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Links 8/16: Ode On A Grecian URL

Israel now gets 55% of its water from desalinization and has gone from drought-stricken to having more than enough to share. Related: Jeff Kaufman on the economics of desalinization in California.

Long 2004 piece by Atul Gawande on ranking doctors by outcomes, why we don’t usually do it, and diseases where it seems to work.

Bryan Caplan (2014): talk of the “increasing returns to a college degree” don’t necessarily motivate more students to go to college if they predict they’ll fail.

In November, Maine will vote on becoming the first US state to use ranked-choice voting.

A 2004 study showed that the antidepressant Celexa worked in children. Newer studies show it doesn’t. As part of a lawsuit, investigators got all of the pharma company’s internal data on the trial that “proved” the drug worked. So if you ever want to see exactly how pharmaceutical companies cook their trials, here’s your chance.

Did you know: military dogs traditionally outrank their handlers in order to encourage the handlers to treat them with respect.

The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish. And like the Amish, they have big communities in Pennsylvania. But did you know there are also large Mennonite communities in Paraguay, Mexico, and Belize?

Fredrik deBoer’s thoughts on atheism pretty much parallel my own evolution on the same subject.

AskReddit: what is the weirdest sensation you’ve only felt once?

IF you’re anxiously awaiting Civilization 6, there’s a good compendium of all available information about the game here.

Missouri governor defunds the state’s public defense system so that it has trouble hiring enough lawyers to defend cases. Head public defender makes use of an obscure law that lets him “draft” lawyers when not enough are available – and drafts the Missouri governor himself to fill in until the funds arrive.

I think someone might be trolling the sovereign citizens – somehow it’s entered into their lore that if you officially write “I am an idiot” on your court paperwork, the government can’t prosecute you. I guess I understand how this sort of makes sense – “idiot” used to be Greek for someone not involved in political life – but I still wonder if this is the best prank of all time.

The governor of Nebraska occasionally honors people by declaring them an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska. A similar tradition of Kentucky honoring people by naming them Colonels is how we got Colonel Sanders. Related Colonel Sanders fact: he was so angry with KFC switching from his original recipe that he denounced their food as “pure wallpaper paste…there’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it.”

Poll finds that 37% of Trump supporters have zero friends who support Clinton; 47% of Clinton supporters have zero friends who support Trump.

Remember when LHC thought they found a new particle recently. They didn’t. Scientists in other fields declare physicists weird, creepy for waiting to make sure finding actually exists before announcing it.

Sam Bowman’s neoliberal manifesto aims to carve out “neoliberalism” as a particular policy position (instead of just a vague smear) based around belief in markets, technocratic managerial competence, and interest in helping the poor through evidence-based programs. It’s a useful term since it has elements of liberalism and libertarianism but doesn’t exactly fit into either. But I worry it still doesn’t draw a fine enough distinction. Hillary Clinton and Peter Thiel would probably both be “neoliberals” under this definition, but there’s a big gap between them. More important, Hillary’s brand of neoliberal can probably be relatively happy with the direction things are going, whereas Thiel’s brand is phenomenally unhappy. A better explanation of the differences between the two might be a worthwhile project.

Studies kept finding that people who drank more alcohol had lower mortality, but everyone assumed it was doomed to stay a correlational finding only – after all, you couldn’t ethically randomize people to start drinking alcohol, could you? Well, now they did a study where they randomized people to start drinking alcohol.

Donald Trump quotes superimposed on pictures of Zapp Brannigan works surprisingly well.

New paper finds that blinded review of linguistics papers increased percent of women whose papers did well at a conference, suggesting previous discrimination against women. Slight catch is that in previous linguistic conferences, papers by men and women did equally well, but after institution of blinded review, women did much better than men. Authors write that this suggests previous bias against women lopped off the bottom half of the female ability distribution, leaving only women who were so brilliant that they could effectively compete on a skewed playing field, and who therefore did better than men once the playing field was leveled. I find this a little self-serving, but it’s hard to explain why blinding review would have this effect otherwise, and I don’t see any obvious attempts to cook the data. All of their data is freely available (good for them!) so if you want to investigate yourself, let me know if you find anything interesting.

Vox: why is GDP growth so slow?

In case you really like quantifying things, here’s The Cost Of Crime To Society. They just gave per crime statistics, but multiplying everything out it looks like it’s on the order of $300 billion/year, which is way more than I expected and which doesn’t even seem to count things like decreasing land values.

r/evilbuildings

This week in “studies saying the opposite of what previous studies said”: Uber does not decrease traffic fatalities; Mexican immigration does decrease native wages; but only for African-Americans; religious children are no less altruistic than anyone else.

Scientists have bred alcoholic rats in order to investigate the genetics of alcoholism.

A single mutation in horses 1000 years ago noticeably increased their rideability.

There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years, which is statistically super-unlikely. I’m sure global warming skeptics will pounce on this, but this actually seems to go beyond no-change – is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?

New York Daily News: We Were Wrong: Ending Stop-and-Frisk Did Not End Stopping Crime. I will always republish people admitting they were wrong, so good for them.

Filipino president verbally attacks the Pope, jokes about raping missionaries, announces that “I don’t care about human rights”, catcalls female journalists, encourages citizens to shoot drug dealers, and called the US ambassador “a gay son of a whore”. But also, he is lauded for his work promoting women’s and LGBT rights in the Phillipines, and during his tenure as Mayor of Davao transformed it from “the murder capital of the Philippines” to “the world’s fourth safest place”.

That weird star that we’re not supposed to blame on aliens is still doing weird things.

Chinese audiences loved “Kung Fu Panda” so much that it inspired national soul-searching on why the West was better at making Chinese-culture-themed movies than they were.

Musical Alexander Hamilton: proud immigrant who sings together with Lafayette about how “immigrants get the job done”. Real-world Alexander Hamilton: “The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass…to admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they put foot in our country, as recommended in the Message, would be nothing less, than to admit the Grecian Horse into the Citadel of our Liberty and Sovereignty.” H/t Alyssa Vance.

There is no hedonic adaptation to poverty; “poverty starts bad and stays bad in terms of subjective well-being”.

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884 Responses to Links 8/16: Ode On A Grecian URL

  1. TallDave says:

    There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years, which is statistically super-unlikely. I’m sure global warming skeptics will pounce on this, but this actually seems to go beyond no-change – is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?

    This is old news for skeptics, Grover Cleveland’s administration enjoyed 15 in three years.

    The answer to your question is yes. Atmospheric dynamics are so poorly understood virtually any trend can be plausibly laid at the feet of some other trend, and they constantly are. That’s fine for everyone doing theoretical science, unfortunately some of this is being confused with applied science or engineering (where “plausible” may get lots of people killed and the authors thrown in prison).

  2. Zanzard says:

    Has nobody yet mentioned the fact that Maine’s new (possible) voting law is not the centerpiece of the article, but that Trump is the reason that this article was written?!

    The article is fine as it is, but I do find it amusing that the authors had to put Trump in the title so as to attract viewers.

  3. Protest Manager says:

    Sam Bowman’s neoliberal manifesto aims to carve out “neoliberalism” as a particular policy position (instead of just a vague smear) based around belief in markets, technocratic managerial competence, and the tooth fairy, right?

    Because, frankly, believing in the tooth fairy’s a lot more reasonable than believing in “technocratic managerial competence” WRT anything involving the government.

    See: the VA killing people, see the NSA getting hacked, see the quality of American Public Education, hell, take a look at ObamaCare Exchanges.

    The Insurance companies were at the table as active partners during the writing of ObamaCare. And now they’re taking a major bath on the “Exchanges”.

    Then there’s Solyendra, “clean energy”, the Obama 2009 porkulus. For real fun we could discuss US Military procurement.

    There is no “technocratic managerial competence” when government is involved. Belief in it is delusional.

  4. Kabaddi says:

    “There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years, which is statistically super-unlikely. I’m sure global warming skeptics will pounce on this, but this actually seems to go beyond no-change – is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?”
    I’m not an expert, but I’ve heard that global warming decreases hurricane frequency and increases their strenght. Which overall would increase damages.
    “The Recent Increase in Atlantic Hurricane Activity: Causes and Implications” — Goldenberg, Science 2001

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes, it is a common claim that global warming will decrease hurricane frequency and increase strength. No, most people do not draw a conclusion about damages from this. I don’t see what your citation has to do with any of these claims.

      • Kabaddi says:

        Ok. Yeah, I remembered the study content differently. At least I was not misremembering the claim in question though. Do you know if this claim is supported by the scientific evidence? Also has there been any studies on the economic impact of predicted change in hurricane patterns?. It sounds like there should be.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I think that the claim about frequency and severity is based on models. It is the most popular result, but I think that there are a lot of models with a lot of results. The empirics are a mess. The paper you cited, which is 15 years out of date, shows that there are huge changes from decade to decade that swamp the secular trend. So it just isn’t possible to measure the secular trend. At least, not directly. If one had an upstream model which explained what caused the good and bad decades, maybe one could make confident claims, but I don’t think people do that. (eg, the paper suggests that El Nino is relevant. It may be easy to measure whether that is true and confirm such a model. But measuring whether El Nino is increasing or decreasing is probably difficult.) And a model that does not explain good and bad decades is probably nonsense because global warming will probably change the balance between them, swamping the residual, even if the model correctly explains the residual.

          I don’t know about modeling damages. The most famous prediction about damages is that the New Orleans levies would survive a category 4 storm.

  5. Gert says:

    About the Atheism point – well, here’s the quote I find most objectionable:

    If you live in the West Village and live a groovy boho lifestyle (which is nice, I’m not knocking it), you could easily look at Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris saying ugly, ignorant, Islamophobic things on Twitter and say to yourself “these guys are just as bad.” But live in rural Kansas for awhile. Try Mississippi. Try growing up gay in fundamentalist parts of Utah.

    Or try being gay in an Islamic neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris. Or being a Jew in the Muslim areas of Malmo. Or a Yezidi in Germany. Or try publishing an anti-Islamic cartoon… anywhere really.

    And this is before I’ve mentioned countries like Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.

    There is this very bad habit I’ve observed with Americans. They simply cannot imagine that there could be anything beyond there shores – that is, the worst kind of fanaticism would be Mormon Utah. The idea that anything could be worse doesn’t seem real.

    Basically, if you’re an atheist but you don’t criticise Islam, you’re a fake. Same thing if you claim to support liberal values, but don’t criticise Islam. You’re a fake. Because you’re announcing that you will stand firm against petty annoyances but not against a real threat.

    • TallDave says:

      The really fundie Mormons are just going to cluck their tongues at the sin while loving the sinner; it’s the non-churchgoing gay-haters you have to watch out for.

      Christ was a pacifist, so Christian extremists tend to be pacifists. Mohammed was a warlord.

      Personally I doubt God cares much one way or the other where your junk goes, all else being equal, but I suspect most people outside of the West would view Western atheism as a strangely God-less branch of Christianity.

  6. Jaybird says:

    Freddie’s thoughts on atheism strike me as being afflicted with the same kernel of a problem that I regularly saw in the same culture he’s criticizing.

    There are no matters of taste. There are only matters of morality.

    The question of mayonnaise vs. mustard might strike you as an opportunity to shrug and say “eh, whatever floats your boat” but if you understood how many chickens were harmed in the creation of the eggs required to provide the egg yolks needed to feed our insatiable appetite for mayonnaise, you’d grab some mustard and NEVER LOOK BACK.

    And, suddenly, a discussion where you thought you were discussing something that could be left up to the individual to choose for himself has suddenly transformed into a test where you could have said that you believed in right versus wrong and YOU HAVE FAILED THAT TEST.

    You torturer of chickens, bane of chicken menses, and devourer of that wicked pasty mayonnaise.

    And it’s like that for freakin’ everything.

  7. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Reading these links posts, I got this image of Vox as a haven of original progressive thought, making interesting new arguments rather than rehashing old ones. So I finally went to Vox directly fit more of that, and good lord is it a cesspool of vacuous clickbait.

    Thank you for curating their rate worthwhile output.

  8. Doug M. says:

    Hamilton on immigration: a lot of anti-immigration writers have been seizing on Hamilton’s later writings about immigration as a comeback to the unabashedly pro-immigrant stance of the musical. However, Hamilton’s views evolved over time. Up until he joined Washington’s cabinet (1789) he was unabashedly pro-immigrant. Why wouldn’t he be? He was an immigrant himself, and he lived in New York, which was already, even then, unusually receptive to immigrants.

    Then for the next six years he took a more moderate view: still pro-immigrant, but more nuanced. He wanted the new Federal government to take more control over immigration. (But then, he wanted the new Federal government to take more control over /everything/.) He also started to distinguish between different groups of immigrants: English speaking Protestants from Britain or the West Indies were fine, Catholic Irish and French were less good.

    Then starting around 1796 he became increasingly anti-immigrant, more and more across the board. He used “immigrant” as a slur against his hated successor, Albert Gallatin. He raised the alarm against the tide of French refugees fleeing the Terror (even though he was on very friendly terms with many of them personally). By his last few years he was getting positively frothy on the subject.

    So, yeah, Hamilton said a lot of stuff against immigration. But it’s almost all from the last seven years of his life, and if you wanted to you could find just as many pro-immigration comments from his writings between 1775 and 1789. He was a complicated guy. And hey: in the play, all his pro-immigration comments come in Act One. So in that very narrow sense, the play is historically accurate.

    Doug M.

    • Doug M. says:

      More generally, anything Hamilton wrote in his later years needs to be taken with at least half a grain of salt. The musical is not historically accurate about his fall — he’d resigned long before the Reynolds Pamphlet, and he was never going to be President anyway — but it accurately captures how abrupt and shattering it was. After six years of being the second most powerful man in the country, shaping the destiny of the infant United States in ways that are still relevant over 200 years later, Hamilton quite abruptly found himself a political has-been with no power, many enemies, a mountain of debt, and no prospect of a comeback.

      Understandably, his later writings are a lot crankier and more negative about pretty much everything.

      Doug M.

  9. Doug M. says:

    The desalination article emphasizes the technical improvements in the Israeli process, which are real and important. However, the laws of physics impose a minimum energy cost on removing solutes (like salt) from a solvent (like water). It’s great that the new plants are more efficient, but there’s a hard limit to how efficient a desal plant can be.

    A point that’s not mentioned in the article: Israeli desalination is cheap in part because Israeli energy is cheap. Most of Israel’s electricity comes from natural gas. It gets a lot of low-cost natural gas from Egypt, and it’s also started tapping its recently discovered offshore natural gas fields. As a result, the price of electricity in Israel has been falling. Electricity currently costs about 16 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s more expensive than in much of the US, but by world standards it’s well below average. Comparable international prices would include 18 cents in Australia, about 22 cents in Great Britain or Japan, 25 cents in Brazil and 32 cents in Germany.

    Doug M.

    • John Schilling says:

      Those appear to be retail household electricity prices, which bear little relation to the wholesale price for industrial users. The wholesale price in Germany, for example, is about $0.03/kW-h. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to find anything on wholesale electricity prices in Israel

      • Doug M. says:

        Here’s a .pdf giving Israeli wholesale electricity prices over the decade 2002-12 (slide 19). As you can see, retail and “general” are pretty close. Pre-VAT retail is usually around 50 agorot (0.5 shekels)/kWh. A shekel is about 26 cents right now, so that’s 13 cents — but then you add 17% VAT and you’re just about at the 16 cent figure I mentioned above.

        https://www.iec.co.il/EN/IR/Documents/IECs_Presentation.pdf

        As you can see, the Israeli average is consistently around 8-10% lower than retail. Wholesale appears to be about half the market, so the wholesale price would be another 8-10% below that, and then of course wholesale can recover VAT. So the effective wholesale price would be around 33% lower than retail — say 11 or 12 cents/kWh.

        Note that the very next slide (20) compares Israeli prices to prices worldwide, and notes that “Electricity Price in Israel is Among the Lowest in the Western World”, while the slide after that (21) cites an OECD report claiming that Israel’s prices are artificially low.

        I can dig up the report if we really want to get into that level of detail, but really: electricity is cheap-ish in Israel. Not crazy cheap like in Saudi, but cheaper than in most Western countries. And since the major cost of desal is energy, that means that a desal plant that makes perfect economic sense in Israel might not somewhere else.

        Doug M.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Where do you get that number? When I google german wholesale electricity prices I get lots of people claiming numbers in the 6-7c range. I also find graphs that appear to give 3c numbers, but I worry that I am misreading them.

        • John Schilling says:

          Eyeballing graphs here and here. Note that Germany’s wholesale electricity prices were in the 6-7c range about five years ago, so that may be where your sources are coming from.

          Here is one showing that the EU average has been consistently in the 3-7 cent/kW-h range since 2010. The US and Canada are at the low end of that range.

          If Doug M is right that Israel’s wholesale electricity prices are 10-11 c/kW-h, that’s extremely expensive by the standards of the industrialized world. That they then allow homeowners to buy the stuff at near-wholesale cost rather than marking it up nearly an order of magnitude like the Germans is nice to homeowners, confusing to economic statisticians, and irrelevant to would-be desalinators.

          Cheap electricity is generally found in places with copious hydroelectric power. Strangely, none of these seem to be suffering any great shortage of fresh water.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Alyssa points out, in the comments on Jeff’s post, that what matters for desal is the marginal cost of electricity. Just run it when electricity is cheapest. With the advent of green energy, most of which is quite erratic, we should expect the price of electricity to vary a lot. Solar power may not do much to drive down the price of grid electricity (and may well drive it up), but it is a good fit for desal plants. And they don’t need to negotiate a deal with the power company – they can just install their panels. Not everywhere has as much sunlight as Israel, but California does.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I’m kind of skeptical on that front. Desalinization would seem to run hard against solar’s chief weakness, density. It’s a been awhile since I took college chemistry, and I could be complete wrong, but just eyeballing the difference in enthalpy between fresh and salt water I’d guess that we’re looking at a minimum draw of 0.8 watts to desalinate 1 liter of water.

        That’s going to add up quick.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What do you mean by density? Your calculation doesn’t suggest a meaning. Perhaps you mean that if you want to irrigate an acre of desert, it will take 10 acres of solar panels? I don’t know the right number, but so what? It’s not like you were doing anything else with that desert. Or perhaps you were referring to my suggestion of vertical integration and suggesting that beachfront land is expensive? Then build transmission lines. (OK, at this point, you should just buy from the power company. But use the threat of vertical integration to get a good deal.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Perhaps you mean that if you want to irrigate an acre of desert, it will take 10 acres of solar panels?

            Essentially yes. “Density” refers to the fact that there is a firm upper-bound on how much solar power you can extract from a given area determined by the amount of sunlight that would otherwise hit the ground. In short, it doesn’t scale well.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a lot of free energy hitting the ground, though. About a kilowatt per square meter at peak. At present we’re extracting 10ish percent of that on commercial scales, but theoretical limits are somewhere around 40, IIRC.

            Looks like you need about 3 kWh per cubic meter to desalinate water according to this. It looks like an acre of most crops takes somewhere in the neighborhood of two acre-feet of water a year, which comes to 2467 cubic meters, which takes 7400 kWh of desalination energy. At 10% efficiency and insolation giving you 2000 kWh/m^2/year of sunlight (comparable to the Southwestern US), that comes to… 37 m^2 of panels, which is about 1% of an acre. Unless I screwed up the conversions somewhere, which is possible.

          • Nornagest says:

            A lot of desert countries also have lots of cheap land lying around, because they are desert countries. The exceptions bite hard, granted — this would be small comfort to the likes of Israel or Kuwait, but they at least have neighbors like this.

  10. Agronomous says:

    From the BBC:

    The Giant Pyramid Hidden Inside a Mountain

    Four times the footprint of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Built around another pyramid, which in turn was built around another pyramid. Discovered in the early 20th century. You won’t believe what they built on top of it!

    The Temple at Cholula

    (Also, skulls.)

  11. meyerkev248 says:

    In luser-found links (that I missed the first around
    ).

    Boris Johnson, previously noted for winning The Spectator’s competition for the most libelous poem about President Erdogan of Turkey is appointed Foreign Secretary and the first crisis he has to deal with, less than 48 hours after taking office, is a failed coup d’etat against Erdogan? And Boris is the great-grandson of Ali Kemal Bey? Who ordered that?

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/05/boris-johnson-wins-the-spectators-president-erdogan-offensive-poetry-competition/

    h/t: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/08/reality-is-broken-1.html#more

  12. JRM says:

    On idiots and sovereign citizens:

    Idiocy is a defense in criminal law, though it’s usually no longer called “idiocy.” Basically, you need to not know the nature and quality of your actions because you are too dumb.

    Suppose I walk into the store and there is a shiny thing. I take the shiny thing because I like it, and I am somewhat confused on the idea of property ownership. Apparently, this makes everyone unhappy for some reason. I may have a defense.

    I’ve seen this about once: When I was just starting as a prosecutor, I made a deal with a similarly inexperienced defense attorney on a petty theft case. When the defendant came up to the table, it was clear that she was in way over her depth very quickly during the plea. I stopped it, found out she was getting help from the local agency for very low-IQ people, talked to them, dismissed the case. (JRM: Can you work with her on not stealing stuff? Them: We’re working on it. No guarantees, but I think she understands better.)

    Anecdotally (and in my area), sovereign citizen activity has changed from a group with white nationalist and scammy overtones to a multi-cultural scammer factory. Sovereign citizen tales (names are changed to protect annoying people):

    Judge Friendly: Are you Homer Jay Simpson?
    HJS: I am the living beneficiary of Homer Jay Simpson. I am not giving my name. [This is a very common schtick with the SC’s – JRM]
    Judge Friendly: Well, if we don’t know who you are, and I can’t order you back by name, we could put you in jail.
    HJS: I am Homer Jay Simpson.

    Judge Infinite Calm: We are calling the case of People versus Robert Belcher and Linda Belcher.
    Linda Belcher (to clerk): I’m not going to listen to this. Tell the judge that.
    Judge: Please don’t interrupt me. You need to address me if you have something to say.
    Linda: I’m not subject to this court’s jurisdiction.
    Judge: I think you are mistaken.

    There are little groups giving seminars to wanna-be scammers on how to do this. Hint: It doesn’t work too well. The people involved tend to be scammy, and some are clearly mentally ill. But as the movement rises in frequency, it’s more scammy than crazy. (Most of our SC’s are involved in real estate fraud or other paper-related types of theft.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I have to admit I find this really interesting as a sort of weird extreme to scamminess. Vaccines-cause-autism is a vast statistical claim – we know some people who don’t get vaccines get autism, some people who do get vaccines get autism, and it would take a big study and a lot of statistics to see whether one group gets it much more.

      Sovereign citizenism is something that has literally never worked. You can look at the records of trials and see exactly what happened to the people who tried it before. It’s like the vaccines-cause-autism theory if no vaccinated person had ever gotten autism and in fact there was no such thing as autism at all. I wouldn’t have believed it possible if it didn’t exist.

      • Jill says:

        As someone mentioned earlier in the thread, SC is like homeopathy for legal problems.

        Just one of the latest forms of snake oil being sold to naive people.

      • These are people who believe in the One Weird Trick. They also know almost nothing about law, and think of it as a rigid algorithm: if you put in the right cheat code, the system is required to give you what you want.

        Conspiracy theorists are cynical and suspicious when confronting the outside world, but are notoriously gullible about “secrets” they hear from other conspiracy theorists.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I have a friend who was dancing around the edge of this world (the militia movement, sovereign citizens, doomsday prepping, “zombie” plans, etc.) I think he is pulling himself out, but I’m not sure. I know that I can’t be of very much help.

          He is actually a really smart and talented guy. I have tremendous respect for his abilities in a bunch of areas.

          We had a conversation about a year ago where he said that insurance meant that there were a whole bunch of people getting screwed. Not that he thought insurance companies were crooks. He really views the concept of a pooling risk as inherently unjust. Even if the insurance pool was completely non-profit and risk was appropriately assessed, etc.

          It seems to me that this may offer an important insight into what motivates some of those who find SC appealing, but I can’t quite put my finger on what that insight is.

