vegas because they genuinely believe they will make their fortune, and how many go because “HELLL YEAH, VEGAS BABY, WOOOO!”? If you’re going to criticize Vegas for being successful because of its reliance on triggering peoples’ emotional reward circuits, then you can also criticize candy and rollercoasters and pornography and everything else where we have managed to separate the pleasure from the thing it is intended by evolution to get us to do.

        • discursive2 says:

          The idea of Moloch, which I don’t think is fully captured by the idea of “externalities”, is that things like employers competing for employees happening to balance out employees competing for employers are happenstance, a historical accident that technological progress could easily eradicate. Having been to India and met professional van drivers who live out of their vans because labor is very cheap so that’s what you do to keep a job, the fact that the status quo in the US is that the average family can afford a certain lifestyle doesn’t strike me as a universal constant guaranteed by economics. And as the returns on capital continue to increase relative to the returns on labor, how long is this state of affairs going to continue?

          Classical economics views competition as a generally healthy thing that betters society, and uses the conceptual bucket of “externalities” to capture and contain things that don’t fit into that paradigm. In contrast, the idea of “Moloch” is that competition itself might inevitably lead to vicious cycles, races to the bottom, and the destruction of the individual.

          So I think the use of a seperate word is very appropriate. Whether or not you agree with Moloch being a real thing, or instead have faith in markets generally leading to good origins, is a different story. But I think Moloch is a distinct and live hypothesis from the classical economics worldview.

          • Anonymous says:

            I would agree that the factor that allows workers who do not own capital to nevertheless gain from economic growth is the limitation on how quickly they can reproduce. In the absence of this, it comes down to defending property. In such circumstances, if the level at which further investments in defense are no longer worth it is not so high as to be beyond the reach of any group, it seems to me that groups will be able to defend their property against others and then spend the rest of their efforts on producing luxuries.

            The equilibria are more stable than Scott describes, though. An increased supply of labor is an incentive for more would-be employers to employ workers, and for existing employers to hire more workers. It only really breaks down when something weird happens and one side totally outruns the other – like if the rate of reproduction becomes so high that people are created faster than they can be put into jobs.

            I don’t think the use of the term externalities requires belief that they are rare. It’s just a more precise term to explain what is happening – self-interested actions that have negative side effects on others. Whether this does or doesn’t apply to each of Scott’s examples, and why, is a separate issue. In several cases I think it doesn’t, which is why I find the umbrella term ‘Moloch!’ unhelpful.

            EDIT: I will add that you can also look at the capitalism issue from the perspective of their customers. Capitalists obviously have to sell all their products at cost, making no profit, else their competitors will get all the customers and they will go out of business. At the same time, capitalists obviously have to sell their products for all the money in the world, because if they don’t then they will not make as much profit as their competitors, won’t be able to keep up with them and will be driven out of business.

          • Eli Sennesh says:

            And the effect you’re describing was written about in Das Kapital more than a century before someone turned it into a made-up deity.

            What has to be done to get people to stop making up fake gods and solve their own real problems?

          • Paul Torek says:

            Moloch may or may not be equivalent to externalities. That’s really beside the point.

            Evolution – differential reproduction – created our values, in two senses. It created the things we value, and our valuing of them. And in both cases this was the result of a very particular set of circumstances. A set of circumstances which, to put it mildly, is not guaranteed to continue.

            Why put the face of a god on this? Because a god is a force of terrible power, to whom humans are mere playthings. The metaphor fits.

            Scott is a poet. And Moloch is damn good poetry.

        • Nonnamous says:

          Moloch was one of my least favorite posts. I don’t understand how it can be the most loved post on an otherwise brilliant and most intellectually inspiring blog.

          I felt every one of the examples of Moloch in action were very contrived. The Prisoner’s Dilemma, “as played by two very stupid libertarians who keep ending up on defect-defect”, dollar auctions, fish farming story (a thought experiment), Malthusian trap “at its extremely pure theoretical limits” etc. etc. It’s as if the author fell in love with some concept on an intellectual level and was trying hard but not successfully to come up with examples to make it applicable to the real world.

          And the Vegas thing, “I don’t enjoy it, therefore anyone who does must have a malfunctioning brain”.

      • Scott is extremely good at digging really deep at selected spots. What he is apparently less… less interested in is connecting those into a system. E.g. how does the noncentral fallacy feed the Moloch or outgroup tribalis etc.?

        Years ago Nydwracu came up with a very good idea that somehow neither him nor anyone developed into a real system (or I am just missing some posts), namely that words have three layers, actual meaning, emotional effect, and the group relation of who says it to whom, which he called “exosemantic gang signs”. This is really novel, obviously true [1], apparently not even part of LW’s 37 ways of how words can be wrong. This is something that could be systematized together with the noncentral fallacy and outgroupism.

        [1] e.g. if you have a “ha ha users are so clueless” thread on Reddit, the actual meaning is the perceived lack of tech savvy, the emotional effect is I am smart (P+, high-prestige) and some others not (P-, low-prestige), but the EGS part is that it is IT professionals talking to other IT professionals, inside the gang. A “you should educate yourself” type of stuff would be a sign to outside the gang, the users.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          While insightful, I don’t think this is novel (very few things are novel). The prior for this type of stuff should be “someone already wrote a book on this that I didn’t read yet.”

          • If nobody mentioned that hypothethical book in these comment threads, looking at how high quality the threads are, it cannot really be that good. I mean, it is something pretty close to academic knowledge not armchair philosophy, and if an academic book is new, true, well written and readable for non-professionals, it gets popular enough that people talk about it in relevant places like here.

          • Vaniver says:

            I think that overstates the degree to which ‘high quality’ threads are connected to everything else. Maybe it exists, but it’s only in German, etc.

            I do think that the question is not “does it exist?” but “can I easily find it?”. At some point it’s easier to make it yourself.

        • nydwracu says:

          It’s certainly not novel — ‘exosemantics’ was someone else’s ad-hoc coinage to refer to a concept similar to ‘signaling’. But I think I’d revise that now.

          To take two words, let’s say ‘iPhone 6’ and ‘Nazi’:
          * Denotation: ‘iPhone 6’ refers to a specific model of a specific brand of phone, and ‘Nazi’ refers to a member of the NSDAP.
          * Connotation: ‘iPhone 6’ is high-status, and ‘Nazi’ is evil and disgusting.
          * Exosemantics: someone who says ‘iPhone 6’ probably follows technology and, specifically, Apple products, or at least knows enough people who do that they can pick it up by osmosis; someone who says ‘Nazi’… it depends on the context, but they’re at least (trivially) signaling awareness of the existence of Nazis.
          * Prototype: the prototypical iPhone 6 is the iPhone 6, not the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 6 Plus, etc., and the prototypical Nazi is Adolf Hitler.
          * Domain: the domain of ‘iPhone 6’ includes the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6s, etc., and the domain of ‘Nazi’ includes Adolf Hitler, Ernst Röhm, the Strasser brothers, and so on, and beyond that, is politically contested, and depending on the speaker and the context, could include Pat Buchanan, Hillary Clinton, a forum moderator, etc.
          * Semantic associations: ‘iPhone 6’ is associated with ‘smartphone’, ‘Apple’, etc., and ‘Nazi’ is associated with ‘far-right’, ‘fascist’, etc., but the semantic associations of ‘Nazi’ are politically contested, because the word carries such a strong negative connotation and elthedish exosemantic load: things that are associated with ‘Nazi’ are evil, disgusting, and unlike us, so people like Jonah Goldberg have an incentive to try to break the association between ‘Nazi’ and ‘far-right’ and make a new association between ‘Nazi’ and ‘far-left’, and progressives have an incentive to maintain and strengthen the association between ‘Nazi’ and ‘far-right’ and expand it to cover as much territory to the right of them as they can.
          * Metaphorical associations: ‘iPhone 6’ is the newest model of iPhone, and supposedly the best; previous and supposedly worse models are, in reverse chronological order, the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4, etc. The numbers get bigger because bigger is better (cf. the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64) and because the improvement of the iPhone is theoretically unlimited — you don’t often see Urbit-style versioning, where newer versions take lower numbers, because the natural numbers are bounded on the left, progress is theoretically unlimited, and so on. Metaphorical comparison to ‘Nazi’ is a common way of calling something evil, because the Nazis were (are?) a force of pure, inhuman, otherworldly evil, occupying roughly the same place in the progressive mindset that Satanists used to occupy in the Christian one.

          Of course, that’s only a first pass: more components could be added (probably something about built-in vectors/tendencies: it’s possible that ‘Nazi’ could be associated with ‘far-left’, but it’s more likely for it to be associated with ‘far-right’, because the Nazis were where they were in Weimar politics), and possibly some could be folded into others.

          I don’t see enough written about metaphors — I’m surprised that so few people have pointed out the metaphor-enabled connection between progressivism and acyclic year-numbering. ‘Bigger is better’ and ‘up is good’ are common metaphors in our society, and our system of numbering years expands indefinitely to the left and right, limited only by the age and lifespan of the universe. “It’s 2015! [and not 20005 or 1965 or 1915 or 1015]” makes more sense than “It’s 8 Obama! [and not 8 Bush II or 8 Clinton I or 8 Roosevelt II or 8 Washington]” or “It’s Heisei 27! [and not Shōwa 27 or Meiji 27]“. Things with bigger numbers are better than things with smaller numbers and more recent years have bigger numbers, so there’s metaphorical support for the idea that things are and have always been steadily getting better, and cycles are counterintuitive.

          (What’s the history of indefinitely-increasing year-numbering? It preceded Christianity, at least, but I’m not sure who invented it or if it was ever invented more than one. Rome and Japan both used ruler-based numbering, and the Mayans had a combination of a 52-year ‘calendar round’ and a ‘Long Count’ that functioned somewhat like a 24-hour clock scaled up to count years indefinitely from a supposed date of creation, i.e. increased indefinitely in one direction but began on 13.0.0.0.0 and proceeded through 1.0.0.0.0 to 1.0.0.0.1 … 2.0.0.0.0 … and onward to a new 13.0.0.0.0, which was December 21, 2012. The Mayan long count, interestingly, could apparently be written with theoretically indefinite numbers of 13s to the left of the date, possibly to give the effect of incredibly vast amounts of time like writing the year in our system as 00000000000002015; here’s Wikipedia: “Many inscriptions give the date of the current creation as a large number of 13s preceding 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 8 Kumk’u. For example, a Late Classic monument from Coba, Stela 1. The date of creation is expressed as 13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.0.0.0.0, where the units are 13s in the nineteen places larger than the b’ak’tun.”)

          You also see acyclic time in calendars — you buy a new calendar each year, instead of buying one reusable calendar (I have an old German pegboard calendar — there are holes in the center for each month and holes around the edges for each day, and every day you advance the day peg by one unless there’s a new month, in which case you set the day peg to 1 and advance (or reset, for a new year) the month peg) — but that’s obviously because of capitalism.

          • This is impressive. But I think the trick is to pay attention to the blind spots in our brain, and for this reason denotations and exosemantics matter most, because emotional denotations are usually all about some kind of prestige/status game and our brains tend to be blind about it.

            My solution to “status aware speech” is that e.g. when you quote someone, you put D+,D-, P+,P- in the text, to signal you got it that the wordage had an emotional load of dominance-status or prestige-status:

            “leg presses are for sissies (D-), squat bro!”

            “Thatcher had ovaries of steel (D+)”

            “This is horrifying and immoral (P-)” “loser backwoods redneck thing (P-)” “gamers have no life (P-)” (all morality/ethics works through the prestige mechanism, in shame cultures clearly, in guilt cultures internalized)

            “cool, “in” (P+)” (“cool” means nothing else than something liked by P+ people, it is a dead giveaway, nothing but this liking makes something “cool”. )

            And I think exosemantics matter even more because there is again a huge blind spot in our brain against group dynamics, because we tend to think the tribal stage is over. It isn’t. So we debate about “socialism” and we don’t debate about “socialists”, we don’t think the actual group of people matters, only the idea. And that is wrong. Orwell was amazing in the last chapters of The Road To Wigan Pier – it was so novel as before hardly anyone paid attention to the actual people, well at least not on their own side: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200391.txt and search for “The first thing that must strike any outside observer”

            So we need to have group dynamics awareness. We need to learn what matters is not only what is says but who and to whom. This ain’t even very political, this should be seen even as a basic neutral rationality tool. And I think the domain or prototype are less important…

            E.g. it matters that Yudkowsky, a first gen atheist talks about a machine god to largely first gen atheists. It would be different if such people would discuss AI who hardly even remember what the religion of great-grandpa used to be like.

          • “Who’s saying what to whom” is relevant but vague– there’s a lot of group variation in both connotation and meaning.

            For example, does Nazi mean authoritarian in a casual or even humorous way, as in soup Nazi or health Nazi, or is it restricted to actual historical Nazis or people who are at least approximately as bad?

            And, of course, there are venues where Nazi doesn’t have a negative connotation. And when I say “of course”, I mean that the point didn’t occur to me until I looked at this comment again in case I wanted to edit it.

            Does “science fiction” mean speculative fiction which has at least a vague nod towards science, or does it include fantasy? The latter meaning is the publishing category from back when science fiction in the loose sense was more common than fantasy and it was a common usage among people who liked the stuff. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure what current usage is.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @TheDividualist:

            Orwell was amazing in the last chapters of The Road To Wigan Pier – it was so novel as before hardly anyone paid attention to the actual people, well at least not on their own side: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200391.txt and search for “The first thing that must strike any outside observer”

            Yes, I remember that section, and yes, I agree that he had a great idea to do this…but…

            Rereading it now I just…

            “Aiee! Fruit juice drinkers! *Sandal*-wearers! Oh noooooo!”

            My how times change. 😉

            E.g. it matters that Yudkowsky, a first gen atheist talks about a machine god to largely first gen atheists. It would be different if such people would discuss AI who hardly even remember what the religion of great-grandpa used to be like.

            Does he really, though? I consider myself a lot like him, yet I was raised atheist. I don’t see that as a big difference between us–and his fans don’t stand out to me as *first*-gen atheists. Maybe I’m just not noticing?

            Nor does Friendly AI stand out to me as “a machine god.” As soon as someone started calling it that, I could see why someone might think that, but I never thought of it myself–precisely because I was raised without a god. I was raised without that category, so I don’t automatically slot things into it.

            Yet his logic still makes sense to me. (I disagree about the danger, though, because Peak Oil.)

            Are we sure first-gen atheists are overrepresented among LWers compared to all atheists? Has someone checked a not-otherwise-selected sample of atheists to find out what percentage were raised atheist?

          • DES3264 says:

            From page 36 of the Pew Religion Survey:

            9.2% of US adults describe themselves as having been raised in no religion, of whom 4.3% are now religious and 4.9% remain nonreligious. 18% of US adults describe themselves as raised religious but now non-religious. So it looks like roughly 80% of the nonreligious are first generation nonreligious. They don’t distinguish between actively-atheist and just don’t-bother-with-religion, though.

          • DES3264 says:

            PS If you, like me, were thinking “Only 50% of nonreligious raised stay that way? That doesn’t match my experience at all!” check out the table on page 41. Among millenials, 67% of those raised nonreligious are still nonreligious (although, as the survey points out, that may just mean they haven’t become religious yet.)

    • Charlie says:

      I’m a LWer and I think I took the survey (whoops!), and I’m also pretty sure I rated “Who By Very Slow Decay” as my favorite.

    • I propose that the term LW-ers is not a very useful group definition as of 2015. It used to be. The website is clearly in decline because the big names focus on doing the thing in various institutes, and it is the same few commenters giving it a semblance of life, but mostly its real function is just to lead new readers towards the Sequences, or to the ebook(s). It is basically an archive. While on the other hand, I think really a lot of people have read parts or the whole of those Sequences, and accept at least parts of it (fully rejecting it would be seriously weird) but we don’t consider ourselves LWers, because reading a book (AI to Zombies) and even liking it and finding it useful doesn’t define you. Having an LWer identity would mean something like feeling it was the best book ever, a secular Bible… would smell slightly cultish to me. Surely it is part of the top 100 books my child will read or else, but not necessarily even the first one.

      • LWers is a useful enough way of referring to a group with certain beliefs and interests in common.

        LW itself has declined in quantity and confidence of postjng, but is now a much more normal place to have two-way conversation.

    • zz says:

      Meditations on Moloch is worth a read for no other reason than it makes prisoner’s dilemma intuitively salient. It’s been commented that everyone can understand understand prisoner’s dilemma, but few bother to actually think of the world in that way. For me, at least, Meditations on Moloch played a large role in changing how I view the world to see collective action problems.

      I completely agree that getting people to see things in terms of collective action problems is hard. The first time I taught the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I started by just presenting the classic PD situation and then polled the class on what they’d do. Out of 80 students, only 2 voted to defect (!!). So then I lectured for a 10-15 minutes on the nature of the problem and polled them again. I’d moved them all the way up to 4 defectors of out 80.

      When I first taught the prisoner’s dilemma, I told the class that I had graded their midterm papers too harshly, so I intended to raise their grades. Some of them already did quite well though, so I gave them the option of either having their own grade raised by 5%, or else giving everyone in the class an extra 1%. I handed out index cards, for them to write their preferences down and return the cards to me. I also had about 80 students, only 3 chose to give everyone the 1%. I then took great pleasure in pointing out that the class had just collectively passed up the opportunity to have their grades raised by 80%. Then I told them that I wasn’t actually going to raise their grades, and that it was all to prove a philosophical point. They all hated me, but I proved my point!

      • Deiseach says:

        That example simply proves why for real-life prisoners, sitting mute is the best option:

        Then I told them that I wasn’t actually going to raise their grades

        Exactly. They defected and they still got screwed over. They had no way of going “Hey, you said you’d raise my grades by 5%” and making it stick.

        So if the cops or the prosecutor or whomever promises you they’ll cut you a deal if you squeal on your accomplices, how can you enforce that? How can you make them keep their end of the bargain? It’s just as easy for them to go, after you’ve shoved the blame off on Joey, “Congratulations dumbass, both of you have now incriminated the other and so you’re both going away for 20 years”. Because they’re going to offer Joey the same bargain, and if he sells you out, now they have the confessions needed for cause to prosecute whereas when you both kept your mouths shut, they had nothing to go on (nobody makes a deal if they have enough to put you away).

        Say nothing and keep on saying it. And don’t believe what professors tell you in class when it comes to grades, because nobody just offers “Oh I was too hard on you, tell you what, I’ll bump up your marks for nothing”.

        • John Schilling says:

          More generally, the reason almost everybody gets the intuitive “wrong” answer to tricksy logic puzzles (thus allowing rationalist puzzle geeks to feel smugly superior), is that almost everybody understands that almost all logic puzzles are factually untrue. Cretans do not run absolutely-true statements through a “not” gate, they make their best effort at understanding your mindstate and tell you whatever they think will get you to make mistakes in their favor. Monty Hall only opens a second door if he knows there’s a goat behind it or if you are a bouncy telegenic young woman and the ratings need a boost. The professor is not going to raise your grade 5%, much less 80%, and the cops are not letting you off lightly when they have your confession.

          The correct answer is the one that is most robust against trickery. Which usually means not playing the game in the first place.

          • James Picone says:

            …Monty Hall only opens a second door if he knows there’s a goat behind it…

            This is the reason why the Monty Hall problem works. If Monty didn’t know there was a goat behind the second door, then you end up with a 50-50 choice at the end. Consider the possibilities:

            You pick Goat (2/3): Monty opens Goat (1/2): 1/3
            You pick Goat (2/3): Monty opens Car: (1/2): 1/3
            You pick Car (1/3): Monty opens Goat: (1): 1/3

            So if Monty didn’t know there was a goat (i.e. there was a chance of him showing you a car), and he shows you a goat, you have a 1/2 chance of having the car.

            (er., unless I’ve misunderstood what you were getting at then, in which case carry on).

  12. Rose says:

    — Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

    — Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

    — Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

    — Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

    — In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

    — People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

    Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

    The single biggest predictor of someone’s altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks’ book says, “the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have ‘no religion’ has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s.” America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives.
    I don’t know how mean statistics on charity compare to average giving, but ssc fairly low percent of income given to charity fits with survey result that 50 % of respondents Identify with liberal!political spectrum, and only 10% conservative. Where do libertarians fit with giving?

    From George will column “conservatives more liberal givers”

    Reviewing Brooks’ book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin — it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide — is ranked by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America’s 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks’ data about disparities between liberals’ and conservatives’ charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America’s richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think some of this remains even after you adjust for donations to churches, but if you haven’t adjusted for those it’s going to look super-skewed.

      • Linch says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure religious people in the US actually give more to secular charities than nonreligious people.

        I wonder what the results will be if you adjust for impact.

      • Nathan says:

        It’s unclear to me why you would adjust for such a thing. Are church donations not “real” donations or something?

