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Links 3/16: Rulink Class

New research: toxoplasma’s effects on cats and animals are as creepy as ever, but it probably doesn’t affect human behavior.

New drug nilotinib looks very promising for Parkinson’s disease, may clean up proteins associated with death of dopamine-producing cells. Good news: drug is already approved for cancer and so can be used off-label. Bad news: drug costs $10,000/month.

Vox has a pretty good article on Silicon Valley Democrats. Historical point of comparison: Theodore Roosevelt.

The Atlantic highlights the 1996 Dole/Kemp Campaign Website and the 1996 Clinton/Gore Website. Fricking Clinton/Gore ’96 launched a popup that tried to install Norton Antivirus on my computer. That’s a little more nostalgia than I’m ready for right now.

Ben Goldacre et al’s crusade against outcome switching in clinical trials: “So far, they’ve checked 67 clinical trials. Of those, nine trials were perfect. But among the ones that weren’t, they found 301 pre-specified outcomes were never reported and 357 were silently added.” Related: once the regulatory agencies required that pharma companies pre-register their trials, the positive finding rate dropped from 57% to 8%.

Latest meta-analysis finds homeopathy is effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses. Encouraging after some previous less rigorous studies got some unfortunate false positives in this area.

Wikipedia’s Special: Nearby gives you all the Wikipedia pages about places close to you. I got my local district library, but maybe people who live in more interesting places will get more interesting articles.

Asian cop shoots black victim in high-pressure situation. Black community protests that not imprisoning the cop would be racist against blacks. Asian community protests that imprisoning the cop would be racist against Asians. It’s almost as if turning every incident involving a minority into a morality play about racism can go wrong.

Contrary to previous results, a new study suggests that calorie labeling does make people lose weight, especially men.

Brookings: Declining fluidity in the labor market probably not due to changing population or increasing regulation, possibly due to changes in companies and decreased social trust.

Weird Sun Twitter is now a card game. Warning: card game might not actually be playable, relationship with Weird Sun Twitter unclear.

Nathan Robinson: Sanders would be uniquely good at campaigning against Trump, Hillary uniquely bad at it.

Popehat combines strong free speech advocacy with a strong insistence that private censorship is disanalogous to public censorship – something I sort of argued against here. Now blogger Ken White clarifies and gives a little more subtlety on his position: “I’m increasingly convinced by the argument that [Twitter] has decided to offer a product aimed at a specific political group…[but] I classify Twitter’s action as bad customer service and as private speech I don’t like because of my conservative views…at least I thought those were conservative views. I mean, how can you argue that a bakery shouldn’t have to make a gay marriage cake, but Twitter should have to offer a platform to someone they think (not unreasonably) is a total douche?”

Some good science/statistics blogging about a recent paper against the paleo diet.

Status 451: What Is Neoreaction? Definitely one of the more helpful introductions in this genre, by which I mean it doesn’t obsessively focus on being as controversial/offensive as possible to the exclusion of everything else. Note that the term is still banned in the comments section here, so discuss it over there if you have to.

One plank of Obamacare penalizes hospitals if patients get readmitted with the same disease too quickly after being discharged. There was a lot of concern that this would lead to hospitals fudging things or even going as far as refusing to readmit patients who need it. A study in NEJM finds that the program seems to be going well, that readmission rates are genuinely down, and that it isn’t a result of hospitals cooking the books.

Jeff Kaufman: buses are 67x safer than cars. They’re also underused, partly because they’re annoying, partly because of safety features. There is room to trade off bus safety for bus convenience, which would make people take more buses, which would actually make them safer in the long run. Therefore we should make buses more dangerous.

Futility Closet: 1/a long series of 9s with one 8 in it gives you a decimal representation of the Fibonacci sequence, for some reason.

Gambler’s fallacy in decision-making. Just as a gambler who’s had a long string of losses might be more likely to expect a win next time, so a judge who’s had a long run of innocent people will be more likely to find the next person guilty.

Change of heart: journalist who reported Minnesota county was the worst place in America to live has now decided to move there.

Reddit: what’s the next big thing in terms of trends that will shape our future? Suggestions include lab-grown meat, organic plastics, and CRISPR.

Eroom’s Law – a straight-line, Moore’s law style relationship showing that the average pharmaceutical company dollar buys fewer and fewer new drug discoveries over time. Reason unclear but possibly involving lower correlation between the models on which the drugs are tested and real human bodies.

Interesting weird post-modern papers and articles: World Toilet Day is an example of neocolonialist white supremacy, evidence-based medicine is an “outrageously exclusionary…example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena”, and geologists need a feminist glaciology framework to make sense of “the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers”.

Despite my concerns to the contrary, generic drug prices are going down.

Big reputable poll of Florida residents finds 10% of them believe Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer. But remember Lizardman’s Constant. A good thing to keep in mind next time someone finds a poll that says 10% of Donald Trump supporters support drowning puppies or whatever.

How to communicate securely with people on LSD through messages that sober people would not be able to read, just in case for some reason you want to do that. Related: exceptionally weird short story/essay/something-or-other about consciousness.

Pacemakers work better than placebo pacemakers, but placebo pacemakers still work pretty well.

80000 Hours: a summary of the literature on whether money makes you happier. Short version: a little!

When nativists start building walls, migrants start building battering rams. I hope this escalates to moats and trebuchets.

An interesting and balanced piece on unemployment benefits. Finds that extending unemployment benefits does make people submit fewer job applications, but that very fact means decreased competition and greater ability for people who want to go back to work to do so! As a result, extending unemployment benefits doesn’t increase unemployment much.

A lot of people here talk about the Griggs vs. Duke ruling that bans IQ tests in a job interview, but for some reason police can still get away with only accepting medium-IQ people as cops. Bonus: court case is a high-IQ guy angry at being rejected for the force; court tells him to take a hike.

Scientific American: John Horgan interviews Eliezer Yudkowsky. I thought it was a really well-done interview, great answers from Eliezer, and really funny comment from Eliezer’s wife Brienne.

doubleblinded.com is a sort of supplement company that will send you both real and placebo supplements and everything you need to perform a randomized controlled trial on yourself to see if the supplements really help you. Sure, you can probably do it cheaper on your own if you really try, but maybe having someone else take care of the trivial inconveniences will encourage this sort of thing.

Scientists have identified over 20% of the genes involved in autism. I didn’t realize we were that far along with understanding any kind of massively polygenic trait like that.

Lithium: still the best treatment for bipolar disorder.

Study: given identical patient descriptions, therapists were twice as likely to diagnose boys as girls with ADHD. Obvious relevance for all those claims like “Men/women are X times more likely than women/men to have such and such a psych disorder”.

A lot of people ask – is eliminating tropical diseases just band-aid charity? Won’t it just mean more people survive a little longer to be starving and diseased and need help later? The answer has always been that eliminating diseases improves people’s health, employment, education, and possibly intelligence, with lots of positive effects down the road. Here’s a good example: huge economic gains and human capital increases from America eliminating typhoid.

During the Holocaust, Protestants were more likely to rescue Jews in majority-Catholic areas, and Catholics more likely to rescue Jews in majority-Protestant areas. Maybe being a minority makes you more sympathetic to other minorities or less willing to go along with the government in general?

This month in the media: “caucus moderator in Nevada requests neutral translator” becomes “caucus moderator shouts ‘ENGLISH ONLY’ at Hispanics” becomes “Sanders supporters shout ‘ENGLISH ONLY!’ at Hispanics” becomes “Sanders himself attends caucus in Nevada to shout ‘ENGLISH ONLY!’ at Hispanics”. H/t @freddiedeboer, who did good work publicizing this as part of his “media is shilling for Hillary” special interest.

Having a disruptive student in your class decreases your adult earnings by 3%. One possible reason for private school advantage is that they can reject these students or keep them in their own special classes/groups apart from the kids who actually want to learn without getting yelled at. Taken at face value, this is a pretty strong testimonial to the power of education – apparently education is so important that even one variety of disruption to it can seriously impact your adult earnings.

But related: “Cross‐national data show no association between increases in human capital attributable to the rising educational attainment of the labor force and the rate of growth of output per worker. This implies that the association of educational capital growth with conventional measures of total factor production is large, strongly statistically significant, and negative…educational quality could have been so low that years of schooling created no human capital.”

Related-ish: at least in Sweden, starting school before age seven is not helpful and in fact is likely harmful. 2016 presidential candidates react by vowing to triple the budget for Head Start.

When Medicaid stopped covering Planned Parenthood, relevant pregnancies increased 27%.

Google Deep Dream (you know, the AI image filter that creates weird dog-shoggoth mixes out of everything) can be applied to videos now. Unfortunately, they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

There’s been some discussion on the subreddit about a 2006 Sampson et al study finding that neighborhood effects explain a lot of crime disparities. But a recent Sariaslan et al study finds that neighborhood effects on crime disappear once you control for genetics. And Jaap Nieuwenhuis finds the neighborhood effects literature to be riddled with publication bias and questions whether the effect exists at all. What I want to know: are neighborhood effects by definition shared environmental effects? Does that mean the whole behavioral genetics literature is telling us they’re not real?

Widely-read econblogger converts to Christianity and goes full creationist. Interesting look at how a self-described rational economist can end up believing some pretty unusual things.

Some fierce infighting in psychology as a Harvard/UVa team including Daniel Gilbert and Gary King denounce the OpenScience project and the replication crisis it highlighted as bogus (paper, popular article). They have two main arguments: first, the “replications” were so different from the original studies that different results are unsurprising; second, that because of the way statistical power and confidence intervals work, OpenScience finding only 40% of studies replicating is consistent with 80-90% of the studies being correct, and in fact another replication attempt that found 85% replication rate would have said only 40% of its studies replicated if they had used the same (incorrect) statistical methods as OpenScience. But the pushback from psychologists and statisticians defending the existence of a replication crisis has been intense and highly convincing. Here’s a 45-author paper published in Science saying that “Gilbert’s very optimistic assessment is limited by statistical misconceptions and by causal inferences from selectively interpreted, correlational data” – but as usual, all the interesting stuff is on random blogs. Brian Nosek on RetractionWatch explains how Gilbert at al seriously exaggerated some of the differences between original studies and replications to the point of absurdity; The 20% Statistician says that “the statistical conclusions in Gilbert et al (2016) are completely invalid”, and The Hardest Science finds that Gilbert’s example of the the 85% replication rate dropping to 40% because of poor methods involves completely inappropriate cherry-picking of metrics. I admit my bias here but AFAICT the Gilbert paper is looking pretty questionable and the replication crisis seems as real as ever.

Very much related: a new very large study of ego depletion finds the effect does not exist. This is a pretty big deal: since its inception, almost a hundred studies have found evidence of ego depletion, and it’s become an entire subfield of psychology with people investigating all the different factors that make it stronger and weaker. If the whole thing just doesn’t exist and the entire literature about it is a mirage, that’s really damning. A Slate article on the issue very kindly links my review of Baumeister’s book where I raised some of these concerns last year. Neuroscientist and ego depletion expert Michael Inzlicht writes an intense soul-searching essay: “I have spent nearly a decade working on the concept of ego depletion…I’m in a dark place. I feel like the ground is moving from underneath me and I no longer know what is real and what is not”. He adds that he suspects his other research area of stereotype threat may be heading in the same direction, and says that “During my dark moments, I feel like social psychology needs a redo, a fresh start.” Some more discussion on Beeminder forums.

Also related: peak-end effect fails to replicate.

Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Jeb, Trump, Trump.

If these aren’t enough links for you, wettrew on the SSC subreddit is collecting his own links roundups.

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1,052 Responses to Links 3/16: Rulink Class

  1. PGD says:

    Re neighborhood effects, have people seen the latest results from the Moving to Opportunity study, where they look at adult earnings?

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/social-mobility-memos/posts/2015/05/06-moving-to-opportunity-revisited-rothwell

  2. Alex says:

    Nathan Robinson’s article reminded me of Bullshit Asymmetry Principle: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” (Attributed to Alberto Brandolini.)

    “The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit” examines it in science and medicine context …

  3. Deiseach says:

    This is me and mathematics. This is me going through school from the ages of 7-17 and all the teachers (and my father) trying to explain it to me. This is all the people going “But maths is so fun!” and “You just need to find a different way to learn the concepts” and “Try this cool new way of doing it!”

    I have never gotten it, I don’t get it, I never will get it.

    • Soumynona says:

      Have you tried killing a mathematician and eating his brain?

      I watched that clip and I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a part of the analogy to your educational experiences, but people in it are terrible teachers. They just keep repeating “but they’re both one kilogram” without actually trying to explain what a kilogram is and how mass is different from density.

    • Mark says:

      Which bit don’t you get?

  4. http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/482/the_kids_are_all_right

    David Lancy (an anthropologist) argues that the modern child-centered society is very unusual among human societies and has some serious drawbacks.

    • Nita says:

      Well, yeah, the Western child-rearing culture is unusual. So is the infant mortality rate, the infrastructure development level, the effectiveness of medical care, the pace of science and technology, the structure of the job market and the type of education a “normal” member of society is expected to possess.

      High infant mortality causes a detached parental attitude, low infant mortality allows more parental attachment. Poverty and lack of medical knowledge can result in infanticide, prosperity and developed medicine makes infanticide more avoidable. Better circumstances lead to kinder cultural practices.

      I’ve no idea what has lead Lancy to conclude that children being forcibly held down and having their genitals cut off is perfectly fine, though. Any drawbacks of Western child-rearing kind of pale in comparison.

  5. anonymous says:

    I just wanted to say hi because I am in fact a glaciologist, and I consider myself a feminist, and I’m guessing I’m the only person fitting that description who reads this blog. I think that article has some interesting things to say, but I can’t quite get past the post-modernism or whatever it is to understand them (which is not unreasonable; this clearly isn’t written for a lay audience. My papers probably aren’t very readable to people outside my field, either.) The bit about how glaciology is seen as a profession for manly mountain men is interesting, particularly since I feel like the actual glaciologists I’ve met don’t really view it that way. We’re a low-key bunch, albeit definitely very outdoorsy.

    The President of the International Glaciological Society (IGS) posted a link to this paper on the Friends of IGS facebook page. I would characterize the reaction so far as ‘bemused, but intrigued.’

    • dndnrsn says:

      A lot of stuff like those articles is actually interesting and useful when steelmanned.

      For instance, “focusing on evidence-based medicine only creates a problem where useful stuff that could be spotted by other methods gets missed” and “this field of science is shaped by the personalities of the scientists” and in both cases “people often think they’re being objective when they’re not” are all really useful, important points.

      But then it is covered in a layer of jargon, the idea of objectivity itself is attacked (not “it is hard to be objective”, but “it is impossible to be objective” or “there is no such thing as objectivity”), and so on.

      • anonymous says:

        Right, exactly. The ‘feminist glaciology’ article covers a lot of ground, some of which is uncontroversial (glaciology is historically male-dominated, like every other science, and the physically demanding nature of the fieldwork has enhanced that effect somewhat) and some of which is more out there. But even the stuff that seems superficially weird, like the bit about indigenous people attributing glacier surges to glaciers not liking the smell of cooking grease, can potentially point to something interesting. Sea ice science has benefited from Arctic peoples’ observations of sea ice, but AFAIK glaciology hasn’t really done much with that. Mapping folk tales onto observable scientific outcomes could point toward interesting new questions to ask, or maybe contribute some new historical data about periodic events like surges.

        But as you say, you do run into that science/humanities language barrier. I’ve talked to a couple of people in the humanities who studied science-the-social-structure (as opposed to the actual content of science) and came away from the conversation feeling like we differed on some fundamental assumptions about reality that I couldn’t identify. We need better translators.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not a sciences type, so my experience of that sort of scholarship was a bit different. I would associate it as much with some of the social sciences as with the humanities – in the latter, especially in literary criticism. I was in fields where that sort of thing hadn’t penetrated very deeply, and whenever I came across it it was kind of weird.

          I think part of the problem is that the hard sciences get a lot of respect, with the result that scholars from other fields look at it, and come to the mistaken impression that if they want respect, they too must use lots of arcane terminology and stuff the layperson doesn’t understand. Which is a pity, because every time I’ve seen it in plain English, there’s been something there.

          Additionally, you say “fundamental assumptions about reality” – I get the sense that, on the one hand, some of them make the valuable point that it’s important to question those assumptions. On the other hand, some of them seem kind of hostile to the concept of reality itself – some of them seem to be more or less flirting with the idea that reality is just a collective hallucination.

          • anonymous says:

            I guess I’m inclined to be charitable and assume that people in the humanities and social sciences use jargon for the same reason I do–because it makes it easier to communicate with their colleagues. If I’m writing for a lay audience then of course I’ll take the time to define my terms and simplify my concepts, but if I’m writing a paper for a journal I’ll just say things like ‘a ?18O excursion in the LGM’ without explaining them, because otherwise the paper would be four times as long and frustrating for my colleagues to read. Similarly I assume that everyone reading ‘Progress in Human Geography’ knows what ‘a Baconian view of knowledge’ or ‘masculinist narrative’ means, and it would be counterproductive to spend a lot of time unpacking those concepts.

            It does seem problematic that even a motivated and knowledgable layperson can’t necessarily follow academic papers. Now that most articles are accessed online and space is no longer a constraint, I wonder if journals should start requiring all academics to include a lay-accessible summary of their article to publish alongside the jargony version. It might improve the accuracy of reporting on academic results.

          • Anonymous says:

            @anonymous

            If a layperson is motivated and knowledgeable, I would have thought they could Google any terms they didn’t understand.

          • Protagoras says:

            Googling jargon is not reliable. Sometimes the same term has important differences in meaning in in different disciplines (or even different factions within a discipline), so the non-expert is in danger of being misled if they find the wrong definition first (and they’re unlikely to see the signs that it is the wrong definition).

          • Anon. says:

            >I guess I’m inclined to be charitable and assume that people in the humanities and social sciences use jargon for the same reason I do–because it makes it easier to communicate with their colleagues.

            Here’s Searle on the issue:

            “With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, “He says so and so,” he always says, “You misunderstood me.” But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, “What the hell do you mean by that?” And he said, “He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            I may be being less than charitable, but a lot of this sort of thing seems like jargon is used even where it isn’t necessary – where plainer language could be easily used. A lot of the concepts aren’t incredibly difficult to convey, or very long to explain. It seems like jargon for the sake of jargon a lot.

            There’s also the habit of using terms that already mean one thing in mainstream use, and adding new meanings to them.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think this is a lot of the reason Richard Feynman is loved as much as he is. It wasn’t just that he was one of the most brilliant physicists of his time; it was also because, as another physicist (Bethe?) put it, he “talked like a bum”.

          • anonymous [the feminist glaciologist] says:

            dndnrsn: Yeah, probably jargon is sometimes used where it’s not strictly necessary. Still, I think that’s more often due to laziness than pretension. Good writing is difficult and taking the time to do it is often not rewarded in academic circles.

            Anonymous: as Protagoras says, terms can mean different things in different fields. Or it might be a word that you think you know, but it’s being used in a way that’s narrowly specific to that field. Or the way the term is used may carry implications that would be obvious to someone in the field, but aren’t part of the definition you would find if you Googled it. It’s like using an online translator to understand something written in another language: you’ll get a better idea of what the individual words are, but the overall meaning may still elude you.

            Part of the problem here is that there’s no official Language Board for most scientific fields, let alone one that would coordinate vocabularies across fields, so terminology develops in the same ad hoc way as it does everywhere else. It’s very frustrating, because often there are papers in other fields that would be helpful to your research, but you don’t find them because you don’t know the keywords for that field.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @anonymous

            I guess I’m inclined to be charitable and assume that people in the humanities and social sciences use jargon for the same reason I do–because it makes it easier to communicate with their colleagues.

            I think you are being overly charitable. Consider the Sokal hoax: a physics professor sent a deliberately nonsensical jargoon-laden hoax article to prestigious a peer-reviewed journal of “postmodern cultural studies” and they published it.

            Can you imagine a sociology professor publishing a hoax article in a peer-reviewed physics journal, or in glaciology journal? I can’t.

            The jargoon used in social sciences is not used to convey technical meaning in an efficient way, it is used to obscure and give a sense of false depth where there is none. Think of it as a sort of reverse Turing test: if something can’t be distinguished from nonsense, even by the alleged domain-experts, then it is nonsense.

          • Frank McPike says:

            The journal in which Sokal’s hoax was published, Social Text, didn’t have a peer-review system at the time of the hoax (and Sokal’s article in particular wasn’t subjected to anything resembling a normal peer review). I’m not sure if that is why Sokal targeted the journal, but it’s presumably at least one reason why no one caught the article. I’m not sure that it’s advisable to make inferences about an entire field from one incident involving a fairly exceptional journal.

            Quoth Sokal himself: “From the mere fact of publication of my parody I think that not much can be deduced. It doesn’t prove that the whole field of cultural studies, or cultural studies of science — much less sociology of science — is nonsense. Nor does it prove that the intellectual standards in these fields are generally lax. (This might be the case, but it would have to be established on other grounds.) It proves only that the editors of one rather marginal journal were derelict in their intellectual duty, by publishing an article on quantum physics that they admit they could not understand, without bothering to get an opinion from anyone knowledgeable in quantum physics, solely because it came from a ‘conveniently credentialed ally.'”

            I’m not aware of any sociologists who managed to get nonsense articles published in peer-reviewed physics journals, but many physicists seem to agree that the Bogdanov brothers are physicists who got nonsense published in peer-reviewed physics journals.

          • onyomi says:

            Though I do think there is a lot of obfuscatory nonsense in “postmodern” cultural studies, in defense of social science, if the article was not peer reviewed then you can’t expect much, nor do I think you can count it as a “top journal,” even if Fredric Jameson attached his name to it. Non peer-reviewed articles are basically published on a benefit of the doubt kind of basis. So by sending a nonsense article that sounded topical to a non-peer reviewed issue of a journal, the author is actually kind of undermining some of the good will which allows scholars to get some of their more tentative ideas in print.

          • Deiseach says:

            Similarly I assume that everyone reading ‘Progress in Human Geography’ knows what ‘a Baconian view of knowledge’ or ‘masculinist narrative’ means, and it would be counterproductive to spend a lot of time unpacking those concepts.

            I do know what a “Baconian view of knowledge” is, because I had Ye Olde Schoole Dayes before the Internet (when even calculators were looked upon with deep suspicion and you were not allowed to use one in an examination because somehow it was Cheating – and I don’t mean fancy programmable scientific calculators, I mean “add subtract multiply divide” calculators; if you needed fancy tech you used a book of log tables like God intended!)

            So as part of the secondary school English curriculum, I read the essays by Sir Francis Bacon in our textbook of prescribed prose pieces and therefore I know what’s meant here. I wonder about modern day students who may not have the same curriculum or may rely on the “Cliff’s Notes” versions of doing their homework – what are the themes and points I have to cover, don’t expect me to read the actual piece and work these out for myself, I need to write the essay that will get the highest grade so I need to make sure I’m ticking all the boxes that the teacher will mark*.

            “Masculinist narrative” I can probably work out by derivation and context, though I couldn’t point to any texts if you pinned me down and asked me.

            How much gets assumed to be common discourse that isn’t, even outside of jargon?

            *I may have got burned in Leaving Certificate history by being so stupid as to venture a remark based on my own opinions from reading the textbook and other source documents instead of parroting a canned response in line with what was the officially approved answer, and drawn the teacher down on my head who straight-out called me stupid in front of the entire class, told me I would fail miserably in the exams, and ensured I resolved never again to open my mouth in any class room ever.

            I did very well in my final exams in that subject, actually, but it wasn’t motivated by “I’ll show them!” and studying even harder (and thus the idea being that the teacher was hard on me because they knew I had the potential and just needed motivation, as the Hollywood movie ending would be – they called me stupid because they thought I was stupid), it was through being stubborn, keeping my head down, and continuing to do what I was already doing – luckily, I liked and continue to like history, so I ignored the teacher and just read the texts 🙂

          • vV_Vv says:

            I didn’t know that Social Text was not peer-reviewed at the time, thanks for the information.

      • vV_Vv says:

        For instance, “focusing on evidence-based medicine only creates a problem where useful stuff that could be spotted by other methods gets missed” and “this field of science is shaped by the personalities of the scientists” and in both cases “people often think they’re being objective when they’re not” are all really useful, important points.

        But these are really trivial observations, hardly worth hundreds thousands taxpayer dollars of funding to write about.

  6. TrivialGravitas says:

    Trebuchets have already been deployed along the US/Mexico border as a way to get drugs over the fence without tripping sensors, and water projects along the rio grand are effectively a moat in that people trying to swim them keep dying.

  7. Carl Shulman says:

    Re Baumeister and ego-depletion, I’m reminded of this from your review:

    “Finally, Carol Dweck finds that willpower is only depletable if you think it is, which sounds like exactly the sort of thing Carol Dweck would find. If Carol Dweck ever became an oncologist, we would have to revise all the medical textbooks to say that people only get cancer if they think they will.”

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What else would it mean for ego-depletion to have a big literature, except for people to study moderators of it? The Inzlicht essay Scott linked is about facing the replication crisis having spent a decade studying moderators of ego-depletion.

  8. mdb says:

    Is anyone here familiar with EAS (Emergency Alert System) simulation videos? I found out they existed recently and I wonder if I’m behind the curve. If you, like me N days ago, don’t know what these are, they are videos that simulate what would be broadcast to alert the local (in most cases American) population of an affected area in case of a catastrophic event; the events in the videos range from nuclear strikes, hurricanes and tornadoes to zombie apocalypses to the side-effects of whatever happened in a particular movie plot. The videos consist of synthesized voices reading announcements over text with simple animations like scrolling displayed on the screen. People who make and upload these videos have formed an apparent social circle on YouTube. They are subscribed to each other and comment on each other’s videos.

    A representative, ever so slightly existential dread-inducing sample. It strikes me as the kind thing you’d listen to on Petrov Day — disaster fiction at its purest.

    The simulated broadcasts are clearly cheap and easy to produce. They do not seem to vary too much in terms of their overall quality of writing, audio and visuals. (Based on my limited expose so far.) I’ve noticed a number of them has pretty spammy titles like “EAS Movie – First Blood”. I wonder if their producers aim for commercial success through ad revenue.

    This microculture is pretty much undocumented. There are no articles about it and few mentions on discussion forums. Very Gibsonesque overall.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Thank you for sharing; that was very interesting! I’m particularly intrigued by the prank videos which use EAS simulation videos to trick friends and family into thinking that a disaster is occurring, such as this one; gives you an idea of how people would react to the real thing.

  9. Jacobian says:

    By the way, the gambler example isn’t how gambler’s fallacy works at all!
    People expect streaks of wins/losses by people to continue (hot/cold hand effect) but streaks of outcomes of random variables (coin flip, roulette color) to switch (gambler’s fallacy).

    There’s research from actual casinos that provides some evidence of gambler’s expecting to win after wins.

  10. cixlimbar says:

    > a new study suggests that calorie labeling does make people lose weight, especially men.

    Because men are better arithmeticians.

    • dinofs says:

      I probably shouldn’t respond to this, but I somehow doubt that the difference in arithmetic skills in adult men and women is so great that it would make a difference here. If anything I’d guess that it’s because women are more pressured to lose weight, and so have more practice gauging how much they eat without calorie labels.

  11. Safe Spays says:

    The problem with Twitter being a private website is, they’ve already decided to situate themselves as a public platform.

    Here’s a blog entry about a similar thing for Facebook, with implications discussed: https://welldotdotdot.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/website-or-platform/

  12. Joscha says:

    I have some difficulty to understand why so many smart people feel a need to fight against homeopathy. After all, the placebo effect is real, and as a doctor, I will sometimes be in a situation where I do not have a treatment available that is going to offer a better risk/benefit ratio than a placebo. In these cases, many doctors describe medicines that probably won’t do much good, but hopefully will not do too much harm (for instance, an antibiotic for a patient with a mild case of flu). This does not strike me as desirable and entirely ethical.

    The ideal placebo should have no harmful (i.e. effective) ingredients, it should be very specific to the ailment (so it requires a diagnosis and aligns with appropriate guidelines for the recuperation of the patient), it should be cheap, and come with useful dietary suggestions and an ingestion schedule that requires some regular attention and mindfulness. For optimum effect, both patient and doctor should have some belief in its effectiveness.

    All these conditions are met by homeopathy. If doctors prescribe it only in those cases where they do not have treatment options with better risk/benefit ratio than placebo, health care providers should strongly encourage homeopathy, because it may prevent harm through excessive standard medication, and will on average benefit the recuperation of the patient.

    • Kyle Strand says:

      I’d never thought of that. Interesting point; thank you.

    • Nita says:

      “Homeopathy” is not just extremely diluted stuff. It’s a rival paradigm of medicine, based on a theory which is incompatible with modern biology. And its supporters consistently spread misinformation about mainstream medicine, e.g., calling it “allopathy” and claiming that it focuses only on symptoms and refuses to look for the cause.

      Then their patients start saying things like this:

      As a patient who has switched from allopathic to homeo mainly bcoz my kids case was getting more & more severe and dependent on allopathic antibiotics, I can vouch for the so called ‘placebos’ that have kept him away from even paracetamols & other heavy med doses (not to mention the costs of allopathy) …

      Consider: Is it possible to come out from a chronic HPV infection by means of the placebo effect? Would something what is called the placebo effect work with a three-years old child? Just too many co-incidences?

      homeopathy addresses the deeply underlying constitutional particularities of a human: this is the key to its success

      These individuals have become convinced that homeopathy can cure HPV and make antibiotics unnecessary.

      And here’s an actual GP who uses homeopathy:

      It stops Herpes, and Leptospirosis in Cuba, why not malaria ?

    • Adam Casey says:

      If this were a question of doctors there wouldn’t be a problem. Doctors don’t believe in homeopathy generally and wouldn’t prescribe it rather than a real drug.

      The problem is the patients. Lots of people either bully their doc into giving them homeopathy, or bin the meds they’re prescribed and take homeo instead. Those people are why we have to argue against it.

      • Joscha says:

        My personal experiences with German doctors included a willingness to prescribe homeopathy in cases where they did not have effective standard medication. This included conditions that could be expected to clear up on their own, and some autoimmune and chronic pain things. It tended to be connected with reasonable dietary suggestions, and followups. I suspect that the doctor was agnostic with respect to the efficacy, or really went for the placebo effect. It did not feel like being lied to (certainly not more than putting a bandaid on my little daughter’s contusion at her request).
        What do you do if a concerned mother visits with a not seriously sick child, and she does not feel like leaving your office without a prescription?

    • Lyyce says:

      The problem is not so much homeopathy per se, it indeed is nearly optimal as a placebo.

      However I don’t like the idea of lying to people for their own good (it can go wrong on so many ways), also the money wasted into homeopathic “research” could be put to better uses.

      And even if you do not care about the lying part, it would be better to go for random plant or any natural stuff with no effect whatsoever. At least it avoids supporting pseudoscientific absurdities such as water memory or “the more diluted the more efficient”

    • TheAltarSublime says:

      If patients only used homeopathy when nothing else worked, then that might be fine. However, when they toss their useful medications down the drain and start taking a placebo instead things start going downhill for them.

      Someone could also likely make an argument for starting the acceptance process of dealing with an illness rather than trying to fight it past a realistic point. However, I’m far more one of the “do not go gentle into that good night” types so I don’t really consider it valid.

    • onyomi says:

      What I don’t understand about homeopathy is that it doesn’t seem even superficially plausible. Like, if I tell you this special fungus has been chewed by an unusually long-lived Amazonian tribe for centuries and studies show it contains all kinds of beneficial compounds and I’m not saying it can cure cancer but these Amazonians sure have a low rate of cancer… well that feels like something maybe a reasonable, if desperate person could hang their hat on.

      But, “we took a poisonous thing and diluted it till there was nothing left. Drink some of this water which ‘remembers’ the poison, which will cure you because you because, after all, poison would cure you if not for all the, you know, molecules of poison involved”? I don’t understand how this is plausible enough for even dumb people to enjoy a placebo effect.

      • Urstoff says:

        sympathetic magic

      • Nita says:

        I think the most commonly used arguments are “it awakens your body’s natural healing powers” and “it helped all these other people, even if we don’t know why”.

        Oh, and it was developed at a time when humoral theory was considered plausible — the reasoning seems to have been “I tried giving harsh remedies to ‘restore the balance’, and it didn’t work, so why not try the reverse — gentle remedies that have the same effects as the disease instead of the opposite?”

      • Deiseach says:

        “we took a poisonous thing and diluted it till there was nothing left. Drink some of this water which ‘remembers’ the poison, which will cure you because you because, after all, poison would cure you if not for all the, you know, molecules of poison involved”?

        That’s pretty much the basis for vaccines, though. “If you get smallpox you have a very good chance of dying, so to protect you we’ll give you this diluted version of a related disease which will stimulate your immune system in the same way that real smallpox would, only not enough to kill you” 🙂

        If the vaccination is successful, a red and itchy bump develops at the vaccination site in three or four days. In the first week after vaccination, the bump becomes a large blister, fills with pus, and begins to drain. During week two, the blister begins to dry up and a scab forms. The scab falls off in the third week, leaving a small scar. People who are being vaccinated for the first time may have a stronger “take” (a successful reaction) than those who are being revaccinated.

        It’s the same base principle of “like cures like” that is claimed to underlie homeopathy (please note: I do not believe homeopathy works on anything other than the placebo effect, unless it’s that small amounts of trace elements like zinc are allegedly good for the system and it’s possible that if you’re deficient in something, getting a low dose of it might actually help you).

        • Nita says:

          That’s not “like cures like”, that’s “practice on easy problems makes hard problems easier”. If someone’s already showing symptoms of the illness, it’s usually too late to vaccinate them.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nita
            If someone’s already showing symptoms of the illness, it’s usually too late to vaccinate them.

            But a common treatment for an allergy you’ve already got, is to desensitize with small amounts of whatever you’re allergic to.

            “Water keeps the memory” is a metaphoric label for something that (some people* say) exists but we can’t explain. Decades or centuries ago, people might have said “metal keeps the memory” to describe magnetism.

            I’m not sure that an uneducated person ignoring these distinctions and using the metaphor label, is really going to destroy modern science … as “This rock fell from the sky” might, taken very seriously, have cracked the celestial spheres.

            * Insert ob-disclaimer. In practice I don’t buy the products, but I don’t buy the theory that it’s impossible, either.

          • Nita says:

            Of course it won’t destroy science. But it might get some kids killed by treatable illnesses, after their parents decide that mainstream treatments are dangerous and useless, and mainstream doctors are shills for Big Pharma.

            http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/jury-trial-truehope-toddler-dies-trial-underway-1.3479460

            http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/girl-nine-died-after-parents-rejected-insulin-treatment-couple-refused-diabetes-drug-because-of-1508874.html

            As far as I can tell, these people loved their children. With modern medicine, they could have raised them to adulthood. But no one managed to convince them that “alternative” treatments don’t work, and now the kids are dead.

          • Joscha says:

            @Nita

            I agree that the availablitity of homeopathy might lure some patients and doctors into using placebos where they should have used an effective treatment. However, I think it is quite possible that homeopathy saves many more lives than it claims. While I do not know how the estimates work, they say that there might be 20 Million unnecessary prescriptions just of antibiotics for viral infections in the US, and 100000 deaths from side effects of prescription drugs. I am not sure how much harm is attributable to prescriptions that had little expected benefit, but it is probably quite a bit more than the harm done by fanatic homeopaths.

    • BBA says:

      In addition to what others have pointed out: in the US there are packaged homeopathic “drugs”, not subject to FDA jurisdiction because of an explicit exemption in the FD&C Act. (This supposedly goes against “traditional homeopathy” which insists that each remedy be specially prepared for the patient, but set that aside.)

      In particular, Zicam produces zinc-based cold remedies through this loophole, at low dilutions (i.e. high concentrations) so that under homeopathy they would have very little effect but under actual science the effects can be very significant. There was a scandal some years back when users of the Zicam nasal gel severely damaged their sense of smell. As the packaging and advertising for Zicam was very similar to that for standard FDA-approved medicines and downplayed its supposed homeopathic nature, many of these Zicam customers thought they were taking medicine that had actual science behind it; instead they ruined their noses with medicine that didn’t even help their cold.

      On a lighter note, HeadOn, of those obnoxious repetitive commercials, was also a homeopathic preparation, at much “higher” strength (i.e., there’s none of the active ingredient at all). The makers figured they couldn’t get away with saying it cured headaches, so instead they just told us “apply directly to the forehead,” again and again…

    • Noge Sako says:

      That’s one of the leading theories as to why homeopathy took off so much, and why in some sectors, it is still powerful.

      Mid 1850’s, when half the treatments killed you, and the other half simply gave temporary relief, some clever huckster gave the same treatments in amounts that approximate zero.

      • Mark Twain, writing a little later, commented that Christian Scientists knew how to cure imaginary diseases and since have the diseases people suffer from are imaginary that gave them a pretty good cure rate.

  13. Garnet says:

    I feel like this has already been mentioned on SSC but regarding the Swedish education study, there was also a study on Quebec’s huge, popular daycare system and its (arguably negative) effect on Quebec children’s cognition: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/kmilligan/research/BGM-childcare2.htm

  14. Noge Sako says:

    Combine The chess victory with AlphaGo and the Watson victory.

    Combined, they are part of the largest news in human civilization. No doubt about it. In the relm of the discovery of fire, the wheel, atomic bombs, the printing press.

    And clearly, the start of something much much different.

    Before now, Chess, Go, and even Jeopardy were considered key cornerstones of human ability and achievement. GO, with its very simple rules, yet high skill gap, was perhaps considered the ultimate game I have read.
    Jeopardy, great in its own way.

    This news should be much larger then I am reading so far.

    • dsotm says:


      Before now, Chess, Go, and even Jeopardy were considered key cornerstones of human ability and achievement.

      They were ? The best I would have given them would probably be “reasonably good proxies for certain aspects of individual human’s intelligence”

      • merzbot says:

        Second. I think most people would put making groundbreaking art/music/etc or major scientific/mathematical/medical discoveries above any game. At least in the US, everyone knows about Einstein and The Beatles; I doubt most people could name more than one chess grandmaster.

        (Not to say AlphaGo’s victories aren’t important and incredibly exciting, of course.)

      • I don’t think any AI has yet written a tolerably good novel or a first rate poem.

        • Nita says:

          To be fair, most humans can’t do those things, either.

          • Most humans can’t play go at an expert level either. In both cases, the question is whether a computer is as good at something humans do as those humans who are very good at it.

        • onyomi says:

          I predict an AI will write a hit pop song well before it will write a great poem or novel. I can imagine an AI which is not yet smarter than humans in a general way which could yet have enough understanding of the elements that make a melody or rhythm appealing to the human brain to write a hit song.

