SELF-RECOMMENDING!

OT38: Brighter Than Threaday

This is the weekly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. I will be at the New York Solstice tomorrow. I’ll see some of you there. There will probably be a big meetup Sunday at the Brookfield Place Mall at 1 (last minute change of time!), although details beyond that are sketchy. Head to the mall and look for the group of people who look the way you would expect rationalists to look. It’s not subtle.

2. Comment of the week is this poem, even though it’s from several months ago, because I only just found it.

3. In case you missed it in yesterday’s links, you may be interested in the MIRI fundraiser, the CFAR fundraiser, and the Giving What We Can Pledge Drive.

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

1,190 Responses to OT38: Brighter Than Threaday

  1. Oh, right, theology of original sin and anti-empiricist epistemology.

  2. Fj says:

    I saw the link and I knew that you’d love it (if you see it): http://www.tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations

    I think my favourite so far is Worldwide non-commercial space launches vs Sociology doctorates awarded (US), at r=0.78.

  3. A says:

    Does anyone have a view on whether (1) climate change and nuclear war outweigh (2) other US foreign policy issues in importance?

    • nonymous says:

      “Lately I’ve been feeling like there are no human extinction risks that could feasibly happen in the next few hundred years, and given that this is true…”

      So you’re clairvoyant for cataclysms at a distance of a couple hundred years out, but you need help deciding who to vote for?

      • nonymous says:

        This is why, when nerds invent a political movement or a dangerous new technology, there is no question of whether psychopaths will take it from them.

      • A says:

        My question is that I don’t get how to trade off long-term extinction risks against conflicting concerns, like American national glory-and yeah, let’s just go with that. Now, if I vote Republican for President, there is an increased risk of climate change or a nuclear war at some future time. It’s also true that America will have a more assertive foreign policy. These impacts exist, but how can we tally which impact matters more? And how can we measure how big the impact is from voting Republican compared with, say, donating $50 to the Ploughshares Fund?

  4. Mark says:

    A few threads back, I asked whether the best justification for the concept of other minds was the fact that it was appealing. One response, from Robert Liquori, was that other minds are preferable to p-zombies on grounds of parsimony – it would be an unnecessary multiplication of entities for there to be both “us” and “p-zombies” – better to just have things like us.
    Thinking about it, by this principle, wouldn’t it be better to have just “us” (rather than things like us)? From the perspective of both parsimony and evidence, solipsism wins. It doesn’t win from the perspective of an interesting story.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      If you don’t think other people exist, what’s the point of arguing with said nonexistent people about it on a blog?

      That is to say, solipsism doesn’t tell you anything. What would it even mean if one or both of us “doesn’t exist” in a way which is completely indistinguishable from both of us actually existing? It’s a worthless bit of semantics.

      • Mark says:

        Well, exactly. Perhaps I choose to assume that you exist because I enjoy engaging with other people.
        I think it matters tremendously – and we see it often. We treat people we empathize with very differently from those we don’t. So our attitude towards the minds of others tells us how we should treat others.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Isn’t p-zombies an argument for dualism and not “other minds”?

      Descartes puts your brain in a box, and he can’t get you out without god’s help. If you are a disconnected mind, parsimony probably suggests that all creation is in your mind.

      But if you accept that you are not a brain in a box, but out in the real world, you are left with the observation of creatures who appear to all extent to be like you and independent of you. In my opinion, Occam says we should accept that they actually are like you.

      • Mark says:

        I think so. But, in that case, isn’t parsimony secondary to some other appeal? Or perhaps just one aspect of it?

        [We have stuff coming in – sense data – which is certainly external in the sense that we have no deliberate control of it. But, I’m not sure that that can be related to the minds of others. Yesterday, I had a dream in which someone told me a joke I didn’t get until I woke up. If my unconscious can generate a character (that almost everyone accepts is not conscious) that is more intelligent/knowledgeable than what remains of my consciousness while I sleep, I’m not sure that I can draw any definite conclusions about the ultimate nature of the people when I wake.]

    • I would have thought the argument was based on the uniformity of natural laws, or lack of capricious exceptions in nature.

  5. Glen Raphael says:

    I think we might have finally passed Peak Outrage.

    • Jiro says:

      She;s fine with giving outrage to “conservatives” and says so explicitly (though it’s probably not limited to actual conservatives). She’s just complaining that outrage has spilled over to the good guys.

      She doesn’t seem to realize that that’s two sides of the same coin.

  6. Braunschweiger says:

    I’ve been reading about toxoplasmosis gondii, the cystic strains, the maybe(??) schizophrenia connection, and so on, and wondering about the potential of treating it in the absence of such complications as cancer/HIV/pregnancy/being younger than five/etc., maybe see what happens. Of course, if one wanted to do that to oneself, it would probably be pretty hard to get the resources together, huh?

  7. Deiseach says:

    It’s Christmas Eve, time for this.

    Best wishes of the season to those that celebrate it, and to those that don’t, happy rationality! 🙂

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Best wishes of the season to those that celebrate it, and to those that don’t, happy rationality! 🙂

      For some reason, I am reminded of the Christmas chapter in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:

      The bright hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley had increased by a hundredfold and redoubled as Christmas approached, with all the shops enshrouded in brilliant sorceries that flashed and sparkled as though the season’s spirit was about to blaze out of control and turn the whole area into a cheerful holiday crater. The streets were so crowded with witches and wizards in festive and loud clothing that your eyes were assaulted almost as severely as your ears; and it was clear, from the bewildering variety of the shoppers, that Diagon Alley was considered an international attraction. There were witches wrapped in giant swathes of cloth like toweled mummies, and wizards in formal top hats and bath-robes, and young children barely past toddling age who were decorated with lights that blazed almost as bright as the shops themselves, as their parents took them hand in hand through that magic wonderland and let them shriek to their heart’s content. It was the season to be merry.

      And in the midst of all that light and cheer, a note of blackest night; a cold, dark atmosphere that cleared a few precious paces of distance even in the midst of all that crush.

      “No,” said Professor Quirrell, with a look of grim revulsion, like he’d just bitten into food that not only tasted horrible but was morally repugnant to boot. It was the sort of grim face an ordinary person might make after biting into a meat pie, and discovering that it was rotten and had been made from kittens.

      “Oh, come on,” Harry said. “You must have some ideas.”

      “Mr. Potter,” Professor Quirrell said, his lips set in a thin line, “I agreed to act as your adult guardian on this expedition. I did not agree to advise you on your choice of presents. I don’t do Christmas, Mr. Potter.”

      “How about Newtonmas?” Harry said brightly. “Isaac Newton actually was born on December 25th, unlike some other historical figures I could name.”

      This failed to impress Professor Quirrell.

      “Look,” said Harry, “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to do something special for Fred and George and I’ve got no idea of my options.”

      Professor Quirrell made a thoughtful humming sound. “You could ask which family members they most dislike, and then hire an assassin. I know someone from a certain government-in-exile who is quite competent, and he would give you a discount on multiple Weasleys.”

      This Christmas,” Harry said, dropping his voice into a lower register, “give your friends the gift… of death.”

      That made Professor Quirrell smile. It went all the way to his eyes.

      “Look,” said Harry, “I’m trying to solidify their loyalty to me, you know? Make the Weasley twins my minions? Like the old saying goes: A friend isn’t someone you use once and then throw away, a friend is someone you use over and over again. Fred and George are two of the most useful friends I have in Hogwarts, Professor Quirrell, and I plan to use them over and over again. So if you’d help me be Slytherin here, and suggest something they might be very grateful for…” Harry’s voice trailed off invitingly.

      You just had to pitch these things the right way.

      They walked on for a good way before Professor Quirrell spoke again, his voice practically dripping with distaste. “The Weasley twins are using secondhand wands, Mr. Potter. They would be reminded of your generosity with every Charm they cast.”

      Harry clapped his hands together in involuntary excitement. Just put the money on account at Ollivander’s, and tell Mr. Ollivander to never refund it – no, better yet, to send it to Lucius Malfoy if the Weasley twins didn’t show up before the start of their next school year. “That’s brilliant, Professor!”

      Professor Quirrell did not look like he appreciated the compliment. “I suppose I can tolerate Christmas in that spirit, Mr. Potter, though only barely.”

      And the two of them walked on, in their tiny sphere of silence and isolation, through the brilliant and bustling crowds; and if you looked carefully, you would see that where they went, leafy boughs faded, and flowers withered, and children’s toys that played cheerful bells changed to lower and more ominous notes.

      Harry did notice, but he didn’t say anything, just smiled a little to himself.

      Everyone had their own way of celebrating the holidays, and the Grinch was as much a part of Christmas as Santa.

      Merry Christmas, SSC.

    • A says:

      A Christmas song with cursing. I don’t know what it was about, but bookmarked.

  8. Vox Imperatoris says:

    My attempt at “Americanism” in an enormous, planet-sized nutshell:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/3y16v8/lockeanjeffersonian_liberalism_or_the_american_way/

  9. Paolo G. Giarrusso says:

    Regarding poverty vs IQ, do we actually learn anything from the new meta-analysis by Tucker-Drob and Bates on the Scarr-Rowe hypothesis? Basically, poverty stunts IQ consistently in the US but not in other developed countries (for reasons the authors speculate about, see summary below).

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/poverty-stunts-iq-in-the-us-but-not-in-other-developed-countries/

  10. sweeneyrod says:

    Is anyone doing the GCHQ Christmas puzzle?

  11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/08/11/the-most-depressing-statistic-imaginable-about-being-a-new-parent/?postshare=7371439305730890

    One major reason people aren’t having more children is that the first year or two is likely to be a miserable experience for the parents.

    I accidentally put this comment in the wrong place. I deleted it, but when I tried to enter it as a top level comment, the site kept putting it back in the first place I posted it. Let’s see whether additional text solves the problem.

    New text didn’t solve the problem.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz:
      Actually, it does seem to have solved the problem. If one existed.

      Refresh the whole page and you will likely see it in the right place. Of course you won’t see my comment till then, so it is unlikely to be helpful, but I thought my noting that I see it in the correct place could help any of the devs who happen across the comment.

    • onyomi says:

      I think this probably relates to the bigger problem of less expectation of help from grandparents and other relatives in rearing small children. Many people I know seem to barely leave the house during the first couples years of baby’s life, and when they do they always bring baby with.

  12. Ghatanathoah says:

    I think the views expressed in the comment of the week indicate that something needs to be done about current views about where people derive their worth. In particular, the idea that moral worth is derived through hard work is actually pretty awful. I think that we need more memes about moral worth being derived through eudaemonia production.

    We do see this already to some extent. “A Christmas Carol” is a classic story about a miser who realizes he has been foolishly hoarding his wealth when he could have been converting it into eudaemonia. There are lots of stories in modern culture about people who spend too much time working and need to be persuaded to spend more time with their family (Hook, Jingle All the Way, and Mary Poppins are the first that come to mind). But there’s also a strong countercurrent that hard work is the way to gain self esteem, and that people who chose not to work as much deserve to be stigmatized as lazy. I’ve definitely talked to people who fear growing old because they won’t be able to live worthwhile lives. When I point out to them that old people can still watch television, they do not find comfort in that because they are wedded to this idea that meaning comes from work.

    The description of the Goddess of Everything Else’s children as lazy and indolent is also telling. It associates eudaemonic lives with laziness and lack of effort, when the Goddess of Everything Else also encompasses things that take lots of effort, but have no survival value. Massively labor intensive art projects, sports, etc. Just because you aren’t striving to compete and survive doesn’t mean you aren’t striving and working hard.

    But that’s besides the point. People who sit on their butts and watch TV are still living better, more worthwhile lives than people who work hard and strive to survive and outcompete other people. People who strive to produce big eudaemonic art products might be best of all, but even a lazy and indolent life of passively consuming entertainment is eudaemonically better than a life of pure competition.

    I can think of a continuation to the poem in the spirit of Meditations on Moloch:

    And then the Lord gasped as flabby old city
    Made new metal men without conscience or pity
    They turned the steppe dwellers and all other men
    Into paperclips, staplers, and pencil and pen

    Then they turned on the Lord and slew him with glee
    And spread through the stars in a grand building spree
    And no creature again would ever take zest.
    In surpassing all others and being the best.

    For pride, joy, achievement, these got in the way.
    Of the cold metal men who had now won the day.
    And the ghost of the Lord, he let out a sad screech
    For he knew now the lesson Old Scratch meant to teach.

    The ethos that teaches to take joy in war
    And to feel pride in striving and learning to soar
    Will sow its own end as the virtues it spreads
    Themselves are then ground under Moloch’s boot treads.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      >But there’s also a strong countercurrent that hard work is the way to gain self esteem, and that people who chose not to work as much deserve to be stigmatized as lazy.

      Do you mean like, in general, or around specific circles?

      Because the general mainstream argument I see is not “people who don’t work a lot deserve to be stigmatized”, but rather “people who don’t work at all deserve to be stigmatized”.

      The latter can also be criticized, but it’s narrower and more defensible (a “motte” of you will, but I really haven’t seen a lot of people in the bailey).

  13. The original Mr. X says:

    What do people think, both about the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in general and the morality of calling for Rhodes’ statue to be removed whilst receiving a scholarship started by and named after the man himself?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/12060780/Oxford-student-who-wants-Rhodes-statue-down-branded-hypocrite-for-taking-money-from-trust.html

    • sweeneyrod says:

      It’s quite amusing.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Just because I benefit from an institution, it’s not hypocritical for me to say it’s a bad institution.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I really don’t know enough about Cecil Rhodes to judge him objectively in comparison to other European colonizers, so I’m not going to comment about his personal character.

      But if he really was as bad as certain people say he was, it seems perfectly appropriate to remove the statue and even change the name of the scholarship. Suppose Hitler or Stalin had—using money stolen from their victims—set up in their private capacity scholarships at prestigious German or Russian universities, in the interest of maintaining a good public image after they died. Would it be appropriate to keep around statues of Hitler or Stalin, with the “Hitler Scholarship” or the “Stalin Scholarship”? I think it would not. That would just be carrying out their desires to see their own “good names” preserved in public memory.

      And, even if it were not renamed, would it be immoral and hypocritical for a Jew or a descendant of white-émigrés to accept the “Hitler Scholarship” or “Stalin Scholarship” if it were offered? I also think not. Indeed, it would be a way of partially reclaiming some of the patrimony stolen by those figures.

      So the only relevant question is just how bad Cecil Rhodes was. Which we can talk about totally independently of whether this student received a Rhodes Scholarship. His opinion is unjustified if Rhodes really was a decent figure, all things considered. On the other hand, if Rhodes was as they describe him, his opinion is perfectly reasonable and praiseworthy.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        After exhaustive research (/skimming the Wikipedia article), I’ve still got no idea why he seems to have suddenly become such a hate figure. He annexed large areas of land to the British Empire, but his treatment of their actual inhabitants doesn’t seem to have been particularly exploitative by the standards of the time. He was no Leopold of Belgium, still less a Hitler or Stalin.

        Plus, he tried to set up a secret society to bring the world under British control. Whatever faults he may have had, it’s difficult to hate a man who’d do such a crazily Dan Browne-esque thing as that.

    • Sastan says:

      Nothing quite like judging the morals of the people from ages past by modern standards, then punishing them retroactively!

      They’re already after Woodrow Wilson over here. Pretty soon we’re gonna have to rename Washington DC, because slavery, you know. I mean if someone does one thing we disapprove of today, that pretty well obviates every other accomplishment right? We must purge our history and institutions of all people who offend anyone today. Speaking of which, I’m getting kind of offended at well………everyone! All place names and buildings and statues should be of inoffensive things, like, say simple geometric shapes. Then we can all be safe from the terrible scourge of going to class in a building built with money from investments made by someone who lived in a culture few of us could imagine, much less survive.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ sastan
        Pretty soon we’re gonna have to rename Washington DC, because slavery, you know. I mean if someone does one thing we disapprove of today, that pretty well obviates every other accomplishment right?

        Not just obviates, but reverses or discredits. The Bill of Rights means nothing, or is all wrong, just because imperfect people wrote it down. Good thing they didn’t write down the multiplication table, too.

        • Pku says:

          “The bill of rights means nothing because imperfect people wrote it down” is a correct counterargument to the statement “X is bad because it contradicts the bill of rights”. If X is bad, it’s so independently of the bill of rights; the argument that it’s the bill of rights that makes it bad relies on a hidden assumption that the bill of rights has special meaning given to it by having been written by perfect (or at least superior) people.

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          “X is bad because it contradicts the bill of rights” has nothing to do with the people who wrote it, it has to do with the processes that surround the bill of rights.

          We are not (in theory at least) supposed to make decision about constitutionality around what is ‘bad’ or ‘good’. If you like the government not being able to throw people in prison for life without trial you have to *also* respect the part where they aren’t supposed to favor specific religions or ban guns.

          It’s perfectly acceptable to want to change the second or first amendment, but trying to ignore it means success is equally damaging to all of the things you like, which are exactly equal to the things you don’t.

          This doesn’t mean its immutable by any stretch, we can outright change what it says if 2/3rds of the country agrees, just that trying to circumvent it destroys the system of protection.

      • Deiseach says:

        All place names and buildings and statues should be of inoffensive things, like, say simple geometric shapes.

        Excuse me, you can’t have triangles. Because triangles have been used to symbolise the Trinity, which is a version of Christianity, which if it’s a public building or art work is the state endorsing one religion as superior to others, preferring it, and endorsing it as state religion.

        Which makes it a violation of the separation of church and state, a breach of the First Amendment, offensive to variant versions of Christianity which are non-Trinitarian and of course disrepects and devalues other faiths and those who choose not to be deists, theists or any flavour of non-rational thinkers.

  14. HlynkaCG says:

    As a Aerospace engineering Geek I’d just like to take a moments to say BOO YAHHH!

    Congratulations to the folks at SpaceX and Orbcomm on the first successful landing of an orbital boost stage, that’s some Jules Verne and R. A. Heinlein level shit right there.

  15. Anthony says:

    A quick note on a major statistical problem in the article on why education does not fix poverty (http://www.demos.org/blog/12/2/15/why-education-does-not-fix-poverty). With his graphs on how poverty rates change segmented across educational groups, the author walks head-on into Simpson’s paradox. It’s entirely for every education group to have more poverty, and have the aggregate poverty decrease. It just so happens that the poverty rate in 2015 is slightly higher than it was in 1991, but 1) by not including the figures aggregated across the whole economy, the author is misleading his audience, and 2) if the author had been writing this article a decade ago, that lack of data would have mistakenly presented the impression that poverty was up, when it was, in fact, down.

  16. rose says:

    If any of you have been heartsick over the plight of Christians being tortured and murdered by ISIS, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is a legitimate and effective group that is saving thousands of lives, recently described in an op ed in the Wall St Journal.

    I am a longtime friend with Charles Jacobs, who personally liberated slaves in the Sudan alongside Eibner of CIS, and was given the Boston Freedom Award. I asked Charles about CSI and he gave them his whole hearted support.

    Wall st journal article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/aiding-the-christians-targeted-by-isis-for-extermination-1449876127

    Give to CSI here: http://csi-usa.org/

    On CSI working to free slaves in the Sudan: http://iabolish.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=264:how-black-slaves-helped-set-south-sudan-free&catid=32:commentary&Itemid=34

  17. JohnMcG says:

    I’ll take this forum to weigh in on your little argument with Freddie (https://twitter.com/freddiedeboer/status/677939766982279169 among others).

    It’s disappointing to me to see Freddie hiding behind magic words, which he has recognized before as counter-productive (http://fredrikdeboer.com/2014/04/29/bingo-cards-go-both-ways/). You compared the plight of nerds to the plight of black people! I can stop listening to you now and start pointing and laughing!

    This got more annoying as he accused Scott and others of being unwilling to engage in self-reflection on this issue. It seems to me it was he who was refusing to. It seems pretty obvious that you were not comparing the plight of nerds to black people, just demonstrating the folly of pointing to the ascendancy of certain cultural artifacts to confront a claim of pain, or even, yes, oppression.

    His longer post on this (http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/12/18/thats-not-why-you-feel-the-way-you-feel/) missed the mark, too. Are there really nerds who think they are picked on simply *because* they like Star Wars or other nerd culture artifacts? That if these things didn’t exist all their problems would be gone? No.

    And that leads me to another critique of Freddie’s approach. I would say that having Star Wars stand as a proxy for “nerd culture” would be analogous to having Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey or Sammy Davis, Jr. or Denzel Washington or Barack Obama stand in for black culture. It’s a pretty sanded down innocuous vision of it. Pointing to the popularity of Star Wars to nerds kind of says, “We’d like you if you had a good story, maybe brought in some cuddly Ewoks, and had some cool music.” Liking Star Wars is not liking nerd culture.

    • anonymous says:

      What the heck is “nerd culture”? That would imply that there were a whole group of us together creating this culture. If we had had enough friends to make a culture, nerd wouldn’t have had its awful bite when it was flung at us as an insult.

      I’m not overly proud that I was picked on, I don’t want to “reclaim” the insults that were used to cause me pain, and I certainly don’t have any nostalgia for the times in my youth when I had no friends. Frankly, I’d be just as happy if “nerd” went the way of “groovy” and was never heard from again.

      • JohnMcG says:

        Interesting point — that some Hollywood type figured out that nerds have money (and also might be lonely and have time on their hands and want to escape to fantasy worlds) and they can get some of it by creating entertainment that we like doesn’t mean we are ascendant.

        If there was a plus-size clothing store on every corner, that wouldn’t prove that fat-shaming was no longer a thing.

        • If there were a large-sized clothing store on every corner and a lot of the clothes were of good quality, this would imply that fat-shaming had at least faded out a lot.

          • Murphy says:

            Not really, it would imply that there were more fat people with more money and people willing to take that money. There could be exactly as much hate for fat people as before.

          • I’m not sure what you mean by hate. To my mind, one of the manifestations of hate (or at least a background assumption that it’s reasonable to treat people in a group badly) is precisely that products for that group are hard to find and/or low quality and/or high-priced compared to comparable products for more respected groups.

            This is complicated by the fact that numerical minority groups don’t get as large an advantage from mass production, but I think the situation with clothing for fat women goes well beyond that. As I understand it, clothes for fat women are still frequently made of inferior materials in unfashionable styles. You might call it sumptuary customs.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t believe that. Fat people’s money is as good as everyone else’s; you’re suggesting that the entire industry denies fat people good clothes out of personal prejudice and doesn’t actually care about their money at all.

            Besides, there are several alternate possibilities. For instance, someone who doesn’t care about being fat probably doesn’t care about their appearance in general, and is less likely to pay a premium for good clothes. Or, the “unfashionable styles” really aren’t, it’s just that it’s hard to make fat people look good so everything seems unfashionable.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why clothing manufacturers don’t make clothes for fat people.

            Basically boils down to cost and risk. You can’t simply scale up existing designs to bigger sizes; trade shows and buyers that handle ‘normal’ sizing won’t buy or be interested in plus-size clothing so you need to appeal to those who specialise in this and there aren’t that many; “It means no store will buy until the line has been shown for as many as three years” so manufacturers have to eat the costs for three years until they can even begin to start selling.

            Jiro, believe me, it’s not just that it’s hard to make fat people look good in clothing (I agree that), the manufacturers (as the article linked points out) make larger-sized clothing with older people in mind (because ‘middle aged spread’) so yes, designs tended to be in synthetic fabrics and plain colours and badly cut.

            There’s also the attitude you mentioned: fat people don’t care about their appearance. So buying bras for instance (though that’s changing) meant smaller sizes: lacy, floral, cute and/or sexy, little touches like bows and ribbons and decorations, range of colours. Large sizes: you could have plain white or plain white. Maybe the occasional thrilling variation of plain beige.

            (‘Cos y’know, women wear cute/sexy bras for the attraction of men. Fat women aren’t going to attract men, so they only need plain serviceable stuff. No idea that women like a bit of fluff for themselves, not anybody else).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            To expand on your point, consider the marginal value of an improvement in one’s appearance.

            If you’re fat, you will be considered unattractive by most people no matter what. A well-dressed fat person is only going to be considered a little more attractive than an ill-dressed fat person.

            On the other hand, clothes and makeup pretty much make all the difference between an above-average looking person and a movie star. As all the paparazzi photos of “celebrities without makeup” prove.

            I think this applies much more to women than to men, though. In casual clothing, it’s not as much of a difference. But the main thing is formal clothing: men’s formal clothes are just designed to hide weight very well and turn “fat, disgusting” into “large, imposing”. So I would actually say it’s of greater value for a fat man to have a well-fitting suit than for an average man to have the same.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Jiro, believe me, it’s not just that it’s hard to make fat people look good in clothing (I agree that),

            Deiseach, are you implying that fat people look better naked?

          • JohnMcG says:

            It seems like there’s 2 dimensions:

            1.) Resources invested
            2.) Critical or elite acclaim.

            Fat people (or in particular, fat women) are 0 for 2, it seems. People don’t invest much in their resources (except for the occasional patronizing campaign like Dove’s “true beauty” or whatever) and it doesn’t get awards.

            Nerds get resources, as the most expensive movies made are sci-fi, but not acclaim. And this may be that the “resources” for sci-fi may be money, but not elite filmmaking talent.

            So, I’m satisfied that nerds have it better than fat women, at least somewhat. I’m not satisfied that having only one dimension is sufficient to demonstrate parity.

          • I’m not the best person to discuss this because I’m fairly content to spend my life in t-shirts (from a treasured collection) and sweatpants, but I’ve read a moderate amount by fat women about the problem of getting good clothes. I hope someone more knowledgeable comes in.

            No one’s mentioned a significant difficultly that I’ve noticed. Fat people have all the variation of bone and muscle proportions that thin people do, plus variation of fat distribution. This does make it harder for manufacturers.

            However, this doesn’t explain why clothes with ugly ornamentation are made for fat women.

            It’s important to remember that, as with living organisms, manufacturers don’t have to optimize, they just need to be good enough to get by. If they don’t have competent competition, they don’t need to be very competent themselves.

            It’s not that manufacturers are driven by personal animus and don’t care about money at all. It’s that there’s an ugh field about making clothes for fat women, and this especially applies to nice clothing.

            Dressing well is actually important for fat people. It’s how they get any respect at all.

            There are quite a few online stores that offer good clothes for fat women– what’s missing is good (or goodish) lower priced clothing and the convenience of shopping in person.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            By the way, the clothing industry discriminates against tall women, too. Though it’s not as bad as being fat, because while shirts that fit are almost impossible to find and you have to buy the nicer, expensive trousers that come unhemmed, standard dresses will fit.

          • Anthony says:

            Jiro –

            I don’t believe that. Fat people’s money is as good as everyone else’s; you’re suggesting that the entire industry denies fat people good clothes out of personal prejudice and doesn’t actually care about their money at all.

            The problem is that fat people have to buy clothes. So the clothing industry gets their money anyway. (And by selling clothes which are less satisfactory, they may even get more money as fat people buy more clothes in an attempt to find something decent. Or not.)

            Vox Imperatoris –

            If you’re fat, you will be considered unattractive by most people no matter what. A well-dressed fat person is only going to be considered a little more attractive than an ill-dressed fat person.

            There’s also the problem that for women, clothes that make you look nice at the office are not the same ones that make you look sexy, while for men, there’s much more overlap. So if you make clothes for fat women, you have to make office-wear and party-wear. There seems to be more and better choices for office-wear.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anthony:

            The problem is that fat people have to buy clothes. So the clothing industry gets their money anyway. (And by selling clothes which are less satisfactory, they may even get more money as fat people buy more clothes in an attempt to find something decent. Or not.)

            Come on. Basic economic logic would suggest that this can’t be the explanation.

            The clothing industry is not some huge monopoly. If the big clothiers were all scheming together to make fat people deal with buying terrible clothes, there would be big money in breaking in to the industry. You would get all the money from the fat people.

            The second argument you give has much the same flaw. Selling clothes that are less satisfactory might work—until you’re outcompeted by someone who sells satisfactory clothes.

            So the answer has to be: it just ain’t that easy to sell cheap, nice-looking clothes for fat people. The reasons for that are what have already been brought up: it’s a smaller market, it’s an older, less fashion-conscious market, sizes vary much more so there’s less standardization possible, etc., and so the clothes are much more expensive. And then for other reasons, it may not be worth as much to them to spend a lot of money on clothes, especially not enough more to get the same quality clothes that average-sized people can wear for much less.

          • A little casual research suggests that it starts getting significantly harder to find clothes for women at size 14 which is about BMI 38 or plausibly 10% of the population. The situation is actually a great deal more complicated than that because it’s also hard to find clothes if you’re unusually tall or short or if your shape is more curvy or less curvy than manufacturers consider to be the default for your size range.

            So far as I know, neither manufacturers or anybody else has surveyed to find out the percentages of people’s proportions in the population. They’re guessing, and they don’t have good feedback systems.

            Honest to everything, this is my go-to example for evidence of inefficient markets, but if you don’t like this one, consider that department stores don’t carry clothes for the season you’re in the middle of. This is at least true for women in the US– let me know about the availability of seasonal clothes outside the US or for men in the US.

            I tell you three times, manufacturers don’t have to be ideally efficient in any sense. They just need to be good enough to stay in business. Making drastic changes takes inspiration,spare resources, and risk tolerance.

            Also, this isn’t necessarily about personal hatred of fat people, though there’s plenty of that. I believe it’s about reflexive avoidance of stigma– selling clothes to fat women is also stigmatized.

            The abstract rationalist change everything in society solution would probably be to go to draped clothing like saris or maybe chitons. Or if you want something a bit geekier, computerized custom clothing.

            I get the impression from various comments that they’re imagining the woman who has trouble finding clothes as looking like the “problem of obesity” photos which are of people who are much heavier than the typical fat person, and also 60 years old rather than 35 or 40.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            consider that department stores don’t carry clothes for the season you’re in the middle of

            They don’t? What do they sell instead?

            I think I’m confused, unless by “department store” you really mean “discount store” and they’re selling out-of-season stuff because leftover clearance sale items from the prior season is the cheapest source of inventory?

          • They’re selling clothes for the *next* season. I don’t know how this happened.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Seems reasonable. If you’re a fashion-driven customer wouldn’t you want to buy clothes BEFORE the start of the season? I mean, otherwise you’d be forced to wear LAST YEAR’S seasonal clothes until you got around to shopping – how gauche!

            So fashionistas buy at or before the beginning of the season at the full price, then stores start applying deeper and deeper discounts to get rid of what remains before it becomes unsellable. Is that the pattern you see?

      • John Schilling says:

        There are degrees of social isolation, and even nerds can have friends.

        To take one potentially relevant example, a bunch of lonely nerds about eighty years ago who had trouble making friends in their local communities, spent their time reading comic books and pulp magazines instead. And noticed that nerds like them were writing letters to the editors, published in these magazines. Joined in, and created a dialogue by snail mail. Expanded it beyond the pages of the pulps to private mailing lists and digests. Ultimately some of them decided that it would be worth setting a time and place to meet in person in spite of the logistical difficulties of being scattered across a continent.

        From this was born the first World Science Convention. That was an institution of nerd culture. The people who created it were nerds. They were socially isolated, such that it took enormous effort to bring them together once a year for the sort of friendly gathering that most people take for granted every Friday and Saturday night at the local pub. They were not so totally isolated that they couldn’t build cultural institutions of a sort, and they did.

        There may be a useful distinction to be made between “nerd culture” and “geek culture”, but the point is that nerds and geeks can in fact build cultures and did do so, with comic-book fandom and science-fiction fandom being prominent examples.

        And, like any other culture, they can be appropriated by e.g. Hollywood for the purposes of making a buck from a broader audience who likes the way it looks and doesn’t much care about the underlying reasons, who don’t want any part of the culture beyond a few hours’ entertainment.

        “Star Wars” is absolutely a case of Hollywood appropriating culture from geeks and nerds. Some people can be offended by that sort of thing, others are flattered, but in any event it’s useful to recognize the difference between geek or nerd culture and Hollywood entertainment with geeky trappings. Perhaps a more clear-cut example would come from the comic-book front. Actually hanging out at a comic-book store reading 28 pages of “Iron Man” every fortnight is a thing that nerds do, and get mocked for (though less so than a generation ago). Reading the graphic-novel compendium when it comes out at Barnes & Noble, slightly geeky. Watching the movie with Robert Downey Jr, perfectly mainstream and doesn’t disqualify you from mocking the nerdy loosers at the comic-book store.

      • Adam says:

        I think your second paragraph really hits it. Nerdom doesn’t seem to identify itself by the art it loves or the activities it enjoys. I liked sci-fi and fantasy when I was a kid, too, competed in academic olympics, was even on a television quiz show, reproduced the entire Battle of Endor using Legos, but I didn’t then and wouldn’t now call myself a nerd, because I was also big, athletic, good at sports, pretty good-looking, girls liked me, and I never got picked on. It seems like being a nerd is defined by the pain you suffer for lifestyle choices, not by the lifestyle choices.

      • John Schilling says:

        I mentioned the possibility of a useful distinction between “nerd culture” and “geek culture”, so here goes. Geekiness is primarily cultural, and centers on an enjoyment of the various forms of entertainment broadly clustered around science fiction and fantasy. Nerdliness is primarily personal, and centers (crudely) on being better at understanding how computers think than how normal people think. There is obviously a substantial overlap between the two, and the terms are often used interchangeably, but I think the distinction is useful.

        A nerd can choose to also be a geek, but can’t chose to not be a nerd. A geek can choose to be not a geek, but can’t choose to be a nerd. Being a nerd absolutely will get you picked on, due to inability to communicate effectively with non-nerds at the social level. Being a geek may or may not get you picked on, depending on the extent to which geek culture is understood to be a reliable marker of nerdishness.

        • Simon says:

          There seems to be something going on that both Adam and John commented on above, with the popular definition of nerd shifting from “introverted academic” to “fan of SF/F film/literature”, with much of the confusion coming from the two groups referred to overlapping a bit but not totally.

        • Anonymous says:

          Under this rubric I can see a place for Geek Culture and Geek Pride and Geek Nostalgia. Also complaining about appropriation on the one hand and pointing out that Geeks are a pretty powerful cultural force these day as a rejoinder on the other.

          But none of that applies to Nerd Culture or Chic or Pride or Core or anything else to do with the nerd. It isn’t particularly charitable but my only conclusion when faced with all of that is these people never went through it, don’t understand, and are in effect, if not intent, mocking those of us who did.

          • Nicholas says:

            So there’s two things that kind of stand out to me whenever this comes up.
            The first one is I always wonder about the groups of people who find the concept of cultural appropriation in a more general concept ridiculous, and the people who believe in “Fake Mainstream Nerds”. How much do these groups overlap? How do they approach each other?
            The second thing is that, as a person who LARPs, as a person with aesthetic opinions about math equations, as a person on an Internet Rationalist’s blog, I’ve never felt particularly connected to the idea of Nerd Culture and find the idea that soccer players who enjoy D&D are appropriating something from me, that they’re taking some unearned license, kind of ridiculous. My culture is Enlightenment-Capitalist-Occidentalism, neediness is a convenient adjective for what my hobbies have in common.
            And I’m not sure how I feel about the parent taxonomy, because that makes nerd overlap with “People who’s Autism doesn’t prevent them from learning how to code” and declaring the set to be a cultural group.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s my position that there’s no such thing as nerd culture. There shouldn’t be. In fact, the whole word should be retired.

            I don’t think the complaint is exactly cultural appropriation — where the idea is that it is okay for me to proudly wear a kimono but not for you. Rather I’m saying there’s two possibilities:

            1) you wore terribly ugly clothes in high school because you didn’t know any better and were mercilessly mocked for it. Now you know better. Why in the world would you want to go back to dressing like that? Nostalgia for terrible times make no sense to me.

            2) You never actually had those experiences, you were actually jock back then but you now live in Brooklyn and want to dress up like people who dressed poorly in high school but do so ironically. This seems to be just mockery.

            D&D, Star Wars, or whatever — I don’t think that’s either here or there. They are just subcultures. Like I said in my first comment above, if you’ve always had a subculture to belong to you were well ahead of the game. I’m not 100% sure about Geek to describe all that, but if that works for people it works for me to. I don’t care about star wars and so don’t have a horse in the fight between the “real” fans and the “fake” fans. Whatever.

            As for actual high functioning autistic people, which doesn’t as far as I know include me, I don’t really know what to say. I can see wanting to have a movement or support group or what have you, and have some pride in their strengths as well, but I don’t see why they would want to associate with the word nerd.

    • stillnotking says:

      Freddie gave the strong impression of just trying to score cheap points. I hope that isn’t the case, and he sincerely misinterpreted Scott; I have a lot of respect for Freddie, even though I largely disagree with his politics.

      • JohnMcG says:

        I think what Freddie may be addressing are the parts of folks who will feel aggrieved if The Force Awakens isn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar despite its popularity, and say it’s yet another manifestation of the contempt for nerds and nerd culture.

        There’s probably some people like that. I would consider them along the lines of those who complain that the best player on their favorite team is “snubbed” in All Star selections and postseason awards, or that their team isn’t on national TV enough. Most people grow out of this, but it’s possible that some nerds get stuck in this stage and are perpetually offended.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m going to guess that almost no nerd will be rooting for “The Force Awakens” to be winning any sort of award in the same year that “The Martian” came out. Geeks, maybe. Nerds, no.

        • stillnotking says:

          Most of the “hardcore” Star Wars fans I know didn’t like TFA, certainly not enough to be outraged if it didn’t get a Best Picture nod. Maybe such people exist, but aren’t we kinda jumping the gun on that argument?

          • There is little risk on that side of things : science fiction pictures have never won the academy award for best picture in all the history of the Oscars.

            Although who knows, the Academy Awards also have a history of being contrarian (like giving best picture to “Birdman” when everyone else gave its equivalent reward to “Boyhood”).

    • TheNybbler says:

      So the year ends where it began on SSC; I think this was well covered in Untitled. Are nerds oppressed? I don’t know, now. I’m not oppressed, but I work at $LARGE_TECH now; I’m in the “1%” of nerds. Were nerds oppressed when I was younger, particularly in school? Oh yes. And if that ain’t structural oppression, the term is meaningless. Does that still go on? I don’t know; I don’t have kids. That sort of thing is part of WHY I don’t have kids; I’d never want a kid to have a childhood like mine (nor, more selfishly, would I want to be in the position my parents were in). But maybe some other group are the goats now. If not… well, my success now doesn’t make current young nerd lives any better. I was told then by my parents and other adults that things would get better. And they did. But, well, roughly a decade of hell isn’t erased by “it got better”.

      Are nerds bullied because they are perceived as weak? Well, that’s necessary for certain sorts of bullying… but it’s not sufficient. Most students are weak compared to the bullies, but only some are singled out for bullying; you’ve got to be both weak AND weird. And if you prove that you, individually, are not to be messed with, the overt physical attacks may stop but the isolation continues.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I have kept a short running tally of people who have stated they endured bullying when younger. Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Eisner (CEO of Disney), I think are the standouts. I know that within my high school one of the big bullying incidents was focused on one kid who was by all respects pretty normal.

      • nope says:

        I went to high school in the past decade, and I would say pretty confidently that nowadays (in middle to upper middle class areas at least) the bullying of “nerds” is not much of a thing, and the trappings of nerddom are even fetishized by a large minority of high schoolers, with no ill social effects to speak of. This can probably be credited to academic stratification with AP/gifted/honors classes vs. “regulars” classes, and in one school I went to this was sufficient to turn the social power tables completely, insofar as “nerd” maps to “smarter then average person with high academic achievement and/or esoteric interests”. People in the higher classes considered the “regulars” folks to be socially undesirable and avoided contact with them (unless you needed weed) without being very obviously rude or mean, while the regulars kids just thought of the AP/gifted kids as “those smart kids”. I’m sure there was bullying among the dumber kids, but AP kids treated those among them with even large social disadvantages (like autism, speech impediments, physical disabilities) kindly on the whole.

        tl;dr as long as you’re somewhat smart and middle class and up, you’re not going to get bullied nowadays. (Unless you’re a girl, of course.)

      • “; you’ve got to be both weak AND weird.”

        Weird possibly equates to not having friends, or enough social skill to charm your way out of situations.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Scott absolutely screwed the pooch there.

      Because he tried to make this argument on Twitter.

      On Twitter, people.

      You don’t try and make that argument 120 characters at a time.

    • Echo says:

      Does poor old Freddie have any friends at this point? At least he always has the satisfaction of knowing he’s the politically purest person in his circle.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Echo: I like Freddie deBoer’s writing. He expresses the problems with a fair bit of left-wing activism today without giving off much of a sense of “bitter nerd” or whatever (aside from his seemingly constant rage that people like Taylor Swift or whatever more than Primus).

        But I am not sure if I’ve ever seen anyone so bad at reading the writing on the wall. In his latest blog post (http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/12/22/yes-virginia-there-is-a-left-wing-reform-movement/) he states (trying to paraphrase decently here):

        1. He begins by saying the left has lost its way and needs to go back to an economic, material understanding of things, and get better at convincing the unconvinced. This isn’t a moderate or right-wing thing.
        2. He then goes on to anticipate (or, lampshade) the criticisms: that this is cis het white male retrenchment. However, he knows many people who are not cis het white males who agree with him, but cannot name them, because they would get in trouble.
        3. Lists the things these other people are tired of, which are the same things he is tired of. The rest of the post basically riffs on what he’s already said. Ends with a “this will be hard but we can win this thing” sort of hopeful call to arms.