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s not clear how much is actually a payment for spiritual services rendered on the honor system, for one thing.

          • keranih says:

            a payment for spiritual services rendered on the honor system

            I’m not following here, can you expand on what you mean by this?

          • Muga Sofer says:

            @keranih: churches provide (literal) services for free, but it’s implicitly understood to be a pay-what-you-can model.

            Of course, they *also* do things which are explicitly charitable in nature, and a person who pays more than average could be said to be charitably subsidising those who pay less.

            But a majority of church services are explicitly aimed at the congregation, who are also the ones doing most of the donating, so there’s a sense in which it’s transactional.

          • Vaniver says:

            keranih: suppose you’re a member of your local church, and you attend every week, and you give 4% of your income to the local church. If all of that goes into the pastor’s salary and the upkeep of the church, then an outsider could easily ask if that’s really a charitable donation–would we say that the sports fan who spends 4% of their income on tickets that goes to pay the local team and the upkeep of the stadium is donating the charity?

          • Vaniver, I’m really bothered by this reasoning.

            We can easily apply the same thing to other activities; giving to an opera or a museum is exactly the same thing; you provide a payment, you receive a benefit. If we talk about professional sports teams, then we wouldn’t count the 4% as a charitable donation; but if we’re talking about a non-profit sports team, (for instance, Ohio State University); well then we get charity. Museums are even worse, because there’s often a quid pro quo; a charitable donation of a certain amount entitles you to membership, which often eliminates the need for admission, yet nobody ever tries to back out museum membership donations from the charitable giving surveys.

            Also, nobody argues we shouldn’t count public television donations which meet the exact same criteria as yours, all of your donations go to producing programming you directly benefit from. The exact same reasoning applies towards churches.

            (I know I use “nobody” totally wrong here, I’m sure there are plenty of EA people arguing all of these positions).

          • Ghatanathoah says:

            @A Gallant Chrome Tiger

            Quite some time ago I noticed that a lot of “donations” to things like operas and museums were basically just really weird ways of buying an opera/museum ticket. This was long before I got into LW/SSC/EA. I think the reasoning is sound.

            There are probably good legal/rule utilitarian reasons to treat these “donations” as charitable donations for tax purposes. But I definitely have a lot more respect for someone who donates money to alleviate poverty in a third-world country than I do for someone who donates to colleges, operas, and museums.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          They’re ‘real’, but they’re not ‘charitable’ in the same way that, say, donations to feed the homeless, distribute malaria nets etc are – that is, they are more directed towards maintaining/expanding the belief system infrastructure of the giver rather than reliving suffering. Though I would want a way of also excluding, say, donations to already rich universities, art museums etc.

          [edit – of course, I should say that I’m talking only of donations to churches that go towards church upkeep, proselytising, and other religious uses of money; donations made through churches that go to secular relief-of-suffering efforts should count as much as any other such donations]

          • Tibor says:

            Are the churches not using part of the money from donations to also feed the poor, run schools in Africa etc.? Granted that they probably do not do it as efficiently as the best secular charity (they have other goals beyond helping the poor materially), it should probably at least be seen as partial charity (depending on how much the church spends on these things and how much on religious stuff…probably differs by the church).

            I often hear from social democrats that what they want is not charity or compassion but a systemic change which brings about stable improvement to those people they care about and some even seem to kind of despise charity, seeing it as something lowly (which I will probably never understand). Of course, it could just be a convenient excuse not to care for others while telling everyone else how selfish they are, but I am trying to be more charitable (no pun intended 🙂 ) about them than that.

          • Nathan says:

            “Expanding the belief system structure of the giver” seems to be a goal shared by a large number of secular charities, most notably any that feature “raising awareness” as a part of their mission.

            And OF COURSE money that goes towards proselytising should count as charitable. Saving human souls from hell is a pretty valid charitable exercise, and the existence of said hell is, if nothing else, more widely accepted than the risk of us all being killed by superintelligent AIs.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Nathan:

            And OF COURSE money that goes towards proselytising should count as charitable. Saving human souls from hell is a pretty valid charitable exercise, and the existence of said hell is, if nothing else, more widely accepted than the risk of us all being killed by superintelligent AIs.

            Okay, but which hell? If you spend your money converting Muslims to Christianity, and it turns out that Islam is correct, then you’ve just condemned a whole lot more people to hell than if you’d sat and done nothing. And vice-versa.

            See, this is what bugs me about people who want religious ideas to be treated as intellectually respectable: they can’t even agree to try to sort out between themselves which of their myriad incompatible memeplexes is correct. If I thought there was a remotely plausible likelihood of a hell existing, I’d be utterly terrified of picking the wrong religion, and I would be demanding that any religion I found myself affiliated with to drop everything else and start collaborating with other religions in an honest attempt to test all of their claims and figure out once and for all which of them are true.

            Until they do this, I feel justified in pointing out that, unlike the hell-believers, the paperclipocalypse worriers can at least demonstrate that computers are real and have been getting ‘smarter’ / more powerful for a long time. And how many of them assert the certainty of AI doom with anything like the confidence of the average Evangelical or Sunni anyway?

            And that’s before you even get started on the flavours of religion that hold that you don’t go to hell unless you hear about their religion and reject it, and yet go spreading it anyway (though that may not be a mainstream position).

            And I get your point about ‘raising awareness’ – you can’t raise money for malaria nets unless people know that malaria exists, is a problem, and can be combated with nets, so they are going to have to spend some resources on spreading the word. But the suffering that they aim to relieve is vastly less speculative than either hells or AI doomsdays.

            I’ll grant you that it’s a distinction that gets a little fuzzy. But it still seems like a distinction worth making.

            Tibor: I think you may have responded before my edit showed up?

          • Muga Sofer says:

            Firstly, Winter, “which hell” is an odd question to ask when they believe in the same hell – they just disagree about a few of the minor details of how to get there. It’s like asking people who who donate to different environmental charities “which environment” they’re talking about.

            Although to be fair, not *all* of them *do* believe in the same hell. That’s people for you.

            Secondly, it’s a bit of an isolated demand for rigour to dismiss everyone who disagrees with you because they “haven’t sorted out” which of them are right – and therefore, of course, you’re right somehow. A Christian could as easily (and absurdly) complain that the heathens can’t even seem to agree on whether there is a God or not.

            Anyway, thirdly, most religions* agree that virtuous unbelievers don’t go to Hell, so I’d stop freaking about that doctrine too much.

            [* And I think most strains of Xianity, at that.]

          • keranih says:

            @ Muga Sofer

            Anyway, thirdly, most religions* agree that virtuous unbelievers don’t go to Hell, so I’d stop freaking about that doctrine too much.

            Speaking for mainstream American Catholicism as I was taught, the technical version is that we are saved (and assured of a place in Heaven) by the Grace of God, whose understanding surpasses our own as the ocean depths are more vast than a film of mist on a leaf.

            God says who goes to Heaven (and hence not to Hell), it’s not our call. Making serious (*) statements about where someone is going to end up is talking “above your pay grade” and is a sign of sinful vanity and arrogance.

            Now, having had the example of Christ, the translated wisdom of elders recorded in Scripture, the comfort of prayer and the guidance of other people around us, we can say that such-and-such a practice is in line with the Will of God, and such-and-such a practice is not. But we’re all screwing up (to some degree), and all repenting of it (to some degree) and where God draws the line is…well. God knows.(**)

            (*) I tend to hang with the sort of people who will say things like “you’re going to hell for that” about serving chocolate chip cookies without specifying that they are *white* chocolate chips.

            (**) If you’re asking if what you’ve done is “good enough”, you’re completely missing the point. No, it’s not. Go back, try harder. Fail better.

          • Anthony says:

            Winter Shaker:

            See, this is what bugs me about people who want religious ideas to be treated as intellectually respectable: they can’t even agree to try to sort out between themselves which of their myriad incompatible memeplexes is correct.

            Which anti-religious memeplex is correct, Ayn Rand’s objectivism, Marxism (and which flavor thereof), or the sort of progressive goo that has captured the commanding heights of American intellectual culture?

          • Nathan says:

            @ Winter

            Sure, obviously the question of “which religion (if any) is correct?” is not a trivial one. But if you belong to a religion, presumably you have at least answered that question to your own satisfaction. Political activity is probably analogous. One side says industrial development will cause an environmental catastrophe that will far outweigh any gains associated, another says it will generate wealth that will lift millions out of poverty and far outweigh any environmental costs associated. Both sides care about the wellbeing of humanity, and there’s a lot of money being spent on advancing each view. That situation might make such donations ineffective, but they are no less charitably motivated.

            @ Muga

            No version of Christianity says that virtuous unbelievers can get to heaven AFAIK. It’s a pretty fundamental tenet of Christianity that we are all sinners and all need to be saved. If it were otherwise it would be hard to see what the point of Jesus dying was.

          • Troy says:

            See, this is what bugs me about people who want religious ideas to be treated as intellectually respectable: they can’t even agree to try to sort out between themselves which of their myriad incompatible memeplexes is correct.

            Many philosophers of religion, New Testament scholars, Quranic scholars, etc. focus on these questions. Many others are interested in them non-professionally.

            Of course they don’t agree, but then neither do even apparently earnest truth-seekers agree on what political policies are best. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad.

          • Troy says:

            @Nathan:

            No version of Christianity says that virtuous unbelievers can get to heaven AFAIK. It’s a pretty fundamental tenet of Christianity that we are all sinners and all need to be saved. If it were otherwise it would be hard to see what the point of Jesus dying was.

            While it’s rejected by some specific denominations, universalism (the thesis that, eventually, everyone is saved) is not ruled out by the Christian creeds, and there’s a decent Biblical case to be made for it. And universalism is compatible both with our all being sinners and with accepting Jesus being necessary for salvation. To be a universalist and accept both of those, you just need to allow for the possibility of post-mortem salvation, and hold that eventually everyone will turn to Jesus.

          • Nathan says:

            @ Troy

            Granted, but that is not inconsistent with my point. Universalists still think that you need to be a believer, they just hold that everyone will become believers post mortem.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Anthony
            “Which anti-religious memeplex is correct, Ayn Rand’s objectivism, Marxism (and which flavor thereof), or the sort of progressive goo that has captured the commanding heights of American intellectual culture?”

            Given that the downside for belonging to the wrong on is “you are incorrect about reality works” and not “you are damned for eternity” I don’t think they are really comparable. Not to mention that atheism and antitheism are two separate things.

            Troy
            “Of course they don’t agree, but then neither do even apparently earnest truth-seekers agree on what political policies are best. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad.”

            The problem is we can test which policies work and converge on better policies over time.

          • Tibor Mach says:

            Winter Shaker: That’s right 🙂

          • Jaskologist says:

            The problem is we can test which policies work and converge on better policies over time.

            Precisely. Even with the ability to test their policies, people still can’t seem to agree on which are the best. And the fact that those who disagree with me disagree with each other is proof that I’m the correct one.

          • Anthony says:

            Samuel Skinner:

            Given that the downside for belonging to the wrong on is “you are incorrect about reality works” and not “you are damned for eternity” I don’t think they are really comparable

            Living in a country run by Communists isn’t “damned for eternity”, but it’s pretty close for tens of millions of people.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jacksologist:

            Funny, the people who disagree with me also disagree with each other!

            The thing I find disreputable about Christianity is not its theism per se, but the sheer banality of its mythology. Out of all the countless people who claimed to be the Son of God, or the Savior of Mankind, you expect me to believe that this insignificant Jew was the real thing?

            Moreover, you expect me to believe that the best the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, can do is cause some shitty little unverifiable miracles in the Levant? Walking on water? Turning water into wine? Bringing back some confederate nobody from the dead? Making a body disappear from a tomb? Any decent stage magician can do better.

            I’ve always found it curious that God seems to be like the CIA: he only works through plausibly deniable means. There is nothing in the Judeo-Christian mythology that is at all incompatible with the theory that it consists of the same mixture of half-truths, fables, exaggerations, and lies as every other culture’s mythology.

            Now, the fact is that this absurd Jewish mystery cult—by sheer historical accident—got wedded to the philosophic tradition of Greek neo-Platonism, which gave it a veneer of respectability.

            But even if all the philosophic arguments for the necessity of a Supreme Being were correct, the Christian mythology of identifying this Being with the person of a random cult leader in Palestine would still be ridiculous. How can you expect anyone to take it seriously? It doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. It deserves to be laughed at, spat on, and forgotten.

          • Matt C says:

            Vox, be careful what you wish for. Christianity filled a need. One not overly concerned with logic or accuracy. Trading Christianity for original-sin environmentalism or social justice doesn’t look like an improvement to me.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Jask
            “Precisely. Even with the ability to test their policies, people still can’t seem to agree on which are the best. And the fact that those who disagree with me disagree with each other is proof that I’m the correct one.”

            Really? We have large numbers of people who want to bring back the monarchy? People who want to carve up Africa for territory? Current political arguments are unsolved (although many of them deal with values which don’t have a solution, not effects which do), but past ones have been.

            Anthony
            “Living in a country run by Communists isn’t “damned for eternity”, but it’s pretty close for tens of millions of people.”

            Yes, but that has nothing to do with “should I believe Marxism is correct”; it has no effect while religion claims the comparable situation does. In the case of Marxism, what Stalin believes is the salient issue.

            Matt C
            “Vox, be careful what you wish for. Christianity filled a need. One not overly concerned with logic or accuracy. Trading Christianity for original-sin environmentalism or social justice doesn’t look like an improvement to me.”

            Don’t worry- liberal Christians are perfectly capable of becoming crazy environmentalists or social justice supporters.

          • Matt C says:

            For many progressive Christians, I think it is a fair question if their true devotion is to Christianity or progressivism.

            Scoring by how they spend their energy on Facebook, the progressive Christians I know are at least nine parts progressive to (maybe) one part Christian.

          • NN says:

            Really? We have large numbers of people who want to bring back the monarchy? People who want to carve up Africa for territory? Current political arguments are unsolved (although many of them deal with values which don’t have a solution, not effects which do), but past ones have been.

            The first question depends on how you define “monarchy.” Bashir Al-Assad inherited his position from his father, and large numbers of Syrians prefer his rule to the alternatives. Large numbers of Russians prefer the reign of Tsar Vladimir to their previous democratic government.

            The second question wasn’t solved so much as made irrelevant by the invention of the Kalashnikov. Large parts of Africa weren’t decolonized until the 1970s. Even today, imperialism still exists in places where there is a chance of getting away with it as seen in, for example, Ukraine, Crimea, and Tibet.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The first question depends on how you define “monarchy.” Bashir Al-Assad inherited his position from his father, and large numbers of Syrians prefer his rule to the alternatives. Large numbers of Russians prefer the reign of Tsar Vladimir to their previous democratic government.”

            Neither of them are monarchs. They do not rule by divine right, nor is inheritance an explicitly defined feature rather than simply corruption.

            “The second question wasn’t solved so much as made irrelevant by the invention of the Kalashnikov.”

            That doesn’t work for the colonies that became independent through political action or terrorism. There simply wasn’t an appetite to hold colonies.

            “Large parts of Africa weren’t decolonized until the 1970s.”

            Only 8 countries (out of 54 currently) unless you count the 4 that gained freedom from other African states.

            “Even today, imperialism still exists in places where there is a chance of getting away with it as seen in, for example, Ukraine, Crimea, and Tibet.”

            Imperialism =/ colonialism. The citizens of Crimea and Tibet are equal citizens with the rest of Russia or China.

          • rose says:

            secular charities in Africa are famously inefficient and even destructive, merely serving to enrich the kleptocracy and keep them in power. when I was in Senegal with the peace corps I saw European, Chinese and Americans all going through the motions of helping people with very little to show for it. our town supposedly had an agricultural school build with Swedish money – it was an empty building with no desks and no teachers, because most of the funds had been diverted by corruption. that is typical.

            church work in Africa is much more efficient because the staff stays for long periods or for life – it is not a hit and run operation. they are there on the ground, sacrificing and working hard, and creating relationships that last. the local culture of corruption has much less room to sabotage their work.

          • Linch says:

            What are some examples of the best religious organizations to give to, in terms of marginal impact per dollar?

        • Jaskologist says:

          The reason, bluntly, is to explain away the clearly better behavior of the religious in this area. Nobody talks about adjusting for donations to museums/alma maters/orchestras. This is also why the pro-religious like to include the “they even give more blood” stat; that one is much harder to explain away.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I think it’s more an “explain” than “explain away”. The religious affiliate with an extra organization that demands lots of charity, and if their increased charitable giving is fully attributable to that, then that seems like a very salient point unrelated to which group is “more moral”.

          • DES3264 says:

            Sure, but if we are consequentialists, what do we care how intrinsically moral people are? The question is how to get people to give money to charities that will do the most good. Getting them to join a religious organization seems to solve the first half of the problem.

          • Murphy says:

            You’d expect at least some difference in blood donation levels simply due to blood donation exclusions.

            The majority of prostitutes are democrat (by a wide margin) and are permanently excluded from blood donations even if they only ever accepted cash for sex once in their lives.

            The majority of gay people vote democrat (by a wide margin) and are permanently excluded from blood donations. Even men who only had sex once with a guy 40 years ago and decided they aren’t gay are excluded.

            The partners of anyone permanently excluded also cannot donate which increases the effect.

            There’s a few more exclusions which I suspect cut out far larger chunks of the Democratic base than republican.

            I believe the exclusions are actually very sensible practically speaking.

            I suspect it doesn’t explain the whole difference between the 2 groups but it explains some of it.

            @DES3264

            Part of the problem is to get people donating to effective charities as well rather than spending 3000 dead children on a new church. Merely getting them donating to the church doesn’t do much to increase human well-being.

        • Murphy says:

          A lot of churches are somewhat minimalist on the “helping people in need” front without a very loose definition of “helping” but great when it comes to building crystal cathedrals or converting the heathens.

          When your local church is also basically your social club and a great deal of the things the donations fund are the services you use yourself then it should no more count as charity than my own donations to my local non-profit hackspace.

          Both the church and the hackspace might do some level of good in the world and help some small number of people in need but that good is just a small side product. The reason many people donate to their church are little different to the reason that I donate to my hackspace, it’s my social group and provides facilities for myself.

      • Chirpchirp says:

        Beyond that even, I wonder how much of the charitable donations and volunteering are *through* the church (e.g. church-organized habitat for humanity build day). Anecdotally, it has taken a lot of energy, research, and time to find a volunteer gig as an individual.

      • DavidS says:

        Yup, this is one of those things where the brute facts aren’t that helpful, as people just assume different things from them. Possible models are
        1) Religious people are at a basic level ‘more charitably inclined’ (causation could run either way)
        2) Religion tells people pretty directly to be charitable (so they’re doing it as a requirement not out of inclination)
        3) Most religious people belong to what from the outside is basically a club that you’re expected to subsidise on a charitable basis (I bet parents with kids in private school are ‘charitable’ when it comes to expected ‘donations’ for various things)
        4) Maybe most interestingly: churches/temples create an environment in which people can be encouraged to be charitable without self-consciousness or feeling like you should leave people alone. This would imply you could increase giving elsewhere with similar communities.

        I imagine it’s a mix. I remember from looking into this 10 years ago that churchgoers gave more even to secular charities, as Linch says. But that could be any of (1), (2) or (4).

        • Anthony says:

          #2 is weak for most religious organizations, because the leadership doesn’t have a good way of tracking all the people who come to services or otherwise consider themselves to belong. Most churches have membership rosters, but if you come on Sunday, take communion, and don’t sign the roster, they won’t know that you also didn’t leave anything in the collection basket. So they can exhort, and they can praise, but very few churches will actually “require” donations in any enforceable sense.

          • DavidS says:

            By requirement I meant ‘I do this because I think I need to to go to heaven (or similar). Lots of religions have a more or less explicit requirement of alms-giving, which can be seen as a big social good caused by religion but doesn’t really make the people involved more charitable in their own inclination. Just makes charity something they do for essentially selfish reasons.

            Of course, all the religions I can think of also say you should do it because you genuinely care and it’s hard to separate where they’re creating real compassion/agape/charity and where it’s just another box that people tick.

      • rose says:

        yes, but donations to churches include all of the churches charitable activities. for example, (these are very approximate, badly remembered numbers) the catholic church runs most of the soup kitchens and half the hospitals in America.

      • rose says:

        If churches do the majority of charitable work in the country, so why would you ‘adjust’ for giving to churches?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      I suspect that is measuring rural versus urban more than anything else.

    • Deiseach says:

      Rose, this is not intended as a slap at you, and I am not saying this is how you are using it.

      I am sick to the back teeth of that “religious people give more than non-religious people” because while it may or may not be true (as ever, whenever there’s a contentious claim, there are counter-claims about whether it is or is not so), it doesn’t get used as merely a factual claim, it gets dragged into “my side is better than your side”.