          It’s conceivable to me that an AI could similarly analyze all the elements that make a popular story, but that would require a very high human language processing ability–one I wouldn’t expect to find in anything short of a more generalized AI–probably one smarter than us in just about everything.

          For a non-human mind to model our minds well enough to create an account of our subjective experiences which is both plausible and moving to us would probably require a much more sophisticated model of our minds than we ourselves have thus far.

          • Arbitrary_greay says:

            Computer generated music:
            https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/08/computers-that-compose/374916/
            https://singularityhub.com/2012/05/30/robotic-quintet-composes-and-plays-its-own-music/
            https://www.medalcomposer.com/

            More interestingly to me, computer-generated YA/Light novel style prose:
            https://cimness.tumblr.com/post/138106358892/roachpatrol-curlicuecal

            Considering how certain forms of fanfiction have their finger on the pulse of readers’ raw desire, in some ways it’s a better understanding of what makes us tick than the rare transcendent piece of art, which usually comes from the neuroatypical mind.

            So the real question now is, obviously, if a computer can mimic light novel prose better than Eliezer.

          • Arbitrary_greay says:

            Thinking back on this, part of the issue is that artistic value is contextual, with novelty playing a heavy role. The beautiful structures found within a Bach piece (such as the ability to be played backwards and forwards, and the backwards and forwards being counterpoints able to be played together) are impressive because they come from a human mind, for whom formulating such structures is difficult.

            The nonsense that comes out of contemporary classical music (Cage, Nancarrow, Stockhausen) is all about the novelty. No one had created music or explored the concepts they had before. Nancarrow, in particular, simply enacted mathematics concepts onto player piano sheets, such that regular musical notation and human players could not play them, and only the player piano could. This was hailed as revolutionary because it was on the forefront of computer music. Anyone today running a function to replicate such experiments on MIDI would be seen as just that, not as a genius composer, because they’re not ground-breaking.

            Modern art of the Pollock, Twombly, Ryman, Gonzales-Torres variety is also evaluated on novelty. It’s the fact that they took something formerly random/simple and did it intentionally, and ascribed meaning to it, that their works become considered art. Otherwise, yeah, anyone could install a fluorescent tube on a wall diagonally.

            In that sense, machines operating on non-human logic patterns increases their chances of producing works with that novelty/ground-breaking factor. Conversely, it decreases their chances of producing that lower mid-table type pop culture that arguably most represents what humans are moved by in aesthetics. Machines will be able to produce either the lowest denominator stuff, (via pattern-matching the existing stuff) or the highest of the high-brow.

      • Noge Sako says:

        Chess was once considered a great aspect of human intelligence and cognition. Something that many educated and refined people were expected to play.

        If it were not for a handheld device defeating the greatest players in the world, it would still be. Times change quickly.

      • Noge Sako says:

        Before Watson, the game Jeopardy, in popular media, was a very common trope of “The hidden genius , or offspring of one, shows extreme talent at this game”

        Is that the case anymore? Or has it been relegated to the ever moving goalposts of Artificial Intelligence capabilities.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Ever-moving goalposts, I’m afraid. But IMO there’s no point in a human being arguing that AI has reached equivalence with human intelligence; this is one case where the ad hominem argument is actually valid.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Eliezer comments: “Only 70,000 people watching this on YouTube? The human species really has tuned out to a surprising extent.”

      • Skef says:

        When the game is such that even the expert commentators aren’t sure how it’s going until the end, and the uninitiated may not ever know, or even understand the score, it’s sort of understandable that a lot of people would just wait for the result in the news.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Well, to be honest I didn’t watch the match either, since I can barely understand Go as it is and since its much more convenient to look up Eliezer’s Facebook page afterwards for the results and analysis.

          Now, if it had been an AI playing a game of Civilization IV against Sullla, on the other hand, I’d have been hanging on to every play.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I know pretty much nothing about Go. I watched the whole of Game 2 last night, which clocked in at around five hours, and was vastly entertained. the commentators do a good job both explaining the action to an uninformed audience and keeping interest up while the players are thinking about their moves. The game itself was extremely dramatic, in my opinion. The first hour or so gives you time to acclimate and get your head around what’s going on, and the first big surprise hits at around 1:15 or so.

            I would recommend it to anyone. Give it a shot if you’ve got some free time.

          • Protagoras says:

            Agree with FacelessCraven. The commentators were excellent. I also watched the first match. One thing that wasn’t under the commentators’ control; being a bit fuzzy on Go scoring, I kind of wish the games had gone to the end, so I could have it explained exactly how the positions and moves produced the points, rather than having the games end with resignations. But the commentators did a very good job of explaining what was going on up until the end, and as FacelessCraven said, things were very dramatic (probably helped by the fact that the games were close, as neither AlphaGo nor Lee Sedol made any big mistakes).

      • Dirdle says:

        Experience from the DotA2 e-sports scene suggests that viewership in China is usually massively under-represented by internet viewer count – the Great Firewall makes it impossible to get a good figure, but in that game, it’s typical to guess a true viewership of roughly double the displayed number, though that’s possibly an optimistic overestimate. Then again, the China:Everywhere else ratio is possibly higher for Go than DotA, and there are time-zone considerations to push that even further. Even so, it is still kinda low, I’d have expected a total viewership of around 500,000 for the first and last games at least. Oh well, it’s not really as big a deal as EY thinks.

      • Noge Sako says:

        Well, people in the US tend to not know much about GO.

        This marks a fundamental advance in algorithmic learning I believe. Just say, 4 years ago, I was reading predictions from rather intelligent people interested in AI of “Why it would take 20 years + for this to occur, barring an important software breakthrough”

      • Noge Sako says:

        > According to Google, 60 million Chinese watched the first game on Wednesday afternoon.

        Oh, maybe the western world didn’t pay much attention. But the eastern world certainly did.

      • Deiseach says:

        How many people know what Go is? How many people care? I have to admit “Oh, a game of two people” (or now, I suppose, one person and one machine) “turning over black and white stones on a board – how thrilling” would be my reaction.

        If you know enough about it to know the strategies, then I’m sure it’s very exciting to watch. But asking me to watch a game of Go is like asking me to watch a game of darts – great, they can use various techniques to get their maximum score, and there is certainly manual dexterity, hand-eye co-ordination and even mathematical skills involved, but it’s boring to me.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Deiseach – I still don’t understand all (or most!) of the rules, but picking up the general idea seemed pretty easy. It seemed less like watching darts, and more like watching Very Weird Chess; I guess the difference would be that every move had lots of complicated implications for other moves, which the commentators did a good job of explaining, so I felt like I was learning interesting things the whole time.

          Imagine sitting down and watching the international Fizbin championship. It was sorta like that.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      When they can do my laundry and go to the grocery store I will be amazed. These are surely milestones but I think they are mere low hanging fruit in reality.

      • TheAltarSublime says:

        Machines already do your laundry and getting amazon fully automated for processing purposes and flying your groceries to you with drones is not beyond the current capacity of what we could build today. (Whether it would be cost efficient is another question.)

        I think you need a better goal post (and Go was a goalpost a lot of people were using just a few months ago).

        • Anon says:

          I think by “do my laundry,” he meant a robot that can perform the entire process of doing laundry, including:
          1. Picking the laundry up off the floor or out of the dirty clothes basket
          2. Sorting the laundry into light and colored loads
          3. Carefully removing anything that shouldn’t be laundered in a regular washing machine
          4. Placing the laundry into the washer
          5. Putting the correct amount and type of soap in
          6. Removing the laundry from the washer when it is done
          7. Putting the laundry in the dryer (except things that shouldn’t be dried in a dryer)
          8. Removing the laundry from the dryer
          9. Folding or hanging the laundry and putting it away properly
          10. Matching the socks

          It’ll be incredibly impressive if/when we get robots that can really do our laundry, not just wash it (though washers are really great too).

        • Tom Scharf says:

          It is incredibly difficult for a robot to pickup a random item of clothing and fold it. I’ve seen some limited examples where they could make one fold a towel or a t-shirt.

          I think we are going to have to wait a couple thousand more years before one can fold a fitted sheet, and then maybe they can teach humans how to do it.

        • Tom Scharf says:

          My current robot that does shopping autonomously determines what items are running low, knows my preferences, drives to the store, finds all the times, pays for them, drive them back, and puts them away. I refer to this robot as “wife”.

          Unfortunately the laundry robot is referred to as “me” every other week.

          • smocc says:

            It’s amused me for some time to realize that least-effort, maybe max-effectiveness solution to fully general robotics is called “slavery” and has been known since forever.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My company’s chief salesman has been hearing, on frequent occasions, that Watson isn’t living up to the promise it showed on Jeopardy. I haven’t had a chance to fish out his experience deeply enough to go into deep technical detail here, but the rough sketch is that Watson is less about doing deep reasoning, and more about matching a lot of strings. Based on what I’m hearing, this means that, for example, Watson won’t tell you that a bald eagle can’t eat grass, even though it can tell you that it will eat rodents. It will tell you that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, but it can’t tell you whether someone on its observation deck can see the north side of the Louvre.

      I’m also getting the sense that Watson was able to play Jeopardy in part because Jeopardy content tends to be present all over the Internet, meaning Watson can gain a lot of confidence in its answers by reinforcing tenuous links with others. The catch is that this is less likely to work when trying to answer business questions for which data is sparse – which turns out to be most of the interesting business questions out there.

      Again, note that these are just my impressions, informed by our salesman’s direct talks with people in the field, and my years working in automated reasoning over heterogeneous sources. I have relatively little familiarity with the DeepQA architecture (“matching a lot of strings” is a pretty gross over-generalization); all I know for sure is that people have tried to apply Watson to their data problems and haven’t been able to get it working for anything beyond trivia contests.

      Which, admittedly, was still impressive.

  15. dsotm says:

    Whenever I read E.Y. (and others) talking about AI risk and trying to justify the eminence he places on it over other, seemingly more likely ex-risk scenarios, I can’t shake the feeling that he is actually using super-intelligent AI as a highly elaborate MacGuffin, believing the entire time that a ‘value alignment problem’ doesn’t require a super-intelligent AI at all to be relevant – an organization or a class of people in control of enough resources and power to dominate over the rest of humanity would do just as well and with this being much closer to our current reality any viable proposal for guaranteeing value alignment of a super-intelligent AI could be mapped to a ‘maximally benevolent system of government or societal code’.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Have you read Meditations on Moloch?

      Because that is basically the thesis of the piece. Superintelligent AI is the ultimate benevolent dictator, the Unincentivized Incentivizer. It keeps people’s incentives properly lined up so that they don’t cause conflict, while not itself being subject to corruption.

      • dsotm says:

        Yes of course, and in the essay Scott himself lists many forms of ex-risks stemming from moloch dynamics, some can be said to be already in progress and so can be argued to deserve a lot more attention and resources than the AI value-alignment problem.
        In the interview Eliezer basically says that AI risk deserves his primary attention (and other people’s donations) on the basis of failed AI alignment having 100% fatal, irreversible consequence – that is it being an existential risk in the full sense of therm – the end of the human species (as opposed to ‘merely’ the fall a civilisation and/or massive reduction in population) and yet his arguments do not sound really convincing to me when measured on his own scale of being convincing and I would probably feel more comfortable if he was either to just come out and say that he chooses to pursue the AI value alignment problem because he feels that this is where *he* can be most effective or that he believes that his work on this, while eventually useful to prevent the paperclip catastrophe could in the meantime be useful to increase value alignment of human-based agencies.

        • TheAltarSublime says:

          So create a timeline that you think is appropriate and start working on getting people to work on the first risk as soon as possible?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          As I see, the idea is that AI is both the worst potential problem and the best/only solution to all the other problems.

  16. AnonMD says:

    Scott–

    Do you draw strong conclusions about readmission penalizations from this: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1513024#t=articleDiscussion?

    1) This article makes literally no mention of mortality. There is prior evidence that suggests (particularly with heart failure) that hospitals with an increased rate of rehospitalization have a *lower* mortality rate. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/126/4/501.full
    2) Switching status from inpatient to obs is but one way to game hospitalization numbers. You can, for instance, send patients home from the ER who you might otherwise readmit.

    Some references that are worth review:
    “We found that 85% of hospitals did not show a correlation between readmission and mortality, i.e. their rates were not both high or both low. Furthermore, among hospitals that were outliers in at least one of the measures, almost a third were in the category of low or normal readmission rates with higher than expected mortality.”

    http://medicalresearch.com/author-interviews/hospital_readmissions_may_not_be_a_good_quality_indicator/9205/

    For patients discharged after heart attacks, the urgent return rate has actually risen slightly; the reported 1.8 percent fall in readmission is more than offset by a 0.7 percent increase in observation stays and a 1.2 percent increase in ED visits.

    http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2015/08/27/quality-improvement-become-good-at-cheating-and-you-never-need-to-become-good-at-anything-else/

    I’d be happy to drop additional references if there is any suggestion that this is being read.

    -AnonMD

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “We found that 85% of hospitals did not show a correlation between readmission and mortality, i.e. their rates were not both high or both low. Furthermore, among hospitals that were outliers in at least one of the measures, almost a third were in the category of low or normal readmission rates with higher than expected mortality.”

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but isn’t this what you would expect if the policy was slightly beneficial. In general you might not have the power to detect the relationship, and when you do, it’s in the expected direction in over two-thirds of cases. I agree it could be more spectacular, but that doesn’t sound damning.

      • AnonMD says:

        I guess that depends on whether the other outliers showed the opposite effect. My assumption was that the other outliers did not. My interpretation of that statement is that there is a sub population where low readmission rates correlate with *high* mortality. The first link above references a paper where low readmission rates for CHF correlated with higher mortality. I interpret these (and other data) as suggesting that, in some cases, patients are being left home or sent home from the ED inappropriately and dying as a result.

        Having said all that, there is other evidence that the financial consequences of readmission have driven patient centered interventions. For instance, I know of pilot programs where a team of hospitalists, nurses, social workers and case managers have a weekly video meeting with the staff of sub-acute rehabs to which they discharge patients in order to field questions and ensure care plans are being followed. I’ve not seen published data for its efficacy yet, but it seems good for care. The increased attention and financial resources dedicated to the post-acute patient can be partially attributed to the financial consequences of readmission. This is a good thing.

        If I were to guess, we should expect mixed results. Some hospitals and doctors will unethically game the system (sending patients home to die) and some will substantively improve care. Care will get better, but I wouldn’t expect zero adverse effects, at least in the short term.

  17. Maware says:

    For you AI Risk guys, Hacker News has some great commentary on AlphaGo beating a highly ranked Go player 2 games in a series of five:

    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11257928

    It’s important because Go traditionally was supposed to be an impossible thing for an AI to play well, as well as the commentary of how it played moves both extremely alien and yet humanlike as observed by the commentator.

  18. Eneasz says:

    That No Shit Noms article on the paleo diet seems to be laying the blame at the wrong feet. The ABC article that was linked quotes the researcher (Associate Professor Sof Andrikopoulos) directly, and have video of him speaking as hard evidence. He repeatedly claims that he was researching a Paleo diet, and that the Paleo diet is dangerous.

    I assume the journalist wrote the article believing that the researcher was conveying the facts in good faith. I’m not sure it’s the journalist’s fault that the researcher *lied to their faces, on tape*. Should they have done further research themselves? Probably. I dunno the standards of science journalists, but they don’t seem great. However it’s really disingenuous for No Shit Noms to say:

    “Okay, but what about the research itself? Well, it didn’t ever actually say it was about the paleo diet. ” and “This kind of reporting [is] making shit up for no adequate reason”

    Maybe the reporter should have done more work, but “directly reporting the exact words the researcher used” is far from “making shit up for no adequate reason”. Maybe the paper itself didn’t say “This is the paleo diet,” but the researcher assured the reporter that it was.

  19. The Predictor says:

    Calling it now: toxoplasmosis leads to mental illness in humans, a symptom of which is feminism. Feminist cat ownership will prove to be a vicious cycle.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Warning: I would like fewer comments like this. More comments like this may risk banning.

      • hlynkacg says:

        There seems to have been an uptick in the number of “pithy title as username” posts I’m wondering if they’re the same character.

      • Just as a side note: Thanks for this. More insight and specific examples into what is desired and what is banworthy without starting your interventions at Reign of Terror can only improve things.

        • JuanPeron says:

          I’d definitely like to second this. I don’t have any problem with the ban frequency or justifications around here, but warnings are a big part of fairness when bans aren’t based on clearly defined rules.

  20. Tom Scharf says:

    Trump

    My observations are that the media has gotten very shrill with his coverage, highly respected mainstream media sources are running articles comparing him to Hitler. I thought everyone knew by now that people stop reading when that happens. I sense a huge frustration, possibly desperation, in the media that they aren’t capable of taking down any person they please with obsessive negative coverage. I counted 11 references to him on the WP home page the other day.

    The other observation is the huge amount of psycho-analysis being performed on would be Trump supporters by left leaning academia, and the relative dearth of information from people who actually support Trump and “those people” telling us why. It’s as if they don’t trust people to actually know why they support Trump. Possibly they are concerned the answer isn’t going to be “because I am an under-educated racist”.

    There are a lot of parallels to the Obama 2008 coverage and Trump 2016 coverage, except in totally opposite directions if one is a right leaning voter. Unrelenting praise vs unrelenting criticism. Curiously my totally inexpert psycho-analysis is that this only confirms a Trump supporter’s distrust of the media. It can be viewed as blatant disrespect not for Trump, but for Trump supporters.

    And finally, the required standard disclaimer I feel compelled to write since this is a respectable forum, I am not a Trump supporter.

    • onyomi says:

      “Unrelenting praise vs unrelenting criticism.”

      I feel sometimes like the “unrelenting” is the key word. As with the old saw “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” I feel like there’s some gut-level, maybe unconscious level on which the media can only make you stronger through obsessive coverage, regardless of whether it’s negative or positive. If they really wanted to hurt Trump they’d ignore him, but that’s something they simply cannot do, because he’s so entertaining. I think that is also part of their frustration.

      Contrast the treatment of Trump to that of Ron Paul, whose realistic chances I think the media played no small part in crushing. They didn’t obsessively rail against him and how unacceptable he was, though they did make sure to serve up any mention of him with a heaping pile of disdain. Really, it would have been great for him had the media run story after story about “can nobody stop this maniac??” All people would take away is “Ron Paul is unstoppable and I like being on a winning team.” Instead they mostly ignored him and that worked quite well.

      It’s similar to how there is no such thing as irony in peoples’ takeaway of art. “Born in the USA,” is still played at patriotic campaign rallies, for example.

      • Adam says:

        Or, for that matter, Trump playing the Beatles’ “Revolution” at a rally, a song about not buying the bullshit promises of a demagogue promising revolution.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I don’t think you’re necessarily arguing this, but one thing I often see equivocated is two very different scenarios:

        a) The way the media is covering a certain candidate is influencing his popularity; and

        b) The media as a whole are “in the tank” for that candidate, or “out to get” him, and deliberately spinning the narrative to bring him success or failure.

        I don’t think they are organized, competent, or motivated enough to pull off b), in virtually every case. News organizations just want to make money by getting attention.

        They tell people what they want to hear. That may help some candidates and hurt others, but it’s not set by shadowy figures in a smoke-filled room. It’s set by Moloch / the Cathedral / the Patriarchy, i.e. by nobody.

      • Hlynkacg says:

        As an aside, I feel like the “irony” of “Born in the USA” is a bit oversold. Intellectually I understand that it’s intended as a protest song, but in practice the subject matter is typical of a blues or country song. I suspect that the “cultural experience” of Born in the USA varies greatly between individuals based on their relation to the song’s “Protaganist”.

        Experience 1; The protestor who sees the protagonist as a victim hears the song and thinks, Fuck War, Fuck the Government, Fuck the refinery man, etc…
        Experience 2; the Roughneck/working stiff who feels a kinship with the protagonist and derives a certain pride from having endured similar hardships and having been Born in the USA.
        Experience 3; people who don’t pay attention to the lyrics, cause they’re to busy rocking out to that opening riff.

        If your experience is closer to 2 or 3 playing that song at a patriotic rally or football game doesn’t seem weird or contradictory at all. If your experience is closer to 1, the 2s and 3s are either insane or clueless.

        • rmtodd says:

          That and Experience 4: people who think the song is vaguely patriotic because the words “Born in the USA” are about the only part of the vocals they can make out.

          I mean, seriously, Springsteen is almost as famous as Bob Dylan for writing songs that turn out to be really good songs when sung by someone who isn’t him. If Springsteen is annoyed about people not realizing “Born in the USA” is supposed to be a protest song, perhaps he should try to get someone else to do a cover version. Maybe Chris Hamlet Thompson could oblige him.

      • cbhacking says:

        “Born in the USA” really does make the US seem like a kind of amazingly bad place, in some ways, but it’s totally possible to channel that into a “they beat you and they tried to break you, and you rose above it all”. It’s a pretty un-patriotic song if you listen to the words by themselves, and I expect the irony you mention would be obvious to anybody actually fighting in Vietnam if politicians had been playing it then (and if American soldiers in Vietnam were watching rallies in the US, which for all I know they were). Of course, the song also talks about things like unemployment at home, so maybe not.

        In any case, people can have very different opinions of personal identity as American vs. the actions of America, and a political rally playing the song probably isn’t about the latter *at all*. Or, to put it differently, being an American must be pretty great, despite (or possibly *because of*) America having all these problems. The tone of the song does not inspire shame, it inspires uplifting feelings, so people are unified by having been through those struggles together and just don’t feel the shame that Americans did those things.

    • Ed says:

      I’ve heard some interviews with Trunp supporters and they haven’t been very enlightening. Someone saying he is voting for Trump because “he will make America great again” or “he tells it like it is” doesn’t really tell you anything. Maybe the media is cherry picking inarticulate supporters, but I doubt it.

        • Ed says:

          Cherry picking articulate Trump supporters has problems too. What the reader / listener / viewer wants is to understand the motivations of large groups of supporters (how ever many salient ones there are). Ideally you’d ask several at random and be enlightened. If that doesn’t work because those you pick won’t talk to you or their answers aren’t helpful, then going to the one guy who is happy to talk to you at length and depth doesn’t necessarily do you any more good than talking to those third party psychoanalizers.

          His take is interesting, but I’m not sure it solves the problem I was describing.

          • Randy M says:

            I think the same could be said about Obama mania in 2008. “Change we can believe in!” “Yes we can!” “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for!” was all vapid nonsense people projected their own ideas onto.

          • onyomi says:

            On the one hand, I think you’re right that most Trump supporters haven’t thought as carefully about the issues as Education Realist. On the other, I think it’s true that Trump couldn’t have gotten so much traction if there weren’t some bigger, deeper issues at play than just not being politically correct.

            One other related but more subtle thing I think is at play, though: based on my observations of my few Trump supporting Facebook friends, as well as discussions with my mom, who I’m pretty sure is a closet Trump supporter: many feel very burned by the ’12 election, which seemed very winnable. But they nominated this polished, sensible, frankly kind of prissy Mormon who seemed a little embarrassed of his constituency and who backpedalled when confronted.

            Thus, the “manly” unapologetic style aspect of Trump which, I agree with his critics, can look frighteningly similar to demagoguery or even fascism, is, I think, an integral part of his appeal. One of my Trump supporter friends decries non-Trump candidates in very gendered terms and implies they’d secretly rather lose. Hence, Trump’s choice to repeat “winner” all the time is extremely clever because it either tapped into or helped create this narrative: the other GOP candidates, including McCain (to whom he refused to pay the officially required war hero respect, note) and Romney are ineffectual, apologetic, wimpy, feminized losers. Get on board the Trump train and be a manly winner once more (is a big part of the message, I think).

            I should note that my mom and these facebook friends are all very culturally conservative, not in the sense of evangelical Christian, but in the sense of secretly thinking the 50s were kind of better than today.

          • Ed says:

            Onyomi, what you are saying sounds plausible to me. But if you put on a suit and said it on CNN you’d be one of those jerk talking heads speculating about the motivations of Trump voters that Tom decried (albeit maybe not left leaning).

            My point is that this is an unfair criticism. Man on the steet interviews are generally both uncomfortable and unenlightening.

          • onyomi says:

            “if you put on a suit and said it on CNN you’d be one of those jerk talking heads speculating about the motivations of Trump voters”

            But I’m reporting the words of actual, real-life Trump supporters. Yeah, I’m putting my spin on it, but I’m mostly just trying to expand on what they actually believe or believe they believe, not psychoanalyze them.

            A Trump supporter on my facebook literally said “the girly men in the GOP establishment have forgotten how to win. They’d rather lose to Hillary than shake things up.” This person also accused a Trump critic of being “low-T,” saying he should go to Thailand to complete his transformation. I’m not strawmanning! This is an actual acquaintance of mine whom I mostly sort of respect.

          • Nornagest says:

            That might say more about your acquaintances than about your average Trump supporter.

        • onyomi says:

          One interesting aspect of this question I think both sides largely seem to fail to take into account: as Bryan Caplan notes, increased diversity decreases support for the welfare state because people are less willing to have their taxes go to benefit people not “like them.” Note that most of the relatively successful, more extensive welfare states are in racially and culturally homogeneous places like Sweden.

          Thus, while Democrats tend to support immigration because it seems more compassionate and immigrants tend to vote Democrat, continually increasing the racial and cultural diversity of the US may, in the long run, greatly undermine support for the kind of system they envision.

          Conversely, conservatives tend to be anti-immigration because they like socio-cultural unity and consistency, but probably fail to realize that a more unified socio-cultural-political system tends to result in more support for centralization and welfare-type policies they typically don’t like.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            How many conservatives dislike welfare because they view the people it’d go to as ‘not like them’ in the first place? How many liberals support welfare because they would argue ‘people like them’ don’t really need any more money in the first place?

          • onyomi says:

            A lot, is my impression.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            The argument is about the level of support, and making sure the system is not exploited and only the truly needy get the help they deserve and they are properly incentivized to rejoin the work force.

            It is mostly a matter of a tug of war where both sides are pulling really hard to make sure the other side doesn’t move the rope, little do they know that if they both dropped the rope and walked away the result would be the same.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Questions lacking good answers aside, the policies in question might very well work the other way. Fewer welfare spending may well lead to less immigration, and more of it may well increase immigration. Even so, ethnicity alone is probably not enough of a reason people dislike paying welfare; the Scandinavian countries you mention aren’t only more homogenous in race/ethnicity than the US is, but also in social class and income in general. Certainly I don’t think the US upper classes view poor whites as ‘people like them’ at all.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            It is mostly a matter of a tug of war where both sides are pulling really hard to make sure the other side doesn’t move the rope, little do they know that if they both dropped the rope and walked away the result would be the same.

            They could be perfectly aware that both sides would be better off if they both dropped the rope and still not be able to do anything about it. “Coordination is hard” is one of the recurring themes of this blog.

          • nyccine says:

            It is mostly a matter of a tug of war where both sides are pulling really hard to make sure the other side doesn’t move the rope, little do they know that if they both dropped the rope and walked away the result would be the same.

            Doesn’t this run into the same problem as disarmament? How can one side “know” that the other side is actually going to drop the rope, instead of just continue to pull? Keep in mind there’s no repercussion for failing to live up to your end; if you let go, and the other guy keeps pulling, there’s not going to actually be a massive uprising to punish them for not playing fair, they just win.

          • Jiro says:

            So you have two opposing factors: More Mexicans reduces support for the welfare state because people don’t want to give freebies to Mexicans, but more Mexicans also increases support for the welfare state because Mexicans have a higher base level of support.

            Whether the Mexicans increase or reduce support depends on how these two factors balance, and it is *not* a foregone conclusion that the reduction wins.

            Furthermore, the very same Democrats who want to let the Mexicans in also will do their best to demonize anti-Mexican sentiment, and make it as difficult as possible to actually refuse to give money to people not like them, or even to argue so in public. Diversity isn’t going to reduce support for the welfare state when that reduction becomes taboo.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There seems to be an unspoken assumption that Mexicans will always be poor.

          • John Schilling says:

            There seems to be an unspoken assumption that Mexicans will always be poor.

            Rich or even solidly middle-class Mexicans have little reason to leave Mexico. Rich or solidly middle-class people whose ancestors were born south of the Rio Grande but themselves now live on the north side, are called “Americans”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            What about Mexicans who only became “rich or solidly middle class” after immigrating? Isn’t that typically the point of immigrating in the first place?

            If they go from net tax consumers, to net tax payers will they not also want a say in how their tax money is spent?

          • TheAltarSublime says:

            There are also all of the Mexican people north of the Rio Grande who lived in areas like Texas when it declared independence and later joined the United States 170 years ago. This is the “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” crowd. It can be argued that none of those people are immigrants.

          • John Schilling says:

            What about Mexicans who only became “rich or solidly middle class” after immigrating? Isn’t that typically the point of immigrating in the first place?

            Yes, but it almost always takes more than a generation – in part because class is mostly a thing that you get from your parents. Immigrants who make it big in their own lifetime sometimes can assimilate at the same time, but I think they are more likely to be seen – and see themselves – as rich immigrants.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ John Schilling

            What about their kids? I would argue that fundamental flaws of identity politics is the unwillingness or inability to make those sorts of distinctions.

            As far as they are concerned dislike of illegal immigration is racism because all illegal immigrants are Mexicans and all Mexicans are illegal immigrants. Even the ones who have decent jobs, pay their taxes and have been in the US for three generations.

          • John Schilling says:

            @hlynkacg:

            As far as they are concerned dislike of illegal immigration is racism because all illegal immigrants are Mexicans and all Mexicans are illegal immigrants. Even the ones who have decent jobs, pay their taxes and have been in the US for three generations.

            I will note in passing that Marco Rubio is the son of an illegal immigrant who has a decent job and pays his taxes, and while his bid for supreme leadership of the “dislike of illegal immigration” political faction is faltering, it doesn’t seem to be due to any broad perception of him as less than fully American.

            More generally, the United States always has and I believe still does offer cultural “Real American(tm)” status to any US citizen who has a solidly middle-class (not working-class or “lower middle class”) career, speaks fluent English, and doesn’t live in an immigrant subculture. I think you are flat-out wrong that Red Tribe’s nativist exclusionism generally extends to the successful grandchildren of illegal immigrants.

            It covers most children of illegal immigrants, but most children of illegal immigrants are still working class members of an immigrant subculture.

      • suntzuanime says:

        The reason many Trump supporters may be circumspect is that they suspect (not unreasonably) that the interviewer is hostile and anything they say can and will be used against them in the court of public opinion.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        I imagine interviewing a bunch of Sander’s supporters will result in the same thing. College should be free say college students.

        My point is the assumption of validity for people’s views is handed out like candy for some candidates and seen as an indictment of intelligence with others. This is playground stuff.

        Half of the US electorate has below average intelligence is my understanding.
        If uneducated minorities support a candidate, they are expressing a valid frustration with systemic racism that has locked them out, if the white working class expresses a similar sounding frustration, they are knuckle dragging low information voters who are being exploited by a con man, never mind the guy screaming about socialist revolutions as the answer.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          You’re not wrong, just as in some other circles frustrated idealists supporting a candidate means he must be screaming about socialist revolutions, whereas the white working class supporting a candidate is totally awesome because it pisses off stuffy hipster journalists and talking heads.

        • Samedi says:

          Interestingly Trump also appears to poll well with people with graduate degrees. The media likes to talk about his popularity with less educated people but there is something about his candidacy that also appeals to the very well-educated. For my part I admit that the idea of someone upsetting the cozy, beltway apple cart is not unappealing.

      • Noge Sako says:

        I keep reading

        “Its the immigration idiot” and some variant of that.

        He has cornered large crowds in America that other politicians tend to be unwilling to touch, while also giving a few intelligent statements. Also, before the year 2000, most of his published statements on politics line up with that of the democrats, perhaps sans environmentalism. That tends to give left leaning moderates with good memory less dislike of trump, making the belief that he is simply stating populist statements.

        1. The Jenny McCarthy crowd. Perhaps if Trump is elected, with the president lending credence to the “Vaccines and Autism” idea, a new variant of McCarthyism will result. Just like the 1950’s and 40’s, with Polio!

        2.That strange…disavow on CNN. I could see other canidates “strongly angered” at even the suggestion of such a thing.

        3. The crowd that believes that insulting the dearest held identity of 1 billion people will play out well in blunt statements. Even Bill o Reilly believes trumps current statements are perhaps…unlikely to increase stability in the middle east.

        4. Trump was the “Leader” in the news of calling for Obama’s birth certificate. That gives him huuge credence in the crowd of republicans who believed it was an outright scam?

        Still though, I can’t say I disagree with more stringent immigration rules in transition to the current knowledge-based economy, with a generalistic strengthening of various pathways of entrance into the country. Many European countries are starting to only allow college graduates entry. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s on the table for national debates.

      • Walter says:

        I’m a Trump supporter. I know a bunch of other ones. Here is the Great Secret.

        He holds in contempt those who hold us in contempt.

        Everything else pales to this. He can change his positions every day, twice a day. His life story may be bogus, may change constantly. He may be revealed to be the zodiac killer. Whatever.

        When the news sneers down its nose at us he doesn’t say that they are wrong, he says that they are stupid. We are not on the bottom, the way he tells it, they are. Usually the script is that they call bigotry and we grovel and justify. He flips it around and calls them whiners. They call us ignorant and we say that really deep in our hearts we are smart. With Trump they call him ignorant and he says that they are the ones who are dumb.

        In every case, they attack and he ignores it and attacks their right to attack. They say that wanting people not to break our immigration laws is evil. He doesn’t justify or defend, he says the wall just got 10 feet higher, and he’s going to make you pay for it.

        Trump treats the left like the left treats us.

        • onyomi says:

          “Usually the script is that they call bigotry and we grovel and justify…
          In every case, they attack and he ignores it and attacks their right to attack… He doesn’t justify or defend… Trump treats the left like the left treats us.”

          In terms of style, I do think this is key. GOP and GOP-inclined voters have been desperate for someone who would defend us unapologetically. The “GOP politician accidentally says what his constituency really thinks, press crucifies him, he grovels and apologizes” pattern had gotten really old.

        • cbhacking says:

          I’m trying to think of a nice way to say this, but… that pattern-matches really hard to the behavior I remember of the most “successful” of elementary school children taunts. Attacking people is much easier than attacking their claims, and attacking in general signals higher status than defending. That behavior makes sense if your goal is popularity, status, power, and followers, but it’s a *terrible* way to actually solve problems unless every single solution boils down to “I have the objectively best plan; get out of my way and fall into line”. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Elon Musk together probably aren’t right enough to make that the best system (though I suppose it’s plausibly better than what we have now), and every one of them has done much better in business than Trump has, so *that* isn’t the determining criterion either.

          While sincerely trying to avoid begging the question, I’m confused by what message I’m supposed to take away from this comment.

          Are you claiming that this is actually a good quality in a leader of a national superpower?

          Are you claiming that you support him for emotional reasons, rather than policy ones?

          Are you claiming that this behavior is something we need more of in politics?

          There are multitudes of other things you could be claiming; I don’t mean to limit your choices here. I also may have entirely misunderstood what you’re saying. Still… this would be a *great* explanation of Trump’s popularity, written by somebody who really understands the feelings of the general Republican voter, but you use the first person.

          I don’t get that. I’d be embarrassed as hell to admit to being influenced positively by that kind of behavior. I’d be ashamed to be associated with somebody who thought status was more important than correctness.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You appear to be claiming that an attacking attackers is undesirable behavior, but leaving out consideration of whether it’s undesirable behavior to be one of aforesaid attackers.

          • I don’t get that. I’d be embarrassed as hell to admit to being influenced positively by that kind of behavior. I’d be ashamed to be associated with somebody who thought status was more important than correctness.

            How embarrassed would you be to support a politician who is embarrassed by you?

            This is politics. Politics is a resolution of status games across the entire body politic (in peaceful fashion). It’s lawyers competing against dentists competing against factory workers competing against nurses to see who has the highest status and the most support, and the winner gets to set the policy agenda.

            Status fights are non-separable from political fights.

            So yes, having a leader willing to stick up for the NASCAR dads during status fights is important.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @cbhacking – I’m not onyomi, but…

            “Are you claiming that this is actually a good quality in a leader of a national superpower?”

            nope.

            “Are you claiming that you support him for emotional reasons, rather than policy ones?”

            Yeah, pretty much. I’m fairly doubtful that much of Trump’s support comes from people who have rationally assessed his stated policies, believe he means them, and think they are the best path forward.

            “Are you claiming that this behavior is something we need more of in politics?”

            Defect/defect is pretty shitty, but it’s better than cooperating while the other prisoner defects…

            “I’d be embarrassed as hell to admit to being influenced positively by that kind of behavior. I’d be ashamed to be associated with somebody who thought status was more important than correctness.”

            Status determines who gets political power. In a lot of ways, status IS political power. You don’t have to like it, but that does actually appear to be the world we live in. Being correct is pretty cold comfort when the people who are wrong have grabbed all the power and are gleefully ruining everything. Everyone thinks their tribe is right and the other tribe is wrong, but Red Tribe has actually been losing the status fight pretty consistently, so its members are getting desperate.

          • Walter says:

            “There are multitudes of other things you could be claiming; I don’t mean to limit your choices here. I also may have entirely misunderstood what you’re saying. Still… this would be a *great* explanation of Trump’s popularity, written by somebody who really understands the feelings of the general Republican voter, but you use the first person.” -cbhacking

            I am explaining Trump’s popularity. Thanks for praising the explanation. I thought people might be curious, can’t recall exactly what I read that made me think that. Somewhere up thread.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The media nearly always cherry-picks people for man-in-the-street interviews.

    • Kevin C. says:

      I’ve been following Rod Dreher’s voluminous commentary on the Trump phenomenon. And thinking of some comments there, I’ve developed the following idea/analysis. Specifically, there’s what Dreher’s commenters have come to refer to in shorthand as the white working class (WWC), basically Murray’s “Fishtown”. The WWC have been poorly served by Republican establishment economic policies, and would actually prefer those like Sanders on these issues, but are turned away by the Blue Tribe’s hostility to their deeply Red Tribe values (to paraphrase one commenter, one of the few things poor people have, and are loath to lose, is their culture, the only source of dignity they have left). Thus, these people are desparate for any representation.

      Consider a two-axis, four-quadrant model, with Red Tribe vs. Blue Tribe culture on one axis and low-redistribution GOP establishment vs higher-redistribution Sanders “socialist” economics on the other. The Red-low quadrant is represented by the GOP establishment. The Blue-high have Sanders and similar. The Blue-low seem, depending on where in the quadrant, to have either moderate, centrist Democrats, or else “libertarian-ish” candidates. But that Red-high quadrant has been massively underserved until Trump (and I’d say still fairly underserved with Trump, but that’s just my opinion). Why the gap?