          • Jill says:

            Hmm. Perhaps he’s sensitive to, and fearful of, real and imagined injustices and disasters. Perhaps he’s so fearful of these that he doesn’t look before he leaps– and doesn’t realize it when they turn out to be imaginary, or when the cures or remedies for the problems turn out to be nonsense.

            If someone gets very worked up with fear, it can turn off the rational part of their brain.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jill:
            He thinks insurance is unjust because most people won’t get their money back out of it. They won’t have their house burn down or cause a major car accident, etc.

            That is sort of the opposite of what you are saying. He fully accepts that the insurance is for things that aren’t likely to happen to him. He thinks they won’t happen, and therefore he will have been “screwed”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Jill’s assessment seems accurate, in my experience. The fear is of being mulched by what is seen to be an incredibly malicious system, not of any particular one outcome.

            From someone who used to be in a broadly similar orbit, get him to make solid predictions about what is going to happen. Now’s probably a good time for it, as Hillary looks to be winning the election and he probably thinks that’s a very bad thing. Also try to get him conscious of why unfalsifiable ideas aren’t helpful.

            Possibly doing a fantasy football sorta thing with the stock market over the next year or so might help. Vanguard seems like a good way to demonstrate that the conventional wisdom actually pays out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            I hear you, and I do think fear of an uncertain world is part of it.

            But, on the insurance thing in particular, it wasn’t that. It was akin to a gambling fallacy, that a bet is only a good bet if it pays off.

            To my mind, he basically was worried about being the chump who pays for the other guy’s house to be fixed. That other guy shouldn’t have let his house catch on fire.

            If it’s fear, it’s fear of interdependence. But the fear didn’t seem to be the root, but rather the effect.

          • I wonder if part of what is going on is that most of the effect of believing in such things is that you get to feel superior–you know the truth and other people don’t, which people enjoy. Occasionally the false belief results in actions that make you worse off, but that’s a smaller effect.

            One might argue for a similar logic in religions. Once in a while the religion results in your taking an action that makes you worse off, such as not eating tasty bacon. Most of the time it results in your feeling better about yourself and the world.

          • Adam says:

            Seems to be missing the point of insurance if he views it as a bet. You’re purchasing peace of mind. If you don’t actually get that as a result of the purchase, don’t make the purchase.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Adam:
            Does insurance actually buy peace of mind?

            I mean, for some people it does, and certainly insurance companies sell it that way, but it’s not like having insurance prevents the initial bad thing from happening.

            If my house burns down, and I have insurance, I might not have to declare bankruptcy in addition to burying my children, but I’m not sure that’s all that much comfort ahead of time.

            Although, there might be something there. I have the impression that some people get very uncomfortable unless they have money at hand, in cash. Even having money in the bank is sometimes not good enough, but having a nice big savings account might do. Frequently people who have been very poor.

            Buying insurance interferes with that. It’s just another expense.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            He still buys insurance, so I don’t think that is it. Although, I should ask if he buys life insurance. That’s not mandated so it’s a better test.

            Certainly some of the “buy precious metals now!” stuff was related to the idea of knowing a “secret”.

          • Adam says:

            It’s peace of mind for me. I don’t live in my house. It’s a rental. Like you said, I’m not going to go bankrupt if it burns down, or more likely, if it floods. That has in fact actually happened to several of my neighbors who did not have flood insurance. Life insurance keeps me feeling that my wife is not going to take a serious quality of life hit and can pay funeral expenses and what not, and pay off the rental mortage, if I die. Health insurance, well, that goes beyond peace of mind because I have in fact required six epidurals, three rounds of physical therapy, and two surgeries in the past four years and I would either be bankrupt or more likely crippled forever if not for the insurance. But my wife and I are comparatively well-to-do by world standards. All of these premiums do not prevent us from maxing out both 401(k)s and IRAs and keeping a pretty sizable savings even aside from those. Realistically, much of that is probably peace of mind, too, and much more than I will ever spend in retirement. I expect to die with a lot of money in the bank and a fair amount of insurance that never paid out.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            From the Devil’s Dictionary: Insurance

            @HeelBearCub – “I hear you, and I do think fear of an uncertain world is part of it…. If it’s fear, it’s fear of interdependence. But the fear didn’t seem to be the root, but rather the effect.”

            Thinking back, I felt like civil society generally was a vast interlocking system designed to make my life worse in every way possible. They were out to get me, and insurance, employment, banks, the stock market, police, politics and so on were all just variations on a single extract-value-crush-autonomy theme. Everything around me seemed like a bad deal, and the only way to win was not to play. This sort of free-floating alienation usually expressed itself in me seeing the worst interpretation possible as the obvious one for any cultural institution I looked at…

            “But, on the insurance thing in particular, it wasn’t that. It was akin to a gambling fallacy, that a bet is only a good bet if it pays off.

            To my mind, he basically was worried about being the chump who pays for the other guy’s house to be fixed. That other guy shouldn’t have let his house catch on fire.”

            …which resulted in this sort of thinking, on this and many other issues. This sort of thing was what I was referring to as fear of being “mulched”. One looks at any part of society, and gets the feeling one would normally get looking at a smiling three-card-monte operator.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            OK. That makes sense. I’m still not sure if “fearful” is right, but I certainly understand your point.

            Coming at it another way, there is the saying that “hindsight is 20/20”. So, one can imagine someone, not having insurance, looking back after a house fire and saying “I should have bought the insurance”. But conversely, having paid premiums for 40 years and then selling the house to go into a nursing home thinking “I could have bought that boat I wanted.”

            You can say this is fear, but it seems like something different to me.

      • Jordan D. says:

        It’s true that sov cit arguments have never worked, but I think that’s somewhat different than ‘and the Sov Cit gurus cannot produce any good evidence that they’ve ever worked.’

        Firstly, my understanding is that the people who peddle various methods of evading the courts are pretty much always willing to swear that they’ve personally had great success. A reasonably charismatic speaker can probably sell quite a few people through sheer force of earnestness.

        Secondly, people who use sov cit arguments have prevailed in cases before- just not through those arguments. I know of at least one case where the government failed to prove an element of the case in spite of the defendant’s failure to raise a cognizable legal claim- the fact that the opinion roundly rejects all of the arguments before dismissing the case might not be enough to convince everyone that those arguments didn’t work.

        Thirdly, and this is anecdata, it is my experience that sov cit sorts of people are exactly the sorts who don’t really understand the legal system but also don’t trust experts to tell them how it’s done when they can investigate it for themselves. A moderately bright person who doesn’t trust ‘lawyers’ and is directed to a couple of badly-worded or ancient statutes can easily become powerfully convinced that the entire system is a gigantic sham and that they are the ones who will knock it all down.

        So combine those things, and you’ve got a charismatic speaker who sounds like they know what they’re talking about, speaking to your own biases about the system and pointing to both some suggestive statutory language and a dozen cases where it looks (to your untrained eye) like these methods prevailed, and you’ve got a recipe for total disaster.

    • With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:
  13. Jack says:

    Regarding Filipino President Duterte, not making PC comments does not mean you are unable to govern. Surely, learning proper speaking mannerism is much easier a task than learning how to govern properly.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      I actually support the guy.

      As terms of a scientific experiment approach to crime and drug crime. The world needs examples like portugal and this country as the opposite to see what happens.

      I bet portugal’s approach to crime and not cracking down will work better, but hey, who knows.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It sounds like he really effectively prevented crime in the city he was mayor of before. Like Utopn said – he’s not the person I would have voted for, but it’s interesting that we get to watch the experiment.

  14. suntzuanime says:

    I never understood why global warming was supposed to make weather more severe, rather than less severe or variously more and less severe in different ways or in different places. When I would ask I would tend to get mocked or yelled at by the Good Right-Thinking People. So I hope that bit about the hurricanes is true, I have a lot of spite to justify.

    • Sandy says:

      It was my understanding that global warming would make weather patterns more erratic and unpredictable, but I don’t know what to believe anymore. There is near zero clarity on this.

      • Chalid says:

        Society is optimized to deal with a particular set of weather patterns, so changing them is likely to be destructive?

        Like if, for example, there were the same number of hurricanes, but they tended to occur further north, that would be a major cost to society, as northern cities haven’t been designed to deal with them.

        • Your point here is one part of the only good argument I know for predicting, a priori, that warming will be bad. We are presently optimized against present conditions, so a change in either direction means we have to bear the cost of reoptimizing against the new conditions.

          But change, as currently predicted, is slow. So far warming has averaged about a degree C per century, sea level rise about eight inches a century. We routinely change things for other reasons anyway, so the cost is low for slow change. The part of the argument I find most convincing is the application to other species, which may not be able to adjust as rapidly as humans.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            But change, as currently predicted, is slow. So far warming has averaged about a degree C per century, sea level rise about eight inches a century.

            Which centuries is that?

          • Chalid says:

            It seems plausible that you could get sudden drastic shifts in weather patterns at certain warming thresholds, though.

    • Seth says:

      Just very simplistically, “more warming” can mean “more energy” in the overall system (remember, temperature is average kinetic energy), leading to more severe weather. Now, again, that’s horribly, horribly oversimplified, there’s all sorts of complexities, this is a few-sentence comment, not a textbook on climatology. But it’s the quick answer to your question.

      • “Just very simplistically, “more warming” can mean “more energy” in the overall system (remember, temperature is average kinetic energy), leading to more severe weather.”

        The problem with that answer is that what matters is not the energy in the system but the energy available to be converted into work–wind velocity and the like. A storm is a heat engine, turning thermal energy into mechanical energy. A heat engine moves heat from a hotter source to a cooler sink, and the amount of work it can extract in the process depends on the difference between the two temperatures (more precisely between the inverse temperatures if I remember my thermodynamics from very long ago correctly). A heat engine that simply converts thermal energy to work without dumping any of it to a sink is a perpetual motion engine of the second kind–impossible because it violates the second law of thermodamics (unlike a perpetual motion engine of the first kind, which violates conservation of energy, the first law).

        So if both source and sink–atmosphere and ocean, for example–are warmed, there is no reason to expect more violent weather.

        I discussed this issue some time back in a post on my blog.

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      suntzuanime opines [sagely] “I have a lot of spite to justify.”

      Climate-change skeptics who are self-admittedly motivated by having “a lot of spite to justify’ are well-advised *not* to read even-handed peer-reviewed articles such as: Lin & Chan “Recent decrease in typhoon destructive potential and global warming implications” (2015), as contrasted with Mei et al. “Northwestern Pacific typhoon intensity controlled by changes in ocean temperatures” (2015).

      In a nutshell, these two articles assert that (1) increasing temperatures are acting to increase typhoon intensity, while (2) increasing wind-shears are acting to decrease typhoon intensity, such that (3) the past decade’s trends in tropical storm intensity are unremarkable.

      There’s nothing contradictory about *all* of these scientific propositions being true, is there?

      None of these articles provide *any* grounds for skepticism regarding the reality of anthropogenic global warming, do they?

      More broadly, persons who read the scientific literature with a view toward ‘justifying their spite” seldom or never run short of denial-justifying evidence, do they?  😉

      Still more broadly, in regard to the social justice literature, the healthcare literature, the economics literature (etc.), aren’t similar cognitive mechanisms at work? Don’t strong desires to ‘justify spite’ act to denialistically impair rational cognition?

      SSC readers who seek to learn about climate change, for purposes other than “justifying spite”, are well-advised to consult the Institute of Physics/Spencer Weart on-line hypertext The Discovery of Global Warming. In particular, Weart’s survey “Simple Models of Climate Change” is a fine place to begin.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Ex-post-facto explanations of the current hurricane drought are next-to-worthless. Explanations that say “Oh yes, that effect we predicted before absolutely happened, but it was exactly counterbalanced by this other effect we didn’t consider” deserve nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        The Nybbler proclaims [questionably] “Ex-post-facto explanations of the current hurricane drought are next-to-worthless.”

        Lol … Nybbler, doesn’t your claim lift naturally to commonplace-yet-foolish denialist maxim:

        “Ex-post-facto explanations of [natural phenomena] are next-to-worthless.”

        With regard to emergent natural phenomena as various as ozone layer depletion, persistent pesticide toxicity, the zika epidemic, biodiversity loss, antibiotic resistance, and the smoking-cancer connection (and very many more!), isn’t it true that humanity would be a whole lot more ignorant if it adhered to the denialist maxim that “Ex-post-facto explanations are next-to-worthless”?

        And isn’t the denialism’s willful ignorance causally contributive to the lamentable ongoing destruction of Republican conservatism in the USA?

        Please excuse the overwhelming majority of scientists, engineers, physicians, and mathematicians, if we decline to embrace the (willfully ignorant) denialist maxim that “Ex-post-facto explanations are next-to-worthless”! 🙂

        • hlynkacg says:

          You realize that you are arguing against one of the core maxims of the enlightenment and physical science, don’t you John?

          A theory that is neither predictive nor testable is not “scientific”, it’s nonsense. As our own host so succinctly put it, “If you can’t make predictions you are still in a crisis”

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Ex post facto explanations can be predictive, isn’t that correct? The two traits are by no means exclusive, are they?

            Indeed very commonly, ex post facto explanations are marvelously predictive!

            The prospering STEAM disciplines of experimental mathematics, phenomenology in particle theory, failure analysis in system engineering, epidemiology in medicine, and after-action reports in military science … all of them scarcely could exist otherwise, isn’t this so?

            Consider for example the evolving ex post facto explanations for the downing of EgyptAir flight MS804. These explanations have evolved from Donald Trump’s immediate seat-of-the-pants assessment “terrorist action”, to later more sober judgments that have increasingly focused upon a combination of an avionics-bay fire lethally accelerated by cabin-oxygen supplies.

            Needless to say, every airline passenger will welcome further careful ex post facto analysis of this tragically lethal event, won’t they? Because a Trump-style rush to judgement is far more commonly harmful than helpful, isn’t it?

            More broadly, our collective understanding of humanity’s past is comparably mutable to our collective (and ongoing) realization of humanity’s future. And isn’t this mutability both plainly evident empirically, and a key tenet of philosophical modernity?

            This is how the overwhelming majority of STEAM-workers perceive their professional world, at any rate! 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            Ex post facto explanations can be predictive, isn’t that correct?

            No they can’t. Ex post facto explanations may contribute to the development of predictive theories, but they are not predictive in themselves.

            Failure to make or understand this distinction is a hallmark of cargo-cultists and snake-oil salesmen.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg says: “Ex post facto explanations may contribute to the development of predictive theories, but they are not predictive in themselves.”

            This fine point deserves explication. As an illuminating case study, the recent mid-Atlantic crash of Air France flight 447 received a thorough-going ex post facto explanation in its official accident report:

            The obstruction of the Pitot probes by ice crystals […] and the consequent autopilot disconnection […] in the context of flight in cruise completely surprised the pilots of flight AF447.

            Loss of crew coordination and the willing but chaotic cooperation in managing the surprise generated by the autopilot disconnection led quickly to the loss of cognitive control of the situation, and subsequently to the loss of physical control of the aeroplane.

            Overall, CRM [Crew Resource Management] thus gradually deteriorated and the analysis of the event highlights its fragility in this context of unexpected and unfamiliar dynamic situations.

            To what extent (if any) do these conclusions have predictive power? There is of course the obvious prediction that further crashes were inevitable until such time as CRM training was radically improved (which improvement was in fact immediately undertaken).

            A far broader lesson, however, can be drawn by mapping the AF447 disaster onto the ongoing disaster of the Trump nomination for the Republican party, in which context the above explanation becomes:

            The occurrence of [the Trump Nomination] in the context of [the primary elections] completely surprised the [Republican Party leadership].

            Loss of [Party] coordination and the willing but chaotic cooperation in managing the surprise generated by the [Trump nomination] led quickly to the loss of cognitive control of [the campaign message], and subsequently to the loss of physical control of [ill-advised Trump tweeting].

            Overall, CRM [Campaign Resource Management] thus gradually deteriorated and the analysis of the event highlights its fragility in this context of unexpected and unfamiliar dynamic [political] situations.

            In summary, a crucial lesson of the ex post facto analysis of Flight AF447, for political purposes, is that the Trump campaign can be regarded as more closely resembling a loss-of-cognitive-control aircraft crash than a (proverbial) train wreck.

            Indeed, what is climate change denialism (and multiple other forms of Republican Party STEAM-denialism), if not an enduring symptom of the “loss of cognitive control” that in recent years has so disastrously afflicted the US Republican Party?

            Thank you, hlynkacg, for inspiring this clarifying insight, regarding the natural homology between the well-documented cognitive causes of aircraft disasters and the cognitive causes of political and military disasters. In particular, ex post facto analysis usefully serves to vividly illuminate the shared cognitive roots of both kinds of disasters.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You are mistaken.

            The junior pilot of AF 447 suffered a failure of basic airmanship. Climbing when the correct response to icing conditions at altitude is to descend. The senior pilot in turn failed to recognizing that his subordinate was “in over his head” until the situation had progressed too far to be easily recovered from.

            As for Trump, are you at all familiar with the US Joint Counterinsurgency Manual(aka. FM 3.24)? In it Generals Amos, Mattis, et al discuss how failures to distinguish preferred narratives, from theory and observation often lead to disaster through failure to properly prepare for and react to changing situations. In short “The enemy is allowed to surprise you”.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            The military quote that comes to mind most immediately is Chief of Staff Malin Craig’s “Time is the only thing that may be irrevocably lost.”

            For Gen. Craig in 1939, the precious time to muster the resources to prosecute a war against the Axis could be irretrievably lost (and nearly was lost, through Congressional failures of foresight and understanding).

            For Air France flight 447, the precious time (and altitude) needed to recover flying speed was irretrievably lost (through the flightcrew’s collective failures of foresight and understanding)

            For the US Republican Party, the precious time required to muster coherent alternatives to Trumpism was irretrievably lost (through party-wide failures of foresight and understanding during the nominating process).

            Is humanity “irrevocably losing” the time required to evolve a carbon-neutral global energy economy? The harsh lessons of WWII, AF447, and Trumpism are scarcely reassuring in this regard, are they?

      • suntzuanime says:

        You seem very spiteful.

        • LPSP says:

          It’s quite shocking, isn’t it? The first Uncle Ilya post I read, I didn’t really connect just what nastyness he was saying until I was halfway through. This is a guy that chugs by on sheer contempt.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m still trying to decide whether or not his posts are some sort of performance art.

            In either case I find them weirdly fascinating.

          • Jaskologist says:

            John Sidles is the equivalent of that guy standing in the middle of the park bellowing his theories through a megaphone at passers-by. Taken as part of the background noise, such street preachers add to ambiance of a proper city park. But you’re not supposed to make eye contact.

          • Jill says:

            In fact, the unusual thing today is to actually be aware that you feel spiteful and to say so. Most people are just caught up in the spite that is politics today, and don’t even realize that they are in it, don’t even realize that there could be other options.

          • LPSP says:

            That’s the best metaphor I’ve ever heard for it, Jaskologist.

            I’d wager that lack of awareness ties into a greater misunderstanding people have for their own utility curves and complexes, Jill. People are generally more mixed up about what they actually want from situations and life than ever before.

        • Nornagest says:

          You mean “empathic”.

          • Jill says:

            Hmm. Do some find Uncle I L’s post spiteful and others find it empathic then?

          • Nornagest says:

            I am making fun of John SidlesUncle Ilya. His posts often feature the word “empathy” (or, when he’s feeling expansive, phrases like “pro-empathic cognition”) being used in inappropriately broad, questionably relevant, or just generally esoteric ways.

            To the extent that I can make sense of it, he’s trying to develop some kind of theory that contrasts rigid, deterministic thinking with a more holistic, people-oriented view, and holds the former responsible for everything bad in the last thirty years. Except it’s not quite that simple, since he often (as in this thread, but it’s not limited to AGW) places whatever scientific findings he likes the conclusions of on the “empathic” side, and damns their opponents as denialists. Also Enlightenment thinkers generally, and, for some reason, the United States Marine Corps.

            But there’s not really a lot of “there” there, and I’d urge you to focus your interpretive efforts on other commentators. A lot of people think he’s a troll, and I’m not sure they’re wrong.

          • Jill says:

            I look forward to hearing more about Uncle I L’s grand theory. I like grand theories. Regardless of whether they are precisely correct, or aren’t, I find that they stimulate my thinking about various topics.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s your time to waste, I guess.

        • Jill says:

          Suntzu, you are the one who brought “spite” into the discussion originally. Perhaps your spite was contagious to Uncle I.L. here? Apparently you were comfortable with your own spit, but not with Uncle I L’s?

        • Jill says:

          Now that I go back and read Uncle I L’s article, its mentions of spite seem to refer back to Suntzu’s saying that he has a lot of spite to justify. And his frustration with “persons who read the scientific literature with a view toward ‘justifying their spite”

          And asking such questions as “Don’t strong desires to ‘justify spite’ act to denialistically impair rational cognition?”

          To which I would reply “Yes, probably so.”

          That being said, politics seems to be highly emotionally charged in the U.S. today. Very few people seem to be trying to take a cool rational look at things.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Yes Jill, that notion that sober references to large bodies of independently confirmed multiple-authored peer-reviewed scientific literature constitutes ‘spite’ — noting that ‘spite’ was suntzuanime’s term, not mine — has surprisingly and regrettably become prevalent among SSC readers.

            As for the ever-strengthening court challenges relating to climate change law, the moral and legal validity of these challenges (see PDF of recent legal finding here) will plausibly be similarly rejected by this spite-perceiving (and exceedingly vocal) SSC subgroup. That dual rejection is what modern cognitive science predicts, at any rate! 🙂

          • Jill says:

            It seems to me that it’s about the polarization we have in the U.S. People believe whatever their trusted news sources say about climate change, and they believe that it’s true.

            The “facts” reported will be the ones that fit with the particular tribe’s/media source’s narrative. And many things reported in the media are partial truths, or even pants on fire lies.

            Nevertheless, the people who trust those media sources will fight to the death for that point of view and associated real or contrived “facts.” And will feel spite against those who have contrasting facts and views.

            Just another area where Americans don’t just lack consensus in opinions, but lack consensus regarding the actual facts about what is objectively occurring with regard to government, climate, economics etc.”

      • “None of these articles provide *any* grounds for skepticism regarding the reality of anthropogenic global warming, do they? ”

        No. But they provide grounds for skepticism about popular claims about the negative consequences of global warming, since one such claim routinely made is that hurricanes will get worse.

        If one actually reads the IPCC reports, it’s clear that little of the popular alarmism is supported by the science. Consider the difference between the usual claims of the effect of sea level rise and:

        “Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.”

        • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

          David Friedman asserts [nonspecifically]: “Little of the popular alarmism [in regard to climate change] is supported by the science.”

          Up-to-date, carefully reasoned, and accessible to the public (compared to the IPCC reports) is a body of careful scientific analyses by James Hansen and colleagues that include the free-as-in-freedom “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is Dangerous” (2016, see on-line arXiv:1602.01393). This analysis concludes:

          A target of limiting global warming to 2°C, which has sometimes been discussed, does not provide safety. In other words, 2°C global warming is dangerous in the sense that the public would understand.

          We cannot be certain that multimeter sea level rise will occur if we allow global warming of 2°C. However, we know the warming would remain present for many centuries, if we allow it to occur, a period exceeding the ice sheet response time implied by paleoclimate data.

          Sea level reached +6-9 m in the Eemian, a time that we have concluded was probably no more than a few tenths of a degree warmer than today. We observe accelerating mass losses from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and we have identified amplifying feedbacks that will increase the rates of change.

          We also observe changes occurring in the North Atlantic and Southern Oceans, changes that we can attribute to ongoing warming and ice melt, which imply that this human-driven climate change seems poised to affect these most powerful overturning ocean circulation systems, systems that we know have had huge effects on the planetary environment in the past. […]

          We conclude that the message our climate science delivers to the public is this: we have a global emergency. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions should be reduced as rapidly as practical.

          The attention of SSC readers is directed in particular, to the ongoing rapid acceleration of sea-level rise-rates that is apparent in the sea-level data (per Figure 29, page 40 of this work).

          In a nutshell, surely it is rational to argue that climate-science may be wrong (and the above analysis does so argue), and yet it is utterly irrational to argue that the existing science does not support alarm for at least some time-scales.