      While it may (I’m not quite sure) have originated as a counter to “everyone thinks religious types are charitable but that’s not really so”, it has long since lost any semblance of providing balance and I see it regularly trotted out for this very purpose: “my side is better than yours”.

      It makes me want to slap people, and that’s not the sentiment a discussion of religious charity should be evoking. For my fellow-religious, let me throw this at you: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” and “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

      (Goodness, I seem to be in a particularly Jeremiah/St Jerome mood here!)

      • keranih says:

        I supposed a rousing cheer of “sing it, sister!” isn’t exactly in the SCC spirit…

        For what it’s worth, while I am not as emotionally incised as Deiseach, I share this sense that caring about how much your neighbor gives or does not give in terms of charity is really not a good and helpful thing, and bragging about how much you give is really, really bad.

        If people – particularly people involved in EA groups – tell me that they can look at stats like this and their only concern is if their own contributions could be restructured so as to help more people and more effectively, well, I surely will not call them liars to their faces. I do know real live non-Vulcan people who are that dispassionate.

        But most of the people I know – including the one I look at when I’m putting on eyeliner – do care, and do use the stats to confirm their own group’s superior status.

        (And to swing this back around to last post’s topic – this is an example of the sort of thing that I am reluctant to debate, because I do not want to be receptive to the idea that it is somehow okay for me to feel this smug superiority towards other people, based on the material wealth which I have funneled into my parish and other organizations. I would much rather discuss the practical pros and cons of washing my hair in camel pee(*) and using cowpat skin moisturizer(*). I’m not going to swayed on that, either, but the downsides of being proven wrong are more attractive.

        (*) No, seriously, the ammonia in urine dissolves oils and so leaves the hair clean, and if you rinse with clean water after, you save on soap and total water use. Or so I was told. The cowpats – that I’m leaving be.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          The EA position, which makes me uncomfortable but seems correct, is that having a norm of comparing and bragging about your own charitable contributions pressures people to make more charitable contributions.

          If religious people boasting about how they give more charity gets atheists upset and makes them increase their giving to compensate, well, that won’t be the most virtuous thing in the world, but at least more people will be giving to charity.

          • keranih says:

            If religious people boasting about how they give more charity gets atheists upset and makes them increase their giving to compensate, well, that won’t be the most virtuous thing in the world, but at least more people will be giving to charity.

            …so, not a utilitarian, because in my faith, ends don’t justify the means.

            I also note a distinct disinclination on the part of humanity to respond to better behavior on the part of their opponents/enemies in the form of “out-bettering” them, and instead simply resorting to burning, pillaging, and/or driving those “tall poppies” out of the village.

            Finally, the revealed best preferred response is to not give more, but to state outright that “giving to churches isn’t really charity”. (The EA version is, if I have it right, that “we can’t demonstrate the effectiveness of prayer to save souls, so clearly giving bednets to prevent malaria deaths (which we *can* measure) is better.” Which might be more Science, but only in the same sense that the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlamp is using a proven test metric.)

            So that’s three strikes against fasting in public. Still not really willing to entertain arguments in favor.

            So on three different

          • Anonymous says:

            Finally, the revealed best preferred response is to not give more, but to state outright that “giving to churches isn’t really charity”.

            As an atheist, my response was to feel like I should be giving more to charity.

            The only responses you can see here are comments, which tend to be posted by people who disagree with what they are commenting on. The people like me who are motivated positively are less visible.

          • Linch says:

            “The EA position, which makes me uncomfortable but seems correct, is that having a norm of comparing and bragging about your own charitable contributions pressures people to make more charitable contributions.”

            This is one factor, but I think “pressure” is definitely the wrong way to think about it. Most EAs nowadays try to sell “effective altruism as a great opportunity” (too strongly IMO, but that’s another matter to discuss later). A much more productive way is to think of it as creating a social environment where donating large fractions of your income is *normal* (As the other commentators have pointed out, this will be neigh incomprehensible to some religious communities, however it is basically true that middle-class American liberals don’t have a culture of donating large sums). I think the message is closer to:

            [Happy, fulfilled, basically normal people can and do contribute to bettering the life of complete strangers! Isn’t that awesome?]

            “gets atheists upset and makes them increase their giving to compensate” will probably be a relatively weak vector at best, but knowing that normal Smiths and Jones tithe or volunteer on the weekends, not just matyrs&saints, can be a *really* strong factor in deciding to do so yourself. I suspect that this is a strong component of the extra donations from religious people that can’t plausibly be accounted for by the club good or metaphysical hedging explanations.

            My personal take on this is that people are basically good. All else being equal, spite is a lot less common than benevolence. But the problem is that all else isn’t equal, and the memes of society all too often runs counter to our more altruistic inclinations. Public do-gooding isn’t going to inspire people who never had the inclination to do good anyway…EA is nowhere near the charity-shaming in the latest South Park episode, to put it mildly. However, the memes of effective altruism, broadly constructed, can help make it *easy* to do the right thing.

            I definitely don’t think of effective altruism as something I need to/should try very strongly to *persuade* other people to do, since a sizable minority of people seems to already have those inclinations…all it takes is a little nudge. Because humans seem extremely sensitive to hypocrisy (incorrectly, in my opinion, but you gotta pick and choose your “battles”), public do-gooding is one of the better nudges to get people to do what they wanted to do all along anyway.

            “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” is a great way to benefit others while feeling virtuous, but a poor way to maximally benefit others. I worry a lot more about actual suffering and how to best alleviate it than the (very) First World Problem of whether I’m “being a good person” or not, which feels very much like freshman philosophy.

          • Linch says:

            “I also note a distinct disinclination on the part of humanity to respond to better behavior on the part of their opponents/enemies in the form of “out-bettering” them, and instead simply resorting to burning, pillaging, and/or driving those “tall poppies” out of the village.”

            This seems like a rather poor model of reality, starting with the implied assumption that American Christians are somehow opponents or even enemies of secular people.

            Human suffering is often agentless. Malaria, schistosomiasis, depression etc, are the real enemies, not folks you have ideological grievances with.

            http://blog.jaibot.com/foes-without-faces/

          • Troy says:

            “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” is a great way to benefit others while feeling virtuous, but a poor way to maximally benefit others.

            I think the way that the church navigates this is that as a community, it is visibly engaged in charitable efforts, although individuals are discouraged from bragging about their giving. (It’s considered in poor taste to talk about how much you or others put in the offering basket.) As such, there is social pressure to contribute to charity but individual giving is not highlighted.

            I don’t know if the EA community can emulate this or not; it seems to me that they don’t have the same institutional structures or feeling of community that lets the church be more than just a bunch of individuals who happen to spend some time together.

          • Deiseach says:

            It sounds a good way to trigger scrupulosity spirals, to be honest, since EAs seem to be prone to bouts of that.

            “Enza gave 35% of their salary? I must give 45%! Or else I am worthless! So I must cut back on my sleep time so I can work longer so I can earn more to give! And I should cut down on what I eat, because all that extra grocery money is money held back from dead children!”

            Competition in generosity can also degenerate into envy, signalling, and spitefulness, where you wish ill on your opponents and begrudge them the kudos they get for their larger donations, and rejoice if some misfortune befalls them because they deserve it, the sanctimonious pigs.

            It’s very easy to start showing off how great you are so others will admire you, rather than thinking of the end result of the donation.

          • Linch says:

            Scrupulosity is an issue with some prominent EAs, but also an issue with some prominent Jew, Catholics, SJs, WOW-guilders, etc.

            However I think it’s not plausible that most EAs are simultaneously suffering from scrupulosity all the time and donating a self-reported 5.5% of our incomes.

            Anyway, the “Famine, Poverty Affluence” is really dying out, or more accurately, being subsumed in the larger and rapidly subculture of people who bounce around chatting about how *awesome* it is that you could change the world *so much*!

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/19/nobody-is-perfect-everything-is-commensurable/

            Trey: Part of me actually worries that EA is becoming too much like a community. I get miffed when I see poor criticisms of EA much more than other sources of bad logic. This feels, should we say, unusual. I think it’s really important to build some level of community and solidarity with the core tenets of EA, and having friends who share your beliefs is a great way to stick true to them, but the trade-off does exist where the more you care about your community and the slighted opinions of your friends, the more you risk not having time to devote to carefully evaluating whether you’re maximally helping people who actually need your help.

            With regard to competition, I agree that it could be a significant worry.(OTOH conspicuous conservation took off, so why not conspicuous giving?)

            My hope is that normal, middle-class people who are public about their giving come off less as “look at how awesome and saintly I am, donating way more than you lesser plebes!” and more of “I am a normal person like you. Like you, I laugh and sing and screw up and fart and cry and smile and dance and do normal human things like a normal human being. Like you, I hate suffering, even if it doesn’t directly impact me. But unlike you, I actually…wait a second. I don’t think we’re that unlike. Try donating a bit! It’s easier than you think. :)”

            Deisach said that “It’s very easy to start showing off how great you are so others will admire you, rather than thinking of the end result of the donation.”
            I definitely agree with Deiseach that this could be a significant worry.

          • Linch says:

            One more point about scrupulosity: I think isolated bouts of it is actually beneficial for some people, especially nerds who aren’t naturally very empathetic like myself. At some level it’s obviously *true* that every luxurious consumption I make is a decision to prioritize my own fuzzies over the life and well-being of a drowning stranger, and at some level this prioritization is of course immoral. However, for some people it’s easy for scrupulosity to take over completely and make them *much* less effective at actually helping said strangers, and I think EAs can have a lot to learn from Catholic/Jewish ways to deal with scrupulosity (Though in a world of such incredible income inequality, using Tzedakah and forbidding First Worlders from giving more than 20% after taxes is surely going too far!”)

          • One possible argument from a Christian point of view in favor of giving in secret is that the purpose is at least as much to improve the soul of the giver as to improve the situation of the recipient.

            Public giving doesn’t just increase self-aggrandizement, it can also make people who don’t have very much to give feel as though they just needn’t bother– not the outcome you want if you’re looking for everyone to give.

            I’m not saying that the Christian model of giving is completely without concern for effectiveness– the idea of giving food and clothing to the poor is addressing immediate needs rather than getting involved in vague goals or giving to high status organizations.

            I know that Judaism also favors anonymous giving, but I don’t know what the motivation is.

          • rose says:

            I don’t think there is much evidence that religious people go around boasting about their kindness. I brought the topic up – I am not religious. what I am is : tired of the many times I hear blue tribe ssc commentators, including Scott, boasting that liberals care more than conservatives about other people in general and the poor in particular. Haidt reported liberals moral arena is caring, but actually all his questionaires showed is that liberals talk about their caring. he didn’t investigate where on the political spectrum people actually are persoannally compassionate and caring in their actions, not their words.

            I brought up conservative giving, which is one numerical way to actually measure and compare helping others. but the topic was changed to ‘giving to churches doesn’t count’ (which is hard to defend actually, but if you don’t know anything about churches, and only see them as a place to hear a sermon on sundays, sounds plausible).

      • Muga Sofer says:

        I mean, people aren’t saying that they, personally give money; they’re pointing out that their allies do. It’s … second-hand boasting.

        (And “ye shall know them by their fruits”, and “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory”, and…)

        If you come down to it, higher charitable giving is evidence for Good Things Being Done. I mean, it’s the entire reason people support the Effective Altruism movement. It’s the reason I support them.

        • Linch says:

          Personally, I find secondhand boasting a lot more annoying than first-hand boasting. I think I’ll be much more willing to countenance the folks who actually invented the compass, paper, etc. bragging about how much they advanced humanity than the “cultural” bragging from my countrymen, as if there’s somehow a plausible connections between their own deeds and their skin color, and also shared skin color and the deeds of somebody else a millennium ago. Likewise, pride in one’s nation seems really silly unless you contributed significantly to its founding/continued functioning.

          I don’t believe in desert, but it’s at least a *plausible* mistake to make if you actually did something yourself. Group-based bragging rights just seems hilariously absurd.

          • Rose says:

            The trouble with this revulsion against people boasting about their caring/actual good deeds, is that it is assuredly not religious people or the red tribe that boasts about their caring. It is frequently asserted on ssc that the blue tribe cares more about others. Isn’t it legit to point out that the reverse is true, as shown in ssc very own survey?

            Where is all this critique of boasting about caring when the blue group does it?

            Moreover, what haidt moral category would the blues be left with if their caring was shown rationally to be bupkis?

      • Anthony says:

        The argument started, as far as I can tell, with someone on the religious/conservative side making a counterargument about how “caring” progressives supposedly are. As a counterargument, it’s actually pretty good – if you (people) care so much, why aren’t you (people) giving more. Then some bright spark said “but wait – you churchy people are giving to your churches”, without noticing that progressives do the same, though they don’t call their houses of worship “churches”.

        Anyway, while bragging about one’s own giving certainly violates the injunction about sounding a trumpet, it’s not quite the same when someone else asks you to play a few bars.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        I’m an atheist, and I bring it up, because religious people attract an unreasonable level of vitriol.

      • rose says:

        I am not in the religious cohort, so I am not bragging, I am giving admiration and credit to others. which is a good thing in my book.

        I also thought it was interesting for ssc because charity is a big concern here, and the statistics on how much we give collectively does seem to fit the pattern of not-so-much actual, you know, giving. at the same time, I read frequent casual assertions that the blue tribe are more caring.

        I found ssc after reading Haidt’s book which I found interesting. but my main critique is that it takes the blue tribe self-assessment of ‘caring’ at its word, as if claiming you care is the same as giving and acting in ways that help others. as someone who actually risked my life to help the most impoverished on earth (peace corps in west Africa) and worked as a psychotherapist for many years helping suffering individuals, I find myself acutely aware of the blue tribes unearned moral superiority.

        I don’t claim to be morally superior myself, but I do claim to tell the difference between Lady Bountiful and Mother Teresa.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This topic is of interest to me, so I spun the data a little more. This is my first time using pivot tables, so I may have gotten something wrong.

      Procedure: I removed the donation outlier, mostly because I don’t believe it. Then I added a column for % of income donated, and removed all the division by zero errors. After that, pivot table according to religious views, for all who donated money.

      Here’s the table, sorted more or less by religious belief.

      Religious Views Av Charity % Total Charity #Responders

      Committed theist 6.586304585 257,400 49
      Lukewarm theist 2.656683111 41,820 24
      Deist/Pantheist/etc. 0.674802949 1,250 6
      Agnostic 2.303563343 119940 55
      Atheist but spiritual 2.328534626 38,865 37
      Atheist and not spiritual 1.497880404 188,584 195
      (blank) 0.313236044 516 1

      Grand Total 2.440538999 648,375 367

      There’s a pretty clear trend, bucked by the Deists, but maybe that’s their small sample size. Committed theists are 13.4% of the giving population, and 39.7% of the amount given.

      The conclusion is clear: EA should drop the fights over vegetarianism and focus on converting everybody to Committed Theism. It’s Science*.

      * Based on a sample** of 367.
      ** also the sample isn’t remotely random.

      • Troy says:

        Interesting; thanks for crunching those numbers.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Pivot tables are fun!

        I didn’t find any interesting correlations with IQ. The averages between groups didn’t range that much, nor were they consistent with the SAT scores. Breaking the charity numbers out by religious background ended up with too many tiny groups to be informative as well.

        So, on to politics; same data as above. (Sorry, I don’t know a way to format this nicely)

        Donations by party, in descending order. This is pretty consistent with other polls I’ve seen. Libertarians really are cheap bastards.

        American Parties Average of Charity % Sum of Charity #People
        Republican Party 4.846032299 133970 29
        Other third party 3.672222222 6600 4
        (blank) 2.802637061 43211 40
        Not registered for a party 2.526379077 268840 124
        Democratic Party 2.078339704 111160 75
        (option for non-Americans who want an option) 1.691511762 72079 81
        Libertarian Party 1.578837747 12515 14
        Grand Total 2.440538999 648375 367

        The political spectrum one gave a very nice graph. % given to charity is fairly flat from 1 through 4 (raising .3 overall), then slowly rises to peak at 7. After 7, it declines sharply and steadily to the lowest point at 10. Those who left it blank are nearly identical to 5, so maybe those who eschew labels really are moderates.

        I don’t even know what the numbers stood for, but from eyeballing this it’s pretty clear that 7 means “Republican” and lower numbers get more leftist.


        Political Spectrum % Charity
        1 1.503361466
        2 2.063848289
        3 1.883285572
        4 1.880288617
        5 3.286105765
        6 2.842572062
        7 4.023326243
        8 3.483933013
        9 2.323140923
        10 0.7
        (blank) 3.164984888
        Grand Total 2.440538999

      • Troy says:

        In an effort to play devil’s advocate (as it were), I’m trying to think of plausible candidates for confounding variables that could explain both religiosity/politics and charitable giving. The only things I’m coming up with are wealth and age: perhaps richer/older people are more religious/conservative and also give more to charity.

        Anyone care to check this?

        • rose says:

          religious people are poorer
          conservatives are poorer

          Party of middle class families earning $30-74,999: According to Pew, seventeen percent more vote Republican.

          Democrats represent the wealthiest congressional districts. In “blue” states with a majority of Democrats, the average income is $100,000. In “red” states with a majority of Republicans, the average income is $30,000. A small example that speaks loudly: Kerry won only one county in the state of Idaho, but it was the county that included the super-rich enclave of Sun Valley. And he carried only one county in Wyoming, the one which included the super-rich community of Jackson Hole.

          We see the same pattern of the richest Americans being Democrats among our politicians. Who are the richest members of Congress? Democrats. Of the 12 richest lawmakers, only 3 are Republicans. Only one of the five U.S. senators worth more than $25 million is a Republican.

          Every recent Democratic Party presidential candidates has been a millionaire. John Kerry was worth 200 million to George Bush’s 15 million. How many voters knew that? Romney’s wealth was harped on as the major campaign issue. Do voters see Obama as a millionaire Ivy League lawyer, whose grandmother was vice-president of a bank, whose mother pulled down a six figure compensation package and whose step-father worked for an oil company?

          Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/who_the_democrats_really_are.html#ixzz3qgGvq0Ld
          Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

          Party of the white working class, those with a high school degree or some college: Twenty-two percent more vote Republican.

          Party of the working poor: Republican.

          When I show these statistics to staunch Obama supporters, they are stunned and simply deny them. Democrats need to lie about the party of the rich to maintain their grip on power.

          It gets more interesting. While families earning over $100,000 are fifty-fifty between the two parties, Democrat rich are not the same as Republican rich. Their level of wealth is different, and how they earn it is different. Where they live is different, and their community’s values are different.

          In 2008 Obama carried the majority of the richer rich, those making $200,000 or more per year. These Democrat super-rich live on the two coasts, and have a different value system. They are not religious. They are not family oriented.

          Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/who_the_democrats_really_are.html#ixzz3qgGW1Ygi
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          • Tibor says:

            This is interesting. Mainly because the working class people in Europe traditionally vote left-wing social democrats and middle class people vote some king of a center-right People’s party (I am grossly simplifying, because save for Britain, all of Europe has a representative as opposed to majority political system, so a lot of small parties, but these two tend to be the biggest fish in most countries). The middle class seems to vote the same (as much as one can map Republicans onto people’s parties and Democrats on social democrats) in Europe and the US, but why does the European working class vote left and the US voting class vote right? I am not sure of the attitudes of the rich in Europe, I think they would also show that 50/50 splitting.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            > Mainly because the working class people in Europe traditionally vote left-wing social democrats and middle class people vote some king of a center-right People’s party

            Is this really true?

            In Germany, working-class people prefer FDP. The rest of the division is strongly correlated with religion: Protestants (and the unemployed) vote SDP, Catholics usually vote CDU/CSU.

            In the UK, the basis of UKIP consists of working-class and retired people.

          • BBA says:

            @Tibor: Race is the big confounding factor. The white working class overwhelmingly votes Republican because white people as a whole overwhelmingly vote Republican. But that’s not the whole working class – blacks and Latinos vote even more overwhelmingly Democratic.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Publius Varinius

            Even if most Ukip voters are working class (which I’m not sure about) that doesn’t mean most working class voters vote Ukip.

          • Tibor says:

            @Publius Varinius:

            FDP gets working class votes? That seems strange. They are something between the US-Democrats and libertarians, are they not? I would be very surprised if they got working class votes.

            Looking at the map of the last German elections, it seems that you might be onto something with religion being correlated with voting (which does not really say good things about the effectiveness of democracy…). The more south you go, the more CDU you get, less SPD. In Bayern, CSU wins all the elections all the time, often even with absolute majority but that also has to do with the fact that they are the “Bavarian party” and Bavarians are Bavarians first and Germans (maybe) second.

            In the former DDR, which is mostly protestant (also much less religious today than they used to), SPD does poorly and the left is represented by the “reformed” communists of die Linke.

            FDP also tends to have more support towards the south.