      And then I recalled some other comments, including one argument as to why OWS lost focus from the economic issues in favor of the spectrum of Blue Tribe causes, turning off any potential WWC support. Consider what might be called the “historic American nation”, more commonly identified with the Red Tribe than the Blue, and Nydwracu’s description, in dicussing the Starbucks holiday cups issue on the SSC subreddit, of the common cultural basis of that group as “Germanic Christianity”. Thus, any group that tends toward the Red end of the spectrum is going to be perceived as at least implicitly white and Christian. And so what happens when you combine (cultural) “nationalism” for that “nation” with Bernie Sanders-style “socialism”? Pro-“core” (and thus implicitly white) nationalism + socialism = ?

      TL;DR, the WWC is desperately underserved politically, because anyone who begins to appeal to both their cultural and economic interests pattern-matches as Fascist, and is thus anathema.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        TL;DR, the WWC is desperately underserved politically, because anyone who begins to appeal to both their cultural and economic interests pattern-matches as Fascist, and is thus anathema.

        Yes, the Left abandoned white poor in 1968, and the only American Right within the Overton Window is liberalism with Christian dressing on the side.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        It’s hard for the WWC to believe that the blue tribe is on their side. Being poor and white doesn’t qualify for official victimhood according to progressive rules. The left has overplayed the racism card and it has handed the WWC back to the right on a silver platter, if the right was smart enough to act on it, ha ha. Whether by accident or through actual insight, Trump has acted on it rather successfully.

        I would agree that there is validity to the fact that the WWC feels nobody is representing them, and their culture is disrespected by both parties. When I see a candidate show up at a NASCAR race maybe I will change my mind, ha ha.

        • Sastan says:

          It’s hard for the WWC to believe that the blues are on their side because they are by definition not. The fear of and hatred toward non-elite whites is the very glue of the blue tribe. Listen to their discussions of hicks, rednecks and flyovers sometime. Everyone is pretty sensitive to when other people hate them, oversensitive, actually. So it’s not hard to detect when the entire political, entertainment and media complex is dedicated to slagging you off constantly.

          A lot of these people like Bernie on policy. I know many of them. And I know he lost about half his poor white fan base on my FB feed when he said white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor. The blue need to disparage poor whites will turn them to Trump. It has already happened.

          • nil says:

            Agreed. Although for the sake of balance, I’d note that the precise opposite is also true. Every hot take that suggests the Trump’s trade policy might attract black voters, or that Bernie voters will stay home if the election is Trump v. HRC, makes the mistake of thinking that an election with Trump in it will be anything other than a straight demarcation of tribal loyalty. Every third thing the man says oozes with contempt for Blues like myself, and for good reason–that open contempt for Blue norms is ninety percent of the reason that a filthy rich New Yorker with a boardroom aesthetic has captured so many votes in a party and tribe oriented around the suburbs, the sticks and the south. Even if he tries some kind of general election pivot (which I doubt) we will not forget it.

          • onyomi says:

            “Blues like myself”

            Blues like yourself. But what about blue collar blues?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Onyomi
            But what about blue collar blues?

            Sounds like a country western song.

          • nil says:

            “Blues like yourself. But what about blue collar blues?”

            Pretty much the same, at least to the extent that we’re talking about working-class Blues rather than specifically blue-collar Blues, and recognize that the median working-class Blue isn’t a union member in a hardhat, but rather an urban service sector worker. The sneering about how we’re all mindlessly eggheaded politically correct cuckold pussies won’t bother them as much, but there is a huge and much-beloved-by-its-practitioners strain of Red tribe discourse that is directly insulting to the Blue working class. Without even getting into the racial stuff (which is definitely also a part of the story where it applies), if you’ve seen a meme about how you can get free college by going to the military, or how absurd fast food workers are to want to be paid $12+, or a pretty much any picture of Kermit the Frog sipping tea, then you’ve seen it. I don’t know how much Trump has directly invoked that discourse, but then you also haven’t seen HRC or Bernie talking about how hilariously dumb hicks are. The discourse is out there, and the Blue working class definitely knows about it, and anyone who signals Red as hard as Trump does will incorporate it by proxy.

          • onyomi says:

            “signals Red as hard as Trump”

            See I actually don’t think Trump signals “red” very hard at all. Cruz signals red: Texas, Evangelical, son of a preacher, etc.

            Trump is a pretty secular New Yorker. He signals “labor class” of the sort discussed in the recent thread. And that class is redder than blue but also has a pretty big blue component in rust belt, etc.

            And when was the last time you heard Trump complaining about lazy fast food workers, welfare queens, high minimum wage, “inner city men,” the 47% and all that other stuff that hounded Romney and Ryan? In many ways he is their polar opposite, so far as a candidate for the same party can be.

            A Trump critic would say he’s gotten around this by vilifying immigrants instead. Maybe so. Whether fair or not, it seems to be a much better political strategy, first and foremost because you’re vilifying people who can’t vote.

          • nil says:

            I think he’s signalled red by signalling anti-blue as hard as he possibly can (Ignignokt-style). Reasonable minds can differ as to whether or not that counts, but certainly for the purposes of “provoking anger and resentment in Blue people” it’s the same difference. And, certainly, Trump doesn’t check every traditional Red box–but I think that’s actually a huge source of his appeal. For a long time, people talked about Red/Blue culture indirectly through references to religion, to ideology, etc. For a long time, I’d say, there was nothing wrong with that, because religion and ideology actually were more important.

            But the genius of Trump is to recognize that ongoing cultural sorting has developed to a point where he can make a naked appeal to culture. Don’t go to church all the time, don’t toe the NRO line ideologically? Trump says, that doesn’t matter, because neither do I–but I talk like you, think like you, and act like you in all of the subtle and ineffable ways that constitute culture, while rejecting the alternative far more completely than the Jebs and Rubios, who ultimately remain white collar professionals who live in major cities and as such maintain at least a passing fealty to the (essentially Blue) norms of that milieu.

            And, like I said–so long as he’s the herald of the birth of the Red Nation, it doesn’t matter whether he’s personally insulted any waitresses (even making the unlikely assumption that he never did in the past). He brings all that baggage with him whether or not he wants to.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            I think the idea that Trump signals anti-Blue instead of Red is probably the most important thing here. Very few people are perfectly Red, and the people who they feel lied to by signal Red purity very hard. Trump is able to still appeal to the base by signalling anti-Blue but by not signalling Red he shows that he’s not bought into the establishment, which gives him credibility. It also gives him leeway to push forward support for policies that aren’t traditionally Red but are still loved by the Red base such as some entitlements.

            What keeps Reds together is in many ways a fear of Blue. They see their lifestyle slipping away and the media crashing down on what they see as right and proper. A Red identity is only useful to them insomuch that it stops Blue. Signalling Red sure as shit hasn’t been stopping Blue, but here’s someone who is just saying they’ll do what it takes to erase the Blue menace. That’s something they can get behind!

          • onyomi says:

            But the point is he’s not heralding birth of “Red Nation,” he’s heralding birth of “Nativist Labor Nation,” which draws from both Red and Blue Tribes, if maybe more heavily from Red. He doesn’t signal “anti-Blue,” he signals “anti-gentry” and “anti-elite.”

            He strikes me as one of the most genuinely populist leaders (for good and ill) we’ve had in a long time: the real shift he’s signalling may be a rift in the lower class-gentry vs. labor-elite alliance that has so dominated the past several decades. He may be crafting a new lower class-labor coalition that brings together places like PA and AL against places like MA and CA.

            Also, re. his negativity, I have to say I don’t really see it. He weirdly runs a very positive campaign with respect to actual American voters of all stripes at the same time as he lambastes politicians and the press, whom most Americans of all stripes kind of hate at this point. I don’t even hear him complaining all that much about gentry Americans, who will never vote for him anyway, except insofar as they are part of the press or political wonk establishment.

            Politicians always say they’ll “stand up” to the Washington establishment, but they never really do. Maybe Trump won’t either, but the way he says nice things about American voters while lambasting their various bugaboos (Washington insiders, the press, Islamic terrorists, and illegal immigrants) makes it seem like he might actually do so, as does his ability to self-fund.

            Notice how nearly ALL the candidates with a chance of winning this go round other than HRC, whose “turn” it was, try to project a “straight-talking,” tough image: Trump is most obvious, but people were desperate for Christie to run in ’12, and the there’s famously caustic Cruz. And even Bernie is pretty caustic.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s hard for the WWC to believe that the blues are on their side because they are by definition not. The fear of and hatred toward non-elite whites is the very glue of the blue tribe.

            This.

            The White Working Class is mostly a subset of Red Tribe that votes Democratic. Blue Tribe values the WWC as a source of reliable votes for Blue politicians, but otherwise confines them to the purple-ish border zones. If you insist on using “Red Tribe” as a synonym for Republican and “Blue Tribe” for Democrat, you’ll miss this – which is a weakness of those labels as they are generally used here. They are supposed to be cultural labels, not partisan political ones.

            Similarly, w/re “Blue Collar Blues” – what’s your case for them being Blues, aside from their usually voting for Democrats.

          • nil says:

            An ideology, a political party, and even “Tribes” as they’re understood in these circles are limited around ideological, religious, and class lines. A culture can be similarly bounded. But if a culture lasts long enough and feels sufficiently separate, it stops being just a culture and becomes a nation–and a nation is a house with rooms for many ideologies and religions. Trump is telling the electorate that you don’t have to be Christian or a movement conservative to be Red, and it’s giving a level of support that will continue to surprise everyone who thinks voters are truly deciding their positions based on the size of the government or the minimum wage–but my prediction is that he will hit a ceiling, and he’ll hit it hard, because picking up all the politically moderate and nonreligious Reds doesn’t mean you’ll ever pick up the Blues, and we’re still half the country.

          • nil says:

            “But the point is he’s not heralding birth of “Red Nation,” he’s heralding birth of “Nativist Labor Nation,” which draws from both Red and Blue Tribes, if maybe more heavily from Red. He doesn’t signal “anti-Blue,” he signals “anti-gentry” and “anti-elite.””

            We’ll just have to agree to disagree, because to me it’s very clear that he has absolutely zero appeal to anyone Blue, regardless of class or material position. I have a Facebook feed with Blue working-class SATMs from my tiny rural home-town, Blue linecooks in medium-sized cities, Blue Walmart employees in big cities, and, of course, the full spectrum of college and grad-school educated Blues working in artistic, professional, and technical fields–and Trump inspires nothing more or less than total fear and loathing in every last one of them (of us).

          • onyomi says:

            “Similarly, w/re “Blue Collar Blues” – what’s your case for them being Blues, aside from their usually voting for Democrats.”

            They really kind of aren’t, though I think politics can bind people together in what are actually kind of unnatural alliances, such that I know some blue collar rust belt people who simultaneously make fun of Southern Republicans for being stupid, intolerant rubes yet also post stuff about how everyone needs to learn to speak proper English in school (as opposed to Spanish).

            If we define “Red” as “poor-labor” culture and “Blue” as “elite-gentry” culture, then both parties have created an uneasy alliance between two halves of the more natural “tribal” affinities: witness Rockefeller Republicans’ unease with Evangelicals. (we might say that Rockefeller/Bloomberg Republicans are the opposite of blue collar Trump supporters who usually vote Democrat: culturally Blue people who vote for the GOP).

            So maybe what Trump is crafting is a “big tent” Red tribe coalition that includes a lot of Red tribers who have voted Dem since FDR even as it may alienate some Rockefeller Repubs.

            What’s weird about that is, on this interpretation, that’s sort of what Bernie is trying to create too. But his popularity with gentry is suspect and the US Red Tribe is still afraid of anything called “socialism.” Though Dems like to think of themselves as fighting for the little guy, the GOP is really the more natural populist party right now.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Similarly, w/re “Blue Collar Blues” – what’s your case for them being Blues, aside from their usually voting for Democrats.

            Nothing. My experience growing up working class on the west coast has been that blue collar and white-collar-without-a-degree white Americans are pretty much a different ethnic group from the university-educated middle class. They speak two different dialects, which I’ll call Midwestern/Southern American English and Social Justice English. These classes see the Blues as looking down on anyone who doesn’t speak with their shibboleths, while we’re plain-speaking. There’s some truth to that, as most Red whites, like African-Americans, are Christians divided among many sects each with different in-group code, while the Blues are united by the Established Church (university Leftism).

          • stillnotking says:

            I think the Trump boosters are being way too optimistic about his heralding the birth of a Red Nation. If anything, he heralds the death of a coalition. He’s splitting the nationalists from the conservatives (cultural and economic — he’s not very conservative on either axis) in a way that could lead the GOP into the political wilderness for at least a decade. If he gets stomped in this election, which IMO is overwhelmingly likely, the movement conservatives will feel vindicated while the populists feel betrayed. They’re not likely to accept a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio as the cure for Republican woes next time around. Where does the party go from there? What kind of compromise candidates will be left?

            My response to those who say Trump is the next Reagan is that he’d better be, or the GOP is in a shitload of trouble. They’re really rolling the dice this year.

          • “contempt for Blues like myself”

            Which raises a question to which I don’t know the answer.

            How much of the electorate fits the “blues like myself” pattern?

            The Democratic coalition is a large fraction of the electorate, but if you reduced it to left wing college professors and people who aren’t college professors but feel like they are, and perhaps a few other elite categories, defined by what they do and what they read and what they talk about, how much is left?

            I don’t, of course, know what nil does or reads or talks about, so I may be misreading him. But I think the discussion here tends to exaggerate how much of the population fits in the clearly marked categories.

          • nil says:

            @David Friedman

            I think this is an important question.

            Certainly, if you limit it to Blues who are similar to me in terms of basic demographics and background (I’m a professional from a rural part of a Blue state in a dogooder subfield) you’re talking about a very small amount of people. Those who dislike Blue culture seem to prefer to talk about those who are just like me as if we constitute the whole culture.

            But that’s really, really wrong, in my opinion. Since I came from such a rural area, I know lots of people who didn’t go to college and work in very unglamorous fields who are undeniably Blue. They support gay marriage and oppose racism; they never go to church; they listen to hipster music, or EDM, or bluegrass (most tellingly, imo–a genre that is objectively basically just country music with more fiddles but with a completely different set of cultural signifiers). They don’t drive trucks unless they have to, they don’t watch NASCAR; if they’re parents they only have a couple kids and aren’t attracted to Red-style natalism; they’re into exotic food and travel as much as they can; they smoke pot; they believe in climate change; some of them hunt, but they’re not very likely to wear camo at any other time. They’re my friends, and when I go back to visit the fact that I make a little more money and went to a lot more school doesn’t prevent us from talking about shared media, shared values, and all-in-all being on the same wavelength.

            And there’s no need to rely on my anecdotes. There’s undeniably a lot Blue culture out there, and it has a genuine mass viewership. It’s not a small group of brahmins that made Modern Family and Big Bang Theory two of the top rated shows on television. The 24 million Facebook subscribers to I Fucking Love Science and the 5 million subscribers to The Best of Tumblr can’t be explained by doctors and lawyers. 19 million people went to see Straight Out Of Compton. Look at the top 10 albums of 2015 and tell me which one is more Red than Blue? Adele and Swift, maaybe could qualify as purple, but the Weeknd? Drake? Meghan Trainor? Fetty Wap?

            If folks want to pretend that’s all top down manipulation by elites, they’re free to do so, but I’m pretty sure they’re telling themselves comfortable lies. I’m also aware that by listing out a bunch of media like that, I’m opening the floor to anyone who quibbles with a particular attribution–but the point isn’t in the examples, it’s in the fact that all of this Blue-tinged cultural content wouldn’t keep getting made if no one without a postgraduate degree was buying it. The fact is that we live in a country where nearly sixty million people voted to re-elect Obama. The Blue Tribe is more than just urban elites and their values–it’s millions of regular people who like those values, share them, and base their identities in no small part on them.

          • onyomi says:

            “The Blue Tribe is more than just urban elites and their values–it’s millions of regular people who like those values, share them, and base their identities in no small part on them.”

            Well this gets to my question about Europe in the thread on class. Western Europe weirdly seems to have very little labor class any more. Of course there are lots of people doing manual labor jobs, but there aren’t many people who identify with that as a special cultural identity. To stereotype, Europe feels like it’s populated by professors and people who would be professors if they were smarter.

            Put another way, from a US perspective, Western Europe, perhaps because it is, in fact, more urban, feels like it has only blue collar Blues and white collar Blues, but few actual Reds (and yes this all sounds weird from a Cold War perspective).

            This also gets to my previously expressed hatred of “I Fucking Love Science”: to me it represents a kind of wanabee elitism that just repulses me on some level. Maybe as a young professor myself, it’s too close to me and I have an urge to differentiate myself from it.

            So Blue Tribe is ultimately a tribe of urban, elite values and interests, even though a not insignificant number of the people holding those values don’t live in cities and don’t have elite jobs or incomes. And this is why I said “blue collar blues,” as opposed to just “reds who vote for Democrats.” I do think that “blue collar blues” exist.

            This also gets to the question of Trump v Sanders as opposed to Trump v Clinton. I think an important factor not to overlook is that, on further consideration, improbable as it may seem, I’m not sure all Sanders supporters will vote for Hillary over Trump.

            In 2012, it was a white collar Blue Triber (Obama) vs. a white collar Red Triber (Romney). For a blue collar Blue, this is a no-brainer: go with the fellow Blue.

            But if it’s Trump v. Clinton it will be, in effect, a blue collar Red versus a white collar Blue. The question then is: do blue collar Blues vote with their tribe or their collar?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I guess this place might look like some kind of college-ish wet dream from America’s point of view, but the people voting for Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders whilst attending Pegida rallies haven’t just showed up straight out of nowhere. Given that our nations are generally less inequal than the US is though, and tend to have more unifying influences culturally, the problem might seem less severe than it does in America. I suspect that if the EU getting underway should ever become a thing, pray that it will be so, you’ll see much, much more of these sorts of people making themselves heard than they already are.

          • onyomi says:

            “I guess this place might look like some kind of college-ish wet dream from America’s point of view, but the people voting for Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders whilst attending Pegida rallies haven’t just showed up straight out of nowhere”

            I’m not sure what a “college-ish wet dream” would entail, but I am aware of the existence of Le Pen, Golden Dawn, etc.

            From a US perspective their cultural power still seems rather shallow, weak, and recent, especially in relation to what they are dealing with. Like, if you took US Red Tribe people and magically put them in Greece with Syrian refugees and debt crises, etc. you’d probably get an even strong reaction than anything currently happening.

          • @nil:

            The question here is how many of the people who share the elements of blue culture that you list feel as though Trump is going out of his way to attack them.

            But since you got onto the subject of blue culture and my daughter and I were just discussing it, do you agree with the following (non-political) observations:

            What red parents do wrong is claim that you shouldn’t contradict your elders–that hierarchy trumps truth.

            What blue parents do wrong is to wrap their kids in cotton wool–be unreasonably protective, thus greatly limiting their kids’ opportunity to do things and learn things.

            What bad blue parents do is to impose no discipline on their kids, letting them run around other people’s houses endangering the furniture.

            What bad red parents due is to impose discipline with orders to be obeyed but no need for justification.

            If cooking a meal for a bunch of blues, you are expected to pay attention to a wide range of food constraints–not just avoiding lethal allergens but catering to vegetarians, and vegans, and people who have decided that maybe they should try a gluten free diet.

            If cooking for a bunch of reds, you avoid lethal allergens if you know about them but for anything else people are expected to eat those parts of what you provide that fit their requirements, not to make a fuss or expect to be catered to.

            Blue parents are proud of how few children they have, red parents of how many.

            Criticizing the behavior of someone else’s children is permissable in red culture, criticizing the existence of other people’s children, being in general anti-child, is permissable only in blue culture.

            Finally, consider a guaranteed minimum income not from the standpoint of whether it does or doesn’t work but whether the world it creates is attractive. From the red tribe point of view, there is something fundamentally wrong with someone living entirely on other people, doing nothing productive himself.

            Doing something productive doesn’t have to mean earning money–volunteering to teach Sunday school, making jam, bringing cookies to a PTA meeting count. But a life that consists simply of generating utility for yourself at the expense of others, even if those others can easily afford it, feels wrong.

            Not true, I think, for blue tribe.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The more moderate and left parties in Europe are very afraid of these people, actually, afraid enough that they basically up and begged Turkey to take back any Syrians it could, handed them a couple billion euros and even promised them to hasten their road to EU membership, Erdogan’s rapidly increasing autoritarianism nonwithstanding. As Bismarck kicked in social security in Germany to make sure the common man wouldn’t go communist, and the English did the same because there were great panics over the poor perhaps poisoning the water supply or other such things, the establishment here feels sufficiently threatened that the actual political power reflected in such parties needn’t be very large.

            Also, ‘we’d get a stronger reaction in America’ seems like a rather bad metric to use. Everything gets a stronger reaction in America; I asked a question about people here opposing unions once and a good number of people here pointed out they were just too damn violent, which left me rather puzzled. If lower class frustration here looks more benign I assume that is because Europe seems generally less violent of a place than the US is, not because of frustration being less widespread/pronounced/seething.

            You know, probably.

          • nil says:

            @David Friedman I pretty much agree with every one of those, and the only quibbles are either probably proving the point (i.e., I think the complaint about overly coddled Blue children is overwrought–but then I would, wouldn’t I?) or trivial (if you’re talking about food, the “foodie” aspect of Blue culture is worth mentioning).

            I also think you’re right to drill down on the parenting stuff, probably the most fundamental and distinct difference (only competition would be masculinity)

          • @Nil:

            Thanks. I’m curious if others agree, and if you or others can point to other non-political differences.

            I may revive the question the next time there is an open thread.

            It came up in a discussion with my daughter about in what ways she does or doesn’t identify with blue tribe culture. Those were all ways in which she doesn’t–although for some of them she doesn’t identify with red tribe culture either. Pretty much the same is true for me.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            “I Fucking Love Science”

            So the left owns “science”? Perhaps the lefts own academia in general, but in my experience the private sector is a totally different story. The sorting here is more based on whether the government pays your salary.

            The tech sector tends to be more libertarian than anything else from my experience. The environmental and the social sciences have become so hopelessly corrupted by ideology that you must demonstrate blue cred to even get in the door. In surveys on social scientists (social scientists!) many of them say they will discriminate in hiring against anyone who demonstrates red tribe affiliation. So it’s very possible the causation is reversed in some science fields.

            Realistically science is itself a culture that has much stronger ties than red or blue tribe for most people. Science first, ideology second.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Tom Scharf says: So the left owns “science”?

            Err no, “I fucking love science” is the exact opposite of what you describe which is why it sticks in some people’s craw.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            You always hurt the one you fucking love.

          • nil says:

            @Tom Scharf

            First, a huge part of what I’m trying to say here is that “left” isn’t synonymous with “Blue.” We might not be entirely there yet, but I think we’re rapidly reaching a point where “right-wing Blues” and “left-wing Reds” are small but measurable groups. I certainly think that centrist Reds–that is, culturally strongly Red but in terms of raw political ideology fairly moderate–are a critical component of the Trump coalition.

            Second, no, neither the left nor the Blues own science. But I do think the Bill Nye/Neil DeGrasse Tyson-style pop-science entertainment of IFLS is mostly a Blue thing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Blue parents are proud of how few children they have, red parents of how many.

            The blue part of this rings untrue to me. There are some blue non-parents that are proud of that fact, though it often can come off as protesting too much. But I’ve never seen anyone brag about having only one kid. It is true that you will get funny looks and some comments if you have five or six kids from one marriage in blue culture, but three or four is a status marker, it implies you can afford them.

            Why the line is drawn there, I don’t pretend to have any idea.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            High numbers of children tend to be due to religion. 3-4 definitely feels like the line before you go “oh, they’re Catholic” or similar.

          • You don’t think that someone in blue culture with four children is likely to get some negative reaction on population problem grounds?

            My wife, who was one of four children, points out that this is something that has changed over time, that nobody saw her family, almost sixty years ago, as odd for the number of children.

          • Anonymous says:

            No. In my observation the whole overpopulation / ZPG thing is almost completely absent among the age group with minor children. I heard some about in the 80s and 90s but I think it peaked even before that.

            This is from a NE blue perspective, maybe it is still hanging on in SF or Portland?

          • @Anonymous:

            Or maybe I’m a couple of decades behind in my view of blue tribe culture.

            I’ll have to consult my daughter, who spent two years at Oberlin not long ago.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous
            In my observation the whole overpopulation / ZPG thing is almost completely absent among the age group with minor children.

            What a coincidence!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Anonymous
            [in blue culture] three or four [kids] is a status marker, it implies you can afford them

            People who say third world overpopulation will be prevented by The Demographic Transition, had better look out for this. The Demographic Transition may produce a U-shaped graph.

            Transitioning from ‘1 mouth 2 hands’ to ‘2 paychecks are better’ reduces population growth. But when prosperity gets better yet, ‘Hey, 1 paycheck is plenty now, let’s have some more kids’ may send population growth up again. To the delight of the great-grandparents.

          • onyomi says:

            Another article on Bernie supporters thinking about defecting to Trump if Hillary is nominated:

            http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/13/bernie-sanders-supporters-consider-donald-trump-no-hillary-clinton

        • When I see a candidate show up at a NASCAR race maybe I will change my mind, ha ha.

          Here’s George W Bush flying Air Force One into the Daytona 500.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPKSJI_gWoM

    • Acedia says:

      As a foreign leftist with an unhealthy interest in American domestic politics, I’m still waiting nervously for the American left to get serious about Trump. The vast majority of them are still just screaming leftist shibboleths (bigot! misogynist!) at him nonstop, which is great for signalling virtue to their friends but isn’t going to convince anybody who isn’t already on their side.

      Until they start caring more about stopping him than they do about showing other leftists how hip they are, his rise is going to continue unchecked.

      • Jiro says:

        What exactly do you think Trump supports that is so bad that anyone needs to get serious about it, aside from immigration?

        • Held in Escrow says:

          Trade, torture, stance towards Muslims, taxes… it’s a pretty big list.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I’ll grant torture, and am kind of curious as to taxes (I don’t know what he’s proposing), but the rest doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

          • I won’t grant torture. He supports using enhanced interrogation techniques on captured terrorists.

            A much bigger problem is his stance on the First Amendment, which will be used against Americans.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            “Enchanced interrogation techniques” was bullshit when Bush was using it to defend torture and it’s bullshit when Trump uses it. It’s morally abhorrent and worse, doesn’t even work.

            But yes, his first amendment stance is also godawful. As I said, pretty big list.

            As for trade, it has been a net positive for America and protectionism isn’t bringing back jobs, it’s just going to make everything worse. You want to look for ways to compensate the losers of free trade, not drag everyone down.

          • JDG1980 says:

            As for trade, it has been a net positive for America and protectionism isn’t bringing back jobs, it’s just going to make everything worse. You want to look for ways to compensate the losers of free trade, not drag everyone down.

            The problem with this common argument is twofold. First of all, the “losers of free trade” aren’t in fact being compensated, and all past promises of such compensation have proven worthless. No one believes it any more. Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally, no one wants to believe that they are a “loser” subsisting on charity. American culture wants solutions that, in effect, rig the game in favor of the working and middle classes, but lets them believe that they did it all themselves.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            Torture doesn’t work. This is probably the most misleading statement on this subject and everyone knows it to be false.

            My buddy has your ATM card and is at a bank terminal and I am on the phone with him. I am holding a gun to your 6 year old daughters head. I want your PIN number. You have 10 seconds to comply.

            Did torture work?

            Torture can be very effective when the information can be verified.

            We could have a sane conversation on this subject but it probably isn’t possible because of the moral importance people attach to this subject.

            What has to be decided is not whether to allow torture, but how to classify it. Where do you draw the line between raising one’s voice and chopping off body parts one at a time? The fact that there is disagreement on this line is not surprising. I think the answer post 9-11 was no permanent physical damage for people who were believed to have very important information.

            So the question is where do you draw the line?

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Except we know that torture, in the contexts of how it is used against prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, is not working. There have been plenty of papers put out on this subject, contrasting it with actual effective techniques. It is not at all comparable with a verifiable short term duress, as that’s not what we’re locking people up in Cuba for.

            The idea that the line is permanent damage is pretty dumb. If I constantly beat the shit out of you, breaking one bone at a time (which heals!) it isn’t torture?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Huh, did not know that is what the CIA meant. That is profoundly idiotic.

          • “So the question is where do you draw the line?” (with regard to torture)

            Off hand, I can see only two natural boundaries. One is the deliberate infliction of pain. The other is torture that produces permanent damage.

            The issue of whether torture works is a very old one. In Periclean Athens, slave testimony could only be taken under torture. A party to a suit could hire a speechwriter to compose an oration he would then deliver. We have orations arguing that testimony taken under torture is worthless, since the person being tortured will say whatever the torturer wants. We have orations claiming that such testimony is highly reliable, has never turned out to be false. In at least one case, we have one oration on each side–both written by the same speechwriter.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @David Friedman – “Off hand, I can see only two natural boundaries. One is the deliberate infliction of pain. The other is torture that produces permanent damage.”

            …Why not rule that the penalty for using torture is life imprisonment without parole. That doesn’t mean that agents of the state can’t use it, it just means if they’re willing to claim that the extremity justifies dehumanizing their prisoner, it’s probably worth dehumanizing them too. It’s always seemed like an elegant solution to the ticking time bomb scenario to me. Self-sacrifice is not unknown among military and law-enforcement, and demanding self-sacrifice in exchange for access to torture seems like a way to solve a lot of the moral hazard.

            [EDIT] – The above would assume the line is at infliction of pain.

          • @Faceless:

            One problem, as my wife points out, is the assumption that such a rule would actually get enforced.

            But I’m reminded of _Red Alert_, the novel on which _Doctor Strangelove_ was based. One of the ways in which the novel was, in my view, better than the movie was that the air force officer who set off the attack was not crazy, was in some ways an admirable character.

            He had, for some reason, been in eastern Europe at the end of WWII when the Russian troops came through, murdering and raping. It was his professional opinion that a first strike against the USSR could succeed, but that the relative superiority of the US was declining, so if it didn’t happen soon it wouldn’t happen and the Soviets would eventually triumph.

            And, the point that to me made him a sympathetic character and links to your point, the final step of his plan was to kill himself in order that he could not be forced to give up the code words that would recall the bombers. He was willing to kill a lot of other people, but also willing to pay the price himself.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            I’m probably comfortable with: Torture works, but we shouldn’t do it anyway.

            Possibly others are also comfortable with: Torture works, and if you get caught you are going to pay the price. Don’t get caught.

            If you can prevent the application of pain to 10 people by applying pain to one, then it is “worth it” in a strict humanitarian sense according to my value system.

            I don’t want to drag everyone into the same old canards, but getting your panties in a bunch over water boarding with common drone assassinations and daily bombing of ISIS recruits seems a bit uneven. It’s OK to blow them to smithereens but please don’t pinch them because we have high-falutin’ values. There is interesting psychology here.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Faceless Craven
            Why not rule that the penalty for using torture is life imprisonment without parole. That doesn’t mean that agents of the state can’t use it, it just means if they’re willing to claim that the extremity justifies dehumanizing their prisoner, it’s probably worth dehumanizing them too. It’s always seemed like an elegant solution [….]

            Exact–! Well, not exactly, but Yes! to the elegance. And hasn’t this been a trope from Kipling through Manning Coles through mean streets detectives, through poison for two in the library?

            When a good guy takes a vile action (eg torture) for a good reason, he also takes his punishment, thus upholding the standard of ‘no torture’. (Or more likely in reality, he tries to cover up, which his Department may or may not help with — ie Departmental Praise, or being judged by twelve.)

            So the important line I’d draw is, does the Department cover up the action — or publicly attack the standard, and how high up the ladder does that go? — My offhand reaction says, any attack on the standard is wrong. When all is discovered, flee, or at least frame a scapegoat. Which leads to, don’t do any torture that involves your whole Department having to cover its whole ass.

            So for a presidential candidate to publicly attack the standard, is very bad deontologically (tho Trump, chiming in, is not as guilty as those in the Bush II administration who began the attack on the standard).

            Consequentially, I doubt that Trump saying “yes and their families too” is going to make much difference to anyone’s actions. Certainly not as much as his support for Social Security, Planned Parenthood, etc, would make.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @David Friedman – “One problem, as my wife points out, is the assumption that such a rule would actually get enforced.”

            Surely keeping it illegal, accepting that sometimes the law may need to be broken, and nonetheless declaring that necessity is no protection from punishment is more likely to keep torture in check than legalizing it in some form?

            “He was willing to kill a lot of other people, but also willing to pay the price himself.”

            The system obviously breaks down when you get to something as imbalancing as nuclear launch authority, but if you absolutely have to have torture, isn’t that the sort of person you want handling it?

            @Tom Scharf – “There is interesting psychology here.”

            Warriors are a lot less ethically troubling than torturers. Drones versus insurgents still isn’t as lopsided and ethically fraught as one guy strapped to a table while another guy decides whether he breathes air or water.

          • I don’t think Torture is effective. But I don’t care if President Trump feels the need to waterboard the 800 idiots at Gitmo. He’s not rounding up American citizens and he’s not bringing back Medieval torture racks, as far as I know.

            President Trump’s rhetoric on trade is hardly different than the nativist sentiment we’ve been subjected for the last 20 years. Even Kasich explicitly promised to act outside of WTO arbitration procedures to impose retaliatory trade actions.

            45% tariff? Yeah, I doubt that’s going to be imposed.

            You also act as if this is between trade and no trade. Recently, the US repealed country-of-origin-labels for meat producers due to WTO rulings, which are supported by 90% of the population.

            Americans, surprisingly, don’t like deals like this. There can, should, and will be consequences. Trade War? Psh. Bring it on. We have the world’s largest economy and a <5% unemployment rate. We would recover, the EU would collapse, and the Chinese Communist Party would be flayed living with peasants dancing around their tyrannical corpses.

            EDIT: I forgot to mention Obama’s drone strikes, which are ethically more concerning than Trump’s torture position. But I see that was already mentioned.

            Further note: Obama has issued secret waivers on rules governing these drone strikes, rules issued AFTER people held his feet to the fire for having essentially no oversight.

            This is especially concerning since the US is conducting drone strikes in Pakistan without the permission of the Pakistani government. And the US killed American citizens.

            This should be much more troubling, on many dimensions, than water-boarding captured enemy combatants. Other’s hand-wringing induces my eye-rolling.

          • “And hasn’t this been a trope from Kipling through Manning Coles ”

            What Kipling story or poem are you thinking of?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Playing footsie with Sanders has undermined the ability of those on the left to credibly attack Trump for many of these things. On immigration and trade, they’re not that different. I doubt there’s any tax policy with a snowball’s chance of passing that will be super motivating to people. And I don’t think even those on the left believe that the problem with this country is that there just aren’t enough Muslims; as with Trump; the issue has similarly been attacked entirely as a way to “show other leftists how hip they are.”

            With the Chicago thing, I don’t think they can even claim the high ground when accusing him of inciting violence anymore.

          • John Schilling says:

            When a good guy takes a vile action (eg torture) for a good reason, he also takes his punishment, thus upholding the standard of ‘no torture’.

            In the imaginary world where the rivers run liquid chocolate, yes.

            (Or more likely in reality, he tries to cover up, which his Department may or may not help with — ie Departmental Praise, or being judged by twelve.)

            Exactly. And while you might, on rare occasion, find a genuinely good person who is willing to do an abhorrent but necessary thing and then kill himself, you will not in the real world find that his colleagues will impose draconian punishment on a man who has long been their friend and is lately their hero.

            The policy you seem to be implicitly proposing is a recipe for institutional corruption, in that it imposes on a collection of random civil servants the choice between participating in a cover-up and participating in the punishment of a good man who did a necessary thing.

            It is not enough to say “The punishment for torture is X, but if it’s important enough for you to pay that price, go ahead”. You have to take away both the tools and the tacit acceptance – make it so that the order to torture someone is so unquestionably illegal that it will not be obeyed, and make it a stain upon the honor of anyone who even looked the other way.

          • Jaskologist says:

            When a good guy takes a vile action (eg torture) for a good reason, he also takes his punishment, thus upholding the standard of ‘no torture’. (Or more likely in reality, he tries to cover up, which his Department may or may not help with — ie Departmental Praise, or being judged by twelve.)

            This works as a trope when you assume you’re dealing with a 1 in a million case, so exceptional that we must operate outside the normal rules to handle it.

            The president of the United States has 300 one in a million cases to deal with. Unlike the street detective, he will encounter the unlikely and hard case. So we can either accept that and try to build a framework for it, or we can tell him that we will punish him when he responds as he must when he encounters the case. And then hope against hope that just this once, politicians will do the right thing instead of respond to the incentives we give them.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “It is not enough to say “The punishment for torture is X, but if it’s important enough for you to pay that price, go ahead”. ”

            …Even if it’s followed by, “…Just understand that if you do, you’re probably better off eating your sidearm immediately after, because there will be no mercy for you, or for anyone who covers for you, or for anyone who covers for them”? Because that’s the idea I’m trying to imply, at least.

            “You have to take away both the tools and the tacit acceptance – make it so that the order to torture someone is so unquestionably illegal that it will not be obeyed, and make it a stain upon the honor of anyone who even looked the other way.”

            …Like this, yes. My point isn’t that torture is sometimes necessary, and that therefore it should be normalized. My point is that all the pro-torture arguments I’ve ever heard are easily answered by pointing out that laws can be broken for the greater good, and so it makes zero sense to carve out exceptions for vanishingly rare scenarios. If Jack Bauer thinks he needs to torture some guy for reasons of national security, he should accept his lifetime incarceration and the scorn of the public for reasons of national security as well. There is no rational reason to weaken the torture taboo.

            You are probably right that maintaining scorn and punishment for a legitimate hero is hard. But carving out exceptions and justifications to torture seems like a worse position all the way around; the torturers are still going to see themselves as heroes, and now they have a legal argument as well.

            @Jaskologist – Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Does that mean Habeas Corpus is useless or harmful to have in the first place?

            …Likewise, I am not sure if most of the scenarios people normally use to justify torture have ever actually occurred. 1 in 300 million seems roughly on scale. I’m sure some of the torture we’ve done has produced actionable intelligence on terrorism at some point. I don’t think some amount of actionable intel is actually worth losing the torture taboo, though.

          • Jiro says:

            My post seems to have gotten eaten, but: the idea that torture should be punished because it dehumanizes someone and you deserve to be dehumanized as well is a double standard, or if you like, an isolated demand for rigor.