          (1) On time-scales of at most one or two decades, climate-science provides little cause for alarm (this is the timescale of sociopathic cognition and corporate profit-maximization).

          (2) On time-scales of one or two centuries, climate-science provides substantial cause for alarm (this is the timescale upon which nations endure and family-owned farms are cultivated).

          (3) On time-scales of one or two millennia, climate-science provides very great cause for alarm (this is timescale of scientific traditions, major religions, and great religions).

          Is it preferable for individual persons to appreciate climate-science solely on decadal time-frames and shorter (as do corporations, casino owners, and sociopaths)?

          Or are longer time-frames more wise, namely, the millennial and longer timescales upon which religions endure, soils form, and scientific understanding evolves to become transformative?

          It is in regard to appropriate time-frames for rational cognition, that the diversity of scientific, economic, and moral cognition among SSC readers is most fundamentally apparent, isn’t that right?

          Is it rational to think farther ahead than profit-maximizing corporations, narcissists, and casino owners? For very many STEAM-respecting folks (including me), the plainly evident, foresighted, scientific, responsible, and moral answer is “yes”.

          • “On time-scales of one or two millennia, climate-science provides very great cause for alarm”

            On time scales of one or two millennia, almost no such predictions deserve enough confidence even in sign to be worth taking actions to prevent. We simply don’t know enough about what humans, human civilization, and human technology will be like that far into the future.

            But in any case, I was talking about popular alarmism. When it cites figures for a thousand years in the future it doesn’t say that is what it is doing.

            Hansen is, so far as I can tell, an honest man, but his views on the speed of future change are pretty clearly outliers and his past record as a prophet does not encourage trust in his current predictions.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            David Friedman asserts [without citation] “His [James Hansen’s] past record as a prophet does not encourage trust in his current predictions.”

            Link provided by Uncle Ilya, to the 1981 article by Hansen, Johnson, Lacis, Lebedeff, Lee, Rind, and Russell “Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide” (Science, vol 213, pp. 957-966).

            The abstract of this celebrated (among scientists) and much-cited (943 citations to date) article reads in full:

            The global temperature rose 0.2°C between the middle 1960s and 1980, yielding a warming of 0.4°C in the past century. This temperature increase is consistent with the calculated effect due to measured increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Variations of volcanic aerosols and possibly solar luminosity appear to be primary causes of observed fluctuations about the mean trend of increasing temperature.

            It is shown that the anthropogenic carbon dioxide warming should emerge from the noise level of natural climate variability by the end of the century, and there is a high probability of warming in the 1980s.

            Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.

            Indeed, departing this very week — thirty-five years after Hansen’s then-radical 1981 prediction of the “opening of the fabled Northwest Passage” — the Northwest Passage has opened wide even to two-way cruise-ship pleasure-passages.

            As Donald Trump says, these Northwest Passage cruise-ships are YUUUUGGGGGE … and so are the ticket-prices! 🙂 🙂 🙂

            It is a pleasure to acquaint SSC readers with (what has proven to be) an outstandingly successful predictive track-record of Hansen and his fellow climate-scientists.

            We can all of us extend our appreciation and congratulations too — sincerely and unspitefully we may hope — to James Hansen himself, for an unrivaled 35+-year track record of solidly predictive climate-science, and for numerous and well-deserved honors in recognition of a life well-lived in scientific service. 🙂

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Uncle Ilya writes:

            Indeed, departing this very week — thirty-five years after Hansen’s then-radical 1981 prediction of the “opening of the fabled Northwest Passage” — the Northwest Passage has opened wide even to two-way cruise-ship pleasure-passages.

            Sure, if by “opened wide”, you mean the trip now seems feasible if the ship is built to modern standards and is traveling through the Canadian parts following an icebreaker escort ship (the RRS Ernest Shackleton).

            Note that one part of the path is definitely blocked by ice RIGHT NOW even as they are leaving – they are relying on modern ice-spotting radar and ice-spotting helicopters to pick a route and an ice-breaking ship to render that route navigable.

            With today’s ships, today’s technology and today’s wealth to throw money at the problem, it would have been just as easy to have this cruise in the 1930s or 1940s as it is today.

            (Side note: The site you link only shows this as a one-way trip – from Alaska to New York.)

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            In recent years far less imposing craft than cruise-ships — even ludicrously less imposing craft — have been transiting the once-fearsome Northwest Passage.

            When [the Russian craft Rus] showed up in Clyde River, Nunavut, last month from Greenland, a Mountie there said it looked like something out of the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island.

            Yep, Arctic voyaging sure ain’t the desperate venture that it used to be (though it’s still no cakewalk) … for the plain and simple reason that Hansen’s 1981 climate warming predictions have proven to be substantially correct. 🙂 🙂 🙂

            However, Glen Raphael’s side-note correction regarding one-way versus two-way Arctic cruise-ship scheduling and pricing was entirely correct, for which this appreciation and thanks are extended. Note too that the cruise departs tomorrow, and tickets are available at a very substantial discount!

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yep, Arctic voyaging sure ain’t the desperate venture that it used to be

            …and I suppose that you think that the massive advances in maritime navigation technology over the last 50 years, coupled with the availability of comparatively cheap and efficient icebreakers had nothing to do with this.

            As recently as 1980 navigation north of 60° was still being done the old fashioned way, with stars, sextants, and slide-rules.

          • anon says:

            The weird thing about the NW passage discussion is that increased navigability of the Arctic Ocean is clearly a good thing:

            1. It will make transportation cheaper and trade easier between Arctic ports.
            2. It has apparently made previously inaccessible oil and gas reserves economical to extract (at least judging from the current “land rush” going on international courts with various parties to the Arctic Treaty trying to claim mineral rights on the Arctic extensions of the continental shelf adjacent to their land). This is a new source of energy for the world economy — almost a free lunch, albeit one with a risk of causing “indigestion” if the scarier predictions of CAGW are made more likely by burning the newly accessible fuel.
            3. So far the polar bears seem to be doing just fine. (Obviously there probably already have been and/or will be other ecological impacts, though.)

            I don’t know if economists (e.g. Nordhaus, Tol) who study the potential negative *and positive* impacts of AGW even take points 1 and 2 into account when estimating the net economic effect of climate change; they tend to focus on things like health effects, CO2 fertilization, etc. But it wouldn’t shock me if including 1 and 2 above in the calculation actually significantly weakens the case for intervention.

            Of course it’s impossible to have a non-religious argument about this, because the philosophical status of the precautionary principle and discount rate ambiguity make precise cost-benefit analysis difficult or impossible. I’m just pointing out that it’s not, like, bad in and of itself that boats can go more places!

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            In support of anon’s remarks, James Hansen’s et al‘s highly readable and much-cited “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” (PLOS 2013) provides the kind of integrative scientific worldview that arouses sober reflection and passionate interest in some folks, while arousing “a lot of spite” (in suntzuanime’s phrase) in other folks.

            The organizing cognitive principle is simple: the farther into the future a person looks and cares, the more James Hansen’s science-respecting worldview looks right. Whereas the less-far into the future a person looks and cares, the more Donald Trump’s science-denying worldview looks right.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            More to the point for non-trolling SSC readers may be the Citizen Science movement, whose just-started flagship journal Citizen Science: Theory and Practice is adapted to folks who find that doing science is even more fascinating and engaging than reading science.

            Candie C. Wilderman and Jinnieth Monismith’s recent article “Monitoring Marcellus: A Case Study of a Collaborative Volunteer Monitoring Project to Document the Impact of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction on Small Streams” (2016) is commended as exemplary of the citizen-science movement.

            Needless to say, few or no climate-change skeptics are encountered within the citizen-science movement. This is because citizen-scientists who “exit the internet bubble”, to study mountains, glaciers, beaches and biomes with their own eyes, find overwhelming reason to accept the sobering realities of climate-change.

            More broadly, all forms of science become more real (and are more trusted), when the data are collected, and the theories are developed, in the context of a web of trust that includes both vital communities of people and intimate personal contact with real-world data.

            May the nascent Citizen Science movement live long and prosper! 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • On the subject of Hansen’s record as a prophet, I was thinking of the following:

            “While doing research 12 or 13 years ago, I met Jim Hansen, the scientist who in 1988 predicted the greenhouse effect before Congress. I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, “If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?” He looked for a while and was quiet and didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. Then he said, “Well, there will be more traffic.” I, of course, didn’t think he heard the question right. Then he explained, “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. ”

            The interview would have been 1988-9. To be fair, Hansen now says, and the interviewer now agrees, that he actually referred to forty years in the future not twenty, although Hansen does not seem to have contradicted the original version when it originally appeared in Salon.

            I don’t know if Ilya expects the West Side Highway to be under water and NY windows to be taped up in another twelve years–perhaps he does. It didn’t happen eight years ago.

            Ilya did not take issue with my point that Hansen’s current prediction is an outlier. For a sample, see quotes here.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            The plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” is it?

            Two quintessential traits of peer-reviewed scientific publications are their (1) immutability, and (2) verifiability. Whereas anecdotes are neither! 🙂 🙂 🙂

            Perhaps that’s why climate-change denialism weighs science lightly and anecdotes heavily?

            Anecdotes moreover are well-suited to personalization, abuse, and demagoguery … which are three traits that have been all-too-characteristic of denialistic climate-change discourse, haven’t they?

            In contrast, anyone can verify that Hansen’s well-reasoned/well-mannered predictions of sea-level rise acceleration are strikingly affirmed in the ultra-recent article by Fasullo, Nerem, and Hamlington, “Is the detection of accelerated sea level rise imminent?” (Nature, 2016). Hint: the answer given is “yes”.

            Needless to say, this won’t be the first time that Hansen’s predictions have proven to be far more foresighted and accurate than any predictions made by Hansen’s critics!

            Perhaps this is why Hansen’s critics so commonly express “spiteful” feelings toward him?  While at the same time so commonly foreseeing — always wrongly as it has turned out — sea-level rise deceleration? 🙂 🙂 🙂

            In summary, Hansen’s climate-science successes have been so many and so marked, that his critics are nowadays reduced mainly to spiteful grumblings about worldwide climate-science conspiracies.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – “In contrast, anyone can verify that Hansen’s well-reasoned/well-mannered predictions of sea-level rise acceleration are strikingly affirmed in the ultra-recent article by Fasullo, Nerem, and Hamlington, “Is the detection of accelerated sea level rise imminent?”

            Hanson predicts things are going to be under water in 20 years. 20 years later, things aren’t under water. This is used as evidence that Hanson isn’t good at predicting things. You respond with a new prediction that in ten years, things are going to be under water.

            In ten years, when things still aren’t under water, there will be a new explanation and prediction for ten years from then. Disaster is always 1d4x10 years away.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            FC, isn’t it preferable to reference the climate-science literature, rather than cherry-picked and/or unverifiable personal anecdotes? Nornagest, isn’t the scientific literature in regard to sea-level rise-rate acceleration in recent decades already pretty convincing?

            Heck, if we cherry-pick the most recent years (2011-present), then we see that the sea-level rise-rate has already accelerated to ~6 mm/year in recent years … which (if sustained) would be a YUUUGGGE sea-level rise-rate acceleration! 🙂

            So Hansen’s prediction of sustained acceleration in the sea-level rise-rate already looks pretty dang credible, scientifically speaking, isn’t that objectively correct?

          • Nornagest says:

            I removed my comment because it didn’t say anything that Faceless Craven hadn’t said already. But you don’t seem to understand my objection or his. You verify a model with data outside its training set, not with another model; hence Hanson is not verified by Fasullo et al. If you’d cited the 2011-present data instead of Fasullo’s prediction, that wouldn’t have been a very good verification either (the new periodicity is interesting, but I think it’s still within error bars), but it would have been something… though even then it’d only match the sign of Hanson’s predictions for the change in sea-level rise, which is not very impressive.

            Maybe you mean something weaker by “strikingly affirm”, but if so, why should I care?

            By way of preemption, I am not trying to push an AGW skeptic line here. I accept AGW; it’s cargo-cult science that offends me. By which I mean yours, not Hanson’s or Fasullo’s or anyone else’s. Though it occurs to me that I could save myself some time by just answering “no” to all your rhetorical questions and leaving it at that.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Nornagest asserts [entirely wrongly] “You cannot verify a model by citing another model.”

            To the contrary, scientific models can be verified, and in practice very commonly are verified, by cross-comparison with other independent models.

            Hansen’s recent (very readable and well-balanced) survey article “Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications” (2011) provides a case in point, in the sense that Hansen’s simple energy-balance modeling of global warming yields results in substantial agreement with sophisticated general circulation models of global warming, which are further affirmed by multiple independent lines of physical evidence (including but not limited to borehole-temperature data, ocean-temperature data, bolometric-temperature data, land-temperature data, gravimetric data, sea-level data, paleo-data, etc.).

            In light of all these multiple, independent, interlocking lines of evidence, both theoretical and observational — lines of evidence that in aggregate plainly, strikingly, and redundantly affirm the scientific reality of a late-20th century “hockey-stick blade” of global warming — Hansen’s 1981 predictions and explanations are seen to be outstandingly foresighted, aren’t they?

            That’s the broad-spectrum scientific illumination in which the overwhelming majority of STEAM-workers have come to appreciate Hansen’s crucial (and much-honored) role as a pioneer of modern climate-science, at any rate! 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            Again you miss my point. It’s legit, up to a point, to validate e.g. predictions from an energy balance model (sourced from temperature measurements) against e.g. a numerical model of sea-level rise, but the confirmation there ultimately comes from the sea level data; the model you’ve built around it simplifies handling, but it’s just a mathematical structure, it doesn’t add any new information by itself. If you have two models built on the same data set, they may or may not agree with each other, but it is not correct to use them for cross-validation. (There are techniques that involve doing stuff like that, but they’re very fallible.)

            Also, please quote like a normal person, and drop the special characters — they don’t render in my browser, and I don’t think they’d add anything if they did.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To the contrary, scientific models can be verified, and in practice very commonly are verified, by cross-comparison with other independent models.

            No they aren’t. Not unless you are using the word “verified” in a very different manner from most STEM workers and I suspect that most steamfitters would agree.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – You talk a lot about science here. The core idea you’re pushing seems to be that scientific claims should be respected because Science is an reliable way to filter biases like social pressure, to get a better-than-usual helping of actual reality.

            I disagree. The scientific method is one of the better filters against social pressure available, but that is not the same as it being a reliable one. Social pressure can beat the scientific method for arbitrary amounts of time; I’ve observed it happen on a few issues within my lifetime, and observe several more that seem like good candidates. I observe that “science” is the label for a community of several to several dozen million humans, depending on where one draws the boundaries. human groups on the many-millions scale do not overcome social pressure; they ARE social pressure.

            I am not a climate scientist. I am not qualified to assess their work. I am qualified to tell whether specific highways are under water, or to count how many cat-3 hurricanes hit the coast. I am not impressed by consensus, I am impressed by successful predictions communicated in clear terms. I observe that catastrophic climate change has been predicted as “ten years away” every year of my entire life. Maybe it is real this time, maybe not, but I’m betting on not. If that seems wrongheaded to you, blame the last several decades of alarmists.

            If you want to change my mind, tell me how things are going to be significantly different five and ten years from now in simple language such as you might use to communicate with a child or an unusually bright golden retriever. I’ll check in five and ten years. If you’re right, I’ll update.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            When engineers construct models, it is standard practice — indeed it is formally codified engineering practice — that models are “validated” and “verified” with respect to two common-sense questions:

            Q1 (validation)  Are we building the right model?  That is, is our model designed so as to provide useful answers to the questions that we intend to ask of it?

            Q2 (verification)  Are we building the model right?  That is, have we properly implemented our model, without mistakes (for example software bugs) in the inferences drawn from the model’s assumptions?

            It follows that no engineering model ever demonstrably achieves perfect validation or perfect verification! Therefore the terms “valid” and “verified”, in regard to engineering models, are to be understood never in an absolute sense, but only in a relative sense.

            Hence the engineering maxim “All models are wrong, but some models are useful” … it is precisely the validated and verified models that are useful.

            The energy-balance climate-models that James Hansen developed in the 1970s and 1980s, first for the climate of Venus, then for the climate of Earth, have in subsequent decades been validated and verified to high levels of confidence — with “validated” and “verified” here understood in the precise sense that these terms have for engineering models — validated and verified both by comparison with ever-more-detailed theoretical models, and by comparison with ever-more-detailed observational datasets.

            Obviously, Hansen’s ultra-simplified energy-balance models of climate-warming are far from perfect in any absolute sense; nonetheless they have been validated and verified to a degree that ensures the reasonable and ever-increasing utility of these steadily-improving models.

            Hopefully this brief explanation will have assisted SSC readers to a more illuminating appreciation of the rather specialized meaning that the terms “validation” and “verification” possess for engineers in general and climate-modelers in particular.

            And again needless to say, there is a vast, exceedingly diverse, and ever-expanding literature upon this subject! 🙂

          • anon says:

            I am not a climate scientist. I am not qualified to assess their work.

            This is a pernicious attitude, I think. In particular, I believe scientifically and mathematically trained people — not just people specifically trained in climate science — are eminently qualified to assess the work of climate scientists. Not necessarily the detailed nitty gritty of the latest and greatest climate models (although some outsiders like Nic Lewis seem to have developed roughly expert-level competence even in those). But questions of statistical design, etc., are not particular to a given scientific discipline, although it is common for a discipline to acquire idiosyncratic bias towards certain (not always sound) types of design and methods. Informed, external criticism can be very important for identifying bugs in the “methodological culture” of a discipline.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            FacelessCraven recommends [short-sightedly and irresponsibly, as it seems to me]   “If you want to change my mind, tell me how things are going to be significantly different five and ten years from now [additional cognition-inhibiting rhetoric redacted].

            If you have children and grandchildren (or expect to have them), or care about about other people’s grandchildren, then perhaps your thinking might be productively influenced by consideration of longer spans of time … say a century or more?

            Don’t arborists commonly think upon time-scales of 100-500 years, and soil conservationists commonly think upon time-scales of 1000-5000 years?

            Cultures that don’t responsible conserve their forests and farm-lands, in the long-run pay a terrible price, don’t they?

            On the other hand, politicians and corporate directors who focus exclusively upon short-term gains, can thereby gain great near-term wealth for themselves, at the (ignorable) price of the long-term suffering of others, isn’t this so?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – “The energy-balance climate-models that Hansen advanced in the 1970s and 1980s, first for the climate of Venus, then for the climate of Earth, have in subsequent decades been validated and verified to very high levels — with “validated” and “verified” here understood in the precise sense that these terms have for engineering models — both by comparison with ever-more-detailed theoretical models, and by comparison with ever-more-detailed observational datasets.”

            That’s fantastic. We’re talking about predictions made between 30 and 40 years ago, right?

            So point to the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change over that time period, and then cite where those catastrophes were predicted. Because I know for a fact that catastrophic consequences were forecast to occur within that time period, and I see no evidence that they’ve arrived.

            Standard engineering practice is that the output should be usable in a significant way. If you’re going to appeal to engineering, let’s see the usable, significant output. If you cannot make predictions, you’re still in a crisis.

            “It follows that no engineering model ever demonstrably achieves perfect validation or perfect verification!”

            This is obviously true, and just as obviously insufficient to answer decades’ worth of falsified claims about various ecological catastrophes. We are not talking about a few inches off. We are talking about the end of civilization being ten years away for longer than I have been alive. If you cry wolf long enough, people stop listening.

            “If you have children and grandchildren (or expect to have them), or care about about other people’s grandchildren, then perhaps your thinking might be productively influenced by consideration of longer spans of time … say a century or more?”

            You can’t prove you know what’s going to happen in five to ten years, but you want me to believe you know what’s going to happen in a hundred?

            “Cultures that don’t responsible conserve their forests and farm-lands, in the long-run pay a terrible price, don’t they?”

            Is your prediction that Climate Change will make large-scale agriculture unworkable a century from now, in a way that a century’s worth of technological advancement won’t be able to compensate for? That’s a bold claim. Evidence?

            “On the other hand, politicians and corporate directors who focus exclusively upon short-term gains, can thereby gain great near-term wealth for themselves, at the (ignorable) price of the long-term suffering of others, isn’t this so?”

            Indeed it is. It seems arguable to me that Climate Change mitigation and prevention might be exactly such a scheme. With no solid evidence that Climate Change is harmful, the more expensive interventions start looking like an attempt to channel the flow of billions to trillions of dollars in ways advantageous to policymakers and their financier allies. Claimed virtue is not actual virtue.

            @Anon – “This is a pernicious attitude, I think. In particular, I believe scientifically and mathematically trained people — not just people specifically trained in climate science — are eminently qualified to assess the work of climate scientists.”

            I do not think I can reasonably claim to be scientifically or mathematically trained, certainly not by the standards of this forum. I agree with your general point, but I draw spaceships and monsters for a living. Epistemic learned helplessness applies here, I think.

          • hlynkacg says:

            John,

            I’ve read both of those books and neither of them say what you seem to think they say.

            Do you have a process for identifying contradictory statements or distinguishing true from false? I’m genuinely starting to wonder if you understand the distinction.

            The whole reason we’re having this conservation in the first place is that the models and the data have diverged wildly.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            John Sidles Ilya, if you read the paper you linked – not just the abstract – you’ll see that Hansen suggested the Northwest passage might be opened due to climate change “in the 21st century”. Which gives him a yuuuge hundred-year window to possibly still be right in the FUTURE, but he’s still not right YET.

            The mechanism suggested was that sea ice was likely (at some point in that ridiculously wide period) to ENTIRELY DISAPPEAR in the summer (and possibly also in the winter) thereby opening the passage. Which will be great when it HAS happened – it’ll be a big benefit of warming it/when it happens – but it has not YET happened, so can not YET be counted as a successful prediction.

            What Hansen did NOT say (in the linked article) was that the Northwest passage would be navigable SOON due to mere TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS. The passage is now (occasionally) (somewhat) navigable because we have fabulous GPS tracking and satellite maps and ice sensors and icebreaker ships, not because the ice went away – enough ice is still there that it’s not “wide open” by any stretch of the imagination.

            On a meta-note: it’d be really great if your posts had fewer links but the links given actually supported the claims made for them. Is there any chance you might try doing that?

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            SSC fans of Arctic exploration are invited to fly (virtually, via Google Earth), to the west coast of tiny Reilly Island, which is located at 68°2′N 98°59′W, in Canada’s far-north Queen Maud Gulf.

            SSC readers are invited to verify too, that (as of this week), both the entire Queen Maud Gulf and its northern approach the Victoria Straits/Beaumont Sea are wholly free of ice (and destined to remain so through September). This ice-free sailing is very convenient for comfort-loving Arctic cruise-ship passengers, obviously. No icebreakers are needed in these now-open summer Arctic waters! 🙂

            The seabed near Reilly Island came to world attention as the site of the archeological discovery in 2014 of the long-lost Arctic exploration vessel HMS Erebus. With its sister vessel HMS Terror, the entire 129-member crew of this expedition — known today as “Franklin’s Lost Expedition” — remained ice-bound throughout the years 1845-1847 … these Arctic explorers died, to the last man, of starvation, cannibalism, and exposure.

            The open-water/zero-ice/open-buffet/all-you-can-eat sailing of today’s cruise ships in these 21st century Arctic waters contrasts pretty dramatically with the multiyear ice-bound starvation that was endured by the doomed crew of the 19th century Franklin Expedition, doesn’t it?

            Meanwhile in 2016 as in previous years, the well-documented / well-known (among climate-scientists) “Arctic Ice Volume Death Spiral” continues its centripetal dive … as was foreseen decades ago by the now well-validated / well-verified energy-balance climate-models of James Hansen and his colleagues, of course.

            Is it any wonder, that climate-scientists (and Popes too) marvel at the history-ignoring data-denying theory-phobic science-rejecting quibbling / personalizing / abusive selfishly short-sighted demagoguery that has become so regrettably characteristic of denialism in general, and climate-change denialism in particular?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I tend to believe in AGW, but certain posts here strike me as an attempt at Eulierization (https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/10/getting-eulered/).

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Meanwhile in 2016 as in previous years, the well-documented / well-known (among climate-scientists) “Arctic Ice Volume Death Spiral” continues its centripetal dive

            If a gradually-declining trend of arctic ice cover should be called a “death spiral”, does that make a gradually-increasing trend of antarctic ice cover a “life spiral”? And do we somehow count Hansen as having predicted both of these?