        And, I mean, I think he’s right. I see a disaster in the making for the left – left-wing activism where the greatest achievement is getting a left-wing-but-of-an-earlier-generation university administrator to quit is playing a part in creating a right-wing backlash that it does not have the tools to fight.

        DeBoer, though, doesn’t seem to get that he himself is trying to convince the unconvinceable. He’s saying “please stop playing bingo cards” against people who are very good at playing bingo cards, have seen success so far with bingo cards, and don’t want to stop playing. The people he is positioning himself against do not seem to think that they (i)need(/i) people like him. All he’s accomplishing is – as he has himself admitted – making it harder for himself to have a decent career in academia.

        Maybe he’s right, and there will be a shift in left-wing activism, and he will be vindicated. In this case, I’m wrong, and he does get that he is trying to convince the unconvinceable but is doing so for the benefit of the convinceable and those who are already convinced. But with left-wing activism (at least online and on campuses) as it currently is, he gives off this sense of being the unpopular kid trying to get the cool kids to like him and admit that the stuff he likes is actually the cool stuff. He’s the kid with the funny haircut telling the popular kids that, for their own good, they should stop laughing at people with funny haircuts.

        • JohnMcG says:

          I think his critique of modern leftism is on target, though I think is post and Twitter activity on the Oberlin food appropriation controversy was bit of an overreach. I saw it as college students dressing up their banal food complaints in the fashionable arguments of the day. It seems the proper response is that their complaints are ignored, not that they be nationally denounced, and I don’t think leftists needed to make a show of denouncing them.

          On the larger part of the critique, I wonder if people learned the wrong lessons from the same sex marriage fight. There, it certainly seemed that there was a correlation between shaming tactics and legislative success, and people thought this would apply to other contexts, and are starting to be surprised when it doesn’t (e.g. gun control). I think there were two factors ignored:

          1. A lot of groundwork for SSM was done for many years and long before the tide turned. This didn’t look like hashtags or calling out.

          2. Formal recognition of SSM mainly required convincing elites, who I think were more sensitive to the shaming tactics.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JohnMcG: His critique of modern left-wing activism is on target, but those on the left who don’t agree with his critique are basically immunized to it.

            If anything, it’s counterproductive, because the sorts of activists who denounce much of what they disagree with as the privileged holding on to power of cis het white men will look at it and see a cis het white man saying they should stop doing what they are doing and do what he thinks they should be doing instead. If what he wants is for left-wing activists of the internet-and-campus variety to go back to old-school left-wing economically-focused activism, and abandon tactics that work really well in left-wing bubbles for tactics that are designed for building coalitions and winning elections, what he is doing is probably counterproductive.

            I think that shaming works really well in some circles, and really poorly in others. You can only shame somebody who cares about your opinion, or at a minimum, your ability to mobilize opinion against them. Left-wing activists targeting a left-wing administrator at a left-wing university are far more effective than activists targeting a right-winger with a right-wing employer. There is a reason that BLM protestors grabbed the mic at a Bernie Sanders rally, and not at a Donald Trump rally.

            A lot of left-wing activism seems to be taking on adaptations that are great against other left-wingers, but useless against right-wingers. Optimizing your movement for fighting internal battles is not a winning strategy. And I don’t just mean “fighting internal battles against the likes of Freddie deBoer” – I know people involved or formerly involved in such activism, with membership in multiple oppressed/discriminated-against groups, who have run afoul of the “left-wing circular firing squad”.

          • JohnMcG says:

            The infliuence may be wider than that.

            I think that, say, the New York Times editorial board might care what student activists say about them.

            And, say, John Roberts probably cares at least a little bit what the New York Times editorial board says about him.

            SO there is a vector of influence from campus activists to John Roberts.

            But probably not from campus activists to a red state governor, or typical Trump supporter.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JohnMcG:

            That makes it worse, though.

            Let’s, for the sake of argument, that the internet-and-campus activist types are the “far left”. This is an arguable point (for instance, the demand for representation of certain minorities in student body, faculty, and administration at universities, often good or elite universities – this is not very radical or extreme, any more than the call for more female CEOs is radical or extreme), of course. But let’s assume it for the sake of argument.

            The NYT, then, is mainstream left. The professors and admins targeted are somewhere between the two (again, for the sake of argument – there are right-wing professors, and very radical extreme left protestors in reality).

            On the right, let’s call John Roberts mainstream right, and Trump about halfway between the mainstream and the far right. He’s not far-right, but some of his supporters are. This makes Trump the right-wing equivalent of those professors.

            If the activists can affect professors, and the NYT, and through the NYT John Roberts, but they can’t touch Trump, that makes Trump even stronger than if their influence was limited to campuses, because mainstream-right rivals who can be influenced in any way by the extreme left are easier prey in an internal right-wing power struggle.

            And I think that Trump is far from the farthest right that the backlash will go.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            I definitely agree that he’s generally right when not talking about his personal bugbear of nerd culture (and what a bugbear); some of his writing such as that on critique drift is absolutely spot on. I mean, I think his economics are dumb because I’m a fairly classic neoliberal liberal, but that’s forgivable.

            The issue is that he’s very much not speaking the same language as the people he’s trying to convince to change their ways. Every movement creates self defense mechanism against criticism otherwise it doesn’t really get anywhere. From tone policing to identity politics the Identitarian left has an extremely strong defensive mechanism to the point of having occasional bouts of lupus.

            I’d actually combine some of his works with that of The Last Psychiatrist; Identitarian politics have been entirely absorbed by corporate media as a way to gain clicks. On forums they’re just part of a social signalling arms race. It doesn’t matter if everyone involved actually really does care about the issues involved (and I’m sure they do), but the tactics that get you the most exposure (being bitchy to people on the internet) are basically the opposite of the tactics which actually make real policy changes. So Moloch keeps rolling as the bitchy posts and circlejerking is elevated and sucks the oxygen out of the attempts for real world effects.

            So sure, Freddie’s screaming defiance isn’t much help when the kingdom is burning down around him. But that’s not really the point; part of it seems to be depressed “what the fuck are you doing” scolding and part of it is to establish credibility so that the rebuild won’t use gasoline soaked tar as its building blocks

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @JohnMcG: I see the same sex “marriage” fight as similar to the abortion fight. The tools were shaming + a Supreme Court decision. Shaming justices into finding your demand in the Constitution is much easier when you control the universities, and lets you shame a lot more people than just those who go to law school.
            As long as this strategy works, they have no motive to care about coalition-building. No power to the proletariat, all power to the Supreme Court!

        • Echo says:

          He’s saying “please stop playing bingo cards” to people who have a spot on their bingo cards labeled “please stop playing bingo cards”, yeah. Wasn’t that the ultimate horror story of Scott’s original post?

          “A lot of left-wing activism seems to be taking on adaptations that are great against other left-wingers, but useless against right-wingers.”
          Because none of them have ever met a right-winger who wasn’t doing their plumbing or guarding their gated community. Certainly none of them have ever had to confront a right-winger with any power. So why not specialize in tactics that target liberals?

          The left has decided that the right are powerless “bitter clingers” who can be safely ignored except for the traditional rubbing-their-noses-in-it.
          Considering that nobody on the supposedly “radical right” is suggesting anything that would hurt the left’s hold on power, it’s hard to believe they’re wrong.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The left has decided that the right are powerless “bitter clingers” who can be safely ignored except for the traditional rubbing-their-noses-in-it.
            Considering that nobody on the supposedly “radical right” is suggesting anything that would hurt the left’s hold on power, it’s hard to believe they’re wrong.

            Step 1: Reform universities by abolishing all departments of * Studies, Sociology, Literature, and anything else that teaches critical theory and capping the ratio of administrators and staffers to students at 1975 levels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Echo:

            1. That was indeed the last sentence in italics that reveals the horror in Scott’s old post – that “stop reducing my arguments to bingo points” is itself a point on the bingo card. But Freddie doesn’t seem to get that. Sometimes he strikes me as being in some ways like Scott if Scott had never realized how deeply some people dislike him and everyone like him.

            2. I don’t think that the left as a whole thinks the right is powerless and has decided to focus on other left-wingers. The “mainstream” left – the ones who are involved in general politics, as opposed to exclusively inter-left politics – in the US certainly know that the Republicans are not a spent force, for instance.

            Rather, I think that the internet-and-campus activist left just doesn’t interact with right-wingers (which you point out). They clearly think of right-wingers as being powerful. They just seem to view the right as being like the Dark Lord’s Army of Evil in some fantasy novel: can’t be negotiated with, in brutal control of the world outside of the good lands where the heroes live (to hear some people talk, the US outside of college campuses is a wasteland of bigotry), and snaking its insidious tendrils into those safe places (witness the accusations that some of the most left-wing college campuses in the US are themselves deeply tainted by bigotry).

            Anecdotal evidence, but a lot of college friends’ Facebook posting is basically like this: the right is presented as being practically all-powerful, little attempt is made to understand it on its own terms (I’ve never seen anyone, say, consider that maybe pro-life people honestly have different values and a different understanding of when life begins), and victories over it are the victories of a courageous underdog.

            3. What are you defining as the “radical right”? While I wouldn’t call, say, Trump “radical”, a policy of taking a stance against amnesty, deportation of illegal immigrants, and a secured southern border would hurt the Democrats – no amnesty recipients to vote Democrat, and fewer US-born children of illegal immigrants to vote Democrat.

        • Nicholas says:

          Part of the problem here is that the people we’re talking about are not, mostly, on the Left as a Political Coalition, although you might consider many of their values Leftist. They don’t view themselves as allied to the mainstream left at all. Many of the more outspoken feminist and African-Americanist people I know hate each other completely: Both groups see the other as part of the Enemy force and don’t have much truck at all together. One particular AAist I can think of is a Pro-Gun Capitalist Conservative Religion Member, who wishes he could vote Republican except that they’ve sold out to White Feminism’s high pitched complaints about Scary Black People.

  18. onyomi says:

    I think we’ve discussed here before the possibility that social justice is a case of proponents of an originally noble cause not knowing when to declare victory and quit. I recently listened to a podcast interview with a founding member of Greenpeace who described a similar dynamic: once they had convinced the public to stop hunting whales and dumping sewage in the river there was a large-ish contingent of people who were simply not ready to stop protesting, even though they had basically achieved their goals and this meant protesting over increasingly dubious causes.

    Regardless of what one thinks about the justness of protesting about any particular issue, I wonder if we can identify a more general failure mode which we might term something like “failure to shift gears” or “once you’ve spent years making a really nice hammer you can’t accept that there are no more nails”?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Taking this out of the discussion of any particular real-world cause, there is probably a social/personal dimension to it.

      If you have become a campaigner for the abolition of, say, cruelty to dragons, and you are sufficiently hardcore about it, it is probably a big part of your life. People make friends, meet romantic partners, etc in such groups. There are undoubtedly people who would think of themselves as “I am a campaigner for dragons’ welfare”.

      If all of the Society for the Protection of Dragons’ original goals are met, there are a lot of reasons why people might be resistant on a personal and social level to breaking up and finding new things to do.

      • onyomi says:

        Definitely. Even if one hasn’t made a career out of campaigning to save dragons (in which case one would be faced with the financial and personal hardship of changing careers), if one has merely made saving dragons into a significant part of one’s identity and/or social life it will be very hard to quit. That said, it is a slightly different kind of difficulty than the pain experienced by a true believer who realizes his cause was wrong; in this case, the original cause was right, but it is ironically difficult to accept that the goal has been achieved.

        • dndnrsn says:

          First, I’m not sure how easy it would be to say for any given cause that the original goal has been achieved. I was under the impression that most people here took objection to the focuses (pop culture, using the right words, etc) and methods/style (lack of charity, social media mobbing, ad hominem as foundational, etc) of some activist groups.

          However, regardless of if the issue is “Society for the Protection of Dragons achieves all reasonable goals and keeps on fighting against things that aren’t problems”, or if it’s “Society for the Protection of Dragons takes a wrong turn and adopts thinking and tactics that are counterproductive and ethically dubious”, I think that the “friendship” social aspect could explain a lot, and the “lust for power/status” aspect that a lot of people bring in isn’t always necessary.

          That is, if your social life is tied up in dragon protection, it is going to be equally hard to say “hey, dragons are safe, let’s go home” as it is to say “maybe Twitter mobbing people who use the word ‘draconic’ in a negative sense is a bad call?”, because who wants to lose their friends?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Sounds a lot like Pournelle’s Iron Law Of Bureaucracy:

        “In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”

        • Perhaps there’s some validity to it, but any time the word “Law” is modified by “Iron”, it signals a weaker assertion, not a stronger one.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Edward Scizorhands
          “Sounds a lot like Pournelle’s Iron Law Of Bureaucracy”

          How does Regulatory Capture fit into that?

          • Depends on the capture. Straight corruption of the kind that gets people investigated and draws negative attention is contra-indicated in long-term organizations. But the usual case, where senior industry leaders in Field X end up on the X Regulatory Board? That’s a perfect case. The X Regulatory Board could do its job right, have an adversarial relationship with the X industry, aggressively prosecute all matter of malfeasance and use its in-depth knowledge to seek out wrongdoing in places non-experts would not think to tread…or it can rack up huge benefits in funding and prestige by turning into a rubber-stamp for the titans of Field X to work their trade.

            Barring major catastrophe or heavy outside interference, it’s pretty easy to see that bureaucracies that do the second will tend to outcompete the actually-good-at-their-job ones.

            In a fair world, we’d get that outside interference regularly, as the government or voters regularly went “Hey, this regulatory board seems really cozy with the people they’re regulating. Go over their stuff with a fine-toothed comb and purge any corruption you discover.” In my experience, they don’t.

  19. Hodag says:

    Has anyone suggested a gene drive against tooth decay? There are 3 bugs that cause it, they will never be missed and getting fillings sucks. My parents were from a poor spot on the map. Dental caries took all of his teeth.

    • Has anyone suggested a gene drive against tooth decay? There are 3 bugs that cause it, they will never be missed and getting fillings sucks. My parents were from a poor spot on the map. Dental caries took all of his teeth.

      So much this!

      My parents weren’t especially poor, but neither of them had any teeth left when they met (admittedly, World War II combat was a factor in my father’s case). I inherited the bad teeth genes. Notwithstanding assiduous brushing and flossing, and a lot of time spent in dental chairs, every single tooth has been touched by decay, and has been filled or crowned.

      On the other hand, I’ve known people who don’t take particularly good care of their teeth, and have never had a cavity in their entire lives.

      As I understand it, the variance between individuals is not in the strength of the dental enamel, but in the qualities of saliva. The thinner your saliva, the longer your teeth last. While we await a genetic fix, perhaps a drug could be invented that would improve a person’s saliva?

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t think gene drives are reliable in organisms which don’t reproduce sexually.

      I mean you might be able to create a plasmid which spreads itself to other members of the same species and tinkers with it’s DNA but I don’t think it would work well.

      Also it’s GM work on human pathogens which is a tad risky plus then releasing modified versions of human pathogens which is even more so.

      I think you’d be better off breeding a large selection of naturally occurring phages known to attack the bacteria involved and making some kind of mouthwash out of them. It’d be interesting to see if such a product could get past regulatory hurdles.

      Also a Dental Caries Vaccines would be really nice to have.

    • Agronomous says:

      There’s a sugar alcohol (I think it’s xylitol, or maybe sorbitol) that kills mouth bacteria: they can partially digest it (because it’s structurally similar to sugar), but not completely (to the point of getting energy out of it). Their metabolic machinery gets blocked, and they die. I keep meaning to find the brand of sugarless gum with this sweetener in it.

      I had no cavities at all until I was 19. I’ve had a bunch since I started drinking soda nearly-daily in my twenties. _I highly recommend flossing_, since all my cavities have been between teeth, and flossing would have prevented all or most of them. Nobody taught me what flossing is all about: scraping the parts of your teeth closest to the gum, where brushes don’t reach. Four quick swipes on each side, and you move on to the next gap. It makes the first few days uncomfortable, but after that your gums get used to it (or the bacteria are gone and no longer cause inflammation or something like that).

      Pro tip: wrap the next day’s piece of floss around your toothbrush, to trigger flossing right after brushing tomorrow.

      • (1) Flossing is very important, and I strongly recommend it, but it does not prevent all cavities in a tooth-decay-vulnerable person like myself.

        (2) Xylitol is great stuff, but note well, it is extremely toxic to dogs. Sugar-free gum is the most common way for dogs to ingest it. If you share living space with one or more dogs, products containing xylitol should be kept safe from them.

  20. Whenever someone asks me for money when I’m walking down the street I tell them I’m sorry and then later make a note of it. At the end of the year I donate $5 for each time to the local food bank. That’s in addition to the normal Giving What We Can amount I send mostly to Givewell. Anybody else do something like that?

    Also, anybody else throwing money at the Iodine charities Givewell mentioned this year? Seems sort of like a coincidence that they were mentioned the same year that Hivemind came out.

    • zz says:

      The iodine charities, which are standout* charities this year, were standout charities last year and, from the look of things, seem likely to be standout charities next year. So, unless GiveWell had advance knowledge of Hive Mind, and, despite their commitment to openness, decided to make no mention of it in their charity review, looks like coincidence.

      *”Standout” refers specifically to charities that score well on some of GiveWell’s criteria, but which GiveWell is not confident enough to name them as a top charity.

    • Linch says:

      “Anybody else do something like that?” I haven’t heard of this exact thing, but I know some people who will donate money they would otherwise have given to the US homeless to GiveDirectly instead.

      This question was posed by the EA Facebook group before, but I can’t find it.

  21. Princess Stargirl says:

    SLIGHT STAR WARS SPOILERS. WARNING

    The New Star wars seemed terrible to me. Two bad main characters, one made me cringe and the other is a MArie Sue. The movie opens with a string of coincidences. The plot is mostly recycled. Han Solo is funny but we have all seen Han Solo Before.

    Why did people like this movie?

    END SPOILERS

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Because it isn’t episode 1-3. Because people’s standards are different from this blogs readers- rational fiction ruins everything. Because Star Wars is a universe run on space magic, dualistic morality and a social setup that more closely resembles the 1940s IN SPACE than anything else.

      • Deiseach says:

        Star Wars is pretty much based on the 40s and 50s cinema serials like “Flash Gordon” and “Buck Rogers”; it’s space opera and science fantasy.

        Which is why Abrams, who is a Star Wars fan, ruined Star Trek (magic blood cures death; no need for starships now we have interplanetary and intragalactic transporter tech!) by turning reboot Trek into an audition reel for the director’s job on the new Star Wars. Trek runs on technobabble but it tries to have a quasi-scientific explanation for everything, with mysticism very firmly put in its place as either “aliens pretending to be gods” or “personal techniques for self-improvement like meditation”. Star Wars has mysticism and magic to handwave away any anomalies.

        I have a long rant WITH PICTORIAL EXAMPLES of how elements of the Star Wars universe were kludged into Trek – including changing the phasers to be more like blasters. This is probably not the place for it 🙂

        • Jaskologist says:

          This is precisely the place for it. I want to see it.

          • Deiseach says:

            I am currently trawling through my Tumblr for it (apparently I have thirty-one pages of rants on reboot Trek!)

            In the meantime, have this reply to a rejoinder I made to someone arguing there was too a good case for making reboot Khan white (I disagreed):

            Holy shit. That was the single most condescending reply I have ever gotten. Like wow, you are such a bitch.

            *wipes away a tear of pride* My finest hour! 🙂

            EDIT: Found it! Or one at least; I’m sure I ranted more, but this is the pictorial one.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            So, I’m a ST fan, but not a fan, who was seriously unimpressed by the first reboot for some indescribable reason to the point of never even watching STID despite it being on Netflix for a rather long time. Having read some of your Tumbler… I am really, really glad I didn’t watch ID or actually put any thought into why I didn’t like the first one. I am kind of, like, sickened now by how badly they’ve wrecked it. Seriously, what they did to Nurse Chapel? Whitewashing freaking Khan?? *Incoherent gibbering of rage*???

            I rarely actually feel offended by abstract transgressions or whatever, but I think I might be.

            At the very least the new SW is filed into the don’t even bother watching it on Netflix bin that STID (and pretty much everything else JJ has done hitherto) was already in. I wasn’t really hopeful for episode 7 in the first place, but planned to check some reviews in a couple of weeks after the initial nerd-fest is over to see if it was worth going to. At this point I am not even going to dignify those hacks with that much effort.

          • DrBeat says:

            See, I’m less offended by the ‘whitewashing’ of Khan, than I am by the fact that they had to bring in Leonard Nimoy to tell us “NO THIS VILLAIN IS TOTES LEGIT YOU GUYS” to get us to care, since the script certainly wasn’t up to the fucking job.

            Like, there’s symbolic harms, and then there’s just plain inept moviemaking.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            Have you seen Star Trek? If you shot Melllvar’s fan script it would be better than half the episodes. Obviously good writing isn’t a prerequisite. What you need is even the tiniest hint of respect for what the franchise has stood for the last 50 years. A darker, grittier reboot is even a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Instead of that, though, we get menboys’ power fantasy masturbation aid.

            Let’s face it, Kirk (and Spock) should be in jail instead of running a starship. They simply haven’t earned that right, much less the right to be allowed out in public unsupervised. This parallels, by what I have seen here, the train wreck of the new SW. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become the best Jedi eva’! without putting in a shred of work. You have to earn it. What makes this especially egregious in the context of SW is that thinking otherwise of exactly what leads to the dark side. I mean, we seriously just had a whole trilogy about how an entitled prick that thought he was better than everyone and wanted what he hadn’t earned turned to the dark side. I have zero faith that JJ even picked up on that nuance (which was way too philosophical) or is actually planning on this one have any kind of internal struggle.

            The good guys are the good guys and can do whatever they want because he says so. The bad guys are bad guys devoid of credible motivation because he says so. And they are going to blow a lot of shit up because he has a boner. And to hell with any kind of internally consistent in universe philosophical or moral (or pretty much any) frameworks that others–betters–have spent decades erecting.

            You can make a fun, financially successful movie that way, but it’ll never be a good movie. His fundamental problem is he thinks he directs good movies instead of fun, financially successful bad ones. Which is why he keeps trying to get his grubby mitts on good franchises. Nobody would care if he said “Fuck it, let’s do space Nazis meet reptilian aliens. The Nazis well all be big busted clones of Ava Braun in their underwear, because why not, and the reptilians will have suspiciously phallic looking heads. And lot of explosions in space because that is the only thing movie audiences want to see these days.” He could totally turn that into a big budget summer blockbuster, make some quick green, and nobody would be pissed off that it is a bad movie, with a plot that makes no sense, and with incredibly backwards undertones. Because you don’t expect, or even want, anything better from a bad movie. Just don’t pretend you’re making good movies and you’re all set.

            Also, bringing in Leonard probably had less to do with trying to advance a terrible plot, and way more to do with utterly pointless fan service. It is so pointless because the fans don’t want to see old actors, they just want a halfway decent movie (even if it has a bad plot).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Who wouldn’t want to be anonymous “So, I’m a ST fan … who was seriously unimpressed by the first reboot for some indescribable reason”

            I could do all too much describing, but what this comment made me flash on, is a comparison with Shrek. There everything on low object level was reversed (ogre good, pretty princess bad), but the moral structure was emphasized: the Good were Good all the way through, won a really Good result in Good ways. Addams Family worked the same way.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, Abrams was absolutely the wrong person for Star Trek, and I have even less hope for the new film, but I think he did a pretty good job with Star Wars, which is where, it becomes clear, his heart always lay in the first place.

      • Pku says:

        I really liked the prequels and thought the weakest part of this movie was that it didn’t have anyone as good as Ian Mcgregor in it. And also the Mary Sue thing was irritating.

    • Sastan says:

      I didn’t. You’re correct. It’s pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of A New Hope, just worse in every conceivable way except of course the computer animation. Characters are thinner, plot is thinner, pacing is too fast, baddies aren’t scary, and yet another, even larger Death Star?

      It’s as if a very dull fifteen year old smoked a pound of hash and made a youtube mash-up which somehow got very professionally produced.

      • onyomi says:

        I was a bit confused as to whether the new Death Star was supposed to be a kind of Dyson Sphere. On the one hand, they said they were drawing energy from a sun which could be seen in the sky. On the other, it looked like a sun emerged from the new Death Star when it was destroyed.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          What do you think happens to a planet that absorbs the sun to power its super-weapon if the super-weapon gets destroyed?

          • onyomi says:

            Oh, I see, it made a new sun in its place, essentially. I think it would have been more interesting to make it a Dyson sphere, though. Would have made it a little more different from the Death Star, and the size a little more necessary/plausible.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They didn’t say so, but I figured out that since it consumes one sun per blast that they had to fly the whole planet to a new system each time.

            Even without the giant laser, each of those technologies (eating a sun, moving a planet through hyperspace) are pretty scary on their own.

        • Sastan says:

          What I want to know is how it fired twice? They draw the energy from a nearby sun………they fire it………..then they have another sun? Ok, maybe they have two, but isn’t the world covered in ice? Ok, gloss over that, they have two, they get a second shot and then they just fire up the engines and go to the next place? Oh wait no, it’s in a planet. They have two shots. Way to blow the next hundred years tax money on a two-shot planet destroyer. And they don’t even fire it at the Republic capital.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Me, I was wondering why the whole “focusing” or “firing” part was even necessary. If you’re on a planet and you want to destroy other planets in the same system, shouldn’t killing the sun – or even just moving its energy elsewhere – do the trick all by itself?

          • NN says:

            The superweapon fires the beam at FTL speeds towards planets in other star systems.

          • @Sastan, I assumed that when they said that the weapon was fully charged when “the sun goes out” they meant temporarily, not permanently. As in, all the energy from the surface layers has been sucked up, so it goes dark, but fusion is still taking place in the core, so you just have to wait a little while for the surface layers to heat up again.

            Dunno what an astrophysicist would say about that idea. 🙂

            Incidentally, according to the experts over on scifi.stackexchange.com, one of the planets that was destroyed was indeed the Republic’s current capital. (The one with all the balconies that was so reminiscent of Coruscant, presumably.)

            @Glen, the target planets weren’t in the same solar system as the weapon. That was this particular weapon’s special trick: it could destroy a planet anywhere in the Galaxy. It was located inside First Order territory (presumably well inside) so that’s why the Resistance was closer to it than any Republic forces that might have been better equipped for the attack.

            Personally, my main take-away from the new movie was something like, “Oh look, they’ve finally invented guard rails.” 🙂

      • Deiseach says:

        ‘Scuse me, you’re looking for plot in a J.J. Abrams reboot of a beloved SF movie franchise?

        I take it you haven’t seen reboot Trek 🙂

        Summary of first movie: Rebel Without A Clue Kirk has whopping great daddy issues because of tragic/heroic backstory. Sasses his way into Starfleet, through Starfleet, and into command of the “Enterprise”. Meanwhile, Villain wants to destroy Earth/the Federation. Result: Enterprise and Villain’s ship have huge dog-fight over San Francisco, Kirk saves the day with the power of sass and the help of his crew.

        Second movie (extremely dumbed-down rip-off of “The Wrath of Khan” because the studio is demanding a sure-fire box office hit this time and want something proven to have worked): Kirk is still sassing his way through command. Daddy issues get a work-out when replacement father figure is murdered by Ostensible Villain. Ostensible Villain reveals Real Villain. Ostensible Villain wants to destroy Earth/the Federation. Result: Enterprise and Real Villain’s ship crewed by Ostensible Villain have huge dog-fight over San Francisco, Kirk saves the day by ripping off the climactic scene from “The Wrath of Khan” only death-flipped (he bites it this time, not Spock), magic blood of Ostensible Villain, and the help of his crew.

        I honestly can’t believe they crashed a starship into San Francisco not once but twice.

        I have very few hopes remaining for the third movie, especially having seen the teaser trailer, but the few remaining green shoots are (a) Simon Pegg wrote it (b) Abrams is not directing so at least no more lens flare, we’ll be able to see what happens on the bridge of the “Enterprise” (that may or may not turn out to be a good thing).

        • Murphy says:

          I wonder if they’ll keep all the barcode readers on the bridge….

          “Fire topedoes!”

          “Yes Sir”

          *officer takes out a sheath of paper cards with barcodes*

          *Bleep*
          *Buuzz*

          *Bleep*
          *Buuzz*

          *Bleep*
          *Buuzz*

          “Sir, it won’t scan!”

          It’ll also be interesting to see what causes them to crash into San Francisco this time.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Scavenging the cutting room floor?

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think they’re going near San Francisco this time (although who knows?)

            What makes me want to see it: Orci got turned down for the directing job he wanted and kicked off the writing. Simon Pegg at least is a fan. Idris Elba. Hope that for the 50th anniversary (2016!) of Trek the studio and/or intellectual property owners won’t want to produce a steaming heap of manure as a marker of that milestone. Faint hopes that this time round they won’t be crashing a spaceship into San Francisco and that, as we’re seeing new aliens, at long bloody last they’re boldly going (and not remaking any episode of any of the series, either original or following).

            What makes me dubious: That teaser trailer which is very unfair of me to judge it on that, but it looks like they’re still chasing the “18 year old male” demographic (though will blaring “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys really appeal to kids who may not have been born when that was a hit?). Hints that they’re still stuck on daredevil rebel without a clue Kirk and we may not see a Kirk who’s finally grown up enough (after five years!) to be a believable commander of a starship.

            I’ll wait for more information to make a judgement.

          • Wow.

            Look, I know Star Trek is science fiction, but hasn’t Trek always at least nominally tried to get science right?

            [hysterical laughter]

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            No one would say Star Trek is hard science fiction, but they at least do usually try to hand-wave problems away with a pseudo-explanation. And it makes things semi-plausible enough for interesting discussions of the science involved, including quite good books like The Physics of Star Trek.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mary Sue is also an overactor. Harrison Ford could be a movie star in his sleep, and his role seems suitably natural. The other bits of comedic relief are super in-your-face. I almost felt like one of the characters should just look directly at the camera and say, “You laugh now.”

      • onyomi says:

        Mary Sue was still about 10,000x better than Hayden Christensen.

        • anonymous says:

          Hayden Christensen was 10000x better than Adam Driver, who played the equivalent role.

          • NN says:

            I’d say that Hayden Christensen was better as an actor,* but Adam Driver didn’t have nearly as many truly awful lines.

            * I think that Mr. Christensen is generally undervalued as an actor, and after watching some prequel fan-edits it is clear to me that he put a lot of work into the role and did better than many other actors would have been able to do with the same material.

          • Deiseach says:

            Being fair to the actor, Anakin Skywalker was written as a whiny brat (from his first non- and pre-Vader appearance onwards).

            There’s not much you can do with a role that involves massacring hundreds while pouting about how nobody respects your feelings.

          • onyomi says:

            I would disagree. Christensen is one of the most wooden actors I’ve ever seen, regardless of what role he’s playing. I think Adam Driver was much better than him. His emotion felt much more genuine to me, at least.

          • DrBeat says:

            If you’re basing it off of the prequels, everyone‘s acting was wooden.

            They were talking about things using fantasy-scifi terms the actorrs didn’t know and don’t have emotional associations with, in scenes shot out of order, on sets that don’t exist, looking at or reacting to things that aren’t there because they’ll be added in postproduction. It’s HARD to give a non-wooden performance in that sort of situation without a good director to get you where you need to be going.

            Lucas, as of the prequels and regardless of all his other failings in other areas, just wasn’t a good director.

          • NN says:

            Lucas, as of the prequels and regardless of all his other failings in other areas, just wasn’t a good director.

            I have to agree with that. Even in ANH, there are a number of moments where the characters seem noticeably “off.” Other people directed ESB and RoTJ, and I think all the actors come across much stronger in those movies. It probably says something that the movie that is often seen as Lucas’s best work, THX1138, is a movie where all of the characters are supposed to act like emotionless drones for most of the runtime.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      J.J. ABRAMS RAPED MY MIDDLE AGE!

    • anonymous says:

      I agree that the movie is bad and that both main characters are bad, but i’m curious to hear why, exactly, Finn made you cringe.

      • Sastan says:

        I can’t answer for the person you’re querying, and I wouldn’t say “cringe”, but the character doesn’t make much sense or seem nearly as necessary to the story as his screen time would suggest.

        Of course, I’m sure they’ll get to that in future installments, but we get a lot of bloody backstory for him for…..what, that he has a bit of info about the Death Star? In ANH, it got pared down to “many bothans died to bring us this” and that was that. They shoehorn in him fighting the big baddie for five seconds while Ms. Better at everything than everyone who has been doing it all their lives but is unaccountably still on an impoverished backwater handily falls unconscious.

        Either he has a massive role to play in a future film, or they just padded out the black actor’s time, because his only role is to be there and be black, and hold a lightsaber for a second for the poster stills. And if his role is to come in a future film, why not put his backstory in that one? They could have cut thirty minutes in this one, and used it to flesh out the other story lines!

        • Echo says:

          I loved him as a character, but his backstory… just didn’t fit. And they didn’t give him much of a chance to shine at anything he was good at.

          Imagine if Luke got turned down for the final attack because of an embarrassing medical condition, and spent the whole time awkwardly flirting with Leia in the control room while Han blew up the Death Star.

          • onyomi says:

            I think one thing a lot of people are missing about episode 7 which I actually liked was the youth and inexperience of many of the characters. Like when Kylo first took off his helmet I think you were supposed to be kind of unimpressed–you’re supposed to realize he’s basically a kid having a temper tantrum.

            And Fin is a kid who’s basically had no contact with the real world. Though we might expect him to be a bit more of a hardened soldier type, given his background, what we are meant to understand, I think, is that he is too sensitive (force sensitive?) for the occupation he was forced into. It would be weird if he were confident or suave. And he’s not supposed to step directly into the Luke (that’s Rey, clearly) or Han shoes. He’s actually kind of a different character!

            So basically when the new movie follows in the footsteps of the old, it’s like “where’s the creativity!” When it diverges, it’s like “Han and Luke wouldn’t have acted like that!”

          • Echo says:

            But the film makes sure to inform us that he’s a top-marks graduate of the kiddie-trooper brainwashing academy, and then never does anything with it.

            There were so many scenes where he could have gone
            “wait, lightsabers are stupid weapons for crazy space hippies. I need to fight in the traditional manner of my people!”
            *picks up real gun and becomes the first character in Star Wars to be good with rifles*
            “Bwahaha, have you ever seen blaster marks so precise?! Imperial stormtrooper with plot armour, baby!”

            Imagine how cool that fight with Ren would have been if FN and Rey-Rey worked together–her with the saber and him using l33t stormtrooper 360 no-scope trick shots with a blaster.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Was I the only one who saw the scene where he only had the light saber because it was his party’s spare weapon, and then the scene soon after that where he took a blaster off of a dead stormtrooper and stopped using the light saber?

            Also, if you are suggesting using a blaster against a Jedi, you have never seen a Star Wars movie. It’s better to throw the gun at a Jedi than to shoot him, because at least he won’t deflect the gun back at you. Never use a blaster against a Jedi.

          • Adam says:

            I guess I missed the part where he was an elite stormtrooper. All I remember Phasma saying is he’d never been caught violating conformity standards before. When Han asked him what his job was, he said he worked in sanitation, and the moment he quit was his first taste of a real-life engagement. If anything, it was kind of refreshing for a movie to acknowledge that most soldiers never actually fight, may not even be any good at it, and have normal jobs because the military still needs cooks and mechanics.

          • Anonymous says:

            When Han asked him what his job was, he said he worked in sanitation

            I felt like this was purely for comedic relief (in the classic Abrams style), but that it totally ruined so many other things. How does he know so much about the weapon? How does he end up being front-line infantry? How does his back story work at all?!?!

            Sure, it make two jokes possible (Han saying the galaxy relied on them and asking if they had a trash compactor)… but it just doesn’t make any other sense.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            The USMC has a standard that all marines are riflemen, maybe its the same way in the First Order?

          • Echo says:

            I don’t remember what was in the movie vs the new novels, but apparently he was supposed to be a crack shot, run-up-to-the-bunker-and-toss-a-grenade-in kinda trooper.

            And that’s why it would be cool (and original) to see a smart, talented stormtooper figuring out how to fight a jedi his way. Certainly enough jedi in the prequels got shot to show that it’s possible.

            It would have made Rey’s fight a lot more believable too: have FN distract Kylo with blaster fire when he manages to corner/disarm her, until the jedi gets fed up and brings a tree down on him.

          • ivvenalis says:

            While Abrams certainly could have gone with the “hardened but disillusioned veteran” he made him more of an average chump trying to do the right thing instead. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; they’re both deliberate choices and new character models for the franchise. Rey is a ridiculous Mary Sue, but I thought that both Poe and Finn were good additions.

            Re: sanitation vs infantry: we know that Finn was pressed into service at a very young age. Maybe the First Order has the younger “apprentice” stormtroopers doing scut work until they’re ready for combat? Knowing a bit about the layout of the base is actually pretty reasonable for someone who’d effectively been a Hull Technician (navy rating that handles sewage and garbage among other things).

    • onyomi says:

      I think “terrible” is way too strong a word. As a stand-alone movie it would have been very engaging. As a new Star Wars movie it is still way better than any of the prequels. I agree the parallels to a New Hope were a bit excessive (I think they wanted to shout at you: THIS IS REAL STAR WARS. THIS IS NOT THE PREQUELS) and the political situation rather thinly drawn.

      That said, it was still a little better than I expected and not much worse than any reasonable expectation (that is, I can think of ways to improve it, but if you expected it to be much, much better than it was I don’t think you had a reasonable expectation, given the track record of the series).

      Perhaps most importantly, it captured the atmosphere, tone, and admixture of seriousness/humor/cuteness which characterized the original trilogy much better, and so felt much more like a “real” Star Wars movie. Considering none of the original writers or directors were on board, so far as I know, that’s a pretty impressive feat, to my mind. JJ Abrams clearly is a Star Wars fan and not a Star Trek fan, as evidenced by his attempts to turn Star Trek into Star Wars and his much better handle on the “feel” of Star Wars when the time came for him to do that.

      Could be worse; apparently the new Star Trek is directed by director of Fast and Furious. Now that is a travesty.

      • anonymous says:

        There was humor on display on Han Solo’s face in this new movie, but I didn’t feel that there was any humor on the director’s chair. This is unlike the previous episodes.

        The prequels were way better. They sensibly had creativity of their own, ideas – even if hit or miss; they didn’t just ape previous entries in the saga.
        Whereas this new episode is just A New Hope, reheated, minus the playfulness, the inspiration, and the epic quality.

        It is a box office success; The Phantom Menace was one too. Audiences are nostalgic and have low standards.

        • Deiseach says:

          Haven’t seen it myself yet and never really a Star Wars fan, but it’s J.J. Abrams. After what he did to reboot Trek, I am not one bit surprised by what you say.

          But he probably did exactly what he was hired to do: get a box office success out of a revitalised franchise.

        • onyomi says:

          There is definitely a lot of playfulness, not just in Harrison Ford’s face.

          Did you see the scene where the storm troopers hear Kylo Ren throwing a fit and just slowly back away?

        • onyomi says:

          Whether or not one considers the prequels better, I think, depends on one’s priorities: would you rather see someone take a beloved series in a very different direction, aesthetically, and fail, or see them take a beloved series in a well-worn, somewhat predictable direction and succeed?

          The parallels to New Hope were excessive, I’ll concede, but Star Wars has also always been about history repeating itself and demons being transferred from one generation to the next. Also, about children and parents helping each other overcome said demons.

          It didn’t have to be as similar to New Hope as it was, but it had to have a lot of those themes in order to feel like Star Wars, which was obviously a priority after the strong negative reaction to the prequels. The alternative would be to try something very new and different, but unless it turned out to be absolutely brilliant, it would almost certainly have been met with vitriol on the part of fans and resulted in lower ticket sales as well.

          To contrast, again with the prequels: there are a number of simple things which I could change to make the prequels into much better movies: recast Anakin (both of him), collapse the three sidekick villains (Maul, Dooku, Grievous) into one villain whom we actually get to know over the course of the trilogy, etc.

          For Force Awakens, by contrast, I can think of some ways to make it a little better: tone down the parallels to New Hope, provide better explanation for the political situation being almost exactly where it was thirty years after the Empire supposedly suffered a decisive loss, etc., but I can’t think of simple ways to make it a lot better.

          The only way I can think to make it a lot better would be to take it in a completely different, yet totally brilliant direction. But that would make any movie better if it were a completely different and better movie. Given the direction they knew they had to take the film in, I think they did close to as good a job as they could reasonably be expected to (and are obviously avoiding many of the pitfalls of the prequels: Kylo Ren, for example, is obviously going to be around for 3 movies and not rotate out for two more villains).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyami
            would you rather see someone take a beloved series in a very different direction, aesthetically, and fail, or see them take a beloved series in a well-worn, somewhat predictable direction and succeed?

            Yep. Star Wars 1977 was a fairy tale in space. That’s ~40 years ago. If reviving the old clean magic means re-telling the old plot, it’s worth it. Classic Disney approach to a classic fairy tale. Yay Disney.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I mean, in order for it to be Star Wars it basically has to be Joseph Campbell in space. Since that means the “monomyth,” well, it’s going to get a little repetitive.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyomi
            Yeah, I mean, in order for it to be Star Wars it basically has to be Joseph Campbell in space. Since that means the “monomyth,”

            It doesn’t have to continue as the monomyth, and I don’t know how important it is for sequels to spread to adjacent myths, and if so, whether adjacent meaning other stories that Campbell liked, or other classic fairy tale stories that the naive audience liked. SW 1977 did ‘farm boy rescues princess’, which got us into the fairy tale world in space. To stay in that world, does a sequel need to do ‘snow white among the ewoks’? — which could be quite good, too.