            Puttting someone in prison or killing him in self-defense also dehumanizes him, but we don’t say “if you think your need to protect yourself is so great that you are willing to kill someone to do it, you can, but we have to dehumanize you too and so you go to jail for self-defense”. That’s only ever suggested for torture (and for other things that the speaker doesn’t want); it’s not actually based on a principled analysis of “well, it dehumanizes someone, so we need to balance that out” like it purports to be.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If there is no rational reason to weaken the torture taboo, then you should be saying “the punishment for torture is X,” full stop. No amount of Thundering Old-Testament Godspeak will erase the wink and nod of “but if it’s important enough for you to pay that price, go ahead.” No one ever says “The punishment for armed robbery is X, but if it’s important enough for you to pay that price, go ahead.”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z. – Your position is that explaining why it’s irrational to weaken the torture taboo weakens the torture taboo? That doesn’t make sense to me.

            @Jiro – “the idea that torture should be punished because it dehumanizes someone and you deserve to be dehumanized as well is a double standard, or if you like, an isolated demand for rigor.”

            I don’t think that’s true. Torture is fundamentally different from imprisonment, death, or even corporal punishment. There is a massive difference between “if you do this thing we don’t like, you get ten strokes of the lash” and “you get strokes of the lash till you do the thing we want.” Many throughout history and around the world have found a way to face imprisonment and death with dignity and humanity, but the whole point of torture is to deny the victim both. The revolutionary shouts, “Give me liberty, or give me death”, but the torturer gives him neither. Imprisonment is limited, and people talk about how you can chain a body but not a mind. Death is limited, and people talk about how martyrs for a cause live on in memory. Torture does something different and arguably worse than either. Torture is about forcing compliance, and that is fundamentally dehumanizing in a way chains and firing squads are not.

          • “No one ever says “The punishment for armed robbery is X, but if it’s important enough for you to pay that price, go ahead.””

            That is pretty much the standard law and econ analysis of optimal punishment. Set expected punishment equal to damage done and the only crimes that occur are ones that benefit the criminal by more than they injure the victim, hence make the pair on net better off.

            Lots of additional complications, but that’s the core of it—treating criminal punishment as a Pigouvian tax.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Come to think of it, it’s probably true in general that explaining why it’s irrational to weaken a taboo has the effect of weakening the taboo, simply by changing it from a taboo into an object of more or less rational scrutiny. But what certainly weakens it is explaining how you hope and expect that the people it’s aimed at will treat it as a non-taboo if a situation comes up where it would be convenient to you for them to do that. (They’re likely to disappoint you if you make the penalties as draconian as you’re talking about, for reasons the law-and-economics guys could probably explain pretty well.)

          • Jiro says:

            There is a massive difference between “if you do this thing we don’t like, you get ten strokes of the lash” and “you get strokes of the lash till you do the thing we want.”

            1) That would also, as stated, apply to imprisoning someone (or fining him, or putting him on a blacklist, or anything else) until he does the thing you want.

            2) Your original argument didn’t include any such qualifiers. You said that people should be punished for even necessary torture because torture dehumanizes the victim, not because torture dehumanizes the victim and also has this previously unstated other condition. Adding the extra condition feels a lot like an epicycle.

          • Julie K says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            There’s an illustration of your point in the Talmud, which says that whereas Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (in the book of Daniel) were willing to be thrown into a fiery furnace rather than bow to an idol, if they had been tortured, they would have given in.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – “That would also, as stated, apply to imprisoning someone (or fining him, or putting him on a blacklist, or anything else) until he does the thing you want.”

            To a limited extent, maybe, which is a good argument not to do things like that. One could perhaps argue that all law and government does this. I’m not sure I can articulate the difference, but I think there is an important one.
            Again though, you can live with a fine or jail or imprisonment, and there is at least peace in the grave. The whole point of torture is that you can’t live with it and it doesn’t kill you. It is intended and designed to be unendurable, and that seems like a uniquely hateful thing.

            “2) Your original argument didn’t include any such qualifiers. You said that people should be punished for even necessary torture because torture dehumanizes the victim, not because torture dehumanizes the victim and also has this previously unstated other condition. Adding the extra condition feels a lot like an epicycle.”

            It’s possible I communicated my point poorly. The usual argument in favor of torture is that it’s necessary to secure a positive outcome in an acute emergency. My point is that if we’re willing to accept the good outcome at the expense of torture, we’re probably still willing to accept the good outcome plus the torture plus the torturer getting jailed for life, and the latter has the positive outcome of not enshrining torture in our legal system.

            Let’s put it another way: if you need to push a fat man in front of a trolley, you should jump down onto the rails after him. If you aren’t willing to jump, others should push you. Or more generally, if you think an evil act is necessary for the greater good, why is the additional evil of your “unjust” punishment for that necessary evil act suddenly unacceptable? Or even more generally, societal norms are often precious and should be maintained, even at the cost of bad outcomes in specific isolated cases.

            The argument seems pretty clear to me, so I’m not sure where you’re getting epicycles, or CPZ is getting winking and nodding. I mentioned dehumanization because that seemed like a good description for the thing that is evil about torture (and what makes it similar to other taboo things we see as inherently evil, like rape), but I’m not hugely attached to the word. I mentioned breaking the law as an option because it is an option all of us always have, every day for every law that governs us.

            @Julie K – Makes sense. A good examination of that idea from the Catholic perspective would be the novel Silence, by Shusake Endo. In that story, the authorities responded to priests’ refusal to apostasize by torturing others on their behalf, achieving through sympathy what they couldn’t through direct torment. Torture just generally seems like something most humans can’t deal with, which is why it is hated and feared so thoroughly.

          • Faradn says:

            There isn’t much oversight or review regarding who gets accused of terrorism. If you say that torturing suspected terrorists is okay, You’re basically saying torturing anyone the government wants to torture is okay, which will sometimes include American citizens. A government that can torture can much more easily terrorize its own people.

          • Jiro says:

            My point is that if we’re willing to accept the good outcome at the expense of torture, we’re probably still willing to accept the good outcome plus the torture plus the torturer getting jailed for life,

            But that argument can still be made for other situations where you don’t make it–in other words, an isolated demand for rigor.

            “If we’re willing to accept the good outcome (self-defense) at the expense of the killing of a human being, we’re probably still willing to accept the good outcome plus the killing of a human being, plus the person who kills in self-defense getting jailed for life”. Nobody says that.

        • nil says:

          He’s a leftist talking about a right-wing populist who takes pride and joy in breaking standard political norms and is generally very unpredictable. Seems straightforward enough, no?

  21. Kyle Strand says:

    The Trump vs Bernie article makes, I think, a pathetic argument against the point that Bernie’s self-proclaimed Socialism will be a weakness against Trump.

    Economists have savaged Trump’s own proposals as sheer lunacy, using every word deployed against Bernie and then some.

    That’s not really the point. The point is the word “socialism,” whether or not it’s preceded by the word “democratic.” I absolutely believe that the average American voter will fail to grasp the distinction between “democratic socialism” (however its proponents try to define it) and straight-up communism, and I absolutely do not believe that the specter of communism is a non-issue in the current American political climate.

    Of course, the American people are still jittery about socialism. But they’re less jittery than they used to be…

    Maybe in the narrow social circles of someone who writes for Current Affairs.

    … and Bernie does a good job portraying socialism as being about little more than paid family leave and sick days (a debatable proposition, but one beside the point.)

    Oh, really? Here’s approximately how I imagine the first five minutes of a hypothetical debate between Trump and Sanders going:

    Trump: Are you or are you not a socialist?
    Sanders: Well, actually I —
    Trump: You can’t even give me a straight answer to whether you’re a communist or not!

    In fact, even if Trump gave Sanders opportunity to try to define “democratic socialism”, he’d probably just be letting him dig his own grave even deeper in the eyes of most American swing-voters.

    But the Soviet Union bogeyman is long gone…

    Hahahahahahaha.

    …and everyone gets called a socialist these days no matter what their politics.

    The link is to someone criticizing Obama. Riiiiiiiight.

    • Randy M says:

      Reminds me of an episode of the sit-com Seinfeld.
      Kramer: “I didn’t think it was a big deal”
      Jerry: “You didn’t think communism was a big deal? Where have you been the last fifty years?”

      edit: Found the script on-line:

      MICKEY: I knew that Commie stuff was going to get us in trouble.

      KRAMER: Yeah, well I didn’t realize that was such a sensitive issue.

      MICKEY: Communism, You didn’t realize Communism was a sensitive issue? What do you think has been going on in the world for the past 60 years? Wake up and smell the coffee.

      K I guess I screwed up!

      MICKEY: You sure did. Big time.

    • Deiseach says:

      Trump: Are you or are you not a socialist?
      Sanders: Well, actually I —
      Trump: You can’t even give me a straight answer to whether you’re a communist or not!

      That’s exactly why I think Nathan Robinson’s piece was wishful thinking. So Sanders’ people drill it into him that Trump is likely to pull that, and they prepare a canned answer for him about no, of course I’m not a Socialist, I simply want to put the power back into the hands of the ordinary guy again.

      Then Trump and his people pull out all his past political activity (e.g. membership of Young People’s Socialist League at college, calling himself a socialist during his terms as Mayor of Burlington in the 80s) and ask “Well, if you’re not a socialist, were you lying then? Or are you lying now?”

      If Sanders says “I was a socialist but I’ve moderated my views” – okay, sounds weak, wishy-washy and susceptible to pressure at best, sounds like he blows with every wind and changes positions cynically to win approval at worst.

      If Sanders does say “Hell yeah, I’m a socialist!” – okay, that’s going to be interesting. Can he make it sound as if he’s standing up in a robust and manly fashion to Trump, the kind of “The hell with you, buddy, I’m not ashamed of what I believe” attitude that Trump is running on, which at least might win him some approval or respect, or will he come across as pedantic, nit-picking and peevish? (And what kind of socialist – capital S “Socialism” or small s “socialist”, syndicalism?)

      Never mind that Socialism and Communism are seen as interchangeable, and Trump will be able to hammer it home that not even the Russians, not even the Chinese, hell not even the Albanians, are Commies nowadays but Sanders wants to bring this failed system into the White House?

      • John Schilling says:

        You seem to be assuming that people would be trying to decide between voting for Trump and voting for Sanders. I think the population that would both seriously consider voting for Trump and seriously consider voting for Sanders is negligibly small in this context. The issue would be, on the one hand, convincing one group of people to vote for Trump/against Sanders instead of staying home (in resigned disgust, apathy, or laziness because it is inevitable their guy will win), and on the other hand convincing a different group of people to vote for Sanders/against Trump, same reason.

        Hillary is close enough to being a centrist that she could hope to take voters directly from Trump at the margin.

        • Urstoff says:

          My impression from various media reports and polls was that there is a decent number of people (although maybe not enough to matter in an election) for whom Sanders is their first choice and Trump is their second choice.

        • Nornagest says:

          I think the population that would both seriously consider voting for Trump and seriously consider voting for Sanders is negligibly small in this context.

          I’m not so sure about that. There seems to be a large bloc, this election, of people whose bottom line is “anything but business as usual” and who aren’t as concerned about specific policy proposals.

          The question is how many of them are taking one side’s rhetoric to heart — mostly the Left’s, I imagine, since the Right this cycle seems to be aiming most of its ire at Clinton.

    • Crimson Wool says:

      That’s not really the point. The point is the word “socialism,” whether or not it’s preceded by the word “democratic.” I absolutely believe that the average American voter will fail to grasp the distinction between “democratic socialism” (however its proponents try to define it) and straight-up communism, and I absolutely do not believe that the specter of communism is a non-issue in the current American political climate.

      Right. Everyone in America is an idiot who hears the word socialist and instantly their brain turns off. Even though literally anyone can look at Sanders’ policy positions and see that he’s not supporting a command economy in the mold of the USSR or Cuba.

      • Jaskologist says:

        What about the mold of Venezuela? Or even Greece?

        • Held in Escrow says:

          Peronian Argentina is the best comparison IMO

        • JDG1980 says:

          What about the mold of Venezuela? Or even Greece?

          Neither seems to be a close match to anything Sanders has suggested.

          Venezuela’s leadership over the past decade has attempted to run a full-blown command economy: nationalizations (without compensation) of major industries, which are then put under the management of incompetent political cronies. Venezuela’s central bank is literally run by someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of inflation. Nothing Sanders has proposed is anywhere near this crazy. Nor is the American economy as dependent on any one industry as Venezuela was on petroleum exports.

          As for Greece, they are actually not one of the more “socialist” European countries. What sets Greece apart from most of the rest of Europe is its high levels of corruption. People don’t pay their taxes, and the government hires a bunch of people into largely useless patronage jobs. Thus, the state can’t pay its bills and is ineffectively run. This has nothing to do with “socialism”, either in its classical sense or as Sanders interprets it.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            As for Greece, they are actually one of the more socialist European countries in the command economy sense – to the extent that they were classified as the only unfree EU market by the Heritage Foundation!

            Greece’s CPI has actually improved tremendously in the last few years, but its economy is still as socialist as ever.

      • Nornagest says:

        I suspect there are a lot more non-idiots than the conventional wisdom says, but to be fair there don’t need to be a lot of idiots, there just need to be enough to swing an election.

        • Adam says:

          It’s more specific than that. For this to matter, either there needs to be a sufficient number of people who voted for Obama in spite of his being called a socialist for nationalizing the healthcare and auto industries who will now vote for Trump out of fear that Sanders crosses the line into real socialism, or there needs to be a sufficient number of people who didn’t vote at all in the last election who will be moved to vote anti-socialist because they think Sanders is that much worse than Obama. And mostly these people need to be in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

          • Kyle Strand says:

            Fair enough, though note that while Obama has been called a socialist, Bernie calls himself a socialist, which is strikingly different.

      • Kyle Strand says:

        I am an American voter, and I believe I know the difference (at a minimum, I know there is a difference). I am not making any statements about “everyone in America”, but I do in fact believe that the “average American” is an idiot (in the colloquial sense) vis-a-vis politics. I don’t restrict this opinion to Americans, either; I believe that the average person (worldwide) is an “idiot”, in the sense that they probably don’t understand political/social/economic issues as well as, say, the average political journalist. When phrased this way, it should be obvious that this is something of an unfair use of the word “idiot,” but it highlights part of the reason why Trump can be so successful among voters while simultaneously so reviled among pundits.

        But with respect to this particular issue, yes, I believe Americans are particularly prone to making snap judgments when the word “socialism” is involved. I was talking to an intelligent, well-educated, middle-aged, generally-liberal-voting lawyer the other day, and he said he was more afraid of Sanders than Trump because Communism is a failed system. I don’t believe this is much of an aberration.

  22. Durthain says:

    Not particularly surprised to see that my fellow SSC readers are less than impressed by Eric Falkenstein (the economist who became a Christian) and his arguments for Christianity. Regardless of his arguments’ merits, his criticism of (theories of natural) abiogenesis reminded me:

    I’ve never seen somebody calculate, Drake equation style, the probability of a capable-of-reproducing organism’s coming into existence on Earth within a certain span of time (of course, the relevant span of time would be hundreds of millions or billions of years). I don’t know nearly enough cellular biology to take a stab at doing the math, but it seems like such a calculation is what you’d need to counter the claim that “reach[ing a basic cell’s] level of sophistication via chemical evolution defies explanation.”

    • Tim Martin says:

      I think the problem is that we don’t know enough about how this could work or what such an organism would look like. The probability of some organism evolving depends heavily, I think, on what exactly you’re shooting for.

    • Adam says:

      I don’t see any easy way to do that. We have no idea how many possible reactions between organic compounds in early earth waters could possibly lead to self-replicating molecules nor the rate at which reactions between organic compounds occurred.

      For that matter, ‘Earth’ is not the relevant unit of space and we don’t know how many planets have ever existed on which reactions between organic compounds that could possible lead to self-replicating molecules took place.

    • Chalid says:

      I knew someone who, as a grad student, spent a while (a couple years?) working on the much much easier problem of “how long should it take for organism A to evolve into organism B.” I think he got some very minor results before deciding it was too hard and moving to a different topic, but I remember him commenting that the bounds you could set were ludicrously loose.

    • Anonymoose says:

      The problem is most theories (hypotheses? Ideas?) about abiogenesis involve some sort of catalyst, I think I read about a type of clay that holds organic molecules like amino acids that helps the chains form?

      Obviously the odds of abiogensis in the absence of such help is probably pretty low, but without knowing more about the conditions of primeval earth that’s a bit of a black box.

  23. grendelkhan says:

    New drug nilotinib looks very promising for Parkinson’s disease, may clean up proteins associated with death of dopamine-producing cells. Good news: drug is already approved for cancer and so can be used off-label. Bad news: drug costs $10,000/month.

    That’d be nice, but:

    It’s “exciting” data, but from a “nonrandomized, nonblinded, non–placebo-controlled study that looked at 12 patients,” he noted in an interview with Medscape Medical News. “The patients were selected very carefully, and we don’t know all the criteria for selection. More quantitative assessment of the data is needed. I would encourage the media not to blow it up out of proportion.”

    • LHN says:

      I kind of expected that as soon as I saw the link was to New Scientist. If a headline of theirs said aspirin cured headaches I’d start to wonder how thin the basis was for the claim.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, aspirin doesn’t “cure” headaches, it relieves the symptoms 🙂 (If your headache is because of a brain tumour, say, it certainly won’t cure it).

        • Anonymoose says:

          Isn’t a headache a symptom though, not a disease? That’s like saying aspirin doesn’t cure fevers when it brings your temperature down. It doesn’t cure the underlying disease, and the fever may come back, but while it’s down, you don’t have a fever (or headache, or whatever).

  24. Kyle Strand says:

    The Dole/Kemp site is flagged by the web gateway at my work as potential pornography. This is funny enough that I don’t think I need to investigate further.

  25. Tim Martin says:

    Oy vey, that economist’s description of evolution reads like a list of creationist talking points. The points he raises are either untrue, irrelevant, or verrry skewed in favor of creationism. I expected a lot more from this 🙁

    • Anonymoose says:

      I read the comments, one particularly stood out to me:

      “Man Eric, I knew you were a contrarian, and you’ve argued yourself into some pretty wacky positions over the years – the global warming denial comes to mind – but this takes the cake!”

      I don’t know anything about the person in question, so I won’t make any comments relating specifically to his situation, but I can see atheist becoming creationists if their meta-contrarian impulse is strong enough.

  26. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Wait a second, why does it say “3/16” for a post on 3/9? Did you have the Gospel of John on your mind, Scott? 🙂

    • suntzuanime says:

      The 16 stands for 2016. This question comes up often enough that our host should probably spare the extra two characters, although I suppose in about 16 years the problem will resolve itself.

  27. Tom Scharf says:

    Registered Reports – Peer review before data collection and analysis is the best idea I have heard for this replication crisis. Not a panacea, but a good first step.

    Having only been tangentially involved in academia research a few times in my career and seeing the ugly post hoc data manipulation almost every single time my view of science changed from my 20’s: “praise the alter of science” to my 50’s: “don’t believe what the science media tells you about anything”. And take my word for it, this was a very hard pill to swallow for me. There are a few sectors of science such as physics and astronomy that I still think exercise some restraint and self policing, but I could be wrong.

    I’m not talking outright fraud here, but more of the I just spent a whole lot of time and money and got mediocre results and that needs to change for pride and professional reasons, everyone please turn your heads now and pretend not to look. There is zero incentive to stop this.

    Turning some scientists into media rock stars has not helped at all.

  28. gwern says:

    Scientists have identified over 20% of the genes involved in autism. I didn’t realize we were that far along with understanding any kind of massively polygenic trait like that.

    We’re at 60% of variance explained for height.

    There’s been some discussion on the subreddit about a 2006 Sampson et al study finding that neighborhood effects explain a lot of crime disparities.

    Speaking of neighborhood effects, check out this UK Biobank phenome paper which is hot off the presses: “Molecular genetic contributions to social deprivation and household income in UK Biobank (n = 112,151)”, Hill et al 2016 http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/03/09/043000

    The large number of genetic correlations found indicates that the molecular genetic associations with SES overlap with many other phenotypes. A large degree of overlap was found for variables that are cognitive in nature. Significant genetic correlations were observed, for example, between both measures of SES and childhood cognitive ability (social deprivation, r g = 0.500, income, r g = 0.668), and also with longevity (social deprivation, r g = 0.301, household income, r g = 0.303). The direction of effect in each instance indicates that more affluent SES is associated with longer life and higher childhood intelligence. The average age of the participants in the GWAS for childhood intelligence was 11 years, whereas the measurements of SES from UK Biobank were taken at a mean age of 57 years. The finding of a genetic correlation between these two traits may indicate that a set of genetic variants contribute to higher intelligence, which in turn contributes to a higher SES in midlife. Significant genetic correlations were found between household income and intracranial volume and infant head circumference (r g = 0.533, r g = 0.239, respectively), indicating that the variants associated with brain size may also be associated with the amount of money brought into a household. The genetic correlation of 0.34, (SE = 0.07) between verbal numerical reasoning and the Townsend social deprivation index in UK Biobank was reported by us elsewhere (Marioni et al., in preparation). A noteworthy feature of our findings is that the pattern of genetic correlations between our two measures of SES–one area-based and one individual-based–was very similar and the genetic correlation between the two measures of SES was 0.871, (SE = 0.064). The Townsend social deprivation score is widely used as a proxy indicator of adult socioeconomic status, usually in the absence of an individual measure. It has been shown to be predictive of cancer incidence, all-cause mortality and other health outcomes [20]. Such area-level effects may comprise both compositional effects, i.e. effects that can be explained in terms of the characteristics of the residents of those areas, and contextual effects, i.e. effects that can be explained in terms of the characteristics of the areas. Although ecological correlations cannot be used to make causal inferences about individuals—the ecological fallacy—it has been argued that they arise largely from associations at the individual level[21].T here is evidence that area-based Townsend scores correlate highly with a similar measure of deprivation calculated at the individual level [22]. In our UK Biobank sample, where the individual-level measure of SES was based on household income alone, its correlation with Townsend score was small to moderate in size (r = 0.24); however, despite this, the pattern of genetic correlations between these two measures was very similar.

  29. ComplexMeme says:

    From the Yudkowsky interview:

    Horgan: Will superintelligences solve the “hard problem” of consciousness?
    Yudkowsky: Yes, and in retrospect the answer will look embarrassingly obvious from our perspective.
    Horgan: Will superintelligences possess free will?
    Yudkowsky: Yes, but they won’t have the illusion of free will.

    Seems that Yudkowsky lines up with Dennett in that regard. I’m not surprised by that, but do find that interesting. (I vaguely agree with Dennett about that sort of thing, except he’s seems a lot more confident that e.g. “how can a physical state be a subjective experience?” will be reduced something that seems like as uninteresting a non-question as “how can a collection of non-living atoms be a living organism?”)

    • Anon. says:

      What does Yudkowsky mean by “free will”? He’s obviously no libertarian… I know Dennet pretends to be a compatibilist, but he’s only a compatibilist insofar as he redefines free will to mean determinism. I never understood the point of that exercise, other than self-deception.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I know Dennet pretends to be a compatibilist, but he’s only a compatibilist insofar as he redefines free will to mean determinism.

        I don’t know what makes you describe that as pretending to be a compatibilist. That’s all compatibilism is in general.

        I don’t have much respect for it, either.

        • Anon. says:

          Dualists have a reasonable compatibilist story that doesn’t involve redefining free will to mean determinism. Of course dualism is its own can of worms, but not all compatibilists are like Dennet.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I am confused about your view here.

            It is absolutely possible to be a dualist or even an idealist and a hard determinist at the same time. (For instance, Calvin and Spinoza.)

            What makes you say that compatibilism is more tenable on the basis of dualism than on the basis of materialism? I don’t see how that’s so.

            I think libertarianism doesn’t make much sense on the basis of materialism, but I don’t see how it matters for compatibilism one way or the other.

            Anyway, Dennet does not define free will to be “identical” with determinism. I thought you were speaking imprecisely at first, but this just can’t be literally true. He redefines free will so as to be compatible with determinism. Determinism being the idea that every event has a sufficient cause in the form of prior events. And free will, as he defines it (in Wikipedia’s words) is something like: “the power to be active agents, biological devices that respond to our environment with rational, desirable courses of action”

            He doesn’t say they are the same. That wouldn’t make sense.

          • Anon. says:

            >It is absolutely possible to be a dualist or even an idealist and a hard determinist at the same time.

            I don’t disagree. But it doesn’t necessitate determinism either.

            It’s possible to say that the other plane of existence doesn’t work by the rules that this one does. The soul plane works in a way that makes libertarian free will possible.

            I do think Dennet’s definition is functionally identical to determinism. Take “biological devices that respond to our environment” and reduce it to physics, what do you get? The fluff about “rationality” and desirable courses of action is just a distractionary tactic.

          • Protagoras says:

            But the problems with libertarian free will are logical problems, not problems of physics. Moving to the “soul plane” won’t help with those (unless logic itself, and not merely science, are different on the soul plane, in which case I have no idea how someone can claim to be able to make any coherent claims about the soul plane at all).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anon.:

            I do think Dennet’s definition is functionally identical to determinism. Take “biological devices that respond to our environment” and reduce it to physics, what do you get? The fluff about “rationality” and desirable courses of action is just a distractionary tactic.

            I think you are confused in a simple way here.

            Determinism is a proposition about the whole of reality.

            Free will is a proposition about human choices.

            They’re about two separate things; they can’t be the same.

            For instance, imagine “lego-blockism”, the idea that everything is made of lego blocks. And take our regular old concept of “peaches”. Now, the intuitive view would be that lego-blockism is incompatible with the existence of peaches; peaches are soft and juicy, while lego blocks are hard plastic. But Philosopher X redefines “peaches” as a certain organization of lego blocks made to look like a peach, so that they are compatible.

            This may be tendentious, but Philosopher X hasn’t redefined “peaches” to be “lego-blockism”; he has redefined “peaches” to be a thing made of lego blocks.

            In the same way, Dennett doesn’t define “free will” to mean the same thing as “determinism”. He defines “free will” to be an entirely determinate process.

          • Anon. says:

            >In the same way, Dennett doesn’t define “free will” to mean the same thing as “determinism”. He defines “free will” to be an entirely determinate process.

            Given that the whole point of (libertarian) free will is that it’s not an entirely determinate process, I think those are one and the same.

            Imagine if peachists argued that peaches are NOT made out of lego blocks. Then Dennet comes along and says he thinks peachism and anti-peachism are compatible: peaches ARE made out of lego blocks. But they’re peaches because of reasons.

            He’s not a compatibilist at all! He’s an anti-peachist like the rest of em!

          • Jared says:

            It’s possible to say that the other plane of existence doesn’t work by the rules that this one does. The soul plane works in a way that makes libertarian free will possible.

            That’s not an example of compatibilism. Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism can co-exist. In your example, determinism is false (presuming it is false in the soul plane), so it can’t possibly be an example of compatibilism.

            He’s not a compatibilist at all! He’s an anti-peachist like the rest of em!

            You are an incompatibilist, which is fine, but you’re rejecting compatibilism in an annoying way. Your beliefs are exactly what you’d expect an incompatibilist to have: you’re just being dramatic about your rejection of compatibilism.

            Of course, no one believes that libertarian free will is compatible with determinism. If compatibilism means anything, it means that a different definition of free will is better. You don’t have to agree, but it would be polite to acknowledge it as a view that exists rather than as a trivial self-contradiction.

          • Anon. says:

            >You don’t have to agree, but it would be polite to acknowledge it as a view that exists rather than as a trivial self-contradiction.

            Except it is a trivial self-contradiction.

            When Dennet says “free will”, what does he mean by “free”? Free from what? His definition is all about will, not about freedom from anything. And it’s still bad!

            >biological devices that respond to our environment with rational, desirable courses of action

            By this definition viruses have free will, and they’re not even alive! Does this seem reasonable? Why the does he constrain it to “biological” devices? Because it’s wishy washy wishful thinking.

          • Anonymoose says:

            “”I’m writing a book on magic,” I explain, and I’m asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. “No,” I answer. “Conjuring tricks, not real magic.”

            Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.”

            -Net of Magic, by Lee Siegel

            Free will here is like the word “Magic”. Dennett is a compatibilist, which means he believes in the “Magic tricks” version of Free Will. You feel like you’re making choices, and you’re free to do as you will, but you can’t will your will, and all your thoughts have causal origins. The “Real” Free Will, Libertarian Free Will, doesn’t exist. It’s not real. The Compatibilist position is an agent being able to pursue its desires (Which have naturalistic origins) is a significant position which deserves a phrase, and the phrase they use is free will.

            As far as I can see the Compatibilist-Incompatibilist debate is just a debate over definitions, not the actual content of the world.

        • Skef says:

          Contemporary “determinism” includes what’s called “quantum determinism”. Unless you subscribe to a hidden variable theory, which most people think has been adequately discredited by Bell’s Inequality experiments, quantum determinism provides access to randomness (what is still “determined” are the probability distributions of the random events).

          It’s not an uncommon view that mostly classical determinism + some randomness allows for a type of compatiblism that wouldn’t make sense if the world were strictly deterministic. Basically, that mixing deterministic properties with a bit of randomness allows for some emergent properties of the whole system that you wouldn’t get otherwise. (A challenge for this view would be the question of whether pseudo-randomness could be an adequate substitute for the “true” quantum randomness.)

          All this is to say that there may be interesting intermediate compatiblist views.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            No, this is a confusion of the issue.

            Compatibilism is the view that free will is compatible with determinism. And determinism means, as Dennett puts it: “All physical events are caused or determined by the sum total of all previous events”.

            It is possible to be a compatibilist and not believe in strict determinism. Few compatibilists today believe in strict determinism, but it’s irrelevant because they think we’d have free will either way. Because, they say, even if we don’t have “strict determinism”, we have “adequate determinism”, i.e. macro-scale determinism.

            The idea that free will depends on “emergent properties” caused by “a bit of quantum randomness” is a (bad) form of libertarianism. Not compatibilism.

          • Adam says:

            The notion that part of the lattice of causes leading to a decision on your part is random due to quantum indeterminism seems to give you ‘free’ but not ‘will.’ The notion that I chose to do something implies to me that I had a knowable reason to make the choice, not that my action was random.

          • Skef says:

            OK – those terms are a fine way to split things up, and some people do use them them that way. But I wouldn’t go wading into the literature on this subject assuming that everyone does.

          • Skef says:

            “The notion that I chose to do something implies to me that I had a knowable reason to make the choice, not that my action was random.”

            That’s true, but in this context the assertion functions to deny that there can be such emergent properties of determinism and randomness without offering an argument.

            One problem here is that even strict determinism doesn’t seem at all incompatible with having reasons, the problem is with choices. (Unless you build something into “reason” that makes it necessary that there be choices, but that amounts to the same problem.) So your representation of the child as drowning combined with other properties to inevitably cause you to rescue the child. it’s not at all obvious you wouldn’t have acted on that reason in that case.

            So the question just comes back to whether you have choices. And one thing it does seem like you can have, if you have access to randomness, is the capacity for the deterministic processes to determine how and how much randomness to apply to “decision making”. And decision-making can and does involve complex feedback loops, so you might, for example, flip a coin between possible routes to making a decision, and then again along those routes several times, ending up with a plan that is supported by reasons but not in any meaningful way determined the causal processes that brought you to the moments before you started deciding.

            Whether or not that’s free will in the sense people want it, it’s still both “free” (in your sense) and based in reasons.

          • Jesse M. says:

            This isn’t really relevant to your main point about free will, but the many-worlds interpretation is also deterministic without involving hidden variables. Also, hidden variables theories in general are not ruled out by Bell inequality experiments, only local hidden variable theories; Bohm’s nonlocal hidden variables interpretation predicts the same result for Bell experiments as every other interpretation of quantum mechanics.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            The notion that part of the lattice of causes leading to a decision on your part is random due to quantum indeterminism seems to give you ‘free’ but not ‘will.’ The notion that I chose to do something implies to me that I had a knowable reason to make the choice, not that my action was random.

            According to two stage theories, acts and reasons can be chosen in pairs.

      • Protagoras says:

        You object to Dennett’s efforts to redefine free will. Do you prefer leaving it an incoherent mess? That doesn’t seem very useful. Or do you have a redefinition of your own that you prefer? In that case I’m curious, but also think you look a bit hypocritical to be complaining about redefinition exercises.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I’m not him, but I don’t think the definition of free will is an “incoherent mess”.

          For instance, out of the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention”. That’s what normal people mean when they talk about the question of whether or not we have free will. Whether there was only one thing you could have done in each situation, or whether you had multiple possible alternatives available to you.

          Saying you believe in free will, but that you’ve redefined it in such a way as to be compatible with determinism is completely pointless. Just say you don’t believe in free will.

          Or to put it another way: just what exactly is the substantive disagreement between compatibilists and hard determinists? There isn’t one. They agree on all the facts; the only point of disagreement is whether to label them “humans have free-will-1” or “humans don’t have free-will-2”.

          • Psmith says:

            just what exactly is the substantive disagreement between compatibilists and hard determinists?

            Compatibilists think that people can be morally responsible for their actions in a deterministic universe. Hard determinists don’t. Free will, in the context of philosophy of action, is generally held to be “that which you need to have in order to be morally responsible.”

            ETA: see also http://sci-hub.io/http://www.jstor.org/stable/2250169. Protagoras, this may be of interest to you as well if you haven’t seen it before.

          • Protagoras says:

            So you don’t see how the definition you quote is an incoherent mess? For something to be a human choice, it must somehow stem from the person making the choice; it has to be something the person does, not just something that happens to them. Ruling out prior causes rules out any way in which that could be, leaving only the possibility that it is just something that happens. So the second half contradicts the first half.

          • Troy says:

            For something to be a human choice, it must somehow stem from the person making the choice; it has to be something the person does, not just something that happens to them. Ruling out prior causes rules out any way in which that could be, leaving only the possibility that it is just something that happens.

            We should distinguish between the action X, and an agent A’s causing X. A libertarian is committed to X being caused by A, and not “just happening.” But I don’t see why he can’t say that A’s causing X is not caused by anything else. You can say that A’s causing X is then something that “just happens,” but this doesn’t mean that X “just happens” in any sense that implies that X is not a free action. Or at least, this would take an argument.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Psmith:

            Compatibilists think that people can be morally responsible for their actions in a deterministic universe. Hard determinists don’t. Free will, in the context of philosophy of action, is generally held to be “that which you need to have in order to be morally responsible.”

            No, this is a semantic game, too. All they disagree on is what they’re going to call “moral responsibility”.

            Whether they’re going to call sending people to prison “negative reinforcement” or “just punishment”, they overwhelmingly hold the same views about what should be done with criminals. The hard determinists don’t advocate letting them go.

            When hard determinists say that people aren’t responsible for what they do, they mean that they couldn’t have done otherwise and weren’t the ultimate authors of their decisions. Compatibilists agree with that entirely.

            I didn’t read the whole 27 pages of that paper. Is there a particular part you think is especially interesting? From what I can tell, it’s the same old compatibilist line where they say everyone else is benighted and confused about the meaning of terms, and they’re going to come in an “dissolve the question”.

            These passages are very revealing:

            I believe that the ideal ends of the administration of justice are (1) to see that all possible restitution is made, (2) to see as far as possible that the malefactor does not repeat the act, and (3) so far as possible to render the act less likely on the part of others. And these ends should be sought by means that will accomplish them. Morality is humane. It is animated by good-will toward humanity. Our instinctive impulse to retaliation must be interpreted with a view to its function in society, and so employed and regulated to the best purpose. Being a part of the defensive and fighting instinct, its functional aim is evidently to destroy or check the threatening source of evil-to destroy the culprit or change his temper. […]

            The Christian principle of hating the sin because it is in fact noxious, but bearing good-will to the sinner and preferring his reformation with a minimum of suffering to his punishment, is surely the root-principle.

            This is the standard line that people aren’t really the ultimate causes of their actions, and so the purpose of punishment should not be to inflict their own evil back on them, but rather to reform them. A criminal has just as much moral standing as anyone else; we don’t “hate the sinner”; we want to help him. It just so happens that sometimes the best way to help him, or at least to help society as a whole, is to inflict pain and suffering on him so he doesn’t do it again.

            It’s like this statement by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

            “If I were having a philosophical talk with a man I was going to have hanged (or electrocuted) I should say, I don’t doubt that your act was inevitable for you but to make it more avoidable by others we propose to sacrifice you to the common good. You may regard yourself as a soldier dying for your country if you like. But the law must keep its promises.”

            Now, most people would describe a view like that as denying the existence of moral responsibility. Hobart just wants to redefine moral responsibility to mean something compatible with that. But he doesn’t disagree on the factual assessment.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Protagoras:

            So you don’t see how the definition you quote is an incoherent mess? For something to be a human choice, it must somehow stem from the person making the choice; it has to be something the person does, not just something that happens to them. Ruling out prior causes rules out any way in which that could be, leaving only the possibility that it is just something that happens. So the second half contradicts the first half.

            No.

            The coherent libertarian view of causation is agent causation, which is opposed to the model of event causation. Event causation says that causation is about “events” causing other “events”, and that an event is either the effect of a previous event which is its cause, or that it is “random”.

            Agent causation says that “events” are not a primary concept. What we have are entities that act. An entity can either act actively or passively. Active causation is the ontologically primary form of causation, wherein an entity moves itself and initiates some action. Passive causation is the secondary form in which an entity, receiving an external impulse, transmits it further along the chain.

            In moving itself, an entity is not moved “by chance” or “by the universe” or “by fate”. It is acting according to its own nature, according to the kind of thing it is. This limits what it can do, but it does not necessary limit it to only one particular course of action.

            In the case of the will, a human being has, in regard to certain actions, simultaneously the sufficient potential both to act and to refrain from acting. Which choice is made is determined by the will itself: arbitrarily, freely, and not in a way determined in advance by prior causes. This doesn’t mean the will doesn’t control itself, or that it is moved by some external force called “chance”. It is just the opposite: only by being free and unconstrained can the will control itself, as oppose to being controlled by external causes acting upon it.

            The will can’t move itself, it can’t be free, without the potential to do more than one thing at a given moment.

            If you could, for instance, only do that which most promotes your perceived self-interest, you could hardly take any credit or blame for what you do, because you would not be the ultimate cause of anything that you do. The causes of your actions would be the particular construction of your mental apparatus and the information fed to you; you just spit out a response to that information. The information you get determines your actions. The input determines the output.