            But southern Germany is richer than the north (and obviously than the former DDR) so it could also be that poor people do indeed vote SPD and better-off people vote more to the right and there just happen to be more (relatively) poor people in the north than in the south. But I do grant it that religion probably has to do something with it as well. I am not sure though why catholics should be more right-wing than protestants because of being catholic (and not something else that just happens to correlate with catholicism).

            I don’t know much about UK politics but I think that UKIP gets a mixture of votes. Some come from working class who are attracted by the general anti-immigration tone of the party. Others are libertarian-ish middle class and upper class who do not like the EU, high taxes and regulation. I would say the same goes for AfD in Germany. In any case neither party has a very big support. UKIP did get some 13% of the votes, despite only winning one seat due to the “first-past-the-post” system of the UK and AfD is now assumed to have a support of about 8% in Germany total and 15% in the former DDR and rising, but that could change before 2017, but their support is definitely a lot below that of the big parties like the CDU/CSU and SPD (or Conservative and Labour in the UK).

        • Jaskologist says:

          Age isn’t in the sheet, so I couldn’t check. As for income:

          (blank) 164732
          Agnostic 118032.2396
          Committed theist 77959.18367
          Atheist but spiritual 73891.72973
          Lukewarm theist 70541.66667
          Atheist and not spiritual 66718.60882
          Deist/Pantheist/etc. 29750

          I don’t see a strong correlation, but I don’t have the chops to get a p value out of that. And Rose is correct that studies of the larger population have found liberals to have the slightly higher income.

          I’m more curious as to why giving takes a dive once you pass 7 on the left/right scale.

          • Troy says:

            I’m more curious as to why giving takes a dive once you pass 7 on the left/right scale.

            Two hypotheses:

            (1) Small sample size.
            (2) 8+ right-wingers who read SSC are a combination of ordinary kind-hearted conservative folks and heartless, uncaring [VIEW WHICH SHALL NOT BE NAMED], and the latter don’t give much to charity.

          • Anonymous says:

            Do the VWSNBNs… Volkswagens!

            Do the Volkswagens actually give less to charity? Seems irrelevant to them, in any case, since they seem to give the whole holiness posturing the middle finger.

          • Troy says:

            Do the Volkswagens actually give less to charity?

            I don’t know, but it seems like the way to bet.

          • John Schilling says:

            Neglecting the outlier, $4088 per capita or 4.9% of personal income. A bit less than Effective Altruists, Christians, or Republicans, but not by much.

          • Troy says:

            Thanks — interesting!

          • Tibor says:

            Sorry for hijacking the threat a bit…but what does “atheist but spiritual” mean? It sounds like “vegan but eats chicken” to me.

          • Linch says:

            It’s true that the central example of an atheist is somebody who rejects all superstition, but you could have a belief in the supernatural w.o a belief in gods.

            The analogy here is closer to “vegan but Republican,” or perhaps, “vegan who doesn’t like animals.”

          • DES3264 says:

            I’d guess it means “doesn’t believe in god(s) but enjoys ritual and other things that induce a sense of the numinous”.

          • Tibor says:

            @DES3264: Ok, this makes sense.

            @Linch: Vegan but republican? What do those to have to do with each other? You remind me of the former Czech president Klaus who would say things more or less like “snowboard is left-wing, skis are right-wing” or “backpacking tourism is left-wing” :)* Now, probably veganism correlates with the sort of high-class leftism (so does perhaps snowboarding, slightly), but I don’t think it does so the same way that atheism correlates with non-spiritualness (where the link seems to be far more direct).

            Vegan who does not like animals seems to be a better analogy (although I think DES3264s interpretation is better still).

            *He even supposedly said something about the leftism of bottled water (although that could have been just something his opponents made up to ridicule him) which makes me rather intrigued 🙂 I can imagine that one would superficially associate backpacking and snowboard with the left (or rather with young people, who also usually happen to be more left-wing than older people) but I have no idea what bottled water has to do with any kind of political opinion 🙂 But as I said, maybe this was made up.

          • Linch says:

            Tibor: Americans are WAY more tribal than you give them credit for. Vegan Republicans definitely exist (https://meatyveganblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/right-wing-conservative-republican-vegan-wanted-govegan/comment-page-1/), but I would be very surprised (willing to bet 2:1 odds against) if P(Republican|vegan) is higher than P(spritual|atheist)

        • anonymous says:

          I don’t know if I’d go with overwhelmingly, 49% of white non-Hispanics are Republican or lean Republican, while 40% are Democrat or lean Democrat. That’s certainly a significant advantage, but it’s smaller than, for example, the difference among women (52% D/lean D vs 36% R/lean R).

          The answer for why poor whites (especially men) vote for the conservative party in the US used to be all about race and today more about god, guns, and gays. Increasingly a fourth issue is xenophobia (unfortunately no good g word there) which as I understand it is where right-wing parties are making their pitch in Europe.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Don’t forget crime and rural issues; the Republicans are viewed better on both of those.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, yes and no. I think that while parties like Le Pen’s FN really are xenophobic, a lot of the rising support of anti-immigration parties comes also from their opposition to the EU (which a lot of people do not fancy, or rather do not like the way it is slowly expanding in power) and the “alternativeless” policy of Angela Merkel towards asylum immigration. This is a bit different than in the US where there may be a strong immigration from Mexico but it is not about seeking asylum (often on doubtful grounds, as 40% of the asylum seekers in Germany come from the Balkans, another 30% from Africa and only 30% from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, also two thirds are men, which would be strange if they were all war refugees) but more about seeking work. In Germany, people who oppose giving out money just about anyone who comes saying that he is looking for an asylum find it hard to see any mainstream party (maybe CSU, maybe, but mostly in rhetoric and they operate only in Bavaria anyway) that would support them nowadays so they sometimes end up voting the same with people who are actually xenophobic.

            To extremely oversimplify – in the US the anti-immigration is mostly about “they take our jobs”, in the EU it is “we don’t want to support loads of people with little prospects of getting a job at all”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Tibor
            Don’t forget that the refugees are objectively considerably more criminal than the natives, and you don’t need to be a xenophobe to believe that. Or that if they were truly just refugees, they would stop in the first or second country that wasn’t at war, rather than going directly to the one that makes the most promises, in contravention with the much-ignored EU refugee policy (which says that refugees are to be processed in the country the first arrive in). You probably also don’t need to be hostile against the migrants if you object against forcing EU member countries which don’t want to billet them to take in quotas against their will.

          • rose says:

            I looked up party affiliation by race on Pew, and don’t understand this discrepancy:

            Republicans hold a 49%-40% lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites. The Democrats hold an 80%-11% advantage among blacks.

            BUT:
            Fully 64% of blacks identify as Democrats, compared with 25% of whites.

            so – only 25% of whites identify as Democrats in one paragraph but 40% do in “leaned party identification”.

          • Anthony says:

            rose – “leaned party affiliation” versus “identify as” is measuring strength of affiliation.

        • Republicans are, on the whole, in favor of people getting rich and on being allowed to keep their money. How can Republicans complain about Democrats being too rich?

          It would take a huge ideological (rhetorical?) shift.

          • Jiro says:

            It’s a complaint about hypocrisy–claiming to be the party of the poor, but actually being rich–not a complaint about wealth in itself.

        • rose says:

          https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/economic-demographics-democrats/
          http://www.congressmerge.com
          http://industryreport.jacksoncoker.com/physician-career-resources/newsletters/monthlymain/des/PresidentialPoll.aspx

          it is revealing to analyze party affiliation by occupation, education and income and marital status – and then ask the question, how do these categories also correlate with ‘caring about others’ or ‘greed’.

          for example, many more doctors and nurses are republican than democrat and the reverse is true for lawyers. would anyone argue that doctors and nurses are more greedy than lawyers? (the recent election may have been unusual because of medical professionals dreading obamacare. 55% of docs voted for Romney and only 36% for Obama. but in question re party affiliation, docs said republsican 35%, democrat a mere 24%.)

          It is well known that married women vote republican, single women vote democrat – does that correlate with compassion for others, or perceived self interest?

          people who drop out of high school or go to graduate school vote democrat. people with a high school or college degree vote republican. does it makes sense to argue that lowest and highest educational level correlates with more compassion?

          the majority of the rich (earning over $200K) who vote democrat, there are concentrations in Hollywood, academia and media and lawyers, and of course, lobbyists. it seems to correlate with peer pressure (to the point of black listing) and self interest more than compassion.

      • Jaskologist says:

        It occurs to me that I probably did a bad thing by excluding those who reported 0 given to charity and left income blank.

        This excluded 17 people. Glancing at them, I don’t think it alters the overall findings, but I don’t have the statistical acumen to prove that. Caveat emptor.

      • Troy says:

        Another possible confounder: psychiatric illness. I’m confident this won’t make much difference in the general population, but eyeballing the Excel spreadsheet it looks like around half(!) of respondents either have been diagnosed with or think they have a psychiatric illness.

        Could it be that religious and conservative readers are less likely to be mentally ill, and that mental illness correlates negatively with charitable giving?

        (Even if this is true, it’s possible that lack of mental illness and charitable giving are common effects of religiosity/conservatism, rather than the other way around. I’m just trying to think of other possible explanations for the correlation in the data we have.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Two obvious possibilities, not mutually exclusive.

      1: A certain sort of secular person (see, e.g., elsewhere in thread someone comparing religious charity with paying for a ticket to a ballgame) can’t see how religious charity is anything other than paying for a seat at your special Sunday clubhouse. As Nathan points out, if you believe in the soul, the care of the soul necessarily trumps temporal concerns. If one of your priors is the existence of the soul, then care for the souls of others is not just a charitable act, but the most charitable act. It’s the most effective altruism you can possibly perform.

      Naturally, some internet atheist will declare that yours priors are ridiculous. But that isn’t the point, is it? When these surveys emerge, as they frequently do, they don’t seek to measure the effectiveness of respondents’ giving (otherwise donations to the ballet, philharmonic, and museums would be out as well). We don’t discount all of the dollars donated to all causes other than the number-one GiveWell-rated charity as “not real charity” because they are somehow suboptimal; charitable giving is measured in the eyes of the giver.

      2: Say you’re a committed Mauve. A central tenet of Mauve identity is being seen as being deeply caring of those less fortunate than you (as opposed to those mean ol’ Fuchsias, who don’t care at all).

      Along comes data showing that, contra to what you want the world to think, and, more importantly, what you deeply hold as true about your own identity, those mean Fuchsias actually contribute more of their own money to the less fortunate than Mauves do. This is a disaster! Not only do those nasty, hateful Fuchsias donate more of their own money to help others, they seem to do it casually, as a sideline–they don’t even hold it up as a central feature of Fuchsianism. How can they help people so much without even having the decency to raise awareness about how important it is to be seen as helping people?

      Naturally, you don’t want to change the data by pulling out your wallet–that money could much more conveniently be spent on a new iPhone–so you do the next best thing: attack the data. If the data says Fuchsias donate more to charity, let’s find the charities that Fuchsias donate to, and declare them not-charities. Ahh. Much better. Inconvenient data handily dismissed; self-worth reconfirmed. Now back to the daily business of spending other peoples’ money and calling it virtue.

      • anonymous says:

        A deeply uncharitable comment is still deeply uncharitable even if you barely disguise who you are talking about.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          Anonymous immediately above is me. (For some reason, I couldn’t get posts to appear, but I seem to be able to now.)

          Is it charitable to describe the funding of a house of worship as “spending 3000 dead children on a new church”? Or characterizing religious charity as “that money goes towards building magical palaces in third world countries”? (Different commenters on this thread.)

          Or is yours an isolated demand for deep charity?

          • Linch says:

            Of course I don’t think donations to “the ballet, philharmonic, and museums” as particularly charitable…other than in the most boring sense (You can get tax deductions legally), does anybody?

            I think donating to say, UNICEF or GiveDirectly or less cost-effective research fields as suboptimal but still clearly charitable. It’s not that they’re obviously immoral so much as misguided.

            (I’m ambivalent about the status of local poverty and universities. In theory you can still make the misguided argument, but (esp. w/ regard to alumni donations) it just feels a little too convenient).

            The argument that religious people are true believers and religious donations are optimizing for the immortal soul rather than earthly affairs sounds a least a priori more plausible to me than the justifications for donating to the arts mostly enjoyed by the .1% as “charity.”

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            donating to the arts mostly enjoyed by the .1% as “charity.”

            The Met had attendance figures of almost .1% of the world population last year. And that’s just one museum, in one year.

            I think you need to recalibrate your scale.

          • Linch says:

            I stand corrected. 🙂

            I was thinking of opera and ballet halls as my go-to examples of First World arts charity, but you’re right that those are probably noncentral examples.

            Heck, going to fancy museums is one of *my* guilty pleasures, and I’m certainly too lazy to ever be in the .1%!

      • jeorgun says:

        First, your implication is observably wrong (or at least a weak man) considering that many people arguing that church donations shouldn’t count are EAs and as such donate more per capita than either “mauves” or “fuchsias”. Obviously they’re willing to “change the data by pulling out their wallet”.

        Second, on consideration, I’m totally willing to bite that bullet. What’s the motivation for talking about which group— theists/atheists, “mauve”/”fuchsia”, red/blue, whatever— donates more to charity? Presumably it’s to be able to say “since donating to charity is a net good, and group X donates more to charity than group Y, X-ness is on balance better than Y-ness.” But that’s begging the question. Donating to churches is a net good iff Xianity is the more morally correct framework in any case. Interpreted through Y’s moral lens, church donations are at best a net neutral; group X can have as many Virtue Points as it wants, but its church donations don’t gain it any Utility Points.

        More plainly, here are two practically-identical arguments:

        (a) Atheists say atheism is at least as good a moral framework as Christianity. But atheists are much more likely to commit murder, which everyone agrees is a bad thing. Therefore, Christianity is more conducive to morality than atheism.

        (b) Atheists say atheism is at least as good a moral framework as Christianity. But atheists are much more likely to have premarital sex, which everyone agrees is a bad thing. Therefore, Christianity is more conducive to morality than atheism.

        Counting church donations switches the original charity debate from form (a) to form (b), which is obviously invalid.

        (obviously this is discounting secular benefits of churches, which is a major factor)

        • John Schilling says:

          …many people arguing that church donations shouldn’t count are EAs and as such donate more per capita than either “mauves” or “fuchsias”.

          From the survey results, self-identified Ethical Altruists donate $2,721 per capita, or an average of 5.5% of their annual income. For comparison:

          Non-EA committed theists, $5,610 (6.0% of income)
          Non-EA US Republican party members, $5,616 (5.4% of income)
          Non-EA US Democratic party members, $1,135 (1.7% of income)
          Non-EA political conservatives, $4,210 (5.2% of income)
          Non-EA political liberals, $743 (1.8% of income)

          Who are we imagining the Mauves and Fuchsias are that EAs “as such” donate more per capita than either of them? Or is this a No True Scotsman kind of thing?

          Looking at their other affiliations, I’d say that Effective Altruism is a thing that makes atheistic liberal democrats about as charitable as Christian conservatives have been all along, without making them rich enough for their charitable impulses to amount to as much. But of course that’s what the “Effective” part is supposed to make up for, if they’ve done their math right.

          • jeorgun says:

            Fair enough. I was naïvely assuming that EAs would donate an average of around 10% per capita.

          • John Schilling says:

            EA shares with many traditionally dominant religions the ideal that adherents should donate ~10% of their wealth or income to charitable causes. EA also shares with many traditionally dominant religions the bit where, absent serious coercive power, the adherents come up with about half the recommended level of commitment.

            This may be a universal constant regarding human charity, independent of spirituality.

          • Linch says:

            Is this adjusted for age? Anecdotally the 22-25 yo EAs I’ve met online almost all seem to be on significantly better career tracks than my peers from my (small liberal arts) college.

        • Anthony says:

          What’s the motivation for talking about which group— theists/atheists, “mauve”/”fuchsia”, red/blue, whatever— donates more to charity?

          People on the left have been bragging about how they are more “caring” than people on the right, and slandering people on the right as “greedy” and “hard-hearted”, for decades. Perhaps centuries.

          Showing that this is factually incorrect is worth discussing.

        • Deiseach says:

          So why shouldn’t donations to a church be considered?

          (a) Those donations go to the upkeep of the church buildings and paying the wages of the ministers, etc. and not to any charitable work as such

          But some at least of EA charitable donations go for the exact same purpose: funding conferences, paying for the flights for speakers, upkeep of the buildings and paying the wages of the people running the malaria nets charity, etc.

          If we’re really going to argue over every penny*, then what proportion of EA donations “actually” go on mosquito nets and what proportion shouldn’t be counted because they go for “paying the rent on the offices where we co-ordinate the buying, packing, and distribution of the nets”?

          *I agree it’s a different matter to ask how much of the money is going to the actual charitable purpose and how much is going to pension pot and benefits-in-kind for the CEO; that’s one downside of charities going professional, as has been the tendency in recent times. When you’re running the organisation along the lines of a business, because this allegedly gives you a more efficient and effective model, then you pay business salaries to the professionals you are hiring and not peppercorn rates to volunteers.

          I also think the US model is a little skewed by the fact that you can claim tax relief on donations, so it makes sense for Joe and Mary Citizen to keep track of what they put in the collection plate, and set it up as a regular amount withdrawn from their bank accounts, as “permitted charitable donation” to write off against their taxes. Over here, the general public don’t really either donate so much, or in such an organised fashion, as to make it worth the hassle of applying for tax credit – a lot of people still have the “throw money in the collection bucket” attitude, rather than signing up for standing orders for regular donations, even though charities here try to get them to do that. For large organisations that engage in philanthropy, or the sufficiently wealthy, of course, it is worth the bother but then again they have accountants to keep track of that for them.

          • Linch says:

            The main issue w/r/t counting church as charity is that a lot of secular people (perhaps incorrectly?) model church donations as largely a club good. Ie, donations to church benefit the church, and any charitable activities it has on the side (eg, Imagine No Malaria, which actually is a pretty good fundraiser 🙂 ) seems to be a tangential rather than core part of church.

            I suppose there are two main problems with that approach:
            1)I’m guessing that Social Justice/Lib Theology people (esp. Jesuits? I don’t know much about Catholicism) will disagree with that assertion, and consider charity as core a mission of the church as it was in the Bible.
            2)The assertion is somewhat of a conflation of style and substance. Whether charity is *claimed* to be a core part of church is irrelevant…the only thing that actually matters is how much good is actually being done. My impression is that the answer is A LOT, because the world has many Christians, but not nearly as much per capita. However, this question is very much an empirical one…maybe we should wait until somebody digs up a paper on what percentage of a church’s alms actually goes to helping poor people before suggesting the % to discount church donations by.

            With regard to CEOs getting good pay, I think that’s fine. I’m willing to pay extra $$ as overhead as long as more pay* translates to more competent CEOs translates to better impact. Intuitively I’m much more willing to look at charities as black boxes where money goes in and less suffering comes out …if I DON’T have a deep personal connection with the people involved. I think Scott mentioned this as a source of personal discomfort with donating to MIRI before too…it feels too much like subsidizing his upper middle-class friends than actual do-gooding. If higher administrative/fundraising costs translate to larger impact on the ground, so be it. However, the reflexively cynical part of me intuits church donations (at least in the US) as closer to having a Mensa meetup and calling renting a room and bringing in chips “charity”, even though it doesn’t directly benefit anybody except yourself and your friends. Again, reality might very well disagree with my intuition on this matter.

            *(Though in practice most EA organizations underpay their staff severely. The CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation and the Executive Director of The Life You Can Save are both working pro bono and living off of savings, if I recall correctly).
            https://www.againstmalaria.com/FinancialInformation.aspx

            (Using the AMF is a bit of a motte and bailey, of course. The core EA organizations can in one sense be viewed as professional logistics/fundraising outfits. They raise a lot of money for effective charities, but the money donated to the organizations themselves don’t directly help poor people. *shrugs*)

          • Deiseach says:

            If I wanted to be a really snotty bitch, I might point out that the last Effective Altruism conference(s) seemed to be making a selling point out of “networking! make contacts! find EA organisations that will give you a job!”

            Emphasis mine:

            IS EA GLOBAL WORTH MY DOLLAR?
            At previous events, participants have regularly found new collaborators, gotten hired, received funding connections, changed their life plan (often quite drastically), and met best friends.

            The summit and retreat last year caused significant collaboration between CFAR, Leverage, CEA and FHI, resulting in multiple situations of these organizations helping each other in coordinating their fundraising attempts, hiring processes and navigating logistical difficulties.

            Names redacted because my bitchiness doesn’t quite reach the level of public shaming, as it would be unfair to the persons and organisation involved:

            The last EA summit resulted in both [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] being hired by [REDACTED] and now being full time employees, who are significantly involved in helping [REDACTED] set up a branch in the US.

            “Let he that is without sin amongst you cast the first stone” – or let EA conferences that don’t spend every single penny on the charitable purposes they promote start looking down their noses at donations to churches which go to pay for plant and staff as not being “really” charitable donations!