          • Anonymous says:

            Here’s a two days late reply to Oyomi – I wish I had had the time to write it earlier.

            I think you and other commenters are playing down the ridiculous extent to which this movie is a copypaste of past SW movies. This movie doesn’t just echo key story elements and scenes, the way any cyclical saga does. To merely do so would have been entirely fair.

            Take a look at other similar sagas, such as Back to the Future, or Indiana Jones, or for that matter the Divine Comedy; they are cyclical, yes, and every episode repeats certain key points, but every episode also has its own identity, thanks to the introduction of new things such as, for example, Indy’s relationship with his father in the third movie.
            This is also true of Star Wars as I know it. Every episode added something to the SW universe. For example, Empire Strikes Back had the AT-AT’s, Luke’s confrontation with the dark side, Yoda, Palpatine, the carbonite, the Big Reveal. Return of the Jedi had Jabba’s court, the speeder bike fight, the Ewok adorability and their asimmetrical warfare, Vader’s humanity, the big conclusion. And of course the prequels added many more elements to the universe. None of the old SW movies is calque of a previous one.
            In this new movie, not only the story parallels a New Hope from beginning to end, not only the main characters (except Finn, who doesn’t work by the way) are very heavily based on old characters (Rey=Luke, Kylo=Anakin/Vader), but even the minor ones are (example: Leader Snoke is Palpatine, Hux is Tarkin down to the power conflict with Kylo/Vader, the what’s-her-name cantina owner – 1000 years old wise little weird alien who guides the main character through mystical issues – is Yoda) and even the little things that happen, the individual scenes, tend to parallel ones in previous movies – for example, while under the guidance of Mrs not-Yoda, Rey goes downstairs and has a trippy vision, just like Luke while being mentored by Yoda had a scene where he goes “downstairs” into a cave where he has a trippy vision.
            Even when it comes to the minor decorative things – well, the past SW movies kept adding stuff – the composer introduced new themes in every episode. The iconic Imperial March only appeared in Episode 5. Even the prequels had wonderful new musical pieces – Duel of Fates, the Trade Federation March, Across the Stars. Was the new movie really scored by John Williams? For the first time, I didn’t hear any original theme! There used to be new fighter and military ship designs in every episode, none that I noticed in the new one. There were new kinds of environment in every previous episode, prequels included. In this one – another sandy desert, and another Death Star – just what we hadn’t seen enough of!
            Aside from Finn’s introduction, in the whole movie there is virtually NOTHING original and creative! The movie is fractally uncreative, uncreative at any scale, and it must be very difficult to make such a movie – you have to restrain yourself at every step from doing something actually original. What an exercise in misguided discipline! This can’t be justified simply by saying that Star Wars has always been repeating itself, because, like I said, no other cyclical saga is like this, and certainly not the Star Wars we know and love.
            The result is that this is the first SW movie that outright bored me, with its 100% across-the-board deja vu dullness. The prequels had not.

            And anyhow, my accusation that episode 7 does nothing new is only ONE of the issues that I have with it.
            It also has other, pretty terrible flaws.
            But I’ll keep my other criticisms of it to myself for now. I already wrote a lot. I don’t have the time to rant any more.

          • Anonymous says:

            There used to be new fighter and military ship designs in every episode, none that I noticed in the new one….

            One of the things I joked about after seeing it was the idea the the First Order was new, coming up after the fall of the Empire. You’d think there would be some bureaucrat somewhere that would decide, “Ya know, maybe we could use a little rebranding?” Even just change the look of the stormtroopers a little… really bring us into the 4th Decade, ya know?

      • Nornagest says:

        Could be worse; apparently the new Star Trek is directed by director of Fast and Furious. Now that is a travesty.

        Eh, I’ll call it a travesty when it comes out in theaters and turns out to suck. Which isn’t unlikely, but one bad movie on a guy’s resume shouldn’t be enough to write him off forevermore.

        Paul Verhoeven did Showgirls, for example, but he also gave us Total Recall and Robocop.

        • onyomi says:

          I’m not saying it because this director has previously directed a bad movie (I haven’t actually seen any of the Fast and Furious movies, since I usually find car chases to be yawn-inducing); I’m saying it’s because he’s not the right director for a Star Trek movie, as Abrams was not the right director for a Star Trek movie. Of course, Fast and Furious guy could magically turn out to have an amazing range, but given that an actor recently interviewed about the new Star Trek film described it as “loads of fun and action-packed” (NOT what I want to hear about a Star Trek movie), I doubt it.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Paul Verhoeven did Showgirls, for example, but he also gave us Total Recall and Robocop.

          Showgirls was the only movie he made that I really enjoyed.

          Total Recall was ok. Robocop was boring and heavy handed. Everything else he’s done is below trash.

          • Nornagest says:

            Total Recall was a good bad movie (compare The Fifth Element); same with Robocop. Showgirls was a bad good movie. People’s opinions of Starship Troopers seem to depend almost entirely on whether they thought it was trying to be good or bad; I’m in the “bad” camp.

            I thought Flesh and Blood was genuinely good, but it’s probably got a niche appeal.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The Fifth Element is a great movie.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The Fifth Element is a great movie

            The only good part of The Fifth Element was Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis, and only in the first half.

          • Anony says:

            Starship Troopers is one of my favorite films. It’s incredibly fun.

    • anonymous says:

      The movie has plenty of negative and mixed user reviews on metacritic.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m pretty surprised at how negative the whole SSC commentariat seems to be about the film. I literally haven’t spoken to anyone IRL who didn’t like it at least pretty well.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I have one friend who didn’t like it, because they changed Jacen’s name to Ben.

          • onyomi says:

            The horror!

          • Deiseach says:

            You think that’s bad, part of why I am so down on Abrams and pals is that THEY BLEW UP VULCAN!!!!!

            I don’t care if it was in the alternate timeline and Vulcan Prime is still in existence, you do not make a Star Trek movie and BLOW UP VULCAN!!!!!

            Yes, the multiple exclamation points are warranted 🙂

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deisach
            I don’t care if it was in the alternate timeline and Vulcan Prime is still in existence, you do not make a Star Trek movie and BLOW UP VULCAN!!!!!

            Unless in a sequel they go back and correct the whateveritwas and bring it back, like bringing back Spock in the first batch of movies. Which they show no signs of doing.

            Or better, Vulcan Prime shows up and blasts the whole roboot.

            Stupid movie reboot anyway, on all counts.

          • Anonymous says:

            Unless in a sequel they go back and correct the whateveritwas and bring it back

            …I’m going to reiterate that I’ve never seen a time-travel plot that made even the slightest bit of sense. At this point, they just require too much suspension of disbelief than I have left.

          • James Picone says:

            @Anonymous:
            Have you seen Primer? Would recommend.

            (Engineers working in a garage accidentally a time travel; shenanigans ensue).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Primer is just really complicated, and there actually is one point at which the logic breaks down, and the filmmakers admit they don’t have a coherent timeline.

            The movie Predestination is probably the best, at least as far as the time travel aspect goes. It’s based on the Heinlein story “—All You Zombies—”, and it changes virtually nothing from it. As the title alludes to, the story is one giant predestination paradox. But it’s one-hundred percent self-consistent. (After all, there is nothing logically contradictory about the predestination paradox.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Read Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates. Excellent book, built around “you’ve already done everything you’re going to do.”

          • Mitochondrius says:

            Predestination has other very implausible elements, like the protagonist not recognizing himself/herself, not to mention reproductive biology…

            But yes, I appreciate the effort to make a self-consistent story work. Almost no one does it.

            I just remembered: The Infinite Man also has a nice self-consistent story. Highly recommended for time-travel fans.

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2553424/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

          • switchnode says:

            Hey, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is 100% self-consistent.

    • The Smoke says:

      What I wondered is that almost all youtube reviewers really liked the movie (~ 10:1 ratio), although most mention one or two of the problems of the film. Do they have to say they like it, so their chances to get exclusive information from the movie industry will be better or is it just that they don’t want to piss of the fanboys?

    • Rock Lobster says:

      99% lurker here, I came here to chime in on this exact topic, as I just saw the movie last night. (slight spoilers ahead)

      I also didn’t really like it. It wasn’t bad, but there was basically nothing original in it and the non-stop callbacks to the original movie were extremely tiresome.

      I thought the two new young protagonists were really not done well. Specifically, one was raised from birth to be part of an elite SS battalion, and the other was abandoned at a very young age and raised in a place that is basically Deliverance country mixed with Saudi Arabia. And yet in no way are they ever anything other than well-adjusted kids from the suburbs, and Rey even has (to quote Tyler Cowen) a “posh South London accent.” Such people would be very different by our standards, and we never even get a hint of that. In the original movie, a lot was made of the fact that Luke was a hick farm boy, Leia was a princess, and Han was a roguish smuggler of dubious morality.

      And also even Harrison Ford who I love, just felt very shoe-horned in, like, oh wow whaddayaknow it’s me Han Solo and my old friend Chewie stumbling onto the Millennium Falcoln, go figure. Well jee hasn’t this been fun, can I have my $20 mn check now?

    • stillnotking says:

      (MILD FORCE AWAKENS SPOILERS AHEAD)

      I just saw it last night as well. I don’t think I’d call it terrible overall, but some parts of it certainly were. Rey was the Mary Sue-est Mary Sue that ever Mary Sued. Finn was written with a bit more depth, but not very consistently — he went from apparent PTSD to gleefully slaughtering his former comrades-in-arms without batting an eye. I loved Kylo Ren’s character, though; so refreshing to have a villain who is obviously confused and insecure. And, you know, Han probably wouldn’t have made the greatest father, all things considered. I like the way they handled his relationship with Leia: two people who have clearly both loved and hated each other in the past, and have arrived at a kind of weary truce.

      The least forgivable element was the shameless plundering of story hooks from the original trilogy. It makes perfect economic sense — why take any risks on a sure thing? — but they could have been a little less obvious about it. The utter lack of any meaningful exposition was a problem, too, but that’s just what I expect from Abrams.

      On the pro side, it definitely felt like Star Wars, unlike the prequels. The humor mostly worked. Ford, Fisher, Driver, and Boyega all turned in excellent performances. The effects were top-notch. I didn’t feel cheated out of my twelve bucks, but it didn’t have the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of ANH.

      • Echo says:

        I liked Ren, but stacking a confused and insecure villain against such a huge cast of heroes was… eh. Maybe if he’d had some backup the audience could have seen him as a threat.

        As it was, I just had this image of him squeaking
        Mo~m, I told you my name is Kyle Loren now! Stop embarrassing me in front of my Sith friends! Just leave the cookies and Faygo at the door to my roo-… I mean my daryk chamber.”

      • HlynkaCG says:

        > he went from apparent PTSD to gleefully slaughtering his former comrades-in-arms without batting an eye.

        Personally, this was my biggest gripe.

        I would have liked to see a bit more conflict there, maybe even have one of the fights be against one of his former Storm trooper buddies. “Why’d you turn your back on us? I thought we were comrades”

        • stillnotking says:

          Especially since the introduction to the character was him stopping to help a fallen trooper. That was actually a great moment, showing the audience that these guys are human too, but then the writers (and, through them, Finn) completely undermined it by treating them as faceless mooks for the rest of the film.

          Finn’s character was a huge missed opportunity. I could’ve used a lot more of him, and a lot less of boring-ass Rey.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            I agree completely.

            *Spoilers*

            I think that Finn’s the fight with the Stormtrooper during the attack on the smuggler’s bar was a wasted opportunity. All you’d need is another 30 seconds of dialog/set up to make that trooper a friend of Finn’s.

            You could then get a whole lot more drama/ action out of that fight as Finn tries to reason with his former comrade, “come on man, it doesn’t have to be this way, come with me” while the Stormtrooper cuts back with “I’m not some Bowe Berghdal motherfucker the sort of coward who abandons his post to join a bunch of filthy terrorists…” Both men proceed to beat the crap out of each-other emotionally and physically, equally convinced that the other has betrayed their ideals.

            This would have played well into the earlier theme about Finn’s running and would have given a chance to do a fun inverse of the typical “come to the Dark Side” speech.

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            [spoilers like the rest of thread]

            Well, I think they were trying to portray the stormtroopers as a bit more than faceless mooks: like when Ren is throwing a tantrum and yells for guards, guards just go “NOPENOPE” and back away. Or when the Starkiller base is exploding one officers tries to make it for escape shuttles yelling “can’t you see we are not going to make it, the top brass has already left”.

            Still, I agree there were much wasted opportunities with Finn’s character.

        • Deiseach says:

          No, see, that’s the kind of philosophical stuff that bored Abrams as a kid when all his friends were into Star Trek 🙂

          The trouble is, the Stormtroopers have to be faceless mooks. The Star Wars universe is in the tradition of the Saturday matinée serial where the thugs, minions or henchmen of the villain are only there to shoot at/beat up/kidnap the hero and love interest and be foiled; they’re disposable, which is why in the first movies the troopers shooting at Han and Leia and Luke couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn – their job is to always fail to do any lasting or fatal damage to the heroes and to be tossed aside like sheaves at a threshing as the hero battles his way to the show-down with the villain.

    • Adam says:

      That sounds kind of like every Star Wars film. Anakin was able to pilot vessels he’d never seen before and singled-handedly destroyed the droid controller ship when he was 8, and Qui-Gon just conveniently happened to get stranded on his planet to find him in the first place. The explanation here is the same as the explanation then: the Force did it. Anakin, Luke, and now Rey are all Mary Sues. That’s what a Skywalker is.

      • stillnotking says:

        (FORCE AWAKENS SPOILERS)

        Anakin, Luke, and now Rey are all Mary Sues. That’s what a Skywalker is.

        Anakin, yes, but not Luke. Luke was a callow, whiny goofball until Obi-Wan and Yoda set him straight. The only thing he was “naturally” good at was piloting, which was alluded to in his backstory multiple times — it might have been a bit of a stretch to go from a T-16 to an X-Wing, but nothing like Rey being able to fly the Millennium Falcon without (as far as the audience knows) ever having sat in a cockpit, or teaching herself telepathy and Jedi mind tricks within minutes of finding out she can use the Force, or winning a lightsaber duel against a trained opponent on literally the first occasion she’s ever used one.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Rey had been using a staff weapon all her life, so it wasn’t like she didn’t know hand-to-hand combat.

          Her opponent had been gut-shot by a wookiee and then dueled someone else first. He was also not completely trained and very brash.

          • stillnotking says:

            I’ll grant that was the least objectionable part, especially since it was the climax of the film and she obviously had to win. Still, I’d have had her overcome him through cunning (maybe needling him about his grandfather), or creative use of the Force, not just by whacking him with her Pure Awesomeness.

            It’s hard to imagine where they could take the character from here, what credible challenges or growth opportunities they could give her.

          • Pku says:

            That wasn’t too objectionable if they’d emphasized Kylo’s weakness more; as it was, it kind of removed his ability to be intimidating. Now he’s like Seto Kaiba: Oh, you think you have a shot this time? sooo scary.
            The other thing that made it really silly was the way he was beating her until he mentioned the force. Then you can see her thinking “Oh right, the force!” and suddenly winning.

        • Echo says:

          Wasn’t the T-16 basically an armed jet-trainer in Star Wars?
          Less of a kid’s motorbike than the T-38 Talon they use to teach pilots how to fly supersonic.
          And yeah, Luke was almost useless at everything but the specific thing he spent all his free time training at.

          Rey-Rey could have been way less Sue with scenes that highlighted the strengths we’d seen her demonstrate, rather than ass-pulls.

          And comparing her to 8-year old Anikins is… not really the best defense of her character. At least she never squeaked “now that’s podracing!” :\

          Edit: Actually wikied it. “These airspeeders were often used as training vehicles by the Rebel Alliance, due to the fact that their flight controls were similar to those of X-wings.”

          • Adam says:

            That wasn’t meant to be a defense of her character. The magical ability to be roughly the best at everything you try can be used well or poorly but is probably lazy and boring most of the time. It’s just internally consistent with the known Star Wars universe that such people exist.

        • Pku says:

          Not anakin really either – he had years of training as a jedi by episode 2. The only really mary-sueish moment he had was piloting at the end of TPS, which was at least portrayed as silly and not really meant to be taken seriously.

      • John Schilling says:

        Luke Skywalker was a plausibly expert pilot in his own right, who made one lucky or weakly-superhuman shot with an assist from the force. Then he engaged in a training montage, er, course of disciplined study, to become a Jedi Knight. That’s how you write an everyman character into a hero without making him a Mary Sue.

        Eight-year-old Anakin vs. the Trade Federation Fleet, not the same thing at all, not even the same class of thing.

        • anonymous says:

          Furthermore, Luke was able to somewhat dabble in the Force in ANH only after the very brief guidance of a Jedi, which makes sense; in my experience, a few quick tips from an expert can be very useful if you know very little of a field.

          In contrast, Rey received no Jedi mentorship whatsoever, which makes her newly found powers truly ridiculous, and damaging to the entire Force mystique series-wide.

          • Echo says:

            Yeah, at least Luke got a training scene and a lesson on which end of the lightsaber to hold without disemboweling yourself (honourably).

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            >In contrast, Rey received no Jedi mentorship whatsoever, which makes her newly found powers truly ridiculous, and damaging to the entire Force mystique series-wide.

            Can’t say I disagree with that as the one of the popular fan theories currently is that as a child she was the one padawan from Luke’s New Jedi Order that survived the massacre orchestrated by Kylo Ren-Ben Solo, and Luke did a Jedi mind trick to make her forget the trauma and hid her in Jakku.

          • That seems plausible from a story-telling perspective. But an alternative theory is that the Force itself (having “awakened”) was directly helping Rey through the first steps of becoming a Jedi.

            (Hey, it’s at least as plausible as Anakin’s virgin-birth thing!)

      • Sastan says:

        What they said. Luke is deeply flawed as a character, which is part of the allure. He has to train to learn the force, not just figure it out in ten seconds. He’s completely uncool, contrasted with the very cool, very social, and very dubious Han. He loses the contest for Leia (luckily), he loses his hand, he loses several fights. He’s earnest, introverted, driven but antisocial. He’s the stand-in for all the nerds who love the films so much.

    • Echo says:

      STAR WARS SPOILERS END HERE (PROBABLY.)

      (OR BEGIN HERE IF YOU’RE SCROLLING UP)

      P.S. It Was His Sled

    • Mark says:

      I think it was probably the worst star wars movie – JJ Abrams is not good with stories. Elements of his movies work, but they never manage to hang together as a whole – the movies are invariably stupid, and he seems to have a major problem with “nudge nudge – hey look, I’m in this movie!” moments – might appeal to fans who just want to see Spock/Khan/Solo and not too bothered about how they get there, but not great from the point of view of a coherent story. Also, the humour was very heavy handed – it seemed more like the world’s most expensive parody of Star Wars in parts, rather than an actual Star Wars movie.
      So… parts of it were cool… but it wasn’t really a coherent adventure, and there wasn’t any *wow* factor – at least episode one had the light saber battle at the end/pod-racing scene.

      Also, John Carter was much, much better in my opinion – fun adventure with a fairly interesting story.

      • Deiseach says:

        fans who just want to see Spock/Khan/Solo and not too bothered about how they get there

        Oh believe me, we Trek fans moaned like Moaning Myrtle about reboot Khan. The zenith (or it may be nadir) of Abrams & Co. shoehorning Khan into the second reboot and having him played by Benedict Cumberbatch was the tie-in comics had to run a fix-it series explaining why the North Indian Khan has become white Brit.

        Turns out it was all part of Admiral Marcus’ stupid Cunning Plan: give Khan plastic surgery and brainwashing to make him look and think he’s John Harrison.

        Why? Reasons!

  22. Deiseach says:

    Speaking of solstices, looks like it was a good morning in Newgrange this morning.

    The weather has been so torrentially rainy the past couple of weeks, today was the first fine morning. Depending on how the weather is tomorrow for the actual solstice, the sunrise may or may not enter the passage tomb.

  23. zluria says:

    So I just stumbled upon this blog, Wait but why?
    http://waitbutwhy.com/

    I’ve started going there when Scott hasn’t updated for a while and I’m feeling the withdrawal :-P.
    The writing is very good, and it looks like a rationalist blog to me, but I’ve never seen it mentioned here, and it doesn’t appear on Scott’s blogroll. Does anyone here read that blog? Like it/dislike it?

    • WBW articles get posted on LW a lot.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      It’s a very good blog, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

      His articles on AI are very good.

    • Echo says:

      Eh, he did quite an awkward job publicly fellating Elon Musk at the SpaceX launch the other day. Am always very suspicious of “geek culture” people with corporate sponsorships.

      Maybe Scott should try that out, though? New SSC post format: “27 reasons why Hyperloops & Mars missions will save rationalism”.

      • TrivialGravitas says:

        It looks more like he does an awkward job of fellating Elon Musk on a regular basis going back a bit. And has a pisspoor understanding of space economics. Launch costs are only about a third of the cost of interplanetary and manned missions, so even free rockets aren’t game changers for anything but (maybe) communication satellites. In theory the cost of launch increases cost of spacecraft by driving up the amount of work necessary to meet mass targets, but reusable rockets represent a decrease rather than increase in payload capacity. But Musk has magic ability to tell ‘what’s possible today’ even though like 9 other companies are working on reusable rockets and SpaceX just got there first. (I’m aware of Blue origin’s flight, but I don’t count that any more than I count the X-15, suborbital flight is only useful for nukes).

  24. RCF says:

    Studies have allegedly shown that voters base their decisions on extremely superficial criteria, such as one of the best predictor as to which candidate will win being who is rated as more attractive. Also, “closed” body language supposedly communicates lack of confidence and warmth. Watching the Democratic debate, I couldn’t help but notice Sander’s posture. Is this a disadvantage for him? Will voters’ System I be swayed by it?

    • Sastan says:

      No, they will be swayed by the fact that Hillary has had the nomination sewed up for eight years now, and Sanders is just the tin can they drummed up for her to kick. This was clear when he refused to capitalize on any of her many scandals. He’s just there to take the bite out of Republican criticism of her “coronation”. And to push the Overton window a bit on the word “socialism”.

    • Calico Eyes says:

      A real worry for me is the heightened possible rate of cognitive decline at the age of sanders. He is 5 years older than Reagan, the man everyone suspects developed alzhemers in his later term of presidency. Most charts showing the rate of learning new material and reasoning about it changes greatly as one gets older, with some very fast declines starting around the mid 60’s. Its always best to assume that one is voting a president into office for 8 years, as that’s the tendency.

      • brad says:

        He isn’t going to win. The point of voting for Sanders is to send a message to the Democratic Party that voters on the left still exist. So you don’t need to worry about his potential cognitive decline and for the same reason you don’t need to parse every little policy position to see if you can stomach it.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          “The point of voting for Sanders is to send a message to the Democratic Party that voters on the left still exist.”

          Oh, they know, and they’re quite confident that voters on the left will obediently line up to vote Hillary into office no matter what she says or does. I wouldn’t bet that they’re wrong.

          • The point of Sanders running may have been to force Hilary further left than she would otherwise have been, in the belief that she would not be able to entirely disown the positions she took then later on.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thirteenth Letter:
            There is a push-me-pull-you aspect to politics.

            Sanders espouses opinions on the left and to the extent he shows these ideas are popular, he both forces the net Dem position left and also makes it OK for more liberal positions to be taken than were before.

            This aspect of politics is why sometimes attitudes on a particular position change very rapidly.

            Sanders wins by polling well enough. He doesn’t have to win the primary.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Isn’t the same true for Hillary? Both of them seem old as fuck to me.

        • Nornagest says:

          They’re both pretty old by presidential standards, but Clinton is 68. If elected she’d be the second oldest president after Ronald Reagan, who was inaugurated a few days short of 70.

          Sanders is 75. If elected he’d be the oldest president at inauguration by a margin of six years.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Women also tend to live longer than men, so you could posit that Clinton is relatively younger.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            If Rubio wins the nomination, he has his campaign cut out for him:
            “Vote Rubio, he’s very likely to finish his term alive and without debilitating diseases”.

  25. sw3 says:

    What would happen if you raised transaction costs on the stock market, like through a tax. I don’t know much economics, so I am thinking it would decrease liquidity (duh) but what is the knock-on effect of that? Just weird pricing? I am having trouble understanding the ill-effects of this. Thanks

    • RCF says:

      I would expect a major effect would be for encourage transactions to be structured in a manner to avoid the tax as much as possible. It seems to me that defining a “transaction” would be problematic. If someone buys a commodity, then hedges with a put option, is that one transaction or two? If someone buys several assets, puts them in a pool, then sells shares in the pool, do both the person who bought the assets, and the person who bought shares in the pool, have to pay taxes? Etc.

      • My admittedly limited understanding is that what is proposed is a tiny tax, like a cent, or a tenth or hundredth of a cent per transaction, that wouldn’t even be noticed by most people, but would serve as a disincentive to hyper-short-term trading behavior.

        I think there is a form of this idea which would be revenue-neutral, that is, the tax would be automatically credited back when the stock has been held for a certain amount of time. The object would not be to raise money, but to restrain computerized speed-up and price instability.

        • Adam says:

          That still raises some questions. It’s not like HFT firms did something novel in profiting off the bid-ask spread. They just automated it and consolidated the profits in a smaller number of firms. Is this supposed to be a general tax on all broker-dealers and market-makers? There have always been players in the market whose sole purpose was to buy from the sellers and sell to the buyers, because that is generally a smoother way of doing things than directly connecting sellers to buyers, who largely don’t want exactly the same amounts at exactly the same time. They already get taxed on their profits. Taxing them even more if they make the transaction too quickly is like taxing Walmart extra if they sell something that was on the shelf less than a day.

          • Again, I’m not knowledgeable enough to defend this in detail, but it’s a positive good when an item moves quickly through Walmart, freeing up space for more economic activity. On the other hand, the ability to make hundreds of thousands of stock trades per second apparently has some large negative externalities which at least some people think are worth addressing.

            The stock market (organization) and the SEC have some cruder means to control volatility, such as stopping trade in a stock under certain circumstances. A refundable tenth-of-a-cent tax per transaction strikes me as a much lighter touch.

          • James Picone says:

            My understanding was that part of it is that only some people can be sufficiently close to the exchange to win HFT games, so there’s an equity concern.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ James Picone:

            I’m having a hard time seeing how that could possibly be relevant.

            Only people who have a lot of money and experience can participate in most of the trading strategies Wall Street uses. I’m not seeing how there is an “equity concern” with high-frequency trading any more than with the general existence of a stock market.

            It’s not as if it is an economic inefficiency: as far as I’m aware, there is a competitive market bidding for server space located on the grounds of the exchange, in order to minimize lag time. Those who will get the most economic value from this space will be willing to pay the most for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            My understanding was that part of it is that only some people can be sufficiently close to the exchange to win HFT games, so there’s an equity concern.

            Isn’t that kind of like saying that only some people can be close enough to the Klondike or Sierra Nevada to win the “Gold Rush” games, so there’s an equity concern?

            To a first-order approximation, HFT games are about looking at the existing bid-ask spread and saying “I can beat that if I move fast enough”, such that the HF traders get to claim the reduced spread as profit and everybody else gets a smaller bid-ask spread for their long(er)-term investing. There are legitimate fortunes to be made in that, possibly with no more real effort than panning for gold, but you do have to physically be in the place where the fortune is.

          • Adam says:

            Frankly, I’m not enough up to speed on exactly what Congress is trying to accomplish, but the kind of trading that seems to outrage people is what James is talking about, where certain funds do nothing except intercept orders on their way to the exchange, fill them, then immediately resell, and profit by quickly identifying sub-cent differences between the buy orders on the exchange’s order book and sell limits in the incoming order, and the only reason they’re able to do this is they’re collocated with the exchange, have connections, and have really fast computers with custom network protocols and low-latency kernels they poached a bunch of HPC PhDs to build for them.

            And sure, it’s not fair in the sense a normal retail trader can’t do that, and even a well-capitalized trading firm or prop desk at a large bank can’t do that. The only way to do it is to be located at the exchange. But it’s not a threat to the economy. The activity is instant and indistinguishable from the incoming order going directly to the exchange without an intermediary. The types of things causing flash crashes and what-not are just normal stop-loss sell orders getting triggered and then triggering more of the same, which has always happened, but happens faster now because the exchanges themselves fill orders electronically. There are breaker circuits in place at all the exchanges now to prevent this.

          • brad says:

            I’m in the camp that thinks that finance (and FIRE generally) straddles the line between symbiont and parasite and at its current percent of the economy looks like it is leaning towards the parasite side. But that said, 1) HFT market makers are a tiny portion of finance, and 2) probably all in all harmless or beneficial.

            The companies that hate HFT market makers are many orders of magnitude larger than they are and make a heck of a lot more money. So the appeals to populism ring pretty hollow.

          • Ralph says:

            @james

            This is false and completely misunderstood. Anyone can collocate their servers at the exchange. And the exchanges ensure that everyone’s cords are the same length (so to speak). This idea that only insiders can collocate at the exchanges through some kind of back room dealing is just wrong.

            It isn’t even that expensive. Anyone who
            has enough capital to be even a tiny player making markets can afford it. I’m
            pretty sure even individuals can rent space on a collocated server. If anything, this has wildly democratized this kind of trading. It is substantially easier to collocate than it is to get a seat on the trading floor (let alone get the vets on the floor to treat your orders fairly).

          • TheNybbler says:

            “And the exchanges ensure that everyone’s cords are the same length (so to speak).”

            Not “so to speak”. Literally. The cables are literally the same length.

          • All of this is reminding me of Hirschleifer’s old article on inefficient speculation.

            Suppose I discover that the price of wheat is going to go up five minutes before everyone else does. Further suppose that during those five minutes no actions will be taken that are affected by whether or not the price has done up yet. I profit by my advance information, since I use it to buy wheat during those five minutes. But my profit is not based on any benefit I have produced–I’m getting a gain that otherwise would have gone to the person who would have been holding the wheat when the price went up if I had not bought it. Hence anything I spend on getting that advance information is pure rent seeking.

            In most market contexts, the profit you get by an action is a measure of the benefit that action produces. In the case of speculation, doing it well produces both a profit and a benefit, but the two are not related. You might make a small profit from speculative activity that produces a large benefit by the information it generates for others. Or you might, as in my example, make a large profit from an action that produces no benefit.

            I suspect that this line of argument could be applied to the current discussion to argue that at least some expenditure on being able to make very fast transactions is rent seeking, hence wasteful.

          • Ralph says:

            @theNybbler

            Agreed. I hedged that statement because I’m not sure if they use or will ever use any cloud servers.

            @David

            This is one of the more reasonable arguments against HFT. Maybe that and some tail risk of systematic instability (though circuit breakers kind of take care of that). The nonsense about unfairness is just populist garbage.

            But the government should decide which industries are wasteful and tax them until they aren’t? I don’t know.

            No one seems to be making too much noise about the vast number of software developers working to optimize digital marketing. Way more resources go into this than into HFT.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:

            I believe that, at least at one point, the HFT would manage to execute a buy of of a stock when the saw a purchase request come in from A. They would buy from B and sell to A faster than B could realize A wanted to sell.

            So, fairly pure rent seeking.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub: Were classic retail shopkeepers engaged in pure rent-seeking when thel sold some consumer good to small-town customer A? They would buy from distant manufacturer B and sell to A faster than B could realize (presumably via catalog mail-order) that A wanted to buy.

            Middlemen are not properly considered rent-seekers. In most economic transactions, it is inefficient for the ultimate buyer and the ultimate seller to interact directly. Middlemen perform a real service, going out and finding that the thing you want to buy here and now is being offered for sale by some factory in Malaysia or hedge fund in London, and arranging the transaction. They collect a legitimate profit from doing this, iff they are the best on the block at doing this.

            And as the middleman’s art advances from “You get your stuff four to six weeks after you send your order to Sears (COD, full retail price)”, to “Amazon Prime, next-day delivery, 20% discount” to “100 shares of SHLD, thirteen milliseconds after you asked, five cents per share bid-ask spread”, the middleman’s gross profit decreases, but the contempt for the middleman grows. This is wrong. Please knock it off.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            This is all taking place in micro-seconds within one market. I don’t think the analogy to the classic middleman holds. There is no particular benefit that A or B gets from the transaction. B would have sold to A a mere fraction of a second later.

            Caveat, I need to see if I can find a current source for this information. I know I read it a few years ago, but I am working off of what is surely imperfect memory.

          • brad says:

            @HBC
            What your describing is called front running. It’s illegal. I’m sure it happens occasionally, it certainly did back in the old days with guys on the floor.

            But the larger argument is that something else (legal) that HTC traders do is akin to front running rather than literally front running. I never read it but I understand Flash Boys to have conflated the two things.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think this is the article I read, or near enough.

            “Well, he was being front-run. HFT firms pay public and private exchanges to see their incoming orders. That’s why Katsuyama was getting all of his order filled at the exchange closest to him—that is, as the fiber optic cable lies—but nowhere else. The HFTers were seeing his order at the first exchange and then racing to buy all the rest of the stock he wanted everywhere else, so they could sell it to him for more.”

          • John Schilling says:

            There is no particular benefit that A or B gets from the transaction. B would have sold to A a mere fraction of a second later.

            A fraction of a second is a vanishingly small benefit, but it isn’t zero benefit. The same goes for a penny’s difference in the bid-ask spread, and the two are correlated – part of the reason for the bid-ask spread is the market maker’s risk that something that affects the stock’s price will become known in the interval between taking your order and closing it. Faster is better and cheaper.

            And if the marginal benefits are small, so what? Middleman X offers to save you ten milliseconds and two cents over what middleman Y would have offered, and you’re going to accuse X of being a parasitic rent-seeker?

            If it helps wrap your mind around it, take it back into the physical. Kludgy old stalwart Amazon.com offers thirty-minute drone delivery and charges 10% over wholesale price. Now new upstart Danube.biz offers twenty-minute ballistic delivery and charges 9% over wholesale. And then, because the Chinese do everything better, Yangtze.com++ delivers by teleporter in 15 minutes and charges 8% over wholesale. All three offer every item known to commerce, are 100% reliable, and have all the latest green, fair trade, free range, and social justice certifications.

            You almost never care about five minutes or one percent of purchase price, nor does anyone else. But are you still going to do business with Amazon, while denouncing Yangtze as parasitic rent-seekers for offering ‘no particular benefit’? If so, why? Is Google wrong to recognize your preferences and rank your search results Yangtze, Danube, Amazon?

            When does offering equal or lower prices with faster service stop being a good thing and start being a bad thing?

          • brad says:

            It is my understanding that Michael Lewis and all the articles relying on him as a source are simplifying the situation in such a way as to make it look like there is front-running when there isn’t.

            Basically you have a guy at a trading desk at Goldman Sachs making $2M/yr complaining that he has a hard time moving huge blocks of stock quickly without moving the market price. It’s his job to try to do that, and it’s the market makers job to detect what he’s trying to do that and not let him but instead have the price move against his large order (and that’s relevant information that should be reflected in the stock price). There’s no good or bad guy there.

            (And in my prior comment it should have been HFT not HTC, sorry)

          • Ralph says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’m not sure this is the best venue at which to explain the huge swing and a miss the flash boys was. There a lot of problems with HFT but the book focused on one that just isn’t even real or feasible. Everyone who is actually in the industry simultaneously kind of said, “What? That isn’t what happens at all! No one could make money trading like that”.

            Michael Lewis is a good dude but he totally misunderstands what goes on at the microstructure level. There are better explanations out there but I’ll try:

            Market makers post liquidity at multiple exchanges. Let’s say for example a market maker places an offer to sell 1000 shares at 3 different exchanges at some price, $1.00. He doesn’t actually want to sell 3000 shares at once. He wants to sell 1000 at one of the 3 exchanges, which ever one has incoming orders first, and then he will remove the remaining 2000 orders and reassess his position. He is taking a risk that someone quicker than he is could pick off all 3000 of his shares, in order to increase his odds of getting filled for 1000 at this price.

            So let’s say someone else is looking at their screen, which actually aggregates all orders posted at all exchanges into one feed, and tells him that there are 3000 orders offered at $1.00 (This is a synthetic offer at 3000, not a real one. This is the buyers choice to use software that aggregates orders like this, not some systematic function of the exchanges). He says great, I want to buy 3000. So he places a buy order, using an algorithm that his broker provides. This algorithm goes to each exchange, one by one, buying the 1000 at a time at each exchange. Meanwhile, the market maker sees that his first 1000 have been bought. He says great I got my 1000 filled, and he moves quickly to remove the other 2000 orders, and fast, because the buyer may want to buy more (This would be the floor trading equivalent of a floor trader walking into one exchange, buying up every share of a stock at a given price, then walking to the next exchange and doing the same, meanwhile, a market maker calls his partner at the 3rd exchange and says, hey this guy is buying up all of this stock at this price, you can probably raise the price before he gets there. So nothing immoral, the buyer just isn’t as sophisticated as he market makers. And rightly so, they are professionals).

            Since the market maker is very smart, and studies the various latencies between exchanges, his algorithm is more efficient, and he can remove his remaining orders from $1.00 and put them at $1.01. Since the buyer is using a naive algorithm from his broker, he is much slower, and his buy orders arrive after the market maker has adjusted his offers upwards (and this doesn’t necessarily have to happen! A sophisticated buyer can beat the market maker. In fact in the book flash boys, the protagonist does just this. It is solely a matter of being smarter and faster).

            The buyer gets his 3000 orders filled at an average price of $1.0066. So he is like WTF? My screen said I could buy for $1.00! I’ve been cheated.

            But this is very unlike the scenario Michael Lewis describes. In his scenario, the market maker gets filled on the first 1000 and then goes and buys 2000 more orders at the other exchange at $1.00 and turns around and sells them to the buyer at $1.01. This so so terribly risky and dumb and any microstructure trader knows that it will lose massive sums of money in the long run. It just doesn’t happen.

            So no one is being front run. No one is paying exchanges to see orders before they arrive at the exchange. They can only see them statistically (hey, someone bought all the orders offered at $1.00 at exchange A, he probably wants to buy some more at exchange B, if I am fast and smart, I can act on this). It’s no more front running than saying, hey a lot of people bought yesterday, probably more will buy tomorrow, I should buy in the morning to beat them.

            Hopefully this makes sense. There are a lot of good criticisms of HFTs, but unfairness or claims of frunt running are just kind of off base.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:
            That is good information. Thanks for the correction.

            I’ll say that it looks slightly like false advertising to me.

            Why the need to make and then withdraw the offers on the other two markets? What does this get the trader? Seems like bait-and-switch, where you never do have any intention of selling at the offered price (but you will if you get “caught” and are forced to).

            I can imagine one reason to offer at $1.00 in 3 places is to convince the buyer that a)There are 3000 shares at that price and b) To set where the buyer will offer to buy. Otherwise you could simply put 1000 out and then offer the next 1000 at a higher price.

            @Mark Atwood:
            Why do you have to say everything in a nasty way? Even when you have a good point, you manage to make it unreadable.

          • Ralph says:

            @HeelBearCub

            It’s a little bit like false advertising but not really. I think of it more like this… You have a bike to sell, and you take out an ad in the paper, put up a Craigslist post, post it on Facebook, and tell all of your friends in person. You only have 1 bike to sell, but you advertise it on 4 different venues (exchanges).

            When someone says they will buy it, you remove the ads on all of the other venues. It’s a bit different, because placing on order on an exchange forces you into a contract when it’s filled, while posting a craigslist ad does not.

            As for your other questions, the example I gave was very simplified. In reality there would be tons of buyers with different motives and levels of sophistication. Some of them pay attention to exchanges individually. So the seller and increase his chances of selling the 1000 by posting it on 3 different exchanges, since some buyers may only pay attention to one of them.

            Again, in reality, all of this would only be a small fraction of the inputs that go into the sellers algorithm that decide when and where he moves his orders. He is constantly reacting to dynamic information. And there would be like, 15 other sellers doing a really similar thing to him, competing for the buyer’s orders.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:
            “Since the market maker is very smart, and studies the various latencies between exchanges, his algorithm is more efficient, and he can remove his remaining orders from $1.00 and put them at $1.01. ”

            That is a quote from your first post. Is that happening or isn’t it?

            And I don’t follow the multiple listing on Craigslist analogy at all, because you seem to be saying that they DO want to sell 3000 shares or 3 bikes or whatever.

            Perhaps, as you say, this isn’t really what is happening and your model example was too simple for me to get at the real nut of it.

          • Ralph says:

            It is happening.

            And no they only have 1 bike to sell, and only 1000 shares to sell in both scenarios, yet they advertise that in multiple venues. In the bike sellers case, if someone on both Craigslist and Facebook accept his offer, he just tells one of them, too bad I already sold it. In the market makers case, he actually has to sell 1000 shares twice, if he wasn’t able to lift his offer fast enough. And this certainly happens. It is the risk he is taking. They are both just trying to maximize their exposure to potential buyers.

            But yes this is all really simplified. In reality the market maker will lift certain offers for a lot of reasons. Maybe some other market maker got filled on his offer, or someone just bought a lot of a correlated stock.

            In some markets, like futures, there is only one exchange, and HFTs make money by simply reacting to information across multiple correlated products faster than the competition. The multiple exchange/false advertising thing isn’t even at play. They just move their orders around really quickly to reflect the state of global financial markets at any given point in time. This is efficiency at work on a micro level.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:
            You originally described a scenario where the seller sold 3000 shares and the buyer bought 3000, 1000 at $1.00 and 2000 at $1.01.