            Now, the “indeterminism” that you criticize would be something like this: you’re walking down the street when suddenly there’s an Epicurean swerve in the muscles of your arm, and you push someone in front of a bus. You wouldn’t be responsible for that because it’s not a matter of your will. It was against your will; it was just your arm moving randomly. And your arm is not a conscious thing; it can’t perceive the options available to it and choose according to its will. It doesn’t have that capacity.

            But the fact that, when you act freely, you act arbitrarily and not for a sufficient reason, does not somehow show that your action is something that “just happens” to you. You’re like a king, who considers the arguments for and against a certain course of action and then makes the decision. If the arguments were always decisive, such that the king always did what his advisers told him, then it wouldn’t be the king who had the power but the advisers. The whole essence of your ability to control your actions lies in the fact that you’re not determined by sufficient causes to do one thing as opposed to another.

            That does not, however, mean that free choice means acting completely capriciously and without any reasons whatsoever. You can have reasons for and against something; the reasons just aren’t fully determinative one way or the other.

            I explain it perhaps more clearly in a paper I wrote several years ago on the scholastic philosopher Peter John Olivi:

            Olivi does not go so far as to reject the necessity of some reasons as part of a free action, however. The possibility of action without any reason whatsoever—of wild, inexplicable caprice—is often used to attack agent causation, since it would make any predictability in human action impossible. But here Olivi agrees with Aristotle when he says that “only what counsel has previously judged and predetermined can be chosen.”1 Yes, Olivi argues, we must have reasons for what we do, or as he expresses it, there must be some “utility or desirability in the thing to be chosen,” otherwise it would be inexplicable and capricious. Nevertheless, this does not restrict our freedom because there are many different, incommensurable measures of goodness or desirability, which may be present in different degrees in different objects. “[T]he act of fornication,” for example, is condemned by the intellect in a certain respect—namely, that “it is immoral”—but it nevertheless is positively regarded by the intellect in another respect—“it is pleasurable to the senses.” As Olivi views it, there is nothing in the intellect that compels the will to refrain from fornication, even though he holds that this ought to be the dominant consideration. Because it is good in a certain respect, the will retains the power to choose it. One analogy that is helpful to understand the relationship between the two is a political analogy. Aristotle’s view, as Olivi represents it, is that the will is like a president, who must act to enforce the decisions of the legislature, which leaves him with an explicit command and only one alternative. In contrast, Olivi’s view is that the will is more like a king, who may well listen to counsel before he acts, and will act on the basis of some counsel or another. But in the final analysis, after all his advisers lay their proposals before him, it is he who ultimately has the power of choosing which advice to follow.

            O’Connor and Jacobs present a remarkably similar view in their own response to the same problem. As they put it, we must reject the idea that “all causal explanations of events must be contrastive.”2 That is, in a choice between A and B, there may very will be an explanation that satisfactorily explains why one chose A, without explaining why one did not choose B. This is, in fact, inherent in the manner of causation being indeterministic. If there were some reason why B, in the given situation, could not have been chosen, then A would be guaranteed to happen and it would not be a free choice.

            O’Connor and Jacobs present a choice between “helping a friend repair her deck” and “watch[ing] a football game” as an example. We may be able, hypothetically, to tally up the probability of each action, say 0.3 for deck repair and 0.7 for the football game, since the football game is pleasurable and desirable, but repairing the deck is an arduous task which one nevertheless has some strong motivation to perform due to respect for the friend. But that is all we can do. When the agent actually makes his choice to repair the deck, we may validly say that he chose it because of his respect for his friend. Nevertheless, he could equally have chosen to watch the football game, in which case we would validly say that he chose it because it is pleasurable. Both explanations could have been true. But because the agent chose to bring only one of them into being at the time he made the choice, he makes that explanation true and not the other. There may be some actions which, for a given subject at a given time, are totally unreasonable and not genuine possibilities (or, as Olivi would put it, in which the intellect does not see any good). For example, the agent may have in some sense the freedom to neither watch the game nor repair the deck but attend a neo-Nazi rally. But this probability is 0, since the agent not only sees no reason to do so, but actively has reason to refrain from doing so. Thus, we avoid the suggestion that an agent may freely act in a capricious manner. […]

            In contrast to those who regard the will’s exercise of freedom as causeless, Olivi argues that it really is the cause of its own motion and rest. Determinists may seek a contrastive explanation that shows why we necessarily must choose one option and not the other at a given time, but as Olivi sees it there is simply no reason to suppose than this is true. […] A man faces the choice between motion and rest. If he moves, then the motion can be explained by appealing to him as the cause. If he rests, then the rest can be explained by appealing to him as the cause. But there can be no explanation of why he chose one and not the other beyond the fact that he did and had some reason for doing so (which is not incompatible with having reason for doing the very opposite). […]

            Nevertheless, the reasons themselves are not causes. This certainly seems to square with Olivi’s above rejection of the practical syllogism and with his statement: “If by the cause of a choice we mean the active power that the will has, then every choice has a cause. But if, in addition to this, we mean by the cause of a choice some reason able to move the will toward choosing this rather than other things, then it is utterly false.”

          • Skef says:

            The issue of agent causation sometimes drifts into arguments about hard determinism and compatiblism (and I realize @Vox Imperatoris is bringing it in here to make a clarification), but the question has always struck me as mostly a red herring in that context.

            Specifically (and, I suppose, unless you’re David Velleman) it’s to see how agent causation, conceived in this way, is compatible with any sort of reductive theory. If a will could be shown to have any substructure, such as principles of operation or mechanism, then you could point those principles or parts of the mechanism and say that those, together, were responsible for a decision rather than the agent.

            Of course, that won’t be a problem if you’re willing to identify the agent with the embodied principles or the mechanism. But if you are willing to do so, then it’s hard to see what the problem with determinism would be. Past forces bring a mechanism into being (for example). That mechanism is the agent. Its operation constitutes agency. And its decision can be seen as “free” in the sense that what happens internal to the agent influences what happens external to it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Vox, I’m familiar with agent causation. I’m actually kind of curious about its history. Hume seems to provide a criticism of the agent causation story (in the first Enquiry, pages 64-69 of the Selby-Bigge edition, he argues that the evidence which is supposed to support an agent causation interpretation fits better with an event causation story), but he does not cite the source of the view he is criticizing. But I do think that in broad outlines Hume’s criticism is successful. Certainly the connection with scholastic notions (which is clearer in your presentation of the subject than in some others I have read) inclines me to be more, rather than less, skeptical of the whole notion. Scholasticism has gone out of favor for good reasons. But deep in a comment thread is not the place to re-fight all the great battles of early modern philosophy.

          • Psmith says:

            they overwhelmingly hold the same views about what should be done with criminals.

            This may well be true as a matter of sociohistorical happen-so, but so what? I don’t think philosophy of action should be evaluated in terms of the policy recommendations it generates.

            most people would describe a view like that as denying the existence of moral responsibility. Hobart just wants to redefine moral responsibility to mean something compatible with that.

            If you take the compatibilist program to be some sort of Procrustean imposition on natural language, I can see why you might find compatibilism unconvincing. I guess it seems to me that the most successful arguments for compatibilism explain what we mean when we talk about moral responsibility, choice, and so on in a more compelling way than the alternatives–that good compatibilist accounts are not some kind of redefinition imposed from the ivory tower but rather a clear and accurate understanding of what we actually mean. So, for instance, Hobart takes the view that moral responsibility requires that actions be authored or “owned”, so to speak, by the agent, and that an agent is not some kind of spirit acting from outside causal networks but has a personal history, character traits, a causal history of its own, and so forth, which is to say, the agent is determined. Another example is Peter Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment”, which argues among quite a lot else that there are rules we all more or less understand outlining the correct assignment of blame, and that accident (for example) is an appropriate reason to excuse someone from blame according to those rules but universal determination is not. These strike me as plausibly correct understandings of the way things are, not attempts to redefine from above. Some people disagree, of course, but that’s what makes horse races.

        • Anon. says:

          I don’t think selves or minds exist at all, so the question isn’t meaningful for me. But if I thought they existed, I’d go with the classic “could have acted otherwise” definition which I don’t think is incoherent or messy at all.

          • Protagoras says:

            But that definition is extremely vague. A determinist can say “could have acted otherwise” means “would have acted otherwise had their desires been different,” and so we have a form of compatibilism. Of course, it could be argued that that’s not really what “could have acted otherwise” means, but exploring that is when things get messy (and if one is determined to stay incompatibilist, they will eventually become incoherent).

          • Anon. says:

            “Could have acted otherwise” implies that they would’ve done so given an identical state of the world. Obviously if the world is different, it’s different.

            Different desires = different world (not to mention different mind). That’s not compatibilist at all.

          • Urstoff says:

            You’re just defining the debate away. The point that many compatibilists make is that terms and phrases like “choice” and “could have done otherwise” are really rooted in concepts that have nothing to do with determinism. Flatly asserting the contrary is not an argument.

          • Jesse M. says:

            What about pure randomness? If you take a deterministic robot and allow it to take some input from a random number generator based on quantum physics, does it have “free will”?

      • wysinwyg says:

        “Compatibilism” is the thesis that “free will” and “determinism” are compatible.

        It is not the thesis that they are identical.

        It is hard to explain because our brains have been wired by 500 years of dualism to believe otherwise, but the fact of determinism doesn’t mean that “we don’t make choices”. It means that “we don’t understand what it means to make choices”. If we understood that, then it may very well be intuitive that free will and determinism do not conflict.

        Regardless of how much anyone might “respect” that position or not, it is a reasonable and plausible one that is very consistent with the current state of neuroscience and physics in general.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          It is hard to explain because our brains have been wired by 500 years of dualism to believe otherwise, but the fact of determinism doesn’t mean that “we don’t make choices”. It means that “we don’t understand what it means to make choices”. If we understood that, then it may very well be intuitive that free will and determinism do not conflict.

          The question isn’t whether people make choices. The question is whether they make free choices, choices that are not determined by prior causes.

          The libertarians say people do make free choices.

          The hard determinists and compatibilists agree that people don’t make such choices but disagree on how to label their beliefs. Hard determinism vs. compatibilism is a meaningless definitional dispute. One in which I think the compatibilists are more dishonest because they seem to be trying to appropriate the positive connotations of the term “free will” to describe a view completely dissimilar to that of the usual use of the term.

          • wysinwyg says:

            One in which I think the compatibilists are more dishonest because they seem to be trying to appropriate the positive connotations of the term “free will” to describe a view completely dissimilar to that of the usual use of the term.

            This is a very silly argument against compatibilism.

            1. It’s ad hominem.
            2. It’s nonsensical.

            Compatibilists consider “free will” to be an incoherent term. How can incoherence have a “positive connotation”? It doesn’t.

            However, compatibilists do have to explain the experience of making “free choices” because that is how human beings experience making choices. That experience is a brute fact of reality. You cannot deny the experience.

            But you can deny that the quality of the experience indicates anything fundamental about the true nature of the experience. Compatibilists are pointing to a thing in the real world: the experience of making choices. And they are trying to explain it: it’s not what it feels like.

            That’s not dishonesty, it’s the only possible approach to the problem.

            From another perspective, I don’t think the notion of “free choice” has a positive connotation. Either choice is based on prior causes — i.e. people have reasons for making the choices they do — or it is not — i.e. free choice is the result of rolling some metaphysical die. The latter is actually horrifying and does not give anyone any extra agency beyond what anyone has in determinism. If anything, it detracts from agency — under determinism, people at least base their decision-making on prior experience. Under libertarian free will, people have no control over their decisions at all — they are completely random.

          • Randy M says:

            Compatibilists consider “free will” to be an incoherent term. How can incoherence have a “positive connotation”? It doesn’t.

            Just because they consider it incoherent, that doesn’t mean that they don’t think others have a positive view of it that they would like to reflect upon their own ideas.

            That may be false, but it isn’t nonsense.

            Either choice is based on prior causes — i.e. people have reasons for making the choices they do — or it is not — i.e. free choice is the result of rolling some metaphysical die.

            I think the word “based” is hiding a lot of distinction there. Are decisions so connected to reasons that they are essentially predetermined, or can competing reasons be weighted variously moment to moment based on some internal whim or self or some… thing.

          • wysinwyg says:

            @Randy M:

            That may be false, but it isn’t nonsense.

            Good point. I guess my real objection is that this is ad hominem. Compatibilists have no choice but to address the belief and experience of libertarian free will; if you want to discredit their arguments, you can always say that by doing so they are “smuggling positive connotations”. That doesn’t address whether the arguments themselves are plausible or reasonable.

            Are decisions so connected to reasons that they are essentially predetermined, or can competing reasons be weighted variously moment to moment based on some internal whim or self or some… thing.

            We can consider all kinds of different models. Obviously, people’s decision-making isn’t completely random, so if contra-causal or libertarian free will is true, then it must look something like what you describe.

            But it doesn’t actually matter. Let’s say the weights work out such that I get to a T-intersection and have a 20% chance of “choosing” to turn left and an 80% chance of “choosing” to turn right. If the “choice” is truly undetermined, then it is not as if I am really taking any action — I don’t actually get any agency from the fact that my choice isn’t determined. What’s really happening is that the universe is rolling a 5-sided die to determine what the meat bag does next.

          • Randy M says:

            True enough, but by that view you don’t really think “agency” is really a thing that can be had. I mean, either one is a custom built decision making process which spits out more or less well adapted responses to stimuli in a pre-determined fashion (essentially an automated, very complex flow chart), or you simply metaphorically roll dice when faced with options, or some combination of the two.

            Free Will I take to mean some other process besides that, however, I can’t really articulate what that would be, despite more or less believing in such. Why? Well, probably for the same reason I believe in everything else, that’s what my flawed, prebuilt, deterministic computational processes came up with.

          • wysinwyg says:

            I mean, either one is a custom built decision making process which spits out more or less well adapted responses to stimuli in a pre-determined fashion (essentially an automated, very complex flow chart), or you simply roll dice when faced with options, or some combination of the two.

            I see nothing wrong with supposing that the concept of “agency”, as nebulous and poorly-defined as it is, is completely consistent with a sufficiently complex flow chart.

            I can understand that people don’t like the aesthetics of actually being complex flow charts. But I don’t see that as a reason to doubt that they are, or to perversely suppose that they therefore must do at least some things totally randomly. Nor do I see how this latter view is any kind of an improvement on the notion that we are complex flow charts.

            Let’s go back to the T-intersection. I choose between left and right on the basis of all my previous experiences.

            I am who I am on the basis of all my previous experiences — with some other set of experiences I would not be “me”.

            What is objectionable about saying that my choices are determined by who I am, and that this is what agency consists of?

          • Randy M says:

            Perhaps because it comes down to either being predictable, and thus seemingly incidental, emotionally disconnected; or else irrational, and thus wrong or dumb.
            Let’s take a look at the other end of the simplicity continuum; say one is painting a picture or writing a novel. There is some compulsion within while creating to elicit a particular emotional & intellectual experience, craft that goes into the work with any multitude of options. The artist puts significant mental effort into determining the scope and subject of the work and choosing among the infinite possibilities to achieve a vision. The determinist says, in essence, “Well, you were synthesizing various inputs you’ve received prior with your genetically determined talents and desires.”
            I don’t imagine that feels like an accurate description of the process to the artist, even if it is, which I admit it may well be.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            What is objectionable about saying that my choices are determined by who I am, and that this is what agency consists of?

            What is objectionable is that agency means being the actor, the initiator, the cause of something.

            A robot, a thermostat, a flow chart, merely passively transmit the effects of the causes that operate on them. If I throw a stone into the air, it moves without my touching it. But it’s hardly an agent; I’ve imparted all the motion into it. The stone is purely passive. And if the motion of my arm was ultimately imparted into me by, say, the Cheerios I ate for breakfast, then I the motion of my arm is merely the passive product of those Cheerios.

            And this chain of passive motion goes back to whatever actually were the first cause(s), the first acting things that move themselves without being pushed by something else. If there are no such things, if things don’t move themselves but just move by chance, then there is no such thing as agency anywhere in the universe.

            The compatibilist answer to this is something like that originally given by Chrysippus: well, the stone you throw moves passively, true, but once it hits the ground and starts rolling down the hill, then it’s moving “on its own” and we can call it an agent. And in the same way, if I throw you across the room, you’re moving passively, but if you walk across the room “on your own”, you’re an agent.

            I think that’s a ridiculous answer. The fact that causes operating on you are more subtle doesn’t make them less real or give you any more agency.

        • Anon. says:

          >It is not the thesis that they are identical.

          Hence “pretends”.

          • wysinwyg says:

            He doesn’t “pretend” anything. He is a compatibilist because he believes that free will and determinism are compatible.

            Trying to suggest that it’s all some sort of posturing or put-on is ad hominem and doesn’t help anyone understand anything better.

            Or, better yet, do you have any evidence for your assertion that Dennett is engaged in some form of deception with respect to his philosophical position?

  30. Douglas Knight says:

    Scientists have identified over 20% of the genes involved in autism. I didn’t realize we were that far along with understanding any kind of massively polygenic trait like that.

    I don’t trust your source, but even if I did, I don’t think it’s saying anything very polygenic.

    I think it is saying that 20% of cases of autism are caused by a single change of large effect (“Mendelian”). Those single changes vary from family to family, but it should be easy to identify them by sequencing the families (hypothetically – no one has actually done this). But the other 80% are caused by the conjunction of several small changes and are not at all understood.

  31. ComplexMeme says:

    how can you argue that a bakery shouldn’t have to make a gay marriage cake, but Twitter should have to offer a platform to someone they think (not unreasonably) is a total douche?

    Ken seems to be straw-manning that a bit there. The bakery in question wasn’t refusing to perform some particular service, they were refusing service (the exact same service they would have been perfectly willing to provide to anyone but a gay couple) to these particular individuals. A similar case involving photographers perhaps had a better argument that the service was so personalized that it was in fact speech about a particular wedding, but you could plausibly take the exact same cake and serve it at an opposite-sex wedding, a same-sex wedding, a National Organization for Marriage fundraiser, or a celebration of the anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

    I don’t think Ken is suggesting Robert Stacy McCain was banned by Twitter at the door because Twitter feels that serving him at all would be sending some particular message.

    • DensityDuck says:

      ” you could plausibly take the exact same cake and serve it at an opposite-sex wedding, a same-sex wedding, a National Organization for Marriage fundraiser, or a celebration of the anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.”

      Doesn’t go. The service was for a personalized cake, in the sense of selecting the type, color, decorations, etcetera. It’s not like there were just racks of premade cakes and the couple walked in and pointed at the one they wanted.

    • Murphy says:

      I think it’s more because the cake makers were being asked to write a specific pro-gay marriage statement on a custom cake.

      If a very pro-choice woman ran a sign-making business and a bunch of christians showed up asking her to make a set of signs reading “Ban Abortion, Women should be pregnant and barefoot” then the same principle would give her the right to say “no, I am not willing to be forced to write those words, go find another sign maker”

      She also has lots of pre-made signs for various things in the shop that they’re still welcome to buy. Just not ones advocating pro-life positions.

      Would she be discriminating against Christians if she refused to do that?

  32. Nornagest says:

    If a fascist government kills ten million people, does that imply that a microfascist government kills ten?

    Because that sounds better than what we’ve got.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The funny thing is, the Kingdom of Italy under Fascism and Fascist Austria were more like “government that kills a hundred of its own citizens”, plus an unjust war that killed a couple hundred thousand Ethiopians in Italy’s case. We always forget that in the pre-war period, the Fascists saw Nazis as enemies (Mussolini actually wanted Britain and France to declare war under the Locarno Treaty when the SS assassinated the Fascist PM of Austria in a failed Anschluss), and the Fascist oppression that Leftists complained about was things like Blackshirts assaulting Stalinists and forcing them to drink castor oil so they’d get the runs.

      I’m not saying that Mussolini was anything but cunning amoral scum, but he was really a weaker figure in the Kingdom of Italy’s government than Andrew Jackson was in the United States. The Fascist Party having the power to fire him and the King having the power to arrest him seems like an example of the whole “checks and balances” thing.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Was Mussolini really that “cunning”?

        It’s not that hard to come to a view of him as incredibly overconfident as to the abilities of his country and its military, completely overwhelmed in person by Hitler… If he hadn’t gotten Italy involved in the war, he’d probably be in the same boat as Franco, instead of the same boat as Hitler, in terms of being remembered.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          That is only because they still haven’t dug up all of Franco’s mass graves or opened up the government archives.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, definitely. Franco was an ugly dictator, to say the least. And as you point out, as more information comes to light, his name will be more and more darkened.

            But he died in power, of natural causes, after several decades, and the last statues of him in Spain were only taken down 10 or so years ago. Whereas Mussolini was summarily executed and his body hung up in public. In comparison to that, “opinion turns overwhelmingly against him in the decades after his death” sounds pretty good.

        • I don’t think Mussolini was overwhelmed in person by Hitler. Based on Churchill’s account in the first volume of his history of WWII, Mussolini blocked Hitler’s first attempt to annex Austria, moving Italian divisions into the Brenner Pass to make his point. Then came Abyssinia. France and England strongly objected to what Italy was doing but did nothing effective to stop it. Mussolini concluded, first, that they were not his friends, and second that they were not very dangerous enemies. The next time Hitler wanted to annex Austria Mussolini made no objection, and Hitler responded with gratitude.

          On the subject of Franco … . If you read Orwell’s letters and essays, you see the argument that the British conservatives were being stupid by favoring Franco’s side in the Civil War, because come the next war Franco would ally with Hitler—and there goes Gibraltar.

          Turned out Orwell was wrong.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anecdotally, at least, Mussolini is supposed to have been cowed in person by Hitler – in the same way that a lot of people were. And I do mean in person – by all accounts Hitler was very effective at browbeating and bullying people one-on-one.

      • DavidS says:

        Thanks for educating me – despite studying the Anschluss as part of a sixth form (17-18 year old) history course, I’m pretty certain we were never told that Austria also had a fascist government, just a Catholic and non-Nazi one.

  33. Clark says:

    Thank you for kindly linking to my post on [ BANNED WORD ]!

    (sounds sarcastic; isn’t)

  34. Barbara says:

    Where can I find the full text of homeopathy review including the studies considered ? All the links seem to direct me somewhere meta and then further meta.

  35. Samedi says:

    On the topic of Trump, I only started paying attention to the election last week (none of the candidates represent my political preferences) and I’ve been surprised at the level of hostility directed at him from the GOP and the MSM. I’ve never seen anything like it and I really can’t explain it. What is it about him that is provoking such a reaction? To me this is the most interesting part of the current campaign.

    It feels like a question of style rather than substance but I’m hoping someone here with a better mastery of sociology can offer some enlightenment. The reaction of the press to Trump reminds me of the reaction to Rodney Dangerfield at the country club in Caddyshack.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      He’s deliberately angering the GOP and MSM, who are at this point part of a generic “establishment” in the minds of the public.

      He follows a cycle: Say something that is ambiguously interpretable as “evil”, get attacked for being evil, attack back without pausing to defend himself. In an election cycle in which everybody is pissed off at the establishment (and have been for some time), this plays incredibly well. It also plays well with large groups of people (men, white people, Christians, etc.) who are tired of being attacked and being told they’re not allowed to fight back.

      There’s more to it than that, involving social class, and how Trump doesn’t act the way old wealth is supposed to act; which is to say, many people see him as having no class. That’s why people describe him as a clown; he has no shame, nothing is beneath him. This also plays well to the general public, particularly poorer people, who to a significant extent aren’t allowed to have dignity – while, again, pissing off establishment-types, who think he’s beneath them, and find his success an affront to their own dignity.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        When I saw the news story accusing Trump of doing a Nazi salute, all I could think was “haven’t these reporters learned anything yet?” Even I felt sympathy for Trump for that one, and I’m pretty anti-Trump.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          See, I hate Trump but don’t quite understand why other people hate him so much because they only call him out on superficial things.

          It’s like: “I hate Ted Cruz!”

          “Why? He says he wants to deport 12 million people?”

          “He’s got a funny face! He’s the Zodiac killer!”

          “Okay…”

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            People don’t vote for policies or positions. They vote for people. A funny face matters. You’ll be seeing that face on a semi-daily basis for four years. You’ll hear that voice as often as some of your friends.

            The policy preferences of the president don’t have nearly as much as an impact on people’s lives as the “superficial” things.

  36. HHELLD says:

    “a judge who’s had a long run of innocent people will be more likely to find the next person guilty” – how much of this is due to an unavoidable self-calibration? I.e. if you find that something is positive too often then it’s maybe by chance or maybe your threshold is way off and you need to correct it?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If you’re a judge who’s done ten thousand cases, and your last ten have all been innocent, then unless you expect your brain/methodology to have suddenly changed, those last ten being innocent should matter less for the next case than your general innocent/guilty ratio over all ten thousand.

      And if it is about self-correction, we should expect the judge to continue to self-correct even after a run of a few more guilties.

  37. Z says:

    People seem to continually miss or ignore something about Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. Yes, it ruled that a test or any other “condition of employment” is presumed to be illegal if different races, sexes, etc. do differently on it. However, that is a “rebuttable presumption”; it is legal if the employer can show that the test is actually a valid and reliable predictor of success on the job.

    This is known as the “business necessity” defense. For some reason HR departments all over the US pretend that part doesn’t exist.

    In Jordan vs. New London, the court interpreted job satisfaction (or dissatisfaction in this case) and turnover rate to be within the domain of job performance. I don’t like it either, but if you read up on both cases (http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=bjell and http://www.aele.org/apa/jordan-newlondon.html), the different outcomes shouldn’t surprise, confuse, or offend you…At least not much.

    • Emily says:

      It doesn’t offend me at all. But let’s look at that court decision:

      “Applying that lenient standard of review, we conclude that even absent a strong proven statistical correlation between high scores on the Wonderlic test and turnover resulting from lack of job satisfaction, it is enough that the city believed — on the basis of material prepared by the test maker and a letter along similar lines sent by the LEC — that there was such a connection. Plaintiff presented some evidence that high scorers do not actually experience more job dissatisfaction, but that evidence does not create a factual issue, because it matters not whether the city’s decision was correct so long as it was rational.”

      When there are racial disparate-impact issues associated with the use of a test for hiring police or firemen, is that how it’s going down, with the court saying “well, the city had a rational reason to believe that the test was valid, so it’s all good”? It has been my impression that, at least in the big-city, high-profile cases, the burden of proof has been much higher. (I’m OK with there being a higher burden of proof when there is racial disparate impact, btw.)

    • Mary says:

      The reason is that it costs time and money and is not a guarantee of success.

      • Z says:

        And if you look into the work of Schmidt & Hunter and related research on predictors of job performance, you’ll get an idea of just how much it improves your odds of success.

        It seems odd to just assume that the time, money, and risk isn’t worth it, every time, full stop, and ignore or omit part of case law.

        SHRM is aware of that research. They cite it in http://www.shrm.org/about/foundation/research/Documents/assessment_methods.pdf. The most relevant pages in this case are 16-17, 20-23, and 35-36.

        Cognitive tests are used for the military, police officers, firefighters, and NFL players and no one seems to bat an eye. Yet the notion of using them for jobs like computer programmers results in HR pretending the business necessity defense doesn’t exist.

        http://blog.codinghorror.com/skill-disparities-in-programming/

        “In programming specifically, many studies have shown order of magnitude differences in the quality of the programs written, the sizes of the programs written, and the productivity of the programmers. The original study that showed huge variations in individual programming productivity was conducted in the late 1960s by Sackman, Erikson, and Grant (1968). They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of intitial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20:1; the ratio of debugging times over 25:1; of program sizes 5:1; and of program execution speed about 10:1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity. (Code Complete, page 548)”

        And yet companies continue to include experience requirements for programmer jobs. Again, look into the research on performance predictors and you’ll find it hard to defend the use of job experience as a hiring criteria outside of very specific cases.

        That’s the tip of the iceberg. For some jobs, there are disproportionately huge rewards for selecting exceptionally high performing candidates relative to other jobs.

        • Mary says:

          That would be work.

        • I honesty wonder, for most public companies, whether or not the gains from hiring only the best programmers would be offset by the negative PR for not hiring people in the desired demographic balance.

          I also note that most companies really don’t need top-tier IT talent to run a website or an app that does basic CRUD; the difference between, e.g., a 1-megabyte download that loads in .1 seconds versus a 5 megabyte download that loads in 1 second may not create that much business value.

          Finally, I think that most of the low-hanging fruit of a comprehensive test can be captured by FizzBuzz or similar. And so, if the managers and hiring decision-makers are technially astute enough to pick one set of technical test metrics versus another, they’re also probably good enough to ad-hoc their own test if desired.

          • Mary says:

            “by the negative PR for not hiring people in the desired demographic balance.”

            What negative PR? How many companies do you know the demographic balance of?

          • Personally, just the ones I’ve worked for and the ones for whom it’s been an issue in the news.

            This last category is, at least in some areas, surprisingly large.

          • Anon says:

            @Mary

            This article has graphics displaying the demographic balances by race and sex of many well-known tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

            There’s also quite a lot of negative PR being published by major and minor news outlets on this topic. Here’s some examples:
            If You Work in Silicon Valley, Odds Are You’re a Man
            Why Silicon Valley Is Failing Miserably At Diversity, And What Should Be Done About It
            Inside Silicon Valley’s struggle for diversity
            Silicon Valley struggles to hack its diversity problem

            Considering how much heat massive, incredibly powerful companies like Google and Apple are taking for not having a racially balanced workforce, I can understand why no tech company (large or small) is willing to risk hiring solely based on skill. Their demographics would probably end up even more skewed than Apple’s or Google’s, resulting in them getting even more negative PR, which could outweigh the productivity gains from having an incredibly skilled workforce.

          • Adam says:

            So the ‘risk’ is you become a top-ten market cap company in the world, make the list of fastest ever to 50 bil in personal net worth, and get mean articles written about you every now and again? Twitter has been in the dumps a bit, but it’s hard to see what about any of those other companies makes them cautionary tales about how not to hire people or run a business.

          • tenshal mungafe says:

            >Considering how much heat massive, incredibly powerful companies like Google and Apple are taking for not having a racially balanced workforce, I can understand why no tech company (large or small) is willing to risk hiring solely based on skill.

            Alternately, taking all this heat hasn’t stopped Apple and alphabet from being the biggest companies in the world, so maybe they don’t need to care about heat.

            Tbh, inasmuch as appl and goog care, it’s probably because Tim cook and whoever runs goog these days personally think that diversity is a nice thing to care about

          • Is it reasonable to think that most employers know it’s legally risky to use IQ tests?

            I only hear about this in more or less right-wing more or less rationalist discussions, which suggests to me thin knowledge isn’t common in the culture.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is it reasonable to think that most employers know it’s legally risky to use IQ tests?

            Any employer with an HR department or a lawyer will know it. The owners of a mom-and-pop small restaurant may not, but they aren’t likely to be giving IQ tests in the first place.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t think it’s any worry about discrimination lawsuits which prevents cognitive tests from being used. It’s that no one knows a good and practical test which can distinguish your 20X programmer from your 0.1X programmer (not to mention the rather common -1X programmer).

    • Frank McPike says:

      One other important difference between Griggs v. Duke Power and Jordan v. New London is that the former is a case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the latter is under the Equal Protection Clause.* Title VII prohibits tests with a disparate impact (on race, religion, sex, or other protected traits) unless they can be shown to be linked to job performance. As you note, if this was a Title VII case, New London probably would have won, since they did seem to have evidence that the criteria they were using was related to job performance.

      But Jordan wasn’t a Title VII case, it was an Equal Protection Clause case, which meant that it was analyzed under a more lenient standard. Disparate impact is not enough to trigger stricter scrutiny unless the disparate impact is the purpose of the policy. For example, in Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney, a hiring preference for veterans in state jobs led to an overwhelmingly male civil service. But since that wasn’t the purpose of the law, the law wasn’t a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.**

      In this case, Jordan didn’t even allege disparate impact on his racial group (if he had been able to do so, probably he would have brought a Title VII claim), simply that he was discriminated against on the basis of his IQ score. Since IQ is not a suspect classification, the appropriate level of scrutiny is rational basis. Rational basis is an extremely lenient test for which it’s generally enough if the government can give a vaguely plausible reason for the policy. They had one in this case, so there was no constitutional violation.

      In other words, the main reason Griggs and Jordan look so different is because a different type of legal claim was made in each. This meant different types of evidence were examined and a different type of test was applied. (Though, as I note above, Jordan wouldn’t have had much of a case under Title VII either.)

      *The New Haven firefighters case was also under Title VII, although it involved a more complicated fact pattern.
      **Why didn’t Feeny bring a suit under Title VII? She might have had a decent case, except that Title VII specifically exempts hiring preferences for veterans.

  38. onyomi says:

    Re. Trump anxiety, the article says people have grown up learning “to not ostracize people based on their skin color.” It is taken for granted that Trump is doing that, so far as I can tell, by the magic of: said something bad about illegal immigrants–>hates Mexicans–>wants to ostracize people on the basis of their skin color.

    Other than his failure to denounce David Duke fast enough, is there any evidence that Donald Trump is actually racist, other than the above chain of transitive racism? And if not, isn’t the above chain kind of the whole problem, as well as the answer to the mystery of why Trump gets away with it? That is, some people have refused to stop doing the mental math which goes “tough on immigration=hates Mexicans=hates black people and everyone with a different skin color for pure racial reasons”?

    • Murphy says:

      Wanting to ban all muslims refugees from entering the country is a candidate.

      But I don’t personally think he’s particularly racist or to be more exact I don’t think he genuinely has strong feelings about race, he’s just a massive populist. He’ll say anything to win support and that includes winning the support of racists.

      • Frog Do says:

        Muslim isn’t a race, Arabs and geographically similar people are structurally classed as white by the USG.

        • Randy M says:

          True as that may be, Murphy was addressing the question of people’s perceptions and opinions of Trump. Disliking people based on identity pattern matches to being a racist.

          [edit: I see now that that wasn’t what Onyomi actually asked, my mistake]

          • Adam says:

            It’s also largely undesirable on its own to the same people who hate literal racism. It’s not like they approve of hating Guatemalans because Guatemalans are not a race.

          • Frog Do says:

            What racism is vs what racism pattern matches to is a very important distinction, see also the endless debates on the use of the word fascism. Racism more or less pattern matched to anti-establishment now, IMO, in a way that is entirely unhelpful, unless you’re in the establishment.

            In this case, speaking of specifically about USG policies, wanting to ban Muslim refugees from entering the country is structural religous bias.

          • onyomi says:

            “What racism is vs what racism pattern matches to is a very important distinction”

            Exactly.

            Racism has now expanded to mean “not sufficiently forward thinking on issues of socio-economic-religio-cultural inclusivity.”

          • Randy M says:

            I agree racism is incoherent as currently used.

            In this case, speaking of specifically about USG policies, wanting to ban Muslim refugees from entering the country is structural religious bias.

            Actually doing so would be putting into law a religious bias, yes but wanting to do so may not necessarily mean he is “biased” meaning either hateful or unreasoned. The reasoning that as a group at this time they would bring net negatives to existing citizens compared to a comparable number of other groups could be a reasoned argument from a position of neutrality.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Randy M says: Actually doing so would be putting into law a religious bias.

            I disagree. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 governs the rules for seeking political asylum in the US which includes those fleeing religious persecution.

            The solution is simple. Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims living in or near ISIL controlled areas are obviously under greater threat and thus should be given top priority.

            Once you’ve taken care of them you can start screening Muslim asylum seekers on case-by-case basis.

            Wahhabist Muslims would of course be denied asylum on the grounds that they are not actually facing religious persecution. If they want to immigrate they have to do it the old fashioned way, by moving to Mexico and crossing the border applying for a green card 😉

          • Derelict says:

            Racism has now expanded to mean “not sufficiently forward thinking on issues of socio-economic-religio-cultural inclusivity.”

            It’s not racism specifically — it also encompasses sexism, classism, etc. as you mentioned in the giant hyphenated word.

            But otherwise, you’re right. That’s pretty much the line of thinking behind the “minimum standard of human decency”. The people who spout that line consider themselves to be acting just barely good enough to be acceptable, and everyone who doesn’t act exactly as good as them to be despicable and subhuman as a result.

          • Anonymous says:

            The minimum standard of human decency seems to rise much faster than the minimum wage.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “The solution is simple. Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims living in or near ISIL controlled areas are obviously under greater threat and thus should be given top priority.”

            Aren’t Shia Muslims under *at least* an equally great threat?

          • nil says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            Undeniably so. Few things make me angrier than right-wingers who walk about how important it is to “name the enemy” and proceed to name it as “Islam” or “radical Islam,” ignoring the fact that America hasn’t been hit by Shia terrorism in at least 30 years, and that Shia Muslims constitute both the most common victim of and often the front-line fighters against Salafist/Wahhabist Sunni terrorism.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Equal maybe, but not greater. Tolerance/Amnesty for Shia is at least on the table among “liberal” Sunni. Can’t say the same for Jews.

            Even so, my point is that there is a legal precedent for religious/ideological immigration test and it’d be hard to argue against it without arguing that the concept of “asylum” itself is unconstitutional.

          • JDG1980 says:

            But otherwise, you’re right. That’s pretty much the line of thinking behind the “minimum standard of human decency”. The people who spout that line consider themselves to be acting just barely good enough to be acceptable, and everyone who doesn’t act exactly as good as them to be despicable and subhuman as a result.

            I think these kind of impossibly high standards are a legacy of Protestant Christianity. But the difference is that in Protestantism, it’s understood from the start that the high standards are actually unattainable by any ordinary human, and the whole point is that we all fall short and need Jesus to save us. On the other hand, it’s not unusual for modern ideologies, especially those connected with “social justice” and related topics, to move these standards from the sacred to the secular realm, thus putting on the necks of people “a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear”.

          • NN says:

            The solution is simple. Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims living in or near ISIL controlled areas are obviously under greater threat and thus should be given top priority.

            (emphasis added)

            I’m pretty sure that the only Jews living anywhere near ISIL controlled areas are in Israel. Well, okay, there is an ISIL franchise in Afghanistan, so it is theoretically possible that ISIL is a threat to the one Jew living in that country.

            Regardless, under those standards, couldn’t Syrian Sunnis also claim that they are facing religious persecution from the Assad regime and its allies? Iraqi Sunnis might also be able to make similar claims.

            Undeniably so. Few things make me angrier than right-wingers who walk about how important it is to “name the enemy” and proceed to name it as “Islam” or “radical Islam,” ignoring the fact that America hasn’t been hit by Shia terrorism in at least 30 years, and that Shia Muslims constitute both the most common victim of and often the front-line fighters against Salafist/Wahhabist Sunni terrorism.

            Agreed. They also ignore the fact that it is absurd even to say that the US is at war with Radical Sunni Islam, seeing as how the US has been allied with the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for decades.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I think these kind of impossibly high standards are a legacy of Protestant Christianity.