          • Linch says:

            Yes, that’s what I was getting at with my last parenthetical point. An organization like Giving What We Can should be treated as a professional fundraising outfit rather than one that directly does object-level good work.

            From inside the system, I think it’s worth it, but you’re definitely right to be skeptical.

            However, my point about church donations is NOT that some of the money goes to plant and staff (I am explicitly okay with high CEO salaries etc. to hire top talent if it means more good done on the ground)…it’s more about the population that the church is trying to serve. Ie, it seems to me* that churchgoers donate disproportionately to churches they attend, making it closer to a club good than the Platonic ideal of charity.

            * I reiterate, without much evidence. We can settle this question once somebody has hard data.

          • Troy says:

            The main issue w/r/t counting church as charity is that a lot of secular people (perhaps incorrectly?) model church donations as largely a club good. Ie, donations to church benefit the church, and any charitable activities it has on the side (eg, Imagine No Malaria, which actually is a pretty good fundraiser 🙂 ) seems to be a tangential rather than core part of church.

            Arguably, an organization in which charitable activities are integrated into a broader purpose, rather than the sole goal, actually contributes to the effectiveness of those charitable activities. Church members feel themselves to be part of a community with a telos that goes beyond material concerns, one that connects them to God and to other human beings on a more than material level. This is part of what makes church attractive and what keeps church communities from disintegrating. And it’s only when you have a robust, stable institution that you can then do a lot of good in the world with that institution.

      • Deiseach says:

        Okay, can we stop scratching one another’s eyes out by considering the historical reasons donation to churches are classed as charitable donations?

        (a) Churches don’t get state money (yes, acknowledged, exceptions such as state churches and Germany’s church tax) and so they pay their ministers and staff and build buildings out of the money the congregation puts into the collection plate. So far, just like any business that provides a service and gets its operating cash flow from fees.

        (b) Because of religious injunctions towards almsgiving, back in the days before there were social programmes or governments felt it was their duty to educate, feed, shelter and heal their citizens, the organisations that provided shelter, food, and medicine were churches and religious organisations – see the letter of Julian the Apostate, where he proposes that one of the reasons the Christians are so successful in winning people away from the proper worship of the gods is that they do this:

        . For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the priests, then I think the impious Galilaeans observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy in the worst of their deeds through the credit they win for such practices. For just as those who entice children with a cake, and by throwing it to them two or three times induce them to follow them, and then, when they are far away from their friends cast them on board a ship and sell them as slaves, and that which for the moment seemed sweet, proves to be bitter for all the rest of their lives—by the same method, I say, the Galilaeans also begin with their so-called love-feast, or hospitality, or service of tables,—for they have many ways of carrying it out and hence call it by many names,—and the result is that they have led very many into atheism…..

        See also the story of St Lawrence:

        St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Sixtus was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed forthwith.

        After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Saint Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that St Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church

        (c) So when the schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, almshouses, orphanages, etc. were founded and run by churches, and donations by the faithful paid for these, and nobody else was running these, then giving to the church was seen as donations to charity.

        (d) And so modern day donations to churches and institutes of religion have been ‘grandfathered in’ as charitable donations, even if you want to argue “But that twenty dollars you gave went to pay the church organist’s salary, not to the soup kitchen”.

        Are we all straight now and can we please stop chopping straw?

      • rose says:

        giving through churches isn’t only financial. churches create a face to face supportive community where the norm is to help one another. there are no other institutions that are effective in bringing out people’s potential for kindness and compassion in this way.

        for secular people like myself, it is truly extraordinary. for example, I have a dear friend who is paraplegic and recently had a health crisis. for two weeks people from her evangelical church, some friends and some she had never met (she is a shut in these days), stayed with her, cleaned her, fed her, drove her to the hospital etc etc, bought her a new better wheelchair (so she would not have to wait the couple of months before ssi would qualify her for one), volunteered free skilled services like PT. I have never heard of a secular institution that can inspire and mobilize that kind of admirable and extreme kindness and caring. nor even of secular individuals who act on that level of personal kindness. this level of kindness and compassionate caring is normal in evangelical churches.

      • James Picone says:

        My beliefs are that spending money on myself and the things I want is the single most charitable thing I can do. As such, I would like to declare that last year I donated 100% of my after-tax income to the Charity Of James Picone (a substantial fraction of the money that went to the charity was invested, of course; it’s run responsibly). I intend to donate 100% of my income this year, too, and for the indefinite future.

  13. Graham says:

    I wasnt reading last nov … assume it’s too late to take the survey now…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ll do a new one soon. I’m really interested in seeing how things have changed – I worry people have gotten much more conservative to the point where things are really imbalanced.

      • keranih says:

        On a political spectrum where 1 is farthest left and 10 is farthest right, the average person placed themselves at 4.6. 19% identified with the US Democratic Party, 7% with the US Republican Party, and 3% with the US Libertarian Party. Of the ideological affiliations available, the top four were social democratic (29%), liberal (23%), libertarian (22%), and conservative (9%). Readers were mostly neutral on feminism, human biological differences, and the minimum wage; they mostly supported gay marriage, environmental action against global warming, more immigration, and basic income guarantees.

        …I think you mean “to the point where things are really imbalanced in the other direction.”

        At least, I hope you do.

        • rose says:

          did anyone else notice that although the average ssc respondant placed themselves at 4.6 in the political spectrum, almost the center, just .4 to the left, this is contradicted by 29%+23% calling themselves socialist or liberal, and another 22% being libertarian (usually socially liberal). so the 4.6 self-image is not about how left you are, it is about seeing your leftism as mainstream and centrist, which it is not. I believe the national statistic is 20% liberal?

          • Nathan says:

            I would be honestly amazed if some version of this wasn’t the case. It’s really easy to think of yourself as centrist and reasonable and those other people as the crazy outliers.

            I would like to see more questions on individual issues, which I imagine would give more reliable answers than self reporting a position on a spectrum.

            As an aside, I’m not sure why Scott feels worried about the prevalence of us conservatives. Obviously as a liberal/libertarian he’s got different views, but personally if I got a substantial following of people with ideologies very different to mine I would be pretty chuffed.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I think our lurkers must be overwhelmingly liberal because I’ve been here for over a year and this place was still pretty conservative(although not as much as now).

          • Anonymous says:

            How is this place conservative? Other than, well, having any conservatives in it.

          • Peter says:

            There are lurker vs commenter stats, the difference on the Left/Right scale is tiny (4.5 for lurkers vs 4.7 for commenters, Cohen’s d = 0.1, i.e. “trivial” on the result whacker) and for frequentism fans, statistically insignificant, p=0.34.

            (Now what would be good would be a confidence interval or credible interval or something, however it’s vastly unlikely to contain a substantial difference between the two groups).

          • Chalid says:

            FWIW, Koch brothers discussion a few threads back was what really convinced me that this place had become more conservative, or at least, more unwilling to try to understand the left’s point of view.

            This is the sort of thing that can emerge from just a few vocal commenters, though.

          • Urstoff says:

            What about the Koch brothers thread demonstrated an unwillingness to understand the left’s point of view?

          • Chalid says:

            I don’t want to relitigate the thread, which was a massive derail even at the time. But many people seemed convinced that the left had no good reason for disliking the Koch brothers, which is of course “failing the ideological Turing test,” as the cool kids say. And of course the fact that the thread existed at all was because people felt that Scott needed to be criticized for using them as examples of his outgroup.

          • Urstoff says:

            Does acknowledging why the left dislikes them but still thinking that they have become a bogeyman beyond all proportion of their influence and actions count as failing the ideological turing test? I think you can rationally criticize the other side while still understanding their viewpoint. Simple disagreement doesn’t count as failing the ideological turing test.

          • Peter says:

            The whole subthread kicked off with “Speaking of signaling, what’s with the random OMG EVIL KOCH BROTHERS? Trying to impress the ThinkProgress readership?” so the ideological Turing test I think is what is relevant here.

          • Chalid says:

            @Urstoff While discussions of the type you describe are of course fine, and indeed there were good right-wing posts in that thread. But a lot of the thread was not at that level.

            (No, I’m not bringing up specific examples, I’m not in the mood for a fight today.)

          • John Schilling says:

            But many people seemed convinced that the left had no good reason for disliking the Koch brothers, which is of course “failing the ideological Turing test,”

            That statement is false. Passing the ideological Turing test requires, at most, understanding the other side’s reasons. In the case of the Koch brothers, even that is not necessary; a simple secular “Amen” to any denunciation of the Kochs will suffice to pass as a leftist until the discussion moves on to something more substantive.

            But even with substantive discussions, including the vanishingly rare substantive discussions of the Koch brothers, it is not necessary to believe or accept that the opposition has good reasons for their beliefs. Sometimes the opposition actually does believe things for bad reasons; this does not make them incomprehensible.

            The Turing-test failure was Scott’s, for not recognizing that an offhand Koch=Evil reference would be so strongly rejected by a large fraction of his commentariat as to derail the point he was trying to make.

          • Nathan says:

            A) The Koch brothers are libertarians, not conservatives.

            B) I’m pretty confident commenters would react in a similar way if Scott made an offhand snarky remark about a popular hate figure on the political right.

            No one was surprised that Scott disagrees with Well Known Figure. We are, or at least I was, surprised he would treat them as being so self-evidently undesirable that no attempt to justify or explain a smear against them was felt to be necessary. Scott normally respectfully engages with the ideas of intellectual opponents. It was unusual to see him acting otherwise.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nathan:

            Precisely. I don’t normally expect drive-by attacks from Scott, so when I saw one here, I was taken aback.

          • Protagoras says:

            Saying the Koch brothers are libertarians, not conservatives, is a good example of not understanding why the left dislikes them. If you look at the candidates they end up supporting, it doesn’t seem like they care at all about the issues that separate libertarians from conservatives (or they’ve come to regard their specifically libertarian issues as lost causes, which in practice amounts to the same thing).

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Protagoras:

            If you look at the candidates [the Koch Brothers] end up supporting, it doesn’t seem like they care at all about the issues that separate libertarians from conservatives

            I suspect you’re reasoning from a biased sample.

            They gave $10 million each to the ACLU to fight against the Bush administration on the PATRIOT Act. They gave $25 million last year to the United Negro College Fund. Either of these dwarfs their contributions to any individual candidates before or since, and neither seems particularly “conservative”. Also, would a typical conservative give the Smithsonian $35 million to build a dinosaur museum wing?

            (Looking elsewhere on that wiki page there’s a claim that they pledged to donate $60 million to defeat Obama in 2012 but no evidence that they actually did so and the only evidence of the “pledge” is an anonymous source quoted by the Huffington Post. So: it’s a hoax.

            Or consider Scott Walker: this article alleges they would give him $900 million; what they actually gave was $43k. So, a mere 4 orders of magnitude exaggeration.)

            If you look at the amounts they’ve actually given to candidates, it’s peanuts compared to all the good they’ve done in other areas. There seems to be a fair bit of sympathetic magic in operation whereby if the Kochs give money to some group, this pollutes the entire funding of that group and everybody associated with that group and any subsequent groups those people go on to create as guilty-by-association. It is really bizarre how much more credit they get than they deserve for being associated with any group they’ve ever supported even in the smallest amount.

            The Kochs are boogeymen. Claiming they’re going to support a candidate helps motivate the left to give money to those candidates, so such claims are made much more often than the claims are actually true.

      • Deiseach says:

        I worry people have gotten much more conservative

        Considering that Pew political quiz somebody linked labelled me as a Solid Liberal and I find myself amazing myself at how conservative some of my attitudes are, you may be correct.

        Either that, or liberalism/conservatism (take your pick) ain’t what it used to be 🙂

        • Peter says:

          Bear in mind that the Pew test defines the left and right by American standards, and the American right is, well, the American right – it would be interesting to take a bunch of people from European countries and see how the results split.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Two people identified as both social justice and REDACTED, which must involve some interesting logical gymnastics.

    Were they Catholic?

    Apologies if doublepost. I don’t know why my earlier post doesn’t show up. Autospamming the term that must not be used?

  15. Iglr says:

    Scott, will you compare this to the results from this year’s Effective Altruism Survey, which just got released, or last year’s?

  16. California only 12%? I thought you guys are like 75% Bay Area… apparently BA is a mindset, not a location.

    Scott, for fun, next time could you put something like this:

    [ ] Brahmin
    [ ] Optimate
    [ ] Vaisya
    [ ] Helot
    [ ] Dalit
    [ ] Guido
    [ ] other
    [ ] this is bullshit

    (Guido is my own addition to the “classic” 🙂 A Guido is someone with Optimate values but from another caste and such behaves differently. Likes traditional-ish, non-Brahmin displays of wealth and status, like gold, designer clothes, fancy cars, while actual Optimates are generally beyond that. While Guido is a NJ term, the attitutde while NOT the name is actual a more popular thing outside the US. E.g. a friend of mine was recently in Argentine, showed me photos. Bingo. The problem is, in most other languages I am familiar with, “guido” would just translate as “cool” so it is hard to find a generalized English term. No, “posh” won’t do. That is Optimate, not wannabee flashy Optimate.)

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m not sure if I equate to a Brahmin in your set, TheDividualist, since my paternal line is connected to a great clan* of hereditary filí with the qualifications and right to be ollaimh 😀

      For all your rhymed satire needs, if you have enemies you want to be cursed, lands you need blighted, or herds of cattle you want to get the murrain, give us a call!

      Weddings, funerals and other occasions – musical accompaniment and song provided at reasonable rates (bona fide recognisable name “Art rock/baroque pop/experimental pop/art pop” – genres from their Wikipedia page – star in my generation, for example, never mind all the other cousins who make a living from music)

      Gratuitous (and indeed unwanted) advice, opinionating, historical and toponymic discussion, discourse, and digression provided so freely as to be gratis

      Insults thrown, offence taken, and grudges held for nothing** 😉

      *Sub-clan and offshoot hereditary poets successfully established in Scotland since the 13th century

      **Axe murders not guaranteed as part of the package; depends on individual circumstances

      • Also, was the stuff about wandering bards in Leon Uris’ Trinity even in the late 19th century for real?

        • Deiseach says:

          Leon Uris and Morgan Llywelyn are not really reputable historical sources 🙂

          Now, depending on what you consider a “wandering bard” – it’s generally taken that the last bardic school of poetry in the tradition was in Munster, and by the end of the 17th century these (as formal institutions) were all gone.

          18th century poets continued the last remnants of the formal poetic tradition, but these were mostly as solitary practitioners. The last example of such a poetic genre was the aisling and this relatively quickly became fossilised into a standard form with recognisable tropes, and decayed down into “young man meets young woman” pastoral poetry, more along the lines of a ballad form, in both Irish and English, where the formerly central figure of the woman had no more contextual meaning than as a standard figure of trite poetic imagery:

          I sat there some time meditating
          ‘Til the sun her bright rays had withdrawn
          And a damsel of queenly appearance
          Came down by the banks of Sullane.
          I arose with great joy and emotion
          And accosted this vision so fair
          Who appeared unto me like a Venus
          Adorned with jewels most rare

          As regards musicians, the example of a bard would certainly be Turlough O Carolan, as he was under the patronage of the gentry families, but again, he was the last of his kind. There is the anecdote of the 100 year old harper at the Belfast Harp Festival, where Edward Bunting went to collect music in 1792, who played the harp in the “old style” (i.e. using the nails as plectrums rather than plucking with the fingers) and who played O Carolan’s music, but disliked it as being “too modern” 🙂

          Which is fair enough, since O Carolan was undoubtedly influenced by 18th century European art-music (the need to please his patrons) and did compose in styles derived from the popular Italian music of the time.

          The folk tradition subsumed much of these influences, but what we have now (dating from the 18th and really mostly from the 19th century) is the peasant or folk tradition rather than the formally trained, skilled, metric bardic tradition.

          • Peter says:

            Good old O Carolan! Back when I used to play the mandolin (folk, not classical) I found that a lot of his tunes went over to the mandolin very well.

          • Irenist says:

            How can you mention the aisling and not mention Brian Merriman? I would’ve guessed the satirical vibe of Cúirt An Mheán Óiche would’ve been right up your alley, Deiseach. Too ribald?

          • Deiseach says:

            Irenist! You know Merriman? I left him out because he’s rather an outlier; he is certainly writing from within the tradition, but in a way that is simultaneously elegiac and satirical of what he recognises is a dying if not dead worldview.

            And apart from “The Midnight Court”, we really have nothing else of his.

            I must try and find a good translation of it; Frank O’Connor is good, of course, but ’tis a long time since he did it.

          • Irenist says:

            Sadly, I only know Merriman in English translation (don’t even recall which). On account of my dad being from there/having partly retired there, I’ve lived in and visited “Stab City” off and on a lot over the years: Merriman being from Ireland’s “midwest,” he’s still remembered fondly in those parts (by thems that still bother to read old books, that is).

            he is certainly writing from within the tradition, but in a way that is simultaneously elegiac and satirical of what he recognises is a dying if not dead worldview.

            Oh, sure. I always felt like Merriman : aisling :: Cervantes : chivalric romance.

            ETA: Oh, it was the Mercier bilingual edition: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Midnight-Court-Mercier-bi-lingual-Patrick/dp/1856352803/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
            On one hand, it’s the best translation I’ve ever read of the poem. OTOH, it’s the only translation I’ve ever read of the poem (and I’m an American, so I can’t really judge accuracy anyway, only whether I enjoyed the English). The Patrick C. Power translation is from the 19th c., and I imagine was just used for copyright reasons. I’d assume the O’Connor was far superior. (However, Power was a man of the Decies, so maybe you’d give him points for that?)

            ETA2: If there’s a way to do Amazon links so Scott gets the affiliate income, I have no idea. Sorry if I messed that up, Scott.

          • Deiseach says:

            You survived Stab City! Though ’tis getting fierce cultured there nowadays, I do believe (the stroke-pulling and shin-kicking over the 2014 City of Culture stuff was great amusement, though I imagine the culture vultures were very disappointed with the exhibition people made of themselves) 🙂

            Power is of course a good Deise name. My own Irish isn’t good enough for the poem, and it’s a long time since I read it in translation.

            The other great poem, which is very much about the death-throes of native society under the Penal Laws even though it is not at all political but intensely personal, and which is as unique as “The Midnight Court”, is of course the “Lament for Art O’Leary” made by his wife Eileen O’Connell, and again there’s a good translation by Thomas Kinsella, and various poets have had a crack at it, but O’Connor gets the bones of it in ways they don’t:

            My love and my mate
            That I never thought dead
            Till your horse came to me
            With bridle trailing,
            All blood from forehead
            To polished saddle
            Where you should be,
            Either sitting or standing;

            I gave one leap to the threshold,
            A second to the gate,
            A third upon its back.
            I clapped my hands,
            And off at a gallop;
            I never lingered till I found you lying
            By a little furze-bush

            Without pope or bishop
            Or priest or cleric
            One prayer to whisper
            But an old, old woman,
            And her cloak about you,
            And your blood in torrents —
            Art O’Leary —
            I did not wipe it off,
            I drank it from my palms.

            Mo chara thu go daingean!
            is níor chreideas riamh dod mharbh
            gur tháinig chúgham do chapall
            is a srianta léi go talamh,
            is fuil do chroí ar a leacain
            siar go t’iallait ghreanta
            mar a mbítheá id shuí ‘s id sheasarnh.
            Thugas léim go tairsigh,
            an dara léim go geata,
            an triú léim ar do chapall.

            Do bhuaileas go luath mo bhasa
            is do bhaineas as na reathaibh
            chomh maith is bhí séagam,
            go bhfuaras romham tu marbh
            Cois toirín ísil aitinn,
            gan Pápa gan easpag,
            gan cléireach gan sagart
            do léifeadh ort an tsailm,
            ach seanbhean chríonna chaite
            do leath ort binn dá fallaing –
            do chuid fola leat ‘na sraithibh;
            is níor fhanas le hí ghlanadh
            ach í ól suas lem basaibh.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I listed California as 19% of Americans – remember that almost half of people here are non-American.

      California’s about 10% of the US population, so it’s overrepresented by 2x. This seems about right to me. Also, maybe other parts of California (mountains, farmland, LA, etc) are underrepresented and everyone’s from the Bay Area.

    • anon says:

      There’s a choice for “Optimate” but not “Exultant?” What a glaring oversight.

    • anonymous says:

      Even though I’m responsible for one of the poll choices (not sure whether to be flattered or horrified) I have no idea what most of the rest of them mean. I recognize them from historical context, but I don’t see how they are supposed to fit in modern times.

  17. Tibor says:

    What is the difference between social democrat and liberal? I assume that you use the world “liberal” in the US sense and not in the sense “classical liberal” which more or less is the way the term is used in Europe (except for the UK, I think).