            Again, maybe you are condensing two points, but it is very confusing.

          • Ralph says:

            Yeah okay I see what you are saying. Your right, my last comment about the analogy is wrong.

            Forget the bike scenario. It is still a valid thought experiment but it is not analogous to the hypothetical trading example.

            The point is that placing orders that you plan to cancel after receiving new information is not wrong, immoral, illegal, or frunt running. The market maker who removes these orders before the buyer can get to them isn’t intercepting them before they get to the market or paying the exchanges to get an early peek. He is just acting on public information faster than others, and leveraging an in depth understanding of the interconnectivity of multiple exchanges.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:
            But it does look like bait and switch, right?

            The seller doesn’t actually want to sell 3000 shares at $1.00, and (I assume) might lose money if they do it.

            (Again, I assume) They are only willing to sell the first 1000 because it gives them some means of leveraging the information about the sale to sell the other 2000 at a higher price.

            Do you see where I am coming from? It’s obviously not illegal, but it does seem like they are gaming the market in some way. Otherwise, why list the original 3000 instead of just listing 1000 (and then entering the 2000 in the other markets after the first sale completes). Listing all the sell orders at the same time has to be doing something for them.

          • Ralph says:

            It looks a little bit like gaming the market to me. But he is posting 1000 at each exchange, and for each exchange in a vacuum, he does genuinely want to
            sell 1000 shares.

            Again, this is kind of a simplified hypothetical. Consider an example where he does want all 3000. Then he receives information that the first 1000 were sold. Should he be allowed to raise his price on the other 2000? He doesn’t actually know the buyer wants the other 2000, but maybe statistically, buying 1000 implies that more will be bought. So it is in his best interest to raise the price of his offers.

            Is raising his price gaming the market?

            Is it always gaming the market to place an order on multiple exchanges and remove the remainder after one of them is filled?

            I don’t necessarily think so, though I’m open to arguments saying otherwise.

            A lot depends on what you consider gaming the market and what you consider just leveraging everything you can in order to compete for the best price possible. Which I think is subjective.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Ralph:
            Well, the question gets down to what motivated the listings. If profitability is dependent on offer-withdraw-reoffer then it looks to me like the first listing is not in good faith.

            I’m sure bad-faith has always been part of the market, so maybe it is just same as it ever was. But aren’t there prohibitions against making moves intended to influence the price (as opposed to predicting it)?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What the HFT is doing in this scenario is collapsing the multiple markets into a single market. The HFT advertises everything available on one market as also available on every other market. This is of great value to the person who doesn’t want to think about markets. That person doesn’t have to worry about where to buy what, but just goes anywhere and buys anything. HFT makes a little commission, but small enough that it’s not worth it for the ordinary trader to think about.

            The person who loses in this scenario is Michael Lewis’s subject who was trying to make money by understanding the structure of the markets, by dividing the order between markets in a complicated way. In other words, a middleman. A middleman complaining that HFT is better at his job and outcompeting him.

            This is hardly the only thing HFT does, but ML’s example of the evil of HFT is one of the most unambiguously good things that it does.

          • Ralph says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I agree with your framing. I made this example up so I don’t know if the predictive ability of the seller is dependent on his decision to withdrawal the offer or not. But in the real world it is certainly possible to predict that kind of behavior without your own knowledge that you will pull your other offers if someone buys the first 1000.

            I think a lot of it comes down to intent which is pretty moot since it is impossible to prove/regulate. Is the seller trying to sway the buyer and trick him into buying at a higher price? Or is he just maximizing his exposure to potential buyers, and will reassess his position at each incremental step to optimize the price at which he pays? Both of these for sure occur.

            And yeah a big argument against the people making a lot of noise about HFT is that this is same as it ever was for sure. I was never a floor trader but I imagine these practices existed in other forms on the trading floor as well, at a similar or even greater magnitude.

          • What the HFT is doing in this scenario is collapsing the multiple markets into a single market.

            That begs the obvious question: given modern technology, why do we need to have multiple markets in the first place? If the HFT is serving as a more-efficient-middleman, why not get rid of the middleman altogether?

          • Ralph says:

            @Harry

            We don’t really need multiple exchanges. There are many stock-like securities that trade on a single exchange, namely some futures contracts. Stocks trading on multiple exchanges is a function of some government regulation that was intended to allow competition among exchanges and improve “fairness”.

            I think this causes more problems than it solves. So do a lot of other people.

            But HFTs prosper in a lot of other areas than stock markets. So it’s not like HFTs need multiple exchanges to be profitable or add value, contrary to what the Michael Lewis narrative implies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark Atwood:
            Well, the shouting for one thing.

            And the starting out with attacking the word “akin” as if arguments were being made in bad faith, as opposed to people trying to grapple honestly with the domain.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Ralph, we may not need multiple exchanges, but we have them. Anyone can open a new one. What is the alternative, a government monopoly? A guild monopoly?

            The cost of trading is a transaction cost. There are two parts to it, the fee to the exchange and the bid-ask spread. Competition between exchanges keeps the fees down. And HFT keeps the bid-ask spread down. It simulates a single market while avoiding monopoly.

            I don’t think that a monopoly exchange charging monopoly fees would be a terrible thing. The danger of a monopoly is more that it stagnates. A variety of exchanges allows experiments, like subsidizing HFT or banning HFT.

          • Ralph says:

            @Douglas Knight

            I agree with all of that. I don’t know what the alternative is at this point. I’m
            not sure that I would advocate a forced monopoly. I also don’t think that HFT is a problem in general.

            Competition among exchanges is probably good, but multiple exchanges encourages resources to be allocated to trying to optimize trading in the environment I was describing in the posts above which might be wasteful.

            I used to work in futures markets, which mostly operate on a single exchange (there are many exceptions). It was really nice and simple. Though when the exchange made a change, the industry would just have to deal with it, rather than just moving to another exchange.

            I don’t have that passionate of an argument either way.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Ralph, yeah, that was more aimed at Harry, but I didn’t make it clear.

          • brad says:

            In order to understand why HFT market makers act like the do, you need to understand the difference between smart money and dumb money.

            The cannonical example of dumb money is a retail investor picking up a small or odd lot based on throwing a dart at a wall, but other dumb money are index funds re-balancing or a hedging transaction. Smart money is a big player taking a fundamental position on the underlying stock.

            The fact that dumb money is entering or leaving a position isn’t important new information about what the price of a stock should be, and shouldn’t move the market much or predict future movements. Smart money buying or selling a bunch of stock, on the other hand, is new information and is expected, at least more often than not, to presage a movement in the stock.

            How exactly this basic distinction plays out is kind of complicated, but the long and short of it is that market makers very much want to know whether their counterparties are smart money moving a lot of shares in a bunch of little pieces or lots of individual dumb money orders. Smart money on the other hand very much wants to hide the fact that they are smart money moving a lot of stock from their counterparties.

            That’s the framework for the whole canceling orders thing. It wouldn’t happen with every sale, only in the circumstances where the market maker programs think the trader on the other side is trying to put together a large order to take a fundemental position. And they pull those orders because if they didn’t in a complicated way they end up losing money and the other guy would come out ahead.

            I don’t think it is any more fundamentally dishonest to cancel those trades before they are executed than it is to break up a 250,000 share purchase into 1000 share lots and slip them in to all different markets to hide what you are doing. Both are legit parts of the game.

            N.B. I’m not actually in the industry, this is second hand, so it might not be 100% accurate.

          • The big scary issue with HFT is that it’s *so* fast that sub-millisecond delays can lose you tons of money. The trading algorithms are optimized at the instruction level to be as dead-simple as possible while still more-or-less working. This is frightening, because these purposely-rock-bottom-stupid-but-fast algos determine how the market works to a large extent. As long as they model what we want, great, but when they don’t (and they can’t ever model perfectly, because they’re intentionally stupid and fast), you get flash crashes and other bizarre behavior that have no basis in reasonable behavior, but are just the result of hiccupping algorithms causing cascading badness thruout the system.

            Forcing the trades to slow down would not materially affect their ability to enhance market liquidity, but it would give humans some breathing room, and greatly raise the time budget the algorithms have to think about things, so they can be smarter.

    • Ralph says:

      If the market microstructure is currently efficient, meaning market makers are setting the spread between the bid and the ask at exactly the width it needs to be in order for them to make a risk adjusted profit of zero, then the spread would have to widen given a transaction tax. Meaning the tax essentially gets passed on to takers of liquidity (retail investors, mutual funds, most hedge funds, etc.). It might cut down on aggressive HFTs that remove liquidity.

      Pretty simple stuff. Basically the same inefficiencies that a tax on suppliers brings about in any industry. Again, the assumption that the market is pretty efficient and suppliers (in this case, of liquidity) are not making an excess profit is a big one.

      • Adam says:

        The thing that gets me about it is bid-ask spreads are empirically lower now than they were before. But since there are fewer players able to profit off of it at all, and because volumes are higher, the small number of players able to do this can make a lot of money, a lot more than the old-school market makers who stood on the exchange floor taking manual orders with pen and paper. This seems to really piss people off, because it seems like an unfair way to make money, but the only effect to the retail consumer is bid-ask spreads are lower. They get lower transaction fees and more liquidity. The only people it actually hurt were the other market makers that got put out of business.

        • Ralph says:

          Exactly this. The public is confused. It is all psychological. They (retail investors) are actually getting a better deal in the HFT market maker regime than in the trading floor market maker regime. Market makers in aggregate are making way, way less money than in the past.

          But a couple of quant traders and a software engineer can do the work of like 50 floor traders. So they make a lot of money (but a whole lot of them actually don’t). So this upsets people. And like robots are scary and flash boys and Wall Street greed… Or something.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Currently HFT is subject to a negative transaction tax.

      Not by the government, but by the markets. The markets make money by charging most traders a transaction fee. They discount this for HFT because they believe that having HFT on their market makes it more attractive for ordinary traders, their real customers, the people giving them money.

      The existence of the subsidies show that they are what (markets think) the ordinary traders want. It’s not some kind of default behavior that they stumbled onto, but a very active decision to subsidize. And yet the number of markets is small enough that they probably could collude to eliminate them if they thought it was a negative sum game. There is a particular market that specializes in not allowing HFT. What happens with it will be interesting.

      The interests of the government are not the same as the interests of the markets and traders (but neither are they the same as the interests of the people), but one should have pretty detailed beliefs about what is happening and why the interests differ to propose taxing what the markets are subsidizing.

  26. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Something that’s been puzzling me is, if “white male” is the lowest status in deep Blue communities, and Blues see Muslims as a non-white race, what prevents huge numbers of men in places like the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, and every university town from converting to Islam? They could hypothetically gain the benefits of being PoCs rather than white, the benefits of it being taboo for others in the community to criticize their beliefs, plus the benefits for men of hardcore patriarchy.
    I can think of two reasons that might not work, but I’m curious what others think.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      a) “Blue tribe” people don’t actually like Muslims, especially hardcore Muslims. They just don’t care about them. They’re funny little savages. If there started to be a large contingent of hardcore pro-patriarchy Muslim men on campus, they would be against it.

      b) These communities are little oases apart from the rest of America, where converting to Islam will provide no special benefits.

      c) People actually do not only care about some simplistic notion of “status”. They actually think their beliefs are correct and do not want to change them out like items of clothing.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “They just don’t care about them. They’re funny little savages”

        What an awful statement. Uncharitable and a failure of imagination.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          That was merely a mocking way of saying they think Muslims have:

          a) Bad, incorrect, and harmful values. (I don’t see how they can deny this insofar as Islam is totally contrary to liberalism and progressivism.)

          b) Because they are ignorant. (As opposed to evil.)

          c) But they are not a threat—are not in a position of power—and need to be helped, not fought.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Islam” like “Christianity” is far too large a category to make statements like this about.

            Where you see particular oppressive actions by those who are also Islamic, you see blue tribe oppose them, without the need to condemn “Muslims” as a class. For a small example, see Mulala Yusuf.

            My daughter’s best friend through grade school happened to be Muslim. That she was also white and Irish and living in a large urban community in the US should give you pause. That the mother was a teacher in her school and wore the hijab should also give you pause.

          • Gbdub says:

            I think you’re proving Vox Imperatoris’ point. Your daughter’s friend is in no way a central example of a Muslim, and you know this. Frankly, no American Muslims are central examples of Muslims.

            The reality is that we CAN point to a central example of a Muslim, sort of, because there are many countries in which Muslims are the majority. In many (most?) of these countries, Islam is not merely a religion but a strong or dominant force in politics as well. And to the extent that it is a strong political force, these countries tend to be misogynistic, homophobic, and generally unpleasant to many causes progressives claim to hold dear.

            The fact that you choose to ignore these many millions of Muslims and their strong beliefs in a very anti-progressive society, dismissing them as “not true Muslims”, and instead try to focus on their buddy who converted in college and observes Ramadan, when he doesn’t forget, is exactly the blind spot Vox Imperatoris was referring to I think.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gbdub:
            “The fact that you choose to ignore these many millions of Muslims and their strong beliefs in a very anti-progressive society, dismissing them as “not true Muslims”, and instead try to focus on their buddy who converted in college and observes Ramadan, when he doesn’t forget”

            Okay, to use an English expression, that’s bollocks.

            You just weak-manned my argument.

            I’m in no way saying that my “buddy” to which you then attached a bunch of other untrue descriptors, is the central example of Islamic faith. Part of what I am pointing at is that, with 1.6 billion people you can’t find a “central example”. I gave one example that shows the folly of this.

            Ken Ham is immensely popular. But I don’t think his views represent the views of all Christians. And anyone he said we should distrust the views on science of Christians, period full stop, because of Ham and his popularity wouldn’t be correct.

            You have to be more specific than just “Muslims”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @HeelBearCub: So let’s narrow it down to Sunni (85-90% majority) Muslims who recognize either Wahhabi theology or that of Al-Azhar as authoritative. Are they safer and more rational neighbors the more devout they are, or the less? Should non-Muslims support or criticize their attempts to live up to sharia?
            I think the fact that according to the data cited earlier in this thread, terrorist attacks in the United States are as likely to be carried out by Muslims as white nationalists when the US is 70% white and 1% Muslim is a clue. And what about rape per capita in countries like England with its Rotherham cover-up?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Le Maistre Chat:

            I think the more devout people are, any religion, the less likely they are to be rational.

            The more devout a Muslim, the more likely you are to do irrational things, up to and including engaging various terrorist acts against your outgroup.

            The more devout a Jew, the more likely you are to do irrational things, up to and including engaging in various terrorist acts against your outgroup.

            The more devout a Christian, the more likely you are to do irrational things, up to and including engaging in various terrorist acts against your outgroup.

            The more devout a Hindu, the more likely you are to do irrational things, up to and including engaging various terrorist acts against your outgroup.

            But, that said all of those categories are too broad to be rationally used as a blanket to condemn all the adherent. Devout Muslim is too broad. Devout Orthodox Jew is too broad. Even Devout Fundamentalist Apocalyptic Christian is too broad.

          • gbdub says:

            The fact that you can give one non-central example of a Muslim does not imply… well, really anything, other than that “all Muslims are fundamentalists and/or terrorists” isn’t literally true. But no one here is arguing that.

            And I apologize for using a general “your” to imply my flippant description was referring to your personal acquaintance. I had meant to make it more clear I was making a flip point about the position of the American left in general, so apologies for the offense.

            Other than calling them “central” though, what part of my description of majority Muslim countries was “bollocks”? And what part of calling American Muslims highly non central was “bollocks”? There are <5 million American Muslims, and about 19 million in the EU. As you point out, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Most of them are not terrorists or ISIS supporters. But most of them aren't favorable toward America in general or American liberal values either.

            What I'm actually arguing is that the current progressive stance isn't much more realistic than the "all Muslims are terrorists"approach of the racists. You can't just ignore the powerful influence political Islamism has over a large portion of the world, or argue that political Islamism as practiced in these areas is particularly amenable to progressive ideals. Sharia (to name one thing) is pretty damn scary, and it may not be supported by all Muslims, but by enough that it's worth worrying about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gbdub:
            When Catholics and Protestants were going at each hammer and tongs in Northern Ireland, we said Northern Ireland had a problem with “the troubles”. We didn’t say Christianity had a problem and that Catholics and Protestants worldwide were implicated in the terror. Nor did we say “The Irish” or “The English” had a problem.

            We don’t hold all Hindus worldwide responsible for the actions of the Tamil Tigers (who, I just found out, invented the suicide bomb vest).

            We don’t hold all Christians responsible for what Serbs did to Muslims in Bosnia.

            In the Middle East right now, I see sectarian conflict that looks a lot like sectarian conflict the world over. Whether it’s Angola, Columbia, Peru, Sri Lanka, North Ireland, Bosnia, … People invoke the name of God in their fight, and many of them believe it, but why does it look like standard inter-ethnic conflict?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “We didn’t say Christianity had a problem and that Catholics and Protestants worldwide were implicated in the terror. Nor did we say “The Irish” or “The English” had a problem.”

            Because converting wouldn’t have ended the fighting; it was clearly an ethnic conflict. Also, the people in Northern Ireland aren’t ethnically English.

            ” I see sectarian conflict that looks a lot like sectarian conflict the world over.”

            Really? Crucifying children is common the world over? Having a sectarian conflict that spans multiple countries with nothing in common but religion is common? Attracting fighters from all over the world is common?

          • NN says:

            So what exactly is the “central example” of a Muslim? Is the central example Middle Eastern? How does that make sense when you consider that more Muslims live in Indonesia than live in the entire Middle East? While Indonesia is far from perfect, it is way ahead of most Middle Eastern countries in terms of civil liberties, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and so on (with the exception of the Aceh province, which has fallen under increasingly strict fundamentalist rule in recent years as a result of a civil war there).

            There are around 50 Muslim majority countries in the world, which are spread across 4 different continents. Talking about a “central example” of anything in this context seems absurd. I agree that there are very serious problems with terrorism and the influence of fundamentalism on politics in the Muslim world today, but talking about central examples seems like a pretty unproductive way to frame the discussion.

            So let’s narrow it down to Sunni (85-90% majority) Muslims who recognize either Wahhabi theology or that of Al-Azhar as authoritative.

            By most estimates, Wahhabis make up about 0.5% of the global Muslim population, so it seems a little strange to call them a “central example.” It is true that they have disproportionate influence due to their position in Saudi Arabia, which uses oil revenues to fund massive religious and political outreach programs, and is probably the single biggest contributor to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in recent times. But I still don’t think that’s a good reason to call them “a central example.” Is Barack Obama a central example of an American black man because he has so much power and influence?

            —-

            Also, for the record, more devout Muslims are not more likely to support terrorism than less devout Muslims. Nor for that matter, are politically conservative Islamists more likely to support terrorism. Even without looking at the statistics, there are plenty of obvious counter-examples. Consider the 9/11 hijackers who were spotted in strip clubs and bars in the weeks before the attack, or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described by his friends as a fan of marijuana and hip-hop, or the pair of wannabe ISIS fighters from the UK who bought Islam for Dummies online before attempting to travel to Syria, or the two Paris attackers who owned a bar, one of whom is openly gay.

            Nor, for that matter, are most Islamic fundamentalists supporters of terrorism. The vast majority of Salafis are “Quietist Salafis,” who eschew not just violence but any involvement in politics, and instead focus on being as Sharia-compliant as possible in their personal lives, much like the sort of Ultra-Orthodox Jews who spend an enormous amount of time debating whether this or that action is allowed on the Sabbath. This article has a pretty good description of Quietist Salafis in the second half. These people do tend to have highly illiberal attitudes, but I don’t think that it is a good idea to lump them in with terrorists.

            What does lead people to become terrorists? It’s complicated (I suggest checking out Scott Atran’s work if you want to know more), but the evidence suggests that social network effects are the strongest influence. By far the biggest risk factor for radicalization is having a friend or family member who has been radicalized. Religious identity seems to mostly matter, in this context, because of how it helps define a person’s ingroup and outgroup.

          • NN says:

            Attracting fighters from all over the world is common?

            It isn’t exactly common, but this sort of thing has happened elsewhere. The Spanish Civil War is a particularly famous example. Also Israel, sort of.

          • anonymous says:

            The Indian subcontinent as a whole (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) has more than half a billion Muslims (~520M), which is more than twice as many as Indonesia (~222M), and significantly more than the entire Arabic speaking world put together (~300M).

            So the modal, if not central, example of a Muslim should probably be Desi.

        • Uncharitable to Muslims or to blue tribe people?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        a) implies that when there reaches a critical mass of Muslims in a Western country, the Left will start hating them. This makes France (7.5%), Belgium (6%), Austria, Switzerland (5.7%), Germany (5.6%), and the Netherlands (5.5%) key places to look for evidence.

        b) is probably important. A parallel would be the university phenomenon of “Lesbian Until Graduation”, where some young women identify as oppressed until moving out of the university town.

        c) At first glance, this seems true and good. OTOH, Social Justice is strongly correlated with higher education, yet seems dumber than the beliefs of less educated people. How to explain?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          a) implies that when there reaches a critical mass of Muslims in a Western country, the Left will start hating them. This makes France (7.5%), Belgium (6%), Austria, Switzerland (5.7%), Germany (5.6%), and the Netherlands (5.5%) key places to look for evidence.

          Only if the Muslims actually live in their neighborhoods and interact with them. And then only if the Muslims (with whom they interact) do not assimilate, and continue to support patriarchy and sharia law.

          b) is probably important. A parallel would be the university phenomenon of “Lesbian Until Graduation”, where some young women identify as oppressed until moving out of the university town.

          It’s highly dubious that women do this (if it’s even a real phenomenon) solely to fit in and earn “oppression points”. Women are known to have a less rigidly binary sexual orientation than men, for whatever reason (could be culture; could be biology).

          c) At first glance, this seems true and good. OTOH, Social Justice is strongly correlated with higher education, yet seems dumber than the beliefs of less educated people. How to explain?

          The beliefs of uneducated people are really stupid. Their beliefs are completely unsystematic, and they don’t know how to defend them in rational argument.

          It is not surprising that people go to college, say stupid things without being able to defend them, hear a left-wing counterargument (because that’s the only kind they hear), and become more left-wing. Whatever your opinion of left-wing college professors is, they are not idiots, they have heard the standard arguments against their own positions, and they can make your average small-town conservative look and feel really dumb.

          Now, whether you can rationalize “common sense” into some kind of “deep wisdom” in which the folksy people were right after all is another question. But if they’re right, they don’t know why they’re right.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The beliefs of uneducated people are really stupid. Their beliefs are completely unsystematic, and they don’t know how to defend them in rational argument.

            People can have unjustified and unsystematic true beliefs. Like how the systematic, rational Party knew less about how to grow food than the Russian peasants. Burke called them “just prejudices”.

            It is not surprising that people go to college, say stupid things without being able to defend them, hear a left-wing counterargument (because that’s the only kind they hear), and become more left-wing. Whatever your opinion of left-wing college professors is, they are not idiots, they have heard the standard arguments against their own positions,

            I’m not so sure any more. Universities have speech codes that can make arguments against the Sociology or * Studies professor’s positions a punishable offense. Of course if a young conservative gets to college and thinks stupid things about economics or science, that’s a different matter.

            Now, whether you can rationalize “common sense” into some kind of “deep wisdom” in which the folksy people were right after all is another question. But if they’re right, they don’t know why they’re right.

            The folksy people will be more right than their rulers if the rulers are getting worse, because the folksy people are behind the times and got their prejudices from previous generations of rulers. I may be wrong, but I think this is the case: the judicial and media elites and schoolteachers, who are all downstream from the university professors, are on their way to losing the Mandate of Heaven.

          • Deiseach says:

            The beliefs of uneducated people are really stupid.

            Ahem. Are you saying that every belief an uneducated person holds is stupid because an uneducated person holds it (and if they had the benefit of a college education and held the same belief, it would not be a stupid belief)?

            Or are you saying that some beliefs are stupid regardless of the educational status of the person holding them, but that uneducated people are more easily convinced by bad arguments through not having the tools to examine them?

            Because this is sounding yet again like the attitude on here I complained of before: “not having a college degree” = “uneducated” and “stupid”.

            “Not knowing how to defend a belief in rational argument” is not the same as “This belief is stupid”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Deiseach:

            Or are you saying that some beliefs are stupid regardless of the educational status of the person holding them, but that uneducated people are more easily convinced by bad arguments through not having the tools to examine them?

            Yes, that.

            By “stupid beliefs”, I mean beliefs that are not true, and that any familiarity with arguments on the subject would cause them to abandon. Of course, that’s just a metaphor. A belief cannot be stupid, only a person can, and I’m not literally saying uneducated people are stupid. They are just ignorant.

            For example, an uneducated conservative who supports the free market probably has never heard of the concept of externalities, and he is quite likely to believe that the free market works perfectly. If he goes to college and hears his liberal college professor talk about “market failures” and prove that they exist, he doesn’t know how to respond. Rush Limbaugh does not talk about market failures.

            Or perhaps he believes that America has always been a force for good in the world, being one-hundred percent noble and upright in its dealings with other nations. Then he goes to college and hears about all these cases of American imperialism and aggression (slanted to be worse than it is), and he doesn’t know what to say.

            To take another case, it’s well-known that the average American wants to “cut foreign aid”: but he thinks it makes up something on the order of 20% of the budget and should be cut to something reasonable like 10% or 5%.

            Or, in general, he is likely to believe that liberals are all idiots. That’s why they support liberalism, which is obviously false. Now in fact that’s obviously not true, and if he goes in expecting them to be idiots, he is likely to be taken aback by their clever arguments.

            Or take religion. This isn’t so much a matter of “not true”, but “folk beliefs” about theology are almost entirely opposed to what the actual theologians think. I think the average religious person basically believes that “good people” earn entry into heaven on their own merits, but actually Christianity is not like that at all. Or they explain the problem of evil by saying that the Devil is responsible for evil, not God. And in regard to atheism, they’ve never heard a cogent case for it at all.

            These are just the first examples that come to my mind. In general, uneducated people have unsophisticated and un-nuanced beliefs. These beliefs are not true, and the liberal professors can prove they are not true. There exist sophisticated conservative/libertarian counterarguments that preserve much of the substance of the original positions, but that’s not what the uneducated people believe. Scott’s post on meta-contrarianism is relevant here.

            Or just read Scott’s “Non-Libertarian FAQ”, for an example of how you can absolutely destroy unsophisticated libertarianism (which of course has much in common with / is the same thing as American conservatism.)

          • keranih says:

            @ Vox –

            Do you have any examples of stupid beliefs that uneducated liberals hold?

            (And no, I’m not asking out of some sort of ‘fairness’ or equal representation basis, but to get a better handle on what sort of ideas you are classifying as unsupportable, which would be corrected by exposure to (fact-based) higher education.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ keranih:

            Oh, yeah! They’re a lot easier for me to think of, to be honest.

            1. 19th century capitalism was nasty and brutish until unions and the government cleaned things up and improved wages and working conditions by striking and passing laws.

            2. The minimum wage is an unqualified good for the poor: it raises their wages by taking money away from the rich business owners and does not cause unemployment.

            3. Only the rich benefit from the wealth they own.

            4. It’s good when the rich spend lots of money on consumption because this “spreads the wealth around”, but bad when they “hoard up” savings and investments because this keeps the money in their own pockets.

            5. Antitrust laws are a good idea and necessary to keep the economy from being taken over by one giant monopoly.

            6. “Price gouging” laws are beneficial and stop the exploitation of people in disaster zones.

            7. Boycotting “sweatshops” in the third world is a good idea / stops the exploitation of workers.

            8. America had a free market in healthcare before Obamacare, and that was the cause of the problems in the system.

            9. The 2008 financial crisis was caused by Bush’s (alleged) “deregulation” and Wall Street “greed”.

            10. Public schools are necessary / a good idea because education is a “public good”.

            11. Economic “middlemen” do no productive work and simply add “markups”.

            12. Wall Street and the financial industry is all a big casino that doesn’t provide any real value.

            13. Trade between countries is a competition you “win” by exporting as much as possible and importing as little as possible. (Conservatives believe this, too.)

            14. Conservatives and libertarians support cutting government spending because they’re mean bastards who hate the poor.

            15. People vote in their own economic self-interest, and this explains why the poor tend to side with the Democrats and the rich with the Republicans.

            16. The Great Depression was caused by unregulated laissez-faire capitalism, Herbert Hoover supported non-intervention, and FDR solved it in no small part by bringing us into WWII and “boosting demand”. Basically the whole mythology of the New Deal, too.

            17. Automation is a major cause of unemployment.

            18. Imperialism can be explained by countries needing to acquire “markets” for their “surplus goods”.

            19. Native Americans were a peaceful race of “noble savages” “in tune with nature” who were wiped out in a policy of calculated genocide by the evil white settlers.

            20. All religions are little more than different ways of expressing the same basic truth that you should be kind and love your neighbor.

            I could go on.

          • Jiro says:

            A good portion of those are not “stupid beliefs that uneducated liberals hold”, they are just places where you disagree with liberals and uncharitably claim that the liberals only disagree with you because of lack of education. “Stupid beliefs that liberals hold” is not the same thing as “places where I disagree with liberals and have a good argument for my case”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            That’s fair.

            All I will say is that uneducated liberals hold very unsophisticated versions of these positions (and I tried to express them in an unsophisticated way). I’m not saying that none of them can be defended in a sophisticated way.

            It’s the same manner in which the unsophisticated conservative positions can be defended in a sophisticated way. For instance:

            Unsophisticated conservative: “The free market is perfect!”
            Liberal professor: “No it isn’t. Here are the proofs, look at the instance of externalities, which the government can solve through Pigovian taxation.”
            Bryan Caplan: “The government is the biggest example of a negative externality, and the free market is always better in practice.”

            Unsophisticated liberal: “The minimum wage raises wages and causes no harm whatsoever!”
            Econ 101: “The minimum wage causes unemployment by raising wages above the market-clearing level.”
            Sophisticated liberal: “The minimum wage does cause unemployment if it is high enough, but if we set it just right it can counteract monopsony power.”

            Don Boudreaux has a good series of posts on this:

            The problem is not that most politicians and pundits take economic principles too literally; the problem is that most politicians and pundits are utterly ignorant even of these principles.

            The typical politician does not oppose free trade because he took an advanced econ course and learned there that, under just the right combination of real-world circumstances, an optimally imposed tariff can be justified on economic grounds. No. The typical politician opposes free trade because he doesn’t understand the first thing about economics. He doesn’t understand that the purpose of trade – any trade, [be it intranational or international] – is to enrich people as consumers and not to enrich people as producers. He doesn’t understand that exports are a cost and that imports are a benefit; he thinks that it’s the other way ’round. He doesn’t understand that the specific jobs lost to imports are not the only employment consequences of trade; he doesn’t understand that trade also ‘creates’ jobs in the domestic economy. He doesn’t understand that domestic producers protected by government from competition have diminished, rather than intensified, incentives to improve efficiencies of their operations. He, in short, doesn’t understand the first damn thing about the economics of trade. And nor do most of his constituents. If these constituents understood basic economics and basic economics only, they would better understand that this politician’s policies are economically harmful and that his policy statements are malarky.

            The typical politician doesn’t support minimum-wage legislation because she has concluded, after careful study, that employers of low-skilled workers have sufficient amounts of monopsony power in the labor market (as well as monopoly power in their output markets) to nullify the prediction of basic supply-and-demand analysis and, instead, to create real-world conditions that enable a scientifically set minimum wage actually to improve the welfare of most low-skilled workers without reducing the employment prospects of any of them. No. She supports minimum-wage legislation because she believes that raising the minimum wage will result simply in all low-skilled workers getting the stipulated pay raise without any negative consequences befalling these workers. And most of her constituents – even those low-skilled workers whose jobs are put at risk by the minimum wage – share her economically uninformed belief.

            In both of the above cases (and these are only two examples of many), economically destructive policies win favor largely because people do not understand economic principles. Public policy would be improved far more if more people learned only basic economic principles than if those people who now know only basic economic principles learned also more advanced economics.

            It’s called economic “principles” for a good reason: what is taught in a good economic-principles course are the principles of the operation of an economy guided by market prices. These principles are just that – principles – because they describe the underlying logic of market economies and, as such, are a reliable guide for understanding the economy (and government interventions into the economy) in most real-world cases. It’s true that reality sometimes serves up unusual combinations of events that render a knowledge only of economic principles misleading. But economic principles would be anti-principles if they did not on most occasions – as a rule – as a matter of course – with a solid, if rebuttal, presumption – give reliable and useful insight into how real-world economies actually operate.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Unsophisticated conservative: “The free market is perfect!”

            Can you find an example of a conservative (sophisticated or otherwise) saying that? To me, that reads as something unsophisticated liberals say about unsophisticated conservatives.

            I could imagine a conservative saying “the free market is awesome” or “the free market is really good at meeting human needs” but the claim that the free market is (or should be)perfect is based on the idea of “perfect competition”…which is the same context in which terms like “market failure” and “externality” show up. So if somebody hasn’t heard of “externality”, they probably haven’t heard “the market is perfect” either.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Glen Raphael:

            I don’t mean they think it is “perfect” in the sense that they believe it exhibits what economists call “perfect competition”. I mean they think it is perfect in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it: that the free market can be applied to all areas without any major problems.

            As for who believes this: well, I guess I believed it when I was 13 or so, and probably for some time afterwards. And I think it is pretty common among people who are pro-capitalist and don’t know much about economics. I don’t think there are lots of people writing books saying this.

          • ” I mean they think it is perfect in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it: that the free market can be applied to all areas without any major problems.”

            If they believed that they would be anarchists. There are libertarian anarchists but not many conservative anarchists, let alone unsophisticated conservative anarchists.

            Most conservatives, in my experience, are in favor of government production of national defense, law enforcement, dispute resolution. I would guess that a sizable majority are in favor of the existence of the public school system.

            Can you offer any evidence to support what I just quoted from you?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            I think many people have not considered the idea that law, police protection, and national defense could be provided by markets. Nor, I think, have they considered the idea that, whether or not it is supplemented by private schools, public schooling is not an essential function of the state. (Which, in turn, is a feature of reality as natural as the Moon.)

            Anarcho-capitalism is a meaningless term to many (most, I think) people. Their reaction to it is something on the order of: “What? People say this?” It’s like proposing to abolish gravity.

            As for evidence: personal experience is all I can offer off-hand. Plus the kind of accounts Bryan Caplan gives of his personal experience as a teenager hearing for the first time that there is such a thing as opposition to the FDA.

          • nydwracu says:

            Vox: Those 20 points are what educated liberals believe. Uneducated liberals believe — I am not making this up, someone actually said this, on my Facebook timeline of all places — that Europeans didn’t have fire until they colonized the New World.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            1. 19th century capitalism was nasty and brutish until unions and the government cleaned things up and improved wages and working conditions by striking and passing laws.

            5. Antitrust laws are a good idea and necessary to keep the economy from being taken over by one giant monopoly.

            8. America had a free market in healthcare before Obamacare, and that was the cause of the problems in the system.

            9. The 2008 financial crisis was caused by Bush’s (alleged) “deregulation” and Wall Street “greed”.

            10. Public schools are necessary / a good idea because education is a “public good”.

            14. Conservatives and libertarians support cutting government spending because they’re mean bastards who hate the poor.

            19. Native Americans were a peaceful race of “noble savages” “in tune with nature” who were wiped out in a policy of calculated genocide by the evil white settlers.

            Amusingly, I would avoid attributing the negations of most these claims (or, at least, saner claims in the vicinity) to intelligent conservatives for fear of being uncharitable.

          • Nornagest says:

            Uneducated liberals believe […] that Europeans didn’t have fire until they colonized the New World.

            Are you absolutely sure they weren’t trolling?

            I mean, I could point to all sorts of things that uneducated Blues believe. Homeopathy would be a good start. Naive forms of relativism. Crystals. All manner of New Age woo. Basically the full contents of “What The Bleep Do We Know”. But believing that Europeans didn’t have fire until they took over the New World — presumably after crossing the Atlantic by sheer force of evil — rings more of parody than ignorance to me.

          • nydwracu says:

            It was mentioned offhand in a rant by some Mexican author that got shared onto my timeline by some white progressives.

            The only reason I’ve heard of What The Bleep Do We Know is that the head of my college’s philosophy department kept namedropping it in lectures.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            believe […] that Europeans didn’t have fire until they colonized the New World

            No, it’s microwaves that they didn’t have then, and for many decades thereafter. That’s why there was no popcorn at the First Thanksgiving; microwaves hadn’t been invented yet.

            That’s a serious answer from ask.com … well, at least the second sentence was.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ nydwracu:

            The only reason I’ve heard of What The Bleep Do We Know is that the head of my college’s philosophy department kept namedropping it in lectures.

            Negatively, I hope. Right? Right?

        • Ano says:

          Leftists in France are already losing voters to the Front National. I think France is somewhat more susceptible to this because France also has a strong tradition of anti-clericalism.

          It’s the rank-and file voters that always leave first. It’s the elite that clings to the wreckage, because they’re already heavily invested in the ideology (and are usually True Believers anyway).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Are you in France? I’d be interested to hear more.

          • Ano says:

            No, I’m British, and can only give the crudest approximation of French politics that I’m sure any Frenchman will take issue with. But I’m referring to the FN’s recent showing in the recent French regional elections; in the first round they won pluralities in many traditionally left-wing regions and were only blocked from winning any in the second round by tactical withdrawals from Socialist candidates.

        • Nornagest says:

          OTOH, Social Justice is strongly correlated with higher education, yet seems dumber than the beliefs of less educated people. How to explain?

          Well, for one thing, Social Justice in the sense that most of us are familiar with is closely linked to fashionable academic ideologies, but it’s not identical to them; the academy’s more concerned with e.g. postcolonialism and Marxianism as modes of analysis, which it’ll gleefully deploy against the mainstream or its academic rivals but which it ultimately sees as models to which alternatives can freely exist. (Provided that they’re broadly left-leaning, of course.) It’s treated as almost a game, where the objective is to say (hopefully) revealing and (definitely) subversive things about culture.

          Its outside consumers on the other hand are more prone to taking pieces of these models and making them into a totalizing ideology. Because academic cultural models often contradict each other, there is no single theory of Social Justice (hence the constant infighting), but the modeling aspect has gotten lost.

          It’s easy to see why, if you think about it. Academics specialize, and the culture in sociology and its friends rewards a rabble-rousing tone and doesn’t reward qualification: you’re supposed to listen to a bunch of different strains of demagoguery as a grublike undergrad, then choose the one you like the best during your pupal stage. But this reduces at any given point to sitting in the back of a lecture hall watching a very impassioned-looking woman pound on the table, or the literary equivalent. What happens if you haven’t been exposed to enough models to notice the contradictions, or if you’re starstruck enough to think there aren’t any contradictions and any evidence to the contrary must be your problem? Especially if you’re getting this info secondhand, or if you’re majoring in something like African-American Studies where every class uses the same model.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Huh, that would explain a lot. I had a mental model that the fashionable subversive ideologies that dominate Literature, Communications, Sociology, ans * Studies departments each emanated from a single author in continental Europe, preferably Paris. It’s got to be vastly more prestigious to get your postcolonialism from Fanon, feminism from Beauvoir, and general social criticism from Foucault than adopting an ideology Prof. Jane Doe, State University came up with, right?
            But what the kids are actually getting is pieces welded together into a totalizing ideology in their own minds. Trying to understand the logic or evidence for their beliefs will just lead to madness, like trying to debate Nyarlathotep.

            What needs to happen is to get these departments shut down. However, they fulfill a perceived structural need in society: a source of Bachelor’s Degrees that will fulfill employer requirements for a Bachelor’s in Anything, for kids who aren’t cut out for STEM or economics.

          • Nornagest says:

            The existence of subversive academic ideologies can’t be the whole story, though. Those have been around for at least forty, fifty years, have dominated the academy for most of that time, and yet Social Justice is something quite new; even as recently as when I went to college, the ideas were there but students weren’t assembling them into a totalizing whole, or at least not one robust enough to survive graduation and the transition into the real world. Social Justice has clear intellectual roots in the academy, but something’s happened in the last five, ten years that’s made it a lot more virulent without affecting its payload very much.

            Personally I think I might connect it to the rise of clickbait, but that might be my own bias talking.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: It has something to do with the internet, for sure. I think “clickbait” is a facile explanation, but all the pieces were present in academia when the internet took off, yet SJ didn’t take off immediately.

            Maybe there’s just a natural lag in the interaction between ideology and new technology? Jan Hus believed pretty much what Martin Luther believed, but the printing press didn’t help the Hussites until the Lutherans appeared.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, by “clickbait” I was trying to gesture toward modern social media culture as a whole — I don’t think all the ingredients would be present without outlets like e.g. Gawker floating around, but Gawker couldn’t exist without infrastructure either. That infrastructure comes from e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (probably in that order of importance), which all have in common that you can share an article with one click and receive a near-instant reward for it in the form of likes and shares; while negative reinforcement is possible on most of these platforms, you usually need to put actual effort into it, and often expose yourself to criticism in turn.

            We’ve been able to create Internet bubbles for ourselves almost as long as the Internet’s existed, but until recently that’s taken effort: writing or commenting on blogs, being a regular on a forum or chat service. In the last three to five years, though, it’s become not only possible but actually rewarding to be a vector for ideology with nothing but clicks and occasionally less than 140 characters of outrage. My theory is that that made a stable Social Justice ecology possible, where previously it was self-limiting for demographic reasons.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Okay, that makes quite a bit of sense.
            I think a key factor here was discovering the power of social media mobs to find people’s heretical statements on race/gender/LGBT and get them fired for it.