            The ultracalvinist hypothesis?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @JDG1980: On the other hand, it’s not unusual for modern ideologies, especially those connected with “social justice” and related topics, to move these standards from the sacred to the secular realm, thus putting on the necks of people “a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear”.

            Don’t try to immanentize the eschaton! We warned you that only leads to the Terror!

            (Spellchecker tried to change the first sentence to “Don’t try to immanent the charleston”.)

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Other than his failure to denounce David Duke fast enough, is there any evidence that Donald Trump is actually racist, other than the above chain of transitive racism?

      Have you forgotten that Trump first rose to prominence in national politics by promoting conspiracy theories about the president’s place of birth?

      If you’re wondering why the media treats Trump and his supporters as contemptible racists, that might be a good place to start.

      • What does that have to do with racism? The argument was not about Obama’s race but his place of birth and thus his claim to citizenship.

        Was his mother a U.S. citizen at the time? If so, even if he had been born in Africa he would have the same claim to citizenship that Cruz does. Of course, Trump questions that, and although the dominant legal view seems to be that “natural born citizen” doesn’t require birth within the U.S. borders, there are some who take the position that it does. A minority position but not a crazy one.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You seem to be reasoning from the premise that the only way a claim can be racist is if the content of that claim concerns a person’s race. This premise is obviously false, as with, for instance:

          “Netanyahu feeds on the blood of gentile children at night.”

          “Obama is an ape who likes fried chicken and watermelon.”

          Just as the birther conspiracy theories superficially dealt with Obama’s “place of birth and thus his claim to citizenship”, these claims superficially concern (respectively) Netanyahu’s nocturnal activities and Obama’s phylogeny and food preferences. They are still, for all that, transparently racist. So were the birther conspiracy theories, whose sole motivation was the belief or attitude that a non-white with an exotic name couldn’t possibly be a real American.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The claim “birther conspiracy theories sole motivation is a belief or attitude that a non-white with an exotic name couldn’t possibly be a real American” looks like the weak point in this argument to me. It might even be begging the question.

            One possible control case for this would be whether someone with a more Western-sounding name, like, say, George or William, might be viewed as a foreign candidate if there was record that he spent a large part of his life outside the country.

          • John Schilling says:

            Ted Cruz, John McCain, Barry Goldwater, and George Romney (yes, Mitt’s dad ran for president) were all born outside of the United States; Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal were born in the US to noncitizen parents. In every case, the question of “…are they really eligible?” was raised, quickly dismissed with “Yes, don’t be stupid”, and any conspiracy theories beyond that got approximately zero traction.

            That Barack Obama, born in one of the United States to a US citizen, gets repeated demands for his birth certificate from otherwise-respectable sources, is a conspicuous anomaly. It is reasonable to suspect that the black skin and the foreign-sounding name may be responsible for the difference.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think the Ted Cruz thing has been summarily dismissed. I’ve seen it come up pretty regularly. And if he were a democrat running for president who looked like he was going to win, I’m sure Republicans would be making a bigger deal of it than Democrats currently are. Because the GOP is, in fact, the more xenophobic party. Doesn’t mean it’s the more racist party.

            I mean, when Republicans raise questions about the family background of a Democrat with a Muslim-sounding name who grew up in Indonesia and happens to be half black it must be his race that really bothers them? Would these same people have complained if Colin Powell were running on the GOP ticket? For that matter, did any of these racists try to raise doubts about the family origins of Ben Carson?

            Imagine two theoretical candidates for president: a lily-white Democrat named Abdul Hussein born in Hawaii to one American and one non-American parent, who spent much of his youth in Iran, and a dark-skinned African American Republican named Bob Jones born to two conservative Christian African American parents in Georgia, where he grew up. Which of these two would the Red Tribe try to disqualify with questions about family background?

          • BBA says:

            Goldwater was born in the United States, just not in any state. Arizona was still a territory at the time, but under the Insular Cases it was “part of the United States” in a sense that Puerto Rico and the Philippines weren’t. (The Insular Cases are still good law – I don’t know why.)

            Did anyone claim Al Gore, born in Washington DC, was ineligible?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling
            That Barack Obama, born in one of the United States to a US citizen, gets repeated demands for his birth certificate

            But his parentage and place of birth was just the question that needed a birth certificate to confirm. Sfaik, none of the others (McCain etc) hesitated to offer their documents for examination.

            Trump’s point was that Obama’s failure to produce a birth certificate suggested that there was none, or that something was wrong with it, or that Obama was playing political games to make the ‘Birthers’ look silly.

          • John Schilling says:

            @houseboat:

            Barack Obama didn’t hesitate to release his birth certificate either; this led only to a Gish Gallop of requests for other birth certificates and supporting documentation, unsubstantiated claims of forgery, etc, etc.

            Whenever a white male presidential candidate is born under questionable circumstances, the question is asked, answered, and dropped except by the lunatic fringe. Barack Obama got a very different treatment, in spite of overwhelming evidence that he was US citizen from birth, jus soli and jus sanguinis. One data point can not prove racism, but it can suggest it – and if the defense is “but he really looked guilty”, then no, he didn’t and so you do.

            @onyomi: You’re countering real cases with hypotheticals and demanding that we accept your assessment of how people would act in those hypotheticals. I do not agree with your assessment.

          • But his parentage and place of birth was just the question that needed a birth certificate to confirm. Sfaik, none of the others (McCain etc) hesitated to offer their documents for examination.

            Even before he was elected, Obama DID provide his birth certificate (a modern document from Hawaii that simply attested to his birth). However, since it didn’t provide the “long form” details, it was unconvincing to the “birthers”.

            Unfortunately for Obama, perhaps, the old-fashioned long-form birth certificate is, in most places, no longer available from registrars, even to the individual whose birth it documents. New regulations have inhibited or prohibited the release of that information.

            I was born in Chicago in 1955. The last time I ordered a copy of my birth certificate from the Cook County Clerk, it was not the detailed long-form birth record, but rather, a bland modern certificate with zero inessential information. It was exactly the same kind of document as the one the Obama campaign originally provided in 2008.

          • Andrew G. says:

            The “long form” of Obama’s birth certificate was eventually published (years after the election) by special request; see here.

            Naturally, the publication of this document only served to increase ‘birther’ belief.

          • Jiro says:

            Whenever a white male presidential candidate is born under questionable circumstances, the question is asked, answered, and dropped except by the lunatic fringe.

            Since there haven’t been any serious female or Asian presidential candidates born under questionable circumstances, restricting this claim to white males is arbitrary and only serves to accuse your opponents of being sexist and racist without evidence.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Andrew G.
            The “long form” of Obama’s birth certificate was eventually published (years after the election) by special request*

            Yep. In 2011, he finally got around to asking HI to send him the long form — and released it on wide screen at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner to roast Trump (who took it rather calmly, iirc). I suspect Obama’s several years’ delay was trolling.

            * https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/04/27/president-obamas-long-form-birth-certificate
            Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.

          • NN says:

            There are clearly undercurrents of bigotry in the Birther movement, but I think it may be less racism and more xenophobia due to Obama’s “foreign sounding” name and cosmopolitan background. Think about it: are accusations of not being American really a common aspect of American racism against black people? Even in the South during the days of Jim Crow, I don’t think that black people were ever commonly suspected of not being American. Similar accusations have been a big part of prejudice against Asians (especially Chinese in the 19th century and Japanese during WWII), Hispanics, Irish, Muslims, and even Jews, but not black people.

            An analogy might be drawn to the accusations leveled at John F. Kennedy that he would be loyal to the Pope instead of the American people because he was Catholic. That sounds ridiculous today, but a little over 50 years ago a sizable part of the US population really did consider Catholicism to be “foreign” to the American way of life. Nowadays having Hussein as a middle name and spending much of your childhood in Indonesia hits that trigger.

          • onyomi says:

            @John Schilling:

            “You’re countering real cases with hypotheticals and demanding that we accept your assessment of how people would act in those hypotheticals. I do not agree with your assessment.”

            Not just hypothetical. Why were no questions raised about Ben Carson or Herman Cain?

            Also, are you actually saying that people would raise more questions about the background and eligibility of black, Republican, native Atlantan Christian Bob Jones than white Democrat, Hawaiian, Abdul Hussein of one foreign parent who grew up in Iran? Really??

            The birth certificate thing was xenophobic, sure, Islamophobic, maybe. Racist? No.

            Not that the birther thing was legitimate, any more than 9-11 conspiracies are legitimate. Doesn’t mean it was racist. Not that there isn’t a small lunatic fringe of actual racists in the Red Tribe (as there are in the Blue Tribe as well), a few of whom probably bought into the birther theory. There are, I’m sure. Doesn’t mean the theory is inherently racist or fueled primarily by racist sentiment.

            A certain part of the Blue Tribe on some level secretly loves the birther conspiracy because it confirms what they already knew and what they were salivating to prove from the moment they nominated a black candidate: that Republicans are all racist bigots.

            Failing to find any serious evidence of that, they’ll take an example of a lunatic fringe’s xenophobic conspiracy theory and make it racism by a transitive property. A transitive property, I might add, by which many have tried to construe any criticism of a black president as inherently racist.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @onyomi

            It can be racist and xenophobic. Compare the hypothetical reaction to a white Democrat, Hawaiian, Abdul Hussein of one foreign parent who grew up in Iran, to the actual reaction to Obama. I would suggest that part of the reason Carson and Cain weren’t the subjects of conspiracy theories is because the people likely to make those theories are Republicans. I agree that xenophobia is the more important factor (I think Obama – foreign would probably experience more birther theories than Obama + white) but that doesn’t mean race is irrelevant.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            One possible control case for this would be whether someone with a more Western-sounding name, like, say, George or William, might be viewed as a foreign candidate if there was record that he spent a large part of his life outside the country.

            It’s a nice try, but Trump (and most birthers) were explicitly promoting the conspiracy theory that Obama was born with his father in Kenya, and it is surely no evidence for this that he spent his childhood with his stepfather in Indonesia. Obama’s youthful peregrinations are irrelevant.

            But his parentage and place of birth was just the question that needed a birth certificate to confirm.

            By the time Trump joined the fracas, Obama had long since released his official (“short-form”) birth certificate, and notices of his birth had been located in the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. At that point, no reasonable person could have doubted that Obama was born in Hawaii. The birther movement was always fueled by irrational animus, and it’s hard to believe that it would have taken off if, for instance, Obama had been a white guy named Trump with a Scottish-born mother.

            Also, please read up on the issue before commenting to avoid sounding like a conspiracy theorist.

            are accusations of not being American really a common aspect of American racism against black people?

            No, but they are a common feature of racism against non-white immigrants and their descendants (see: the Japanese internment). Second and third-generation Wangs and Estevezes and Obamas are viewed as suspicious and un-American by the sort of person who would support Trump. In a way that Americans with foreign-sounding names like Perot are not.

          • onyomi says:

            “I would suggest that part of the reason Carson and Cain weren’t the subjects of conspiracy theories is because the people likely to make those theories are Republicans.”

            Yeah, exactly. It’s partisan, first and foremost. And xenophobic second, partially, indeed, because the GOP is the party with more xenophobic tendencies. Still don’t see how it has anything to do with race.

            If a large percentage of Republicans were genuinely racist we’d expect them to try to keep non-whites out of their party. We not only don’t see that, we see something of the opposite: because fewer blacks tend to join the GOP, those who show an interest in doing so receive, if anything, a warmer welcome than a white person of equivalent qualifications would, in the same way atheist communities especially welcome people from intensely religious backgrounds.

            I think people like Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Allen West, and Mia Love, get more well, love, than an otherwise identical white candidate would get because their presence helps undermine the “Republicans hate black people and black people hate Republicans” narrative.

            Today in the US, my general impression is that partisan affiliation trumps culture/regional identity, trumps gender, trumps race. If it didn’t, feminists would love Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If a large percentage of Republicans were genuinely racist we’d expect them to try to keep non-whites out of their party.

            Do you seriously think that Jim Crow-style segregation is the only shape racism could possibly take? I find the idea that every social interaction is riddled with thousands of covert microaggressions as ludicrous as anyone else, but the delusion that racism is nowhere can be just as pernicious as the delusion that it’s absolutely everywhere. Maybe worse, because it is the pushback against political correctness that’s created the Trump-monster.

          • onyomi says:

            “Do you seriously think that Jim Crow-style segregation is the only shape racism could possibly take?”

            I didn’t say anything like that. I didn’t say racism doesn’t exist, just that I don’t see it at work to any significant extent in the “birther” conspiracy and that I don’t think it prevents black members of either party from getting ahead in politics today–if anything, being black kind of helps.

            On a very subtle level, racism will always exist so long as there are distinguishable races, as there is a pervasive human tendency to take notice of the degree to which someone is or is not “like me.” That said, it’s hardly the only, nor, I would argue, most important bias in today’s US society. The vast majority of white Americans will root for a black player playing for their home team (even if he doesn’t come from their home town) ahead of a white player playing for the visiting team.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I didn’t say anything like that.

            You said: “If a large percentage of Republicans were genuinely racist we’d expect them to try to keep non-whites out of their party.”

            Which entails that the only way it is possible for someone to be racist is by demanding the exclusion of non-whites from any political organizations they belong to, i.e. Jim Crow-style segregation.

            It is true that if this is the only type of racism you are capable of recognizing then you will indeed have trouble detecting it among birthers. Back in the real world, though, it’s entirely obvious that subtler forms of racism can and do exist.

          • onyomi says:

            “It is true that if this is the only type of racism you are capable of recognizing then you will indeed have trouble detecting it among birthers. Back in the real world, though, it’s entirely obvious that subtler forms of racism can and do exist.”

            This is both ad hominem and reflects either not having read what I just posted above, or else ignoring it for the convenience of your soap box.

          • I agree with Onyomi that the birther thing is/was xenophobic and partisan rather than specifically racist.

            I remember in 1992, when a big deal was made of the fact that Bill Clinton, as a student in the UK, participated in some kind of antiwar demonstration, which (because it took place outside the U.S.) was defined as some kind of treason.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Earthly Knight March 13, 2016 at 10:18 am

            Your comment contains several unattributed quotes. I only wrote this one: “But his parentage and place of birth was just the question that needed a birth certificate to confirm.”

            / continues walking away /

      • onyomi says:

        I agree with David Friedman that it’s not justifiable to make the leap “questions about place of birth and eligibility=racism,” since, after all, people right now are asking similar questions about Ted Cruz for largely ideological, not racist reasons. Again, this is precisely the problem: people who see subtle racism everywhere to the point that there is not just a short distance, but seemingly no inferential distance between “I think we should restrict immigration” and “I hate dark-skinned people.”

        That said, I had actually forgotten that that was one of the first issues he made a big deal of. Remembering this fact strengthens my sense that there is a lot of method and strategy to Trump’s madness: at the same time as he was putting out trial balloons and teasing the media about a possible run in ’12, he was testing out nativist issues of this kind to see how people would react. For better or worse, he found a lot of latent appetite for what he was serving, though, again, I think that’s more nativism and blue collar-red tribal nationalism than racism.

        • onyomi says:

          Related, just saw this news story on my Facebook:

          http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/12/entertainment/john-legend-donald-trump-racist-feat/index.html

          Which I post not because it is particularly interesting, but precisely because it is so, so common place. “Movie star/musician calls GOP politician racist.” Yawn, okay, and how’s the weather? Until there start being some kind of negative reputational repercussions for casual, unjustified or unsupported accusations of racism, the anti-PC message of the likes of Trump will keep finding more and more resonance with people who are fed up with this superweapon.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Shades of a comment I made on Facebook just today:

            If you see something concerning, you’ll be concerned; that’s fine. If you see it while someone else tells you it’s racism, you’ll be more concerned. Maybe skeptical.

            If you then are shown one incident after another, by the same person who showed you the first, they now don’t even have to tell you it’s racism; you’ll think it. You might still be skeptical, but “racism” is one of those magic words where if you even express skepticism, you’re considered one of them. It’s a Kafkatrap.

            The result is that almost no one expresses skepticism, which *then* means everyone sees an incident and no one questioning it, which looks like everyone agreeing it’s racism. The first person to make the accusation has a very, very easy job from there.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Do you really think that Trump would have bothered with the birther attacks on Cruz had he been named Ted Johnson? Really? But Cruz, at any rate, was actually born in Canada. Obama is as American as any president before him, and had proved it beyond a reasonable doubt by the time Trump cast his lot with the birthers. So we must ask ourselves why a long succession of American-born white presidents named Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc. never had any aspersions cast on their eligibility, while as soon as an American-born black guy named Obama takes the oath of office it becomes imperative that his birth records be scrutinized in minutest detail.

          You might be able to get away with claiming you can’t hear the dog-whistles, but these aren’t dog-whistles so much as foghorns.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            While we’re at it, can we ask why other American-born black guys like Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Ben Carson have *not* had their birth records demanded and scrutinized? And why that isn’t considered a foghorn by your standards?

          • The Nybbler says:

            > So we must ask ourselves why a long succession of American-born white presidents named Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc. never had any aspersions cast on their eligibility

            This sentence is false, and so the argument fails.

            http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/01/five-other-presidential-birther-controversies-from-american-history/

          • Earthly Knight says:

            While we’re at it, can we ask why other American-born black guys like Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Ben Carson have *not* had their birth records demanded and scrutinized?

            The claim is that (a) being a black guy, and (b) having an exotic-sounding name jointly (NOT severally) provoke birther attacks against serious presidential candidates. As evidence for this claim we have the examples of Perot and Kasich, both of whom meet condition (b) but not (a) and have never had their citizenship questioned.

            You are trying to show that condition (a) is irrelevant. This means that counter-examples must take the form of either (1) a serious white presidential candidate with an exotic-sounding name who was unequivocally born in the US but still faced birther attacks, or (2) a serious black presidential candidate with an exotic-sounding name who was unequivocally born in the US but did not face birther attacks. None of the examples you have produced meet the exotic-name criterion (additionally, West was never a presidential candidate, and Keyes, Sharpton, and Cain were never altogether serious).

            This sentence is false

            Would you kindly specify in what way you think the sentence is false?

          • onyomi says:

            “The claim is that (a) being a black guy, and (b) having an exotic-sounding name jointly (NOT severally) provoke birther attacks against serious presidential candidates.”

            By this logic I could claim that (a) being a woman and (b) keeping official e-mails on a private server jointly (NOT severally) provoke attacks about mismanagement of classified info. Therefore, accusations about Hillary’s e-mail server are sexist unless and until you can produce examples of male politicians getting in trouble for private e-mail servers (though even if you can, that’s not the point, of course–it could just as well be people with initials “HRC” getting in trouble for private e-mail servers).

            In politics, it doesn’t make sense to attribute to racism or sexism (or anti-HRC-ism) what is adequately explained by partisanship. Maybe we need some kind of new version of Hanlon’s Razor.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The sentence is false (at least in what it implies with ‘etc’, if not literally) because at least one white President with a non-exotic name (Chester A. Arthur) and several serious white Presidential candidates with non-exotic names (unless Goldwater counts as “exotic” because it sounds Jewish) have indeed had “birther” attacks on them.

          • Protagoras says:

            While I was admittedly not alive for some of the alleged examples of white politicians with birther controversies, I don’t recall the McCain controversy being anywhere near as prolonged or having anywhere near as many advocates as the Obama controversy, and it is my impression that this is also true of the other cases.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @The Nybbler

            You are right that if you change the middle part of the sentence from “a long succession of American-born white presidents” to “all white presidential candidates ever” it comes out false. So it is fortunate that I said the true thing that I actually said rather than the false thing you imagined me to have said.

            Romney Sr. was not born in the US. Arthur may not have been. Obama was, and we have had overwhelming evidence that this is the case since 2008. That’s the difference.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            By this logic I could claim that (a) being a woman and (b) keeping official e-mails on a private server jointly (NOT severally) provoke attacks about mismanagement of classified info.

            Huh? Do you have examples of male presidential candidates who kept official emails on a private server but have not been criticized for it? If you did, that would suggest that attacks on Hillary might be motivated by sexism. If you don’t, the case is not analogous: white presidential candidates with exotic surnames who were unequivocally born in the US– I’ve given the examples of Perot and Kasich, but I’m sure I could find others– don’t face birther attacks. Obama did. The differences is the blackness.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Earthly Night says:The difference is the blackness.

            Are you suggesting that John McCain is black? Because that the only way your argument makes any sense.

          • Everyone seems to be ignoring one of the things that encouraged birther attacks on Obama—the fact that he was born immediately after his mother returned to the U.S., which raised the possibility that he was born a little earlier and the birth post dated.

            That would be a reasonable grounds for suspicion if there was some reason why his place of birth would have been important at the time, but I can’t see that there was—if, as I gather was the case, his mother was a U.S. citizen.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Whether a man who was born in the Panama Canal Zone counts as a natural-born US citizen is a non-trivial question of law. There was no question of law for Obama. Nor, as it happens, was there ever any question of fact.

          • John Schilling says:

            While we’re at it, can we ask why other American-born black guys like Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Ben Carson have *not* had their birth records demanded and scrutinized?

            Probably for the same reason that we have lots of conspiracy theories about who was really behind the terrorist attack on the World Trade center and almost no conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks on the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, or Disneyland.

            A conspiracy theory, to get any traction at all, has to have a nucleus of truth – something the target of the accusation will acknowledge, “Yes, that’s true, but it’s not what you think…”, or be proven liars if they deny it. For a birther-type conspiracy theory, you need someone who in fact did come to the United States as a stranger from a foreign land, preferably with foreign parents, and says “I’ve really been one of you all along, now make me your leader”.

            Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, John McCain, and George Romney all did that; Goldwater I believe just stayed where he was while the United States did the moving. Caine, Keyes, West, Jackson, Sharpton, and Carson AFIK did not. Falsely claiming otherwise, with zero evidence and against e.g. childhood neighbors and kindergarten teachers all testifying to having known them back in the day, only gets you laughed at.

          • onyomi says:

            Though this was never the intent of the birthers themselves, of course, I would go so far as to say that the birther conspiracy theory probably helped Obama in the long run, as did his choice to enter political life with his more foreign-sounding given name rather than the American-sounding nickname he had used in school.

            In politics today the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so courting the ire of nativist rubes is actually a smart move for a politician looking to win the Blue vote. There is a kind of defiance in the choice to run as “Barack” and not “Barry”–a way of saying “I shouldn’t have to make you feel comfortable about me. You should accept me for who I am.” I actually mostly agree with that myself, but I am also very xenophilic.

            I’m certainly not saying we should “blame” Obama for the birther thing, but I also think we should consider the ways Obama could have ameliorated or avoided it but chose not to. Because he was looking to win Blue votes. And you don’t win Blue votes by making Reds comfortable with you. (In a way, we see Trump doing the opposite right now: part of what appeals to Reds about his self-presentation is how uncomfortable it makes Blues).

          • hlynkacg says:

            Earthly Knight says: …Nor, as it happens, was there ever any question of fact.

            That’s where you are wrong.

            Edit: @ Onyomi, excellent point.

      • BBA says:

        That’s not racism, that’s xenophobia. Crying “Xenophobe!” doesn’t have nearly the emotional impact that crying “Racist!” does, so even people who understand the distinction tend not to emphasize it much.

        The line is admittedly blurry. The usual anti-discrimination formula refers to “race, color, religion, or national origin” and there’s some overlap, e.g. being Jewish is three of those four things.

        • onyomi says:

          Now that you mention it and upon further reflection, I think “racism” has come to colloquially include the meaning of “xenophobia,” a word most people don’t even know. Not like, associated with it. I mean, I don’t think the average person on the street has a word for the concept of xenophobia other than “racism.” Which is part of the problem.

          Now, as for whether somehow getting people to use “racism” less broadly would make people feel better or worse about xenophobia, I’m not sure. Probably need a word of three syllables or less to do the experiment. It sounds weird to say “no, no, I’m not racist, just anti-foreign,” but even “anti-foreign” sounds a lot less venomous than “racist” in our current political culture.

          I guess it’s pretty similar to the trick whereby “anti-Semitic=Nazi,” “Israel=Jewish state,” ergo “Israel critic=Nazi” (I refrain from calling it the non-central fallacy/”worst argument in the world,” (which I still don’t think is the worst argument in the world) though, since I don’t think xenophobia is a non-central instance of racism; it’s just a completely different, if sometimes comorbid thing).

          • Anonymous says:

            This is going off topic, but I’m curious – what do you think is the worst argument in the world?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Worst argument in the world/non-central fallacy: http://squid314.livejournal.com/323694.html

          • onyomi says:

            As dndnrsn said, “Worst Argument in the World” is SSC-speak for the “non-central fallacy,” which I don’t agree is the worst argument in the world because I’m one of those awful libertarians who tells people that taxation is theft.

            If I were to pick my own candidate for Worst Argument in the World it would probably be just raw appeal to emotion based on the surface-level appearance or name of things: “you’re against the equal pay for women act? You must think women don’t deserve the same dignity as a man in the workplace.” “You’re against the affordable care act? Do you want care to be unaffordable?” “You want to abolish the Dept of Education?” “Well, I, for one, think all our children deserve access to a top quality education.”

            Because of the way this argument is completely endemic to politics, I think it is probably the number one rhetorical reason Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

            At a much more sophisticated level, there is the octopus argument by nitpicking/muddying the waters (not exactly the same as changing the subject, of which I am frequently guilty, and which I think can genuinely be an instance of losing interest in the original argument, though it can be used as an obfuscation tactic, too). This is the argument which says “I can find several places to quibble with the details of your argument which, while they don’t actually undermine the validity of your central point at all, make me feel more free now to disagree with you, as my gut is telling me I should.”

            Related, I think, is the overly complex argument of people like Adorno: if you can state something in a very complex-sounding way, then people will have to respect your argument even if, stated more simply, it would be obviously wrong.

            Related to the recent thread about interminable debates, I also really hate: “I don’t have the time here to show you in detail how terribly wrong you are, but maybe you should start by reading [giant body of work].” This used to happen to me all the time when debating progressives on Facebook (something I largely stopped doing for the sake of my sanity): faced with what I thought was a very strong argument against their position, progressive friend will basically say “you’re deeply mistaken but I don’t have time to explain to you why.”

            That is very annoying, because, while theoretically possible, it is indistinguishable from “I don’t have a good response, but my gut tells me there’s no way I’m going to accept your argument; but since I myself don’t have time or energy to search through my own books for counter arguments, I’ll just say that you’d agree with me if you had read those books.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi:

            That is sort of in the same ballpark as the non-central fallacy: if the most typical opponent of the DoE is (or is perceived as) someone who just doesn’t value education, then what’s going on is similar.

          • Jiro says:

            This is the argument which says “I can find several places to quibble with the details of your argument which, while they don’t actually undermine the validity of your central point at all, make me feel more free now to disagree with you, as my gut is telling me I should.”

            Related, I think, is the overly complex argument of people like Adorno: if you can state something in a very complex-sounding way, then people will have to respect your argument even if, stated more simply, it would be obviously wrong.

            I think these are often at odds, rather than being related (except to the extent that being related in a negative way counts as being related).

            Things are often stated in an overly complex way because of the need to protect against nitpicking criticisms. Especially on the Internet.

          • onyomi says:

            “Things are often stated in an overly complex way because of the need to protect against nitpicking criticisms. Especially on the Internet.”

            I think there is some truth to this, especially on the internet. I say, therefore, to the nitpickers: you are actively incentivizing tl;dr content at the expense of clarity.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          It clearly involves elements of both racism and xenophobia, although it’s hard to say in what measures. As I noted above, second- and third-generation (non-Hispanic) whites tend to get a pass, while their non-white and Hispanic counterparts are treated as alien and suspicious.

          • onyomi says:

            “clearly involves elements of both racism and xenophobia”

            How so? Where is the racism?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            John Kasich is a third-generation white American with an exotic but distinctively European surname. He has faced precisely zero birther attacks.

            Barack Obama is a second-generation black American with an exotic and distinctively African surname. He has faced endless birther attacks, despite overwhelming evidence that he was born in Hawaii.

            If you’re still having trouble seeing the racism, I suggest removing your head from the sand and trying again.

          • Sastan says:

            Not a shred of racism to be seen. Just political partisanship as per usual.

            Most blacks never have their citizenship questioned. That isn’t even a “black” thing! But, if your name is Barack Hussein Obama, and your dad is a kenyan national, yeah, people who oppose you are gonna reach for everything they can. Is it silly? Of course. But drawing a straight line to racism is just as silly.

          • onyomi says:

            “John Kasich is a third-generation white American with an exotic but distinctively European surname. He has faced precisely zero birther attacks.”

            To most Americans, “John Kasich” is not a weird sounding name. “Barack Obama” (who used to go by “Barry,” but actively chose to eschew that much more American-sounding nickname, btw), is.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The numbers don’t bear you out on this. Kasich is a Czech name, and there are only about 1.5 million Americans of Czech descent, compared to 2.5 million Filipinos, 2.7 million Indians, and 3.2 million Chinese. You have almost certainly encountered far more Wangs in your life than Kasiches.

            Unless, of course, “exotic” or “weird-sounding” just means “non-European,” in which case if birther attacks were motivated by Obama’s exotic name they are for that reason racist.

          • onyomi says:

            And how many “Baracks” do you run into in your daily life in the US? “Barry Obama” might have been a less tempting target for conspiracy theorists, but he chose to embrace his foreign-sounding name because Tribe Blue likes that sort of thing. And I’m sure “Jaroslav Kasich” would raise more eyebrows than John Kasich, especially if he were running as a Democrat. Speaking of which, notice that Republican candidate “Bobby” Jindal (whose skin is at least as dark as Obama’s, btw) didn’t chose to go by “Piyush Jindal” when running for the nomination of that party.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Barack is the Hebrew Baruch, so one, actually. You can also find several Baruchs in the Old Testament. But I suppose it is unreasonable to expect any birthers to have ever actually cracked open a Bible.

            At any rate, are you sticking with the claim that a white guy named Baruch Kasich would have been the target of birther attacks, while a black guy named John Obama would not have been? If so, I’m happy to let the matter rest– the plausibility of that hypothesis versus the racism hypothesis speaks for itself, I think.

          • onyomi says:

            “At any rate, are you sticking with the claim that a white guy named Baruch Kasich would have been the target of birther attacks, while a black guy named John Obama would not have been?”

            If Baruch Kasich were running as a Democrat, was born in Hawai’i (which, fair, or not, is probably perceived as about American as Puerto Rico by many who’ve never left the lower 48) to one foreign parent, and grew up in Indonesia, while John Obama was born and grew up in the lower 48 to two American parents and was running as a Republican, then sure.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            So here’s a list of factors that you think contributed significantly to the spread of the birther conspiracy theories about Obama:

            1. That his first name is Barack.
            2. That his surname is Obama.
            3. That he is a democrat.
            4. That he was born in Hawaii, which some people perhaps view as not being a proper state (paradoxically, given that the whole point of the conspiracy theories is that he was not, in fact, born in Hawaii!).
            5. That one of his parents was foreign.
            6. That he grew up in a different country.

            But you are quite certain that his race played no role to speak of? You must have a keen eye to discern that the unamericanness of Obama’s Hawaiian birthplace convinced birthers that Obama was too unamerican to have been born in Hawaii.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m saying black politicians with American-sounding names who grew up in the US and are running as Republicans don’t get questioned about their Americanness. Therefore, I see no good reason to assume that Obama’s race was a significant factor in the “birther” theory, when it is more than adequately explained by his partisan affiliation, personal history, and foreign-sounding name.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            I’m pretty certain that black Republicans don’t get attacked because “they’re one of the good ones.” It’s the old “I have a black friend so I can’t be racist” defense except in this case you don’t even need for the other guy to know you

          • onyomi says:

            “I’m pretty certain that black Republicans don’t get attacked because “they’re one of the good ones.” It’s the old “I have a black friend so I can’t be racist” defense except in this case you don’t even need for the other guy to know you”

            If Republicans attacked the identity of black Republicans with equal fervor they’d surely, and perhaps justly, be called racist, because they’d be attacking blacks regardless of party affiliation and other qualities. But if they attack only black Democrats (along with a lot of white Democrats) then they are still racist because they’re only not attacking black Republicans to prove how not racist they are.

            Similarly, if I have no black friends then I’m racist because if I weren’t racist I’d have black friends. But if I do have black friends then I’m still probably racist, since I probably just like to point to those friends as a cover for my racism. If you start with the assumption that white Red Tribers are racist and I am a white Red Triber, then any set of facts can be twisted to fit the thesis.

            This is the fundamental problem: in the Blue Tribe worldview racist and sexist motivations are assumed about any attack against (Blue Tribe) non-whites and women until proven otherwise. By the way, it’s racist/sexist to try to prove otherwise.

            Really, the only thing a Red Tribe member could actually do to stop being assumed racist/sexist by Blue Tribe members would be to join the Blue Tribe, since, from their perspective, racism and sexism are fundamental to Red Tribe membership (this is the old, “assume nefarious motivations on the part of your opposition” bias to which everyone is vulnerable).

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @onyomi
            If you have no black friends despite living in Nigeria, that does cast aspersions on your attitude to people of different races. If you have no black friends because you live on a small Scottish island where all 200 inhabitants are white it doesn’t. Likewise, if you are a member of the KKK, having black friends doesn’t mean you aren’t racist (not just a hypothetical).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @SweeneyRod – The Black Friends trope is deployed on Americans, not Nigerians. Further, it is not actually deployed on KKK members, but is rather used to claim that Red Tribe members are equivalent to the KKK. You might check out the controversy stirred up last fall around Brad Torgenson if you’d like an example of the trope in action.

          • onyomi says:

            I actually think the meme making fun of “I can’t be racist because I have black friends” thing is itself wrongheaded. I think, all things equal, white people with black friends probably are less racist. Doesn’t mean you are racist if you have no black friends, especially if you live in rural Scotland or whatever, and yes it would be more suspect if you live in Nigeria and have no black friends, but it seems to me unlikely that a white person with serious racial bias against black people is going to have many close black friends.

            Of course, this meme gets deployed as a way to prevent white people getting out of feeling their fair share of racial guilt just because they have some black friends. And sure, having black friends doesn’t mean you deeply understand the African American experience or that you aren’t subtly biased in the sorts of ways everyone is about people who do or do not look or talk or act like them.

            But racism, doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, imo, mean, “not fully understanding the experience of minority groups” or “having a subtle preference to hang out or empathize with people who look and act and talk like you.” By these definitions everyone is racist.

            And this is the great “motte and bailey” of accusations of racism:

            motte: “everyone’s a little racist. Do you deny that there still exist all kinds of subtle biases in our society? Do you deny that you have stereotypes about races in your head? Have you ever incorrectly assumed a black person would be good at basketball or an Asian good at math? Well that’s racism. We’re just asking everyone to be a little more sensitive. Plus, you wouldn’t claim to know what it’s really like to be black in America just because you have a few black friends, would you?”

            bailey: “racism is a deep and ongoing problem endemic to US society and the GOP constituency in particular and still constitutes a major barrier to minorities getting ahead, as well as a major motivator for policy decisions which negatively impact minorities. This justifies continuation or expansion of affirmative action, quotas, reparations… and even most of the opposition to our first black president was clearly racial in motivation…”

            So people push for policy proposals and destroy peoples’ reputations using the bailey, but when people try to fight back with “but I have black friends!” or “but I actually disagree with the president on policy grounds!” they retreat to continue the assault from the motte, where they can make fun of you for attacking the bailey.

          • bluto says:

            Oddly none of the factors on your list mattered to me. Key factors for me included:

            His agents claimed a foreign birth when it benefited them (his literary agent was trying to market his book to people who may be interested in an exotic author).

            http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/booklet.asp

            And following this he steadfastly refused to produce a birth certificate until June 2008. The question arose early in the primaries when he was gaining momentum in March.

            It wouldn’t shock me to find that the literary agent got the information from either Columbia or Harvard Law which was why Obama was hesitant to release the corrected information.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’m saying black politicians with American-sounding names who grew up in the US and are running as Republicans don’t get questioned about their Americanness. Therefore, I see no good reason to assume that Obama’s race was a significant factor in the “birther” theory,

            Good, now that you’ve made your reasoning explicit, we can see that it’s formally invalid. You are claiming that, given that (A): blackness, (B): an American-sounding name, (C): growing up in the US, and (D): being a republican together do not cause (Q): birther attacks, we can infer that (A): blackness does not cause (Q): birther attacks.

            But this inference is specious– the fact that (A), (B), (C), and (D) together do not cause (Q) does not imply that (A) does not cause (Q). This might be because (A) does cause (Q) but (B), (C), or (D) blocks the effects of (A), or it might be because (A) causes (Q) only in the presence of some condition other than (B), (C), or (D). In other words, it may be that blackness does cause birther attacks but having an American-sounding name, growing up in the US or, or being a republican mitigates the effects of blackness, or it might be because blackness causes birther attacks but only in the presence of some other condition.

            To underscore that this is inference is invalid, consider another instance. Suppose you know that (A*): striking a match, (B*): the match being wet, and (C*): being in a vacuum together do not cause (Q*): the match to light. Does it follow that (A*): striking a match does not cause (Q*): the match to light? Of course not. Striking a match does cause the match to light, it’s just that (B*) and (C*), where present, block the effects of striking the match.

            I mentioned earlier what evidence you would need to actually show that blackness and an exotic-sounding name do not jointly cause birther attacks. You need to furnish examples of blacks (who were unequivocally native-born and serious presidential candidates) with exotic-sounding names who were not targeted by birthers, or whites (who were unequivocally native-born and serious presidential candidates) with exotic-sounding names who were targeted by birthers. This was not some arbitrary hoop I was asking you to jump through, it’s a formal point about how causal inference works. Without it, you have zero evidence that birther conspiracy theories weren’t motivated by racism.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Oddly none of the factors on your list mattered to me.

            What makes you think you are fit to judge this? Human beings, even when their beliefs are rational, are often mistaken about what motivates them to hold those beliefs. This goes double or triple for conspiracy theorists like yourself.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Held in Escrow and Sweenyrod

            This is obviously a Kafka Trap and you should be ashamed of yourselves. You arrive at your conclusion independently of any evidence and are treating contradictory/escalatory evidence as proof of your target’s denial and guilt.

          • onyomi says:

            “you have zero evidence that birther conspiracy theories weren’t motivated by racism”

            And this is precisely the problem: in Blue Tribe world, the burden of proof is on me to prove a negative–that something isn’t caused by racism–even in cases when there’s no reason to suspect racism other than the fact that a black person was the object of criticism. In Blue Tribe world, all criticism of black people by white people is presumed to have at least some racist motivation unless (impossibly) proven otherwise.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There have been no serious black Presidential candidates with exotic-sounding names other than Barack Obama. The closest you would come is Lenora Fulani, which I guess is a little exotic sounding; she ran on a minor party ticket and got about 200,000 votes. There’s also VP candidate Ezola Foster.