    • Linch says:

      “liberal” means something like the US Democratic party. “Social Democrat” is an euphemism for “Socialist”, or at least the Scandinavian variant.

      • Urstoff says:

        What is a Scandinavian socialist? I assume not just someone who endorses the general policies of Scandinavian governments, given that those states are pretty market-friendly insofar as modern states can be, as they tend to cluster around the US in rankings of economic freedom.

        Unless “Social Democrat” these days just means someone who supports a welfare-state market-democracy.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Someone who believes in socialized health care, free or virtually free public higher education, and the expansion of various social programs for the poor, presumably. I don’t think this is any kind of deep mystery.

          • Tibor Mach says:

            Does not the US Democratic party support exactly those kind of policies?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            No, only heavily watered-down versions of the same policies. For instance, the original version of Obamacare included a government plan to compete in the marketplaces alongside private plans– still well short of socialized health insurance, mind you– but this was scrubbed from the final, compromise version. There are also frequent calls for larger state and federal contributions to higher education, and Obama proposed eliminating tuition at the country’s community colleges, but a fully free public higher education system is still to the left of the democratic party mainstream, in the space occupied by Bernie Sanders types.

          • Tibor says:

            Earthly Knight: I see. Then they are a bit to the right of the left wing in most countries in Europe. But the question is whether this is a result of them not wanting a socialized health-care or whether they are not strong enough by themselves to push something like that through.

            I am not sure “government plan competing on the marketplace with other plans” is that much different from the socialized health-care in Europe. In Germany, you can either have state health insurance or a private one (both are done through private insurance companies, but the first one is even more heavily regulated than the other). The private one is only allowed for people who earn enough money though despite being actually cheaper than the state version*.

            As for college education, it is true that in Europe tax-financed universities (except for private ones which are much less common and even those are highly regulated) are so mainstream that even most of the right-wing does not want to change it. At most they want to institute some amount of low tuition fees (which would likely just result in more state income, not lowering the corresponding taxes) or raise them a bit in the countries where these tuition fees exist. In some countries, Finland for example, people actually get paid from the state for studying (which I find quite crazy and a clear example of subsidizing – on average – the rich at the cost of the poor).

            I guess also that social democrats have traditionally been workers’ parties (with the various center/right-wing parties representing the middle class) whereas in the US the working class people seem to vote Republican or Democrat based on their ethnicity.

            Still I think that if you have both “social democrat” and “liberal” in the questionnaire, many people from Europe will get confused and choose “liberal” when they mean “classical liberal”. It could have changed a bit over the year, but it does not seem to me that the demographics of SSC is that strongly tilted to the left and the “liberal/libertarian” opinions seem to be more prevalent and agreed with here than what I would expect in a community with a socialist (in broad terms) majority and only 3% libertarians.

            One explanation is that things have changed since, another, that for some reason the LWers here are more libertarian than the rest of the readers (which can be easily checked from the LW surveys), another that the libertarians are disproportionally more active in commenting than others, yet another that some self-identified liberals are people outside of the US who mistook the label liberal for classical liberal or finally, that I have a selection bias for libertarian comments and remember them more than the other comments (quite a possibility).

            *I think the rationale behind that is that while the private insurance gives you better quality service and is cheaper, you also end up paying a bit more when you are old because the part of costs shared by clients is higher…and they want to make sure that you will have enough money to comfortably afford it. It still strikes me as unfair to those who have less money – they should be able to opt out too and how they manage is their problem not that of the state…but let’s not go into that)

            EDIT: I see that I accidentally mixed the “identifies with the US Libertarian party” and “identifies with libertarians”. I guess with roughly a quarter of the readers identifying themselves as more or less libertarians, the incidence of libertarian-ish ideas in the comments is not so weird after all (also, I would expect the people on the left here to be much closer to libertarians than your average bleeding heart or an old-school socialist).

      • Peter says:

        Someone who likes the idea of socialism but couldn’t manage a whole one. Someone who is dimly aware that properly, socialism means “social ownership of the means of production and exchange” but in use, “socialism” has drifted to mean whatever counts as centre-left by continental Western European standards, and is in favour of the latter but not really in favour of the latter. Of course people on the American right tend to be either incapable of telling the difference, or pretend to be unable to tell the difference.

        I think.

        In the UK, the Social Democratic Party was a splinter from the Labour party when Labour lurched too far to the left; it eventually merged with the Liberals, to form the great and glorious party we all know and love. Well, a few of us at least. Where’s my membership card when I need it?

      • Which? The Scandinavians are keen on democracy and free-ish markets, which the socialist countries behind the iron curtain definitely were not. If “socialist” means the kind of system practiced in the kind of countries with “socialist [people’s] republic of..” in their name , then it doesn’t apply to the scandinavian countries, although “social democrat” labels hem quite nicely (and is not, therefore, a synonym for “socialist”).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There is no way to do this in a way that makes sense to both Europeans and Americans. I should have excluded that question entirely.

      • Deiseach says:

        It might be fun to word it one year in European terms, though that would be a whole other bunch of craziness.

        I’d like to see American readers struggling for once with trying to map the best fit of their political opinions/national background onto “Are you now, or have you ever been, a Blueshirt?”

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I include Social Democrat, which is a purely European term.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, if answering an American quiz I’d probably go for Social Democrat though that’s slightly more left than I’d consider myself.

            I’d be happier with the Christian Democrat label, but I think the various sub-groups’ dalliance with Forza Italia and moving to a harder right-in-secular-terms has really tarnished them; not that I follow the groupings in the European Parliament with any real interest but hopping around on Wikipedia, at least on a cursory level, the European Christian Political Movement seems a better fit to my views and it’s part of the European Conservatives and Reformists grouping which, ironically, the current MEP from my national party is part of now and equally ironically is a little too much to the right for me on balance.

            Still, it’d be fun to see Americans trying to work out which of the following groupings they belong to, as demonstrated by the current crop of Irish MEPs.

            So – Americans, do you think your views are best represented by:

            1) European United Left – Nordic Green Left
            2) Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
            3) European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
            4) Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
            5) European Conservatives and Reformists

          • keranih says:

            …I think this is the point where I observe that after being twice transported, my kin took the hint, and stayed gone.

          • anon says:

            I’m sort of a Euroskeptic but not much of a conservative, so I’d be torn between the Conservatives/Reformists and the Liberals/Democrats

          • Tibor Mach says:

            There is also the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy fraction, which consists of Euroskeptics of various flavours, ranging from libertarian to conservative (but not socialist conservatives like Le Pen). Wikipedia says also “populist”, I really do not like that term, because it is generally used as a term for any non-mainstream political party, and indicates nothing about the policies that party proposes (except that they are not of the classical “people-party”, “social-democratic” or various “progressive green” variety…also outright communists usually get their own label).

      • Instead of excluding it, how about a list of authors and rate them +5 to -5. Hayek, John Rawls, Marx, rating these three would really give a meaningful feedback on the econ side.

        • satanistgoblin says:

          I do not think most people would know who they are, except for Marx.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          How would you rate an obviously really smart and very persuasive hack?

        • Linch says:

          -4, -1, -4.

          • Translation: almost certainly American, somewhere between centre and liberal.

            No, wait, it doesn’t make sense. Everybody is at some level a hayekist now, he basically won, New Keynesianism has hayekist elements. Even Krugman is at some level hayekist. There is no conceivable position from which Hayek is as bad as Marx, and somehow Rawls is less bad.

          • Linch says:

            I can’t take Austrian economics very seriously because there aren’t any numbers. The arguments I’ve heard sounds more like stories than econ. Admittedly I read very little of the primary sources….Austrian econ wasn’t exactly part of my degree.

            Marx isn’t -5 because he seems pretty scholarly. I agree that his negative impact on the world is several orders of magnitude worse.

            My problem with Rawls is his claim that people will have absolute risk aversion behind a veil of ignorance, which seems absurd. This seems like a smaller problem than causing mass murder and doing econ w/o math.

          • Salem says:

            People are not really interested in Hayek for his most “Austrian” contributions. No-one reads the “Pure Theory of Capital” etc. People who find that kind of thing interesting talk about Mises.

            When people talk about Hayek, they are talking about “Use of Knowledge In Society,” “Road To Serfdom”, “Law Legislation and Liberty,” etc.

    • >and not in the sense “classical liberal” which more or less is the way the term is used in Europe

      Sorry, but this is such a tired thing and not even true that I have to object. Was it even ever true? There is basically no classical liberalism in Continental Europe and there never was, because it is rooted in English individualism and American frontier life.

      Thus the great struggle of Europe has always been between a right whose logical endpoint was the throne and altar and a left. So different ways to organize a state that is… seeing itself as an organic community and not a collection of floating individuals.

      So there were imports of Anglo-American individualism but they were mostly just intellectual. Even capitalism itself does not feel very homegrown to Continental Europe – looks like everybody accepts it now but everybody also seems to like either a bit more feudalism or a bit more socialism, never really in the center of the “machinery” because that feels to cold, alienated, lacking stable relations with others, in other words, too English.

      Germany used to have some “ordoliberals” and there was a time some people cared about the FDP but it is long gone. The Erhard/Röpke guys were Christian Democrats and rooted in the Catholic Social Teaching. Their “liberalism” was “if we stop buying tanks we can tax lower than the nazis did and still afford welfare” really not much more. France basically didn’t have anyone famous liberal beyond Bastiat (Raymond Aron is more conservative, more Tocquevillian and an obvious USA-fan which makes him practically non French), Italy nope if you don’t count the Elitists, Spain nope (maybe except Ortega), Scandinavia LOL, (except Bildt but he imported his ideas from Thatcher), Holland hat like centuries ago whopping two thinkers, Grotius and Pufendorf, otherwise nope.

      No really individualism is un-European. The European thing is to wave a national or red flag and die either for “Dieu, le Roi” or for some Marxist stuff. This cold, business-like centrism of individualist liberalism never really reached Europe’s romantic heart.

      What exists as liberalism in Continental Europe at best that strain that is somehow halfway between classical and progressive attitudes but even that is an import from JS Mill and it is all watered down leftism in the Jacobin sense.

      However, there exists an attitude, but it has no party, because most parties and most mags represent it, a general, how to put it, attitude that used to be primarily pacifist and anti-nationalist and anti-ethnicist, so basically just nothing but the 180 degree opposite of some cartoon nazi, a two-dimensional almost caricature like “war never solves anything” attitude, and this partially comes from post WW2 but also from earlier “humanist” strains see Thomas Mann or Stefan Zweig. And lately it was largely overwritten by US-imported PC so now e.g. German newspapers use terms like racist or homophobic as if they invented them, totally comfortably. Both things can be called liberalism, and I call it so, and criticize it so, but it is not a party or a movement, this liberalism is basically just a mainstream, and today it is INSIDE this liberalism that the left is called social democrat or the “cucks” are called christian democrats or suchlike.

      So, let’s not talk about “liberalism in the European sense”. It is a non-entity and has always been. If it means PC, call it mainstream. If it means some rare pockets of guys who think lower taxes are perhaps cool but otherwise are totally onboard with this Progress thing, perhaps call it moderate progressivism. If it means the old stuff like ending serfdom – yes, in that sense liberalism is a meaningful term. But that was simply early Leftism. In Europe everything is just Left or Right.

      I mean, one could make a good case that classical liberalism is just older leftism anyway, a partial equalization (of rights but wealth not yet), but at least there was something in that phase that had a really good rapport with the kind of indifferent English individualism as a culture and the self-reliant attitude of American frontier life and general Andrew Jackson type lives. So it had at least a cultural flesh behind it. But for Europe there was nothing really going for it, just intellectualism.

      The best way to define the political identity of most todays Europeans is:

      1) mainstream (i.e. Left, Progressive, totally “in” the Matrix)

      2) mainstream but lower taxes (same Left, bit saner, this is most “right” parties, christian democrats, conservatives, they are the “cucks”, they don’t attack PC etc.)

      3) “far right populist” i.e. everybody actually on the right but closer to nationalism etc. than individualism

      • Rose says:

        Very interesting.

        How will the Muslim invasion invited by the mainstream PC affect European political identity? It seems like many left mainstream voters are feeling a common sense fear and loathing at seeing western civilization under existential threat. I think Europe will go fascist in order to stop the Muslim influx – but will it be the same as 20th century facism , or something healthier?

        • Fascism is a term that deserves to be tabooed because Orwell already illustrated it is just a generic insult, basically it means “bully”. My take on the term: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/no-such-thing-as-fascism/ most important part: no world war psychosis, no real fascism. Fascism is mostly a projection of the fears of progressives – a “really scary state”, exemplified in movies like V for Vendetta and Hunger Games.

          Yes, ethno-nationalism will increase and when politicians like Marine Le Pen or HC Strache win elections there will be some increase in authoritarianism.

          But I don’t see any major return to 1930. Anti-immigration means ISOLATIONISM, the direct opposite of the warlike, conquesting, battlefag propaganda of the past. Of course, the borders will be closed.

          I don’t think it is at any level possible to kick out millions of people who already have citizenship. The clampdown on them will be more like cutting welfare, enforcing better behavior, more integration. Perhaps replacing welfare with public works, workfare. See Hungary where it works so for years and the UK is taking steps this direction too.

          There is not much else to it. As the voters of the Le Pen types are working class, it cannot move economically towards something like libertarianism, the basic social-democratic framework stays until the fiscal event horizon i.e. bankruptcy. Just, to quote Strache, “our money to our people”.

          As for social or cultural stuff, basically SJWery is less of an issue here. A smart right-winger basically plays the gays and feminists and the immigrants of totally antifeminist and antigay cultures against each other, balancing in the middle. The cool trick would be to get them hating on each other – no one should be physically hurt, just it would be fun to watch them to furiously write, blog, publish against each other. I would absolutely love a couple of headscarf types stand up and say feminism is racist against them :-DDD On the whole, a moderate conservative thing is the most likely expression of public opinion – gays having spousal rights but it is called something else than marriage, women work if want to but none of this push to have corporate board quotas etc. I don’t really see a true radically reactionary desire in the people.

          Those governments will probably try to push the alarmingly bad native birth rates a bit, but I don’t really think most of them figures that kicking gays somehow leads to directly more babies.

          I think they will approach it as changing public education, telling girls you can have a career if you want to but motherhood is also super cool awesome (P+), motherly role models will be lionized in the public media. I can’t think of much more than that. We aren’t taking contraception away because unwanted teenager pregnancies are not desirable, more babies from actually married couples are desirable. We aren’t kicking out women from universities because all the powerful men want educated daughters. And kindergarten and stuff like that is already almost free, there are generous maternity leaves, there are part-work programs designed for moms, there is firing protection of moms, and all that, so what more incentive can one give? Only changing the culture, only presenting in the culture motherhood as glorious.

          I mean, the EU people became soft and complacent. So I cannot imagine anything truly harsh and forceful. This you can see as a good thing – no real “fascism” as that requires vigor and energy. But also no real reactionary change.

          Just – a bit more “isolated” life from the external world. Most likely.

          • “Fascism is a term that deserves to be tabooed because Orwell already illustrated it is just a generic insult, ”

            How about “invasion”, while we’re on the subject?

      • Tibor Mach says:

        Well, that may all as well be true (except that for example the FDP in Switzerland is pretty big and I think that country is more classically liberal than the US nowadays), but the fact is that on most of the continent, the term “liberal” is what the US calls “classical liberal” or alternatively “libertarian”. In Europe, “libertarian” almost exclusively means anarcho-capitalist libertarian. Nobody would understand the word “progressives” in Europe and the left-wing either calls itself social democrats or greens (or communists) and it is precisely those people who keep writing articles about how “liberals” (or sometimes neo-liberals if they feel like making them look as bad as neo-nazis) are horrible.

        I never said that liberals were a big thing in (most of) Europe (neither are they in the US anymore, or have been since something like the 1920s it seems), only that the term means something else and that I was confused by both social democrat and liberal being used in the questionnaire – hence the question.

      • anon says:

        I just want to reiterate how disappointed I am that cuckposting is the one that went mainstream, despite everyone knowing that baneposting is the better meme

  18. Peter says:

    Do you have a link to the original survey? I’m having trouble deciphering a few things – for example what H+ is meant to be.

  19. Jiro says:

    I did not respond to this survey. However, I have an unusual combination of traits and there is a high probability that if I had, the answers could have been used to identify me despite the “anonymizing”.

    Anonymizing is hard.

  20. Troy says:

    On a political spectrum where 1 is farthest left and 10 is farthest right, the average person placed themselves at 4.6. 19% identified with the US Democratic Party, 7% with the US Republican Party, and 3% with the US Libertarian Party. Of the ideological affiliations available, the top four were social democratic (29%), liberal (23%), libertarian (22%), and conservative (9%). Readers were mostly neutral on feminism, human biological differences, and the minimum wage; they mostly supported gay marriage, environmental action against global warming, more immigration, and basic income guarantees.

    Compared to the political homogeneity of most communities, I think these are impressively diverse results.

    One question for Scott: when you say “readers were mostly neutral on,” do you just mean that the mean response was neutral, or that the mean response was neutral and there was little variance?

    • Peter says:

      I spent a little while playing with a spreadsheet: on feminism, the mean is 3.08 and the standard deviation is 1.25. The breakdown looks like 88:115:170:167:88.

      (The reason I went for feminism I had a look for digit ratio correlations to see what Scott had found, and there was one for feminism. So I wanted to see what else feminism correlated with. Among the cis population (the trans/other/refused-to-say groups were too small for accurate stats) answering the feminism question: men – mean 2.97 stdev 1.22 N 542, women 3.83 stdev 1.15 N 65. Coding male=1 female=0, r=-0.21, T-Shirt size “small” (but the unequal sampling of men and women affects this). d = -0.72, T-Shirt size “medium”)

  21. Michael vassar says:

    FWIW, I sometimes say I identify as ‘anything except Protestant’ but I think my EA and NeoRX creds are impeccable AND I think SJ is both generally horrible and generally correct. No complex gymnastics. NeoRX and EA desperately need to learn about Power from SJs, and also about being a decent person, though obviously all groups mostly fail HARD at that. SJ and EA need to learn about history from NeoRx. Also, crypto. NeoRx and SJs don’t seem to need EA, but if they paid a lot of attention to it they would learn some thing as it’s an unusually clean natural experiment.

    • Cet3 says:

      SJ and EA need to learn about history from NeoRx.

      Ugh, no. Everything I’ve seen from NeoRx touching on history has been atrocious. Whatever their strong suit might be, history ain’t it.

      • nydwracu says:

        Right, which is why consensus history points out American Communists and fellow-travelers as anything but fictional bogeymen that Joe McCarthy thought were hiding under his bed oh wait.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          As far as I know, consensus history states that American Communists were real, in the sense that many people arrested in the Red Scare had connections to the American Communist party. However, Dorothy Parker, Linus Pauling etc. did not pose any threat to national security. Films of the time portray the American Communist party as being entirely made up of Soviet spies who went around murdering anyone who questioned the party. This is not an accurate picture. Random interrogation/imprisonment/blacklisting of anyone deemed to be “un-American” (which in many cases meant “suspected to be homosexual”) were not a proportionate response to the threat posed by American Communist sympathisers.

          • nydwracu says:

            You got a different version of American history than I did. In the version I learned, the Red Scare was just inexplicable evil that came out of nowhere, and Communism was far less significant than anarchism in American history — anarchism had Czolgosz, Goldman (who of course was one of ye greate thinkers of American political-philosophical history), and a riot somewhere, whereas Communism had some guy in the ’60s who advocated the Long March Through The Institutions and mumble mumble Alger Hiss and that’s it. And who was Alger Hiss? Alger Hiss was the guy who got caught up in that trial and by the way McCarthyism was nothing more than inexplicable evil. Then there was Stalin, who had some of his political opponents shot and might have run a few work camps, and Mao, who, well, there was the unfortunate matter with the famine and a lot of people died.

            There was no mention of the Communist connection (via Marcuse and Reich) to the sexual revolution and the attempt at normalizing pederasty, the fact that FDR surrounded himself with Soviet sympathizers and probably was one himself, the fact that Hollywood was shot through with Commies who had orders from Moscow to use their platform to push Communist doctrine, the fact that one of the founders of HUAC was on Moscow’s payroll, the Maoist sympathies of mainstream Brahmindom in the ’70s, anything about the New Left coalition, or (and this ought to give you some idea of how things were before the commies pivoted to ally themselves with neoliberalism and won) the fact that Nixon won in the largest landslide in American history in ’72, losing only in Massachusetts and DC.

            If the upper rungs of the establishment from the ’30s to the ’70s had been full of Nazi sympathizers, I think people would feel odd about that, and start rethinking the ideas that spawned from that time period. Why should we treat Communist sympathizers any differently? It helps that most people don’t know that these Communist sympathizers were there. (Or maybe they wouldn’t — Mencken disliked Hitler because he thought he wasn’t elitist enough, and nobody has any problem with Mencken.)