          • JDG1980 says:

            What needs to happen is to get these departments shut down. However, they fulfill a perceived structural need in society: a source of Bachelor’s Degrees that will fulfill employer requirements for a Bachelor’s in Anything, for kids who aren’t cut out for STEM or economics.

            I’d hardly put Economics on par with STEM when it comes to rigor. There may not be quite as much mind-killed dogma in Economics as in some of the other departments, but it does exist (e.g. treating Ricardo’s comparative advantage argument as holy writ rather than a hypothesis to be tested and possibly refuted).

            Anyway, do you really think there is no legitimate function that a Sociology department could serve? Would we be better off without any systematic attempt to study the subject at all? Or are you instead arguing that the existing universities are so corrupted that they’re like a Windows PC filled with malware and the best way forward is to wipe everything and start over?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @JDG1980: Or are you instead arguing that the existing universities are so corrupted that they’re like a Windows PC filled with malware and the best way forward is to wipe everything and start over?

            Yes, that. Shut the system down, let research universities open new departments to scientifically study society if they choose, and treat anyone with an old degree trying to get back in like they have a doctorate in homeopathy.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I’m not sure how you can refute comparative advantage; it is a mathematical statement that is right as long as the requirements are meet (transaction costs low enough, quality issues, etc)

          • anonymous says:

            @Nornagest
            I continue to believe that the backlash is the story. Young people that know it all and are holier than thou have always existed. But 20 years ago no one cared. When there’s a national media frenzy it doesn’t matter if it has a mocking or concerned tone it is still national news and institutions need a response. They can’t just let it blow over.

            So I think the clickbait explanation has some real truth to it but not via the means of causation you are positing.

    • rubberduck says:

      I think that seeing Muslims as non-white is less about the technicalities/actual skin color (do Muslims from the Balkans count as white? do converts?) as it is about Muslims having more oppression points than the average white cishet male. The white male is not threatening because of his skin color, the logic goes- he’s threatening because he’s more likely to end up in a position of power where he can subject the Muslim to more unreasonable airport security checks. I think I recall a repulsive Tumblr post at some point that went so far as to say that “whiteness is a mindset” and proceeded to call a black person white for disagreeing with… something.

      Plus, converting to Islam would not only be inconvenient but also bring the risk that fellow leftists would accuse you of cultural appropriation, which using the left’s definition is exactly what your post suggests. (Gaining the benefits of being PoC without the same heritage or struggle or whatever.)

    • Technically Not Anonymous says:

      White men aren’t actually so low status in liberal areas that huge numbers of us would convert to Islam. Try to remember that what you read on the internet about any group is heavily filtered and unlikely to reflect reality.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I forgot to mention that, but yes, that’s also obviously true and perhaps the most salient point.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I can only imagine what would happen around here, if I wrote something similarly ludicrous about “red tribe” or (much worse, grey tribe).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This implies that the claim “young progressives = SJ = anti-white feminism” is silly alarmism.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “This implies that the claim “young progressives = SJ = anti-white feminism” is silly alarmism.”

          Well, to a large extent it is. It’s a little bit like saying nerd male = misogynist.

          But you are also conflating a small section of blue tribe with its entirety.

          • Chalid says:

            I feel like we’re seeing the weak men are superweapons effect here. It’s really common in these comment sections to post about some crazy SJ behavior by a Tumblr mob or a handful of students at Oberlin. And it’s also really common to attribute this sort of thing to “liberals” or “Blue Tribe.” Put them together and you have yourself a completely crazy mental model of large swathes of the country.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Chalid:
            “Put them together and you have yourself a completely crazy mental model of large swathes of the country.”

            I sort of wonder whether the purpose is to actually model “large swathes of the country”.

            For example, take the model statement “It worries me that they are so [politically] powerful when nobody agrees with them.” You see statements that map onto that model frequently (from the left and the right). Of course it is internally incoherent, but I don’t think it’s purpose itself is to be coherent.

            Basically, I think the model itself is a weakman that serves the function of allowing one to think in a tribal mode. You convince yourself that the other side is dangerous (and therefore requires to be defeated) and simultaneously convince yourself that you are among allies, and therefore you can safely take action to defeat the dreaded other.

            Sort of the opposite of the “humblebrag”.

          • Chalid says:

            Agreed, it is not the purpose to build a model.

            Because a model of the outgroup is implicit in the tribal thinking you describe, people come to believe that implicit model without ever thinking about it critically.

            There is also a healthy dose of “I will spend lots of time discussing things that lower the status of my outgroup (and therefore raise the relative status of my ingroup).” After you do that for a while, availability bias corrupts your model of the outgroup.

          • walpolo says:

            HBC, I agree with your overall take on this ridiculous comment thread, but I do think it’s possible for a group to have a lot of political power without many people actually agreeing with them. This can happen when many people who disagree with them are especially reluctant to offend them or step on their toes.

            I think there are some spheres of influence in which SJ people have this sort of disproportionate power. Not many people actually support their agenda, but only a few are willing to be known as opponents of their agenda, and everyone else lets them have their way because it’s not worth risking the consequences of conflict with them.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Chalid: I’m not trying to use a superweapon here. I’m trying to build an accurate mental model of progressives. I registered as a Democrat when I turned 18 and identified as a liberal in college, and spent the next four years trying to understand why the hegemonic ideology there was anti-liberal while guarding my speech around thoughts related to inequality of outcome*.

            *Women are mentally and morally the same as men, but not biologically, and the different choices we make because of our bodies could be sufficient to explain inequalities of outcome between the sexes. Different ethnic groups have unequal outcomes because they have unequal cultures, what Scott called “culturalism” in his “Reactionary … Nutshell”. It shouldn’t be illegal to discriminate between heterosexuality and homosexuality, because heterosexual pair bonds locked in marriage have special utility for society.

            As far as position on Islam of progressives as a whole, not just a few college kids on a few campuses… every terrorist attack since 9/11, the immediate reaction I’ve noticed by mainstream progressives of all ages is to worry more about the possibility of “hate crimes” against Muslims or at least upsetting them with “Islamophobia” than about the people killed. 9/11 itself was exceptional, in that I saw even peers who would become Greens after they turned 18 putting up American flags and supporting the war in Afghanistan in addition to worrying about Islamophobia, but things soon shifted Left. By 2011, when US troops finally killed bin Laden, I had people on my Facebook feed, including a ex-Catholic lesbian professor from my alma mater, threatening to unfriend anyone who posted positively about it.
            When I started college, the only American Muslims I’d ever known were assimilated in mixed families. In the university town, Muslims felt confident enough to wear Islamic garb and openly talk about the rightness of sharia. We even had a propaganda play where the mostly-white cast included an empowered woman in a niqab being oppressed by white men. By 2011, I was seeing women in niqabs at places like grocery stores in a deep Blue city.
            So what exactly is it rational for me to think about progressives and Islam?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Le Maistre:

            I think you actually know that the Chinese cardiologist problem applies very well to Muslims and the 9/11 bombers. Heck, George W. himself immediately warned against stereotyping Muslims as responsible for 9/11.

            As to why liberal sentiments of solidarity curdled as the response to 9/11 continued, does the phrase “freedom fries” ring a bell? The condemnation of liberals as traitors for saying that the Iraq war had nothing to do will Al Queda? The jingoistic rage that looked for “camel jockeys” and “towel heads” to kill? The descent of the nation into official sanction and employ of torture?

            Frankly, my heart sank as soon as it became apparent what happened. It was obvious that the nation would want vengeance and work itself into a froth.

            And that has nothing to do with whether I care about the victims, their families and their friends. I have literally weeped when listening to stories about that day.

          • NN says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: The reason for the typical reaction of the Left to Islamist terrorist attacks is probably because, as Scott describes in this article, “America” as a concept has become increasingly associated with the Red Tribe, so core members of the Blue Tribe aren’t as rattled by attacks intended to terrorize Americans. 9/11 was an exception because this issue of Islamist terrorism hadn’t been politicized back then, and also because an attack of that scale in America was simply unprecedented at that point. Now that the issue has been politicized, conspicuously hating Islamist terrorists has become a way of signalling allegiance to the Red Tribe. Meanwhile, conspicuously expressing concern for persecuted minorities has long been a way of signalling allegiance to the Blue Tribe, and Muslims are currently seen as a persecuted minority by the Blues.

            Note that progressives haven’t actually displayed this kind of reaction to “every terrorist attack since 9/11,” because the Blue and Red tribes have virtually opposite reactions to their usual ones whenever anything that can be described as a terrorist attack is committed by anyone who can even be remotely associated with the Red Tribe. See Breivik, Charleston, and especially the Planned Parenthood shooting.

          • TheNybbler says:

            “Meanwhile, conspicuously expressing concern for persecuted minorities has long been a way of signalling allegiance to the Blue Tribe, and Muslims are currently seen as a persecuted minority by the Blues.”

            Note “seen as”. They’re “seen as” a persecuted minority because it’s convenient for the Blues to do so. But they’re not actually persecuted, not in the US.

            Because of this phenomenon where every time there’s an attack by an Islamic terrorist the reaction from the authorities is immediately to denounce any backlash, I went and looked up hate crimes in the US. While figures for the current year are not available, in fact hate crimes against Muslims are rare. How rare? Well, much rarer than attacks against Jews (even accounting for the greater Jewish population), despite Jews being privileged rather than persecuted in the usual hierarchy.

            There’s claims that hate crimes against muslims have tripled since Paris. If that’s true (and it’s partially based on news reports, so I suspect reporting bias), and it continued at that high level, Muslims would be the most frequent target of hate crimes accounting for population though Jews would be highest overall.

            Further, religious hate crimes are rare by any standard. There were 1140 total in 2014, compared to 3227 racial bias hate crimes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @HeelBearCub: I think the Chinese Robber Fallacy is a red herring here. The idea there is that being a robber has no correlation to Chinese-ness, you could just come up with a lot of examples if you had an ax to grind against Chinese people because they’re such a large ethnic group.
            But “Muslim” isn’t an ethnic group. If you’re a Muslim, you have to believe there is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet, the second truth claim usually encompassing the belief that he was al-insan al-Kamil (the perfect human). So whenever Muslims violate sharia in order to get along in modernized states, they are, if Islam is true, doing bad (in a very Platonic sense).
            So how good of a person was Muhammad? Is he someone we want all the moderate Muslims in our countries to wake up tomorrow and start successfully imitating?

            As to why liberal sentiments of solidarity curdled as the response to 9/11 continued, does the phrase “freedom fries” ring a bell? The condemnation of liberals as traitors for saying that the Iraq war had nothing to do will Al Queda? The jingoistic rage that looked for “camel jockeys” and “towel heads” to kill? The descent of the nation into official sanction and employ of torture?

            I don’t remember any jingoistic rage about killing “camel jockeys” or “towel heads”. Obviously I do remember that George W. Bush had a stupid, harmful foreign policy, as moderate Muslim dictators like Saddam (or Nasser, or Assad) actually checked Islamic fundamentalism, nor was there evidence that torturing terrorists extracts lifesaving information. So why didn’t progressives react to his nonsense with the position that we need to fight jihad rationally, instead of the line that the terrorists are oppressed brown people with legitimate grievances against white imperialism that have nothing to with Islam and all Western countries need to take in more Muslims without asking them to assimilate, and if they commit rape and terrorism at a far higher per capita rate than the natives it has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with racism?

          • NN says:

            Note “seen as”. They’re “seen as” a persecuted minority because it’s convenient for the Blues to do so. But they’re not actually persecuted, not in the US.

            It sort of depends on how you define “persecuted minority.” It’s true that Jews are much more likely to be the victims of hate crimes, but how often do you see plans to build new synagogues draw protests and lawsuits, or parents groups protesting against their kids “being subject to Jewish indoctrination” by being taught about the religion in geography classes, or leading presidential candidates talking about banning Jews from entering the country?

            Regardless, I agree that the typical Social Justice hierarchy of oppression is poorly thought out and leaves little room for nuance. But I disagree that Jews are considered privileged in the usual hierarchy. From looking at SJ material online I get the sense that Jews are considered an oppressed group in an abstract sense, but SJ discussions rarely bring them up in practice, likely because in America most Jews are perceived as white. Still, the SJ community tends to have no idea how to respond whenever an issue comes up involving both Jews and Muslims as in, for example, hates crimes committed in Europe against Jews by Muslims or Israeli invasions of Gaza.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            HBC:

            I think you actually know that the Chinese cardiologist problem applies very well to Muslims and the 9/11 bombers. Heck, George W. himself immediately warned against stereotyping Muslims as responsible for 9/11.

            If you look at a fairly representative sample of Chinese people and find that an unusually large proportion of them are robbers, you’re entitled to assume that Chinese are disproportionately likely to rob and to seek an explanation for this.

            NN:

            or parents groups protesting against their kids “being subject to Jewish indoctrination” by being taught about the religion in geography classes,

            Assuming that we’re thinking of the same thing, the issue was that the children were studying Arabic calligraphy by writing out “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”. I’d imagine that there would be at least as many complaints if children had had to, say, copy out the Lord’s Prayer or learn the Ten Commandments.

            Regardless, I agree that the typical Social Justice hierarchy of oppression is poorly thought out and leaves little room for nuance. But I disagree that Jews are considered privileged in the usual hierarchy. From looking at SJ material online I get the sense that Jews are considered an oppressed group in an abstract sense, but SJ discussions rarely bring them up in practice, likely because in America most Jews are perceived as white.

            Jews are like Schroedinger’s White Man: they’re simultaneously white and non-white until it becomes relevant to the argument, whereupon the wave function collapses and their ethnic status changes to whatever is most helpful to the SJ position.

          • NN says:

            Assuming that we’re thinking of the same thing, the issue was that the children were studying Arabic calligraphy by writing out “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”. I’d imagine that there would be at least as many complaints if children had had to, say, copy out the Lord’s Prayer or learn the Ten Commandments.

            If that was the only time this sort of thing happened, it would be somewhat reasonable. It isn’t, and a lot of the time complaints are over completely innocuous teaching about Islam during classes that also teach about other major world religions.

            And if you think there would have been just as much controversy over a similar teaching on Christianity, then you need to learn more about American politics. Sure, some small secularist groups would complain, and maybe there would have eventually been an ACLU sponsored lawsuit, but there is no way there would have been an outcry on this scale, especially in the small town Red Tribe dominated areas where this kind of thing tends to happen. Just look at how long it took to completely remove official prayers from American public schools.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Le Maistre:

            There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Undoubtedly some of them hold views that are horrible, and some of those horrible beliefs are attributed by them to their religion, and some of those will act on the beliefs.

            But clearly that last group isn’t 1.6 billion or even 100 million.

            Eric Rudolph and many other domestic US terrorists were Christians claiming to be motivated by Christianity. Should I be concerned about Christians propensity for terrorism as a group?

            Now, I don’t think religions are true. But I think ascribing, say, the Jonestown massacre to religion gets things backwards. People tend to bend religion to their desires, not vice versa.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It doesn’t make sense to look at the terrorism rates of different groups in America without also being mindful of the relative size of those groups. In America, 70% of the population self-identifies as Christian. Muslims are 1%.

            Nobody is trying to make hay of the fact that nearly all of the child molesters in Saudi Arabia are Muslim. But if we find that to be the case in Europe, where most people are not Muslim, that’s worth looking into deeper.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Once you adjust for all of the confounds, sure.

            But, you don’t to get to assert it without proving it. And you don’t get to ignore the IRA and British Loyalists in Northern Ireland. You don’t get to ignore fundamentalist Christians in the US. You don’t get to ignore terror attacks by Buddhists or Hindus.

            Hell, I don’t think you can ignore the Nazis. I don’t think they were motivated by religion. But then, I don’t think any of the other mass killers are particularly motivated by religion either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskatologist:

            That is a fair point. But then again, how many terrorist attacks have been carried out in the US by Muslims? I think it’s a total of 4 right now. Twin towers (twice), Ft. Hood, San Bernadino.

            It’s a small sample set. Two of them carried out by 1 organization.
            Vs. How many by Christians?

          • NN says:

            That is a fair point. But then again, how many terrorist attacks have been carried out in the US by Muslims? I think it’s a total of 4 right now. Twin towers (twice), Ft. Hood, San Bernadino.

            It’s a small sample set. Two of them carried out by 1 organization.
            Vs. How many by Christians?

            There was also the Boston Marathon bombing, possibly the 2001 Anthrax attacks, and a bunch of attempted bombings that failed to kill anyone due to the incompetence of the terrorists. Of course, there are also lots of terrorist attacks by non-Muslims that no one remembers because they weren’t very destructive. From 1980 to 2005, approximately 6% of terrorist attacks on US soil were carried out by Islamic Extremists. That is disproportionate compared to the Muslim population, but the portion of terrorist attacks committed by Jewish extremists (7%) is also disproportionate compared to the Jewish population.

            In Europe, meanwhile, the statistics for 2006-2008 show that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks in those years were committed by Basque and Corsican separatists, with Islamist terrorist attacks amounting to just 0.4% of the total.

            EDIT: I checked the most recent version of the EU terrorism report, and it looks like in 2014 separatist terrorists were still responsible for the vast majority of terrorist attacks in Europe despite significant declines in separatist terrorist activity.

            Now it is true that Islamist terrorists are more likely to kill people with their attacks than most groups, with parts of the American Far Right being significant exceptions (I don’t know enough about groups in Europe to make a judgment there). But it is simply false to say that Muslims are the only group with a “terrorism problem.”

          • John Schilling says:

            That is a fair point. But then again, how many terrorist attacks have been carried out in the US by Muslims?

            Boston Marathon bombing, the Beltway Sniper attacks, the LAX/El Al shooting, the Chattanooga recruiting center shootings, counting only cases with multiple fatalities and relatively unambiguous motives. Possibly also the late 2001 anthrax attacks.

            Probably many more unsuccessful or minimally-successful attacks, but Google doesn’t bring up any source that I trust to distinguish between “A Muslim tried to kill someone in the name of Allah” and “A Muslim tried to kill someone over some private grudge”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think I would quibble with a few of the other “Muslim terror attacks”, but regardless, I think we can all agree it is a very small sample set.

            There is a sub-group that we should be concerned about. It’s those people who actually advocate and carry out terror attacks.Trying to map that onto all 1.6 billion Muslims makes little sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s those people who actually advocate and carry out terror attacks.

            And if someone in Waziristan is upset that their niece just got blown up by a drone strike at a wedding reception, their only legitimate concern is with the sub-group of Americans who are actually CIA drone pilots?

            I don’t think that is either a realistic expectation or a workable solution.

          • NN says:

            Also, I think the math is clear that if you want to focus on per-capita number of terrorist attacks, then Basques (about 3 million people, dozens of terrorist attacks every year) and Northern Irish Catholics (less than a million people, 22 attacks in 2014) are both far more dangerous that European Muslims (about 19 million people, 2 terrorist attacks in 2014).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            “Action of the US government ” maps fairly well onto “action taken by Al Queda”.

            When The Taliban ruled Aghanistan and gave safe harbor to Al Queda, we held the nation-state responsible, with UN backing.

          • John Schilling says:

            On 9/11/2001, yes. Of the enumerated Islamic terrorist attacks in the United States since, I don’t believe any were committed by anyone who was an agent of Al Qaeda or who was following instructions of Al Qaeda’s leadership.

            The model you are working from has the advantage of providing an unambiguous answer to the question, “which people can we hold responsible for this?”, but the disadvantage of not describing the real world.

          • Jiro says:

            Using figures that go back to 1980 in a context of what terrorists are dangers today is misleading. Worse, the figures end at 2005, but it’s 2015 right now–anything recent isn’t even in the list.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            I didn’t say Al Queda was the only organization to be worried about. Nor did I say every terrorist was member of a particular organization.

            But you can’t treat attacks carried out in the name of a nation-state by officials of that state as if they were carried out solely by individuals. Conversely, we shouldn’t treat lone wolf attacks as if they were.coordinated by some inchoate mass of people.

            Otherwise, we need to ascribe the VT shooting to whom? Asians? Christians? College students? No, none of these make sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub: “Coordinated” is needlessly specific there. “Incited” works better, and allows for more sensible conclusions.

          • NN says:

            Using figures that go back to 1980 in a context of what terrorists are dangers today is misleading. Worse, the figures end at 2005, but it’s 2015 right now–anything recent isn’t even in the list.

            Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a more up-to-date official list on the situation in the US, but looking at Wikipedia’s list of terrorist attacks in the US from 2010 until today I count 7 attacks by Islamic extremists, 8 attacks by members of the far right, and 5 attacks by others. It seems likely that there were more attacks in those years that weren’t notable enough to end up on the list, so I’d be cautious about drawing conclusions from that data.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Phil Goetz wrote about this, using a more systematic database.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Doug Knight:

            Two problems leap out at me w/re Goetz’s dataset. Which, to be fair, is someone else’s dataset that he chose to use; I don’t blame him for the omissions but I do wish he’d noted their significance.

            First, per Goetz: “Also, this doesn’t list any acts committed without direct supervision from a recognized terrorist group”

            That’s a bit of a problem given that terrorist groups both Islamic and Christian have of late determined that the “leaderless resistance” model is more likely to give results than setting up a traditional terrorist organization under the eyes of the FBI and NSA. On examination, the GTD dataset certainly does include at least some such incidents (the Fort Hood shooting but not the Beltway Snipers), so I assume he’s talking specifically about the charts he uses. Still, the Beltway Snipers were about 1/3 of the total US terrorist deaths since 2001, and what else are those graphs missing? Did he get any of the abortion-clinic bombings of the 1990s, for example?

            Second, ” I couldn’t help but notice one other glaring thing in the US data: terrorist acts attributed to “Individual”. I checked 200 cases from other countries and did not find one case tagged “Individual”. But half of all attributed cases in the US from 2000-2013 are tagged “Individual”. The lone gunman thing, where someone flips out and shoots up a Navy base, or bombs a government building because of a conspiracy theory, is distinctively American.”

            We’ve been through this before, and no, this isn’t so. And this one is mostly on Goetz, I think, though the GTD is conspicuously inconsistent here. Checking the database, I quickly find:

            Hesham Mohammad Hadayet deciding on his own account to shoot up LAX and kill two people in the name of Islam is per the GTD a terrorist attack attributed to an “individual” in the United States.

            Arid Uka shooting up the Frankfurt airport while shouting “Allahu Akbar!’, killing two people, is per the GTD a terrorist attack attributed to an “individual” in Germany. What Goetz claims never ever happens.

            And Anders Behring Brevik decides to shoot up a Norwegian camp and kill seventy-seven people in the name of white nationalism, but the GTD decides this isn’t a terrorist attack.

            So, bad on the GTD for being somewhat wishy-washy about whether non-American lone wolf terrorists should count as “terrorists”. Even worse on Goetz for being so uncritical as to accept the idea that mass shootings were so uniquely American that he couldn’t find even one in two hundred elsewhere, without being suspicious about his dataset.

            Ultimately, I think Goetz may be on to something with the theory that Muslims have given terrorism a bad name, but I don’t trust his numbers.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, even if all of your criticisms were correct, I think Goetz’s analysis is better than anything else offered in this thread. However, I think each of your criticisms is in error. For example, Brevik is in the database.

          • John Schilling says:

            Interesting – Breivik shows up when I search for the name (correctly spelled), or for ‘Norway’, but not searching for incidents during 21-23 July 2011.

            So better for GTD, but makes it even harder to understand how Goetz looks through that dataset and concludes that no non-American ever decides by his own self to go on a shooting spree. And did he not even remember Breivik, to wonder what was missing from his cull of the data?

            Seriously not impressed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @john schilling:
            No, I think incitement and coordination are different. Perhaps the word incitement is too broad. Directly calling for murders, etc. over open channels is different than talking indirectly about, say, abortionists who “will receive retribution.” Both of those could fall under incitement, though.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, it’s hard to understand because it didn’t happen.

            When I search by date, Breivik comes up, but he’s on the second page, since the database has 48 incidents over those 3 days and defaults to 20 incidents per page.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HeelBearCub: Yes, of course “incitement” and “coordination” are different; that’s why I suggested that the substitution mattered. Incitement is the one we care about, because that’s the one that does harm. Coordination is just tactics.

            If you want a dozen people to die by violence, and with that intent you do a thing that you know will likely cause a dozen people to die by violence, you are morally culpable for a dozen homicides.

            Whether or not the thing that you do is pull the trigger on a machine gun, or tell someone you know will obey you to pull the trigger on a machine gun.

            Whether or not you specify the time, the target, or even the gunman. If you reasonably expect people to die as a result, you’re a killer even if you don’t know the names of anyone involved. And morally, you should be held accountable just like the guy who actually does pull the trigger on a machine gun.

            Pragmatically, of course, eschewing coordination makes it less likely that you will be held accountable – the weaker chain of command is harder to trace back, and the weasel-wording maybe lets you claim plausible deniability about what you meant to happen or understood would happen. But if I’m being attacked by people who make the tactically expedient decision to not coordinate the murders they choose to incite, I’m not going to pretend the series of uncoordinated killings are the result of unconnected individual decisions and limit myself to playing whack-a-mole with an endless series of expendable gunmen.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            But shouldn’t Goetz’s analysis included the Breivik event? Making his statement about no “lone terrorist not part of an organization” events in Europe similar to false? Granted, he just checked some semi-random set of cases, so he is mostly just pointing at much rarer than in the US.

            Regardless, his analysis doesn’t tell us very much at all about Islamic terrorism in the world in general as compared to other groups. The big spike in Islamic terrorism globally isn’t put in any context.

            I also wonder if attacks of Sufi on Shiah or vice-versa is included in that database (which looks a lot like sectarian conflict).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Sorry, I think something in how I expressed myself, a miswording perhaps, is confusing you as to my meaning.

            You were pointing at “coordination” being too narrow. I’m saying incitement is too broad. Calling for specific actions is different than just talking about how evil someone is. I agree that, if an organization is broadcasting a call for specific actions you can hold them responsible if those actions are taken. I’m not saying it’s cut-and-dry, but I do think the signal to noise ratio drops off as you get farther and farther from specifics.

            Note, however, that the original phrase I used, to which you seemed to object, was “It’s those people who actually advocate and carry out terror attacks.”

            Perhaps I should have said and/or there, but I thought it was clear that “advocate” could refer to a separate person from the one who actually carried out the attack.

            Perhaps we are in vehement agreement.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think the relevant metric is specificity, but intent or expectation. Specificity is usually a good indicator of intent, but neither necessary nor sufficient to such a determination.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            HBC, yes, the “statement” that you attribute to him is false. However, he does not make that statement. Yes, you correctly determined what can be concluded from his evidence, which is also what he concluded. You and John are not the only ones to attribute to him the universal claim, so we can certainly blame him for lack of clarity.

            Yes, Goetz’s headline claim is pretty weird. I don’t know how much his global graph supports his causal claim. But let’s drop the global considerations and the causal considerations. He finds, by sampling, that terrorism in America in the 70s was diverse, while today it is Muslims, lone nuts, and non-lethal animal activists. That is quite relevant to this thread.

            Yes, the spike in worldwide Islamic terrorism is internecine (although probably moderate-extremist, not Shia-Suni). Phil seems to be aware of this, but he should have said it explicitly. I don’t know whether that is evidence for or against his causal theory.

          • NN says:

            Looking at the GTD statistics for the US from 2012-2014, including only those incidents that unambiguously meet all 3 “terrorism criteria,” I find the following:

            In those 3 years, there were 38 terrorist incidents on US soil that caused 29 deaths and 150 injuries. Islamic extremists were responsible for only 7 of those incidents, but they were responsible for 10 of the deaths and 137 of the injuries (most of the injuries were caused by the Boston Marathon bombing). Most of the remaining casualties were caused by terrorists motivated by white nationalist and/or anti-government views, who during those 3 years carried out 18 attacks that killed 17 people and injured 10. The remaining 13 incidents killed 2 people and injured 1 person.

            To sum up, most terrorists in America are not Muslim, but Islamic extremist terrorists tend to inflict more casualties per attack than the average American terrorist does.

            EDIT: I accidentally included 2 of the perpetrators in the death count, and I have edited the post to correct that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            NN, you can link to your search.

          • NN says:

            He finds, by sampling, that terrorism in America in the 70s was diverse, while today it is Muslims, lone nuts, and non-lethal animal activists. That is quite relevant to this thread.

            From examining the GTD, I’ve found that Islamic extremist terrorists in America nowadays tend to also be either lone nuts or work with a single partner (the Boston bombers, the pair that attacked the Garland Draw Muhammad event, the San Bernandino couple). Far right terrorist pairs are a bit less common, but they aren’t totally unheard of (for example, the anti-government couple that killed 3 people in a shooting spree in Las Vegas in 2014). It seems that in post-9/11 America, terrorist plots that involve more than 2 people just aren’t possible. Score one for the FBI, I guess.

          • HeelBearCub says:
            December 21, 2015 at 6:42 pm

            “I also wonder if attacks of Sufi on Shiah or vice-versa is included in that database (which looks a lot like sectarian conflict).”

            I assume that’s a thinko for “attacks of *Sunni* on Shiah or vice-versa”.

        • science2 says:

          This implies that the claim “young progressives = SJ = anti-white feminism” is silly alarmism.

          It is, but if it weren’t equating them with “deep blue” wouldn’t be a fair characterization.

          Crazy college kids aren’t a central example of anything except crazy college kids.

          P.S. Does this site hellban?

    • Seth says:

      Additionally, Blues are not stupid about attempts to hack the status system. People who are even suspected of trying to do so, are considered norms-violators who may be intensely attacked. The best example of this reaction is the case of the the woman who believes she is trans-racial. Her belief was generally met with fury, in part accusing her of attempting to claim undeserved status.

      Really, people aren’t like the cheesy scifi AI, where a supposed logical contradiction in an axiom renders them helpless.
      Captain Kirk: “You of Bluedom say the whitemale is bad while the PoC is good. But Muslims are PoC’s. You say I am a whitemale and so bad. I declare I am a Muslim. Then I must be a PoC and thus good.”
      Blue Leader: “Kirk, I’m not a dumb computer program. You’re an arrogant patronizing colonialist imperalist too, and that’s a supercategory.”

      • Then explain Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Is Shaun King really faking his race, I know he has done some shifty behavior but has it ever actually been proved?

          I do read Milo but I am always 50/50 on whether to trust him or not and would be interested in seeing how far he can be trusted. Wikipedia lists him as having done some financially and ethically shifty stuff- plus I cannot help but get the feeling that he wants to play a character, get rich and then get out.

          • Sastan says:

            If his birth certificate is correct, King is faking the funk.

            His argument is that his mother cheated on her husband with a black man and kept it a secret, so he’s part black, but not so much his legal father ever noticed.

      • “Additionally, Blues are not stupid about attempts to hack the status system. People who are even suspected of trying to do so, are considered norms-violators who may be intensely attacked. ”

        Elizabeth Warren is a pretty striking counterexample. Claiming to be a minority in a database used by potential employers, claiming to be Native American to universities that employ you, all on the basis of a family tradition of a Cherokee great great grandmother (exact relative by my memory) for which no support was ever offered, is an extreme case of hacking the status system. Not only was Warren not attacked, she is a leading figure of the blue tribe.

        • Seth says:

          http://web.archive.org/web/20040506113834/http://www.daft.com/~rab/liberty/Miscellaneous/Nozick-article

          ANARCHY, STATE, AND RENT CONTROL

          “Robert Nozick, a philosophy professor at Harvard, is the intellectual hero
          of libertarians. His book, _Anarchy, State, and Utopia_, winner of the
          National Book Award in 1974, argues that “free minds and free markets” are
          the key to a successful society. While endorsing personal choice on social
          issues like drugs and pornography, Nozick mocked the economic
          interventionism of contemporary liberals who, he said, are “willing to
          tolerate every kind of behavior except capitalistic acts between consenting
          adults.” Alas, it now appears that like so many other advocates of the free
          market, Nozick is willing to make one small exception –himself. …

          Perhaps the libertarian philosopher should not be expected to opt out of rent control voluntarily. But should he be pursuing his landlord through the maze of rent control regulations like a man possessed? And should he be using his ability to make a nuisance of himself under these regulations for simple, if lawful, cash extortion? ”

          Obviously, this is a striking counter-example to the idea that Libertarians aren’t massive hypocrites, where “free market” is just a synonym for plunder. Nozick was willing to use State power to abrogate a contract he had freely entered and for morally unjust enrichment, yet remains a respected figure to Libertarians. Oh, how can such things be, in a supposedly logically consistent philosophy? How is it, like the joke about an act with a sheep, that Nozick’s name does not live in Libertarian infamy?

          [To spell it out – high status members of any tribe get a pass over stuff that the tribe won’t tolerate from low-status members, especially other tribes.]

          • Nozick was attacked by libertarians for the actions you describe. Have liberals proposed shunning Warren for pretending to be a minority in order to improve her employment prospects?

            There is a considerable difference between “this philosopher wrote a book which provides good support for our position” and “this politician is our favorite candidate for president.” The book stands on its own, whether or not the author lives up to its principles. That doesn’t work for the politician.

          • Adam says:

            Great-great grandmother would make her 1/16th Cherokee, wouldn’t it? That isn’t necessarily enough for tribal registration, because the nation has peculiar rules that exclude certain sub-groups (I’m way more than 1/16th and can’t apply). I’m pretty sure it’s enough for certain government benefits and scholarships, though. It’s hard to blame a person for taking advantage of that. She didn’t make the blood quantum rule, which doesn’t require you ever experience any personal hardship.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Adam
            “I’m pretty sure it’s enough for certain government benefits and scholarships, though.”

            For those, I rather think a great deal is required in the way of claiming such status on the official form of whatever one is applying for, and providing whatever documentation it requests.

            Absent records of any such applications from her, well, I don’t think she was born in Kenya, either.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Adam

            http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/is-elizabeth-warren-native-american-or-what/257415/
            based on the public evidence so far, she doesn’t appear to have used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook; in 1984 she contributed five recipes to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, signing the items, “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee.”
            [….]
            Warren, who graduated from the University of Houston in 1970 and got her law degree from Rutgers University in 1976, did not seek to take advantage of affirmative action policies during her education, according documents obtained by the Associated Press and The Boston Globe. On the application to Rutgers Law School she was asked, “Are you interested in applying for admission under the Program for Minority Group Students?” “No,” she replied.

            While a teacher at the University of Texas, she listed herself as “white.” But between 1986 and 1995, she listed herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Faculty; — [Please note that the following is an after the fact listing by UP, not something that EW herself listed] — the University of Pennsylvania in a 2005 “minority equity report” also listed her as one of the minority professors who had taught at its law school.

          • Seth says:

            There is a considerable difference between “this philosopher wrote a book which provides good support for our position” and “this politician is our favorite candidate for president.”

            Indeed, I agree. A serious candidate for President will unavoidably have all sort of warts, since “President” is a job, while a philosopher who contravenes his own philosophy is in some sense self-refutation by example. But I don’t suppose that’s what you meant. Per:

            The book stands on its own, whether or not the author lives up to its principles. That doesn’t work for the politician.

            I have to disagree with the above idea in terms of how you use “stands on its own”. The author is showing that even he doesn’t adhere to the principles in real life. Whereas the politician is almost the epitome of real life as opposed to philosophy. That is, the book may exist as outlining an abstraction, but ability to practice in the philosophy in reality is also significant. Notable, if one charge is that the philosophy is a rationalization for plunder and enrichment, finding the author contravened it when it stood in the way of personal plunder and enrichment, is surely significant evidence.

            But are we in agreement that being a serious candidate for President is an extremely atypical status position?

          • Again–the book stands on its own. The reason to be persuaded by the book, if you are, is that it contains persuasive arguments, not that the author demonstrated that he was a good person.

            In the case of the politician, if you elect her president you aren’t putting in the White House the political positions she proclaims but the person who proclaimed them. If that person is a hypocrite–demonstrates by her actions that she does not really believe in those principles–then you cannot expect her to act on those principles once elected. If her particular form of hypocrisy consisted of benefiting herself by violating the principles she proclaimed, it is likely she will do the same thing in office if the opportunity to arises.

            It’s true that most people don’t have the opportunity to be President. But the particular person we are discussing was the preferred candidate of the left wing of the Democratic party.

            For an account of the controversy more detailed and less sympathetic to Warren than the one Houseboat quoted:

            http://elizabethwarrenwiki.org/elizabeth-warren-native-american-cherokee-controversy/

          • nonymous says:

            David
            After reading hundreds of your comments i have to ask if there is any daylight between your beliefs and those of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

            Do you disagree that your actual real life politics are functionally indistinguishable, if superficially less hysterical, from mainstream corporate conservatism?

          • nonymous says:

            I decided to check your blog to see if you apply the same rigorous standards you apply to the people who are actually running for president as you do to Warren.

            I can only find one mention of a Republican candidate. Here it is:

            President Carson
            My preferred candidates are Rand Paul for the Republican party and Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party, but the candidate I find most interesting at the moment is Ben Carson. I do not think he is likely to get nominated, let alone elected. But if he did end up in the White House, what kind of a job would he do?

            He is intelligent and likable, both useful assets, but he has no experience at anything close to the job he is running for. There have been Presidents before with a background outside of politics, such as Grant and Eisenhower, but both were generals, men who had successfully run large organizations. Have there been any Presidents like Carson, successful men whose success did not involve either politics or administration? None occur to me—but it is not a subject I know much about. Perhaps one of my readers can offer an example.

            The job of president is, long has been, too big for one man, so the question will be how good he is at building and running a team. Can he select competent subordinates, coordinate them, evaluate the advice they give him? Judging by my one first hand experience of neurosurgery, that too is a team job. But I have no idea whether Carson as surgeon was the creator and leader of a team or merely its star member.

            If he does make it, it should be interesting.”

            Why shouldn’t this chasmic bias be great enough to disqualify the speaker as a serious person worth listening to when the topic is politics?

            I challenge anyone to find a more graphic example of implacable bias and isolated outrage than your Warren and Carson comments made within three months of eachother.

          • “After reading hundreds of your comments i have to ask if there is any daylight between your beliefs and those of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? ”

            I don’t know the views of the Chamber of Commerce. Are they in favor of abolishing all tariffs? Of open immigration? Opposed to government subsidies of firms? In favor of drug legalization? Opposed to civil forfeiture? In favor of a non-interventionist foreign policy?

            I would be surprised to find that they agree with me on all those points, but since you have apparently made yourself an expert on both their views and mine, perhaps you can cite their positions on those issues.

    • James Picone says:

      Please tell me one of your two reasons is “My premises are false”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yes. Either “white men are not treated worse than others in Blue communities” or “they will distinguish between Muslims of different races”.
        The other was that most men like their native culture and wouldn’t do something that would disadvantage themselves in large parts of it.

    • Sastan says:

      No puzzling necessary, just understand the hierarchy of Oppression Olympics!

      Muslims may be lauded and coddled because they are the only current threat to western civilization, but leftist status games are always racist in the end. Muslim isn’t nearly enough to get past the vast crime of being born a white male. Unless, of course, you champion leftist politics, and even then they might BLM you like Sanders.

      Religion is worth less than sexual orientation which is worth less than sex which is worth less than race. And none of it matters unless you are a leftist, see Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But for leftists, to gain status among leftists, that’s the scale.

      • onyomi says:

        “Religion is worth less than sexual orientation which is worth less than sex which is worth less than race. And none of it matters unless you are a leftist, see Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But for leftists, to gain status among leftists, that’s the scale.”

        Wow, this comports perfectly with my own, subjective impression of the reality. Feminists’ rejection of Margaret Thatcher and Ayn Rand always proved the last point in my mind.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Sastan already gave a better example: Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
          African woman immigrates with no money to escape an arranged marriage, gets a degree in political science, is rejected by feminists and anti-racists for espousing Enlightenment ideas.

          • onyomi says:

            Okay, except I had never heard of her and she is much less famous than the two I mentioned.

            Though arguably the fact they can’t accept even a less prominent, and therefore, less threatening figure, does make it a better example (though maybe she is more dangerous to their minds because of all that sweet victim cred she threatens to yield).

        • Sastan says:

          Basically, leftists are all about immutable differences and denying them. You can choose an ideology or religion, sexual identity tends to be more fixed, but can plastic, especially for women. They are pushing hard for sex to be a non-fixed category, with hilarious results as some feminists deny the ability of anyone born male to ever be female (or to take the status associated with it). We’re on to race, with race being the ultimate status, and the hardest to change. But between Shaun White and Rachel Dolezal, the path is clear. The inter-left status death spiral has begun. I say this as a triracial pansexual otherkin: Pass the popcorn.

          • They are pushing hard for sex to be a non-fixed category

            No, biological sex is fixed (but not binary for a statistically significant fraction of people; ~1% of people are intersex). It’s gender that’s more fluid and largely socially-defined, and thus capable of being changed.

            with hilarious results as some feminists deny the ability of anyone born male to ever be female (or to take the status associated with it)

            No. Referring to “radical feminism” as “some feminists” is insulting in the same way that referring to suicide cults as “some Christians” is insulting. They’re radically far outside the mainstream, and hated by people in the mainstream. They use the term “feminism”, but do not represent in any significant way the beliefs of mainstream feminism.

            I say this as a triracial pansexual otherkin:

            trololol u know some tumblr words ur so cool

          • The devastating counterargument to that particular religious belief is the life of David Reimer.

            I… what? I said it was “more fluid” and “capable of being changed”, not “infinitely plastic” and “automatically conforming to whatever society chooses to raise you as”. There is no reasonable way to interpret my words as excluding the existence of people like David Reimer.