            The claim that blackness causes birther attacks on serious candidates is clearly unsupported; no other black candidate, to my knowledge, has been subject to birther attacks. The claim that blackness + exotic name causes birther attacks on serious candidates is based on exactly one example, and as a result seems extremely weak regardless of any counter-evidence.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            the burden of proof is on me to prove a negative

            1. I don’t know what you think proving a negative is, but where I come from, anyone who talks about proving negatives is signaling in semaphore that they don’t know what they’re doing. It is very straightforward what it would take to prove that A does not, taken conjointly with B, cause Q. You need to show that A and B obtain when Q does not obtain, that B and Q obtain when A does not obtain, or, ideally, both. That is, if you think that being black does not provoke birther attacks when paired with an exotic-sounding name (along with the other caveats), you need examples of whites with exotic-sounding names (along with the other caveats) who are subjected to birther attacks, or of blacks with exotic-sounding names (along with the other caveats) who are not.

            2. You made an inference that was invalid. Specifically, you inferred that because A and B and C and D together do not cause Q, A does not cause Q. You might be right that the burden of proof does not fall to you. Regardless, the evidence you offered in support of the conclusion that the birther attacks were not motivated by racism was based on a confusion.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Ugh, people don’t even understand what the “but I have black friends” meme is about and start slinging around “kafkatrap.” Another great idea ruined by critique drift.

            The “black friends” meme is that if you do something really racist you can’t defend yourself by claiming that you’re not racist 100% of the time. It’s the whole idea behind people going “oh, most of X are thugs but Y’s one of the good ones.” That person is obviously racist against X, as they’re judging a huge group of people based on their race. They’re simply making room in their worldview for one of their friends who has risen above the fray.

            It’s how you can see Black Separatists and Neo-Nazis working together as friends. They have similar goals, so despite generally hating the other’s race they can see each other as the lone sane men around as they both want to fuck off to monoracial utopias.

            There is zero reason why someone can’t think that black people are generally thugs and that Dr. Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon who shares their views on religion and politics, is a great man. They can then use this to try and claim that they aren’t racist when it does nothing to disprove their racism at all

          • Earthly Knight says:

            There have been no serious black Presidential candidates with exotic-sounding names other than Barack Obama.

            No, but there has been exactly one Hispanic, serious, unequivocally US-born presidential candidate with an exotic-sounding name: Marco Rubio. Has Rubio been subjected to birther attacks? You guessed it.

            The other prong of the test is better supported. Have there been white, serious, unequivocally US-born presidential candidates with exotic-sounding names? Yes, the cajun Perot and the Czech Kasich. Probably others. Were there Perot birthers? Are there Kasich birthers? Why not?

            It also might be worth asking why we judge that “[jewish person] drinks the blood of gentiles” is prima facie a racist accusation. We normally think that conspiracy theories which pattern-match certain racial stereotypes are racist until proven otherwise. Why should we treat the birth libel any different than the blood libel?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight.
            Which is more likely.

            A: That Barack Obama and John McCain were both targets of “birther conspiracies” because they were both presidential candidates who grew up outside the US.

            B: That Barack Obama and John McCain were both targets of “birther conspiracies” because they are black.

            C: Birther conspiracies are totally random

            Me? I’m betting on A.

            @Held In Escrow
            I understand how you think the “black friend” meme is supposed to work but that’s not what we’re arguing about.

            I’m calling you out for claiming that a lack of overtly racist behavior is evidence of racism. That isn’t critique drift, that is the textbook example of a Kafka Trap.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Since you seem fond of the McCain case, we can use it as a test. Obama was born in Hawaii, McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama Canal Zone not being an American state, if birthers are race-blind, we should expect there to have been more birther outrage surrounding McCain than Obama prior to the 2008 presidential election. Accordingly, if I run google searches without quotes for “McCain birth” and “McCain birthplace” versus “Obama birth” and “Obama birthplace” with the custom date range set to 2006-October 2008, there should be more hits for the former pair than the latter. What do we find?

            McCain birth: 98,000 results
            McCain birthplace: 3,500 results
            Obama birth: 345,000
            Obama birthplace: 9,500 results

            So, despite the fact that McCain had less claim to being a natural-born citizen than Obama (and the fact that “McCain”, the more common name, will generate more noise in the google searches than “Obama”), birthers were around 3X more worried about Obama. This supports the racism hypothesis (or, at least, the inclusive disjunction of the racism/xenophobia hypotheses).

          • bluto says:

            I’m reasonably certain because my belief in the possibility lasted from March to June, though I noted it was odd it took that long to produce evidence.

            Also I listed the reasons I believed in the possibility. Namely that his agent claimed he wasn’t and my belief lasted until he produced documentation of the new, opposite claim.

            I continue to believe that there was some reason he chose to delay, though the chances of that are notably smaller.

          • onyomi says:

            “if birthers are race-blind, we should expect there to have been more birther outrage surrounding McCain than Obama… ”

            Except John McCain has a very American-sounding name, and is a Republican, so any attempt at direct Obama-McCain comparison on this point is hopelessly confounded by more relevant factors.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @bluto

            What you say doesn’t seem all that unreasonable, so far as it goes. But a couple of questions: did you know, prior to reading this conversation, where McCain was born? Do you know, without checking, where George W. Bush was born? (My experience is that very few people have bothered to learn the answer to either of these questions, and those who guess tend to get it wrong). If your answer to either of these questions is no, could you explain why you came to focus so selectively on Obama’s birthplace?

            Except John McCain has a very American-sounding name, and is a Republican, so it’s not a test of the question at all.

            That’s true. Fortunately, in advance of your comment I had already ninja-edited in a parenthetical remark at the end which makes it clear that the test only supports the disjunction of the xenophobia hypothesis and the racism hypothesis.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but I wouldn’t consider “Marco Rubio” to be an exotic name. But, assuming for the sake of argument it is, that makes Rubio the white candidate with the exotic name with birther accusations that you’ve been claiming would be a counterexample. Sure, he’s of Cuban descent, but definitely white.

            > We normally think that conspiracy theories which pattern-match certain racial stereotypes are racist until proven otherwise. Why should we treat the birth libel any different than the blood libel?

            There’s a racial stereotype about black people being born in Kenya? Your “pattern” has only one instance to make it, and it’s the same instance you’re matching to the pattern, so it’s entirely circular.

          • bluto says:

            I’ve known since 2008 that McCain was born in the Canal Zone, think there’s an interesting constitutional question and that Bush had been born in New England but didn’t care to know the state prior to today. I’ve been surprised for a while that the FEC doesn’t require verification that presidential candidates meet the constitutional qualifications (also that they meet the age requirement).

          • NN says:

            The other prong of the test is better supported. Have there been white, serious, unequivocally US-born presidential candidates with exotic-sounding names? Yes, the cajun Perot and the Czech Kasich.

            (emphasis added)

            Cajuns may be considered exotic, but since when are they considered “not American,” even by people who are bigoted against cajuns? I’m pretty sure that even the dumbest bigots are aware that cajuns have been in Southern Louisiana since before Southern Louisiana was part of the United States.

            To me, making up Birther theories about cajuns seems only slightly less ridiculous than making up Birther theories about Native Americans. But then I grew up in Louisiana, so maybe I’m biased.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight.

            I only bring up McCain because he’s the obvious control case. It shoots the claim that birther conspiracies are the product of blackness in the foot.

            As for the disparity in number of posts I think that this is easily explained by the candidates respective responses. McCain and the GOP treated the question as non trivial and produced the requested documentation forthwith along with a ruling from INS stating that US military bases counted as a “US Soil” for the purposes of naturalization. Obama and the DNC on the other hand that claimed that it was racist to even ask, despite the fact that Obama himself had claimed to be foreign born when he thought it would help him get a book deal or a scholarship.

            The latter path just seems engineered to generate controversy,

          • Earthly Knight says:

            But, assuming for the sake of argument it is, that makes Rubio the white candidate with the exotic name with birther accusations that you’ve been claiming would be a counterexample. Sure, he’s of Cuban descent, but definitely white.

            White meaning non-hispanic white, here, for obvious reasons.

            There’s a racial stereotype about black people being born in Kenya?

            No. But there is a racist trope that America is a white country for white people and non-white immigrants and their descendants are Trespassers in Our Home who are not real Americans. This is the racist trope responsible for the Japanese internment. And also for birther conspiracy theories.

            To me, making up Birther theories about cajuns seems only slightly less ridiculous than making up Birther theories about Native Americans.

            Or, you know, exactly as ridiculous as making up birther theories about someone who was born in Hawaii and has proved that he was born in Hawaii. How do we know Perot wasn’t born on a jaunt to Mexico? Why didn’t anyone care to ask?

            Obama and the DNC on the other hand that claimed that it was racist to even ask,

            Except for the fact that Obama produced his birth certificate months before the election took place. Which means that you can’t actually account for the disparity. Why did birthers care so much more about the Hawaiian-born Obama than the Panama-born McCain? I’m sure it’s just a big coincidence that first moment a non-white with an exotic name seems headed for the white house is the moment the crazy accusations of illegitimacy start flying.

            despite the fact that Obama himself had claimed to be foreign born

            Two options here: 1. Provide immediate and compelling proof, 2. Go back to Stormfront.

          • null says:

            Earthly Knight, I mostly agree with your argument, but telling someone to ‘go back to Stormfront’ is ridiculous.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What is the appropriate response to someone who is blaming president Obama, without evidence, for the racist and xenophobic birther attacks against him? This is something like claiming that repeating the blood libel is excusable because Jews themselves are responsible for spreading it. It is not acceptable.

          • null says:

            I agree that most of the reason the birther movement caught on was xenophobic or racist, and the rest was for political reasons (or Donald Trump trying to be in the spotlight). However, putting forth an unsubstantiated claim that part of this was due to a confusion by Obama is not justifying repeating the blood libel, the birther movement is not close to blood libel in impact, and telling people ‘go back to Stormfront’ is calling someone a racist but being more of a jerk about it. Hlynkacg should provide evidence for this claim (which is almost certainly false or an exaggeration on his part), but the fact that he claimed this does not strike me as very strong evidence for him being racist.

            EDIT: removed quotes from ‘justifying blood libel’

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            “You made an inference that was invalid. Specifically, you inferred that because A and B and C and D together do not cause Q, A does not cause Q.”

            !((A & B & C & D) -> Q) -> !(A -> Q) in every logic course and textbook I’ve ever seen.

            (Aside from default logic, which does not look like what you’re attempting to use here.)

          • null says:

            Causal inference is not quite the same as logic.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            “What is the appropriate response to someone who is blaming president Obama, without evidence, for the racist and xenophobic birther attacks against him?”

            What is the appropriate response to someone who is justifying a Stormfront remark on the basis of a claim that they’re justifying with an implied ad hominem?

            I’ll try this one: EK… are you sure you’re not getting too emotional in this subthread? Or is this something you believe is appropriate to say when calm and rational?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            the birther movement is not close to blood libel in impact

            Are you sure that this is so? It is true that birthers have not led any pogroms. But it also seems to me that Trump’s popularity may be due in no small part to his history promoting birther conspiracy theories, given that as many as 70% of republicans still do not believe that Obama was born in the US. Birtherism could conceivably give rise to a Trump presidency.

            !((A & B & C & D) -> Q) -> !(A -> Q) in every logic course and textbook I’ve ever seen.

            Sure does– I even thought about adding a note explaining that this might be why onyomi found the conclusion tempting– but causal inferences are ampliative. There’s no canonical analysis of causation, but so far as I know no proposal will license the inference onyomi drew. Strengthening the antecedent is (notoriously) invalid for counterfactuals, if we want to take the simplest approach.

            Or is this something you believe is appropriate to say when calm and rational?

            It’s difficult to know at what point the imperative to condemn the propagation of evil ideas outweighs our obligations to treat others with kindness and respect. Blaming victims of racist and xenophobic conspiracy theories for the currency of those theories seems to me to be over the line. You can test your intuitions in the case where Mossad is blamed for the spread of the blood libel.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            For the sake of being charitable I’ll assume that when Earthly Knight typed “Go back to Stormfront” they really meant to type “Go back to Snopes“.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You said:

            “Obama himself had claimed to be foreign born”

            Snopes says:

            ‘”This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time,” Goderich wrote. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.”‘

            This is probably a time where talking more is not going to help you.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump’s claim about Mexicans seems to be that the Mexican government is somehow preferentially dumping criminals into the US in the form of illegal immigrants. This claim has no factual support that I know of, but it’s not racist any more than claiming the Mariel Boat Lift had a large proportion of criminals is racist against Cubans.

      He’s certainly and openly biased against Muslims. But Islam isn’t a race… and there’s that AK-47-wielding elephant in the room which no polite person will mention, which is that some bias against Muslims may have factual support.

      • smocc says:

        I don’t know. If there really is no factual support for the notion that Mexican illegal immigrants are extreme criminals (ie committing more crimes than jumping the border), then where is it coming from? Why is the idea resounding so much if there is no evidence for it?

        There seem to be a lot of people that want to believe that all of these Mexican illegal immigrants are rapists and racism is a pretty plausible reason for that desire.

        It might also be explained by simple animus against immigrants, and distinguishing that from racism is difficult, as a different thread here illustrates.

        • onyomi says:

          Trump’s claim that the Mexican government is intentionally sending criminals here is implausible and is the sort of exaggeration for effect he’s a master at (the kind you can subtly backpedal without ever admitting being wrong–a kind of motte and bailey, actually).

          That said, most illegal immigrants are Mexicans and being an illegal immigrant automatically makes you a criminal in that sense. I’m in favor of liberalizing immigration law myself, but I can understand the argument which goes: they got here illegally in the first place, why should we expect them to become law-abiding model citizens now that they’re here?

        • “It might also be explained by simple animus against immigrants”

          I remember Orwell describing similar attitudes in England before or during WWII, I think directed at Polish and/or Jewish immigrants.

        • Nadja says:

          This article tries to answer this question. It goes over Trump’s claim as well as some statistics that might at least partially explain why some people worry about crime committed by illegal immigrants: http://www.salon.com/2015/12/21/the_media_needs_to_stop_telling_this_lie_about_donald_trump_im_a_sanders_supporter_and_value_honesty/

  39. gwern says:

    The typhoid paper: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0hrs8bljkkoatbk/2016-beach.pdf

    “Typhoid Fever, Water Quality, and Human Capital Formation”, Beach et al 2016:

    New water purification technologies led to large mortality declines by helping eliminate typhoid fever and other waterborne diseases. We examine how this affected human capital formation using early-life typhoid fatality rates to proxy for water quality. We merge city-level data to individuals linked between the 1900 and 1940 Censuses. Eliminating early-life exposure to typhoid fever increased later-life earnings by one percent and educational attainment by one month. Instrumenting for typhoid fever using typhoid rates from cities that lie upstream produces results nine times larger. The increase in earnings from eliminating typhoid fever more than offset the cost of elimination.

  40. Graft says:

    Given the logarithmic relationship between income and happiness, I am wondering if this latent “hedonic discounting” of extra income that humans seem to have has any impact on observed income inequality? Like, for a company to attract talent at higher and higher levels, the change in income required to have a hire place a large enough EV on the added happiness a new job will give her needs to be increasingly large. The highly skewed distribution on income, then, may in part be a rational response by firms to this human characteristic.

    Example: someone making 50k gets an offer at 60k. Given the position on the “happiness discount curve” that’s a respectable bump in the EV of future happiness, and that offer likely gets accepted. Someone making 500k gets an offer at 510k, that delta in the EV of happiness doesn’t even register, so, sorry, no deal.

  41. DensityDuck says:

    The Silicon Valley Democrat attitude is easy to explain. “I am smart, and I’ve thought about things, and therefore I know what is the best thing for everyone. Since I’m already doing it, the government should leave me alone–and they should A) make everyone else leave me alone as well, and B) make everyone else act the way that I think they ought to.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Warning for comment that’s of the sort that might get you banned in the future. If you object to something, argue against it, instead of just saying “I bet people who disagree with me are pompous and self-important”

      • DensityDuck says:

        I should think that the argument I’m making is obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

        A key aspect of the technocrat’s philosophy is the idea that they personally doesn’t need to change anything because they’re already acting in the optimal manner. And the people who run technology firms are, understandably, technocrats to the bone.

        It’s quite telling that Ferenstein brings in Teddy Roosevelt, who in recent years has become a progressive hero for reasons I can only ascribe to another common intellectual flaw: looking at past events with modern attitudes. People talk about how TR was this awesome anti-business crusader, but it’s more along the lines of him being mad that businesses wouldn’t shut up and do what he told them.

        Furthermore, the kind of government action they advocate is…odd…more like “there should be a law passed saying that you can’t ban Uber”, “there should be a law passed saying that you can’t make me pay taxes on the free buses that Google uses”, “there should be a law passed saying that you can’t pass laws saying you can’t kick everyone out of their apartments and sell the building to a condo developer”, sort of thing. Not exactly the kind of Heavy Intervention that comes to mind when you say someone is pro-government.

        • DensityDuck says:

          “they are pro-anything that lets them use their wealth to help the common good”

          😐

          So, yeah, the idea is that A) the richer I get, the larger the crumbs that fall from my table, and B) what I want is for some neutral third party to handle charity for me so that I can justify being hands-off with it. Like, if I give someone money, then I feel some degree of obligation to make sure that they’re doing something meaningful with it and not just blowing it on weed. But if my charity money goes into a big laundry that spits out untraceable dollars, then it’s not my fault if it all gets spent on weed, right?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’m still not sure why you think this refers to Silicon Valley more than anyone else. Leftists, liberals, rightists, etc all seem to think that they personally are doing the right thing and don’t need to change anything but the government needs to protect their interests and make other people more like them. It sounds like you’re taking an insulting character flaw and saying people in Silicon Valley are the only ones guilty of it, without explaining why it fits their philosophy better than anyone else’s.

          • DensityDuck says:

            “I’m still not sure why you think this refers to Silicon Valley more than anyone else. ”

            …because that’s who the article was about?

            The article claims that there’s some weird contradiction in these tech-company leaders who say libertarian things but also support government actions. I’m saying it’s not actually hard to understand once you look at who’s doing the asking and what they’re asking for.

          • Anonymous says:

            It seems like an abundant, pernicious character flaw that people should be made more aware of. The claim that DensityDuck claims that only Silicon Valley is doing it doesn’t seem to arise from DensityDuck’s actual statements; rather, DensityDuck seems to be talking about it in the specific context of “Silicon Valley Democrats” only because that is the salient context.

            Nor does the ubiquity argument seem salient. “Don’t point out flaws everyone has” when held as a principle of discourse encourages a culture to become dogmatic about its weaknesses. This isn’t the right way. It’s not even the only way. There ARE pluralists in politics. Archipelagoans and classic liberals are believers in diversity of thought, among others.

          • tenshal mungafe says:

            >The claim that DensityDuck claims that only Silicon Valley is doing it doesn’t seem to arise from DensityDuck’s actual statements

            Except for his first sentence.

    • BBA says:

      Every so often I remind myself: “You are not as smart as you think you are.”

      But humility doesn’t get you funded by venture firms, I guess.

      • hlynkacg says:

        All I know is that I know nothing and I’m not even sure I know that.
        -Michel de Montaigne

  42. Jaskologist says:

    I gotta give the media a partial pass on the “English Only” thing. Dolores Huerta and America Ferrera were there, and explicitly claimed that it happened, which was the origin of the story. Those who passed it on were merely assuming that those two weren’t outright lying, which is a pretty standard way for media members to handle sources, albeit not a great way to bet when dealing with Hillary.

    It’s been fun watching Sanders fans see him get treated like a Republican. Just keep this in mind when you see similar claims about a Trump/Cruz/whoever rally, and any time in the future you see any claim at all by the aforementioned activists.

    • cbhacking says:

      I haven’t followed this story – I’m paying attention to the primaries in general, but staying as well clear of the mudslinging as I can short of just not looking at anything but pure numbers – but I’m curious how well-supported your claim is.

      If it’s true – that is, if two people of any notability whatsoever appear to have deliberately lied about an event in order to cause reputational harm to a political candidate – can they be sued for libel (or defamation, depending on how the false assertions were made)? I’m curious about this both from a legal perspective (is there some kind of protected-class-of-speech thing here regarding political persons) and from a practical one (would such a case have any chance to prevail, and would it be worth pursuing in any case)?

      Obviously, most of us are not lawyers and I’m not looking for legal advice. However, I am really curious about all this. The degree to which politicians – Sanders included – get away with stating factual falsehoods appalls me.* However, the degree to which “the media” (anybody with the ability to easily influence a widespread group of the public, which can include sufficiently-trusted sources for what is generally perceived as “the media”) can get away with falsehoods is very nearly as bad. The major difference is that, in the case of the media (and possibly their sources, but I’m less sure there) spreading lies about a specific person or organization with intent to cause them harm, I *know* we have laws against it.

      * I genuinely feel that there ought to be something along the lines of “before you are permitted to participate in this debate, you need to publicly set the record straight on these established facts which you have previously stated incorrectly in ways that support your political positions”, though I’ll grant that I don’t have the solution to deciding *how well* established a fact must be before it counts (though some things, like mis-stating specific poll results or whatever, seem like they’d be easy) or to avoiding abuse by privileging favored candidates (I think some political debate moderators do genuinely try to be neutral, but I doubt any have ever succeeded). I’d be curious to hear people’s thoughts on the subject.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @cbhacking – I genuinely feel that there ought to be something along the lines of “before you are permitted to participate in this debate, you need to publicly set the record straight on these established facts which you have previously stated incorrectly in ways that support your political positions”

        That is a remarkably pleasant fantasy.

  43. DensityDuck says:

    Eroom’s Law – a straight-line, Moore’s law style relationship showing that the average pharmaceutical company dollar buys fewer and fewer new drug discoveries over time. Reason unclear…

    Reason identified, I should think:

    “Ben Goldacre et al’s crusade against outcome switching in clinical trials: “So far, they’ve checked 67 clinical trials. Of those, nine trials were perfect. But among the ones that weren’t, they found 301 pre-specified outcomes were never reported and 357 were silently added.” Related: once the regulatory agencies required that pharma companies pre-register their trials, the positive finding rate dropped from 57% to 8%.

    Well, yes, if you make it ever more expensive to perform a clinical trial, and insist that you can’t accept serendipitous outcomes as valid, then no shit you’re gonna get fewer useful results from trials!

    Under the present methodology for the design and acceptance of clinical trials, we would have never “discovered” penicillin. It wasn’t something anyone was looking for, and–per Goldacre–we therefore should never have accepted it.

    • gwern says:

      Under the present methodology for the design and acceptance of clinical trials, we would have never “discovered” penicillin.

      This was not exploratory laboratory research. These were intended to test specific treatments for specific problems. Pre-registration does not prevent penicillin. You are perfectly free to report a bunch of serendipitous secondary endpoints and propose followup trials on those… what you aren’t free to do is to pretend that random subgroup analyses you pulled out of your ass were your original primary endpoint & what you were testing all along and should be taken 100% seriously.

      • DensityDuck says:

        “You are perfectly free to report a bunch of serendipitous secondary endpoints and propose followup trials on those…”

        ah-heh. So, no, not permitted to say “hey turns out our drug works for this other thing pretty well” and start using it for that thing. I’m required to go back to square one with this interesting but, according to doctrine, totally unproven idea that I’ve got.

        Meanwhile we get all these HuffPo cries about how we sent people to to the Moon but we haven’t cured cancer yet, must be ‘coz America is run by racist homophobes.

        • Anonymous says:

          Jesus, dude, HuffPo is garbage, but that last sentence came completely out of left field.

        • gwern says:

          So, no, not permitted to say “hey turns out our drug works for this other thing pretty well” and start using it for that thing

          Under current statistical practices, no, and for excellent reason: because anyone claiming such a post hoc result and engaged in endpoint switching against their original registration probably data-mined and p-hacked and took their way through a garden of forking paths to reach that result, and between the much smaller sample size and the multiple-testing it’s almost guaranteed to be a false positive. Do we really need to rehearse all this stuff about failed replications and the inferential meaning of p-values and low base rates? No, if it’s really so super-awesome, then – just like penicillin did in what was a landmark clinical trial – your super-new drug can prove its worth in a real trial with real primary endpoints, which will be easier since you’ve already shown safety now.

          (In an ideal world where everything in medical trials is done the right way according to Bayesian decision-theoretic procedures to optimize health & wealth and governments allocated optimal levels of funding, then you absolutely could if the cost-benefit with informative priors worked out, and if it didn’t like it probably wouldn’t, then the VoI of something like penicillin is so high a followup trial would probably be funded anyway.)

          • DensityDuck says:

            Yes bro we know you read the LW wiki a whole lot and know all the words.

            The claim is that clinical research has oddly, mysteriously, unexplainably started producing fewer results, both as an absolute and as a relative (per-input) measure. I’m claiming that it’s not actually odd or mysterious or unexplainable. It’s more expensive because “we” (or, at least, the FDA) have decided that it ought to be.

            I guess if you want to say “well they should have been doing it this way all along“, that’s fine, but let’s not act like there aren’t costs that come from insisting on that degree of rigor.

          • gwern says:

            Yes bro we know you read the LW wiki a whole lot and know all the words.

            Was this true, nice, or useful to say?

            The claim is that clinical research has oddly, mysteriously, unexplainably started producing fewer results, both as an absolute and as a relative (per-input) measure. I’m claiming that it’s not actually odd or mysterious or unexplainable

            And I am claiming that poor research practices that will predictably produce far more false positives because they are data-mining noise is neither the historical reason why discovery rates went down nor a solution to our declining rates. With lots of false positives, huge amounts of time and resources are wasted, positive harm is done, complacency sets in as one feels like ‘progress’ is being made, and so on. Historically, questionable research practices seem to steadily increase (the literature becomes p-hacked worse every year), yet, all these free-spirited and unrigorous researchers with their beautifully small p-values do not seem to have undone Eroom’s law. Almost like there’s a connection in the other direction…

          • DensityDuck says:

            Given my and my family’s experience in this area, I can confidently state that the rigor required of clinical trials has not gone down, and that the FDA is entirely willing to deny approval if they don’t feel the statistics warrant it.

            ****

            “poor research practices”
            “data-mining noise”
            “time and resources are wasted”
            “positive harm is done”
            “questionable research practices”

            You seem to be very confident that the results published (and used to approve the drug, and officially permit doctors to prescribe it for a particular indication) are lies based on garbage.

            This is the part where you link to your evidence that the statistics supporting the reported outcomes are actually bad, rather than just assertedly bad.

            No, “here is a link to the Compare Project website” is not sufficient. It is not my job to do your arguing for you.

          • gwern says:

            Given my and my family’s experience in this area

            How nice for you.

            the rigor required of clinical trials has not gone down, and that the FDA is entirely willing to deny approval if they don’t feel the statistics warrant it.

            I agree. The FDA, for all its problems, has also done good things in holding peoples’ feet to the fire.

            You seem to be very confident that the results published (and used to approve the drug, and officially permit doctors to prescribe it for a particular indication) are lies based on garbage.

            I am very confident that results published based on small p-hacked unblinded or unrandomized unpreregistered trials are, by and large, lies based on garbage, and that this is why so many old medical beliefs have been debunked by proper RCTs, and also that the small studies and experiments being lies based on garbage is why so many drugs fail in the larger FDA-regulated clinical trials where they mandate minor little things like primary endpoints, and this failure rate is part of why we know they are lies based on garbage, because if doctors were routinely serendipitously discovering miraculous cures based on post hoc analyses that Big Statistics Doesn’t Want You To Know, there would be a lot more succeeding. Penicillin doesn’t stop working if you choose ‘cured of infection’ as your primary endpoint, anymore than it stops working if you flip a coin to decide which patient to give it to!

            This is the part where you link to your evidence that the statistics supporting the reported outcomes are actually bad, rather than just assertedly bad.

            Why would I do that? From your arguments, you’re clearly aware of all the evidence for this stuff.

          • DensityDuck says:

            “From your arguments, you’re clearly aware of all the evidence for this stuff.”

            It is not my job to do your arguing for you.

            Note that you’re actually agreeing with me, here. My assertion is “the insistence on statistical rigor and strict adherence to previously-declared endpoints is the primary driver for the reduction in number of new drugs brought to market and the large increase in average cost per new drug.” You aren’t actually refuting that statement.

            I go on to suggest that this rigor is of questionable value–like, if the endpoint was superiority but the study data shows noninferiority, the drug doesn’t get approved even though it’s not inferior?(*)–and you respond with some sort of bureaucrat-worship where what the FDA decides is correct because they’re the FDA.

            (*) the fun part here is how the FDA decided, and stated outright, that they wanted to try to get the industry to advance the state of the art in this particular treatment and so they were going to force us to accept superiority as an endpoint. Studies shooting for noninferiority would be non-accepted, because after all we already have drugs that do the thing. They do it about three times as expensively as need be, have to be delivered by IV instead of orally, and need to be refrigerated and formulated by a specialist pharmacy before administration, but we do have ’em.

  44. James Babcock says:

    The study claiming toxoplasma gondii doesn’t affect human behavior proves no such thing. If you do a study with a sample that’s too small, you can get a null result even if there’s a real effect, and that’s exactly what they did. They found an odds ratio of 1.31 for schizophrenia (95% CI 0.55-3.12). This confidence interval includes the odds ratio (2.73) found in the first meta-study on toxoplasma and schizophrenia that I checked (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3329973/).

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yeah, this is perhaps the biggest problem with the tendency to report null-hypothesis-test significance rather than bayes factor; people misinterpret a negative result.

    • lambdaphagy says:

      If the effect of toxo on these outcomes were negligible, then we’d expect to see the odds ratios centered around one. But the odds ratios in the table seem to tend in the same direction, towards toxoplasma making people crazy.

      If you aggregate the outcomes and just count how much bad stuff in total happens to infected vs. non-infected cases, you find that there are 0.92 bad outcomes for per infected case vs. 0.69 per non-infected case. [Do these numbers seem really high to anyone else?] On the assumption that all of the bad outcomes are independent, which is dubious but good enough for internet math, this difference is easily statistically significant.

      My informal gloss of this table is that if you survey about a thousand people and ask them how their lives are going, the toxo-positive people will seem slightly but noticeably more messed up.

  45. Muga Sofer says:

    >Related: once the regulatory agencies required that pharma companies pre-register their trials, the positive finding rate dropped from 57% to 8%.

    !

    >Wikipedia’s Special: Nearby gives you all the Wikipedia pages about places close to you. I got my local district library, but maybe people who live in more interesting places will get more interesting articles.

    The castle around the corner popped up above the college I’m currently browsing this in, so … good to see spooky website voodoo can’t find my location *too* accurately.

    Interesting things:

    A battle in this town during one of our interminable revolutions, which was was led by a “brogue-maker”, which I’m pretty sure is just a shoemaker. Actually pretty interesting: four revolutionary contingents swept through the town along the four main streets, converging in the Potato market (because of course an Irish town has a potato market in the center.)

    But the local military leader had anticipated all of this, and had hidden a bunch of cannon and gunmen in various houses and government buildings. As the rebels celebrated their “victory”, concentrated in the town centre, they were cut down in swathes. The survivors fled … into another ambush, prepared by the bridge. And then the town caught fire.

    Five hundred dead. There were no reported losses to the military.

    Also the castle was blown up by a guy trying to remodel it into an asylum, by himself, using dynamite, in the 1800s, which is responsible for it’s now-ruined state. I already knew that story, though.

  46. It looks like doubleblinded.com hasn’t been updated in a while. Anyone know whether they actually ran their first trial, if so what happened, and if they’re planning to run another one? Also, Scott, you might want to mention this in the post, since it’s easy to read the site without realizing that it’s out of date.

    • gwern says:

      They shipped the first one on theanine; I know because I have it sitting on my desk waiting for me to stop massively procrastinating on it.

  47. Muga Sofer says:

    >New drug nilotinib looks very promising for Parkinson’s disease, may clean up proteins associated with death of dopamine-producing cells. Good news: drug is already approved for cancer and so can be used off-label. Bad news: drug costs $10,000/month.

    Am I the only one who thinks “binitolin” sounds much more like the name of a real drug? Like they just took the name of a drug and reversed it?

    More proof we live in the mirror universe.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It’s deliberate use of notarikon – all drugs whose names end in “-tinib” are tyrosine kinase inhibitors. See this handy chart.

    • DensityDuck says:

      “If oi was t’go around proclaimin’ my Parkinson’s cured just because some moistened bintolin lobbed a couple o’pills at me, they’d put me away!”

    • Am I the only one who thinks “binitolin” sounds much more like the name of a real drug? Like they just took the name of a drug and reversed it?

      You’re not the only one. The word “nilotinib” waves frantic red flags of “this is something spelled backwards”, like “Ellivelddiw” (from Mr. Widdle and the Sea Breeze) or “Serutan”.

  48. onyomi says:

    I’ve had the very same, very strong impression about Trump v Bernie versus Trump v Hillary. It’s also just the optics and interpersonal dynamics angle: next to Trump, Hillary comes off as a shrill, nagging, wet blanket; next to Bernie, Trump comes off as a blustering neophyte.

    This is not to say Hillary is inherently inferior as a candidate to Bernie: I think if the Dems knew there opponent were going to be Cruz they’d be right to pit Hillary against him. Against Cruz, Hillary seems reasonable and measured while he looks cloying and extreme. Against Bernie, however, Cruz gets to grandstand about capitalism versus socialism, etc. Plus you are pitting an evangelical Texan against a New England Jew.

    So in the rock-paper-scissors game, Trump beats Hillary and Hillary beats Cruz, but Bernie beats Trump and Cruz beats Bernie.*

    *Nothing but my personal, subjective guesses about their personalities, campaign styles, and likely interpersonal dynamics.

    • onyomi says:

      That said, I’ve been following the prediction markets the past few months, and as the probability of a Trump nomination has gone up, the probability of a GOP general election victory has gone down, so there must be a fair number of people in-the-know who think a Clinton-Trump matchup will work out favorably for Hillary. Unless they just think Trump is bad for the GOP regardless of whom he’s pitted against.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve thought about this a little, and I think I can visualise Bernie Sanders as a credible Democratic nominee versus whatever Republican (and is it really looking like Trump all the way?) is put in place, if I think of him as the American version of our Michael D. Higgins.

      Some spooky coincidences there, actually: did Bernie ever indulge in writing poetry? Wikipedia said he made and sold “radical filmstrips” to local schools while he was living in Vermont, does that count as artistic creativity? 🙂

      More seriously – older politician known for his Socialist commitment, ran with the less-than-enthused support of his party, had to do some finely-honed juggling to get even that amount of backing, and wiped everyone’s eye in the end so that – despite the doddery grandpa public image – he won the Presidency of Ireland and thus was a much sharper cookie when it came to knowing how to run a political campaign than he’d been given credit for.

      I know there’s a huge difference between the American and Irish presidencies, but if I think of Sanders as the Yank Michael D., my assessment of his chances goes way up 🙂

      • onyomi says:

        Just in terms of appearance and style, they are kind of weirdly similar. The difference might be that, initially, at least, I don’t think Sanders was running to win. I think he was running a Ron Paul-type campaign: “it would be nice if I won, but the main thing is to get my ideas out there and maybe pull the winning candidates more in my direction.” I think he got more traction than he was expecting and since tried to morph into more of a serious candidate, but the US Overton Window is still well to the right of that in Ireland and Europe in general, so someone who might be a viable candidate there probably will remain a protest candidate here.

        I also find Higgins to be more eloquent and sharp-tongued than Sanders in a way that probably wouldn’t fly well in US politics. Higgins strikes me as someone willing to go for the jugular to win in a way Bernie largely hasn’t against Hillary (though might if pitted against Trump).

        So, I think it’s an interesting comparison made different as much by the differing contexts as the actual politicians.

    • stillnotking says:

      I don’t think Sanders can win a general election under any circumstances. The socialist label would kill him in battleground states. He polls well only because the GOP hasn’t attacked him yet. Nor will they, unless he somehow gets the nomination. Republicans are praying for that to happen. Six months of negative ads would have the good people of Ohio convinced that Sanders is a Maoist who wants to give all their money to bums and send their kids to re-education camps. It would be McGovern all over again.

      Trump probably beats Bernie, but definitely doesn’t beat Hillary. He’ll be leading a badly divided GOP against a candidate who, while not enjoying the most stellar of reputations, nevertheless has colossal name recognition, an impressive resume, and broad support among key non-white-male demographics. His shock tactics worked in a multiway primary among the mostly white Republican base, where the most important thing was to stand out from the pack; in a head-to-head general election, those tactics will backfire. Every shocking thing he says will motivate as many people to vote against him as for. Sanders supporters who swear they’d rather have Trump than Clinton will change their minds by November, just like the PUMAs did in ’08. (That’d probably be true even if the Republican weren’t Trump, but if he is, it’s a mortal lock.)

      • onyomi says:

        I think this all makes a lot of sense based on pure fundamentals. But I think any race with Trump in it is going to have a lot more psychological/wild-card element than most. I agree Bernie has a tough time winning any general, and also that most Bernie supporters will grit their teeth and pull the lever for Hillary sooner than see Trump in office.

        I don’t, however, think Trump’s shock tactics will necessarily backfire in the general. I don’t really see why they should. The people who would be turned off by Trump’s rudeness are already turned off. But he might succeed in tarring Hillary with various scandals in ways that wouldn’t stick if it were anyone else making the accusations. He might succeed in getting would-be Hillary voters to stay home in disgust at the two bad options.

        Maybe more importantly, he will get the blue collar white people who stayed home for McCain and Romney to actually show up in a way they might not have had Bernie managed to deflate his ego in a way Hillary likely can’t. What’s more, he might get more crossover from that demographic than would any other GOP nominee–union members who would definitely have voted for Bernie, for example.

        • stillnotking says:

          Yeah. I’m not totally comfortable predicting a race with Trump in it, because the guy has confounded my expectations repeatedly. But I’m also not quite on board with the Scott Adams “Trump is a Wizard” thing. Just because he’s defied gravity so far doesn’t mean he can keep doing it through November. The #NeverTrump people strike me as pretty serious. (Including my seventy-six-year-old father, who, if Trump is nominated, will be voting third party for the first time in his adult life, having pulled the lever for every Republican since Eisenhower.)