            (Right at this moment the combined level of global ice cover (both hemispheres) is below the long-term average, but it was comfortably above that average quite recently.)

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Thank you, Glen Raphael, for suggesting that SSC readers direct their attention to the world’s great ice-sheets (in Antarctica and also Greenland).

            The paleoclimate data strongly correlate global heating with ice-sheet melting, and Hansen-style energy-balance models ground an anthropogenic causal chain: [more CO2] -> [energy imbalance] -> [warming air, warming oceans, rising sea-levels] -> [accelerating ice-mass loss from melting and sliding].

            It was only in the 1990s, well after Hansen’s 1980s predictions of accelerating ice-mass loss to come, that a triple-transformation in satellite sensing capabilities — namely (1) interferometric sensing, (2) gravimetric sensing, and (3) altimetric sensing — first enabled the continuous observation of ice-sheet mass-loss in Antarctica and Greenland.

            In an nutshell, these satellite-borne ice-mass studies have strikingly affirmed, in both Antarctica and Greenland, the predicted ice-sheet mass-loss of Hansen-style energy balance models. Indeed monthly updates of Antarctic ice-sheet mass-loss are available on-line.

            These synoptic and mutually consistent satellite-borne interferometric, altimetric, and gravimetric observations of ice-sheet mass-loss are a crucial reason why, among practicing ice scientists as among climate-scientists generally, few or no skeptics are found who doubt the sobering realities of anthropogenic global warming.

            Among committed climate-change denialists, have these ever-improving ice-sheet mass-loss data served to weaken or reverse denialist cognition? Not commonly … no more than genomic data have commonly convinced evolution denialists. Human cognition turns out to be remarkably robust in regard to sustained disregard of inconvenient scientific findings. Indeed an important side-effect of advances in climate science has been to increase interest in the psychology and neuroscience of sustained denialist cognition, isn’t that right?

          • hlynkacg says:

            In order to “deceive” one must first be able to identify truth.

            Do you, John Sidles, Napoleon Solo, Ilya Kuriakin (or whatever you prefer to be called now) understand the distinction between “true” and “false” statements or not?

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg asks “How do we understand the distinction between ‘true’ and ‘false’ statements?”

            As it seems to me (others may differ, needless to say):
            (A) formally true-vs-false distinctions … can be appreciated with near-perfect confidence;
            (B) scientifically true-vs-false … with reasoned confidence;
            (C) morally true-vs-false … require pragmatic judgements that are most wisely informed by long-standing faith-and-practice (preferably spanning multiple centuries); and
            (D) ideologically true-vs-false … are distinctions argued chiefly in “wretched hives of scum and villainy” (such demagoguery being most wisely ignored entirely). 🙂

            In these matters, Hippocrates provides wise guidance:

            Life is short, and the Art long; the occasion fleeting; experience fallacious, and judgment difficult.  …

            Medicine is of all the Arts the most noble; but, owing to the ignorance of those who practice it, and of those who, inconsiderately, form a judgment of them, it is at present far behind all the other arts.

            Your sincere interest in truth-distinction is sincerely reciprocated, hlynkacg. 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            Your sincere interest in truth-distinction is sincerely reciprocated.

            If that is indeed the case you should try to answer the question directly (and preferably in your own words) rather than playing word association games.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            There’s plenty of diversity in the degree to which humans perceive the truth-distinction process to be intrinsically hilarious (in all three of the ordinary, feminist, and Spinozist senses of “hilarity”). 🙂

            These perceived differences aren’t going to disappear very soon, are they?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’ll take that as a “no”.

            Considering the lack of consistency in your arguments and general “Gish gallop” nature of your replies I suspect your own “interest in truth-distinction” is significantly less sincere than that of most commenters on this forum.

            I would hardily encourage you to read the post that Edward Scizorhands linked above.

          • On the question of evaluating work in a field where you are not an expert, an old blog post of mine.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Why do climate-scientists largely reject the strictly Bayesian methods of truth-evaluation that Scott Alexander’s essay “Getting Eulered” focuses upon, specifically in maxims like Scott’s “With apologies to Rutherford, all science is statistics or stamp-collecting” (as referenced by Edward Scizorhands above)?

            In particular, why aren’t more Bayes-grounded skeptics found among practicing climate-scientists?

            David Deutsch’s well-reviewed and much-cited The Fabric of Reality (1997) explains why STEM-workers embrace post-Bayesian truth-evaluation methods, that promote the acceptance of Hansen-style climate-change models:

            Being able to predict things or to describe them, however accurately, is not at all the same thing as understanding them. Facts cannot be understood just by being summarized in a formula, any more than being listed on paper or committed to memory. They can be understood only by being explained. Fortunately, our best theories embody deep explanations as well as accurate predictions.

            To say that prediction is the purpose of a scientific theory is to confuse means with ends. It is like saying the purpose of a spaceship is to burn fuel. Passing experimental tests is only one of the many things a theory has to do to achieve the real purpose of science, which is to explain the world.

            Even in purely practical applications, the explanatory power of a theory is paramount and its predictive power only supplementary. A scientific theory stripped of its explanatory content would be or strictly limited utility. Let us be thankful that real scientific theories do not resemble that ideal, and that scientists in reality do not work toward that ideal.

            Knowledge does not come into existence fully formed. It exists only as the result of creative processes, which are step-by-step, evolutionary processes, always starting with a problem and proceeding with tentative new theories, criticism and the elimination of errors to a new and preferable problem-situation.

            This is how Shakespeare wrote his plays. It is how Einstein discovered his field equations. It is how all of us succeed in solving any problem, large or small, in our lives, or in creating anything of value.

            Deutsch’s observation explains why most STEM-workers accept Hansen’s explanations of anthropogenic climate-change: it’s because Hansen’s developes his models against a backdrop of (thermodynamic) universality, such that Hansen’s models are explanatory.

            Hansen’s energy-balance climate-change models have considerable Bayesian predictive power (obviously), but their predictive power is not their sole virtue, or even their primary virtue, compared to the “Deutschian” explanatory universality of Hansen’s climate-change models.

            More broadly, in very many STEAM-disciplines, and for very many STEAM-workers, David Deutsch’s 1997 STEAM-prediction has come true:

            “In the future, all explanations will be understood against the backdrop of universality, and every new idea will automatically tend to illuminate not just a particular subject, but, to varying degrees, all subjects.”

            Deutsch’s observation explains is why the 21st century is a marvelous era in which to be science-embracing Deutschian Enlightened Modernist.

            The accelerating embrace of Enlightened Scientific Modernism is proving to be no bad thing, as it seems to many STEAM-workers (including me). 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, Deutsch’s observation explains why most STEM-workers reject Hansen’s explanations, while those same explanations are embraced in more aesthetically focused fields such as politics and art. They may be explanatory, but they do not have much (if any) predictive power, nor are they universal.

            You can spin beautiful theories about shadows on cave walls but universality requires you to acknowledge the sun.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg asserts [without citation]  “Most STEM-workers reject Hansen’s explanations.”

            Citation needed! `Cuz recent conferences organized to refute Hansen’s climate-change worldview have failed utterly, haven’t they? Whence these recurrent failures, the world wonders?

            It’s true that political demagogues aren’t much troubled by climate-science denialism’s shortfalls, but sober-minded practicing scientists are very deeply troubled (especially younger ones).

          • hlynkacg says:

            Citation Needed? Try reading your own damn link.

            Had you bothered to read past the headline you’d have found that Hansen and Mann’s “hockey stick” has been roundly rejected (and with good reason) by most scientists in favor of far more conservative warming estimates developed by the Universities of Colorado and the British Royal Society on behalf of the UN.

            As for your other two links; Neither are the “sober-minded practicing scientists” that you try to paint them as. The first is the homepage of a political lobbying group, and the second is the personal blog of a 60 year-old agricultural business consultant who quote;

            started this blog to shine a spotlight on misogyny and the rejection of climate science.

            Meanwhile genuine scientists go out of their way to urge caution and restraint.

            I am seriously starting wonder if you understand half the words you type, or if this this is all just an elaborate game. You wrap yourself in the flags of “science”, “enlightenment”, and “modernity” but you’ve expressed nothing but contempt for the ideals they seek to instill.

            As an actual “STEM-worker” and fan of science I find it quite insulting.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg suggests [helpfully]  “Try reading your own **** link [to the Heartland Institute’s Eleventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC11)]”

            That’s not easy advice to follow, is it hlynkacg? Because (as far as I can tell) few or no scientific articles, preprints, on-line lectures, or even presentation abstracts have ever emerged from Heartland Institute’s most recent ICCC11 “scientific conference” (of December 2015). There’s a program of announced lecture titles, and some Heartland Institute press releases, and (seemingly) that’s all that has ever resulted.

            Links to the contrary are welcomed (needless to say), and please accept my appreciation and apologies, in advance, if it should happen that I have been mistaken in this regard.

            Such lacunae help to explain why the Heartland Institute’s (Koch-funded) scientific conferences have been widely disesteemed by practicing scientists, don’t they?

            The contrast with the outstanding body of timely scientific publications, and on-line lectures too, that are associated to the conferences of the Pontifical Academy of Science — to say nothing of the US Navy’s research endeavors — is sufficiently marked as to impress both young climate-scientists and SSC readers, isn’t it?

            As for the appropriate length of the celebrated “hockey stick blade” of accelerated global warming, there exist objectively strong Bayesian grounds to foresee that the next IPCC summary will report a considerably lengthened hockey-stick blade (just as James Hansen’s energy-balance climate models have been predicting), isn’t that correct?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Links to the contrary have already been provided.

            Please do not insult my intelligence further.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Thank you, hlynkacg, for participating in this exchange of ideas.

        • anon says:

          @Ilya, what precise conclusion are you suggesting should be drawn from the links you provide?

    • Nornagest says:

      Dunno. I can think of arguments both for and against. More energy in a system usually makes it behave in more extreme ways, but on the other hand global warming’s supposed to warm up cold parts of the world more than warm ones, and it’s ultimately the temperature difference between the two that drives weather.

      Maybe advocates were thinking the first, and then as more data became available the second turned out to dominate? Or maybe the actual science was more along the lines of “weather will be less predictable” (which is almost tautologically true, since the premise is that one of the main variables behind weather is changing) and that got transformed by the usual game of Telephone into “hurricanes all day errday” by the time it got to you.

      I’ve only read one IPCC report myself, so I don’t have much of a time series here.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Not to mention that if a scientist offers, as one possibility among many, that some hurricanes could increase in size or energy, we know how that will be reported.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It seemed to me to make intuitive sense insofar as heat drives a lot of severe weather. Eg hurricanes only happen in the tropics during summer; thunderstorms mostly happen during summer on very hot days, et cetera.

  15. hermanubis says:

    Scientists in other fields declare physicists weird, creepy for waiting to make sure finding actually exists before announcing it.

    Personally, I think physicists are wierd because they do bizarre human sacrifice rituals in front of a statue dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction at their particle colliders

  16. DensityDuck says:

    “Chinese audiences loved “Kung Fu Panda” so much that it inspired national soul-searching on why the West was better at making Chinese-culture-themed movies than they were.”

    Not the first time something like this has happened; Italians were better at making Western-culture-themed movies than actual Westerners were!

    • Zoop says:

      Italians make the better Westerns, but American make better Mafia movies. It’s all part of the circle of life.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Zoop

        I suppose it’s in the SSC/LW tradition of self-examination, that I’m suddenly considering making a list of statements the reading of which makes me hear a voice laughing, and after a time realize it is my own.

  17. stillnotking says:

    The deBoer piece frustrates me, as usual with his work. He says:

    The question, I guess, comes down once again to my definition of respect. Too many atheists I interact with, whether online in the political sphere or in real life in the academic sphere, intend to respect (or “honor”) other people’s religious beliefs but do so in a way that I would describe as humoring, in the pejorative sense. Reform atheists are often pleasant and good-hearted people, but they are also often patronizing. When people talk about the “value of spirituality,” or the “power of tradition,” or just generally get annoyed by atheism, while assuming away the existence of a deity, they are not engaged in respect; they’re engaged in subtle condescension. “I respect your journey” is a way to say “the core of your belief is immaterial to me and thus does not threaten me.” Treating Pope Francis as a groovy old guy with some sweet beliefs and a few wacky ideas about water into wine insults him and the world’s billion Catholics.

    …Not noticing, apparently, that the “ugly, ignorant, Islamophobic” things Harris and Dawkins say on Twitter are precisely the refusal to extend such condescending “respect” to ideas they rightly regard as dangerous.

    I don’t “respect” Catholicism, either, but I am happy to accept peace with Catholics, condescending though it may occasionally be (on either side), because I know they are extremely unlikely to kill me for being an atheist, given current Catholic practice. Can’t say the same about Muslims. Freddie is acting like there is something wrong with being more hostile toward beliefs with more adverse real-world consequences, which is a really strange position to hold. Or perhaps he’s saying that Catholicism is more adverse for a Western atheist, which I find to be a highly dubious assertion; it takes an awful lot of mildly screwed-up kids to make up for the murders of thousands.

    It would help to know precisely which statements from Dawkins and Harris he finds objectionable.

    • Adam says:

      I read his entire piece as a defense of Dawkins and Harris, saying his annoyance is with the kind of atheists who want to coddle the religious and think these guys and Bill Maher are just as bad as mullahs terrorizing entire nations when they’re just dicks on social media.

      • stillnotking says:

        That’s what confused me. The piece read like a defense of the sort of thing that’s often called “Islamophobic”, and yet in this paragraph he seemed to use the word without irony.

        Maybe he was just hedging his bets? I often get the feeling that he edits his pieces to avoid censure from the left.

    • Ziggomattic says:

      I feel similar frustration whenever I read deBoer. The writing is always good, and I usually agree with the thesis, but he invariably throws something into the article that seems to come from some other source than whatever produced the rest of the piece. Usually, it manifests in roundly condemning some sort of bad behavior that he regularly practices himself, like the way he mistreats people on Twitter, or completely stifles any legitimate criticism via the fastest block fingers in the West. It’s difficult to trust the intellectual honesty of someone whose skin is that thin.

      Here, it’s probably pretty simple: one of deBoer’s greatest champions is Glenn Greenwald, who has something of a blood feud with Harris, and who has been known to use all manner of underhanded tactics to try to make Harris out to be some sort of monster. And when he’s not libeling Harris, I tend to really like Greenwald’s POV. Why Harris is so good at making the otherwise rational become irrational is a mystery.

      If you asked deBoer to name an “Islamophobic” statement by Dawkins or Harris, he would immediately block you forever, no matter how delicately you worded the request. If you could somehow force him to respond, it would almost surely be the same tired misstatement of Harris’s views on TSA profiling, or deliberately misreading Harris to have called for a nuclear first strike on the Muslim world, or one of Greenwald’s other greatest hits.

      • Jill says:

        We just have too much political correctness. Universities, media, law schools etc. need to have a big conference for the purpose of revising our standards for what is acceptable speech. Harris is no monster– except by the current ridiculous standards.

  18. i need a nap says:

    Didn’t check to see if this was posted already, but this is way better than the Trump-Brannigan link:

    http://donaldmaroney.tumblr.com/

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @i need a nap:

      this is way better than the Trump-Brannigan link: [link]

      I…guess I’m willing to believe this might be funny or interesting if one were a fan of 30 Rock? (Since I had to google who “Jenna Maroney” is, none of the bits landed for me.)

  19. LPSP says:

    Re: one-off experiences, I had a version of the “going to sleep as a child, blink and it’s morning” story happen to me. My mum said good night to me and left the room, and I turned my head aside and closed my eyes. The next thing I know, my mum is walking into my room saying “MORNING, TIME TO GET UP” and shaking me by the shoulder. It doesn’t help that it’s the middle of winter and thus dark outside, so I literally tell my mum to stop pranking me and bugger off. She had to procure a clock to convince me it was time for school.

    Also, I was sure Kung Fu Panda’s question-raising impact on China had been brought up here before. It’s interesting how so many factors are listed as relevant to the movie’s success – the use of national treasure animals in leading roles, reverence and detail towards martial arts and mysticism, depicting Chinese familialism accurately – yet the actual humour, the reason we westerners ultimately go to see such a movie, is merely a neutral. It seems you can just write enough X-nation things on a nice enough box and it will sell, regardless of the contents, in X-nation.

    • Jill says:

      Gosh, a lot of people would be jealous of anyone sleeping that soundly, if that’s what it was.

      Time is different for children than for adults– as are many experiences– whether waking or sleeping. So that may be part of it. A lot of creative people seem to make efforts to either not lose all of that childhood flexibility, or to let go of closedness as an adult and regain flexibility.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Jill
        A lot of creative people seem to make efforts to either not lose all of that childhood flexibility, or to let go of closedness as an adult and regain flexibility.

        This is of personal interest to me. Would you unpack it somewhat?

        • Jill says:

          There are books about this. E.g. Wired to Create.

          https://www.amazon.com/Wired-Create-Unraveling-Mysteries-Creative/dp/0399174109/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471207345&sr=8-1&keywords=Wired+to+Creat

          “Kaufman and Gregoire untangle a series of paradoxes— like mindfulness and daydreaming, seriousness and play, openness and sensitivity, and solitude and collaboration – to show that it is by embracing our own contradictions that we are able to tap into our deepest creativity.”

          There seem to be a lot of experiences that people have as children that most adults never have again. Some may be due to physiological changes as people grow up into adulthood. But some seem to be culturally determined. Parents want their kids to be industrious and conscientious enough and not daydream too much that they can’t succeed in life. But a lot of times, parent and teachers and others go overboard in this– blocking the kid’s, and later the adult’s, creativity and flexibility and playfulness.

          People can use various kinds of meditation, movement exercises, nature activities, and sports activities done more for play than for competition etc. to go back to the “sand castle building” of childhood, in order to get back lost aspects of their creativity, flexibility, and enjoyment of nature, life, play, and other people.

    • Zoop says:

      I suppose it might be harder, as a non-Chinese speaking Westerner, to assess how well the humor appealed to Chinese audiences or accurately guess which jokes would land best (I suppose the people who did the Chinese script and dubbing/subtitles would have some insight). I can remember going to an American movie in Korea, and my non-Korean friends and I consistently laughed at different moments and jokes than rest of the audience. All the other aspects, like cultural accuracy, seem like things one could safely assume would be appealing, mutatis mutandis, to anybody.

      I remember hearing quick wordplay, like “Who’s on first?” kind of stuff, was popular in China, but that’s about all I can say on Chinese comedy. My guess is a fat panda falling down a flight of stairs (or what have you) would be funny to people of all nations.

      • LPSP says:

        The impression the article give is, apart from some zippy liners in the subtitles (and between that and the time-honoured zen tradition of being inscrutably, indomitably smarmy, I’d be inclined to agree with the notion that the Chinese find quick lines funny), the Chinese merely shrugged at the humour. Falling down the stairs may actually be a prime example of “lel, these westerners eh? whatever” gags.

  20. http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2008/08/figureheads-ghost-writers-and-quant.html?m=1

    A detailed look at how excessively high status given to some senior scientists is making it harder for actual science to get done, though there’s some hope from more or less pseudo-anonymous analysis done by “quants”.

    The part about excessively high status sounds plausible. All the quants mentioned seem to be working on race and gender differences, IQ, and global warming– in other words, a particular contrarian memeplex. Considering how much bad science there is, shouldn’t there be quants working in more areas? Maybe there are, and the author hasn’t heard of them, or maybe hot controversy is needed to motivate quants.

    Also, if science is very incompetent and corrupt, are the data sets good enough for quants to pull out reliable conclusions?

    • John Schilling says:

      If it is true that a significant fraction of high-status scientists are really now just serving as mouthpieces for corporate ghostwriters, that’s a problem. One I’d like to see some numbers on. Fortunately, I’m told we have “quant bloggers” following the relevant sciences, so that shouldn’t be too much trouble.

      One detail didn’t ring true, which is the bit where peer review is “dominat[ed] by a minority cartel of high-status scientists”. In my experience (on both sides of the system) peer review is something high-status scientists pawn off on low-status scientists whenever they can. It may be different in some fields; and maybe we have people here who can talk to different experiences. I suppose it is possible that high-status scientists do a first cut of the submissions so they can bring the most controversial ones to a proverbial smoke-filled room to quash while everything else gets sent out to the peons for review. But really, high-status scientists reading the slushpile doesn’t ring true to me either, and the assistant editors of the journals I read are usually only medium-status scientists.

      I’m also skeptical of the plan where professional scientists do all the data-gathering so that anonymous bloggers can do the analysis (and thus get all the credit). The incentives, and the funding streams, aren’t going to be there for that. And I don’t see how it would be much help in the long run if the problem is that nefarious corporate interests are paying the scientists to act as mouthpieces, because certainly the nefarious corporate interests can hire bloggers as well.

  21. Jill says:

    Interesting article in The Guardian here. What do folks think of this statement?

    “This is the real potential disaster of 2016: That legitimate economic discontent is going to be dismissed as bigotry and xenophobia for years to come.”

    With Trump certain to lose, you can forget about a progressive Clinton
    Thomas Frank
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/13/trump-clinton-election-chances-moderate-policies-economy

    • Sandy says:

      People have been saying for years that the Western working class have legitimate economic complaints stemming from immigration, and the Jon Stewarts of the world have spent years deriding these complaints as the whining of lazy, entitled losers who weren’t smart enough to go to nice colleges and get high-paying jobs in New York City. There’s a certain demographic that writes for The Guardian, and that demographic has been advancing variants of the argument “Illegal immigration doesn’t hurt the native labor force because Mexicans do the jobs Americans are too spoiled to accept” for a long time now.

      I don’t know how to think about statements like these. They strike me as either a near/far thing or just a bit of concern trolling that pops up every time it looks like the dogs might have a day.

      • hlynkacg says:

        The problem as I see it is that the “Mexicans do the jobs Americans are too spoiled to accept” component refutes the “Illegal immigration doesn’t hurt the native labor force”. If immigrants are bidding down the price of labor, that native laborers will see a their own wages decrease accordingly, or find themselves unemployed.

        Not only is the “Illegal immigration doesn’t hurt the native labor force” premise false. It’s acknowledged as being false by the very people deploying it.

        • Jill says:

          I don’t see this argument as being acknowledged as being false by the very people deploying it.

          Those people are talking about migrant laborers that pick fruit all day out in the hot sun. They are correct that Americans don’t apply to do that work. Most aren’t physically capable.

          It’s just that pundits that talk about this don’t realize that there are some other jobs e.g. unskilled construction labor, where illegal immigrants do compete with Americans and/or drive down wages.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think that you are seriously overestimating the difficulty of picking fruit.

            The reason that Fruit Inc hires immigrants is not “Mexicans have a rare ability to pick fruit that Americans lack”. The reason Fruit Inc hires immigrants is that locally sourced labor would cost them $10 an hour where migrants only cost them $6.

            This sucks for the locals because their options are basically accept a 40% pay-cut, be unemployed, or find a place/industry with fewer immigrants in it.

            In any case, the fact remains that the two components of the argument contradict each other.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “Those people are talking about migrant laborers that pick fruit all day out in the hot sun. They are correct that Americans don’t apply to do that work. Most aren’t physically capable.”

            If Americans won’t pick fruit, then the wage is too low and needs to be raised, or someone needs to figure out how to automate fruit picking, or we just don’t need fruit that badly. I’m not comfortable with this “low wages uber alles” stuff when it’s Wal-Mart selling it, and I don’t buy it from California fruit growers either.

            [EDIT] – For what it’s worth, I have personally worked a job in what I am pretty sure were much worse conditions than fruit picking involves, with materials much worse than fruit, for lower pay than people seem to think should be payed for running a cash register. I just don’t see how this argument holds water at all.

          • Jill says:

            Americans I have spoken to, who have seen these folks picking fruit, have told me that they couldn’t do that for that many hours consecutively out in the super high temperatures, and that they don’t know any Americans who could.