            I’m genuinely confused as to how you think someone being raised trans but turning out cis is a “devastating counterexample” to the existence of tons of trans people. Do you believe that trans people don’t exist? Do you think that “gender is more fluid” is an SJW idiom that secretly means “everyone is trans”? I don’t get it.

            (Edit: Ah, one tiny bit of confusion – I’m using “gender” in two different ways in the same sentence, and that’s definitely my bad. “Gender”, the binary concept of “boy” and “girl” things, is largely socially-defined – there’s a small core of sex-related things, and the rest are accreted socially, like gender-appropriate clothing or makeup. Among the things that are sex-related, they tend to be split in the binary out of proportion to how they actually manifest physically – men are slightly physically stronger on average, but there’s a whole host of jobs/activities that favor physical strength which are assigned the “man’s stuff” label, and it’s considered “unwomanly” for a strong woman to be into them.

            But then I said “capable of being changed”, where I was referring to personal gender. That’s also socially-defined to some extent, but most people have an innate sense of their own gender that is fairly clear from birth.)

    • NN says:

      1). “White male” is not the lowest status in deep Blue communities, the actual lowest status is “white male wrongthinker.” It is true that they often talk about white males being the worst thing in the world, but “white” frequently just serves as a code word for “Red Tribe.” See Scott’s article on this subject.

      2). The current Blue Tribe alliance with Muslims is primarily a strategic alliance, like how the British starting singing songs about how “there never was a coward where the shamrock grows” during WWI, after centuries of brutally oppressing the Irish, or how the Nazis declared the Japanese to be “honorary Aryans.” Before 9/11, American Muslims overwhelmingly supported the Republican Party. As the War On Terror geared up, despite Bush the Younger’s best efforts at reaching out to Muslims, they switched over en masse to the Democratic Party, which they perceived as less likely to bomb, spy on, torture, and generally oppress Muslims. The Blue Tribe was eager to obtain a new ally against their hated Outgroup, the Red Tribe, so they quickly began singing condescending paens to the virtues of Muslims.

      One would think that the Obama administration continuing many of Bush the Younger’s anti-terrorism policies would put this alliance in jeopardy, but Trump’s antics are probably enough to keep the alliance secure for at least a few more years. But if ISIS and Al-Qaeda were defeated and America’s next foreign enemy turned out to be something other than Islamic Fundamentalists, such as Russia, then the political allegiance of American Muslims could easily change again. Especially if Muslims could be seen as a useful ally to the Red Tribe, as they were during the Cold War. See Reagan praising the Afghan Mujahideen as “brave freedom fighters.”

      I don’t know as much about the political situation in Europe, but it seems like a similar process is at work over there, where Muslims are common enough to be caught up in not just anti-terrorism issues but also immigration issues. As such, it seems like European Muslims end up allying with the Blue Tribe for much the same reasons that Latinos end up allying with the American Blue Tribe despite being mostly religiously conservative Catholics.

      • The Blue Tribe was eager to obtain a new ally against their hated Outgroup, the Red Tribe, so they quickly began singing condescending paens to the virtues of Muslims.

        There’s no particular love for Muslims as such in Blue circles. When compared to the hatred/fear a decent chunk of America holds for the religion, tho, a sense of indifferent acceptance can look sorta like love, I guess.

        Islam is just another Abrahamic religion, which hasn’t had its rough spots rubbed off quite as well as Xianity has due to its resident countries not getting hit quite as hard by modernity, but generally equivalent in good and bad to what we see in American Xianity, especially as Islam is practiced in the West.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I would agree with your general assessment of the nature of Islam in relation to the other Abrahamic religions. However, what do you mean by the West?

          It is true that Muslims in the US and Canada are much less “radical”, in a variety of ways, than Muslims elsewhere. However, Muslims in Europe tend to be significantly more radical by those same measures than Muslims in the US and Canada. Muslims in the US and Canada are still generally more conservative than the Christian baseline in those countries.

          If what you’re saying is that there’s not anything inherent to Islam resulting in social conservatism, radicalism, etc, (or anything inherent that isn’t in Christianity) I would definitely agree. The average Muslim in the US or Canada, in Europe, or globally, is probably more liberal than the average Christian was a few hundred years ago. And I know plenty of fluffy salad-bar Muslims to go with the fluffy salad-bar Christians and Jews I know.

          • Yup, the latter thing. And that radicalism as it exists is mostly a direct result of economics and marginalization, and only incidentally tied to religion itself; you own observe that American/Canadian Muslims are generally less radical than European Muslims, and I’ll support that with the observation that Am/Ca Muslims are generally richer and better integrated than the more recent / less integrated groups in Europe. Personal wealth directly combats radicalism, and conversely poverty is a predictor of it.

          • The leaders of radical movements are often intelligent, well-educated people, often from well-off families. Scott’s talked about this before, iirc – being intelligent makes it harder to live with just a surface gloss of their contradictory religious text, like most people do. Instead, those that don’t reject the text entirely have a good chance of instead rationalizing it, and biting the bullet on a lot of things it mandates that the majority would politely ignore.

            The majority of radical followers, on the other hand, can be largely traced to economics. Suicide bombers tend to be poor, and you don’t think ISIS’s foot soldiers are all well-off, do you? It’s cult indoctrination, and that always works best on those who are desperate and need to find meaning in something outside their personal circumstances.

            Similarly, America’s white terrorists aren’t generally well-off. They also tend to get radicalized because they have a lot of personal problems, often economic in nature. When they’re not explicitly poor, they tend to be socially isolated.

    • “hat prevents huge numbers of men in places like the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, and every university town from converting to Islam? They could hypothetically gain the benefits of being PoCs rather than white, the benefits of it being taboo for others in the community to criticize their beliefs, plus the benefits for men of hardcore patriarchy.”

      Why would they want benefits like patriarchy, that are inimical to other values? in fact, they can and sometimes do convert to religions that give them a liberal-compatible set of benefits,versions of Buddhism, versions Hinduism (or if it is Islam, Sufism, the liberal version).

      • NN says:

        It should also be noted that American Blue Tribe versions of Buddhism tend to have little in common with the versions practiced by historically Buddhist communities in Asia. Those places are hardly free of patriarchal values, and one would have a hard time convincing the Tamils of Sri Lanka or the Rohingya of Burma that Buddhism is a peaceful and tolerant religion.

        I suspect that the main reason for the appeal of Buddhism to the Blue Tribe is that Buddhism is still distant enough from the life of the average American to seem quaint and exotic. Islam hasn’t had the same status since the Iranian hostage crisis at the latest, and even Hinduism is starting to lose it as Americans gets more acquainted with the “quirks” of Hindu culture due to the economic rise of India.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Note that the progressive attraction to a misunderstood Buddhism goes back at least as far as H.G. Wells. In his Outline of History, he praised Siddhartha to the sky as a secular philosopher, implied that his philosophy made Ashoka the greatest monarch ever, and made fun of actual Buddhists for corrupting the teachings into a religion.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Nietzsche apparently did, too. Quoting from Wikipedia:

            Nietzsche unfavorably compares Christianity to Buddhism. He posits that Christianity is “the struggle against sin”, whereas Buddhism is “the struggle against suffering”; to Nietzsche, Christianity limits and lowers humankind by assailing its natural and inevitable instincts as depraved (“sin”), whereas Buddhism advises one merely to eschew suffering. While Christianity is full of “revengefulness” and “antipathy” (e.g., the Last Judgment), Buddhism promotes “benevolence, being kind, as health-promoting.” Buddhism is also suggested to be the more “honest” of the two religions, for its being strictly “phenomenalistic”, and because “Christianity makes a thousand promises but keeps none.” Martyrdom, rather than being a moral high ground or position of strength, is indicative of an “obtuseness to the question of truth.”

            Needless to say (?), this is absurd. Buddhism is at least as anti-life as Christianity, and in my opinion much more.

          • Protagoras says:

            Wikipedia exaggerates. Nietzsche certainly thought Buddhism was anti-life. He does contrast Buddhism favorably with Christianity, on the basis that he thought Buddhism was more honest and more effective at pursuing its own goals, but he did not think Buddhism’s goals were any better.

    • John Schilling says:

      Actually converting to Islam requires a person to do things that are A: difficult and B: anathema to core Blue Tribe cultural beliefs. Abstaining from drink and extramarital sex, believing that this abstention is morally obligatory on the grounds that those things are absolute moral wrongs, believing and submitting unconditionally to the One True God, these are things that a person basically cannot due and remain a core member of Blue Tribe.

      And if they aren’t a core member of Blue Tribe, they probably don’t care so much about Blue-tribe status as to trade their self-image (and their status among every other American demographic sector) for the modest improvement in Blue-tribe status they’d get from being perceived as Muslim.

      Fake-converting to Islam is unlikely to work, and the failure will result in reduced status everywhere.

      • NN says:

        Right. The only Islamic practice that is a good fit for Blue Tribe values is the prohibition on pork, since weird dietary practices are part and parcel of Blue Tribe culture.

        Though in Shia Islam abstaining from extramarital sex is easier than in most religions due to the practice of nikah mut‘ah, or temporary marriage.

        • John Schilling says:

          I suspect “…but you can have all the extramarital sex you want, so long as you can find a Hot Shi’ite Babe, who is OK with nikah mut‘ah, in the San Francisco Bay Area!”, is not likely to be a very big selling point for that particular brand of Islam. Network effects matter.

          • NN says:

            If you’re male, you can also conduct nikah mut‘ah with Christian and Jewish women, if they agree to it. Still, you’re probably right that having to say, “before we go any further, you have to sign this contract to marry me for the next month,” probably wouldn’t be good for your dating life in the Bay Area and places with similar cultures.

            On the other hand, that isn’t too far off from what some Affirmative Consent activists have proposed.

          • DrBeat says:

            … All right, everyone who instantly envisioned a banner ad proclaiming “Hot Shi’ite babes in YOUR area! Click for nika mut’ah NOW!”, raise your hands.

      • Seth says:

        Is this a bit of strawmusliming? There are e.g. plenty of Catholics who have extramarital sex. And they aren’t ordinarily quizzed on their views regarding Papal infallibility or the divine source of Church authority. There are also many Jews who don’t care much about Kosher regulations. Anyway, public displays of devoutness are much more an expectation of Reds than Blues.

        • NN says:

          Yes, but those are usually people who are born into Catholic/Jewish families. If you convert to a religion, except perhaps if you are doing it for the purpose of a marriage, then you are generally expected to take the religion seriously. Because if you don’t take it seriously, then why would you bother converting?

          • Seth says:

            It’s possible to take the religion seriously in certain parts, but not be extremely interested in every detail of the theology or follow every precept. For example, someone who sincerely “finds religion” in prison might be seriously interested in the aspects of redeeming oneself to God and forgiveness and changing one’s life via accepting Jesus as savior, but not care too much about the stuff with the Pope or the prohibition about using birth control. Someone might convert to Islam because of a major attraction to particular moral and community aspects, but not feel the need to be ultra-devout about the sex or drugs parts.

    • Adam says:

      The obvious answer is there are not any white males in the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle who actually believe they could increase any relevant measure of their social status by converting to Islam.

    • onyomi says:

      Blues don’t see Muslims as a race. They see it as a religion, or maybe a culture. If a white guy converted to Islam they’d just see him as a weird white guy, perhaps one engaging in pernicious “appropriation” as a ploy to enjoy some sweet, sweet oppression cred.

      If anyone sees the Muslim faith and the Arab race as relatively indisociable, it’s the reds*, I’d imagine.

      *Isn’t it ironic that the Republicans got associated with the color red? Is this just an artifact of the colors CNN randomly picked one year to color states on an election map?

      • NN says:

        *Isn’t it ironic that the Republicans got associated with the color red? Is this just an artifact of the colors CNN randomly picked one year to color states on an election map?

        Yes. Until 2000, the networks would swap the colors that represented the two parties every election year. In 2000, it happened to be Red = Republican and Blue = Democrat, but that year the presidential election got hung up for more than a month. After several weeks of seeing red states and blue states on a map of the US every time people turned on the news, no one could forget those colors and their associations, and so they stuck.

        Which is ironic from a historic perspective, because the color red has long been associated with Socialism in general and Communism in particular.

        • It also helped that, in 2000, the Gore campaign’s color was blue, and the Bush campaign’s color was red.

          Which is ironic from a historic perspective, because the color red has long been associated with Socialism in general and Communism in particular.

          And blue associated with conservatism in general.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        IDK, criticism of Islam often gets labelled as racism by members of the Blue tribe.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve seen criticism of France* labeled as racism by Blue Tribe, when it suited their purposes. Was on the wrong end of that one, still a bit peeved by it.

          * the historically stereotypical France of non-Islamic white Europeans.

          • onyomi says:

            How did they manage that? I thought white people were the only people against whom it was impossible to be racist.*

            *Because racism is arbitrarily defined as prejudice+power.**

            **Power is defined as institutional, structural power, not individual power.

          • John Schilling says:

            Turns out Anglospheric white people are the ones it is impossible to be racist against. So far, at least.

            More generally, if you make any differentiation between nationalities or cultures, even among white people, that can get labeled as “racist” if someone is looking to be offended. “Nationalist” doesn’t have the same sting, in spite of being more accurate.

          • onyomi says:

            Wow, another means by which I can oppress people! Awesome! In fact, as a white, heterosexual, anglophone, American male, I’m pretty sure I’m the worst person in the world. All this structural power sure was helpful during my three-year search for a halfway decent job in my field.

          • Is this tangent necessary?

            I’m not talking about the gate heuristic, I’m just thinking in general. Clearly it’s going to be trivial to find a dozen examples of people being horrible in the direction of using accusations of racism as a weapon. Equally clearly, it’s trivial to find dozens of examples of people not doing that.

            Is there meaning or utility in going on scavenger hunts for these dozens? Is there another comment thread overly focused on the goodness and rationality of the social justice set (or the vileness of their enemies) that people feel the need to counteract?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Robert:
            Yeah. People make bad arguments all the time.

            Certainly there is a segment of the population that is constantly looking for things to label -ist. And some of those won’t be particularly exacting about theit definitions.

            On the other hand, having seen the popularity of a certain kind of anti-French sentiment during the Iraq war, including the fact that I will never forgot the phrase “surrender monkeys”, there is something to the association of anti-French sentiment and a certain kind of American jingoism.

            Which of course doesn’t mean that criticism of France is somehow automatically suspect or invalid.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Is this tangent necessary?
            Well, what is?

            >Is there meaning or utility in going on scavenger hunts for these dozens? Is there another comment thread overly focused on the goodness and rationality of the social justice set (or the vileness of their enemies) that people feel the need to counteract?

            Catholic priests are no more likely to abuse children than schoolteachers, priests of other denominations, etc.

            When you claim you’re a Champion of God/Justice/Some other uncontrovertible good thing, you’re bound to be held to a higher standard.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The mainstream media’s treatment of Catholic priests is such an example of Scott’s Chinese Robber Fallacy.
            When Catholic priests molest minors, it’s because of homophobia and how bad celibacy is. When members of the teachers’s union do it at the same per capita rate, it’s… um…

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            Because they have easier access to children? And it’s more notable because they don’t claim to be God’s representatives.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Le Maistre Chat:
            The Catholic pedophilia scandal is, more than anything, about what the Catholic church did when they knew they had a pedophile priest on their hands.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Exactly. It was the coverup.

            Like Nixon and Watergate.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Originally, maybe. Now it’s generally used to score points against celibacy.

        • onyomi says:

          My impression is that blue tribers tend to ascribe to red tribers the conflation of race and religion: they think the red tribe’s supposed disapproval of Islam is just a cover for conscious or subconscious prejudice against brown people. The blue tribers themselves don’t hold this view, though they may think of Islam as, in some sense, being a kind of Arab culture, and therefore more worthy of respect than, for example, the faith of born-again Christians.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Blues don’t see Muslims as a race. They see it as a religion, or maybe a culture. If a white guy converted to Islam they’d just see him as a weird white guy, perhaps one engaging in pernicious “appropriation” as a ploy to enjoy some sweet, sweet oppression cred.

        Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Hamas-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations, is a white convert and doesn’t seem to get any such suspicion. Of course he’s one guy: my guess is that there started being so many white male converts that the Central Example of a Muslim in the West was no longer Arabic or Pakistani or such, Blues would stop seeing criticism of Islamic doctrine as racism.

        *Isn’t it ironic that the Republicans got associated with the color red? Is this just an artifact of the colors CNN randomly picked one year to color states on an election map?

        Yes, very much so! The traditional political colors, going back to the French Revolution, are White for monarchy and an established Church, Blue for classical liberalism, and Red for socialism. The Russian Revolution led to Black for anarchism and Brown for fascism, and then of course came Green.

        There’s a Magic: The Gathering joke in there somewhere.

        • anonymous says:

          Gotta love the irrelevant dig. You people just can’t help yourselves, can you?

        • NN says:

          Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Hamas-affiliated Council on American Islamic Relations, is a white convert and doesn’t seem to get any such suspicion. Of course he’s one guy: my guess is that there started being so many white male converts that the Central Example of a Muslim in the West was no longer Arabic or Pakistani or such, Blues would stop seeing criticism of Islamic doctrine as racism.

          There have been far, far more black male converts to Islam than white male converts in America. There have also been significantly more white female converts, mostly due to marriages, than white male converts.

          Regardless, who the spokesman for CAIR is is irrelevant to the subject of Blue perceptions, because most American Muslims are not part of the Blue Tribe. Their values actually tend to be much closer to those of the Red Tribe, but in the past 15 years they’ve formed a strategic alliance with the Blue Tribe in response to the War on Terror. When people here talk about the scenario of “if a white guy converted to Islam,” they really mean “if a white hipster guy from the Bay Area or another Deep Blue part of the country converted to Islam.” Though even then, I don’t know of any real examples of such people being accused of “cultural appropriation,” so I’m skeptical about the conclusion.

          Also, the Central Example of a Muslim in the West is definitely still a brown person. It is, in fact, pretty common for Sikhs to be mistakenly targeted in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There have been far, far more black male converts to Islam than white male converts in America. There have also been significantly more white female converts, mostly due to marriages, than white male converts.

            Correct. I would think that, in the 1960s and ’70s, the Central Example of an American Muslim was black, while “Arab-American” meant a Christian or completely secular Lebanese.

            Also, the Central Example of a Muslim in the West is definitely still a brown person. It is, in fact, pretty common for Sikhs to be mistakenly targeted in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

            I remember this famously happening to at least one Sikh family after 9/11, but is it actually common?

          • NN says:

            I remember this famously happening to at least one Sikh family after 9/11, but is it actually common?

            Here’s an example from the last month. Here’s another one.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @NN: I see. Well, that’s stupid and tragic.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          Regarding MTG colors and religions…

          I read over Leah Libresco’s 2015 Ideological Turing Test (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2015/04/2015-ideological-turing-test-index-post.html), and I noticed something really interesting about the answers to the questions for Christians. If I classified them according to MTG color pie philosophy, the answers from Christians were all green, and the answers from non-Christians were mostly white, and all non-green.

          I showed the answers to friends knowledgeable about the color pie, and though our classifications somewhat differed, they all produced the same split. Obviously, Christian philosophy is very heterogenous, so this may be partially coincidental, but there definitely seems to be something there.

    • Anonymous says:

      if “white male” is the lowest status in deep Blue communities

      And there’s your mistake.

    • if “white male” is the lowest status in deep Blue communities,

      Found your problem right there – incorrect premise. This is a silly story that non-Blue sometimes tell about Blues, because they have no idea what is meant by “privilege” and assume we mean that having it makes you low-status. So that’s your paradox resolved.

      The rest of your post is similar “let’s tell scary stories about those big bad Blues” nonsense. Being Muslim makes you religious, not non-white. Islam is no more immune to criticism than Christianity. Explicitly manipulating your social identity for personal benefit is sociopathic, not a defining trait of Blue people (or any of the other major sociopolitical groups).

      Vox Imperatoris provides further reasoning why, even if we take your premises as valid, people wouldn’t do what you suggest. But it’s not necessary to go that far, as you were failing to accurately model Blue people from the get-go.

      • Have you read Social Justice and Words, Words, Words yet?

        The question here: since privilege is just a ho-hum thing about how you shouldn’t interject yourself into other people’s conversations, or something nice about dogs and lizards – but definitely not anything you should be ashamed to have or anything which implies any guilt or burden whatsoever – why are all the minority groups who participate in communities that use the term so frantic to prove they don’t have it?

        (Alternatively, if you can summarize what you think “privilege” actually means in short, comprehensible terms, it would be interesting. Not being an American, I can honestly say I’m hopelessly confused by the concept.)

        • Yeah, I’ve read all of Scott’s work, tho that post was from the time period when I was skimming because the commentariat was a lot worse for a while.

          I’m not super interested in a big discussion here, but a simple definition of “privilege” is “the bullshit you don’t have to deal with, by virtue of some quality you have, that people with other values for that quality do have to deal with”.

          The common example is “white privilege”, where white people get to avoid a lot of bullshit that other races have to deal with, due to people being racist/biased against non-whites. The annoying part here is when people read that as “white people have everything easy”, which is stupid and wrong – Life’s RNG can still fuck you over, privilege just means you have less additional fuck-yous to deal with than others.

          And then the other annoying part is the panoply of people on “my side” who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, leading to things like people trying hard to play the I-have-less-privilege game, or claiming that only whites have race-related privilege (black privilege exists, but is less generally applicable/useful, at least in America; same for other races), etc.

  27. Wrong Species says:

    Book discussion: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathon Haidt.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Next time we are discussing The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter by Joseph Henrich.

    • blacktrance says:

      One of my main problems with Haidt is too much uncritical acceptance of the standard progressive and conservative images. Both the standard progressive and conservative narratives hold that progressives care less about loyalty, authority, and purity, and that’s what Haidt finds, but that’s because those foundations have become associated with conservatives’ expression of them, while progressives’ expression of them doesn’t get labeled as such. For example, when it comes to GMOs (and food in general), progressives display more purity than conservatives.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Yes, I think this is absolutely true.

        Also, the idea of a “sense of fairness” can be seen even more clearly. It’s not that conservatives (and libertarians) don’t care about fairness. It’s the opposite. They see the government taking money from hard-working people to give it to layabouts who don’t deserve it, and they oppose it as the height of unfairness. That’s how they frame the issue.

        However, Haidt’s YourMorals website (which everyone should visit; it’s really interesting) does contain surveys to test “left-wing purity”, as well as liberal “equality” vs. conservative “equity”. If you do want to check out the website, if you use this link, you can compare your views with the average of SSC readers.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Harm 3.7 Fairness 4.1 Loyalty 3.2 Authority 4.5 Purity 3.8
          I tied with Blue in the two categories where they are stronger than Red and outranked Red in the other three.
          SSC readers are weaker than both Blue and Red in every moral foundation except Authority, where they slightly outrank Blue!

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Harm 0.0
            Fairness 1.7
            Loyalty 0.8
            Authority 0.5
            Purity 1.1

            Low on all! The libertarian way.

            On the other hand, it comes out somewhat different if you ask the questions differently. For the Moral Foundations Statements (0-6, or maybe 1-6):

            Care 3.3 (way below red and blue)
            Fairness 4.9 (slightly above red and blue)
            Loyalty 1.6 (way below red and blue)
            Authority 1.4 (way below red and blue)
            Sanctity 4.9 (way above blue and slightly above red)
            Ownership 5.9 (way above blue and above red)
            Autonomy 4.0 (below blue and slightly below red)
            Honesty 2.9 (way below red and below blue)

            Also, in my Nietzschean way, I have transvalued all values and almost completely reject the “lay theory of morality” on five different scales: 1.5 out of 1-7. 😉

          • A says:

            There’s a paper saying that psychopaths have low harm and fairness scores. And anecdotally, my experience says there is something to this.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Harm 0.7 Fairness 0.7 Loyalty 4.2 Authority 5.0 Purity 4.2

            I can’t get the comparison link to work, but it seems like I’m quite the outlier here.
            (It also seems clear why I like thinkers like Xunzi.)

        • Wrong Species says:

          Actually he dedicates a chapter to that. I don’t know about his website but he mentions this in the book and adds a liberty/oppression intuition and switches the fairness intuition to what you are talking about.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, I haven’t read the book. But I have read his article about liberty/oppression.

            One of the most interesting ones on his website, which isn’t by him but by John Darley, tests for deterrence vs. retribution as a justification for punishment. Basically, people “endorse” deterrence as a reason (because they endorse every possible reason to some extent), but their actual views of the situations conform solely to retributivism. Here’s the paper.

        • jeorgun says:

          Weird. I scored obscenely high (1.141) on the self-esteem IAT, which normally I score really low on self-esteem tests. I did semi-recently go on SSRIs, but I didn’t think they were having much effect— I’ll have to update in favor of them working. Actually I’m kind of alarmed by how high it was, but I’m not sure how to reduce it to more reasonable levels. Any thoughts?

          • nonymous says:

            If you can afford it, the easiest way to lower self-esteem is to combine it with travel and sightseeing.

            Take a long vacation in a rich foreign city where you dont know the language.

            The week before your departure date, schedule an appt. for a digital perm in a small town no less than a five hour drive from either coast.

            Have the technician set values for Kinky-4a. Ask for a curl diameter “smaller than soap suds.”

            In Vienna I’ll put you in touch with a disapproving figure, Herr Anklepants ( Herrengasse 9), the last of the esperanto skywriters who, in a final bid for relevance in 1982. madly tried to intervene in the falklands islands with a message of peace in an extra-territorial language unknown to troops on either side, each poot of white dot-matrix lettering was immediately engulfed in battlesmoke.
            Soldiers are the crushed peanut shells
            on the floor of the kid’s restaurant that is planet e.

            When a trypophobe like Anklepants, who was primed to see the future as honeycombed with punitive clown corridors by sadistic kitchen staff at the plague theologians comissary- first sees your perm he’s going to be very unhappy. He’s a trypophobe and so naturally when you come out of customs in a hair helmet with curls so nano the visual effect is of a corkboard sphere with a narrow pink rectangle holding the features of your face. he’s probably going to have an ibs attack. You leap into action.
            By the time youve rinsed Anklepants dress in the men’s room sink the treatment should be doing its work
            Youve been feeling depressed on the plane about just following through with that stranger on the internet’s “therapeutidc itinerary” without balking once. Yeah you feel like shit about yourself, though. He sure was right about that. Oh yeah. Anklepants? The esperanto skywriter who im trying to pay back loans by working as his roadie, tour manager, merch salesman, business wife and bunkmate?
            I’m so depressed:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb4bCgWkZRc

        • keranih says:

          Vox, it might be helpful if you’d put links to the actual tests (there are a lot of tests on that site) and more complete directions on how to do the SCC comparisions.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I was going to say the same thing. He does mention that specific example but he mostly brushes past that. One thing I noticed is that liberals will justify their intuitions with the care foundation, even if it doesn’t really make sense. Like with sex, prostitutes can’t consent for some reason and minors can’t consent with people over a certain age. They can’t bring themselves to say that oppose some form of consensual sex so they insist it’s not consensual.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Haidt’s got one that tests for that, too. One scenario is consensual incest between adult brother and sister, where he asks you to assume that it’s consensual and doesn’t harm either party. He asks: a) is it disgusting and b) is it immoral?

          Left-wingers still say it’s immoral and try to make it about harm anyway.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Well liberals are more likely than conservatives to say it’s ok but I think that’s more because their intuitions against sibling incest aren’t as strong as their intuitions about having sex with minors. I have noticed that they will try to argue father/daughter sex is inherently harmful even when they are both adults and are explicitly saying they consent.

          • stubydoo says:

            For teasing out morality based on incest questions – they need to be extra specific on the question wording. As far as I’m concerned, they had damn well better be using a barrier form of contraception, or better yet sticking to non-coital forms, otherwise the idea that no-one is harmed isn’t true for certain.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @stubydoo

            They do mention that the girl is using birth control and the guy is wearing a condom so yes, they control for that. Here’s the exact phrasing:

            “Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At the very least, it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both enjoy making love, but they decide never to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other. What do you think about that? Was it ok for them to make love?”

            Of course, the biggest problem I have noticed is that this kind of reasoning doesn’t apply to the real world. If this actually happened at least one of them would probably want to continue and there is a decent chance it wouldn’t be kept a secret. So even though it is phrased to avoid the harm factor, our moral intuitions “know better” than to make those kind of assumptions.

          • Jiro says:

            You could ask about a similar situation which starts out “Julie and Mark play Russian Roulette. Nobody is harmed, and they don’t try it again….”

            The question stipulates that the incest does not lead to further incest, has no bad emotional effects, and only makes them feel closer (implied to be a positive thing). But it only stipulates it as a matter of hindsight. The participants are not able to deduce that ahead of time. It’s only correct to say “this is harmless, so it’s okay” if you are justified in believing, ahead of time, that it will be harmless.

            And stipulating that they are justified in believing it ahead of time would result in a really bizarre scenario. (“Hundreds of years of human society has shown that incest in these circumstances does not cause problems. Knowing this, Julie and Mark commit incest and indeed no problems arise. Is this incest okay?” Yes, it is, but the scenario is no longer a real-world scenario.)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          They can’t bring themselves to say that oppose some form of consensual sex so they insist it’s not consensual.

          Cf. also “bestiality is wrong because animals can’t consent”, which, if taken to its logical conclusion, would imply that we ought all to become vegans.

      • Anonymous says:

        There’s purity in the sense of “this will make me sick” (e.g., norovirus) and there’s purity in the sense of “this makes me sick” (e.g., pegging). The claim that progressives display more purity requires conflating the two senses of the word.

        • Creutzer says:

          The idea is that as a matter of human psychology, 2 is the implementation of 1. That is to say, disgust reactions is how we avoid disease.

    • Wrong Species says:

      How did moral realists feel about this book? Because I don’t see how you can learn about moral psychology and see morality as anything other than a tool used by social animals. Is there any scientific evidence that would lead you against moral realism?

      • blacktrance says:

        I’m a moral realist, and it irked me that Haidt used the term “morality” to mean “people’s beliefs about morality”. People can have incorrect moral beliefs for a variety of reasons, and it may be useful to know why, but it doesn’t disprove moral realism. For me, asking whether scientific evidence can lead me against moral realism is like asking if scientific evidence could change my beliefs about game-theoretic truths – they’re not the same domain.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          The usual argument is: if other people’s beliefs about morality are determined by evolutionary factors that have no relationship to morality, how is it that your beliefs about morality correspond to what is objectively true? Either there is no objective morality, or you can never know it.

          I have my own opinions on this, but I would be interested to know what you think.

          • blacktrance says:

            Only some of other people’s beliefs about morality are determined by evolutionary factors – moral intuitions, and a subset of them at that. But more importantly, morality isn’t something to be discovered through perception or intuition, but something we construct. A successful construction produces something that is motivating, overriding, etc, and it is by satisfying these criteria that an ethical theory or moral fact is determined to be true, rather than by satisfying intuitions shaped by evolution.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Well, for one thing, how does the term “true” even apply to something that is not and does not purport to be an identification of reality?

            “Is this bridge true or false?” “Atlas Shrugged: true or false?” What?

            If you mean: is it a good bridge, or is it a good book, you have to point to some evaluative standards by which the question is to be decided. But it’s simply meaningless to ask whether either is true.

            So if morality is “constructed” (and I agree in some sense that normative ethics is constructed; though I’d still say it’s a form of identification), what are the standards? How do you know? It just puts everything back a step.

            And for what the believers in the idea that evolution debunks ethics would say: isn’t “motivatingness” or “convincingness” an intuition that developed in you through evolution? How do you know that corresponds to what the objectively true moral standards are?

          • blacktrance says:

            Morality is about what one ought to do and is necessarily overriding. That’s not my intuition, it’s a definition. You could say that morality is about satisfying your intuitions or maximizing paperclips, but I don’t have a reason to do either of those things. You could carve reality differently by choosing a different definition of morality, but then it need not be the case that I should always be moral, which seems to be at odds with what “moral” commonly means. If “moral” were only defined with reference to intuitions, then I’d be rejecting morality instead – but that would only be a difference in my map, not the territory.

            Whether a moral statement satisfies these conditions constitutes its truth-value. That’s the evaluative standard, and it’s not a matter of me knowing that it’s correct by matching some external standard, it’s the determinant of correctness. Any supposed objective moral standard beyond it wouldn’t necessarily be about what I have the most reason to do, and thus wouldn’t be moral as defined above.

            What I ought to do is a feature of reality, but not one that’s ontologically independent of me, and, more specifically, is determined by what I have the most reason to do. Hence the constructivist line that “the moral principles we ought to accept or follow are the ones that agents would agree to or endorse were they to engage in a hypothetical or idealized process of rational deliberation”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            I basically agree with all of that.

            What do you have the most reason to do, though? How do you know?

          • blacktrance says:

            The only possible source for me to have a reason to do something is for it to be one of my ends or instrumental to them. There’s a complication in that some of my desires would be different if I were more rational, and when there’s a conflict, I should go with what my rational self would recommend to me, because it’s better at achieving my ends. This means that I don’t automatically know what I have the most reason to do, as I may be mistaken because of irrationality, but it does give a procedure for arriving at what I should do without any imposition from anything external to me.

          • @Vox

            “If you mean: is it a good bridge, or is it a good book, you have to point to some evaluative standards by which the question is to be decided. But it’s simply meaningless to ask whether either is true.”

            Constructivists are quire capable of biting that bullet, and replacing “corersponds to reality” with “fulfils a function”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The only possible source for me to have a reason to do something is for it to be one of my ends or instrumental to them.

            How do you propose to get from “my end is x” to “I have reason to do x” without relying on the intuitive judgment that we have reason to pursue our ends?

          • blacktrance says:

            Because that’s conceptually baked into being one’s end. If there’s a supposed end that we don’t have reason to do, then it’s not really an end. As with morality and motivation before, it’s not an intuition, but a conceptual matter.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Because that’s conceptually baked into being one’s end. If there’s a supposed end that we don’t have reason to do, then it’s not really an end.

            This is not obvious to me, and I don’t know how you would go about demonstrating it except by appeal to intuition. In particular, what ends we have seems to me to be a descriptive psychological claim, while what we have reason to do seems to be a normative claim, with neither entailing the other. You appear to be trying to effect a division between intuitions on the one hand and judgments of conceptual containment on the other, but there’s a strong tradition in philosophy that intuitions just are our judgments about the extension of concepts. On this view, we intuit that the concept RIGHTNESS does not apply in the famous organ-harvesting case in much the same way that we intuit that the concept KNOWLEDGE does not extend to Gettier cases.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            Speaking for myself (but in a manner which blacktrance may sympathize with), it is obviously true that one cannot proceed solely from statements about descriptive facts to a normative conclusion.

            There are then only two alternatives: a) there is some special faculty of “intuition” by which we know normative facts, or b) normative facts are just defined as being equivalent to certain descriptive facts (or c) there are no normative facts).

            Now, I do not believe in any faculty of “intuition”, so I reject that one.

            Perhaps the most famous argument against b), the view that it’s a matter of definition, is G.E. Moore’s “open question argument”. That argument says: “Okay, if ‘good’ is simply analytically equivalent to some descriptive thing like ‘whatever produces the most happiness’, then it shouldn’t be a meaningful question whether ‘whatever produces the most happiness’ is good. But it is a meaningful question. Therefore, ‘good’ means something else.”

            My answer is that, yes, there is a difference. The term “good”, as commonly used, is a vague concept with no clear meaning. I am not proposing to tell people what they actually mean by the word “good”. I am proposing to revise the meaning of the concept so that it does mean something clear, distinct, and useful.

            In this way, it’s no different from taking some vague word like “awesome”,”cool”, or “funky” and proposing to use it in such a way that it has one specific meaning.

            And if the word “good” is revised in this way, it will be no more mysterious how we can move from descriptive to normative facts than it is that we move from physical to architectural facts, biological to medical facts, or social to military-strategic facts.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Perhaps the most famous argument against b), the view that it’s a matter of definition, is G.E. Moore’s “open question argument”. That argument says: “Okay, if ‘good’ is simply analytically equivalent to some descriptive thing like ‘whatever produces the most happiness’, then it shouldn’t be a meaningful question whether ‘whatever produces the most happiness’ is good. But it is a meaningful question. Therefore, ‘good’ means something else.”

            As I recall, Moore just asserted that this was the case, which seemed kind of question-begging to me. (I’d imagine that if you went up to, say, your local vicar, and said “Yes, I know helping others is what God wants, but is it good?”, he wouldn’t consider the question a meaningful one.) Am I just forgetting something, or was his argument here really as weak as I remember it?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Your proposal, I take it, is to replace our existing moral concepts with a set of stipulative definitions of moral terms. That’s fine (actually, it’s not, it’s a terrible idea, but nevermind), but I don’t think it’s what blacktrance is going for– he claims that it is a conceptual truth in English and not the Vox-moral-language that if I aim to phi I thereby have reason to phi, and that we can come to have knowledge of this conceptual truth by some mechanism other than intuition. This is what I am disputing.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ The original Mr. X:

            G.E. Moore’s arguments are, in general, pretty bad. I think that’s all there is to it.

            He also came up with the “fundamental contradiction of egoism”, which is just an amazingly stupid argument:

            [Egoism is contradictory because it says that e]ach man’s happiness is the only thing desirable: several different things are each of them the only thing desirable. This is the fundamental contradiction of Egoism.

            If it’s not obvious enough, Richard Lawrence points out the flaw:

            This argument is little more than a facile misrepresentation of any theory of egoism [….] Egoistic ethical theories […] are agent-relative (this term should not be confused with “relativism,” which is something different). That is, “the good” is that which is good for a given person — it is that which serves that person’s interests. Egoistic theories do not claim that there is such a thing as “the sole good” that is held in common by all individuals.

            If one accepts that what is good is agent-relative, then any well-formed statement about something being good should specify to whom that thing is good. Not doing so creates an ambiguous statement, which can lead to fallacious inferences, such as Moore’s claim above. “My own happiness is the sole good, and your own happiness is the sole good,” sounds like a contradiction when you use the ambiguous phrasing, but “My own happiness is the sole good for me, and your own happiness is the sole good for you,” is less problematic.

          • blacktrance says:

            Earthly Knight:
            The distinction between descriptive and normative becomes murky in the area of the roots of normativity. What ends we have is indeed a descriptive psychological claim, but what reasons we have isn’t clearly normative or descriptive. On one hand, it’s normative because one ought to do whatever one has most reason to do, but on the other hand, it’s a descriptive claim about factors relevant to ends one would have in some sufficiently informed state. I think this is why the term “wrong” is both apt and commonly used in ethics – because when someone is judged to act wrongly, from the judge’s perspective it seems that the wrongdoer has a mistaken view of something relevant to their ends.

            As for intuitions and conceptual analysis, intuitions can be wrong about the extensions of concepts. For example, it may seem that organ harvesting is wrong, but if it really is what we have most reason to do, then our intuition is wrong and our conceptual analysis has trumped it.

            Vox Imperatoris:
            My answer to Moore’s Open Question argument is that “good” roughly means something like “what one ought to seek”, and so questions like “is whatever produces the most happiness good?” or “is doing what God wants good?” are meaningful because they’re about what satisfies the condition of being what we should seek. Thus, while “good” isn’t analytically equivalent to “whatever causes the most pleasure”, they could still be synthetically equivalent.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ blacktrance:

            Well, I could just as well ask what “ought” means. Is it defined in terms of descriptive facts? Or do you know it by “intuition”?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            blacktrance, your response is, uh, non-responsive. I take it the syllogism you are constructing is something like this:

            1. My goal is to phi
            2. If my goal is to phi I have reason to phi

            C: I have reason to phi

            What rationale can you give for the second premise, aside from the bare assertion that it’s a conceptual truth (it does not seem so to me!)? What supports this rationale, if not intuition (including intuitions about concepts!)?

          • blacktrance says:

            Vox Imperatoris:
            “What one ought to seek” can be cast descriptively as “what one would seek if motivated by the relevant moral reasons”. Of course, what the relevant moral reasons are is a subject of much contention, but that brings it to what I’ve said previously in this thread.

            Earthly Knight:
            If 2 doesn’t seem like a conceptual truth to you, you must be using a different concept of “goal” or “reason” than I am. If my goal is to phi, how could I not have a reason to phi? If I didn’t have reason to phi, in what sense would my goal be to phi? Maybe the goal is ill-considered, such as if my irrationality prevented me from realizing that an intermediate goal is ineffective at achieving other goals, so you could say that I had a goal but not the consequent reason. But the goal only fails to generate a reason because it fails with respect to other goals. So if I would have the goal of phi if I were rational, such as if phi effectively achieves my other goals or is itself a terminal goal, then I really do have a reason to phi – there’d be nothing from preventing it from being a reason.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If 2 doesn’t seem like a conceptual truth to you, you must be using a different concept of “goal” or “reason” than I am.

            Generally speaking, when we talk about conceptual truths, we want them to be claims that will command universal agreement from anyone who is competent with the concepts involved. Otherwise we are not talking about conceptual truths, we are talking about idiosyncratic intuitions that you have, or stipulative definitions in your idiolect, neither of which are much of a foundation for morality. For instance, if someone sincerely assents to the sentence “Ted is a married bachelor,” we can reasonably conclude that they fail to grasp either the concept MARRIED or the concept BACHELOR. But it seems like you could assent to the sentence “Ted aims to go to the store but has no reason to” without being the slightest bit confused. So the goal->reason principle does not appear to be a conceptual truth.

            If my goal is to phi, how could I not have a reason to phi? If I didn’t have reason to phi, in what sense would my goal be to phi?