          Besides, the demographics are almost insurmountable. Unless Trump does a lot better among minorities and women than it looks like he will — and if I hear one more Trump supporter brag about a few dozen Hispanic Republicans in Nevada, I’m gonna scream — the votes simply are not there for an electoral college majority. He can make Hillary look as dumb as he likes on the debate stage, get in zingers that will play on YouTube for twenty years, and still lose.

          His path to victory probably involves sweeping the Rust Belt and the New South by a combination of white working-class anger and low turnout among traditionally Democratic constituencies, but that’s a long shot. A lot of things would have to go his way, even more so than in his admittedly improbable primary win.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            His path to victory probably involves sweeping the Rust Belt and the New South by a combination of white working-class anger and low turnout among traditionally Democratic constituencies

            Ill grant that it is far from certain, but that doesn’t strike me as “a long shot” at all, especially if Hillary is the Dem’s nominee.

          • stillnotking says:

            Both those areas have been trending blue. He’d need to be the first Republican to win Ohio in 12 years, and the first to win Michigan in 24. He can write off Florida altogether, which means he’d need Virginia and North Carolina for sure. VA is 20% African-American. MI is 14%. Those voters mostly love Hillary and mostly hate Trump. There’s also the question of ground game: He’ll be up against a very well-organized Democratic machine, probably without the benefit of whole-hearted GOP establishment support.

            Like I said, I’m not going to count him out, but he’s swimming against a strong current.

          • onyomi says:

            I agree with the general notion that the electoral college is currently stacked against Republicans, as Congressional districts are stacked against Democrats, but why would he write off Florida?

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ stillnotking
        a candidate [Hillary] who, while not enjoying the most stellar of reputations

        That depends on whether you’re counting times she was investigated or counting times she was cleared, which are equal, actually.

        Carol has been investigated and cleared of X, Y, and Z. Bob has never been investigated at all. So we know that Carol has never done X, Y, or Z but Bob’s behavior is unknown. So the best bet for honesty, is Carol.

        Al Capone was investigated by police. Hillary was investigated by political opponents.

        thedailybanter.com/2016/01/hillary-gop-smears/

        correctrecord.org/

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Hillary was investigated by political opponents AND police which is where having friends in high places comes in handy.

          😛

  49. Deiseach says:

    Wait, wait, wait: the foundational ego-depletion study was done on “solve a puzzle after eating radishes versus after eating chocolate chip cookies”?

    And nobody decided to test if the different results were because the sugar and chocolate gave the first group an energy bump so they stuck at the problem? Whereas radishes are high in roughage and take a lot of digestion, so they maybe were using up energy?

    I realise I may be falling into the Sherlock Holmes trap of “I fast during cases because I can’t spare the blood going to my stomach for digestion instead of to my brain for thinking”, but that conclusion does sound like “You’re more alert and better able to focus when you drink coffee, so plainly not imbibing caffeine causes ego depletion!”

  50. Anon. says:

    >Taken at face value, this is a pretty strong testimonial to the power of education – apparently education is so important that even one variety of disruption to it can seriously impact your adult earnings.

    I don’t think so. The signaling view is consistent with the findings as well. The disruptive student simply hurts your ability to signal. Path dependency takes care of the rest.

    • Lupis42 says:

      It could also be that 1 bad/disruptive student shifts a small percentage of marginal students (through social pressure, or by being a bad but attractive role model) into an unhealthy relationship with drugs or institutions, and the long term effects follow.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      How? Assuming you still do well enough to get the degree, the signaling value should be the same.

      I guess that if, for example, the disruptive student prevents you from learning about Moby Dick, it impedes your ability to talk about Moby Dick in an impressive sophisticated way, but I had the feeling that the signaling theory meant you could talk about your degrees and such, not use your learning itself to signal. If it’s using your learning itself to signal, that at least acknowledges that learning is going on, which is still pretty impressive and means we just have to turn that learning to good ends.

      • Anon. says:

        Everybody “gets the degree” from high school, therefore it’s useless as a signal. Disruptive student -> lower GPA -> worse university -> you know the rest.

      • Deiseach says:

        It depends what you mean by “disruptive student”. The school where I worked, this could range from “having full-blown meltdown including throwing chairs at the teacher” to simply messing about; arriving in class five minutes late, making a huge production of taking out books, etc., “Miss, Miss, I haven’t got my textbook, I need to go to my locker/I need to use the bathroom”; “I haven’t my homework with me” and a ten minute argument if the teacher falls for it about “But I did do it/But that’s not fair/But why do I have to do it again?” etc., and they can easily eat up fifteen to twenty minutes of a forty minute class period simply riding herd on them, which does not leave much time for actually teaching.

  51. Good news: drug is already approved for cancer and so can be used off-label. Bad news: drug costs $10,000/month.

    These price tags are almost meaningless. The insurance company foots the bill, as well as taxpayers. http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/P1-BV833_LEUKEM_16U_20151223145105.jpg

    Jeff Kaufman: buses are 67x safer than cars. They’re also underused, partly because they’re annoying, partly because of safety features. There is room to trade off bus safety for bus convenience, which would make people take more buses, which would actually make them safer in the long run. Therefore we should make buses more dangerous.

    As others noted, the safety is to some degree offset by the risks of walking to and from the bus stops, as well the risks of waiting at the bus stop.

    Futility Closet: 1/a long series of 9s with one 8 in it gives you a decimal representation of the Fibonacci sequence, for some reason.

    The explanation has to do with the geometric series of the base10 infinite series of the Fibonacci generating function https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number

    A lot of people here talk about the Griggs vs. Duke ruling that bans IQ tests in a job interview, but for some reason police can still get away with only accepting medium-IQ people as cops. Bonus: court case is a high-IQ guy angry at being rejected for the force; court tells him to take a hike.

    So does the US military

    This is pretty funny http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304244904579278442014913458

    and http://lesswrong.com/lw/3g6/study_shows_placebos_can_work_even_if_you_know/

    makes you wonder how much money could be saved using placebos

    • Anatoly says:

      The price tags are all too meaningful when you don’t have insurance or your insurance plan won’t cover the drug. Don’t forget that non-Americans exist, too.

      (personal experience: a family member is on a new promising cancer drug that costs $12,000/month. The country has a socialized medicine system that includes a nationalwide registry of subsidized drugs. Very expensive drugs are not on it, especially new ones. Some workplaces offer additional insurance that covers out-of-registry drugs, but it’s relatively rare for people to have it).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “These price tags are almost meaningless. The insurance company foots the bill, as well as taxpayers. ”

      It’s really tough to get an insurance company to pay for a very expensive drug. You have to jump through a lot of hoops and prove that you’ve tried absolutely everything else first. This is harder than it sounds because if there are ten other drugs patients usually aren’t going to cooperatively sit still for ten months while you try each drug for a month and then taper it off appropriately.

      In this case, though, the big problem is that it’s not approved for Parkinson’s yet, so insurances don’t feel any obligation to cover it for that. So if you’re someone with Parkinson’s who wants to take advantage of this cancer drug off-label, you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

    • Jiro says:

      Refusing to hire someone because of high IQ isn’t going to have a disproportionate impact on blacks. I would imagine that in practice, the courts would be much less likely to declare a test illegal if it has disproportionate impact on whites. So this doesn’t prove that tests which do have a disproportionate impact on blacks would be permitted by Griggs.

      Of course, if you assume that courts are not doing results-oriented jurisprudence, a disproportionate impact on blacks and a disproportionate impact on blacks would be equally illegal. However, results-oriented jurisprudence is common.

      (Also, it’s not even clear the guy claimed any disproportionate impact, either because he isn’t white or just didn’t think of claiming it.)

    • Adam says:

      The military doesn’t restrict what a high ASVAB scorer can do. It only restricts the low scorers.

  52. Anonymous says:

    The Eliezer interview was good – he’s got some of his arguments down to quite a nice concise level. The only major thing I’d disagree about is that I do think AI is more hardware limited than software limited, partly because software progress is itself dependent on fast hardware for faster feedback cycles.

    • Noge Sako says:

      I would like to argue against that. There’s plently of examples in computer science where finding a more clever way of attacking a problem yield results that can never be done with even a million times the hardware costs. And of course, ways of doing a problem that are simple after the fact, but were literally impossible before. It just happened to be the case that plenty of brilliant people worked on so many CS issues in the 60’s and 70’s that we take a good amount of results for granted.

      I think that at this point in time, its simply having enough cleverness of finding the correct algorithms. With this giant internet, and all its computing power*, there is probably more then enough spare hardware lying around. Taken as a whole, its much more powerful then the human brain.

      But the human brain is inefficient! The brain just found algorithms with billions of years of evolution. It happens to work well enough, but there’s no reason to believe that the current wet-ware has found the most efficient algorithms of visual processing, verbal processing, anything.

      https://justin.abrah.ms/computer-science/big-o-notation-explained.html

      *Most of the best algorithms with probably involve some version of massive parallelism, or more fantastic types of computing. With the right type of hardware, that perhaps is based a bit off the current wetware, asking about computing power becomes…not the right question. That might be the current downfall of computing, The correct amount of massive parallelism hasn’t been done yet.

  53. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “Related: once the regulatory agencies required that pharma companies pre-register their trials, the positive finding rate dropped from 57% to 8%.”

    Some conclude from this that drug companies are a fraud, but I think I rather conclude medicine is a fraud.

    Basically most medicines do nothing – probably about 85% of those approved by regulators.

    Sensible level of spending on medicine might be $1k/capita/year and a sensible salary for a doctor might be $50k. Everything about that is chasing diminishing and possibly non-existent return.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Note that the rate of new medications succeeding in studies is likely much less than the rate of old medications being effective; succeeding in a single study is a lower bar than being used and studied for fifty years without anyone catching on.

      • DensityDuck says:

        “failure” has many definitions.

        A medicine that was 100% effective for its primary indication but also had major side effects might be reported as “failed” even though it worked.

        Aspirin wouldn’t be approved in the modern risk-averse regulatory environment, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

        • Murphy says:

          Penicillin wouldn’t ever make it to the stage of testing on sick people in the modern environment. A few people would go into anaphylactic shock during the testing on healthy adults and it would be promptly binned before anyone could ever find out how effective it is.

          Hell, if you tried to get peanuts through the existing system, even if they genuinely worked to cure some disease they’d never make it through.

          • gwern says:

            A few people would go into anaphylactic shock during the testing on healthy adults and it would be promptly binned before anyone could ever find out how effective it is.

            Our problems are bad enough without exaggerating. WP says the allergic reaction rate is 0.03%. The probability you’d hit anyone with an allergy (much less that allergy be enough to single-handedly kill drug development) in a normal Phase I safety trial of 30 people is 99.1% You could even get through a Phase II trial of 200 people with 94% probability, at which point you have good evidence for efficacy (after all, presumably you’re comparing antibiotics here with placebo). Even in the Phase IIIs with 2000 patients you have even odds of hitting someone with an allergy, and have much more evidence it works.

          • DensityDuck says:

            It’s not about efficacy, dude, it’s about the severity of adverse events. A drug that might make you go into anaphylactic shock is not a drug that is going to be approved for use in humans.

          • gwern says:

            It’s not about efficacy, dude, it’s about the severity of adverse events. A drug that might make you go into anaphylactic shock is not a drug that is going to be approved for use in humans.

            Of course it’s about efficacy. All drugs have some level of side-effects, the FDA is well aware of that. A miracle drug like penicillin will be approved if the worst anyone can come up with is a 0.03% risk of an allergic reaction (vs, you know, near-certain death from some infections). And this allergy side-effect would in all probability be discovered after the efficacy is established, so Murphy’s scenario wouldn’t’ve happened then or now.

    • DavidS says:

      I’m not sure your conclusion follows from your premise. If 85% of medicines do nothing (and they’re reasonably evenly spaced) presumably there are still multiple drugs for most conditions?

  54. Megafire says:

    After reading those three articles, I once again find one of my beliefs reaffirmed:

    Post-modernism is freakin’ weird.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I should admit that “post-modernism” was my impression of the category, and I don’t know if any of those articles would self-identify as post-modernist.

      • Taradino C. says:

        Although the texts of the articles clearly border on the popular perception of post-modernism, they do not explicitly self-identify as post-modernist, thereby leading the reader to question his notion of post-modernism. By conveying this message through the absence of declaration, the articles introduce the question in the reader’s mind as if it were his own original thought, exploiting society’s model of post-modernism in order to attack the very same model. Indeed, these texts provide a stunning example of post-modernism, which is to say they are not post-modernist, which is to say they are post-modernist when read in the context of the assertions they are not, and thus are, making.

  55. Sam says:

    In honor of the Lee-AlphaGo match, I submit the following link as a particularly fine example of internet content expertly tailored to the cognoscenti:
    http://senseis.xmp.net/?B2Bomber

  56. Zakharov says:

    If the Lizardman Constant is around 5%, why do 10% of Floridians think Cruz is the Zodiac Killer?

    • Wency says:

      I had the same thought.

      1. Noise in polling.
      2. Variability in the Lizardman Constant across populations.
      3. The Lizardman Constant only fully applies to accusations that blatantly contradict the underlying nature of reality.

      Someone, after all, is or was the Zodiac Killer. Perhaps you can get another 4-5% on top of the Lizardman Constant by suggesting things that could have happened, albeit absurd after any amount of analysis.

      “This guy’s accusing him of murder, murders happen all the time and accusations of murder are usually right, so I guess Ted Cruz is a murderer.”

      As opposed to: “This guy’s saying something about lizardmen, I don’t think that’s a thing, I’ll say ‘no’, or at least ‘maybe’.”

      Perhaps if the question had noted that Ted Cruz was born after the Zodiac Killer started killing, and asked if he hijacked the DeLorean from Back to the Future to become the Zodiac Killer, we’d see our 4-5%.

      • Rowan says:

        4. “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer” is an internet meme, giving any internet-savvy responders an extra temptation to give lizardman answers.

    • nil says:

      I think it’s a fair and safe bet to double the Lizardman Constant when polling in Florida.

    • Nadja says:

      I think some people who oppose Cruz might find it funny to say they believe it.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Personally, I think that Lizardman Constant is closer to 20%. And a pollster who wants to can easily get that up to 30%. Given that this is a PPP troll poll, they probably wanted to.

    • Matthias says:

      Perhaps Lizardman Constant is higher in Florida?

      They have alligators after all.

  57. ilzolende says:

    Scientists have identified over 20% of the genes involved in autism. I didn’t realize we were that far along with understanding any kind of massively polygenic trait like that.

    Holy shit we’re so screwed, there’s effective altruism but where do I find people effectively promoting having high-functioning autistic kids, our birth rate is going to sink like a brick and [expletives deleted].

    (I’m pretty sure society will live without significant numbers of us, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      By the time we know enough to create non-autistic kids, we’ll know enough to do things so much more interesting/potentially horrifying than that, that the autistic/allistic distinction will seem irrelevant.

    • 27chaos says:

      Gene editing will cause there to be more high functioning austistic people, if anything. Maybe you could get additional intelligence without as large handicaps to social intuition, for example.

    • Murphy says:

      I’m not so sure. If both parents are already carrying many of the risk genes and are likely somewhat autistic themselves then they’re going to have some context for their choices.

      What would you do if given the information as an expecting parent?

      • ilzolende says:

        I’d want an autistic or autism-adjacent kid, of course. But I’ve heard from wildly unreliable sources that even 2 autistic parents have bad chances of getting an autistic kid? And pre-implantation selection is … probably necessary anyway, I have a 50% chance of being a carrier for color blindness, but throwing away too many embryos sounds unpleasant.

        But for me, the real question is what my parents, who tested for Down’s syndrome and weren’t particularly well-informed about autism at the time, would have done with the option to use an autism test.

        And I don’t want to force people to carry any fetus to term because that leads to problems, but requiring some kind of informative material about any condition before offering a prenatal test would … be a terrible idea because it would be the same people who keep the JRC open determining what “informative” means, but I wish it were workable!

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m wondering how you feel about the claim “what makes someone a parent is their relationship with the child; shared genes are entirely irrelevant”. Last time I brought this up here I think everyone who replied agreed with the claim. Would you say you disagree with it?

          • I can’t speak for anyone else, but I disagree with it. I think at least three things are relevant:

            The relationship
            The shared genes
            The belief of the parent that the child is biologically his or hers.

            The second and third affect the first. My children have quite a lot of characteristics in common with both me and their mother. On the whole they are characteristics I approve of, and even when they are not, their sharing my faults helps me identify with them. I suspect those characteristics are largely genetic.

            I have never donated to a sperm bank and do not intend to—I am in that respect a traitor to my genes. The reason is that I feel a connection to my biological children, a responsibility I do not have towards other children. Hence I would not want to have my biological children being reared by random parents. So my belief that my children are biologically mine affects my relationship to them.

          • ilzolende says:

            I’d guess that sometimes shared genes are necessary for the parent to have a parental relationship with a child? Certainly, lots of people would prefer to have children they share genes with.

          • I don’t think “have a parental relationship with” is a binary variable. The relationship can be more or less parental.

    • gwern says:

      Look on the bright side: because autism is a relatively rare trait, the incentive to do selection on it is much less than for other traits like intelligence. When you do embryo selection on multiple traits, things like autism get much lower weights than the others and so much less effective selection against. You might find interesting my discussion & modeling of doing embryo selection based on a composite score of multiple polygenic scores: http://www.gwern.net/Embryo%20selection#multiple-selection

    • DensityDuck says:

      The other nightmare scenario is Brave New World. What if high-functioning autistics are encouraged to breed because they produce really good technical staff and scientists?

      • Adam Casey says:

        Is BNW actually that bad? Almost everyone has fun, and those that don’t get to enjoy the delights of miserable iceland just as they want.

        • Jiro says:

          Versions of utilitarianism based around happiness often have no way to reject blissful ignorance and wireheading.

          Brave New World, of course, is full of both of those (with Soma being the wireheading).

          If you can’t reject those, then Brave New World rates as a pretty good society. If you can, it rates a lot lower.

          • Acedia says:

            I’ve never really understood what the problem with consensual wireheading is (assuming no significant negative externalities).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Acedia:

            What’s consent got to do with it?

            The whole idea of wireheading is that the morally relevant thing to maximize is your mental state of happiness. Once you’re plugged in against your will, the machine can just make you think you wanted that all along, so there’s no mental suffering caused by it.

            Now, if you just mean “In practice, this would be abused,” fine. But the interesting question is whether someone who really had the right motives and knew what he was doing would be justified in plugging you in against your will.

            From any standpoint in which wireheading would be considered at all good, it’s hard to see how you could critique it on the grounds of being non-consensual.

          • suntzuanime says:

            What’s consent got to do, got to do with it
            What’s consent but a sweet old-fashioned notion
            What’s consent got to do, got to do with it
            Who needs a will when a will can be broken

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ suntzuanime:

            I was thinking of the same song when I wrote that.

        • Murphy says:

          I always thought that brave new world was far from the worst of all possible worlds.

          The fact that they intentionally made people stupider knocks it’s score down a lot for me but it’s a hell of a lot better than most dystopias.

          Even it’s wireheading was of a Least-bad kind with soma supposedly being neither physically or mentally addictive.

          If totally non-addictive wireheadding was on offer such that I knew I’d still have the real choice to stop once starting then I’d give it a try.

          I’d have no more problem with autistics being encouraged to have kids to produce good technical staff than with tall people being encouraged to have kids with each other in the hope of producing good basketball players.

          • DensityDuck says:

            ” totally non-addictive wireheadding”

            Good luck making that work.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            The world government also tried policies that *reduce* soma use, like deliberately refusing to automate the kind of jobs Gammas like.

          • Adam Casey says:

            With half-decent tech you can abolish most of the deltas and all epsilons. With decent tech you can abolish the deltas entirely.

            So I expect if we go back to that world a couple of generations later nobody has their intelligence reduced.

          • Anonymoose says:

            Adam, that missed the point that I think in the story the epsilon’s jobs are ALREADY irrelevant. They kept them around because the deltas/betas are too smart to handle being on the bottom of the social ladder, and hierarchy is necessary for society.

            There was a section where the antagonist describes a society of just Alpha+ individuals which collapsed due to a lack a solid hierarchy. You can argue this fictional world doesn’t accurately describe reality, but the books DOES offer a reason to not get rid of epsilons and deltas, even with decent tech.

          • Mark says:

            “non-addictive wireheadding”

            If it’s possible to go back to your regular life after trying wire-heading, I’d say you tried a pretty shitty version of wireheading.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s not, that is both a big part of the book’s point and why it has aged better than 1984 (IMO).

          • Urstoff says:

            I have almost the exact opposite impression; 1984 was such a dead-on take of authoritarian police states. In contrast, BNW seemed much more fantastical and much less focused. As people mention above, it really doesn’t seem that bad for most of the people in the society. At least the people in BNW are happy in some form or other, even if it’s the most superficial and fleeting kind of happiness.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s exactly what makes it more interesting, I may be recalling incorrectly, but Huxley isn’t attempting to build a dystopia, but rather show where he thought the world was trending, and why, despite this world being perfectly fine, with a pretty benevolent government, it would still feel “wrong” to the people of his time.

            The fact that we find Brave New World increasingly “not bad” is to Huxley’s credit.

          • Urstoff says:

            I’m doing the minimal amount of research, but quoting from Wikipedia: “Huxley referred to Brave New World as a “negative utopia”‘. It seems like Huxley was lampooning actual utopic writing by writing in glowing terms about a dystopia.

            I still think 1984 has aged better stylistically and thematically, but Orwell may have had a leg up given that he actually had authoritarian states to draw from.

          • Murphy says:

            For anyone who liked big brother, Charles Stross wrote what amounts to a continuation fic which will make anyone working in software giggle a little.

            http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/toast/toast.html#bigbro

            It’s been the Year 99 for thirty-three months now, and I’m not sure how much longer we can keep it that way without someone in the Directorate noticing. I’m one of the OverStaffCommanders on the year 100 project; it’s my job to help stop various types of chaos breaking out when the clocks roll round and we need to use an extra digit to store dates entered since the birth of our Leader and Teacher.

            Mine is a job which should never have been needed. Unfortunately when the Party infobosses designed the Computer they specified a command language which is a strict semantic subset of core Newspeak—politically meaningless statements will be rejected by the translators that convert them into low-level machinethink commands. This was a nice idea in the cloistered offices of the party theoreticians, but a fat lot of use in the real world—for those of us with real work to do. I mean, if you can’t talk about stock shrinkage and embezzlement how can you balance your central planning books? Even the private ones you don’t drag up in public? It didn’t take long for various people to add a heap of extremely dubious undocumented machinethink archives in order to get things done. And now we’re stuck policing the resulting mess to make sure it doesn’t thoughtsmash because of an errant digit.

            That isn’t the worst of it. The Party by definition cannot be wrong. But the party, in all its glorious wisdom announced in 1997 that the supervisor program used by all their Class D computers was Correct. (That was not long after the Mathematicians Purge.) Bugs do not exist in a Correct system; therefore anyone who discovers one is an enemy of the party and must be remotivated. So nothing can be wrong with the Computer, even if those of us who know such things are aware that in about three months from now half the novel writers and voice typers in Oceania will start churning out nonsense.

        • Muga Sofer says:

          Brave New World was intended as a send-up of utopias of the time, which is why it’s almost a utopia and most of the problems are rather forced.

      • Noge Sako says:

        Er, I am going to interject a bit of a counter-point. Its not so much that high-functioning autistics produce great scientists so much, more so that if a person has an IQ above average, yet contains the social deficits, and perhaps motor deficits that go along with autism, that individual will simply “tend” to introverted positions that still involve a large brain.

    • Adam Casey says:

      If you’re willing I’d be interested in understanding your reaction better here. If not please ignore the below.

      When I read this comment I interpret it as “I feel personally threatened by this”. With the logic being “this is an attack on a class I belong to, and hence it puts me at risk”. Is that how it feels? Or am I misinterpreting?

      • ilzolende says:

        (Note: I don’t like having extended discussions in SSC comments, so if you’d like to continue after this response, my about page on my Neocities lists some different ways to contact me.)

        A prenatal test isn’t a personal threat to me. A cure would be, because people designing tools specifically for making me into not-me is gah, but a prenatal test is a threat to my ingroup’s future.

        Um. I can’t tell from your first few blog posts what groups you identify with, but, uh, picture me acting like I have an evangelist religion that I’ve just been banned from promoting or something?

        A prenatal test isn’t going to steal my money or punch me, it’s just going to make the rate of people who are like me sink like a stone. And that’s going to be unpleasant for me, but also “making NT parents have kids they don’t want” is pretty inappropriate.

        The Shakers got banned from adopting kids at one point, and maybe this is a bit like that if it actually leads to results? IDK.

        • Adam Casey says:

          Thanks, that makes it clearer. I appreciate you taking the time.

        • “it’s just going to make the rate of people who are like me sink like a stone. And that’s going to be unpleasant for me”

          I wonder how true the second sentence is. Given the modern world with the internet, improving VR, good inexpensive transportation, is there a big difference between being in a 2% minority and in a .2% minority? Either way most people selected at random are not like you. But either way there are hundreds of thousands of people who speak your language who are like you.

          In the context of this discussion I’m part of the majority, but in other contexts, including ones having to do with how people think, I’m in a minority considerably smaller than .2%. I still find people to interact with. I even found someone to marry.

    • NN says:

      Holy shit we’re so screwed, there’s effective altruism but where do I find people effectively promoting having high-functioning autistic kids, our birth rate is going to sink like a brick and [expletives deleted].

      You can find them protesting outside every abortion clinic in the US. The US Pro-Life/Anti-Abortion movement already opposes abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome, and has managed to get laws passed banning abortion solely because of Down Syndrome in Indiana and North Dakota. Presumably they would feel the same way about a hypothetical pre-natal autism test. That may not be the answer that you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

      Though I have my doubts that an autism test could ever be remotely as reliable as the current Down Syndrome test. If, as the linked article claims, a lot of autism cases are the result of first-generation mutations, doesn’t that mean that new autism genes will be appearing all the time?

  58. Alraune says:

    RE: Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump…

    Has one presidential candidate ever managed to become the default context for all news before? He’s achieved the office of National Protagonist or something, and it seems rather unprecedented.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Antagonist, surely? At least if you’re reading the news?

    • onyomi says:

      Honestly, I think the biggest element of his success is just his ability to get so much free publicity. Beyond pure name recognition, where he already had an advantage, I think people naturally start to take someone seriously as a candidate if they see him on the news all the time, regardless of what he’s actually saying. If you get ten times as much coverage of Trump as of any other candidate the optics becomes not “are you going to vote for Trump or Cruz or Kasich or Christie,” but instead “are you going to vote for Trump or non-Trump?”

    • Randy M says:

      I’d say yes, but all my examples other than Washington are second out later terms.

    • Noge Sako says:

      Since half of what his opponents have to say to “win” the game of politics and toe the party line are ridiculous, he is debating on easy mode.

      And I think Scott Adams theory of the Cage Match president has more predictive power then his master persuader hypothesis. Could Arnold run as Vice President?

      GG no re dems.

  59. Dennis Ochei says:

    No one’s geeking out about Alpha Go beating Lee Sedol here?

    • Pku says:

      It’s destroying my sleep schedule. Stupid Eastern timezone.

    • Frog Do says:

      It’s why I’m commenting a lot, anyways.

    • 27chaos says:

      WHAT? Only the first game apparently, but wow. Didn’t expect that.

    • Adam Casey says:

      MAN. That’s a hell of a thing.

      It’s kind of hard to appreciate properly because of how inscrutible high level go is. I mean, I can look at Deep Blue v Kasparov and not “get” most of it, but I know who’s winning and by how much. Without commentary I couldn’t say any points where Lee was clearly ahead or behind.

      If Alphago is as conceptually simple as it seems to be from the press (a big if) that’s kind of impressive. This is clearly a meta-strategy that applies to basically anything gamelike with a long history.

    • Alan Crowe says:

      I’ve just finished looking at the second game. Lee Sedol seems to be playing very well. I think black has captured white stones, then I realize that they can escape because of a forcing move Lee has played earlier. But I’m only a 4kyu and not confident that I can work out a pro-level end game accurately enough to see for myself that he is a few points behind and might as well resign.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m a beginner at Go so I can’t really tell, but watching the first two games, AlphaGo gives a scary impression of being so much better than humans that the pro commenters can’t actually tell why it’s winning. A user watching one of the streams compared this feeling to an amateur who’s playing a pro, is feeling like they’re doing ok, then is suddenly losing “out of nowhere”. However, in the press conference Google did say that AlphaGo rated its chances about even in the mid-game of game 2, so maybe that’s overstated. Until we see AlphaGo actually lose a game we won’t be able to tell for sure.

      • tcd says:

        Part of this can be explained by what exactly AlphaGo was designed to optimize: the probability of winning the match. The commentators have at several points been stumped by AlphaGo’s decisions to not aggressively push lines of play which would likely result in large possible points swings in its favor. AlphaGo pursues lines that grant 99% probability to win by 1 point over 90% probability to win by 10 points.

        I have not watched the second match yet, but I have read that they brought in one of the team members during the English commentary to shed some light on the issue.

        • DensityDuck says:

          That’s actually a really good point. In games like Go that have finite numbers of points, when a possible point is removed from the game then it’s effectively given points to the leader. One scored point plus an entirely dead bored is a win.

          …although it’s also a terribly boring game. Which is where the problem comes in. Maybe what happened is that AlphaGo broke Go; nobody who wants to Win The Game will ever do anything other than turtle now that AlphaGo showed us it’s the optimal strategy.

          Note that a lot of the rules in professional sports are there specifically to prevent turtling. The icing rule in hockey, or the shot clock in basketball, that sort of thing. It would be interesting to see what AlphaGo would do if there were a rule like “if no point has been scored in so-many moves, a random stone on the board flips to the other color”.

          • Luke Somers says:

            You can’t actually score just one point, especially in Chinese scoring where the stones themselves count for points.

          • Protagoras says:

            AlphaGo doesn’t play boring games, or at least his games against Lee Sedol have involved lots of conflict. No doubt partly because Lee Sedol is an aggressive player, but AlphaGo often responded with counter-attacks and played plenty of aggressive moves itself.

        • Troy says:

          That’s really interesting. I’m a Go amateur, but I often have to resist the urge to give after a big prize with 60% probability when my probability of winning with the status quo is 80%. I’m sure the best players don’t fall into they kind of trap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even the best players can’t distinguish between 90% and 99% probabilities as well as AlphaGo.

        • Muga Sofer says:

          Density: AlphaGo couldn’t possibly play that game, because there’d be no body of previous games to learn from.

          The only way it could be done would be to simply use the current dataset, I think, which would mean it would play exactly the same way it does now (and probably lose.)

          • Oscar Cunningham says:

            By the way, DeepMind think that they could now train AlphaGo without any dataset.

            Actually, the AlphaGo algorithm, this is something we’re going to try in the next few months — we think we could get rid of the supervised learning starting point and just do it completely from self-play, literally starting from nothing. It’d take longer, because the trial and error when you’re playing randomly would take longer to train, maybe a few months. But we think it’s possible to ground it all the way to pure learning.

            http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/10/11192774/demis-hassabis-interview-alphago-google-deepmind-ai

    • Adam says:

      Not here, but in my Georgia Tech group, yeah, a lot of us are geeking out.

    • Noge Sako says:

      Its clearly one of the largest news of the century event.

      This, and Watson’s win at jeopardy mark the most important observable events in AI to a casual observer.

    • onyomi says:

      http://www.chosunonline.com/site/data/html_dir/2016/03/11/2016031100881.html

      I don’t play Go, but for those who can read Japanese, this article provides an interesting perspective.

      Basically, the professional Go commentators had to apologize to the spectators because Alpha Go made so many decisions that were inexplicable, based on their experience–things that looked for all the world like a series of blunders but which eventually turned out to be brilliant moves of the sort a human pro, apparently, would never have thought of. In other words, for the people with a ton of experience watching Go, it wasn’t just like watching a really unusually good person playing Go; it was like watching someone who didn’t seem to be very good yet who inexplicably won every time.

      What is interesting and a bit scary about this to me, a non-Go player, is just that it confirms some of my suspicions about AI: that being really smart or good at a thing doesn’t necessarily imply being like a smart human but smarter. To put it in Yudkowskian terms, it seems like the space of potential mind architectures is greater than we would tend to imagine.

      That is, the super Go playing computer is better than any human, but not in the way a really good human would ever be (imagine the new Bobby Fischer of Go is born today: even if he turned out to be way better than Lee Sedol or, indeed, Alpha Go, the sense I get is that he wouldn’t likely have been good in the way Alpha Go is good).

      This is scary because it implies a super AI may turn out to be very unfathomable to us not just in the way the mind of Einstein is unfathomable to a person of average intelligence, but maybe even more fundamentally than that.

      One positive thing: assuming AI doesn’t advance so far, so rapidly as to make human reasoning and skill wholly irrelevant, one can imagine that the opportunity to interact with “minds” as smart or smarter than us in some or all fields which yet are very different from our minds in structural terms might actually help spur human creativity and alert us to our own blind spots. My guess is that human Go players will be better 10 years from now than they ever were before, assuming they can eventually make sense of Alpha Go’s unorthodox play style. It’s the closest thing we might soon get to meeting an intelligent alien species capable of telling us what humans look and act like as seen from a non-human perspective.

      • null says:

        I think you are being too optimistic about what this means for human Go progress. Has there been a significant advance in chess skills as a result of computer dominance, or even an incorporation of computer chess tactics in human play? I don’t think this is the case. The games in computer vs. computer matches are visibly different than games played between humans, even years after chess computers routinely beat humans.

      • Chalid says:

        being really smart or good at a thing doesn’t necessarily imply being like a smart human but smarter. To put it in Yudkowskian terms, it seems like the space of potential mind architectures is greater than we would tend to imagine.

        Not having religiously followed LW debates on AI for years, I have to ask – is this actually controversial among rationalists? It was one of those things that seemed very obvious when I read the relevant Sequence.

        • onyomi says:

          It seems obvious, yes, though it is still interesting, to me, at least, to have such a concrete example of a “mind” which is better than the best humans at a thing, but in a very “non-human” way.

          • I don’t find it particularly surprising–different humans already think in different ways. As best I can tell, I think in series and Richard Epstein thinks in parallel.

          • Noge Sako says:

            Very obvious examples in humans, and one oft quoted in the blogosphere, is the firm difference in people in the fields of verbal capabilities (vocab, verbal reasoning, long passage comprehension) and spatial intelligence(object recognition, spatial manipulation)and and memory capacity(those considered savants who can perfectilly recollect long passages with a tenth of the time to memorize), and even complex and simple reaction time.

            Its not horribly uncommon to see splits with certain people having 90th percentile verbal and 30th percentile spatial, with 60t percentile memory capabilities, and vice versa.

            There are people who can write long, lurid prose who ace the LSAT who would make only average electro-mechanical engineers, and vice-versa.

          • onyomi says:

            @David Friedman,

            Can you elaborate on what you mean by thinking in “series” as opposed to “parallel”?

            One difference I think is pretty real and noticeable in my experience is visual vs aural processors. I am a pretty strongly aural processor. I easily and comfortably absorb information that is read to me. I love audio books and podcasts. I hear the words silently in my head when reading. I mostly think in sentences, not images.

            I definitely know people for whom the opposite is true. I even recall someone who claimed to see a kind of “text crawl” in her mind’s eye when people were talking.

          • In explanation of my series and parallel metaphor:

            Richard is making an argument of the form A->B->C.

            I point out that actually B doesn’t imply C. Instead of disputing that, Richard replies with A->D->E->F->C.

            It feels to me as though he is running multiple lines of argument in his head, and when one of them gets blocked he just shifts to another running in parallel and uses that to get around the blockage. Where I’m running one line of argument at a time.

      • tanuki says:

        Basically, the professional Go commentators had to apologize to the spectators because Alpha Go made so many decisions that were inexplicable, based on their experience–things that looked for all the world like a series of blunders but which eventually turned out to be brilliant moves of the sort a human pro, apparently, would never have thought of. In other words, for the people with a ton of experience watching Go, it wasn’t just like watching a really unusually good person playing Go; it was like watching someone who didn’t seem to be very good yet who inexplicably won every time.

        That is, the super Go playing computer is better than any human, but not in the way a really good human would ever be…

        My interpretation (as a very amateur go player) is quite different.

        The slack moves (“blunders” is too strong a term) were in the second half of each game, after AlphaGo had already established victory (or defeat in the case of game 4). It’s a case of choosing not to sprint to the finish line, but instead amble, knowing that you’re far enough ahead that you can afford to give up some ground.

        In the earlier match against Fan Hui, many commentators were surprised by the human-like style of AlphaGo’s play. Looking at the moves, I certainly couldn’t tell which player was the computer. When computers first drew level with top humans at chess, it was much easier to tell: the computers were more naive in terms of the “intuitive” side of play (strategy and long term planning), but their superior calculating ability was enough to compensate. But with AlphaGo, my first thought on seeing those games was that in a sense it’s now passed the Turing test.

        In the current match, it’s sometimes playing good moves that take the commentators by surprise–but top human players sometimes do that as well!

        To my mind, the most significant thing about AlphaGo is the way that it’s been trained. In a sense it’s watched humans making a bunch of decisions, and then learned to make its own judgements as to what constitutes a “good” decision, and how to make decisions with a lower rate of mistakes than the humans it learned from. DeepMind have stated very clearly that they expect the same type of learning to work for other subject areas.

  60. suntzuanime says:

    So if Disease X is more prevalent in population A than in population B, aren’t you just being a good Bayesian if you diagnose it more readily in population A based on the same facts?

    • Nita says:

      No, because you would be double-counting the evidence.

      If you already know that Alex has symptoms X, Y and Z, then “boys are more likely to have symptoms X, Y and Z” doesn’t add more information relevant to Alex’s diagnosis.

      • suntzuanime says:

        But then doesn’t the same reasoning apply at the level of diagnosing symptoms? It seems like the only way to get around it is if there are no judgment calls in diagnosis, and then you wouldn’t see the effect to begin with.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I think suntzu is right.

        For example, suppose a young man and a young woman are both vomiting every morning. You’d be more likely to order a pregnancy test for the young woman, because even though the symptoms are the same, the prior probability of a woman being pregnant given symptoms consistent with morning sickness is much higher.

        (this is true even if you count transmen and say that 0.01% of men or whatever get pregnant – it’s not just about “men never get pregnant”, it’s about much lower probabilities).

        For the same reason, if a smoker and a nonsmoker both have a persistent cough, you’d be much more worried about lung cancer in the smoker.

      • Nita says:

        The definition pregnancy (lung cancer) involves having an embryo attached to your insides (a bad growth in your lungs), regardless of any outward signs of it. Most mental disorders, on the other hand, are defined as clusters of symptoms.

        Therefore, it makes sense to say “despite having all sy