            That being said, the reason that we have illegal aliens picking fruit is because big agribusiness political donors to Congress, want to keep their illegal alien workers. So they want no changes in immigration law or enforcement of law. It’s very convenient for these corporations to pay substandard wages, have substandard working conditions, and have these people living in substandard housing. They’re not going to complain because they’re illegally here.

          • Adam says:

            Americans will pick fruit. I used to live in one of those places that grew such fruit. Not all of the workforce was Mexicans. There were a few white kids out there working the fields, too. The problem isn’t the conditions or the wages. It’s that the work is seasonal. If this is what you choose to do with your life, you’re only going to be able to do it a few months out of the year. Not too many Americans are willing to uproot themselves and go live in temporary encampments for only a few months, and not enough Americans live permanently in the places where we grow fruit. So rely on people that are willing to be migrant seasonal workers, and those end up mostly being Mexican. There are a few comparable jobs that Americans do, certain kinds of logging and oil work, Alaskan crab fishermen. But those are tremendously well-paying jobs.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            > Those people are talking about migrant laborers that pick fruit all
            > day out in the hot sun.

            Most of the fruit picking can be done with machines ( for example American vineyards claim you can’t pick grapes with machines. Australians apparently didn’t know it was impossible: http://www.aromadictionary.com/articles/grapemachineharvesting_article.html)

            > They are correct that Americans don’t apply
            > to do that work. Most aren’t physically capable.

            Most *Mexicans* aren’t physically capable. The ones you have doing it are the few who can, and the ones who are desperate enough to keep doing it until they can slip into a larger town or city and get a job cleaning offices/houses etc.

            Which is a job that Americans are still willing to do a little bit. Or at least they were when I was in college (I was a Janitor for a summer, and would have kept on if I hadn’t transferred out of state).

            Oh, and “landscaping”. Plenty of college aged males (and yes “males”. There might be a few women willing to do it, but it’s hard shitty work. BTDT) are willing to work summers pushing lawn mowers, pulling rakes etc. (I’ve also worked an air broom in a parking lot cleaning business, washed dishes in a hospital (twice), DJ’d in a strip joint (for 2 weeks) and worked the front desk of a short-hours motel. Of course that was 20+ years ago when I was a high school and college).

            The only jobs that “American’s won’t do” are jobs that can be automated at a lower cost than employing “real” people do do them. Otherwise it’s “Americans won’t do them for the same price as less trained illegal immigrants from other countries”. To wit:

            …unskilled construction labor, where illegal immigrants do compete with Americans and/or drive down wages./blockquote>

            First of all, there are almost no “unskilled construction labor” jobs left. Automation/machinery again. Plus modern construction regulations, and the techniques and materials for meeting those standards don’t allow for it.

            Secondly it isn’t just the few “unskilled construction” jobs that illegal immigrants are taking, it’s electrical and plumbing jobs etc.

            Which should put you in mind of what Deadpool said “This guy’s got the right idea. he wore the brown pants.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            The only jobs that “American’s won’t do” are jobs that can be automated at a lower cost than employing “real” people do them. Otherwise it’s “Americans won’t do them for the same price as less trained illegal immigrants.

            This is the key, and the fact that this is tacitly admitted by the same people arguing that “immigration doesn’t hurt anyone” is what I mean when I say that the position is self-refuting.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Always found it striking how the people who insist that we must admit a large number of illegal immigrants to pick fruit at below minimum wage, tend to be the same people who insist that the minimum wage is inhumane and must be raised. Pick one.

          • At least some of the migrant labor I’ve heard of that Americans won’t/can’t do is vegetables/salad rather than fruit, though I think strawberries are hard. The example I remember is lettuce– it’s bending over all day cutting the stalks with a machete– it’s physically hard and takes skill to do it fast.

            Georgia farmers face labor shortage because Americans can’t/won’t do the work. This story is about picking blackberries.

          • Jiro says:

            How much did they try to raise the pay scale before saying they can’t find Americans willing to do the work?

          • I don’t know whether they tried raising the pay scale at all, and I don’t know whether raising the pay enough to attract Americans would have enabled the farms to make a profit.

            In any case, there at least would have been a period when inexperienced workers were learning how to work accurately and quickly.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            People are confusing two things here.

            1) The current labor force doesn’t have citizens who can do seasonal farm manual labor.

            2) Their are forces that have driven citizen labor from the market of seasonal farm manual labor.

            (1) is probably true. My recollection is that when Alabama’s HB-56 passed, and before most of it was repealed, which caused mass emigration of undocumented from Alabama, there were widespread reports of crops rotting in the field.

            (2) is where all the interesting discussion is to be had. I think that it is important to realize that without a system to exclude foreign agricultural products or make them very expensive, the jobs won’t go to illegal labor, but they also won’t exist.

            American manufacturing is actually doing fantastic from an output perspective. They just don’t employ anyone anymore.

          • “The only jobs that “American’s won’t do” are jobs that can be automated at a lower cost than employing “real” people do them.”

            Or jobs that are not worth doing at what it costs using American labor to do them.

            Someone else in the thread linked support for illegal immigrants with support for higher minimum wages. The most pro-immigration people I am familiar with are libertarians–there is a chapter in a book I published more than forty years ago arguing for open immigration. Libertarians are probably also the most anti-minimum wage group I know of.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @David Friedman: Libertarians are the most pro-immigration faction out there, true, but this primary season has demonstrated that they are a small faction with no real political strength at the moment. Gary Johnson may get the highest LP percentage ever recorded in November but it’s not on the back of libertarian positions, given that he’s effectively running as another Democrat.

            There’s also an enormous difference between being in favor of expanding legal immigration and being in favor of not enforcing the immigration laws. The first position is honest, the second position is stunningly abusive given that it effectively creates a helot class that can be abused by big business and threatened with deportation if they step out of line. And the most effective and loud faction in favor of not enforcing immigration laws is also the one also demanding a higher minimum wage.

    • The Nybbler says:

      He has it utterly backwards. Legitimate economic discontent has been dismissed as bigotry and xenophobia for years, and that’s a major cause of the Trump phenomenon.

      And the idea that Trump is “certain to lose” is premature. And furthermore, that idea appears to be a result of a huge push by the Clinton campaign following the Democratic convention. All of a sudden all the pundits and news programs are talking about how Trump is losing it, how Trump is likely to withdraw, etc. But as far as I can tell, Trump wasn’t doing anything but being Trump as usual.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @The Nybbler – “And the idea that Trump is “certain to lose” is premature.”

        What’s going to turn the polls around?

        On the last night of the Democratic Convention, I made a prediction with myself that Trump would hold steady or close the gap, rather than Clinton pulling ahead in the subsequent polling. I was wrong. I’d agree that the media offensive against Trump has been the same bullshit it’s been all year, and Trump has continued to do exactly what he was doing before. I’m still voting for him. The media offensive does actually appear to have worked though, and his numbers are dropping.

        [EDIT] – Trump has always been a high-risk play. We’re now looking at some of the risk.

        • another anonobot says:

          On the last night of the Democratic Convention, I made a prediction with myself that Trump would hold steady or close the gap, rather than Clinton pulling ahead in the subsequent polling. I was wrong.

          So, you’re confident you can predict the future this time because your last attempt to do so failed?

          • hlynkacg says:

            where was that said?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @another anonobot – “So, you’re confident you can predict the future this time because your last attempt to do so failed?”

            No, I’m going with what the experts on 538 are telling me, because they called it right and I called it wrong.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Things will presumably continue to happen for the next three and a half months. If enough of those things break Trump’s way, he’ll win. Shit can happen. 538, for example, has Trump at 12% to win, which, while unfavorable, is far from “certain to lose”. A little hyperbole is ok, but if you’re going to call an outcome “certain” it should be at least 95%, in my mind.

          • Untrue Neutral says:

            With these two candidates the possibility for race-redefining scandals is so high that an accurate reading of their odds is even more difficult than usual.

            If nothing changes the trajectory points to a Clinton win, but “nothing changes” feels like a pretty unlikely thing this time around

      • hlynkacg says:

        As Glen Reynolds said back in march

        When politeness and orderliness are met with contempt and betrayal, do not be surprised if the response is something less polite, and less orderly.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        I don’t know who’s going to win the election, but I know who is going to lose.

      • James Scott says:

        Are you sure that isn’t actual bigotry, xenophobia, cultural backlash, etc, that’s being claimed as economic discontent? Are we actually sure that the Trump voters are meaningfully under economic pressure?

        What information I find on it seems to indicate otherwise.

        • hlynkacg says:

          As has been mentioned the last couple times this article was linked, looking at Income in isolation is a poor metric. Do not make the mistake of conflating “working class” with “low income”

          The classic example is that a contractor who owns their own home, tools, etc… is going to have a much higher income on paper than a minimum-wage register jockey but their liabilities are also much higher, which makes them paradoxically more vulnerable to economic up and down swings.

          I don’t think its a coincidence that 538’s map of states trump is likely to win is basically a 1-for-1 match of Scott’s map of the “precariat” From how bad are things, and Three Great articles on Poverty.

          • James Scott says:

            That’s a reasonable enough explanation, but I’m still pretty skeptical of it. ‘Working class’ might perfectly map to ‘low income’, but it is pretty relevant to the question of economic grievance.

            What would you consider the best case for Trump being a question of economic grievance rather than the culture war having fully eaten the conservative movement?

          • meyerkev248 says:

            It also generally seems to be a “I care about my neighborhood” sort of thing.

            If nothing else, if I’m a contractor, it really helps if my employees aren’t hooked on heroin, and the collapse of the local region, has, unfortunately, gotten them all hooked on heroin.

            On a related note, I’m somewhat surprised there aren’t more Trump voters on the Peninsula in Silicon Valley. Because I’m friends with a lot of 20-somethings who have million-dollar homes in trust under their names with… 5 DUI’s and who spent a decade or so doing really, really hard drugs.

            /Which is dealt to them by Mexican illegals.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      As a Trump supporter, I would rather see Hillary win in a blowout and then govern as she sees fit than a continued establishment stalemate. I don’t think the discontent that lead to Brexit and Trump goes away when Trump crashes and burns in November. That discontent arises from root problems in our society, and either Clinton can address those root problems, in which case things get better, or she can’t and the next insurgent candidate has that much better of a chance. If she wins, she deserves her shot.

      My friends and I like to wonder about who will be the “next Bernie Sanders”, but what I am suggesting here is that whoever emerges to lead the populist left will simply be depicted as the next Trump.

      It seems to me that this is what happened to Sanders anyway, and as with Sanders such leftist populists will always have their opponents on the Right to draw the great majority of the fire. I think his concern is overblown.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        > and either Clinton can address those root problems, in which case things get better,
        > or she can’t

        Solving those problems would be in direct opposition to her personal interests, the interests of her tribe, and would require her to reject what little ideology she seems to possess.

        > and the next insurgent candidate has that much better of a chance.

        The most *qualified* and reasonable candidate in this election is The Cock (there are three other Cs in this election, The Communist, The Criminal and The Clown. Only The Cock is a play on words, the others are descriptive).

        The Republican base demonstrated that they were perfectly willing to rebel against their party “leadership”, which they did by voting for everyone BUT Bush The Squishier.

        The Democrat base demonstrated that (largely) they would obey their masters and vote the way they were damn well told to vote.

        Ultimately if Trump loses in November it will be because to win a modern American election one needs party unity AND a good ground game OR one needs to be running against the most heinous candidate in modern history. Trump has neither party unity, nor has he indicated he understands the need for a ground game. The only way he can win is if he can force Hillary to show up at debates and hold press conferences, and otherwise put serious stress on her.

        > If she wins, she deserves her shot.

        Yeah, but what sins have *we* committed to deserve her?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Yeah, but what sins have *we* committed to deserve her?

          We exist.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @William O’Blivion – “Solving those problems would be in direct opposition to her personal interests, the interests of her tribe, and would require her to reject what little ideology she seems to possess.”

          Whatever else she may be (and the list is long), Clinton is an American politician, and she has a strong incentive to ensure that America continues to both exist and prosper. Her ideas of what a prosperous America looks like and how it can be achieved are repulsive to me in many ways, but results you don’t like are the result of losing elections, and maybe she’s right and I’m wrong. Her having a free hand, so we can see the outcomes clearly in a time-frame short enough for the attention span of the American public, still seems like a better outcome than the slow frog-boiling we’d get from the Republican establishment. As a Trump supporter, I don’t think I’m in a position to lecture democrats about how their candidate is a monster bent on plunging the world into darkness unending.

          “The Democrat base demonstrated that (largely) they would obey their masters and vote the way they were damn well told to vote.”

          For now, perhaps. We’ll see what the future holds.

          “The only way he can win is if he can force Hillary to show up at debates and hold press conferences, and otherwise put serious stress on her.”

          …Honestly, if she’s at all smart, she’ll just snub him completely, flat out refuse to debate him. I expect it would be a net win for her.

          “Yeah, but what sins have *we* committed to deserve her?”

          The two terms of Bush spring to mind, together with the McCain nomination, and possibly the nomination of Romney. Republicans let their party rot for far too long.

          • Aegeus says:

            …Honestly, if she’s at all smart, she’ll just snub him completely, flat out refuse to debate him. I expect it would be a net win for her.

            I expect the opposite. First off, Trump is the one who’s signaled that he isn’t happy about debating – he tweeted a while back complaining that the schedule was “unfair” because it conflicted with an NFL game of all things.

            Second, Hillary is running as the traditional establishment candidate, the adult in the room, and that means she has to do traditional things like the debates. She’s also running as a policy wonk, and the debates are a good stage to show detail in her policies and a lack of detail in Trump’s. In general, she’s a better debater than an orator.

            Third, the debates are unfriendly ground for Trump. The silent audience means he can’t work the crowd. Unlike the Republican primary debates, there are no other candidates to draw focus from him. And the moderators probably won’t be sympathetic either.

            Fourth, Hillary’s current strategy can be summed up as “Let Trump keep talking.” Every time he opens his mouth, there’s a good chance he makes another gaffe. Clinton’s plan will be to goad Trump into saying something stupid, then call it out.

          • I have no idea how you would goad Trump into saying something stupid, as distinct from just letting him do it on his own.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trump participated in a few debates before deciding he wasn’t going to do any more; I don’t think you can take him to be anti-debate in general. If Trump refuses to debate Hillary, he’s done. He’ll look like a wimp, and that’ll cost him his own base.

            Hillary might be able to safely refuse to debate Trump, given the current success of the campaign to paint Trump as “not a serious candidate”. But it definitely will hurt her, though not as much as debating Trump and being trounced.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Hillary might be able to safely refuse to debate Trump, given the current success of the campaign to paint Trump as “not a serious candidate”. But it definitely will hurt her, though not as much as debating Trump and being trounced.

            Huh? Duh…. Was that a Damn-You-Autocorrect or something? According to your theory, it’s Hillary who ought to be saying, “Please don’t throw me in the briar debate patch.”

            As Aegus said:
            [T] the debates are unfriendly ground for Trump. The silent audience means he can’t work the crowd. Unlike the Republican primary debates, there are no other candidates to draw focus from him. And the moderators probably won’t be sympathetic either.

        • Jill says:

          If I made a post that was as anti-Right as William O. B’Livion’s is anti-Left, I would have 35 people jump down my throat at once. And I would never hear the end of it.

          Right Wingers call Clinton “the criminal” because she does things like use a private email server– same as Condoleeza and Colin Powell and many others did. And every time someone in her very large social and political circle dies, they claim she killed them. But false accusations do not make a person a criminal.

          Dems are not “obeying their masters and voting the way they are damn well told to vote.” Like many GOPers, they think Trump would be a disaster. And also think that Hillary would be closer to Bernie than Trump would be in various areas such as SCOTUS nominations.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            If I made a post that was as anti-Right as William O. B’Livion’s is anti-Left, I would have 35 people jump down my throat at once. And I would never hear the end of it.

            I don’t know that that’s a point against him, though. Ideally, I’d like to hear both his post and yours.

            The relevant difference between Clinton and Powell is that Clinton handled classified data via her private email server, constituting a massive security hazard. From a Clinton-friendly article:

            During Secretary Powell’s tenure, the Department introduced for the first time unclassified desktop email and access to the Internet on a system known as OpenNet, which remains in use to this day.

            (emphasis added)

            I’ve not heard the claim that Clinton is the cause of death when anyone she knows dies anywhere but the parent comment.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jill – “If I made a post that was as anti-Right as William O. B’Livion’s is anti-Left I would have 35 people jump down my throat at once. And I would never hear the end of it.”

            Accurate.

            Rebel – “I’ve not heard the claim that Clinton is the cause of death when anyone she knows dies anywhere but the parent comment.”

            I have.

          • alaska3636 says:

            Here is a recent article discussing (*heavy bias*) the strange deaths surrounding the Clintons:
            http://takimag.com/article/a_hot_month_for_clintons_body_count_gavin_mcinnes#axzz4HWJxL7UF

            It is odd.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Interesting. Thanks for the link!

            Given that you guys have heard of this, what’s your sense of how the general population views it? Unheard of, conspiracy theory, or what? How does the anti-Hillary crowd view it? Finally, do you buy into it? If so, what do you view as the strongest evidence for it?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Rebel with an Uncaused Cause – “Given that you guys have heard of this, what’s your sense of how the general population views it? Unheard of, conspiracy theory, or what?”

            Unheard of or conspiracy theory, most likely. This is Deep Red lore.

            “How does the anti-Hillary crowd view it?”

            Depends on the crowd, and their information sources. Old-school Limbaugh fans have almost certainly heard of it. People who read Breitbart, Drudge Report, stuff like that have probably heard of it. Keywords to search for would be “Arkanicide”, “Clinton Crime Family”.

            “Finally, do you buy into it?”

            I’m a recovering conspiracy theorist, so I try very hard not to think about things like this, and when thinking about them, to try to keep a firm grip on the idea that “it all adds up to normal”.

            I’ve seen a lot of examples and evidence, and all I’ve got to counter them is the general “only crazy people believe this stuff” response from the mainstream. That argument doesn’t really work for me. The best counterargument I can think of is that powerful enemies of the Clintons don’t use evidence of this type to destroy them. This is a pretty good counter-argument, but not a decisive one, for reasons gestured at vaguely below.

            “If so, what do you view as the strongest evidence for it?”

            Human nature and history: We have numerous examples of people in power abusing that power in monstrous ways. Long-term, successful conspiracies pretty clearly have existed throughout human history, not much reason to think they stop existing due to Modernity. I don’t think the culture that produced the Borgias, for instance, is fundamentally different from ours.

            Organized crime exists: any history of American crime families shows lots of examples of conspiracy and bloody mayhem.

            Politics isn’t clean: Political corruption is a venerable American institution, including occasional dalliances with organized crime.

            Institutions aren’t clean: The FBI’s reputation for impartiality, honor and implacable due process seem to have been largely manufactured, and its actual record is pretty horrifying. The CIA is considerably worse, and unquestionably has capabilities that invite paranoia*. Other Federal departments have similar problems, so it seems this is a structural thing. The system as a whole does not seem to work the way it’s claimed to work.

            …And with all that in mind, the body count of Clinton associates. Can anyone put a similar list together for the Bush family? Steve Jobs?

            I’ve often wished someone would do a statistical analysis of a politicians’ staff, business and social circles, and look for unusual spikes in mortality. It seems to me that in principle this would be a pretty good way to test the conspiracy thesis.

            …In any case, the result of all this has to add up more or less to the world we see. People have no problem believing Putin is a Bond villain who murders his political enemies via elaborate poisoning conspiracies. He’s still arguably the best leader Russia has had in the last hundred years. Life goes on.

            *Take it as a given that the CIA can make a gun that fires silently, accurate to a hundred yards, firing a dart the target won’t feel hit them, that kills them in a way practically indistinguishable from natural causes, and that the CIA is composed entirely of morally infallible angels. Why would we think other people couldn’t invent the same gun?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            FacelessCraven, could you elaborate on what you mean by “recovering conspiracy theorist”? Do you believe fewer theories than you used to? Or are your beliefs unchanged, but your priorities?

            If the former, and if it does risk you falling off of the wagon, could you mention the theories you have walked back from? And ones you still hold, if any.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Douglas Knight – “FacelessCraven, could you elaborate on what you mean by “recovering conspiracy theorist”?”

            Before I had ever heard of this forum, I understood that theoretical models should allow you to make predictions. Conspiracy theories led me to predict radical change in the near future: Specifically, I strongly believed that Bush was going to declare himself president for life, declare martial law, start World War III, or otherwise initiate some weak version of The End Of The World As We Know It. He didn’t, which meant that my predictions were wrong, so I updated.

            “Do you believe fewer theories than you used to? Or are your beliefs unchanged, but your priorities?”

            I held the beliefs because they were supported by what I considered to be the best evidence available. I still haven’t seen better evidence for most of them, so I’ve got no justification for abandoning them. They don’t provide useful strategies or predictions though, so mostly they just serve as justification for a very high level of cynicism about politics and society.

            A few of them, I concluded that believing them was actively making me a worse person, and so decided to stop believing them regardless of the evidence presented. This has made me a lot more cynical about evidence and epistemology generally, but I think the trade-off was worth it.

            “If the former, and if it does risk you falling off of the wagon, could you mention the theories you have walked back from?”

            Easier to describe the limits than list them all. Bilderburg/Rothschild-style elite cabaling was my outer limit; I was always aware of the human tendency to see patterns where they weren’t there, and my conservative christian upbringing was big on rejecting the sort of free-association “evidence” prevalent in premillennialism and associated movements, so I never had any trust or interest in grand unified theories about captial-T They.

            Growing up Red, I never saw the Press as in any way reliable or honest. Events in the 90s left me with no faith in Congress or the Executive Branch. My conversion to blue involved/was driven by a loss of confidence in law enforcement, the judicial system, and Wall Street/major corporations. My basic conclusion was that people with serious money and power are above the law for most practical purposes, that they know this, and that they plan and act accordingly.

            For reasons explained previously, I limited my conspiracy theorizing to specific events rather than to speculation about the overarching systems behind them, and never got into the paranormal/supernatural end of things. Within that range… I’ve pretty much heard and at least considered all of them.

            COINTELPRO, MK ULTRA, JFK/RFK/MLK/Lennon assassinations, Ruby Ridge and Waco being deliberate murder on the part of the Feds, Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11 being false flags, coverups involving the Columbine and Port Arthur massacres, FDR’s advance knowledge of Pearl Harbor, Unit 731, the attacks on the USS Liberty, speculations about the nefarious uses of parametric speakers or that dart pistol linked above, you name it.

            “And ones you still hold, if any.”

            Define “hold”.

            Blarg. this video about evidence of Thermite on 9/11 seems rational and reasonable to me. This one about different planes hitting the towers seems like garbage. To the extent that I contemplate conspiracy theories at all, I try to confine myself to the former method, and to remember that it all adds up to normality.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What about Unit 731? What are nefarious uses of parametric speakers?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Douglas Knight – “What about Unit 731?”

            The stuff you find in their Wikipedia page. American government complicity in covering up for unequivocal crimes against humanity. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment would also go in this category.

            “What are nefarious uses of parametric speakers?”

            Gaslighting for fun and profit, making people hear voices. Obviously useful as a morale attack, on the general Zersetzung model, or Scientology’s various harassment campaigns.

            [EDIT] – Blah, misread you earlier.

            “…could you mention the theories you have walked back from?”

            Anything to do with large-scale cabals. Anything to do with large-scale control or manipulation of the stock market, banking or business generally. Anything to do with large-scale control or alteration of America’s political system. I’m highly confident that the general picture we get of elites as a constellation of dynamic factions making and breaking alliances from day to day is accurate. lots of plans, no overall Master Plan.

            I’ve seen good evidence to convince me that a plane really did hit the pentagon on 9/11, something I previously doubted. I no longer believe any of the FEMA conspiracy theories, or any of the martial law conspiracies. I don’t buy into any of the paranoia about the Federal Reserve any more. I don’t think national elections are rigged, nor am I particularly worried about hacked voting machines.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It seems odd to describe the contents of a wikipedia article as a conspiracy theory. When it comes to COINTELPRO and MK/ULTRA, there are specific conspiracy theories about them, that the methods did not cease when the record says that they ceased (and that MK/ULTRA was more effective than the record states). When I read your list, this is how I interpreted it.