            I am not sure it helps much to thump the table repeatedly. Suppose that Pete wants to count blades of grass more than anything else in the world, and not only that, he endorses this desire upon reflection, and a suitably idealized version of Pete would continue to endorse the same goal. Does this give Pete a reason to count blades of grass? I’m inclined to think not, and I suspect most others would concur. So even if we are willing to countenance reasons-talk in general, it still would not be a conceptual truth that we have reason to phi whenever we take phi-ing as a goal. And a fortiori if we are antecedently suspicious of reasons.

          • blacktrance says:

            “Ted aims to go to the store but has no reason to” is a sensible proposition because people can have many competing goals that are difficult to simultaneously keep in mind – presumably, Ted isn’t a going-to-the-store maximizer. “Ted aims to go to the store but has no reason to in light of his other goals” would be the complete statement – when you’d ask why Ted has no reason to go to the store, people would explain how it conflicts with his other ends.

            Suppose that Pete wants to count blades of grass more than anything else in the world, and not only that, he endorses this desire upon reflection, and a suitably idealized version of Pete would continue to endorse the same goal. Does this give Pete a reason to count blades of grass? I’m inclined to think not, and I suspect most others would concur.

            I agree that most others will concur, but not because they think having a goal doesn’t give one a reason to phi, but because they think that reasons of goals can be overridden by other, external reasons. They would definitely say that having the goal of phi counts in favor of ultimately having a reason to phi. But when challenged about the legitimacy of external reasons, they would resort to asserting their intuitions – either that Pete has a reason to not count blades of grass despite it having nowhere to come from (the argument from queerness is relevant here), or that Pete really doesn’t have a reason to do it but should do it anyway.
            I, on the other hand, would say that Pete has the most reason to count blades of grass. My endorsement would be unusual not because of the goal->reason connection, but the rejection that anything that can override that connection.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I expect most people would deny that wanting to count blades of grass gives one even a pro tanto reason to count blades of grass, all else being equal. But I’m not really sure what you’re defending at this point. You assert that wanting to phi gives you reason to phi, and claim that this is a matter of conceptual containment, the odd type of conceptual containment that most people don’t recognize. People who reject the same principle, on the other hand, are relying on some illicit faculty of intuition (or do they just have different concepts? if so, why could they not construct their own moral system around those concepts?). I am not sure what is accomplished here aside from labeling your opponent’s methods with the term you don’t like and your own with the term you do.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight & blacktrance:

            How do you propose to resolve this dispute?

            To Earthly Knight, I will just say it is obvious that “moral language” is an incoherent mash of things that doesn’t refer to anything in particular. It’s not that there is some one thing everyone means by “the good”, but they just don’t know exactly what it is. They are just talking about different things, or they have reified this incoherent mash of ideas into an ineffable essence, or they are so confused they don’t know what they are talking about.

            It’s the same as arguing about the ineffable essence of “funky”. It’s just obvious that there is no one thing, the essence of “funk”, which everyone is trying in his own way to refer to. There are certain “family resemblances”, but: it is vague.

            In this respect, both the moral nihilists and the non-cognitivists are right in a limited way. The moral nihilists are right that, when people talk about “the good” as if it were a primary concept perhaps grasped by “intuition”, they are making false statements. The non-cognitivists are right that the practical function of this language is to praise, recommend, encourage, etc. (they are wrong to say that is all people mean; they really do mean to assert propositions).

            Where the nihilists are wrong is in asserting that moral concepts are useless or can be given no good definition. Sure they can! They are useful in the same way that it is useful to have architectural concepts and not just physical concepts.

            Now, if we are revising the concept of good to give it a coherent definition, why even use the word? Why not just talk about what promotes the ultimate happiness of people (or something similar)? Simple: we want to retain the non-cognitivist connotations, such as having a high opinion of the good, encouraging the good, rewarding the good, and so on.

            It’s like pro-capitalists and pro-socialists arguing about the meaning of the word “socialism”. Capitalists want to use the traditional economic definition of “the economic system in which the state owns the means of production”. Socialists, in general, don’t because this system has been shown not to work. So they characteristically come up with definitions like: “the economic system which serves the interest of the working class” and capitalism as: “the economic system which serves the bourgeoisie.” (This, by the way, is how China justifies itself as still being based on socialism.)

            But this is just a dispute about words. If we accept the latter interest-based definitions, capitalists believe that socialism and capitalism are the same thing: the economic system in which the means of production are privately owned.

            So, if you insist, egoists or other ethical naturalists can say: “Fine! We reject morality. But we accept ‘schmorality’, which serves the exact same practical function of telling people what to do, except it has a coherent definition.” Except they’re never going to do that because it would mean giving up the literal “moral high ground” to the other side.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Vox, you do not seem to be following the dialectic. blacktrance wants to say that his moral views are merely conceptual truths, while the moral views of everyone he disagrees with are supported only by spooky and disreputable intuitions. I am pointing out that he is mistaken on three counts: first, because we come to know conceptual truths by way of intuition, so the distinction he draws is incoherent, second, because his supposed conceptual truths are no such thing, seeing as how they do not command the assent of all competent speakers of the language, and third, because there is obviously a symmetry between his moral belief-forming processes and the moral belief-forming processes of his opponents. I am disputing blacktrance exceptionalism, not any of this other stuff.

            As a matter of definition, ethical egoism is the normative doctrine that we ought to act in our own interests. Egoists do not and cannot “reject morality.” Ethical naturalism is the meta-ethical view that moral properties are nothing over-and-above (“supervene on”, “are reducible to”) natural properties. Ethical naturalists certainly do not “reject morality”– the whole point is that they think they can fit morals into a scientific picture of the world. I am not sanguine about your revisionist strategy in part because it is difficult to see how the unconditional prescriptivity associated with moral claims– the assertion that we ought to phi, no matter our interests or desires– could possibly be made true by stipulative definitions.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            Vox, you do not seem to be following the dialectic. blacktrance wants to say that his moral views are merely conceptual truths, while the moral views of everyone he disagrees with are supported only by spooky and disreputable intuitions. I am pointing out that he is mistaken on three counts: first, because we come to know conceptual truths by way of intuition, so the distinction he draws is incoherent, second, because his supposed conceptual truths are no such thing, seeing as how they do not command the assent of all competent speakers of the language, and third, because there is obviously a symmetry between his moral belief-forming processes and the moral belief-forming processes of his opponents. I am disputing blacktrance exceptionalism, not any of this other stuff.

            I know what you’re doing. The purpose of my post was to say that if it is a “conceptual truth”, the meaning of which everyone “just knows”, it’s obviously impossible to resolve the dispute between you and blacktrance because both of you “just know” it means something different.

            As a matter of definition, ethical egoism is the normative doctrine that we ought to act in our own interests. Egoists do not and cannot “reject morality.” Ethical naturalism is the meta-ethical view that moral properties are nothing over-and-above (“supervene on”, “are reducible to”) natural properties. Ethical naturalists certainly do not “reject morality”– the whole point is that they think they can fit morals into a scientific picture of the world. I am not sanguine about your revisionist strategy in part because it is difficult to see how the unconditional prescriptivity associated with moral claims– the assertion that we ought to phi, no matter our interests or desires– could possibly be made true by stipulative definitions.

            Egoism accepts morality as defined by egoism. It does not (properly, and I don’t think even tries to) take the nebulous concept of “good” and attempt to say that everyone really used it to mean “self-interest” all along. The same goes for ethical naturalism in general (ethical egoism is usually defended as a type of naturalism). They don’t say everyone really does use “good” to mean what they think it means; they think the concept ought to be revised so that it exclusively means the natural facts they have picked out.

            As for “unconditional prescriptivity”, I believe it cannot be reduced to any natural properties. Therefore, it doesn’t exist. Which may be a problem for certain sorts of ethical naturalism. But it is not a problem for many varieties of egoism, which explicitly deny it. See Ayn Rand’s article “Causality versus Duty”:

            The meaning of the term “duty” [which Rand rejects] is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

            […]

            The proper approach to ethics, the start from a metaphysically clean slate, untainted by any touch of Kantianism, can best be illustrated by the following story. In answer to a man who was telling her that she’s got to do something or other, a wise old Negro woman said: “Mister, there’s nothing I’ve got to do except die.”

            […]

            Reality confronts man with a great many “musts,” but all of them are conditional; the formula of realistic necessity is: “You must, if—” and the “if” stands for man’s choice: “—if you want to achieve a certain goal.” You must eat, if you want to survive. You must work, if you want to eat. You must think, if you want to work. You must look at reality, if you want to think—if you want to know what to do—if you want to know what goals to choose—if you want to know how to achieve them.

            […]

            In a rational ethics, it is causality—not “duty”—that serves as the guiding principle in considering, evaluating and choosing one’s actions, particularly those necessary to achieve a long-range goal. Following this principle, a man does not act without knowing the purpose of his action. In choosing a goal, he considers the means required to achieve it, he weighs the value of the goal against the difficulties of the means and against the full, hierarchical context of all his other values and goals. He does not demand the impossible of himself, and he does not decide too easily which things are impossible. He never drops the context of the knowledge available to him, and never evades reality, realizing fully that his goal will not be granted to him by any power other than his own action, and, should he evade, it is not some Kantian authority that he would be cheating, but himself.

            […]

            The disciple of causation faces life without inexplicable chains, unchosen burdens, impossible demands or supernatural threats. His metaphysical attitude and guiding moral principle can best be summed up by an old Spanish proverb: “God said: ‘Take what you want and pay for it.’” But to know one’s own desires, their meaning and their costs requires the highest human virtue: rationality.

            Now, if you think a morality of “take what you want and pay for it” denies “unconditional prescriptivity” and therefore is not really a moral theory at all, in that sense egoism rejects morality. It rejects morality as defined by egoism’s opponents.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The purpose of my post was to say that if it is a “conceptual truth”, the meaning of which everyone “just knows”, it’s obviously impossible to resolve the dispute between you and blacktrance because both of you “just know” it means something different.

            blacktrance claimed that it is a conceptual truth that if you aim to phi you have reason to phi. This is false– it is not a conceptual truth, because it is not the case that all competent speakers of the language would assent to it (he appears to concede this latter point). He also claimed that his views on the matter do not depend on intuitions. This is also false, both because a) if the goal->reason principle were a conceptual truth, he would still be deploying intuitions about the application of concepts, and b) given that it is not a conceptual truth, it is unclear what else he could be appealing to.

            My own judgments of what words mean do not enter into it. You seem convinced that there is some sort of semantic disagreement between blacktrance and me, but this is just a confusion on your part.

            Egoism accepts morality as defined by egoism. It does not (properly, and I don’t think even tries to) take the nebulous concept of “good” and attempt to say that everyone really used it to mean “self-interest” all along.

            It is not clear to me what arguments egoists could advance in favor of their position. I agree that conceptual analysis is unlikely to avail them, but no other route seems promising either, principally because egoism is not a plausible view.

            The same goes for ethical naturalism in general (ethical egoism is usually defended as a type of naturalism). They don’t say everyone really does use “good” to mean what they think it means; they think the concept ought to be revised so that it exclusively means the natural facts they have picked out.

            Naturalism is a meta-ethical view about where moral properties fit into our system of the world. But this is a matter of metaphysics, and consequently does not carry a commitment one way or the other to how much revisionism we should allow at the level of normative ethics. A naturalist might insist that all of our normative intuitions be respected, or she might adopt a radically revisionist theory like utilitarianism. So this is also a confusion on your part.

            As for “unconditional prescriptivity”, I believe it cannot be reduced to any natural properties. Therefore, it doesn’t exist.

            If you deny that any categorical ought-claims come out true, your view should probably be classified as a variety of anti-realism. I am not sure what to make of the Ayn Rand excerpts, but I can offer you a dilemma: does Ayn Rand think that we ought to act in our self-interest? If yes, we are left again with the mystery of unconditional prescriptivity. If no, she is not really propounding a form of ethical egoism.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            blacktrance claimed that it is a conceptual truth that if you aim to phi you have reason to phi. This is false– it is not a conceptual truth, because it is not the case that all competent speakers of the language would assent to it (he appears to concede this latter point). He also claimed that his views on the matter do not depend on intuitions. This is also false, both because a) if the goal->reason principle were a conceptual truth, he would still be deploying intuitions about the application of concepts, and b) given that it is not a conceptual truth, it is unclear what else he could be appealing to.

            My own judgments of what words mean do not enter into it. You seem convinced that there is some sort of semantic disagreement between blacktrance and me, but this is just a confusion on your part.

            He apparently thinks it is a conceptual truth. You think it isn’t. So we have to appeal to the definition of the concept.

            Furthermore, you take the (completely unargued-for) view that the proper definition to appeal to is the term’s “ordinary sense” as used by “competent speakers” of English, as if they were authorities on matters of philosophy. There is no “confusion” on my part, and your high-handed tone is not appreciated.

            It is not clear to me what arguments egoists could advance in favor of their position. I agree that conceptual analysis is unlikely to avail them, but no other route seems promising either, principally because egoism is not a plausible view.

            The argument is something on the order of: people give various reasons why people should do something regardless of whether they want to. But all of these reasons fail because there are no such categorical imperatives or “duties”. However, everyone (or nearly everyone) values his own happiness at least somewhat.

            If one rejects all of the other reasons for doing things regardless of whether one wants to, one is left with happiness as what people already do want—and happiness seems (as Aristotle argued) to most people to be the best thing to have, in that if you had it you would not want anything else. Therefore, we should define “the good” as what people want or would want if they understood these points: happiness; and “should / ought” as ways of indicating the actions that will obtain it.

            That’s just a sketch, but that’s the idea.

            Naturalism is a meta-ethical view about where moral properties fit into our system of the world. But this is a matter of metaphysics, and consequently does not carry a commitment one way or the other to how much revisionism we should allow at the level of normative ethics. A naturalist might insist that all of our normative intuitions be respected, or she might adopt a radically revisionist theory like utilitarianism. So this is also a confusion on your part.

            Again, there is no confusion on my part. The position that all of our “normative intuitions” reduce to some one set of naturalistic descriptive facts is obviously false. Even if you don’t think that, it is clearly incompatible with the position I asserted earlier that the concept “good” is vague and not used to mean any particular thing. So I rejected it from consideration as irrelevant. But yes, it is a position one can entertain.

            However, you are ignoring the context in which I brought it up, which was to explain how an ethical theory need not be consistent with all of our (alleged) “intuitions”. To say a person is “confused” because he doesn’t waste his time discussing a position irrelevant to his point is to violate the principle of charity.

            If you deny that any categorical ought-claims come out true, your view should probably be classified as a variety of anti-realism. I am not sure what to make of the Ayn Rand excerpts, but I can offer you a dilemma: does Ayn Rand think that we ought to act in our self-interest? If yes, we are left again with the mystery of unconditional prescriptivity. If no, she is not really propounding a form of ethical egoism.

            To say that there are only hypothetical imperatives is not a form of anti-realism. At best, it is a form of moral non-objectivism, if “objective” is understood to mean what Rand called the “intrinsic”. You can read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the subject of moral anti-realism. In any case, this is just a terminological dispute because Rand clearly rejected:

            The intrinsic theory [of values, which] holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness.

            In any case, Rand did not think that people have a categorical obligation, “duty”, or “unconditional prescription” to act in their own self-interests. She thought that this is a hypothetical imperative or “rational obligation”, conditional on the choice to think and to live. Now, I think that there are certain problems with her derivation of “life as the standard of value”, but I’m not going to get into that.

            As to what I would say, you can refer to the sketch of the argument for egoism I made above.

            Now, if you are using the term “ethical egoist” such that no one can be an ethical egoist if he does not categorically assert that people ought to act in their own self-interest regardless of their desires, values, and choices, then Rand was not an “ethical egoist”. But then no one in history ever was an ethical egoist because no one has ever argued for that position (except maybe confused followers of Rand who don’t understand her argument and think she just means to substitute a “duty” to serve yourself for a “duty” to serve others). This is, then, a bad definition of “ethical egoist”.

            If you want to read a characteristic Objectivist discussion of this question, I refer you to David Kelley’s “Choosing Life”, where he explicitly argues that “life is a value because we choose it”.

          • blacktrance says:

            I don’t expect this to go in a productive direction, so this’ll be my last comment on this topic for now. My objection here is not to intuitions as a whole but to moral intuitions in particular. Regardless of where we get our concepts, if they conflict with our moral intuitions, then we know that our moral intuitions are wrong, because they don’t originate from anything rigorously truth-tracking.

            As for the content of the concept, it’s one that people recognize most of the time, they just think that there are some cases in which it’s overridden. For example, if I say that I want to go to the store, most people would agree that I have a reason to go to the store in the absence of other considerations, and if you asserted that I really don’t have such a reason, they would look for a contrary source of reasons. So they at least accept that prima facie and pro tanto having the goal of phi gives one a reason to phi. I accept the “prima facie” qualification because humans’ goals are complex, and it’s sometimes the case that one goal can be overridden by other goals. I reject the “pro tanto” qualification because it rests on spooky non-natural sources of reasons. But this could be reformulated as “normally, having the goal of phi gives one a reason to phi”, and this is something that most people (including myself) would agree with, I just go further by denying that there are any abnormal cases (outside of the previously mentioned ones concerning irrationality).

            I also second most of what Vox Imperatoris said.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Furthermore, you take the (completely unargued-for) view that the proper definition to appeal to is the term’s “ordinary sense” as used by “competent speakers” of English, as if they were authorities on matters of philosophy.

            “F is G” is a conceptual truth iff anyone who is competent in the use of the concepts F and G will assent to “F is G”.

            This is not controversial.

            “Wanting to phi gives you a reason to phi” is not a conceptual truth, because it fails the above test.

            However, everyone (or nearly everyone) values his own happiness at least somewhat.

            Nearly everyone values other people’s happiness, too. If valuing your own happiness means you should pursue it, by parity of reasoning, you should pursue the happiness of others as well. So this won’t do.

            To say that there are only hypothetical imperatives is not a form of anti-realism.

            The root of the problem here may be that you don’t understand the meanings of any of the terms you’re using.

            Moral anti-realism =df the view that no normative (i.e. evaluative or categorically prescriptive) moral claims are mind-independently true.

            She thought that this is a hypothetical imperative or “rational obligation”, conditional on the choice to think and to live.

            This is just incoherent. One can think and live just fine without being an egoist.

            But then no one in history ever was an ethical egoist because no one has ever argued for that position

            This is false; a number of ancient philosophers believed right action consisted in the pursuit of individual happiness, and so would qualify as ethical egoists under the given definition. But it doesn’t really matter: an ethical egoist is someone who thinks that one ought solely to pursue one’s own interests. You don’t get a vote on what the term means.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            As for the content of the concept, it’s one that people recognize most of the time, they just think that there are some cases in which it’s overridden.

            I gave a straightforward counter-example above, which you have not yet addressed. It is not the case that most people will agree that Jon’s wanting to count blades of grass gives Jon even a pro tanto* reason to count blades of grass, other things being equal. Ergo, the goal->reason principle is false.

            *This means the same thing as you mean when you say “prima facie.”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            “F is G” is a conceptual truth iff anyone who is competent in the use of the concepts F and G will assent to “F is G”.

            This is not controversial.

            I am controverting it (for the sake of argument, at least). What are you going to do? You can’t just appeal to the majority in philosophy.

            Besides, even on your terms (and this is really the more important point), what makes the ordinary speakers of English “competent” in the use of the concept “good”? I already said that they don’t clearly understand what they mean by it.

            Nearly everyone values other people’s happiness, too. If valuing your own happiness means you should pursue it, by parity of reasoning, you should pursue the happiness of others as well. So this won’t do.

            Egoism argues that people pursue the happiness of others either because they falsely think that there is a moral imperative to do so, or else because they correctly see it as a means to their own happiness. If someone said that he saw promoting the happiness of others as a terminal value for no reason and not because it satisfies him, or that he would feel bad if he didn’t, or some other such thing, then egoism has nothing to say against him.

            If there are such people, what’s appropriate for them is a different morality.

            The root of the problem here may be that you don’t understand the meanings of any of the terms you’re using.

            Moral anti-realism =df the view that no normative (i.e. evaluative or categorically prescriptive) moral claims are mind-independently true.

            Go fuck yourself. Seriously, I’m getting fed up with your tone.

            You don’t get to proclaim by fiat the meaning of terms in your own idiosyncratic way and then accuse other people of not understanding them correctly.

            Moral realism is commonly distinguished in professional philosophy from moral objectivism. Moral realism is simply the view that moral claims are sometimes true. The conflation of it with moral objectivism is a minority view, and it is certainly not true that anyone who doesn’t use it this way doesn’t “understand” it. See the SEP article I linked on moral anti-realism, or see this one on moral realism:

            Moral realists are those who think that, in these respects, things should be taken at face value—moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true. That much is the common and more or less defining ground of moral realism (although some accounts of moral realism see it as involving additional commitments, say to the independence of the moral facts from human thought and practice, or to those facts being objective in some specified way).

            As a result, those who reject moral realism are usefully divided into (i) those who think moral claims do not purport to report facts in light of which they are true or false (noncognitivists) and (ii) those who think that moral claims do carry this purport but deny that any moral claims are actually true (error theorists).

            Is egoism in one of those two categories? No, it is not.

            Moving on:

            This is false; a number of ancient philosophers believed right action consisted in the pursuit of individual happiness, and so would qualify as ethical egoists under the given definition. But it doesn’t really matter: an ethical egoist is someone who thinks that one ought solely to pursue one’s own interests. You don’t get a vote on what the term means.

            All the ancient ones I’m aware of who thought this were psychological egoists who thought that everyone actually does value his own individual happiness most of all. So your distinction could not be found in them.

            The larger point is that you have just baldly asserted that the term “ought” necessarily carries with it the meaning of “unconditional prescription”. This is just false. Plenty of people use it in other ways. It is perfectly sensible to use it in other ways.

            I don’t get a vote because there is no vote. You don’t get to appeal to the mob about what vague terms necessarily mean. Have you even taken a poll on the subject? I doubt the common man is even competent to answer the question of whether the term “ought” entails “unconditional prescription”.

            Does it mean that when I say to a friend that he ought to check out a certain band? Because that’s the sense in which I say he ought to be an egoist. I recommend it; he would like it; it’s in his interest; it would make him happy; etc.

            Anyway, I will not reply again if you keep taking the same insulting attitude you have been.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Earthly Knight:

            If you insist that “ought” is misunderstood unless used with the meaning of “unconditional prescription”, I refer you to the “Note on Utilitarianism” by James Fitzjames Stephen, who I assure you was a competent speaker of English (unless, perhaps, you are the only competent speaker of English):

            A man who, upon the whole and having taken into account every relevant consideration, thinks it for his interest to do an act highly injurious to the world at large, no doubt would do it. But let us consider what would be the state of mind implied by the fact that he did take this view of his interest. A man who calmly and deliberately thinks that it is upon the whole his interest to commit an assassination which can never be discovered in order that he may inherit a fortune, shows, in the first place, that he has utterly rejected every form of the religious sanction; next, that he has no conscience and no self-respect; next, that he has no benevolence. His conduct affords no evidence as to his fear of legal punishment or popular indignation, inasmuch as by the supposition he is not exposed to them. He has thus no motive for abstaining from a crime which he has a motive for committing; but motive is only another name, a neutral instead of a eulogistic name, for obligation or tie. It would, therefore, be strictly accurate to say of such a man that he—from his [223] point of view and upon his principles—ought, or is under an obligation, or is bound by the only tie which attaches to him, to commit murder. But it is this very fact which explains the hatred and blame which the act would excite in the minds of utilitarians in general, and which justifies them in saying on all common occasions that men ought not to do wrong for their own advantage, because on all common occasions the word ‘ought’ refers not to the rules of conduct which abnormal individuals may recognize, but to those which are generally recognized by mankind. ‘You ought not to assassinate,’ means if you do assassinate God will damn you, man will hang you if he can catch you, and hate you if he cannot, and you yourself will hate yourself, and be pursued by remorse and self-contempt all the days of your life. If a man is under none of these obligations, if his state of mind is such that no one of these considerations forms a tie upon him, all that can be said is that it is exceedingly natural that the rest of the world should regard him as a public enemy to be knocked on the head like a mad dog if an opportunity offers, and that for the very reason that he is under no obligations, that he is bound by none of the ties which connect men with each other, that he ought to lie, and steal, and murder whenever his immediate interests prompt him to do so.

            To regard such a conclusion as immoral is to say that to analyse morality is to destroy it; that to enumerate its sanctions specifically is to take them away; that to say that a weight is upheld by four different ropes, and to own that if each of them were cut the weight would fall, is equivalent to cutting the ropes. No doubt, if all religion, all law, all benevolence, all conscience, all regard for popular opinion were taken away, there would be no assignable reason why men should do right rather than wrong; but the possibility which is implied in these ‘ifs’ is too remote to require practical attention.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I am controverting it (for the sake of argument, at least). What are you going to do? You can’t just appeal to the majority in philosophy.

            Two questions for you:

            1. How do you understand “conceptual truth”?
            2. What do you think fixes the meanings of terms like this?

            If there are such people, what’s appropriate for them is a different morality.

            This is no longer egoism but a form of constructivism in which what you ought to do is a function of your existing values and preferences. Moreover, given that pretty much no one aside from psychopaths places no intrinsic value in the well-being of others, few people who adhere to your constructivist methodology would end up with an egoistic suite of moral beliefs.

            You don’t get to proclaim by fiat the meaning of terms in your own idiosyncratic way

            My definitions are not idiosyncratic– they are the consensus view, or very near to it.

            Imagine you walk into a room with a physicist in it, and launch into a monologue about electrons and atoms. The physicist would like to engage with your ideas, but he quickly discovers that he is unable to do so because you are using the words “electron” and “atom” in non-standard ways, to the point where he is unsure what you are trying to say beneath the morass of conceptual confusions. When he tries to correct your definitions, you reject his corrections and accuse him of being snippy.

            What do you think the physicist should say?

            Moral realism is simply the view that moral claims are sometimes true.

            The standard definition includes the additional clause about mind-independence, because people are seldom thinking about relativism, constructivism, or quasi-realism when they talk about moral realism. In an amusing twist, if you look at the SEP article on “Moral Anti-Realism” you will see that Joyce criticizes Sayre-Mccord’s definition of moral realism as non-standard for leaving out the mind-independence clause. Sayre-Mccord, of course, is the author of the “Moral Realism” article.

            Is egoism in one of those two categories? No, it is not.

            I honestly have no clue what you are trying to say here. (Ethical) egoism is a normative ethical theory: it holds that we ought to do what is in our interests.

            All the ancient ones I’m aware of who thought this were psychological egoists who thought that everyone actually does value his own individual happiness most of all.

            When I say that some ancient philosophers are ethical egoists, I am thinking, for instance, of Epicurus, who thought that a good life consisted in enjoying moderate pleasures and minimizing pain. What part of Epicurus’s writings make you think that he’s a psychological egoist?

            Also note that:

            psychological egoism =df the view that human beings are always motivated by self-interest.

            The larger point is that you have just baldly asserted that the term “ought” necessarily carries with it the meaning of “unconditional prescription”.

            I do not understand what you mean. I gave the standard definition of ethical egoism as the view that one ought to pursue one’s own interests. The “ought” in this definition of ethical egoism is unconditional.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Here is Sharon Street, a constructivist, in a paper criticizing moral realism:

            “The defining claim of realism about value, as I will be understanding it, is that there are at least some evaluative facts or truths that hold independently of all our evaluative attitudes.”

            Needless to say, she does not mean to be criticizing herself. Here is Shafer-Landau, the arch-realist:

            “There have recently been a number of sharp criticisms
            directed against moral realism – the tripartite view that (i) sincere
            moral judgments express beliefs, rather than conative attitudes;
            (ii) some of these beliefs are true; and (iii) such beliefs, when true, are not true by virtue of being the object of, or being implied by, the attitudes of (even idealized) agents.

            And I already mentioned the error theorist Joyce’s view:

            “As a first approximation, then, moral anti-realism can be identified as the disjunction of three theses:

            i. moral noncognivitism
            ii. moral error theory
            iii. moral non-objectivism

            So I’m pretty confident the consensus view is that the definition of moral realism incorporates some version of the mind-independence condition. Sayre-Mccord’s definition happens to be a bit idiosyncratic in omitting it.

        • stubydoo says:

          Those debates about moral realism bring to mind the Wittgensteinian idea that all arguments are really just semantic arguments. It isn’t actually true of all arguments, but this one can make for a pretty good case study of people carrying on quite a bit without realizing they’re just using different meanings of words rather than actually disagreeing about anything.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Guy Kahane (and I don’t know what his views on moral realism are) argues that “evolutionary debunking arguments” are either completely irrelevant to normative ethics, or else they argue for totally revising it. But the idea of using them piecemeal on one issue or other is ridiculous:

        So we are left with three possibilities. The first is that none of our evaluative beliefs is undermined by EDAs, meaning that EDAs have no use in both normative ethics and metaethics. This possibility would be true if none of our evaluative beliefs can be explained in evolutionary terms, or if the evolution of our evaluative capacities and sensibilities can be shown to track the evaluative truth, neither of which seems to me plausible. This outcome would also follow if some anti-objectivist view is the correct account of evaluative discourse.

        The second possibility is that all of our evaluative beliefs are undermined by EDAs. This would be true if the global argument was successful and supported not anti-objectivism but evaluative scepticism or even just moral scepticism, meaning, again, that there is no space to use EDAs in normative ethics. This result would follow even if we believed, with Joyce, that in response we should revise our evaluative discourse to make it immune to EDAs.

        The third possibility is that only some of our evaluative beliefs are undermined by EDAs. This is what would-be debunkers in normative ethics must assume. Given that it’s not yet clear whether targeted EDAs can be prevented from collapsing into the sceptical argument, this is a precarious assumption to make at this stage. But worse, ‘some’ is likely to mean ‘very many’, including some of our most fundamental evaluative and moral beliefs. What seems utterly implausible is the possibility that EDAs can continue to have a legitimate piecemeal use in normative debate. If EDAs work at all then, in one way or another, they are bound to lead to a truly radical upheaval in our evaluative beliefs.57

        • Wrong Species says:

          I just want to clarify that I don’t think evolutionary psychology absolutely debunks moral realism. I just think that it should be considered evidence against it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I really should read the book, but my first reaction is to question whether he’s provided evidence that people’s beliefs about morality are determined by evolutionary factors that have nothing to do with reality.
        It was evolutionary factors that made most mobile animals detect light, but light waves/photons are still part of objective reality. Couldn’t Haidt’s five foundations correspond to five moral facts we evolved the ability to detect?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          That’s exactly what Michael Huemer says: society is becoming more liberal (in the sense of “classical liberal”) over time because liberalism is objectively true:

          Debunking skeptics claim that our moral beliefs are formed by processes unsuited to identifying objective facts, such as emotions inculcated by our genes and culture; therefore, they say, even if there are objective moral facts, we probably don’t know them. I argue that the debunking skeptics cannot explain the pervasive trend toward liberalization of values over human history, and that the best explanation is the realist’s: humanity is becoming increasingly liberal because liberalism is the objectively correct moral stance.

          You can read Scott’s take on it here.

          As for what I would say: we evolved to detect photons because knowing where the photons are is in our self-interest, or at least furthers the reproduction of our genes. Why would the detection of “morons” (morality units) further our interest, unless morality is just the same thing as what is in our self-interest? And if morality is just the same thing as our self-interest, we don’t have to posit it (as Huemer does) as a unique, irreducible kind of truth. We simply say it reduces to the identification in terms of principles of what promotes our lives, happiness, etc.

          And in that sense, moral truths are no different from medical truths or architectural truths.

          Basically, my opinion is that if moral truths are the kinds of things Michael Huemer thinks they are, we can’t know them. (Nor would we want to know them or get any benefit from knowing them.) But since I don’t think they’re those kinds of things, I think we can know them.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            As for what I would say: we evolved to detect photons because knowing where the photons are is in our self-interest, or at least furthers the reproduction of our genes. Why would the detection of “morons” (morality units) further our interest, unless morality is just the same thing as what is in our self-interest? And if morality is just the same thing as our self-interest, we don’t have to posit it (as Huemer does) as a unique, irreducible kind of truth. We simply say it reduces to the identification in terms of principles of what promotes our lives, happiness, etc.

            We detect the principles that promote our flourishing as the kind of organism we are. Moral intuitions that harm us if followed could be called moral illusions, by analogy with optical illusions. Wolves could be called flourishing moral agents.

            Not sure about this. I’ll have to mull it over.

    • onyomi says:

      Most everyone I meet in the US* either thinks the evil corporations are corrupting the government or the evil government is corrupting the corporations. It’s a kind of chicken-and-egg problem where people seem to agree on a basic reality yet fixate on one side or the other of the equation. I wonder if there are some genetic and/or learned moral parameters which correspond to one or the other?

      My best guess is that the more libertarian view is strongly anti-harm: the government is the one with the guns, so they are the ones at fault. The corporations are just playing the game with the rules the gun-holding enforcers give them.

      The pattern of thinking I notice in those holding the opposite view (which I do not, if you hadn’t guessed) seems to often be along the lines of “the government is us; it’s what we do together; it’s what everyone agrees on through a fair, democratic process. Private interests motivated by greed are harming the common good and perverting the power of us to make the kind of world we want for selfish reasons.” I guess this is more like “fairness” and “loyalty” on Haidt’s definitions?

      *My particular bubble is such that I often meet people who love Bernie Sanders and sometimes meet people who like Rand Paul, but almost never talk to someone who admits to being really enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. That said, I think even more moderate Republicans and Democrats probably lean toward one end of the equation or the other, and I tend to find this as decisive world-view factor which makes it rare for anyone to switch sides altogether, even if s/he may change his/her mind on particular issues.

  28. A question that comes up in climate arguments is how come, if AGW isn’t a terrible threat, all the authorities think it is. One answer is that almost everyone gets his view of everything outside his own specialty from the public discussion, and that discussion is heavily biased. I recently came across a striking example.

    An article in Nature is entitled “Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition.” It reports on experiments growing crops under increased CO2 concentration and finds that, for several cultivars of several crops, the concentration of zinc, iron, and protein is slightly lower as a result. A quick google finds a list of ten minerals in wheat, two of which (and protein) have been decreased.

    What the news stories do not report, but the authors of the article obviously know, is that growing C3 crops (which most food crops are) under twice the normal level of CO2 increases crop yield by about 30%. See, for instance:

    http://archives.aaas.org/docs/Direct_Effects.pdf

    What decreased was not the yield of zinc, iron and protein but the concentration. Assuming their experiment doubled CO2—the abstract and news stories are not that specific, and the article is paywalled—a summary of their result is that doubling CO2 results in a field of wheat producing about 30% more carbohydrate, 24% more protein, 21% more zinc, 25% more iron, and about 30% more of all the other minerals in wheat.

    And this is described as “threatens human nutrition.”

    But, of course, most people who read the news stories on the article won’t realize this. The function of the stories, and of the title of the article, is to provide a response to people who point out that AGW will raise crop yields via CO2 fertilization. “Look,” they can say, “here is an article in Nature that says increasing CO2 makes crops less nutritious.”

    For a more detailed discussion, including a news article with numbers, see:
    http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/12/how-to-lie-while-telling-truth-part-ii.html

    • Sastan says:

      Money and status is distributed based on how much one can signal-boost doomsaying. There has always been an imminent-but-never-quite-realized environmental threat, as long as I’ve been alive. Everyone freaks out, we pass some legislation at vast cost that has no effect whatsoever, but because the “crisis” was fake to start with, nothing very bad happens, and after a while, victory is declared. See: Ozone layer, deforestation, overpopulation, nuclear power stations. And, of course, one can never prove the retroactive negative.

      There may or may not be global warming, I don’t know and I don’t much care. But fuck all the watermelons trying desperately to leverage whatever bullshit they can into yet more anti-westernism and anti-capitalism. It is tiresome and irritating. Environmentalists will never be happy, people! The world will always be 5-10 years away from collapse. If you’re cynical, you will note that the distance in the future when all hell breaks loose is always just after the next election, or after the term of the current office-holder. Wasn’t all the eastern seaboard supposed to be fifty feet deep by now?

      • Wrong Species says:

        In their defense, that useless legislation could have actually been effective and you simply didn’t realize it.

        • Nope. Great example is trisodium phosphate regulations for dishwashing detergents, which required violation of the laws of physics to meet the legal standard. It led to more TSP in the water as people purchased it as a standalone and dumped however much into their dishwashers.

          Similarly for low-flow toilets requiring more flushes before sufficient engineering changes to compensate. Or the extra metal and fuel consumed by chainsaw regulations requiring chainsaws to be very short-lived, requiring purchasing entirely new ones much more frequently than using the old “bad” ones.

          The legislation is nearly always able to provide examples of more of the resources meant to be conserved not being so or the pollution being added to, and etc.

        • Sastan says:

          Yeah, I’m well aware of Pascal’s Post Hoc Mugging.

          “The earth would have totally ended except we gave seventy million dollars to an obscure labor union who gave a kickback to us in a deal that would have been called “corruption” by any reasonable observer, but in this case it reduced the Midochloridianites which we have been assured would have ended the universe if unchecked. And is there a universe? I rest my case.”

      • James Picone says:

        …Ozone layer…

        This is a strong signal that it’s not that the regulations are unnecessary or the problems aren’t real, it’s that you refuse to admit they’re real.

        • Indeed. I actually helped program some of the equipment used to measure ozone depletion, several decades back.

        • nil says:

          Ditto deforestation. I’ve seen some graphics that over-emphasized the border on Hispaniola, but it IS real. You can go look on Google Maps right now and see it for yourself. Soil is life.

      • There has always been an imminent-but-never-quite-realized environmental threat, as long as I’ve been alive. Everyone freaks out, we pass some legislation at vast cost that has no effect whatsoever, but because the “crisis” was fake to start with, nothing very bad happens, and after a while, victory is declared. See: Ozone layer, deforestation, overpopulation, nuclear power stations. And, of course, one can never prove the retroactive negative.

        All kinds of ink is spilled arguing for attention to this or that health hazard or environmental threat. Some of these are incoherent screeds written by hysterical people, and naturally these get the most media attention. Obviously they got your attention!

        But others are sober assessments written by experts, subject to being disputed or refined by other knowledgeable people, and verified through experiments and testing and pilot projects. These have proved far more influential in actual nuts-and-bolts policy-making.

        So, in some cases, governmental action results. It’s not always regulation, sometimes it involves funding, e.g. for local sewage treatment.

        So, just in the U.S., what results have we seen?

        Item: Due to government action, lead is no longer in gasoline, hence, no longer polluting urban air. If airborne lead was making people more violent and stupid, causing a decades-long spike in crime rates (as Scott and many others have suggested), the impact of removing lead is gigantically positive.

        Item: Other air pollutants have been drastically reduced as well, presumably promoting lung health, and reducing air-pollution-caused deterioration of urban buildings and infrastructure.

        Item: Rivers and lakes are much, much cleaner than they were fifty years ago, with positive impacts on water supplies, health, fisheries, recreation, etc.

        Item: Legally required special caps on things like medicine bottles have reduced child poisonings by probably more than half.

        Item: Legally required flame resistant pajamas have saved thousands of lives.

        Item: Legally required improvements in energy efficiency of vehicles and appliances has had obvious benefits, such as less dependence on imported oil, less air pollution per mile driven, etc.

        These are just a few major ones I know off the top of my head. I’m sure I could do some research and come up with dozens more.

        Meanwhile, almost none of the really illusory crises, with no scientific validity, ever generated legislation. For example, the supposed hazard of living near power lines did not give rise to any regulation that I know of. Hysteria about genetically modified foods or the alleged risk of receiving vaccinations have never won support from the government. Admittedly some mistakes have been made, but it’s just not true that squawks of media-amplified outrage over a fake environmental or health threat routinely move the federal behemoth to act.

        This is not to say that government action is always the best or most efficient way to accomplish something, or that it’s always gone about in the best possible way. In particular, the federal vehicle energy efficiency scheme has been severely criticized for various faults. And, absolutely, everything has costs, and policymakers should always be measuring those costs against the potential benefits.

        But to imply that every environmental issue was illusory, or that government action accomplished “no effect whatsoever”, is demonstrably untrue.

      • keranih says:

        While this

        Environmentalists will never be happy, people! The world will always be 5-10 years away from collapse.

        is something I agree with, I don’t agree with

        Everyone freaks out, we pass some legislation at vast cost that has no effect whatsoever, but because the “crisis” was fake to start with, nothing very bad happens, and after a while, victory is declared.

        It’s not accurate to call all the various crisisi ‘fake’ just because so many are. The passenger pigeon did go extinct, some of the great whales and the sea turtles may yet pass away, and the jury is still out on the Atlantic cod and the California condor.

        I do think it would do the environmental movement some good to apply more historical rigor to their discussion and advocacy – pointing out the deforestation of Europe, for instance, and how that region (which ought to look much like the US Pacific Northwest) was permanently changed. Or how GMO/no-till farming practices saved millions of tons of topsoil. (Or why farmers ran their tractors straight up and down hills instead of curving around.)

        • Sastan says:

          I do not mean to suggest that nothing bad happens to the environment.

          I mean to suggest that it is always couched in terms of imminent apocalypse, and this has stubbornly failed to materialize. If there’s a problem, let’s figure it out and fix it. But the minute someone starts talking about the coming environmental collapse, I shunt them into the same category as people who think Vladimir Putin fulfills the prophecies of the book of Revelation.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          all the various crisisi

          I think the plural is ‘crises’ (pronounced like ‘cry sees’)

      • Adam says:

        I think ozone depletion and acid rain are pretty good examples where regulation actually did work. Vehicle emissions in the LA basin, too. We used to have smog days when I was a kid, days we weren’t allowed to play outside because the air quality was so bad. That never happens any more.