            (Of course, Moldbug’s account is deficient in certain regards — the WASP establishment wasn’t as socially liberal as, say, Emma Goldman, or Peggy Dennis’s parents, even when they sympathized with Communists. And actually-existing Soviet Communism seems to have broken with social liberalism under Stalin.)

      • Maybe if you dig deeper, you find it isn’t. For me the toughest historical part of reading Moldbug was that I was very invested into the narrative that France and Germany came up with what we may call leftism or something and England and America represented a far moderate voice of sanity from classical liberalism to conservatism. The whole story that the Scottish Enlightenment was better than the French Enlightenment and thus the American Revolution more moderate than the French one and while everybody went fucking crazy in Europe in 1848 the Chartist Left of England didn’t and all that, you know the story probably.

        Moldbug presented a historical narrative that the left-swimming has always been an Anglo-American thing and it just got imported back into Continental Europe.

        This was very difficult for me to accept as I was very invested in the opposite narrative, but I have found many evidence when I dug deeper. Sure Adam Smith, the exemplary of Scottish Enlightenment, was more moderate than the French. But Thomas Paine wasn’t. Sure the king sending La Fayette over and totally loving the idea of a republican revolution had something to do with him falling victim to one at home. Sure when Marx was universally dislike in Europe and yet he was working for the New York Post it meant something. And then Bellamy.

        I am still confused about certain parts (Cathedral could introduce universal healthcare in countries it occupied but at home not? Is it a case of empires being more careful in the center than in the periphery?) and I am sure at least the Post-Modernist Foucault-Derrida stuff is not made by the USG Cathedral, but the evidence seems to be mounting.

    • BBA says:

      SJ is both generally horrible and generally correct.

      I’m neither EA nor [redacted] and I agree wholeheartedly.

    • I seriously don’t understand the SJ type of decency. They largely demand decency to the kind of people I find harmful – the kind of people who don’t form traditional families, don’t make kids, do all kinds of other things. Gay, feminist etc. And the ableism and similar stuff is essentially just about focusing attention to weakness and vulnerability. This is a bit more decent as the disabled can’t help what we are, but this just generates weakness. Why not focus attention on the heroic, on the admirably strong and able, the role model to follow? Maybe focusing on those who are most vulnerable and most in need is correct for women as they have an instinct for nursing, but men should focus always on the hero-worship.

      And for the gay and feminist stuff, I remember when 10 years ago even socially moderate libertarians said oh we don’t need to legislate against all that, just social pressure and private discrimination will fix bringing most people into normally sustainable lifestyles. Well, being indecent to them is precisely this social pressure! No way I am going to give a shred of the kind of respect I give to a married mother that I give to some lesbian feminist. The married mother contributes kids. What does the lesbian feminist contribute? At best economic output, but that is less important, I would rather have a poorer but stronger society, since Roman times too much wealth is associated with decadence, too many soldiers aren’t. SJ is demanding respect for the kind of people who don’t contribute to the reproduction and survival of their particular nation or ethnic group. Assuming it is any rate similar to mine – and it is usually – I care

      I mean, do you realize that basically if all of them would decide to go to the Moon and found a new country 1) we would not miss anything, only their economic output 2) their country will die out in three gens 3) but in the meantime if any group of thirty drunken sailors would decide to conquer it just for shit and giggles, they couldn’t find the strength to resist? Should I respect that?

      Ultimately the whole respect thing is all about Western countries no longer being ruled by upper class white straight men, the traditionally successful patriarchy. But of course I want to keep this rule, and to keep this rule I need to keep the prestige difference, hence the respect difference so what is in SJ decency for me, really?

      Another related problem is the constant denial of reality. When SJ types desperately hamster trying to tell people fat is attractive, and the actual data from OKCupid etc. doesn’t confirm, why not pop the bubble with some indecent shaming? That gets the message through.

      A related problem is emotional sensitivity. Again it weakens a society so better troll on hard to not give in to it.

      About power. As far as I can tell it is just the standard Continental, Foucaultian narratives. They are at some very simplified level factually true, but emotionally or on the level of values completely wrong. For example the idea that X, Y, Z is a social construct. The problem is they take that statement as “therefore I don’t have to believe it”. I think every healthy person would only feel disgust at that. If it is the construct of your own society, you should at least pretend to believe it out of loyalty because it is something that probably contributes to the survival or power of your own group!

      To sum it up, I think the core problem is that the SJ demands respect to people who seriously don’t want to be ingroup with me, in fact look positively treasonous. But they aren’t ingroup with anyone else in the long run as they are non-reproducing.

      Who is in power is a good question – Tim Hunt wasn’t cashiered for making outrageously too-feminist statements, right? How power works, I would say, up to recent times they were suppressed, which is good because they should be. They represent entropy.

      But again it is possible I am misunderstanding all this. But it looks like the whole thing is a product of decadence brought on by too much peace. Perhaps if as a case study you could give a Gnon-compatible example, e.g. you could explain how a SJ understanding of decency and power could have helped France in 1940 to resist the German invasion better I would certainly listen.

      • “I seriously don’t understand the SJ type of decency. They largely demand decency to the kind of people I find harmful –he kind of people who don’t form traditional families, don’t make kids, do all kinds of other things. Gay, feminist ”

        Or , as it is otherwise known, not contributing to wold overpopulation .

        “Why not focus attention on the heroic, on the admirably strong and able, the role model to follow?”

        That’s what everyone else is doing?

        “, I would rather have a poorer but stronger society, ”

        You don’t understand modern warfare.

        • Anonymous says:

          Or , as it is otherwise known, not contributing to wold overpopulation .

          What overpopulation? Our food production capability outstrips our requirements by two orders of magnitude. And the west’s population is declining, never mind being stable or growing.

          “, I would rather have a poorer but stronger society, ”

          You don’t understand modern warfare.

          You mean like a bunch of ill-equipped partisans being apparently an insurmountable challenge to the biggest and most advanced militaries on the planet?

          • anonymous says:

            The insurmountable challenge is civilizing them by force which was the insane goal they were tasked with. I don’t think more muscles or hero-worship would have helped.

          • nydwracu says:

            The insurmountable challenge is civilizing them by force which was the insane goal they were tasked with.

            Right, which is why the British Empire was better at it than the American one, despite that America has much more firepower than Britain did then.

          • “What overpopulation? Our food production capability outstrips our requirements by two orders of magnitude.”

            We’re throwing 99% of our food away? Even charitably interpreting this as “Potentially, world food production capability could be increased by two orders of magnitude”, there are many problems. There is room to apply intensive agricutlure to areas that aren’t already farmed intensively, and increase food production that way, but they come at a a cost:

            “But we can’t just produce more food in the same way as today—we also must reduce food’s environmental impact. Agriculture contributes nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, uses 37 percent of landmass (excluding Antarctica), and accounts for 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.”

            High population exacerbates almost every other global problem, and attempts to deal with it exacerbate other problems.

            “And the west’s population is declining, never mind being stable or growing”.

            The West’s population is growing. It’s native population is declining.

            “You mean like a bunch of ill-equipped partisans being apparently an insurmountable challenge to the biggest and most advanced militaries on the planet?”

            And a return boots-on-the-ground mass warfare, as recommended by Dividualist, would help with that how?

          • Anonymous says:

            We’re throwing 99% of our food away? Even charitably interpreting this as “Potentially, world food production capability could be increased by two orders of magnitude”, there are many problems.

            I’m measuring capacity by proxy of employment in agriculture, which is tiny in advanced economies. In premodern times, as much as 90% of the population was employed in food production, just to keep people fed, and everyone was one drought away from starvation. This wasn’t the most comfortable way to live, but historical records prove that it was sustainable.

            Our current situation is keeping below 5% of the population employed in the food production sector, and even that requires subsidies to keep people doing that, rather than go do something much more profitable. Food is cheap, margins are thin. If demand increased due to increased amounts of mouths to feed, that would likely change.

            “But we can’t just produce more food in the same way as today—we also must reduce food’s environmental impact. Agriculture contributes nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, uses 37 percent of landmass (excluding Antarctica), and accounts for 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.”

            I am unconvinced that global warming and/or sea levels rising are a significant danger. What kind of sapient tool-user is worthy of the appellation if they can’t deal with water levels rising 1.7mm per annum?

            The West’s population is growing. It’s native population is declining.

            Yes, that’s what I meant. I don’t consider unassimilated non-natives to be part of the “west” in any sense but the geographical.

            And a return boots-on-the-ground mass warfare, as recommended by Dividualist, would help with that how?

            My point is that guerilla warfare is effective, and especially cost-effective against high-individual-cost militaries like the US has. Trying to fight the guerillas with something else might work better than repeatedly trying the same thing, and hoping for different results.

          • “I’m measuring capacity by proxy of employment in agriculture, which is tiny in advanced economies.”

            That makes no sense, because you’d run out of land or water way before the 100x mark.

            Our current situation is keeping below 5% of the population employed in the food production sector, and even that requires subsidies to keep people doing that, rather than go do something much more profitable. Food is cheap, margins are thin. If demand increased due to increased amounts of mouths to feed, that would likely change.

            “I am unconvinced that global warming and/or sea levels rising are a significant danger. What kind of sapient tool-user is worthy of the appellation if they can’t deal with water levels rising 1.7mm per annum?”

            And the water is going to come from where?

            “Yes, that’s what I meant. I don’t consider unassimilated non-natives to be part of the “west” in any sense but the geographical.”

            Where are you getting your data for assimilation rates?

            “Trying to fight the guerillas with something else might work better than repeatedly trying the same thing, and hoping for different results.”

            My point was that the west is not going to get any advantage from reverting to large but low-individual cost armies. Do you have anything relevant to say to that?

      • anonymous says:

        You should google the is-ought fallacy and the typical mind fallacy. You might learn something.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        “Why not focus attention on the heroic, on the admirably strong and able, the role model to follow? Maybe focusing on those who are most vulnerable and most in need is correct for women as they have an instinct for nursing, but men should focus always on the hero-worship.”

        Congratulations on winning my award for “First SSC Comment Indistinguishable From Nazi Policy”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Heroism? That’s what you associate with Nazis?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Not heroism – hero worship. From wiki: “[Nazi propaganda] promoted the values asserted by the Nazis [(surprise surprise)], including heroic death, Führerprinzip (leader principle)…”.

          • anonymous says:

            The Nazi’s pretty clearly shared the TheDividualist’s sense of the proper role of men and women, how homosexuality ought to be viewed, and the emphasis on contribution as the key indicator of human worth. Likewise the hero narrative was key to their art.

            All of this doesn’t make TheDividualist a Nazi per se, but it is far more suggestive than something like “Hitler loved dogs, you love dogs, oh my god you are an evil person”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ anonymous:

            Not to mention TheDividualist‘s idea that we ought to embrace some kind of Spartan ethic where the proper role of men is to die in battle for the state and the proper role of women is to raise soldiers to die in battle for the state.

            His insistence that our particular folkways are social constructs—but nevertheless we ought to be loyal to them because they’re our folkways, dammit—is also very reminiscent of Nazism. As is his constant tendency to see every goddamn issue in terms of some kind of amoral struggle for power among collective groups.

            I don’t know whether TheDividualist is a Nazi, but it seems to me that sufficiently advanced Dividualism is indistinguishable from Nazism.

          • nydwracu says:

            His insistence that our particular folkways are social constructs—but nevertheless we ought to be loyal to them because they’re our folkways, dammit—is also very reminiscent of Nazism.

            Richard Rorty was a Nazi.

          • @Vox Imperatoris @sweenyrod @anonymous

            I am not really affected by this accusation by this because I think the nazism / fascism stuff as it appears in contemporary discussions is largely just a projection of fears. You can see this projection in movies like V for Vendetta or Hunger Games. Basically political systems that make no sense beyond being Very Scary. Usually such projection is recognizable from the fact that you don’t get to see how this thing makes sense from their perspective – you don’t get really believable villains, the kind of villain that anyone could become with a bit of power lust and lots of luck.

            The nature of fears is so that if anything seems to overlap with the feared object, it looks scary and it looks a close, similar thing.

            For example, if have a fear of Bolshevism (which is harder to have, as todays press / Cathedral is clearly a heir of the Allied information machine, and I am not saying it in a bad way, of course it has to be, it hardly could be anything else) anyway if I have such fears, then I could visualize the GULAG every time someone mentions class struggle or proletarians. Sort of being a McCarthy, right?

            Rationally, such overlaps should be only scary if it is at some core level has a casual relationship with and predicts the evil that was done.

            You see, a poetic-romantic sense of heroism and a fairly clamped down war-and-survival attitude has a million pre-modern examples. The only thing that connects it with nazis is that they also used aspects of it for political propaganda, and it is somewhat true that others did not use this kind of propaganda too prominently. That means, at least if you look at it superficially, if you look at pre-modern values from a modern angle, they may look nazi because the nazis were one big prominent group who tried to bring them back in the modern age, at least on the propaganda level.

            But it would be a gigantic fallacy that nazis massacred civilians – I mean, this is why we hate them, right? A peaceful, non-killing nazi would be not worse like Salazar and he was a pretty normal guy – had much to do with them advertising certain pre-modern “spartan” values.

            If you entertain the hypothesis that modernity is fucked up, then actually the opposite is true – there should be a hundred different groups with different ideas trying to bring them back.

            My hypothesis is that the nazis were just a group of crazy powermongers and they advertised the premodern values largely because they were at some level popular – a country that tended to identify itself as a poetic country (Denkers und Dichters), that had a strong sense for the Romantic (Wagner), and basically the whole spirit of the Romantic era back to Chateaubriand or so tended to reinvent these premodern “Spartan” stuff.

            To give you a good example, I tend to like vikings. Nazis also liked vikings. England in the 19the century also liked vikings. Modern metalheads also like vikings. History Channel seems to like vikings, too.

            And vikings – at least the way they are depicted today – are a highly relevant symbol of those things you criticzed in my comment, right?

            And yet, despite liking Vikings, 19th century England, modern metalheads, or History Channel did not seem to go nazi. Which suggest these are not the type of values actual evil-doing derives from.

            The survivalist attitude is so common that Scott Alexander in the survive-and-thrive article used it as the major thing that defines the Right in general. And hero worship is something that happens in the mind of every boy who collects Spiderman comics.

            Finally, an apt comparison. Folks on the left often say Stalin and the Bolsheviks simply betrayed ideas like socialism or a workers movement. They just used them for advertisement, but had different goals. This is precisely how people like me who have a sensibility for premodern values think about the nazis, that they just used them for advertising and betrayed them but were never interested in them in much beyond the propaganda purpose.

            And the important thing is that after 1945 as the Allied propaganda machine took over the world media (again, that is normal, no complaints) they tended to blow the nazis / fascism from an isolated historical phenomenon for one age into a Generic Scary Bugaboo, a Universal Enemy that can appear everywhere and every time. This is of course very handy. The point is, if you have a propaganda machine that inflates your enemy into something universal – after it is defeated, of course, before it would be stupid – it will obviously borrow and reinterpret the propaganda of your enemy instead of having to come up with everything yourself. Thus, the premodern-romantic values that got hijacked by nazis and used for advertisement were themselves presented as evil.

            Finally, an even better giveaway would be to assume an actual nazi would be all emotional and worked up. Don’t I look too boringly analytical for this?

            Ultimately, everything that was brought up against my comment is a standard part of even contemporary pop culture, just people don’t really connect the dots honestly.

            Hero worship? Superhero comics. Group power struggles? How about the entire fucking Foucaultian Rortyan postmodern academia? Roles of men and women and homosexuality? Pretty common up to 1990 and STILL normal outside intellectual culture – even today, the manual workers think like this.

            All these things are perfectly normal or used to be recently, just most people don’t really connect the dots and don’t say you cannot collect Superman comics and try to make society less ableist at the same time, it is not consistent, which is basically the summary of my ideas here.

            If I am a nazi, everybody is who liked Superman comics and interpreted them correctly, understood their meaning and actually applies it as a bit of a philosophy in his politics is a nazi. Which would be obviously absurd as it would equal saying modern pop culture is nazi except if you take it really superficially.

          • It’s not fascism because there is no such thing..unless, to quote the last line of a famous SF story, “there is NOW”.

          • @Dividualist

            “To give you a good example, I tend to like vikings. Nazis also liked vikings. England in the 19the century also liked vikings. Modern metalheads also like vikings. History Channel seems to like vikings, too”

            There’s a very important difference between the “would want living next door” and the “would not want living door” sense of “like”.

            Bookish Victorians liked reading about vikings, but didn’t want them in no 27 Glebe Villas.

            People like movies about gangstas, but aren’t rushing to move into gangster-infested neighbourhoods.

            Star trek fans like Klingons. in the sense of liking dressing up as Klingons and pretending to be them. They don’t seem to want actual Klingons’ tr their equivalent, living next door, and they don’t generally vote for politicians who seriously want to turn their countries into expansionist military empires where the strong thrive and the weak go to the wall. Star trek fans are the weak. They like Klingons., but they *are* like vulcans. Liking Klingons is a sort of holiday from their normal personalities and lives.

            You see, the things is you are not just the same as the Viking fans and Klingon fans and Superhero fans, because you don’t have that romantic-but-wrong, amusing-fantasy-but-lets-keep it that way firewall thing going on. So your critics have a point.

          • @TheAncientGeek

            I get it, but the idea that taking certain widely popular emotions seriously and thinking about if we should not just simulate them but at some level live like them because maybe they are pointing at something actually useful does not make one a crazy mass murderer.

            I mean, if the K’zin (Larry Niven’s universe) attack the Earth y’all will switch to fight-and-survive modus and will of course highly respect the heroic fighter aces who shoot down a lot of K’zin ship, but will that makes us all “nazis” ?

            I mean, wasn’t this mindset on the Allied side as well? Because it is normal? For what it worths, I really love Churchill’s quotes from that era, this is why this accusation is really weird.

          • You never get onto the “is useful” argument, because you always get stuck on the “I find this personally appealing” feeling.

            The fact is that a geek pressing a button that launches a superweapon makes more difference than lots of ordinary citizens adopting a survive mentality,.

          • nydwracu says:

            It’s not fascism because there is no such thing..unless, to quote the last line of a famous SF story, “there is NOW”.

            When actually-existing capital-F Fascism, the movement in Italy that was led by an ex-socialist journalist named Benito Mussolini who drank milk for breakfast, decided it needed a manifesto, it brought on as a ghostwriter Giovanni Gentile, whose reputation was that he was the most Hegelian Hegelian to ever Hegelian. Given that, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the Hegel stuff was kind of important to them. And who the hell reads Hegel these days?

            This is “Obama is a Leninist!”-level shit — except Obama probably had a lecture on Marx in college or something, so it’s even worse.

          • @TheAncientGeek

            >The fact is that a geek pressing a button that launches a superweapon makes more difference than lots of ordinary citizens adopting a survive mentality,.

            You keep repeating this to me in various wordings so I am starting to think you really believe this. How can you? Isn’t it blatantly obvious that all this modern liberal progressive ethics whatnot stuff is highly opposed to pressing a button and incinerating millions? The only way to get the typical modern liberal mind to agree with violence even in self-defense or for good goals is to make it extremely selective with near zero collateral damage. I am not making it up, if you would make a survey about it right here on on the NYT website asking the question “are you okay with bombing tenorists only if close to zero innocents are killed?” the answer is an overwhelming yes. This is almost not even up for debate, more like a fact about current opinion.

            And this of course makes the whole thing very personal. Even remote control means looking someone in the face on the cam, deciding he is the one, and poof. No mercy. Requires certain balls or iron ovaries, methinks. And if you really really want to avoid collateral damage, you must be on the ground personally, because the only machine a human brain can control truly precisely is his body and everything else is a hack, including this fscking keyboard I am typing on which we should have replaced by something more wrist friendly long ago…

            Liberal-moderate view in Europe about this immigration/invasion thing is roughly acceptive, but sort of keep an eye on them, employ many policemen and security guards, not let mass brawls break out and suchlike, which happened. And a society needs to be able to produce these type of people. And less liberal view, that says no, is even more in the direction of sort of having tough humans on the border because fences can be climbed and if you put electricity in it liberals scream etc. so basically the compromise, if there will be any, is more like a tough but ultimately humane border guard telling them to go back.

            (A security droid is AI-hard. Many jobs that can be done by a 80-90 IQ brute are AI-hard.)

      • JB says:

        This article is somewhat uncharitable, but I nevertheless found it illuminating. It doesn’t address the specific things you mention, but it seems to address the more general questions from your first paragraph.

        http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/

        I would slightly repackage this as a division between honor culture, dignity culture, and liberation culture. This probably gets more at what people inside SJ see their culture as promoting – liberation from oppression, in the same sense that other people see their cultures as promoting honor or dignity.