            Of course, those two organizations and Unit 731 were conspiracies. It certainly is important to learn about conspiracies that come to light in order to assess theories about conspiracies that are still secret. Perhaps if you want to convince someone of the importance of conspiracies, they are the place to start. But I think that that it is important to keep track of what is conventional history, accepted by wikipedia, if not widely known, and what is not conventional history.

            Why don’t you worry about hacked voting machines? It’s really easy. Aren’t negative votes a dead giveaway that it has happened?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Douglas Knight – “It seems odd to describe the contents of a Wikipedia article as a conspiracy theory.”

            It seems odd to set the cutoff point for Conspiracy Theory at “has a Wikipedia page”. : /

            “But I think that that it is important to keep track of what is conventional history, accepted by wikipedia, if not widely known, and what is not conventional history.”

            Let’s break it down a bit more. There’s popular history, conventional history, and theorized history. Popular history is what “everyone knows”, and contains lots of errors of both commission and omission. Conventional history has few commission errors, more omission errors, but is generally pretty reliable in at least a positive sense; if it said something happened, it probably happened. Theorized history is the wild west, with lots of errors of every type.

            My point is that the boundaries and interconnections between these three are blurry at best. Strictly speaking, Conventional History shows that Al Capone was guilty only of income tax evasion, so where does the Popular History of the notoriously murderous Scarface come from? Strictly speaking, Conventional History shows that J. Edgar Hoover operated as a de facto organized crime boss for more than a decade, sanctioned the extrajudicial killing of multiple American citizens and (intentionally or unintentionally) intimidated Presidents, so why does the Popular history leave us happy to have his name on a federal building?

            …I’ve spent too long trying to write the rest of this, and it’s not working. Conventional history is too complex, so I don’t have enough time to dig deep enough to have any confidence that I have the truth about anything controversial. Popular History is too unreliable, as I’ve seen enough evidence of longstanding errors and inconsistencies to have any faith in it. Theorized history isn’t a choice, but is by definition what I’m doing once I’ve ruled out the other two as viable options. The ways to do it badly are obvious, the ways to do it well are a mystery. I try to do it as little as possible, and get on with my life.

            “Why don’t you worry about hacked voting machines? It’s really easy. Aren’t negative votes a dead giveaway that it has happened?”

            What prediction or strategy does the “voting machines can be hacked” theory provide?

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Thanks for your detailed response! I buy that human nature produces Borgias and that politics is a corrupt business. What I’d be interested in seeing is something you mentioned in passing; a similar examination of other politicians to provide a baseline for our number of deaths. Clinton’s in a position where she comes into contact with a lot of other people, and a lot of those people are also in jobs that involve risk or high stress (i.e., bodyguards and agents). Given those constraints, I have no idea what a reasonable amount of nearby deaths over a long career would look like.

          • Nornagest says:

            Strictly speaking, Conventional History shows that Al Capone was guilty only of income tax evasion, so where does the Popular History of the notoriously murderous Scarface come from?

            Conventional history shows that Al Capone was convicted only of income tax evasion. It also shows evidence for lots and lots of other crimes that do not individually meet the standards required for conviction, or at least were felt not to in the context of 1930s Chicago.

            For example, Wikipedia informs me that the use of open violence by the Chicago Mob declined sharply after he was imprisoned. That’s fairly strong circumstantial evidence that he was involved in promoting that violence… but good luck proving it in court.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Rebel with an Uncaused Cause – “Clinton’s in a position where she comes into contact with a lot of other people, and a lot of those people are also in jobs that involve risk or high stress (i.e., bodyguards and agents). Given those constraints, I have no idea what a reasonable amount of nearby deaths over a long career would look like.”

            Me neither. It does seem like it’s at least theoretically possible, though. Figure out some criteria for who counts as an associate, count associates, check how many of them died. You could compare the mortality rates to actuarial tables generally and to other other randomly selected people of apparently equivalent status. It’d be interesting data to see.

            @Nornagest – “Conventional history shows that Al Capone was convicted only of income tax evasion. It also shows evidence for lots and lots of other crimes that do not individually meet the standards required for conviction, or at least were felt not to in the context of 1930s Chicago.”

            How does one meaningfully compare the evidence for Capone’s crimes against the evidence for Hoover’s crimes? Especially given that the evidence for Capone was compiled by the FBI, and the evidence against Hoover was compiled in opposition to the FBI?

            “For example, Wikipedia informs me that the use of open violence by the Chicago Mob declined sharply after he was imprisoned. That’s fairly strong circumstantial evidence that he was involved in promoting that violence… but good luck proving it in court.”

            Racial violence and the assassination of prominent leftists declined sharply after Hoover died. Is that strong circumstantial evidence that Hoover was involved in promoting that violence? Does it help if we have official government records of him actually promoting that sort of violence?

            I’m willing to bet that you haven’t read the primary sources on Capone. I know I haven’t. That means our picture of Capone is Popular History. I’m pretty confident that the incentives line up such that the Popular History of Capone is reasonably accurate. I’m willing to bet you haven’t read the primary sources on Hoover either. I’ve read a handful, but not enough to matter. That means our picture of Hoover is Popular History. I am not confident that the incentives line up as neatly for an honest picture of Hoover as they do for Capone. Are you?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Rebel with an Uncaused Cause
            What I’d be interested in seeing is something you mentioned in passing; a similar examination of other politicians to provide a baseline for our number of deaths.

            During the 90s I saw a similar whatever circulated about Bill Clinton. Iirc someone, using insurance statistics, reported that the number of deaths around Bill was smaller than baseline. My impression was that a wider range than politicians was counted.

          • Protagoras says:

            @houseboatonstyxb, Obviously the Clintons have access to secret, advanced medical technologies which they are selfishly hoarding and using to help their associates.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @houseboatonstyx – “During the 90s I saw a similar whatever circulated about Bill Clinton. Iirc someone, using insurance statistics, reported that the number of deaths around Bill was smaller than baseline. My impression was that a wider range than politicians was counted.”

            I’d be interested in a link if you could find one. I’m not a huge fan of Snopes, but their Clinton Body Count entry seems like a decent counterpoint in the meantime.

            There’s a thing people do where they take an idea they don’t like seeing and spotlight it as particularly awful, beyond the pale, a conversation-ender, and generally try to push it outside the Overton window. Conspiracy theories, climate skepticism and various culture war viewpoints all get this treatment. For the people holding such views, it really doesn’t help. If you think others are wrong, watching them explicitly and preemptively reject rational dialogue and discussion in favor of a coordinated policy of status attacks just makes it that much harder to think rationally about your own position. It lowers the sanity waterline, one might say.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            Long time passing….

            I only saw the one mention of the insurance baseline, so I doubt there would be much helpful there.

      • stillnotking says:

        The populist left hasn’t even threatened to be a significant force in American politics since the 1930s. I’m willing to bet it never will be one.

        Even if Bernie had won somehow, he’d have been co-opted into the Democratic mainstream or rendered irrelevant. For him to have had any real impact would’ve required a sea change in American politics, which manifestly isn’t happening — there aren’t even many Sanders-like candidates for Congress. Merely electing a President wouldn’t do squat for the populist left, and even that much is beyond them.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        It seems to me that this is what happened to Sanders anyway…

        Yup.

        It’s amazing how thoroughly all those “Bernie Bro” slurs were flushed down the memory hole, now that it’s not necessary to see off that particular insurgent any more. The behavior of the media was disgusting, as usual.

    • Mr. Breakfast says:

      legitimate economic discontent is going to be dismissed as bigotry and xenophobia for years to come

      But this isn’t new, the real development is that the malcontents are no longer willing to accept being dismissed. If Bernie and Trump and Brexit and FN and so on are these people acting out and their concerns get ignored, they will just act out louder next time.

      • Untrue Neutral says:

        If Trump loses big I think there’s a serious opening for the Republican establishment (read: Not Red Tribers) to reassert themselves. They’ll have to coopt some of the issues of the malcontents, probably, I’m not sure they’ll be able to ignore immigration at minimum. But they’ve managed to contain and use the beast in the past, so to speak

  22. Loquat says:

    Weirdest sensation I’ve only felt once (though I could probably feel it again if I made an effort to seek out more of the chips in question):

    Eating Jamaican jerk-seasoned potato chips. Seriously, those things caused a genuine argument between my brain and my senses, because apparently the exact flavor of the chips was one my brain associated only with chicken, and therefore I kept feeling “surprised” when I’d eat a chip and did not encounter any chicken meat. Eyes, hands, and mouth were all reporting that I was eating potato chips, but my brain kept going “But this flavor means chicken! Why isn’t there any chicken?!”

    This has never happened to me with any other food.

    • Jill says:

      Interesting. The brain works by association. And when we get a sensation that we associate with another sensation, but the other one isn’t there, that sort of shocks us.

  23. Natan Gesher says:

    > Chinese audiences loved “Kung Fu Panda” so much that it inspired national soul-searching on why the West was better at making Chinese-culture-themed movies than they were.

    Communism.

    • Jill says:

      It does seem that people are less creative under any kind of very authoritarian government– whether Right Wing such as fascist or Left Wing such as Communist or even authoritarian but otherwise hard to categorize. Places that severely restricts rights like free speech are very inhibiting to creativity. If you are in a society that heavily punishes people with prison terms, for what would be free speech in other countries– then you’re not going to risk thinking/speaking outside the box.

      • Enkidum says:

        See “The Prevention of Literature” by Orwell for the first clear analysis of this (I think).

    • SUT says:

      Another paradoxical observation – the worker’s paradise of the USSR couldn’t produce a decent pair jeans.

      But it’s too cliche to simply pin all the blame on communism; instead I’d give give credit to the exceptionalism of America’s creative class. Historically, we’ve had advantages of borrowing art / ideas having sex e.g. slave songs -> blues -> rock ‘n roll. Currently, in the “golden age of television”, I think we’ve created something like a Industrial Revolution of creative writing students and jobs for them (give me 23 minutes of jokes every day Colbert) who can take any pop culture trash concept (a karate panda!) and add themes pulled out two millenia of the world culture, drama and philosophy. In other words, it’s the parochialism of China that prevents their current art from resonating with humanism.

  24. Rogelio says:

    The study on the costs of criminality only analyzes the direct and indirect economic costs of criminal actions. It’s interesting to keep in mind that it doesn’t measure the far greater costs of measures required to mitigate potential criminality. If no one committed crimes, we wouldn’t need security measures and enforcement bureaucracies to protect us from potential criminality. For example, you wouldn’t need to lock your house or your car, you wouldn’t need police or regulatory enforcement, you wouldn’t have ghettos because no one would fear to go through any neighborhood, stores would never bother closing because everyone would just take their goods and leave the appropriate payment even without a cashier, etc. Obviously there would still be courts, because many disputes don’t involve criminal behavior from either party, but life in such a society would be almost unimaginably different.

    This is essentially one of those “seen vs. unseen” situations. Would GDP actually be higher if we had no crimes? Probably it would be much higher, but the actual change in the mixture of consumed goods would dramatically dwarf the change in GDP, because instead of being employed as a policeman (which is part of GDP), all those people would be employed providing goods or services that improve people’s lives. People frequently make arguments that run afoul of this principle (the broken window fallacy) when it comes to policy.

    From one perspective, it’s kind of silly to imagine what the world would look like without crime, because crime is an inflexible part of human nature. But pondering the thought experiment may be worthwhile in considering what outcomes you can expect in nations that have high degrees of social trust or much higher IQs. It provides an anchor for the edge of a continuum with corrupt failed nation-states on the other end.

    • Michael Terry says:

      Oh man, you left out my favorite category of security costs, digital security. Whenever people talk about security on the Internet, the righteous seem to rarely acknowledge the costs to requiring a given level of putative security. From transmission and storage costs of encrypted information to keeping track and losing passwords to great ideas shot down due to the complexity or inability to develop them “securely”, the costs are enormous.

      • Jeffrey Soreff says:

        A portion of that, albeit a small portion, would be needed even if no
        crime existed. One wants write-protection in computer systems as
        long as there is one buggy program anywhere on the net…

    • Anonymous says:

      you wouldn’t have ghettos because no one would fear to go through any neighborhood

      Wait . . . is this really why there are ghettos?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think it’s just removing a definitional included property of the popular conception of “ghetto”.

        I really poor area of town with no crime is, I don’t know, the South Williamsburg Hassidic neighborhood of Brooklyn.

      • Houshalter says:

        I think yes. A huge part of “white flight” is fear of crime. Neighborhoods get segregated by race and income, people move to suburbs to get away from dense cities, and rich people live in gated communities. There are other reasons for all of this of course, but I think the main one is just the fear of crime and desire to live in a place that feels safe.

        Another huge cost to society is that people don’t let their kids outside anymore. They are so afraid of abductors that kids now get very little independence or exercise.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          They are so afraid of abductors

          Which includes the police, when the neighbors call the cops because there is an unattended child loose.

    • Chalid says:

      Good post.

  25. badkender says:

    When the “religious kids are less altruistic” study got published, I wrote a quick summary of problems in it, building on other critics. I believe that some of those are even worse than those covered by Sharif et al. (which are quite damning already, I had missed the continuous-variable treatment of countries).

  26. hlynkacg says:

    It may seem a little weird considering the state of modern “fast food” but Colonel Sanders had a famously low opinion to frozen/pre-packaged food.

    The “wallpaper paste” comment was his purported response to learning that KFC’s corporate leadership had decided that the restaurants would no longer make their gravy “in house”.

    • LPSP says:

      Having just read his Wikipedia page through and through, he was a character right to the end. I didn’t know that he and his wife set up a rival chain using the original KFC recipe, and that the restaurant still exists to this day under a modified name; OR that Sanders had a friend attempt to recreate his recipe, which largely succeeded and has been stated by researchers as identical to the original, which can be bought under an innocuous tradename.

      It’s also weird to think that I’ve probably made more complicated fried chicken flavourings just by mucking around as a student. Clearly the KFC secret is deep fat frying.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Fat and protein with a layer of carbohydrates is just about the most tempting thing to the monkey brain evolved in an environment of scarcity.

      • onyomi says:

        “Clearly the KFC secret is deep fat frying.”

        I can’t imagine a restaurant making fried chicken any other way? I mean, yes, you can fry chicken in relatively shallow oil at home, but that seems like it would be super inefficient for a restaurant, anyway.

        Though I think KFC pressure fries, actually?

        Popeye’s, of course, is much better, anyway…

        • LPSP says:

          On the one hand, I’m not sure how my effort to type “pressure cooking” came out as “deep fat frying”. On the other, the fact that dff is an obvious trait of all fast food chickun is kind of the gag, Ony.

        • Gbdub says:

          The pressure cooker frying was the innovation, let him cook it fast enough for a truck stop diner.

  27. TK-421 says:

    The hurricane article says major hurricanes are “storms with 111 mph winds or stronger”. While that’s a convenient metric for meteorologists, I wonder how good a proxy it is for the ultimate severity of the storm’s effects. If you took all the hurricanes from the same time period and compared the cost of the damage they each caused (adjusted for inflation, and maybe normalized as percent of GDP or something), would that metric show any interestingly different behavior?

    Assuming the lower frequency of high wind-speed storms is a real effect and not just a statistical jiggle, my completely uninformed and off-the-cuff hypothesis is: higher variability of weather patterns makes it harder for strong storms to organize and persist stably, so they end up burning themselves out faster.

    • bluto says:

      I think having a windspeed standard is usefull because a storm damage index can be biased by weaker storms doing more damage because they’re hitting ill prepared areas. If city A has building code that is intended to survive the median storm with 120mph winds and city B has bulding code to survive only 35mph winds there could be a significant increase in inflation adjusted storm damage because a typical 115mph wind storm hit city B instead of city A or opposite if the storm hits city A.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Well, that and a lot of hurricanes just blow themselves out at sea without ever hitting land.

        Category 5s that just go in circles in the mid-atlantic do a lot less damage than a category one that hits a populated area.

  28. The original Mr. X says:

    r/evilbuildings

    Do they include that house in Wales that looks like Adolf Hitler?

  29. William O. B'Livion says:

    > IF you’re anxiously awaiting Civilization 6, there’s a good compendium of all available information
    > about the game here.

    I’m still playing version 2.

    • roystgnr says:

      If you have a slightly-decent video card, you should try 4 with its expansions. IMHO it had everything that was right about 2 but with the incentives for Infinite City Sprawl removed and with several interesting gameplay mechanics added.

      I’m playing 5 right now and I played 3 before, and both are good games with their own pros and cons, but except for the unnecessarily bloated system requirements 4 was strictly better than 2.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        My “main” computer is a 27″ iMac from 2009.

        I’m waiting for it to cool off to start using this old Dell I have, but I’ve already got 3 computers running on my desk, the keyboard and mouse logistics for 4 is a little difficult.

  30. FooQuuxman says:

    Are we allowed to breathlessly plug stuff? Because I’ve been turned into a memebot who must breathlessly plug something.

    If you like puzzle games, or AI stories, or non-in-your-face-pretentious basic philosophy, you should go play The Talos Principle. It is available for Linux/PC/Mac/Ps4/Android. And is really really good. The philosophy won’t blow the mind of anyone who would spend time here, but the execution is fantastic.

    The gameplay is good, and I’m not even all that fond of puzzle games.
    The story is good sci-fi, and actually gives a compelling reason for why you are solving these puzzles.
    The two main endings are: (1: Good in a “totally called that, because that is exactly what should happen” way), and (2: Good because it pays off all of the buildup throughout the game, and storywise before the beginning of the game as well).
    The game makes excellent use of visual storytelling when relevant. The first reveal can be discovered within a couple minutes if the player is paying attention.
    The soundtrack is glorious.
    The “success” ending is easily on par with ME2’s Suicide Mission for shear grin inducing epicness.
    I don’t think this story could be done as well in another medium. You could do something very close, but not this story.
    There is an easter egg with a kitten. You don’t want to be known as a kitten hater do you?

    Please play The Talos Principle. The memebot needs you, it looks up to you.

    • roystgnr says:

      I’ve actually put down The Talos Principle halfway through; the phrase “easily on par with ME2’s Suicide Mission” may convince me to come back, though.

      It started to feel a bit repetitive to me, but more critically, it felt “a lot like Portal but not quite as good”; this would still have been an incredible compliment if Portal and Portal 2 had never existed, but they do and so it felt derivative.

      • FooQuuxman says:

        It’s worth noting that the wonder of the ending is going to depend quite a bit on how invested you are in the story. It also helps if you are a sucker for plots where many different threads start lining up[1], or for a certain trope which I can’t say without spoiling the story for others because it is the core of the plot :-/ (if you are half way through it should be obvious what one I’m talking about).

        [1]: The multi-kick scene near the end of Inception, or positioning the characters at the end of Revenge of the Sith being useful examples.

    • LPSP says:

      Let me finish A Metroid 2 Remake by tommorrow or so, and I’ll get round to it.

    • I also played and enjoyed The Talos Principle. I personally found one or two puzzle solutions to be unfair, in that the game normally does a great job of leading you through how you can interact with world elements but sometimes sneaks an extra method in without drawing attention to it, but keeping this in mind and looking for features that would be sequence-break-y can actually lead you to intended secrets and shortcuts in this game.

      I need to replay this and pick up the Serious Voice Pack at some point.

    • Vitor says:

      Well, this is a link thread, it’s doesn’t exist just to discuss Scott’s picks, I hope.

      I’m not surprised to hear that The Talos Principle is good, it has been on my to-play list for a while actually. The writer for the game, Jonas Kyratzes, is an indie game dev and writer who has created lots of weird and wonderful things.

  31. Tekhno says:

    EDIT: Meant to go in Open Thread. Sorry.

    • Anon. says:

      Well, Hitler allied with the Japanese, right? I think we can safely infer that he would love anime. He also didn’t have any kids. So he fits “Childless Single Men Who Masturbate to Anime” pretty well. Hitler would love the alt-right.

  32. Troy says:

    Possibly the best thing on Twitter: this bot finds posts unintentionally written in iambic pentameter, and then rewteets them to rhyme: https://twitter.com/pentametron?lang=en

  33. Alex Zavoluk says:

    ” There have been no major hurricanes in the US for 11 years”

    Sandy?

    • pku says:

      Sandy was only a tropical storm when it made landfall. A major hurricane is defined as something that’s a category 3 or higher hurricane when making landfall (A definition just arbitrary enough that I’m inclined to regard this as a coincidence).

      • The Nybbler says:

        Sandy was neither a tropical storm nor a hurricane at landfall. It was a post-tropical cyclone. It still had the wind speed of a Category 1 hurricane, but it was no longer “tropical”. This interesting meteorological fact did not change the amount of damage its winds caused.

        Sandy had an unusually low central pressure and an unusually large storm surge (almost 9.5′ at the Battery in Manhattan) for a storm of its size. Hitting at high tide of course made it worse.

        But the definition of tropical storm categories is based entirely on wind speed, so even if it had not “gone extratropical” shortly prior to landfall, it would not have been a major hurricane.

    • bluto says:

      Not even a hurricane when it made landfall. It did lots of costly damage because it struck a wealthy city with significant underground infastructure, coincidentally with an incoming tide, that wasn’t as well prepared for a tropical storm strength storm.

      The definition for major hurricane is category 3 at landfall.

    • LPSP says:

      No, windy.

  34. Exit Stage Right says:

    On the DeBoer piece

    “To begin with, not only do the aggressively religious outnumber the aggressively atheistic by huge margins, they are also far more politically organized and influential.”

    The idea that one side is more powerful has nothing to do with which side is worse. The contention is that aggressive atheists are “just as bad” as aggressive theists, not “just as powerful”. This is mostly just pointing out that both sides are similarly mindkilled.

    On another note, comparing the aggressively atheistic to the aggressively theistic is one thing, but I’m doubtful of its importance. The use of the word “aggressively” seems like an attempt to capture the Dawkins and Harris group but leave out the secular governments and institutions that have the most influence in the world. Whats the belief system of these secular governments and institutions? Its not aggressive atheism or aggressive theism, surely, so what would you call it? Because thats the thing you should be afraid of.

    “I think far too many people who live in progressive urban enclaves and live online have developed this fantasy that angry atheists are as prevalent, powerful, and toxic as the worst elements of religion. And I just don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of reality”

    And I think thats pretty rich coming from someone who one paragraph earlier notes that religious influence exists in Indiana thats not present in Chicago. Which of those places is more politically and economically important? In fact, go ahead and line up all the Religiously-Influenced cities in the USA, then compare them to the ones that are Secular. Do that again for the whole planet. Then tell me again who the powerful are.

    “The Catholic Church alone is a vast entity with enormous resources that it uses strategically to alter the world”

    The Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of a Harvard or Yale. If its goal has been to strategically alter the world then you should take heart at how completely its failed to do so.

    If you’re going to point to an organized religion that actually fits this description and could be considered influential, you point to Islam, and thats about it.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      The Catholic Church spends about $170 billion each year in America, a sum four times larger than Harvard’s entire endowment. Your perception of the church’s influence is off by at least two orders of magnitude.

      • Sandy says:

        Harvard educates Presidents, Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices. It can easily be argued that this has a far stronger influence on both America and the world than anything the contemporary Catholic Church is capable of.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You really thought it would be a good idea to pick the Supreme Court as an example of the church’s lack of influence in America? Until Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court was two-thirds catholic. Both Scalia and Thomas attended Catholic colleges as undergraduates.

          But Exit Stage Right explicitly mentioned resources, and the wealth of the Catholic Church makes Harvard look like a Dollar Tree.

      • Exit Stage Right says:

        50 billion dollars as the operating budgets of Catholic universities is counted as spending by the Catholic Church? You really don’t want to get into how much secular university budgets total, do you? 100 billion spent by a Catholic health care provider. Please stop, you can’t be serious with this. I find it hard to believe you actually read the link you provided.

        A quick google search will tell you Harvards budget is ten times that of the Vaticans, and Harvard is ONE university. Its endowment is thirty times larger. Granted, the Church’s true wealth is not such a simple thing to figure out as those figures make it appear, but I feel comfortable playing fast and loose like that considering its apparently legit to throw the Catholic Health Association of the United States into the pot.

        Thank you for demonstrating how uninterested you are in an actual discussion so quickly and efficiently

        • Earthly Knight says:

          You really don’t want to get into how much secular university budgets total, do you?