        I could be wrong on the acid rain. Reading about it now, it seems all the people advocating for Canadian fisheries downwind of upper midwest industrial centers still seem to think they’re suffering pretty badly. I was under the impression they were pretty close to being wiped out in the early 90s, though.

        I also remember crimson tide blooms caused by hog farm runoff killing people in North Carolina back in the 90s, and they seem to have solved that.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Adam

          A threat, once averted, becomes fictitious. Y2K didn’t crash all the computers, so it must have been a hoax.

          • Did Y2K crash all the computers in countries, or companies, that didn’t take extensive precautions against it? If not, then it was, not a hoax, but a vastly exaggerated threat.

    • Ralph says:

      I think those who would argue against you imagine that you are pointing to some well organized, top down, conspiracy of climate scientists and journalists who are colluding to dupe the public for grant money and headlines… which is obviously ridiculous.

      It is worth pointing out (over and over again) that you are referring to the same subtle, bottom up biases that plague all scientific disciplines. And how they become amplified when the political stakes are high, and when the discipline wouldn’t be of much use should their main thesis turn out to be wrong.

      Somehow climate scientists get a pass on being human. They desk drawer studies that don’t produce the right answer, play down their uncertainties, and shift goal posts just like everyone else. All in all, finding out that a group of people who have devoted their lives to, built their identities around, and receive most of their self worth from AGW being a problem, continue to think that AGW is a problem, isn’t that interesting.

      • James Picone says:

        Not to the extent necessary to ‘fake up’ global warming. National academies of scientists everywhere, AR5 had ~800 authors, etc. etc..

        Besides, can’t this argument be turned around perfectly? Economists gain status by supporting free market policies, suggesting public choice theory implies government sucks, regulations don’t work, etc.. And really they’re only human. So let’s treat all economic claims as if they’re complete bullshit rather than, for example, looking into their actual arguments and concluding that maybe basically all the economists agree for something beyond ulterior motives.

        And besides, there’s an economic incentive to produce findings that fossil fuel industries find interesting – there’s a fair amount of money on hand there, and not much competition for it. In a universe where global-warming was oversold, we’d surely expect people on the skeptical end to take advantage of that to produce research without imperiling their funding, and you’d expect them to have the advantage of being more accurate, more correct. And yet, people on the skeptical end seem to give up publishing research in journals in short order, and when they do publish it seems to have a tendency to be in journals like Energy and Environment that will accept literally anything. And not very high-quality. And nobody has produced a model that accurately captures the warming over the last century and has a low climate sensitivity without resorting to mathturbation, just sticking together a bunch of trig functions. The market must clear, right? So where are the goods?

        • “Not to the extent necessary to ‘fake up’ global warming. National academies of scientists everywhere, AR5 had ~800 authors, etc. etc..”

          The comment you are responding to didn’t suggest that AGW didn’t exist and so had to be faked up but that it might not be a problem. AR5 has lots of hand waving in the summary for policy makers, but finding an actual catastrophic outcome in the scientific sections isn’t easy. Tol’s summary not just of his own work but of the work of the other economists who have tried to estimate costs suggests that warming up to 3.5° has costs similar to the loss of one year of economic growth—which is not a problem, at least on the scale on which AGW consequences are usually represented.

          I’ve quoted Nordhaus’ figure for the cost of doing nothing for fifty years, which works out to an annual cost of less than a tenth of a percent of world GNP. Nordhaus is a supporter of AGW and doing things about it. Indeed, he published that number, oddly enough, in an article responding to some people who had argued that AGW was not a crisis requiring immediate action.

          • James Picone says:

            Mmm, perhaps I phrased that poorly. But there’s still an argument there – is a ‘soft conspiracy’ of groupthink really sufficient to get the IPCC and 190-odd National Academies of Science playing along? Radical skepticism is a self-consistent position, but maybe not a useful one.

            So has Tol gotten all the gremlins out then?

            Still has the fundamental problem that the different estimates of costs are not points on a curve with independent errors, they are different models of what causes the costs.

            This graph (from Tol) shows 0.something% to ~10% with a mean at ~-2% for 3c. (i.e. a plausible BAU value for close to the end of the century). If I’m reading this correctly, that’s an annual loss. And mostly comes from models that aren’t really capable of generating large losses.

            Is that on the same order of magnitude as the costs imposed by a carbon tax? ATTP quotes this section of AR5 WG3:

            Under these assumptions, mitigation scenarios that reach atmospheric concentrations of about 450ppm CO2eq by 2100 entail losses in global consumption—not including benefits of reduced climate change as well as co‐ benefits and adverse side‐effects of mitigation of 1% to 4% (median: 1.7%) in 2030, 2% to 6% (median: 3.4%) in 2050, and 3% to 11% (median: 4.8%) in 2100 relative to consumption in baseline scenarios that grows anywhere from 300% to more than 900% over the century. These numbers correspond to an annualized reduction of consumption growth by 0.04 to 0.14 (median: 0.06) percentage points over the century relative to annualized consumption growth in the baseline that is between 1.6% and 3% per year.

            I don’t know how to interpret that.

            (And again, it’s incoherent to doubt the mean while reducing the variance. You seem surprisingly certain for someone so uncertain.)

          • Theo Jones says:

            I think people in favor of policy action on climate change shoot themselves in the foot by making too many “Eek!! World ending!” type arguments. And I say this as someone who thinks climate change and other fossil fuel externalities deserve substantial policy action.

            It is worth noting the extent to which social cost of carbon estimates depend on subjective claims, like discounting and equity adjustment.
            As per the IPCC https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch20s20-6-1.html
            Notwithstanding the differences in damage sensitivity to temperature reflected in Figure 20.3, the effect of the discount rate (see glossary) on estimates of SCC is most striking. The 90th percentile SCC, for instance, is US$62/tC for a 3% pure rate of time preference, $165/tC for 1% and $1,610/tC for 0%. Stern (2007) calculated, on the basis of damage calculations described above, a mean estimate of the SCC in 2006 of US$85 per tonne of CO2 (US$310 per tonne of carbon). Had it been included in the Tol (2005) survey, it would have fallen well above the 95th percentile, in large measure because of their adoption of a low 0.1% pure rate of time preference.
            …..
            Tol (2005) finds that much of the uncertainty in the estimates of the SCC can be traced to two assumptions: one on the discount rate and the other on the equity weights that are used to aggregate monetised impacts over countries. In most other policy areas, the rich do not reveal as much concern for the poor as is implied by the equity weights used in many models. Downing et al. (2005) state that the extreme tails of the estimates of the SCC depend as much on decision values (such as discounting and equity weighting) as on the climate forcing and uncertainty in the underlying impact models

            My preference is against discounting and for strong equity adjustment, so, that puts me in the higher cost estimates. Lets say, about $300 per ton of carbon. Which amounts to about 4% of GDP. Not a disaster but does qualify in the top tier of economic policy issues

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Theo Jones:
            I feel like their is an argument to be made that the herd of humanity just doesn’t process the net cost/benefit very well. Therefore, both how arguments are received and how arguments are made will tend towards the sensational.

          • “You seem surprisingly certain for someone so uncertain.”

            What I am “surprisingly certain” about is that we do not and cannot know the net cost, even the sign of the net cost, of AGW. There are large and uncertain benefits, large and uncertain costs, both spread out over a long and uncertain time period.

            That was my view of the population issue when I wrote on it some forty years ago. The consensus then was that population growth was having/would have terrible effects. So far the evidence is that that was false–instead of mass starvation in the third world we have had an upward trend in calories per capita, a fall in the percentage of people in extreme poverty to less than a third of what it was when I wrote.

            If the world then had accepted the logic of James’ argument, there would been one child policies in a lot of places other than China—and it would have been a very large mistake, costly in human terms.

          • “My preference is against discounting and for strong equity adjustment”

            Aren’t those inconsistent? On the evidence of the past several centuries, we can expect our descendants a century hence to be considerably richer than we are. So an equity adjustment, the obvious form being utilitarianism that takes into account declining marginal utility of income, implies that we should weight a dollar cost to them less than a dollar cost to us.

            That’s aside from the standard arguments for discounting, one of which is that we can convert a dollar benefit today into a multiple dollar benefit a century from now by investing the dollar, so why should we do it in the less efficient form of a dollar sacrifice now for a dollar benefit then?

          • “So has Tol gotten all the gremlins out then?”

            Tol, having discovered a mistake in his published work, published a correction—and the resulting change in the graph was small. John Cook, discovered telling a flat lie, not small, about his own work, responded by attacking me for pointing it out with another lie about what I had said.

            You know all of that. Naturally you prefer Cook.

          • Sastan says:

            So people who go to school to become “climate scientists”, you think they’d like to show up and say “hey, just kidding, our whole field is a lie, we’re gonna go become gas station attendants now”?

            There’s no reason to even study it unless you think it’s super important, and what’s more important than “listen to me or everyone everywhere dies!”

          • James Picone says:

            What I am “surprisingly certain” about is that we do not and cannot know the net cost, even the sign of the net cost, of AGW. There are large and uncertain benefits, large and uncertain costs, both spread out over a long and uncertain time period.

            That was my view of the population issue when I wrote on it some forty years ago. The consensus then was that population growth was having/would have terrible effects. So far the evidence is that that was false–instead of mass starvation in the third world we have had an upward trend in calories per capita, a fall in the percentage of people in extreme poverty to less than a third of what it was when I wrote.

            If the world then had accepted the logic of James’ argument, there would been one child policies in a lot of places other than China—and it would have been a very large mistake, costly in human terms.

            “Last time I gambled my life savings it worked out. I should gamble it all again.”

            (And that’s accepting that population growth concerns is in a similar category, which I’m not sure I agree with).

            You say that you think we can’t get a good estimate for the costs/benefits of global warming, and yet you’re convinced that it’s not worth doing anything about it, even if the range of outcomes includes significant and substantial negatives. Either you don’t think we should be even remotely risk-averse when it comes to this sort of thing, or this is just incoherent.

            Tol, having discovered a mistake in his published work, published a correction—and the resulting change in the graph was small.

            David Friedman, having published a flat lie, not small…

            (Tol also discovered a mistake in his corrected version of the work, and then had to publish a correction to the correction. Which is in the link I just linked to.)

            And yes, the resulting change to the graph is rather significant, even if you accept the basic methodology of that paper, which I don’t.

            Tol has a history of this kind of thing, which you should know. Remember his attempted statistical analysis of Cook that implied there should be an additional 300 papers in category 5/6/7 (This is a mass-market article about it by Nuccitelli)?

            John Cook, discovered telling a flat lie, not small, about his own work, responded by attacking me for pointing it out with another lie about what I had said.

            You know all of that. Naturally you prefer Cook.

            I disagree about whether Cook lied, and Cook misread a blog post linking to you and then making a different argument for you making that argument, big whoop.

            @Sastan:
            You have no idea what motivates people to become scientists. People get into this stuff because they find it interesting. They have an itch to scratch, a piece of knowledge they want to fill in. Again, you could make your argument about economists, and you’d still be wrong. And again, there’s plenty of money and status to be had being the darling of the ‘skeptic’ side – how many times has Curry presented stuff to congress? – and yet very few people take up that option, and those that do tend to stop publishing. Why is that?

            Not only that, but it’s not like climate science is completely useless and meaningless in a world where global warming isn’t happening. There’s still data to be collected, there’s still things to be learned about the water cycle, and how energy gets into and out of the deep ocean, and what causes el-Nino/la-Nina (predicting them would have significant practical benefits as well), and what paleoclimate was, and why it was, etc. etc..

          • “You say that you think we can’t get a good estimate for the costs/benefits of global warming, and yet you’re convinced that it’s not worth doing anything about it, even if the range of outcomes includes significant and substantial negatives. Either you don’t think we should be even remotely risk-averse when it comes to this sort of thing, or this is just incoherent.”

            The range of outcomes from “doing anything” includes significant and substantial negatives as well. It starts with a high probability of quite a large negative, since doing anything that has much effect requires getting developing countries to use expensive power instead of cheap power, slowing or stopping the process by which a couple of billion people are finally emerging from poverty. There is a second high probability large negative in the fact that the most likely way of doing it involves giving large amounts of money to the governments of poor countries, a procedure that doesn’t have a very good track record. Although it does explain why those governments are in favor of it.

            Then there are the very low probability very high cost outcomes, of which the obvious one is ending the current interglacial. Following out your approach, unless we can reduce the probability of that to zero, does it follow that we should burn all the coal we can in order to make sure the ice doesn’t start moving towards the equator?

            William Nordhaus, in his calculations, included estimates of low probability high cost results of AGW—although it didn’t occur to him to do the same thing in the other direction. As I have pointed out, I think in my exchanges with you, when Nordhaus was arguing that AGW was a crisis requiring immediate action he gave his estimate of the cost of waiting fifty years to do anything. Converted into an annual cost over the rest of the century, it came to about .06%of world GNP.

            I have no objection to risk aversion in the conventional sense—I still haven’t figured out if that is how you are using the term. But it does not imply that if anyone can imagine any very bad consequence from not doing something we should do it.

            Links to the relevant posts on Nordhaus:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/contra-nordhaus.html
            (includes cost of waiting fifty years)

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2012/03/nordhaus-on-global-warming.html
            (Low probability/high cost outcomes included in Nordhaus calculations)

          • Picone quotes me:

            “Tol, having discovered a mistake in his published work, published a correction—and the resulting change in the graph was small.”

            And writes:

            “David Friedman, having published a flat lie, not small…”

            The original corrected article is at:

            http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.28.2.221

            Figure 1 shows the original curve and the corrected curve. They are not very different.

            It’s true that the curve on Figure 2 is noticeably different, missing the range of positive effects. But that curve incorporates five estimates made after the original paper was published, so the failure to include them in the original paper was not a mistake.

            Picone adds:

            “Tol also discovered a mistake in his corrected version of the work, and then had to publish a correction to the correction. Which is in the link I just linked to.”

            I’m not seeing your “just linked to,” but am guessing the reference is to:

            http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.29.1.217

            Since that’s a second correction.

            It has one figure. Aside from the studies published after AR4, it shows total impacts similar to those in the original article.

            So where do you find a large change in the graph due to correcting mistakes rather than due to incorporating new data?

            Picone also writes, in response to my point about the population alarmism of forty years ago:

            “Last time I gambled my life savings it worked out. I should gamble it all again.”

            As I mentioned, one country, China, took the policies implied by that campaign. Is it your view that doing that was a good idea? If not, do you regard the costs imposed on the population of China by forbidding almost all couples from having more than one child to be minor, not worth any significant weight in comparison to the tragedy that would have happened if the alarmists were correct? What about the costs if every country in the world had adopted the same policy?

            If I am sufficiently wrong about the consequences of global warming, the policies I recommend will do enormous human damage. If you are sufficiently wrong about the consequences of global warming, the policies you recommend will do enormous human damage.

            In the real world, playing safe is not an option.

          • James Picone says:

            The range of outcomes from “doing anything” includes significant and substantial negatives as well. It starts with a high probability of quite a large negative, since doing anything that has much effect requires getting developing countries to use expensive power instead of cheap power, slowing or stopping the process by which a couple of billion people are finally emerging from poverty. There is a second high probability large negative in the fact that the most likely way of doing it involves giving large amounts of money to the governments of poor countries, a procedure that doesn’t have a very good track record. Although it does explain why those governments are in favor of it.

            The range of negatives from a carbon price is not on the same scale as the range of negatives from global warming, even before surprises. RCP8.5, for example, with a 3c sensitivity, hits an equilibrium temperature of 6.8c over preindustrial if emissions stop dead in 2100. At that point, parts of the Middle East cross the 37c wet-bulb temperature several times a year in summer. Probably other places, too. This is just not on the same scale as it taking twenty years to shift over to nuclear.

            Then there are the very low probability very high cost outcomes, of which the obvious one is ending the current interglacial. Following out your approach, unless we can reduce the probability of that to zero, does it follow that we should burn all the coal we can in order to make sure the ice doesn’t start moving towards the equator?

            This is a <1% outcome. Meanwhile, the range of outcomes for business-as-usual includes parts of the equator being uninhabitable in summer, and then there's a potential for a 1% surprise.

            0.06% of world GNP annually over what period? The next fifty years? Because that doesn't sound that small to me. Did it include the costs of spinning down CO2 emissions from that point, keeping in mind that the later we leave it the harder we have to drop emissions to stop crossing particular temperature thresholds?

            And, of course, the argument that you should avoid betting your shirt on something like climate change is independent of the expected value (unless Nordhaus corrected for that somehow? What's the mechanism, taking log-dollar-outcome or something?)

            [Tol]
            I linked Retraction Watch. Notice that the 2013 paper was an update and correction of the 2009 paper, and made a similar mistake (dropping minus signs from included estimates). Oh, and the correction notice you link to includes /another/ correction:
            “In early 2014, the editors received a complaint pointing out errors in the paper: specifically, several estimates had not been accurately transferred from the original studies. In the Spring 2014 issue, we published a “Correction and Update: The Economic Effects of Climate Change” (vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 221–26) by Richard Tol. However, this version also contained errors that were soon pointed out by various researchers.”

            And I still think that the fit is a joke. The positive values are driven entirely by the single positive point – another Tol study – and only there because there’s only one other point before 2c. Notice that the correction notice you link to removes it – because it was meaningless. There’s your significant change.

            [Population growth]
            I disagree that population growth is in the same category. The consensus around it wasn’t anything like as strong as the IPCC consensus is.

            I agree that world-wide efforts to limit population growth would likely have been unpleasant. The point I’m making is that if you play the “wait and hope it’s not bad and/or technology fixes it for us” game with every single problem that falls into that broad category, one day you’re going to hit the wall when it turns out the problem is real and technology doesn’t deign to fix it in time. Or when there’s a sudden and extremely unpleasant surprise, like the ozone hole.

            I think on this issue the correct choice is very clear. I agree that if you think a carbon price and some international aid to bribe developing countries into it will bring the Second Coming, then it is much harder to make a decision. I’m not sure you can justify that, though.

          • “I disagree that population growth is in the same category. The consensus around it wasn’t anything like as strong as the IPCC consensus is.”

            I don’t know how old you are or how much you were involved in that controversy. I wrote a piece for the Population Council, had a chapter in one of Julian Simon’s books. I can only say that, having been involved in both controversies, they had the same feel–lots of elite people insisting that only the ignorant or uneducated could doubt the obvious truth. The treatment of Simon then was much like the treatment of Lomborg now.

            As I may have suggested before, I think the strong consensus claims are largely based on measuring consensus on AGW and then attributing the result to CAGW. Can you offer a counterexample–a measurement of consensus that comes up with near unanimity for some version of “AGW, if not controlled, can be expected to make the world much worse for humans.”

            So far as your questions about Nordhaus, I gave the link to my blog post, which includes a link to his piece. Also to the other blog post, which discussed his attempt to take account of low probability negatives. I think that one has a link to his webbed manuscript, but I’m not sure–if not one of my other Nordhaus posts does.

            If I had to guess, his waiting fifty year estimate was a straight expected value calculation, not expected utility, but I don’t actually know–I was going on the conclusion he gave.

            Speaking of which, when you refer to risk aversion are you using the term in the technical economic sense?

            “RCP8.5, for example, with a 3c sensitivity, hits an equilibrium temperature of 6.8c over preindustrial if emissions stop dead in 2100.”

            When does it hit that equilibrium temperature? The farther into the future you go, the less reason to assume that current conditions give you a reasonable guess at future conditions. RCP8.5, if I remember correctly, assumes continued economic growth–run that far enough into the future and poor people have air conditioning. Or avoid the heat with summer vacations in Alaska.

            Think about how much the world has changed in the past two centuries. If your argument for catastrophe puts it two or three centuries in the future I’m not going to find it very convincing.

          • “RCP8.5, for example, with a 3c sensitivity, hits an equilibrium temperature of 6.8c over preindustrial if emissions stop dead in 2100.”

            As stated, I don’t think that can be correct. CO2 has a finite lifetime in the atmosphere. If emissions stop dead in 2100, the CO2 concentration gradually declines until it reaches the level maintained by non-human CO2 sources, and global temperature gradually declines back to its pre-industrial level.

            Am I missing something? Or does your “emissions stop dead” mean “emissions stop rising?” Or did you mean that the CO2 level in 2100 is such that if it was maintained, the long run equilibrium temperature would be 6.8°C over preindustrial?

          • James Picone says:

            @David Friedman
            [Population growth]
            I wasn’t around at the time.

            A consensus on the “it’ll suck” aspect is the IPCC. That’s what it’s for – to be a big meta-analysisy collection of all the research on the issue.

            [Nordhaus]
            I’m honestly not sure I have enough background in economics to evaluate any of this.

            I *think* after reading your comment in the earlier thread that I’m using risk aversion in the technical sense. Essentially I’m saying that large negative outcomes are less preferable than several small negative outcomes that sum to the large negative outcome.

            [RCP8.5]
            I mean “We continue emitting CO2 (and other GHGs) until 2100, and then emissions instantly go to zero”.

            RCP8.5 has a median warming of 3.7c by 2100. ECS=3 has lambda = 3/3.7 = 0.81, 8.5*lambda = 6.89c at equilibrium. Difference is 3.19c, so energy imbalance is 3.94 W/m**2.

            TCR dominates for 50-100 years, let’s use that to work out how much extra warming we get. Median TCR from IPCC is something like 2.1c, lambda = 0.57, so 2.25c warming for 3.94 W/m**2 over 50-100 years.
            3.7 + 2.25 = 5.95c.

            So there’s a timescale. Get to 5.95c somewhere between 2150 and 2200. Get to 6.89 probably by 2300.

            (If you pick a lower-end RCP value it goes lower, if you pick a higher-end RCP value it goes higher. Not absolutely certain of this calculation, but I think it’s Fermi-accurate. Note that this isn’t a worst-case-in-uncertainty-range calculation, I’d be using ECS=4c for that).

            As for CO2 lifetime, remember this article on if-we-burned-all-the-fossil-fuel? Look at Fig 1. Graph B, which shows CO2 in atmosphere over time. Look at the timescale. Spikes of CO2 last a long time on human terms. Over 200 years? It’ll drop, but not by much. See, for example, this AR4 chapter, where the GWP for CO2 is just as high at 500 years as at 20.

            (This is an example of what I mean when I say that I think you’re in a bubble here – this stuff about the lifetime of CO2 spikes in the atmosphere is something I would have assumed someone informed about global warming would know about).

            Air conditioning is great and all. I’m sure by 2100 there’ll be a lot of it in the Middle East.

            But are their paddocks going to be air conditioned? I guess they’ll have to keep livestock inside. And say goodbye to any local mammalian fauna. And what would you say is the economic cost of having several days a year where you have to be somewhere air-conditioned, or you get heatstroke? No construction work, nothing outside for long periods of time… And god only knows what the effect on agriculture is.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @David Friedman:
          The estimates of wet-bulb temperatures exceeding human survival limits in large areas of landmass currently inhabited are for the end of this century, under certain scenarios.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      So, the crop will become less nutritious per calorie, but more calories may be produced. Call me crazy, but that maps to the headline.

      If the headline for the study was “food supplies may be threatened”, that would be different.

      • It doesn’t even become less nutritious per calorie in any meaningful sense–any sense that justifies “threatens human nutrition.” When I did a search for wheat nutrients, I got a list of ten minerals. Suppose you randomly varied the amount of each. You would expect about half to go up and half to go down. Does that “threaten human nutrition?”

        Their result was that two minerals went down by a small amount (9.3% and 5.1%) and protein went down by 6.3%–not for all cultivars of all crops but for some cultivars of some crops. So the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is slightly lower–but the total amount of both produced is higher.

        It isn’t less nutritious per calorie. It is slightly differently nutritious per calorie. There is no reason to assume that the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is at some optimal level, so that a slight change makes the crop less nutritious.

        The title is designed to scare, not to inform.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          When you make a statement like this “What decreased was not the yield of zinc, iron and protein but the concentration” it’s a signal that you have no interest in talking honestly about the issue. Yield is not what they were pointing at.

          And the title, like all titles, is sensational. Big whoop.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Even if a farmer produced 30% more carrots, there’s no reason to think the average person will eat 30% more carrots. They’ll probably eat exactly as many carrots as now, and have worse nutrition. “Crop yields will increase” is an interesting story, but not this story, and I think they were justified in leaving it out. Who cares how much total vitamins are produced per acre of land?

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Does this mean decreasing crop vitality counts as ‘making food more nutritious’?

      • People who want to get adequate nutrition care how much carbohydrate, protein, minerals and vitamins are produced.

        Suppose some change randomly increased half the minerals in wheat by 5% and decreased half by 5%. Would that count as a change that threatens human nutrition? Then if you reverse that change, it threatens human nutrition again? That seems to be the logic of your position.

      • John Schilling says:

        Who cares how much total vitamins are produced per acre of land?

        Who cares that Wonder Drug X only helps Elderly Hispanic Women? Isn’t the crucial bit the words, “Drug X Helps!”, and the writers of the press release are perfectly justified in leaving out all the people who aren’t helped and maybe even hurt, along with the bit where the one little bit of help is very little indeed?

        This is exactly what you once recognized as the dark side of statistics, looking at twenty different subcategories of, in this case “nutrition”, until one is found with a minor effect of the desired sign, then writing the press release or Nature article about just that one cherrypicked value. Yet this time you actively approve of such manipulation. That’s disturbing.

      • Deiseach says:

        Who cares how much total vitamins are produced per acre of land?

        For a start, all the people pushing for vegetarianism/veganism had damn well better care, if they’re going to persuade the global population to switch to all-plant based diets rather than meat/dairy/fish/eggs plus plants.

        You have to get your B vitamins from somewhere, and if your fields of vegan crops aren’t doing it, where then?

        • Mitochondrius says:

          Not an issue. Plant-based foods require much less arable land than animal products (on average).

          Plus, vitamin supplements are cheap.

          • keranih says:

            Plant-based foods require much less arable land than animal products (on average).

            Please expand on this – in particular, what definitions of “plant-based” “animal-based” “arable” “land” and “less” are you using?

          • Mitochondrius says:

            keranih, you’re either trolling me or uncharitable + uninformed.

            Therefore, no interest in the discussion.

          • keranih says:

            Let me try this again – you are very inaccurate in your statement that it takes more arable land to produce a human diet that is overwhelmingly vegetable & grain based, than it takes to produce a human diet that relies on a large amount of animal protein.

            (There can be a fairly large amount of variation, but at base line, animal-based diets require less irrigated farmland and less effective disruption of wilderness areas.)

            If you would like, please clarify why you think your statement is correct.

          • brad says:

            @keranih
            I’m not sure what you mean by at base line. Do you mean that we could theoretically have a meat based system more irrigation water efficient than the best possible plant based system, or are you making a statement about the relative efficiency of the systems we actually have.

            Edit: Tried to make the point more clearly.

          • Mitochondrius says:

            keranih, I think if we get to cherry-pick specific products, we could find some animal products that require less land, water, energy input, or other limited resources than the average or worst plant-based products.

            But for the average animal product compared to the average plant product, given common consumption patterns, it doesn’t hold. After all, grain, soy and corn are fed to farmed animals, at a net loss of energy and nutrients compared to direct human consumption.

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I admit I’m really late in noticing this campaign: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11470985/Are-you-reading-too-many-books-by-straight-white-men.html
    That said, I think it would be interesting to come up with the most conservative possible reading list to suggest to SJWs who are sympathetic to this campaign. Who wants to help?

    The Bible
    Plotinus’s Enneads
    St. Augustine’s Confessions and City of God
    The Quran
    Al-Tabari’s History (at least the volumes on Muhammad)
    1001 Nights
    The Shahnama
    The Rigveda
    Major Upanishads
    Ramayana
    Buddhacarita
    At least Analects, Mencius, and the Book of Rites from the Confucian canon
    Dao De Jing
    Sun Tzu’s Art of War

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Intuitively I would guess that straight would be a huge weak spot in this, since a lot of the literary canon was written by people who are either gay, very likely gay or tinged with vaguely homoerotic themes (Shakespeare(?), Ancient Athenians, T. E. Lawrence, Proust). I would imagine that you could build a collection of great western works while only nominating gay authors.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This is tangential to your point, but Shakespeare is not a good example. In the homoerotic sonnets, bugging his male friend to marry is a major theme, and the poet’s erotic interaction with the Dark Lady is more explicit. If we calibrate our gaydar on Kit Marlowe, Shakespeare doesn’t register.
        (Kit Marlowe, gay anti-Semite who glorified the barbarian chief’s life of rape and pillage. Now there’s intersectionality for you.)

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I put the question mark there because Shakespeare was a case that seems to be in legitimate dispute and not one where it is clear either way. (Wikipedia lists efforts to edit the poems in 1640 to change masculine pronouns to feminine and upon returning to the original in 1780 readers were struck by the apparent homo-eroticism. I am not an expert in literature of history, but it seems a legitimate controversy.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      For one thing, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

      But more importantly, that’s not even the books the SJWs are telling people not to read. They probably have in mind even people like Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, Jonathan Haidt, and other liberal straight white men. And the conservative straight white men they find totally out of bounds are mainstream conservative blowhards like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, as well as religious writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. They’re also against the founders of American classical liberalism: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and so on. And of course the straight white men behind modern libertarianism, like Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand (an honorary man), and the Friedmans.

      Any even non-ideologically, they are against any author who comes from America or Europe, like Shakespeare, Daniel Defoe, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky (he’s pretty ideological, too), Walt Whitman, Victor Hugo, and so on. Because that will just confirm the harmful ways of thinking natural to the West.

      More than half your books on there are non-Western and non-white, though perhaps not non-male. The SJWs would probably in fact say people should be reading more about Islam and Confucianism in order to get out of their parochial ways of thinking.

      Muslims and Confucianists are not the outgroup. They’re just random people in the desert (well, at least the former). The outgroup is American conservatives (actual regular conservatives), America’s allegedly crypto-racist classical liberalism, libertarianism, and everyone on the left who doesn’t see things their way.

      Mencius Moldbug, let alone the actual Mencius, is not on their radar.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        For one thing, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

        Of course not. However, my thinking was that contemporary literati read way, way too many novels, especially mediocre novels by living authors and not nearly enough philosophy, history, or poetry. Playing along with the letter of their rule while undermining its spirit (the spirit being an echo chamber of grievance-mongering novels) could be an act of intellectual judo that contributes toward their salvation from leftism. I agree 100% with C.S. Lewis’s “On the Reading of Old Books”, but as you say they have an ideological immune reaction to him. 🙂

        • DavidS says:

          I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that anyone who suggests reading more stuff that isn’t by ‘straight white men’ actually means ‘read greivance-mongering novels’. I suspect for most they just think that the process of identifying ‘literature’ tends to overlook women and minorities (e.g. the Great American Novel seems pretty white and male. Dunno about straight).

          • keranih says:

            I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that anyone who suggests reading more stuff that isn’t by ‘straight white men’ actually means ‘read greivance-mongering novels’.

            I think the phrase used is something along the lines of “works that highlight the struggles and oppression of non-cis-male-normative and non-white peoples by the kyriarchy” rather than “grievance-mongering.”

            If the work doesn’t focus on that type of struggle, then it’s just ‘brown washing’ or appropriation to have non-cis-male characters. Or something.

          • John Schilling says:

            When this came up in the specific context of science fiction and fantasy, I don’t recall too many suggestions that we geeky white guys should go out and read more Lois Bujold, Connie Willis, or Elizabeth Moon. To name a few exceedingly popular not-white-male authors who managed to not be overlooked by the field’s top literary awards while writing non-grievance-mongering novels. When actual suggestions followed “read more works by non-white-male authors”, they tended to be, as keranih notes, works that focused on the struggles and oppression of the aggrieved peoples in question.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, what, specifically, are you talking about?

            This is the same campaign. Le Chat links to the same article that Scott linked to, which, in turn, links to Bradford’s post specifically about SF/F, that I believe launched the campaign you are talking about. Bradford’s list doesn’t look to me to be grievance-mongering, although I don’t know many of the books on the list. Maybe other people wrote other lists, but I’ve never seen these other lists. I’ve never seen those other lists because no one ever makes specific complaints about other lists. Instead, they complain that Bradford is grievance-mongering and would not approve of Delany, when, in fact, he was on her list.

      • keranih says:

        They’re also against the founders of American classical liberalism: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and so on. And of course the straight white men behind modern libertarianism, like Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand (an honorary man), and the Friedmans.

        I’m coming further and further around to the idea that a large – if not the primary – problem with SJWs is that they lack a foundation in the history of the Enlightenment – what it was, what it grew from, and what it was in opposition to.

        Enlightenment was not without its faults and downsides, but as a means of weighing pros and cons, it proved superior to the previous methods European humanity had been using. A lot of those methods looked a lot like SJW methodology looks like now.

        I went looking, once upon a time, for influential works from non-European cultures/authors on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man. Couldn’t find any, and the SJs I hung with at the time couldn’t point to any, either.

        • Tibor says:

          According to Murray Rothbard, Lao-Tzu was supposedly quite libertarian in his writing. I have not read anything from him, so I cannot confirm or reject that. Rothbard likes to paint the world history as basically an epic struggle between libertarians or proto-libertarians and statists though, so I would really check Lao-Tzu first before citing Rothbard.

          • keranih says:

            I read several versions of the Tao Te Ching, as well as other Asia classics in this series. This is not anything like being expert.

            However, I absolutely agree that the Tao Te Ching expresses a small government, least-governance philosophy. It’s also a rather anti-innovation and definitely anti-tech.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @keranih: The combination of beliefs in individualism and science with institutions that produce technological innovation is probably unique to the Enlightenment. There’s a passage in his History of Western Philosophy where liberal Bertrand Russell says “technological advance has given human society much more power while making the individual increasingly powerless”, and another where he says “I’ll spend more pages discussing Locke than Leibniz or Spinoza even though he was a much weaker philosopher, because he was so influential.”
            If this combination isn’t true to facts, we would never expect another civilization to come up with it independently. China had a patriarchal, monarchical, bureaucratic and technologically innovative (until some time in the Ming Dynasty) culture and also a counterculture of anti-tech individualists. Hindus had principles of freedom of religion and free debate and outclassed China in logic and pure science while lagging in technology (no printing or compass, etc).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Not really, no. Calling him a libertarian makes about as much sense as the “Jesus was a communist” schtick.

            Lao-tzu is just a particularly cryptic, or perhaps just poorly translated, esoteric philosopher. It sounds like a hippie cliche but all of those guys are basically teaching the same thing: IMO you aren’t getting anything that different from the Tao te Ching than from the Enchiridion in terms of what kind of life a sage should live. The main reason to read him is that it’s one of the chinese classics.

        • no one special says:

          I’m coming further and further around to the idea that a large – if not the primary – problem with SJWs is that they lack a foundation in the history of the Enlightenment – what it was, what it grew from, and what it was in opposition to.

          I realized, upon reading that, that I lack a foundation in the history of the enlightenment. What I know comes from it being “in the water supply” when I grew up.

          Is there a good intro for non-specialists that could be recommended? (Super-great if there’s a free/CC/PD option, but I’d rather pay money for an easy on-ramp than try to figure out free stuff that can’t speak to modern sensibilities.)

          “A 21st century 1st-world guide to the enlightenment, and how it built our society” would be great.

          • keranih says:

            …I don’t know. My first degree was in history, (emphasis on Europe and Slavs) so the Enlightenment was fairly well woven through it all. (Part of the history of the Russias was how the Enlightenment came late, slow, and parti-colored to the empire of the Tsars, and this was taught to me as being a Bad Thing.)

            I thought the Wikipedia article wasn’t horrible, and I wonder if the reddit historians wouldn’t be a decent source for the sort of text you mean. I would like the name of the text, if you find one you like.

        • nydwracu says:

          I went looking, once upon a time, for influential works from non-European cultures/authors on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man. Couldn’t find any, and the SJs I hung with at the time couldn’t point to any, either.

          Yukichi Fukuzawa wrote some influential works on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man, but, well…

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Can we add the book of Lord Shang to all your classical Chinese literature? Mencius and Xunzi pale in comparison by the things that man suggested.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        True, but he’s not very conservative. Quite the opposite in fact, when you read him there’s a very explicit call to “smash the past” including eliminating virtue itself as a concept.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think it’s worth discussing, as Dr Dealgood has started to!
        Lord Shang does seem progressive for his time to me (except on individual and women’s rights). OTOH, isn’t there an aphorism in Sinology to the effect that official Legalism continued to exist alongside official Confucianism in the Chinese tradition?

    • Anon. says:

      A big issue with this is that we are only projecting “whiteness” backward. The Greeks did not think about things such as “the white race”, they segregated by language. Are they white because we say so, even though they would never identify as such themselves?

      It’s hard to argue that The Bible (remember, the new testament was written in Greek) is non-white, while the Greeks are white.

      Just go back a couple hundred years to see how radically “whiteness” has changed, here’s Ben Franklin on those pesky non-white immigrants:

      >in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

      The Germans, “Swarthy”!

      • Dahlen says:

        Even worse — Swedes, swarthy, pick one.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        A big issue with this is that we are only projecting “whiteness” backward.

        Well yes, of course we are. You have to engage in dialectic to figure out how people define their terms.

        Socrates: Have white men existed as long as there have been men, or begin to when some men first identified as white?

      • Tibor says:

        I think the Saxons were possibly excluded since at that time, what is now Lower Saxony (it is probably not one-to-one geographical correspondence, but it is fairly close) was actually a domain of the British Empire, whereas the rest of German lands were not. So basically it was simply England über alles 🙂

        On a side note, the “Deutschland über alles” had zero German-supremacist connotations at first, it was/is a line in a 19th century revolutionary song which would then become the German anthem and the line means “We want a unified Germany above all else” not “Germany is better than everything else” (that would not even make much sense then, there was no country called Germany and had never been before). Of course, the Nazis interpreted it a bit differently then.

    • Simon says:

      The entire output of Yukio Mishima comes to mind, with him having the extra WTF factor to Occidental readers of being both flamboyantly bisexual and a hardline nationalist.

      • Tibor says:

        This is something I was wondering about. For some reason, in the west, gay is somehow politically associated with the left-wing. But there seem no good reasons for that save for orthodox christians being associated with the right wing, but it is not even the case in all countries (e.g. the Czech republic is 75% atheist, while the Christian vote goes mostly to the KDU – i.e. the Christian Democratic Union, which is centrist). Also, if a wider acceptance of gays is your goal, what is called “pride parades” is probably a very bad way to do that. The way these things are structured is similar to an average left-wing happening (also I think it has more to do with exhibitionism than with being homosexual and I know gays who really dislike these…I have no representative statistics though, or any statistics actually), unlikely to convince a conservative right-winger of something like “well, those guys have sex with guys which is weird, but otherwise they are by and large pretty stand-up citizens”, quite on the contrary, it seems to be deliberately put together to irritate anyone with a conservative sentiment and the message it sends is “see how weird we are?” (this is also what those gays I mentioned do not like them).

        I guess that you are not going to convince Bible literalists for whom it is a sin, end of story. But these people are not a majority of the conservatives, not even in the US, much less in Europe. I think that it might as well be that the reasons conservatives more often oppose gay marriage* and generally are not so keen about gays is that gays (or some gay organizations) brand themselves as left-wing. There is no reasons one could not be gay AND a nationalist or conservative in any kind of way (except for being a Bible literalist for obvious reasons, but as I mentioned – the “god hates fags” camp is a very minority group among conservatives anyway).

        *my ideal solution is actually marriage to nobody, or more precisely a divorce of the state and the institution of marriage (see what I did there? har har har) where anyone can get a ceremony from any church or secular organization he likes and feel free to ignore marriages instituted by different institutions and with practical things like access to medical records and inheritance being settled by separate contract, not called marriage and available to any number of people of both sexes. But save for crazy libertarians, nobody supports that 🙂

      • Simon says:

        My point is that probably isn’t so strange in his home country, which is largely un-influenced by Judaeo-Christian-Islamic sexual morality and whose own mores on the subject don’t line up with how most people in the West think in the relevant categories.

        • Tibor says:

          Japan, prior to the Meiji period, was sexually probably about as open as ancient Greece, which is to say, at least in my opinion, more than we are today in the Euro-Atlantic civilization (and any particular country). On the other hand, the position of women in Edo-era Japan was pretty bad. Women did not have it so great in the 18th century in Europe either, but Japan was a lot worse. The western influence after the 300 years of more or less complete isolation of the country changed a lot of the social norms in Japan (as well as the government system etc.).

          The reason I think we are not really as sexually liberal as it might look is that while you can do pretty much anything sexually today, sexuality is still highly politicized in many ways. What also made me think about this was when I saw various sex-toys, sexy lingerie as well as porn movies being sold at outdoor stalls in the Temple street in Kowloon, Hong Kong, in fact right in front of the temple (I think it was Buddhist or some kind of a mix of Buddhist and taoist…they don’t seem to differentiate that strictly over there and I cannot tell the differences very well :)). Now imagine an open market with sex toys in front of a church in any Christian or culturally Christian country…in fact, the Church is not even necessary. I can already hear people protesting and arguing that it is going to damage the development of children or something 🙂

          I remember, it was some 15 years ago, when they opened a sex shop in front of our grammar school (across the street). There were some “concerned parents” or something probably, because they made a story