        Remember there are real differences between how leftists/SJs see weakness, victimhood, or (related but tangentially) things like poverty as arising, versus how rightists or “liberals”/center-left/whatever see them. Individualists see this as fundamentally stemming from something a person did wrong. He didn’t stand up for himself, she didn’t firmly say no, he didn’t work hard enough, etc. There are exceptions, like if somebody is born with a terrible disability they can’t really help that, but most of the time people get what they deserve as a result of their own actions. Collectivists reject this framework. They see the distribution of these outcomes as determined by large macrosystems, with individuals having only limited ability to change which one of the pre-determined available positions they fall into. For them, the idea of an individual ending up with an outcome significantly different than what the system was pushing her into, through the sheer force of her own will, that is the exception. So there is the idea on the left that if a woman fights off a rapist, he will simply rape someone else… or if a poor man had worked harder, perhaps he’d have a better job, but then he would have been hired for that instead of somebody else, and eventually you’d end up with the same distribution of jobs just with different specific people filling each position. Within this model of the way things work, criticizing or punishing victims, even with the intention of “using a stick” to spur better behavior, is ultimately useless or even cruel/counterproductive. Their solution is to fix the system so that it produces fewer victims, and they believe that the only people with the ability to change the systems are the ones with money and power.

        [disclosure – my preference among these is the “culture of dignity” idea, so I am only guessing at how these people would frame their own moral culture. I partially accept the left’s view of macrosystems driving societal-level outcomes, but I partially accept the right’s view of order emerging from agent-level actions as well]

        • Max says:

          Their solution is to fix the system so that it produces fewer victims,

          Really? The “solutions” I see is usually just victimizing different group of people.

          I do think its fundamentally about personal responsibility for your own fate. Socialists have hard time accepting it. I do must make a difference between run of the mill socialists/liberal and social revolutionaries though. The former wants to get everything done by proxy (govt) while they themselves do nothing except being nice obedient sheep.
          The latter actually are willing to put everything on a table for their goals (Che Guevara). Revolutionaries have my respect, the sheep looking for better masters doesnt

        • Yes, this is extremely relevant. Also I don’t understand why don’t the authors simply say the honor culture equals masculinity. My preferences are between honor and dignity – the kind of gentleman who wasn’t generally an asshole but was willing to fight a duel if he sensed and insult. From this angle, there was never a pure dignity culture. The last duels were fought in the 1960’s and the victimhood culture already had its first forerunners then.

          The reason I want to balance between honor and dignity is that e.g. when your wife comes home with a blue and claims she was beaten up by a man, your normal instinct isn’t to call the police. It is to go out and kick the crap out of him – because if it is not your instinct you simply don’t have something essential most women value and probably don’t have a wife.

          So basic attractive masculinity itself requires, in the worst case, something like 30% honor and 70% dignity.

        • >Individualists see this as fundamentally stemming from something a person did wrong.

          But this would assume the universe is inherently fair and punishes wrongdoing only. I think we on the Right generally don’t expect and don’t demand life be fair. You can demand fairness from people but not from life or society.

          It is far better to say that whatever people do influences their outcomes a lot. But it does not follow that all negative outcomes come from wrongdoing. It is more like, try the hardest, you are not assured to win, but you are almost assured to lose otherwise.

          Now the important thing is that for the best outcome, everybody should try the hardest and people should not be discouraged from this. If people demand fairness, they get discouraged, because not every really hard try will succeed.

          So the idea on the Right is that simply if you want to make high quality people you need to accept unfairness, that is all really.

          The problem with the kind of “you deserved it” individualism is that it is open to exactly this kinds of collectivist attacks, because implicitly accept that society should be fair. And that is a very bad thing. Society is only fair if every try succeeds. Pretty sure that results in doing only minimal hand-waving in the general direction of “but I tried, seriously”.

          Thus, to increase or even maintain human quality, you must fully embrace unfairness. You must accept that some people will work hard and smart and still fail. You must accept that some women will dress modest, carry mace and learn tae kwon do and still get raped. When I saw that Eric Raymond was born with cerebral palsy, a disability, and could still get black belts in martial arts I see even disability as less of an unchangeable fate than something that people with strong motivation can ofter work through – but again, many, many will fail.

      • anon says:

        How much wealth should society give up to become stronger? How much money would you personally give up to encourage gays and lesbians to have more heterosexual sex and generate more children?

          • anon says:

            I don’t know what that has to do with anything. I asked about being poorer and stronger, not poorer and happier.

            Anyway the top scorer on that index is Switzerland, which happens to be wealthier than both Costa Rica and Hong Kong. I wouldn’t mind living there.

          • nydwracu says:

            You can’t concede that it might be necessary to trade off wealth for military strength unless you’re willing to concede that there are things it might be necessary to trade off wealth to get — that is, that wealth isn’t directly equivalent to quality. It seems to me that it’s common for people to say (or strongly imply) reflexively that wealth is directly equivalent to quality, even when they wouldn’t support that statement on reflection. In these circles, happiness is considered to be, if not directly equivalent to quality, at least very closely correlated to it, certainly more so than wealth — which implies that it would be better to live in a happy and poor society than an unhappy and rich one. If it would be better to live in a happy and poor society than an unhappy and rich one, then, as the saying goes, we’re just haggling over the price.

            If you believe it’s worthwhile to, on a large scale, trade off present well-being for continued existence in the future (the environmentalist argument: “we have to lower our standard of living or we’ll end up causing ecological disasters that will render the planet much less [or not at all] habitable”), it’s even easier to make the case: the environmentalist wants the tradeoff made on a planet-wide scale, and the dividualist wants the tradeoff made on a civilizational scale.

    • I think SJ tends to be right about dominant groups, but fails to see or address the ways in which it wants to be the same sort of dominant group.

      It looks like they’re turning up some true things about the gender binary being a map which doesn’t fit the territory very well.

      • >It looks like they’re turning up some true things about the gender binary being a map which doesn’t fit the territory very well.

        The Manosphere is figuring out something similar – when a man is called effeminate, it does not mean he is really like women or would be good at that, it just means not good at being a man. See Jack Donovan.

        The most realistic thing to say would be that femininity and masculinity are two separate sliders. Some will have both high and be interestingly androgynous like Prince or the kind of MMA-woman who is still hot, and some will have both low, being a gray mouse: and I think that more or less equals minor depression, the lack of the motivating sexual energy.

  22. Mack says:

    One, strange, probably trivial question… when you measure digit ratio, do you just average the ratio of the two hands? Because the digit ratio is much, much smaller on my left hand compared to my right, about .99 on the right hand and .915 on the left hand.

    I’ve been curious about this ever since I found out what the digit ratio was. I have no idea why it’s asymmetrical. If it means anything, the index finger on each hand is roughly the same length, it’s the ring fingers that are very different.

    • perc says:

      This is actually not trivial! Sometimes both ratios correlate equally with a given variable and sometimes not. There are studies that only look at the right hand ratio because “when both right and left hand digit ratios have been used to investigate relationships between digit ratio and psychological factors, stronger effects are seen on the right hand, or found on the right hand only.” — Bailey & Hurd (2004). But that doesn’t imply that we should disregard the left hand .915 and predict that you’re a feminine beta male (that’s just the prior), there are also studies that do indeed take the average.

      • Anthony says:

        “when both right and left hand digit ratios have been used to investigate relationships between digit ratio and psychological factors, stronger effects are seen on the right hand, or found on the right hand only.” — Bailey & Hurd (2004)

        Are those effects for the right hand, or the dominant hand?

  23. Sigivald says:

    followed by Who By Very Slow Decay

    Did you get to the title directly via Cohen, or via Coil’s cover, or some other mode that is neither?

    (I ask entirely out of direct curiosity, with an aside that while I often love covers of Cohen songs I have yet to find an original that isn’t cringe-inducing.

    Needless to say, thus, I know Who by Fire via the brilliant Coil cover version.)

    • Nornagest says:

      If I recall correctly, it comes directly from Cohen.

    • Deiseach says:

      Ah, not a bad version at all, but it ain’t Laughin’ Lenny

      If you click on the link and go “What the hell?”, you might want to fast-forward about 4 minutes or so. I know somebody who went to that concert and they said he was absolutely brilliant.

  24. Skaevola says:

    With 5% of readers from Texas, are there enough people in Houston to do a rationality meetup here? I saw that there has been a Houston Less Wrong meet up in the past, but it looks like it’s been defunct for a while.

    • Vaniver says:

      I think Houstonites have had more success travelling to Austin than meeting up locally. I have a list of emails of people who have expressed interest at one point or another, and I’d be happy to pass your email on to them if you contact me. (My email is my name at gmail.)

      Also, if you want to meet up with other SSC readers in Austin, everyone at the local LW meetup does. Contact me for details or look here. (This week is a little awkward because we’re experimenting with a new location.)

  25. Careless says:

    I just want to say, I love survey results from a community!

  26. Deiseach says:

    I’m going to yell at both sides now.

    STOP THIS. YOU ARE NOT ARGUING ABOUT CHARITY, YOU ARE ARGUING ABOUT “MY SIDE HAS MORE VIRTUE POINTS”.

    Shut up. Shut the hell up. Give to the church roof restoration fund or give to malaria nets or give to the national gallery or give to the man begging on the street corner, but shut. the. hell. up.

    (I have a strong desire to link a painting of Christ plaiting a whip of cords and driving the money-changers out of the Temple. Stop using “we are more really charitable than you, nyah nyah nyah” as political/religious – and that includes non-religious – partisanship scoring).

    The only comment I will make is this: bread AND roses. Beauty is a necessity for human flourishing as much as anything. The first pottery humans produced had decoration on it, which is useless from a functional viewpoint (a plain pot will hold water or let you cook in it just as well) but it is a necessity for more than grubbing around as meat robots.

    I don’t know if AI is ever attainable or if we’ll see it in the immediate future time-frame some people seem to expect, but what would convince me that it truly is a genuine free intelligence is that it shows some appreciation of, or demonstration of, beauty. I don’t care a straw about how much fucking utility maximisation it can do; if it does something gratuitous like having a favourite poem, then it is a kindred consciousness I will recognise as on a par to my own.

    “I should like balls infinitely better,” she replied, “if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day.”

    “Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball.”

    • Murphy says:

      I was going to write this in a very calm tone but I thought it better to respond in the same insulting tone you set yourself.

      “bread AND roses”

      Roses are little comfort to someone who’s children have just starved to death.

      Fuck your evil little philosophy. You don’t get any virtue points, any utility points or any “vaguely decent human being points” for spending resources on carrying water to the ocean.

      If an AI decides to divert money away from shipping plumpy-nut to starving children so that it can build beautiful crystal monuments (or golden thrones http://sdrministries.org/images/pope8.jpg http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CkIjdXSh6fY/UU8lJFV1ZVI/AAAAAAAAJ2c/OEVmFy794ec/s1600/Popes.JPG)then I’ll know it’s either not intelligent or not good.

      And yes, a lot of humans are either not intelligent or not good.

      • That is classic thinking stopping at stage one because the heart is bleeding. What made the children starving? Whatever the cause is, it is not solved by food, it at best creates perpetual dependency. Perhaps the AI should make robot soldiers and kill all the corrupted third world leaders and install a simple ten-page legal system based on natural law, robot judges and policement, and no government beyond that except a very limited robot king, in order to create the basis of a functional free market economy in the third world. At any rate, get people to the point where they can feed their children without dependence on the cargo cult. After that is achieved no need to divert money to plumpy-nuts so the leftover resources may as well go to crystal monuments.

        Not even trying that would even suck, yes – it sucks with us paleface humans too, we are too squeamish to invade them, kill the corrupted ones and establish neo-colonialism with natural law and free market, which would lead to third world parents being able to feed their children without begging for alms. Our ethics are feel-goody, and not truly consequentialist, as a consequentalist would probably worship Sir Cecil Rhodes and would consider it the best kind of humanitarian aid to run over the local evil bigwigs who keep their own folk in the gutter with a tank.

        To make my point clear – utility is really ambiguous. We could probably debate forever if this kind of thing would help anyone, or would help more than harm. The crystal monument is at least clearly not harming anyone. The ship food to the poor is the kind of bleeding-heart stuff that solves a problem for a day, but in reality only perpetuates it and could easily make it worse.

        I am really sure you haven’t really calculated the the utility difference between helping by shipping food to Zimbabwe or helping by shooting Mugabe and installing a sane boss. It is at some level an emotional thing that to feel that the first one is surely better because it just feels good to share and care.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why are you wasting time arguing on the internet, when you could be slaving away every waking hour to donate every cent not spent on discount rice needed to keep yourself alive, in order to feed starving children? Why haven’t you sold all your possessions and given the proceeds away to the poor?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I can’t speak for him, but the reason I don’t is that I do not consider myself ethically obliged to spend my entire waking life working to serve the needs of the poor.

          But if I did want to devote my time to helping them, I should want to do so in the most effective manner. I should want to buy them bread and not something comparatively useless like roses.

          I have no problem with anyone who says that he would rather buy roses for himself than give all his money to buy bread for the poor. But there is something totally perverse about a person who claims to want to help the poor and then buys them useless trinkets instead of the necessities they need to live. Buy luxuries for yourself, or buy necessities for people in need. But don’t buy luxuries for people in need and call it “charity”.

          • Anonymous says:

            A fair point.

            But if I did want to devote my time to helping them, I should want to do so in the most effective manner. I should want to buy them bread and not something comparatively useless like roses.

            I would say that you should be doing charity to those near you that you know the needs of, who will appreciate the help, not faraway strangers you’ve never interacted with and never will, regardless of the supposed numerical effectiveness.

      • Deiseach says:

        Scott, I’m sorry because I think I’m starting a row on here and if you want to delete all this and let fall the Guillotine of Banning on my neck, I perfectly understand.

        Much anger and little sense follows in this ranting.

        You know what pisses me off?

        Lords and Ladies Bountiful deciding that what “the poor” need is improving lectures and bowls of soup, but let’s not allow them to spend their pennies on a china dog ornament because that’s Wasteful and Unthrifty and instead let’s teach them to be good cogs in the machine and work work work for peanuts so as not to be – oh, horrors! – dependent on charity.

        Poor people, even in the Third World, are people too. And part of being human is needing something more than the grind of work.

        I see scornful references on here to “high time preference”, with concomittant either explicitly or implicitly voiced judgements that this is a quality of the lesser ones, the ones of inferior genetic endowment, else they’d have “low time preference”.

        Which apparently sifts out to mean “If you don’t want to be a drone on a treadmill for 18 hours out of 24, working yourself into an early grave for the carrot dangled before your nose of finally getting Big Money, then you’re a failure”.

        You’re probably a drug addict (oh, but that’s a different kind of drug dependency than we who use recreational drugs sensibly and dose ourselves up on illegally-acquired Modafinil so we don’t need to sleep and can keep our noses to the grindstone longer than natural human endurance would permit) and criminal and certainly less intelligent and doomed to be poor and useless all your days.

        And of course all you want to do with your free time is watch soap operas or hang around idly.

        Do you think none of us have eyes to observe the beauty of the stars, or even a wish to do so? Even in the gutter, one may have sight of the sky and feel a response to the beauty of the universe (and yes, I know Wilde’s aphorism has been quoted to the point of triteness, but that does not take away from anything of value in it).

        DON’T QUOTE STARVING CHILDREN TO ME. DON’T DARE DO THAT, AS AN INDICTMENT OF WANTING TO TREAT HUMANS AS HUMANS. OF BELIEVING THAT THE FULLNESS AND RICHNESS OF HUMANITY IS NOT FULFILLED IN ITS ENTIRETY BY BEING A WHIRRING COG IN THE MACHINERY OF CAPITALISM.

        Until one of you successfully conquers death, we all live under the shadow of mortality. Do you think those mired in sickness, poverty, disease, war, want, oppression, all the evils that flesh is heir to and the worse miseries that humanity inflicts on humanity are ignorant of these things, that they need finger-wagging lectures about starving children? Do you hear yourselves? Do you realise what you are saying? To the poor, to the others: “Beauty and transcendence are only for your betters. Not even a poor, paltry, chocolate-box scene is to be permitted you; be content with the dole of grain or the chance to work in a factory making goods for the rich West, and don’t even ask that the walls that hem you in be painted anything other than an efficient machine grey”.

        I read you all on here, and the vast majority of you seem like decent beings. But I am not so sure I can call you people. I don’t see anything even as trivial as “I like daisies” raising its head. You rejoice at pretty dancing numbers, and I could forgive you that if I thought you took any ecstasy from the truth and beauty of mathematics, but I can’t see anything more than a calculator blinking digits at me with all the talk of Bayes and probabilities and utility and economics of the market.

        I could recognise a fellow sentient being, even in a silicon intelligence, that had a verse or an air or a piece of art it appreciated. But you – who are you? What are you?

        YOU INSULT THE VAST AND INEFFABLE COSMOS, FROM THE LOWLIEST WORM CRAWLING IN THE EARTH AND ENABLING IT TO BE FERTILE TO THE INFINITE DEPTHS OF SPACE, WHEN YOU DENY HUMANS – ALL HUMANS, EVERY HUMAN, EVEN THE WORST – THEIR INALIENABLE RIGHT BY VIRTUE OF THEIR HUMANITY TO CLAIM AND GRASP AND ENJOY BEAUTY AS WELL AS EVERY OTHER GOOD THING.

        “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

        And have any of you caritas? Do you burn in the furnace of love? I swear by the gods my people swear by, even the criminals and losers I bitch about on here know more and are more human than the high-minded when they put on cheap, flashy, garish, tawdry jewellery and cake themselves in makeup and wear knock-off designer tat, because at least they exhibit the human desire for adornment which is rooted in beauty.

        Beauty and Truth and Goodness are all part of one another, and to cut away one part and hold it up as the standard to follow, and tread down the other sisters, is wrong.

        I am still struggling with wanting to be dead. I am still struggling with hating myself. But I would never dare insult the world by saying this is because there is no beauty in it. I am very likely a fool, but at least a fool who can lift up my eyes and look at the moon and be exalted by its beauty, even in my bad times – so long as the skies are left clear to me that the moon may show forth, and that I am not chided for my “high time preference” wastefulness in looking at the moon instead of grinding away at some task.

        THE EVIL OF THE WORLD DOES NOT TAKE AWAY OR CAST DOWN THE GOOD, THE TRUTH AND ESPECIALLY THE BEAUTY OF IT. THE LOTUS IS ROOTED IN THE MUD OF THE LAKE. FLOWERS SPRING FORTH FROM FILTH.

        AND YES, I DEMAND ROSES AS WELL AS BREAD

        • Jordan D. says:

          I can’t say that I like this idea of testing for humanity by seeing who bleeds when you poke them.

        • Murphy says:

          Right, so it’s poetry metaphor and allegory then?

          When you’re in the line for bread with a hundred people behind you, do you demand they slam the door behind you and use the resources they would have used to give them bread to grow roses for you? Damn those unlucky enough to be behind you in the line?

          Because it’s a tradeoff. The moon being beautiful doesn’t erase that from the world. Tradeoffs exist. How many other peoples lives is your rose garden worth?

          Damning capitalism while simultaneously chanting “fuck you’ve I’ve got mine”.

          It isn’t about withholding everything else in life, it’s about prioritization.

          The world has lots of beauty in it but I wouldn’t want to throw other people under the bus for the sake of increasing that beauty.

          If you demand roses as well as bread then someone else doesn’t get any bread at all unless there is far more than is needed to provide bread for all.

          Roses are lovely, poetry is lovely but it’s better to have 2 living children today who can get their chance at roses tomorrow than 1 child with both bread and roses and 1 dead child today who’ll never smell a rose again.

          A rose garden is a wonderful thing but when it’s suffused with the stink of corpses lying outside the gates the roses really don’t seem to smell as sweet as they might otherwise.

          • Mark says:

            Tough trucks.

            Functionality can be beautiful.

            Why not eat the roses?

          • moridinamael says:

            And the fact that a rose can grow from filth does sort of imply that there’s less need to devote resources to growing roses.

            (De-metaphorized version: Beauty is not objective, like bread. Beauty is something that humans create through perception of their environment. People were finding beauty in the stars 10,000 years ago. People are still finding beauty in the stars. It’s orthogonal to survival, and even orthogonal to thriving.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

            Deiseach’s post is, in its own way, a wonderful expression of the sheer irrationalism and Romanticism that pervades so much of our political culture—and, especially, anti-capitalist thought.

            It’s the kind of mentality that makes the ant the villains in the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. The grasshopper has the Inalienable Right to sing all day, as long as he damn well pleases. And what happens when reality bites him in the ass? There is no reality! No physical reality, anyway. The only problem is the ant’s “greed”, his “uncaring” nature, his lack of concern for “beauty”. And all of society’s problems will be solved so long as we can continue to expropriate the ants for the benefit of the grasshoppers.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Ant was the villain? WTF? What kind of mutated version of that story did your parents tell you?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            The communist one.