          You said “the Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of a Harvard or Yale.” Did you mean to say “the Catholic Church wishes it had the resources of all secular universities combined“? That would have been less profoundly stupid, but it would not have been nearly so interesting a claim.

          A quick google search will tell you Harvards budget is ten times that of the Vaticans, and Harvard is ONE university

          The Vatican’s population is 558, while Harvard has around 21,000 students, 1400 staff, and 280 faculty. But this comparison is meaningless. The Catholic Church has “the resources of a Harvard” a hundred times over.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            I concede that my comparison should be apples to apples. Harvard alone is not worth the Church in resources. Granted, and if I could strike that sentence from my original post now I would. Or perhaps I would simply replace “resources” with “influence”.

            Conflating the Vatican with the Church is at least as fair as conflating the Church with CHA. Given that I’m guilty of what I accused you of, however, I’ll retract my doubts of your good faith as well.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        The direction of American, and European, society has been towards feminism, liberal divorce laws, abortion rights, gay marriage and transgender acceptance. While this represents the triumph of secular liberalism rather than “atheism” per se it exposes the startling lack of influence by religion in society.

        • pku says:

          Not unilaterally towards abortion rights – it’s worth noting that infanticide used to be common and is now considered unthinkable in the west.

        • Jill says:

          It does represent that. Another thing that it represents is the triumph of parties using social issues as ways to please their voters, when they are unwilling to please their voters on economic issues. Because people more important to politicians than voters are– the big donors– are demanding to get their own way on economic issues, no matter what the voters want.

          Another thing though is that it is fundamentalist religion that is against these liberal social issues– not all religion. Many religions are fine with LBGTQ people, divorce and/or abortion being legal for those who desire it etc.

          • BD Sixsmith says:

            …using social issues as ways to please their voters…

            Voters, in their millions, tend to come around to these things once they have been accepted by the cultural elite – a cultural elite that has become increasingly secular.

            Many religions are fine with LBGTQ people, divorce and/or abortion being legal for those who desire it etc.

            I don’t know if many religions are so much as many religious people are but that is certainly true.

          • Anonymous says:

            Voters, in their millions, tend to come around to these things once they have been accepted by the cultural elite

            Replacing “the cultural elite” with “their neighbors and friends” makes this statement much more likely to be true.

      • Maware says:

        Much of that is in administering its land holdings, and paying salaries I think. If anything, parishes and schools have been closing and consolidating in recent years. The Church in America owns a lot of land, mostly.

    • Montfort says:

      People who want secular government are not all atheists, as you seem to be implying. They’re not even mostly atheists. Secular government vs religious government is a rather different subject not addressed by the essay.

      • Exit Stage Right says:

        I did say that aggressive atheism was not the belief system of secular governments, which is not exactly the same point, but I think my statement is more relevant here.

        People who want secular governments can certainly be and often are theists, just as people who believe the Church is on net a social good can be atheists, but that doesnt really speak to the character of the government or the Church.

        The essay is discussing the Dawkins and Harris set. But what most people perceive as the benign sort of atheist/agnostic, and the hordes of nonpracticing Christians, Jews and Muslims who are their cousins, is I believe much more important socially than either fervent theism or fervent atheism.

        • Montfort says:

          I agree that harmful religion- and atheism- directed behaviors are relatively rare in the US today. But are you arguing that there’s a large category of harmful secularism-directed behavior (e.g. people going up to devout believers and atheists and shouting at them to shut up about their beliefs, cutting remarks that real people never think about religion at all), or just saying that there are bigger issues in general? I think deBoer would agree with the second, given the contents of his blog.

    • Troy says:

      The other strange thing in DeBoer’s post — shared in common with “new atheist” reasoning generally — is an apparent assumption that once we’ve enumerated some bad things religion has done, we can conclude that it’s a net negative force on society. He doesn’t say this in so many words, but this seems to be the pragmatic implication of quotes like “The Catholic Church alone is a vast entity with enormous resources that it uses strategically to alter the world. And many of its goals are contrary to my conception of the public good. Bill Maher is a jerk with a television show. Christianity is an army with many soldiers, and Christianity is just one religion.”

      Grant for the sake of argument that Catholicism has had bad social effects in areas like contraception or abortion access (obviously a huge concession to social progressives already). The research on the psychology and sociology of religion is pretty clear that organized religions, and the social networks they create, contribute to social capital and pro-social behavior. Not to mention the explicitly charitable ventures of organized religions like the Catholic Church that even secular progressives should approve of (doesn’t Scott work at a Catholic hospital?), and it starts to look pretty implausible that these positive effects are outweighed by the Catholic Church’s advocacy for particular socially conservative laws and mores.

      • BD Sixsmith says:

        What is also ironic is that Mr deBoer fulminates about the Catholic Church while his only reference to Islam is in the context of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins’ supposed “Islamophobia”. I am not crudely anti-Islam, as it doubtless has personal and communal benefits for Muslims, and I accept that deBoer lives in America and not the Middle East, but there is only one faith that animates governors from Africa to South America to impose severe sanctions against women, homosexuals, nonbelievers et cetera, and that inspires many of its believers to violence.

        Mr deBoer also asserts that “Marxism’s traditional, black-letter atheism” holds that “religion exists for the few to exercise power over the many”. I can’t believe I am defending Marx but even he maintained no such boorish illusions. He maintained that men were naturally inclined towards religion in capitalist societies to console themselves in a “heartless world” and “soulless conditions”. Sadly, he decided that communist revolution would be a much better substitute. We know how that turned out.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          there is only one faith that animates governors from Africa to South America to impose severe sanctions against women, homosexuals, nonbelievers et cetera, and that inspires many of its believers to violence.

          –Christian Uganda recently passed a law imposing a life sentence for homosexuality. If not for western countries threatening to cut aid, the punishment would have been death. A number of other Christian countries in Africa also criminalize homosexuality. Several US states did, too, less than twenty years ago.

          –In Burma, the Buddhist majority routinely carries out pogroms– sometimes led by Buddhist monks— against a Muslim ethnic minority, the Rohingyas.

          –Hindus lead pogroms against Muslims or Sikhs in India about once a decade.

          –The troubles in Ireland also were not so long ago.

          • Troy says:

            @Earthly Knight: I believe BD’s claim was that Islam is the only religion that has these kinds of effects almost everywhere it is practiced, or at least across a wide range of contexts.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The first claim is false, the latter is too vague to have a truth value. I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of religious violence carried out in the world today is carried out in the name of Islam, though.

          • Troy says:

            I agree with you that the first claim is false, but it is plausible that Islam tends to have these negative effects more often than other religions (though separating out the role of religion and culture here is very tricky).

          • Jill says:

            Actually it could be tribalism. Some of these terrorists consider other Muslims to be infidels, and want to kill them too, because they are not from the same sect.

          • Troy says:

            It’s quite possible — tribalism is a very plausible cultural factor — but (sadly) killing one’s co-religionists does not rule out a religious motive for one’s behavior.

          • Jill says:

            True. It doesn’t entirely rule it out. But it does give the impression of people very willing to splinter off into groups and subgroups in order to fight and kill people. A sort of group chip on the shoulder way of not co-existing.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That’s the problem with the previous poster saying “there’s only one faith that…” or “there’s only one political philosophy that…” There are jackasses of all faiths and all political philosophies; there are always people who will take a statement of the greatest pacifism and generosity and use it to brutalize their fellow man. So a universalizing statement like that is trivially false and everyone knows it.

            However, for the same reason, it is of little value to triumphantly contradict the universalizing statement.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Islam is the only religion that has these kinds of effects almost everywhere it is practiced

            The country with the Muslims in the world is Indonesia and I don’t hear about religious violence there that often.

          • Aapje says:

            That’s probably due to the bias in the news sources that you consume. Indonesia has quite a bit of religious violence:

            https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/08/25/president-yudhoyonos-blind-side-religious-violence-indonesia

        • Anthony says:

          DeBoer manages to mention Marxism without once mentioning the damage that militant atheists of the Markist stripe did worldwide, after he’d already made the discussion broader than what’s happening in the U.S.

          He used to be better than that.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        it starts to look pretty implausible that these positive effects are outweighed by the Catholic Church’s advocacy for particular socially conservative laws and mores.

        The correct question isn’t whether a religion’s benefits outweigh its harms, it’s whether the world is better on balance with the religion than it would be without it. This is probably too big and complicated a counterfactual to get any purchase on, but that means the answer isn’t obviously “yes.”

        • Troy says:

          The correct question isn’t whether a religion’s benefits outweigh its harms, it’s whether the world is better on balance with the religion than it would be without it.

          I think I’m happy to accept the question change, but the answer still seems to me to be pretty clearly “yes,” on the basis of mostly the same evidence.

          • Troy says:

            Yeah, I think economic prosperity (I assume that’s what you’re getting at) and atheism probably have common causes (at least within the background context of Western civilization), such as IQ. Prosperity is probably also a cause of atheism.

            We can’t run RCTs on religion, but studies that control for variables like race, education level, and so on (as well as many that don’t) tend to find positive correlations of religiosity (especially church attendance) with charitable giving and other forms of pro-social behavior, and negative correlations with criminality, substance abuse, depression, and so on. (These studies, however, are mostly done in the context of American and European cultures, and so one might question their universal applicability.)

            There might be a case to be made that certain forms of religion decrease economic growth — and Catholicism here would be a good bet — but by that light, other forms seem to increase it (the Protestant work ethic). But I’m at any rate inclined to treat economic prosperity as less important than social capital, although I grant that others may reasonably place different weights on these.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ve also seen lots of correlational studies finding that zealous Christians score better on various indices of well-being than people who are too lazy to go to church. These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. In particular, they tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists, or what the world would look like if everyone decided to cut God out of their lives tomorrow.

            The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

          • Troy says:

            These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. In particular, they tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists, or what the world would look like if everyone decided to cut God out of their lives tomorrow.

            Absent psychology wholly explaining the correlation, I don’t see how these studies “tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists,” given that principled atheists are among the people studied in such research. Maybe your suggestion is that psychology does wholly explain the correlation. I’m open to the possibility of personality being a common cause, and I’d be interested to see the results of studies attempting to control for that. But:

            (1) We don’t just have correlational data between religion and pro-sociality; there are plausible mechanisms for the social aspect of religion in particular to have these effects, consistent with background knowledge in other domains about the benefits of having strong social ties with others.

            (2) Psychology is presumably already going to be partly controlled for by controlling for things like education and income.

            (3) There are also wide-scale sociological studies purporting to show pro-social effects of religion when other variables are controlled for, such as the one about belief in hell leading to less crime that got press a few years ago, and Robert Woodberry’s “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” I suppose some of these correlations could be the result of different societal psychologies, but this seems even more unlikely than above after other things are controlled for. And Woodberry’s essay, which is very careful (I haven’t read the hell paper; can’t comment on it), makes an explicitly causal argument, because he’s looking at the historical growth (via missionaries) of Protestant Christianity.

            The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

            It doesn’t show any such thing. As I’m sure you know, A can be a significant cause of B and yet be negatively correlated with B when nothing else is controlled for. This is especially the case when B is itself a cause of ~A. A large police presence has a strong negative effect on crime, but since high levels of crime cause large police presences, places with larger police presences tend to be places with higher levels of crime.

            And anyway, all you’ve provided is a map of Europe by religious belief, not an actual measure of the correlation between religious belief and GDP, self-reported happiness, or some other measure of well-being.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I don’t see how these studies “tell us nothing about how the faithful compare to principled atheists,” given that principled atheists are among the people studied in such research.

            Uh, knowing the average well-being of atheists and people too lazy to go to church tells us next to nothing about the well-being of the groups when disaggregated, just as a matter of logic. The average (Swede or Nigerian) is quite poor; what does this tell us about Swedes?

            Maybe your suggestion is that psychology does wholly explain the correlation. I’m open to the possibility of personality being a common cause, and I’d be interested to see the results of studies attempting to control for that.

            I like the idea that it’s incumbent on critics of an obviously-confounded correlational study to show that the confounding factors are indeed the causes of the observed effects. No, your evidence is garbage, get better evidence.

            (1) We don’t just have correlational data between religion and pro-sociality; there are plausible mechanisms for the social aspect of religion in particular to have these effects, consistent with background knowledge in other domains about the benefits of having strong social ties with others.

            There’s a plausible-sounding explanation for any result, if you’re creative enough. This tells us nothing. And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not. You can’t get any insight into causation by piling up poorly-conducted correlational studies, no matter how high the stack gets. It just doesn’t work that way.

            (2) Psychology is presumably already going to be partly controlled for by controlling for things like education and income.

            To some degree, but unless we know going in the effects of conscientiousness and extroversion on well-being (P) and how much controlling for education and income (C) will reduce those effects, we have no idea how the residual effects of the personality variables (R) should compare to the the observed difference in well-being between churchgoers and the apathetic (O). What manner of algebra do you practice that you think you can determine whether P – C = R is less than O when you know only the value of O?

            It doesn’t show any such thing. As I’m sure you know, A can be a significant cause of B and yet be negatively correlated with B when nothing else is controlled for.

            Sure, but look at the details of the map more carefully, there are natural controls. The Scandinavian states share a culture and a history, but vary substantially when it comes to religiosity. Yet they are more or less identical when it comes to income and happiness. The same goes for the Baltic states. Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial. Oil does a lot more for the Norwegians than God does for the Finns!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            These are so badly confounded by personality variables that the authors’ time would have been better spent writing erotic Adventure Time fanfiction. […] The map of Europe suffices to show that either religion makes things considerably worse, or (what seems more likely) that the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.

            So wait, comparisons of people in the same country are hopelessly biased by confounding factors, but comparisons of people in entirely different countries aren’t? Come on.

            And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not.

            Yeah, you’ve got me there. I just cannot think of how meeting up with a group of like-minded people once or more a week could possibly cause the creation of new social ties.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial.

            Even if that’s true, it’s still a significant departure from what both Dawkins et al. and deBoer are saying.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            So wait, comparisons of people in the same country are hopelessly biased by confounding factors, but comparisons of people in entirely different countries aren’t?

            International comparisons have the advantage that they should not be much confounded by personality variables, unless Iceland is a nation of extroverts and Denmark a nation of neurotics.

            Notice also that the explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. The obviously lack of parsimony in this explanation should lead us to become more confident that the null hypothesis– that religion has no or negligible impact on well-being– is true. In general, if you posit a causal relationship between two sociological variables, it is a very bad thing if clusters of culturally similar nations which differ with respect to the one variable do not differ with respect to the other. Troy is correct that it is not absolutely decisive, but it makes the burden of proof much steeper.

            Yeah, you’ve got me there. I just cannot think of how meeting up with a group of like-minded people once or more a week could possibly cause the creation of new social ties.

            Sorry, my original formulation was imprecise. The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            International comparisons have the advantage that they should not be much confounded by personality variables, unless Iceland is a nation of extroverts and Denmark a nation of neurotics.

            They also introduce cultural differences and various other confounders, none of which you want to consider because doing so wouldn’t help your argument.

            Sorry, my original formulation was imprecise. The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

            So, when a piece of data seems to back up your position you just accept it without question; when it doesn’t, you come up with (wholly unsupported) conjectures to explain it away (“Maybe those people would be happier anyway! Maybe they would meet friends some other way!”).

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of religion from us.

            This argument cuts both ways, you know — if religion has negative social effects, like Freddie deBoer says, we’d expect it to show up in international comparisons. That it doesn’t suggests, etc.

            Plus, you seem to be using an unreasonably high bar for counting X as a benefit of religion — that, if you can come up with a hypothetical scenario where people still get X without being religious, then clearly X can’t be a benefit of religion. But this doesn’t follow at all. You might as well say “Sure, Hitler started WW2, but it’s perfectly conceivable that some alternate leader of Germany would have started a war of a similar scale, therefore we shouldn’t take WW2 into account when assessing Hitler as a leader.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            They also introduce cultural differences and various other confounders, none of which you want to consider because doing so wouldn’t help your argument.

            What do you think was the point of comparing the Baltic nations and the Scandinavian nations independently if not to partially control for cultural differences? Actually, it’s not obvious to me that the international cultural differences between Finns and Swedes or between Latvians and Lithuanians will be larger than the intranational cultural differences between churchgoers and non-churchgoers in the US. Troy hasn’t actually produced any studies, so we can’t see if they control for urbanness, region, or political affiliation.

            This argument cuts both ways, you know — if religion has negative social effects, like Freddie deBoer says, we’d expect it to show up in international comparisons.

            You seem to be confused about the view I’m defending, namely that we have no reason to doubt that “the effects of religion, whatever their sign, are swamped by other factors.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What do you think was the point of comparing the Baltic nations and the Scandinavian nations independently if not to partially control for cultural differences?

            If you compared, say, Americans from Appalachia and Americans from Bay Area California, you’d find important cultural differences, even though they’re both from the same country. Why assume that there won’t be important cultural* differences between different Scandinavian countries?

            * Or even, for that matter, genetic. No reason HBD wouldn’t apply to different European countries.

            Troy hasn’t actually produced any studies, so we can’t see if they control for urbanness, region, or political affiliation.

            Well, all you’ve produced so far is a map of Europe which included no information on how the data was gathered or what they controlled for. Motes, beams, etc.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do you really want to make “comparisons between countries are less confounded than comparisons within countries” your stake in the ground?

          • Troy says:

            There’s a plausible-sounding explanation for any result, if you’re creative enough. This tells us nothing.

            It tells us about prior probability. According to Bayes’ Theorem, the probability of some hypothesis in light of evidence predicted to some degree by that hypothesis is a function both of the prior probability of the hypothesis and how likely the evidence is on both the hypothesis and its negation. You can’t get a posterior probability just from the latter “likelihoods.” Prior judgments of plausibility play an ineliminable role, and so background knowledge matters. Otherwise we would have no way to rule out, for example, contrived explanations designed to fit the data exactly. These explanations cannot be ruled out by the data, to which they perfectly conform; they’re ruled out because they’re antecedently unlikely.

            I like the idea that it’s incumbent on critics of an obviously-confounded correlational study to show that the confounding factors are indeed the causes of the observed effects.

            All studies are confounded. It is impossible to control for every possible variable, because the list of possible confounders is indefinite. Even RCTs do not eliminate all possible confounders, and only eliminate particular confounders with high probability.

            The question is whether, in a particular case, it is plausible that a particular confounder is responsible for a result. I have already said that I’m open to psychology having causal effects here, and I’d be interested in the results of investigations into that. But for reasons I’ve already given, I think that it’s antecedently plausible that religion would have the mentioned effects, the data we have is consistent with that hypothesis, and that data comes from different cases, some of which are such that the plausibility of a psychological common cause is low. So I think it’s highly unlikely that psychology wholly explains the correlations in question. This argument isn’t conclusive, and is open to empirical disconfirmation, but I’m working with the evidence which I have currently available to me.

            And even if we knew that social ties cause improvements in well-being, which we do not, this is still unhelpful unless we also have independent reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties, which we do not.

            One of the most basic functions of churches is the creation of social networks; this is obvious to anyone who has been involved in churches. It’s pretty hard to even conceive of organized religion in a way that the creation of new social groups is not one of its primary functions. If we turn to more formal studies, we certainly know from observational studies (e.g., Robert Putnam’s American Grace) that religious involvement correlates with more extensive social networks. And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks. One’s involvement in a church youth group is obviously a result of one’s churchgoing, inasmuch as the group only exists because of the church.

            Uh, knowing the average well-being of atheists and people too lazy to go to church tells us next to nothing about the well-being of the groups when disaggregated, just as a matter of logic. The average (Swede or Nigerian) is quite poor; what does this tell us about Swedes?

            Fair enough. I will note that you can always subdivide groups further; and the question then becomes whether it’s plausible that there are causally relevant differences between them (such as personality). But in this case I think it is well-motivated, although I’m less confident that the atheists are going to in general have higher average well-being than the non- or rarely-church-going theists, inasmuch as there are also studies purporting to find positive effects of the cognitive aspects of religion in addition to its social aspects. I suspect that there are variables in the GSS that could be used to control for the relative effects of theistic belief and religious practice, if you or anyone else would care to have a go at it.

            To some degree, but unless we know going in the effects of conscientiousness and extroversion on well-being (P) and how much controlling for education and income (C) will reduce those effects, we have no idea how the residual effects of the personality variables (R) should compare to the the observed difference in well-being between churchgoers and the apathetic (O).

            Sure, I agree that we can’t be confident in very precise claims here without this other data. I don’t know the literature on the correlations between personality and these other factors, but I’d be interested in the perspective of anyone who does.

            The Scandinavian states share a culture and a history, but vary substantially when it comes to religiosity. Yet they are more or less identical when it comes to income and happiness. The same goes for the Baltic states. Whatever the effects of religion, they’re almost certainly trivial. Oil does a lot more for the Norwegians than God does for the Finns!

            Thanks; those graphs are more helpful. It’s not clear to me that the differences in religiosity between these countries is great enough to make a big difference, although I’m just going off of Wikipedia here. According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 18% of Swedes, 22% of Norwegians, 28% of Danes, and 33% of Finns believed in God. The page for Iceland says “39.4% of Icelanders said they believe in the existence of a benevolent god to whom one can pray”; this looks like a different poll. The difference between the low end and the high end isn’t trivial, but it’s not huge either (and according to this page, the ranking of these countries is Denmark-Iceland-Norway-Finland-Sweden, which seems to weakly correlate with theistic belief). But I can’t find good data on church attendance, which given the evidence already discussed I would expect to be the more important variable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Incidentally, let’s take a quick look at Denmark’s religious beliefs (via Wiki):

            Believe in “God”: 28%
            Believe in “some sort of spirit or life force”: 47%
            Don’t believe in either: 24%

            Now, it seems that a lot of the stuff about religion and happiness lumps the latter two categories together. But, it’s not entirely clear to me why we should treat “belief in some sort of spirit or life force” as being more akin to atheism than to belief in God. So, sure, you can say “Look, only 28% of Danes believe in God, and they’re one of the happiest countries in the world”, but you could also say, with at least as much accuracy, “Look, a vast majority of Danes — 76% — reject atheism in favour of supernatural belief”.

            (Cf. also “lies, damned lies, and statistics”.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Mr. X

            If you compared, say, Americans from Appalachia and Americans from Bay Area California, you’d find important cultural differences, even though they’re both from the same country. Why assume that there won’t be important cultural* differences between different Scandinavian countries?

            There are inevitably going to be some, although your analogy is terrible– the Scandinavian countries (nevermind Iceland) all fall within a 8 percentage point range so far as urbanization goes, the Baltic nations a 3-point range. That’s okay, though. It’s entirely possible that nature has ingeniously engineered the cultures of the four and three countries to conceal the happiness-promoting powers of faith, but prima facie unlikely, for the reasons given above.

            Well, all you’ve produced so far is a map of Europe which included no information on how the data was gathered or what they controlled for.

            All of the sources can be found on the websites accompanying the images, additionally, the source for the happiness data is superimposed on the map itself. None of them used any sort of statistical control; I have no idea what you would expect reports of GDP per capita or belief in God to control for.

            @ Jaskologist

            Do you really want to make “comparisons between countries are less confounded than comparisons within countries” your stake in the ground?

            Who thinks that? I certainly don’t.

          • Troy says:

            Responding to the later discussion:

            I largely agree with others that there are likely to be a lot more significant confounders, which are much harder to control for, with studies comparing different countries than studies comparing different individuals.

            On the subject of particular studies, I’ve mentioned a few mostly sociological works above, but the most extensive overview of the empirical psychological studies I know is Hood et al.’s The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. Chapters 12-13 (of the 4th edition) are focused on religion and morality and religion and health, although there are relevant studies discussed elsewhere in the book too.

            The only other thing I want to respond to specifically is this:

            The claim is that we do not have evidence that churchgoing causes people to have significantly more social ties than they would have otherwise. This is because, for all we know, most parishioners would join secular social groups if they didn’t go to church. They might go down to the sports bar on Sunday to watch the football game instead, for instance.

            I think we do have evidence for this. I am virtually certain, though I know of no data on this in particular, that you would find strong correlations between church attendance and total time spent doing non-work related activities outside of one’s home. That non-church attenders do not compensate by forming other social networks of the same breadth and depth is again antecedently plausible for those of us who have experience with churches; my high school friends who stopped going to church after moving out on their own tended to have much reduced social networks compared to my friends who continued going to church. Related research on the kinds of institutions which are successful in creating social networks is also relevant here; see, for instance, Rodney Stark’s research on how churches which make more demands on their members are much more successful in retaining members than others, because people crave the kind of transcendence of purpose present in more demanding communities. Bowling leagues, say (which have been on the decline — Putnam’s eponymous example in Bowling Alone), do not evoke the same feelings in their members, and so they are less successful.

            As for direct evidence, attending church and having social networks correlate, as discussed in Putnam’s aforementioned book, and there’s been a decline in both around the same time, which is some evidence for a causal connection. I think Charles Murray also talks about the declining religiosity of the lower classes and the breakdown in social ties in Coming Apart, although I haven’t read that.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Troy

            Prior judgments of plausibility play an ineliminable role,

            If by “prior judgment of plausibility” you mean reasonable inferences from background knowledge, I agree. If you mean it to include whatever weird prejudices you’ve picked up over the years, you’re pointing to a flaw in Bayesian epistemology, not a reason for trusting the weird prejudices.

            But for reasons I’ve already given, I think that it’s antecedently plausible that religion would have the mentioned effects,

            That’s great. How do we know that your judgments of plausibility are rational and not motivated by superstition or intransigence?

            that data comes from different cases, some of which are such that the plausibility of a psychological common cause is low.

            Which? Where?

            And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks.

            You haven’t shown causation in the first place. What evidence do you have that churches create more social ties than there would be in the absence of churches?

            I don’t know the literature on the correlations between personality and these other factors, but I’d be interested in the perspective of anyone who does.

            As you might expect, extroversion and conscientiousness are correlated with well-being. I would be amazed if they weren’t also correlated with church attendance. Another problem with believing in just-so stories is that you can’t evaluate the plausibility of explanations you haven’t considered or where you lack the relevant background knowledge.

            The difference between the low end and the high end isn’t trivial, but it’s not huge either (and according to this page, the ranking of these countries is Denmark-Iceland-Norway-Finland-Sweden, which seems to weakly correlate with theistic belief).

            The spread on the Baltic states is much larger, at 18% for Estonia versus 47% for Lithuania.

            @ Mr. X

            But, it’s not entirely clear to me why we should treat “belief in some sort of spirit or life force” as being more akin to atheism than to belief in God.

            Troy was speaking above of organized religion, in particular, churchgoing. Giving thanks to the nature spirit while burning incense and listening to new age music presumably does’t qualify.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Troy

            I largely agree with others that there are likely to be a lot more significant confounders, which are much harder to control for, with studies comparing different countries than studies comparing different individuals.

            I direct you to my response, earlier, to similar concerns:

            “The explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. The obvious lack of parsimony in this explanation should lead us to become more confident that the null hypothesis– that religion has no or negligible impact on well-being– is true. In general, if you posit a causal relationship between two sociological variables, it is a very bad thing if clusters of culturally similar nations which differ with respect to the one variable do not differ with respect to the other. Troy is correct that it is not absolutely decisive, but it makes the burden of proof much steeper.”

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States.

            is again antecedently plausible for those of us who have experience with churches; my high school friends who stopped going to church after moving out on their own tended to have much reduced social networks compared to my friends who continued going to church.

            Hell’s bells, part of your rationale for why we don’t need to worry about confounding by personality variables is an anecdote also confounded by personality variables! Have you considered that the friends who stopped going to church wound up with smaller social networks because both of these things are just ways of measuring extroversion?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Earlier UN happiness report on which the map is based; here the order is Denmark-Norway-Sweden-Finland. Devout Lithuania and irreligious Estonia are also adjacent on the list. Each batch of countries is so tightly clustered that any differences between them are going to be due to noise, though. So: fair evidence that the effects of religion on well-being, if there be any, are swamped by other factors.

            Twin study suggesting a causal relationship between personality and well-being.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. If I were a very religious person, I imagine I would find ways to believe that religion does wonderful things for people, no matter what the evidence or lack therof is.

            That’s an interesting thing about discussion/arguments among people. Some rather large percentage of them are like tennis matches, where people hit the ball back and forth, trying to make and defend various points. But regardless of who is correct, they both are determined to win, by being right about something that is important to them.

            Being right about something you think is important and identify with, is like survival. It’s survival of identity. So people fight as if their identity is their life, as if they must fight to survive. Truth isn’t anywhere near as important to humans or other animals, as survival.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re talking about a sample of ~4. Basically any correlation you pull out of that (and I note you haven’t actually run a correlation even on that data set) is going to be noise. As demonstrated when Mr. X was able to reverse the findings using a slightly different definition of theistic belief.

          • Troy says:

            If by “prior judgment of plausibility” you mean reasonable inferences from background knowledge, I agree.

            Clearly part of what is under dispute is whether these judgments are reasonable. I think that pointing to neighboring domains and examining what we know about causal mechanisms there is one of the best ways to make predictions about what we should expect in a domain.

            If you mean it to include whatever weird prejudices you’ve picked up over the years, you’re pointing to a flaw in Bayesian epistemology, not a reason for trusting the weird prejudices.

            If you don’t accept probability theory as a logic of plausible inference, then this is a large epistemological gap between us, but probably not one it’s worth getting into here.

            That’s great. How do we know that your judgments of plausibility are rational and not motivated by superstition or intransigence?

            I’ve given the bases of most of my plausibility judgments in earlier discussion.

            Which? Where?

            I was referring to the wide-scale sociological/historical studies, such as the one on hell and Woodberry’s “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” I’ll also add the roughly contemporaneous decline in both churchgoing and social networks in the United States, inasmuch as it’s not plausible that people’s personalities were changing en masse (though if you know of any studies of that, that would be interesting to examine!).

            You haven’t shown causation in the first place. What evidence do you have that churches create more social ties than there would be in the absence of churches?

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. This was an argument for causation, not one taking causation as a premise. I said “we certainly know from observational studies (e.g., Robert Putnam’s American Grace) that religious involvement correlates with more extensive social networks. And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks.” My point was that we know that A and B are correlated, and that it’s not plausible that this correlation is explained by a common cause or by B causing A. The only remaining explanation is that A causes B.

            Another problem with believing in just-so stories is that you can’t evaluate the plausibility of explanations you haven’t considered or where you lack the relevant background knowledge.

            This is a problem for science, not just “just-so stories.” It’s a fully general argument for skepticism, because there are always explanations you haven’t considered and areas where you lack the relevant background knowledge. Of course we should try to gain more relevant background knowledge when possible, and so I thank you for the paper, which I will try to read.

            The spread on the Baltic states is much larger, at 18% for Estonia versus 47% for Lithuania.

            There’s no apparent correlation on the report you link to, but on the aforementioned Wikipedia happiness ordering, belief in God correlates exactly with their happiness ordering. These appear to be the same report from different years (yours 2013, Wikipedia’s 2016). The 2015 report goes Lithuania-Estonia-Latvia, a partial correlation. I can’t find the equivalent data on the 2012 report.

            I still think this is probably not indicative of anything, though, because there are so many confounders, and as Jaskologist observes, the sample size is small.

            I direct you to my response, earlier, to similar concerns:

            “The explanation Troy must give for the similarities in outcomes among the Scandinavian and among the Baltic nations has become quite convoluted. He has to maintain:

            1. Religion improves well-being.
            2. There is some hidden variable driving people in predominantly atheist countries both to lose their religion and to lead better lives.
            3. The happiness-promoting effects of this hidden variable are everywhere nearly commensurate with the happiness-promoting effects of religion.

            In other words, we would have to believe that nature is actively conspiring to conceal the beneficial effects of faith from us. …”

            I don’t see how this addresses the concern that studies (or mere eyeballing, as we are doing here) comparing different countries will have more serious confounders than studies comparing different individuals. If I’m right that the risk of confounding in studies comparing different countries is very high, then that something like (2) should be the case is fairly likely. (I don’t know why you attribute (3) to me, since I haven’t defended any kind of general Cartesian-demon style skeptical scenario regarding the measurement of the different variables in question, and have in fact argued, in the course of giving reasons for (1), that in some cases we can tease out the different variables.)

            On the particular issue of similar levels of happiness in Nordic and Baltic countries, I still haven’t seen any data on whether there’s substantial variation in churchgoing among these countries, and so I don’t know whether there’s even a prima facie problem here. Churchgoing generally correlates with theistic belief, but with the spreads here I wouldn’t be confident without seeing numbers on the actual variable of interest.

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States.

            They have different governments and different laws. Presumably those are things that can make a big difference to happiness.

            Hell’s bells, part of your rationale for why we don’t need to worry about confounding by personality variables is an anecdote also confounded by personality variables! Have you considered that the friends who stopped going to church wound up with smaller social networks because both of these things are just ways of measuring extroversion?

            Most of the friends of whom I am thinking stopped going because they were atheists. But even if they did stop going because they weren’t extroverted, the fact that their social networks reduced, when presumably their introversion did not, would still suggest that their social networks reduced due to the thing that changed, namely their church attendance.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Jaskologists

            You’re talking about a sample of ~4.

            Both the happiness and religiosity data are based on samples of around 1000 respondents per country. We just have the data aggregated into four groups. There would be no trouble inferring from a comparison of the aggregated data for Somalia, Yemen, Norway and Sweden that inhabitants of a Scandinavian social democracy are happier than inhabitants of a failed state ruled by tribal warlords.

            @ Troy

            My point was that we know that A and B are correlated, and that it’s not plausible that this correlation is explained by a common cause or by B causing A.

            Oh, well in that case, you’re just mistaken. It’s quite plausible that extroversion could account for both church-attendance and size of social circle.

            The 2015 report goes Lithuania-Estonia-Latvia, a partial correlation.

            You’re reading way too much into minuscule differences between the countries. The point is that they’re all pretty much identical. As it happens, you’re also wrong about the 2013 data for the Baltic states, where the correlation between % theist and UN happiness score is ever-so-slightly negative:

            Estonia (18%, 5.426)
            Lithuania (47%, 5.426)
            Latvia (38%, 5.046)

            You are committed to the view that your hypothetical common cause of atheism and happiness perfectly mimics the happiness-promoting powers of the church. In particular, it exactly cancels out the effects of the large disparity in religiosity between Estonia and Lithuania, to the fourth significant figure. How plausible is this?

            They have different governments and different laws.

            So do US states. Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska. Your reasons for distrusting international comparisons are a fortiori reasons for distrusting the original studies you based your belief on.

            But even if they did stop going because they weren’t extroverted, the fact that their social networks reduced, when presumably their introversion did not, would still suggest that their social networks reduced due to the thing that changed, namely their church attendance.

            From your description, it sounds like their parents forced them to go to church when they were young, but as soon as they acquired some measure of autonomy they elected to stop going. This could very well be the effects of personality exerting themselves. But I’m not really interested in analyzing anecdotes about your own life. Your conclusions do not seem to have been arrived at on the basis of reliable methods, just strings of correlational studies with glaring confounds connected by tendentious speculation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Speaking of organised religion, 78% of Danes, 75% of Norwegians and 65% of Swedes are members of their respective state Churches, as opposed to less than 50% of Englishmen (via Wiki). According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest out of these four countries, followed by Norway, followed by Sweden, followed by the UK. Oh, looks like religion is correlated with happiness after all.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            –Membership in official state churches is not a useful proxy for anything. In some countries, newborn children whose parents are members of the state church are automatically enrolled.

            –Membership in the Church of England is actually much lower than the figure you quote, between 17%-38% depending on the measure used. This is because the UK has large populations of Presbyterians, Catholics, dissenters, and Muslims, while Scandinavia is overwhelmingly Lutheran (the Baltics are a mixture of Lutheran and Catholic).

            –This is not a game of cherrypicking data from whichever countries give you the results you want. The four Scandinavian and three Baltic states are uniquely similar in terms of history, government, wealth, demographics, and culture, making them an especially fertile proving ground for sociological hypotheses. It is also clear from the full maps of Europe that there’s going to be a negative correlation between religiosity and UN happiness scores, although I think this will be too confounded to be of much use.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There are inevitably going to be some, although your analogy is terrible– the Scandinavian countries (nevermind Iceland) all fall within a 8 percentage point range so far as urbanization goes, the Baltic nations a 3-point range.

            Oh well, good job that urbanisation is the only possible cultural variable between different regions, then.

            In truth, the four Scandinavian countries taken together and the three Baltic states taken together are probably more homogeneous in every respect except language than a cross-section of the United States. […] Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska.

            If you want to show that there are no confounding variables affecting the findings, you’ll need to do better than your gut instinct about a bunch of foreign countries you’ve apparently never lived in.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You are free to look up statistics on the Scandinavian and Baltic countries yourself. You will see that they are indeed nearly identical in all of the respects mentioned. There are a few stray differences (Norway’s oil wealth, Denmark’s population density, Lithuania’s Catholicism), but all things considered you couldn’t ask for a better natural experiment.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            –Membership in official state churches is not a useful proxy for anything.

            This comment got me thinking. If we’re trying to look at the effects organised religion has, then the number of people who tick “believe in God” on a survey is at least as bad a proxy as the number of people who notionally belong to their country’s official Church. Much better would be the percentage of people who regularly attend religious services.

            So I went and Googled it, and as best as I can tell, this is the approximate number of people who attend Sunday services:

            Denmark — 2.4%
            Norway — 2%
            Sweden — 2%
            Finland — 1.8%

            So, in terms of actual regular attendance, the difference between the most and least religious Scandinavian countries is only 0.6% — a low enough figure that I’m not at all sure that any effects on happiness levels resulting from religious variations would be detectable over the statistical noise.

            Tl;dr: Contrary to what you said earlier, no, the Scandinavian countries do not “vary substantially when it comes to religiosity”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            By the way, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ information website has a page about the influence of religion in Denmark:

            Compared with most other countries in the world, Denmark’s societal institutions and popular mentality have been shaped by Christianity to an exceptional degree. It can be asserted that religion is more firmly entrenched in Danish society than in many other countries.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The figure you’re citing is the percentage of the population which never misses church. What we want are the responses to this question, but I can’t get access to them anywhere.

          • Troy says:

            @Earthly Knight:

            Oh, well in that case, you’re just mistaken. It’s quite plausible that extroversion could account for both church-attendance and size of social circle.

            I think we’re reaching the point in the conversation where iterated commenting in these boxes is becoming unhelpful, because seeing the original context of a thread requires going back several comments, and instead we’re replying to particular comments without that context, which is leading us to go in circles.

            In this particular case, you can see what I was getting at by extending the quote from last comment: “And common causes or reverse causation are not plausible here because of the nature of many of these networks. [For example, o]ne’s involvement in a church youth group is obviously a result of one’s churchgoing, inasmuch as the group only exists because of the church.” In other words, I was not denying, and I do not deny, that one common cause of social networks and churchgoing in general is personality factors like extroversion. My point was that churches must also be a partial cause of greater social networks because some of the social networks that only church members are a part of, like church youth groups, are ones that are obviously effects of church membership.

            Just to avoid retreading more of the same ground by prompting another response I’ve already replied to: I made this comment in response to the claim that we did not have “reason to think that churchgoing causes the creation of new social ties.” This was prior to my response to your later point that we should look not just at whether churchgoing creates new social ties but also whether equally strong/extensive social ties would be created among those not going to church. So I wasn’t addressing that latter point here, although I agree that it’s a fair one. I then explained why I thought that is not the case in this comment.

            So do US states. Again, if I had to guess, I’d say that the Scandinavian governments are more similar on balance than the governments of (say) Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska. Your reasons for distrusting international comparisons are a fortiori reasons for distrusting the original studies you based your belief on.

            I’ve been expressing skepticism about drawing strong conclusions from comparisons of the different Scandinavian (or Baltic) countries. As far as I know I haven’t referenced a single study based on comparing different states, which would be the analogue of this.

            You are committed to the view that your hypothetical common cause of atheism and happiness perfectly mimics the happiness-promoting powers of the church. In particular, it exactly cancels out the effects of the large disparity in religiosity between Estonia and Lithuania, to the fourth significant figure. How plausible is this?

            Since these figures vary from year to year, it doesn’t seem surprising at all that in a particular year two states would have nearly identical figures. Presumably after the first significant digit, the remaining closeness is largely due to contingent circumstances that vary between the countries, perhaps from year to year. If there really are large differences in churchgoing within these groups — which I am still doubtful of — the baseline closeness may be somewhat surprising on the “religion causes happiness” hypothesis, but again, this is just one case (or two cases, if there are also large differences in Scandinavia). It’s far from a silver bullet.

            From your description, it sounds like their parents forced them to go to church when they were young, but as soon as they acquired some measure of autonomy they elected to stop going. This could very well be the effects of personality exerting themselves.

            The example would still be one in which not going to church leads to fewer social networks.

            The figure you’re citing is the percentage of the population which never misses church. What we want are the responses to this question, but I can’t get access to them anywhere.

            I agree that the data you’re after there would be the best, but I’m confident that Mr. X’s data, which is actually on churchgoing, correlates more strongly with this more fine-grained churchgoing data than does percentage of the country which believes in God.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I’ve been expressing skepticism about drawing strong conclusions from comparisons of the different Scandinavian (or Baltic) countries. As far as I know I haven’t referenced a single study based on comparing different states, which would be the analogue of this.

            No, a study of individual churchgoing with a sample drawn at random from the US population will be subject to exactly the same confounds, unless (a) geographical region and state are controlled for, or (b) geographical region and state are uncorrelated with church attendance (which we know going in is false). I’ve chosen to highlight personality variables because failure to control for them means your studies can’t possibly support the causal inferences you want. But there are going to be a lot of other problems, too.

            It’s far from a silver bullet.

            That’s fine– the correlational studies you’ve been alluding to are the evidential equivalent of safety scissors. The burden of proof on the religion-causes-happiness hypothesis has not been discharged: its apparent failure to explain real-world outcomes weighs against it, while the only evidence in its favor is hopelessly confounded and worthless.

            I’m confident that Mr. X’s data, which is actually on churchgoing, correlates more strongly with this more fine-grained churchgoing data than does percentage of the country which believes in God.

            You shouldn’t be. The numbers are so small that it’s all going to be noise.

        • SP says:

          @Earthly Knight

          Your last comment on this thread (timestamp 6:32am) seems hostile. Am I reading you right?

    • BD Sixsmith says:

      With apologies for spreading out over several comments what could have been said in one, I think something deBoer misses is the difference between “atheism as it is practiced in society as a whole” and “atheism as it is practiced in elite intellectual discourse”. In America at large, let alone the world, atheists are less aggressively evangelistic on the matter of their atheism than religious people can be the matter of their theism. Among the book-writing and seminar-teaching classes, however, it is often the other way around. I don’t think (though I am open to being corrected) that you will find the likes of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and John Haldane arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships, as Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian and Christopher Hitchens respectively have done about the Christian faith. These civilised men have never harmed believers, of course, but the obscurant intensity of their antitheism is important because they are (or were) well-placed to influence the culture. Campus bible bashers rarely have that power.

      • Troy says:

        In fairness, the atheistic counterparts to Plantinga, Swinburne, and Haldane are other philosophers, like John Mackie, William Rowe, Evan Fales, Bradley Monton, Graham Oppy, and Michael Ruse. These philosophers are generally careful, civil and charitable in their criticisms of theism, and not given to silly excesses of the above sort.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well, the religious counterparts of Dawkins et al. would presumably be authors of popularising religious books, like William Lane Craig or Alastair McGrath. I don’t recall any of them saying that atheism is a mental illness or that raising a child atheist is worse than molesting them.

          • Troy says:

            Fair enough. There may be less scholarly popular religious works that say equally silly stuff about atheism; I don’t read enough of that genre to now. But, on the other hand, Dawkins et al. are largely scientists, or at least educated men, who one would expect to know better (unlike, say, the author of The Shack — which I haven’t read and know virtually nothing about, but was the first non-scholarly popular Christian book to jump into my mind).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            That comment seems very incorrect to me.
            Edit: I removed a sarcastic characterization of the comment.

            Belief that the ills of the world are brought about by failure to worship God correctly is one of the classic hallmarks of conservative religious belief. All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

          • Agronomous says:

            All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

            We are now much more enlightened, and know that hurricanes and earthquakes are natural disasters and are not caused by unbelievers and apostates.

            Except the catastrophic-anthropogenic-climate-change unbelievers, who cause hurricanes, and the fracking apostates, who cause earthquakes.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Belief that the ills of the world are brought about by failure to worship God correctly is one of the classic hallmarks of conservative religious belief. All manner of the worlds ills, from poor economic performance to mass murder, to hurricanes and earthquakes are laid at the feet of unbelievers and apostates.

            That’s an interesting use of the passive voice. Laid at by whom, exactly?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @Agronomous:

            Hey, if it wasn’t for all those pesky religious people with their anti-science ways, we could have come up with ways to solve global warming already.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Well, it’s fairly bog-standard for conservative, fundamentalist religious figures to blame disasters on the actions of people who don’t worship in the proper way.

            This is by no means merely a Christian thing. I’m sure we could find Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. examples.

            If you explore the topic of theodicy, you realize that this used to be the common explanation for bad things. You didn’t sacrifice the right lamb, worshipped a golden calf, worked on the Sabbath, etc. God made bad things happen because humans did not follow his law. The followers of the Greek, Roman, Norse, etc. gods had much the same take on things.

            Once the idea of a triple-omni God comes in, then you start to need different explanations for why bad things happen (like free will), but there are still plenty of appeals to the old way of thinking.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well, it’s fairly bog-standard for conservative, fundamentalist religious figures to blame disasters on the actions of people who don’t worship in the proper way.

            That’s a couple of people blaming disasters on abortion, and one on gay marriage. None of them mention “people who don’t worship in the proper way”, let alone blame them for anything.

            Plus, people like Richard Dawkins and Peter Boghossian are (allegedly) serious and respectable academics, albeit ones who write for a popular audience, so a proper comparison would be with serious and respectable religious academics, not televangelists.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            This is a strange argument. Dawkins isn’t writing peer reviewed papers on Islam. That isn’t his field. The fact that he is a scientist in another discipline doesn’t make him a theologian, and if there is any field of study that would apply it would be theology. This is a selective demand for rigor.

            Dawkins, Hitchens, et. al.’s relationship to atheism is the same as any purveyor of popular ideas to the masses to their subject. I mean, Pat Robertson even has a Masters in Divinity …

            Raging against secularism is practically a cottage industry in the US. I’m not sure why you are trying to deny that.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well, let’s see what BD Sixsmith’s post which started off the conversation:

            In America at large, let alone the world, atheists are less aggressively evangelistic on the matter of their atheism than religious people can be the matter of their theism. Among the book-writing and seminar-teaching classes, however, it is often the other way around. I don’t think (though I am open to being corrected) that you will find the likes of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and John Haldane arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships, as Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian and Christopher Hitchens respectively have done about the Christian faith. These civilised men have never harmed believers, of course, but the obscurant intensity of their antitheism is important because they are (or were) well-placed to influence the culture. Campus bible bashers rarely have that power.

            So we aren’t talking about just “raging about” religion or secularism. Saying that religion is more harmful than child abuse, that it’s a type of mental illness, or that its adherents deserve to be massacred by totalitarian dictatorships is a step above saying that religion is wrong or socially harmful. So far, you haven’t been able to come up with evidence of anybody — let alone the “book-writing and seminar-teaching classes”, who ought really to be more rational and level-headed than the general public — saying such things about atheism, and I doubt you’ll be able to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Bill Donohue is the head The Catholic League, does he count?

            But Dawkins et. al. are evangelists for atheism, and that’s roughly all they are. They are popular figures who promote the idea of Atheism. And there are not many of them. It’s quite unfair to then pick out the largest class of proponents of religion and exempt them from scrutiny.

            The other thing to point out is that atheist writing, by definition, can only be anti-theism, there isn’t any actual theology to promote. So you will be able to find hundreds of thousands of pro-religious books, and the anti-secularism points will be hidden by simply being one part of the whole.

            Finally, my Catholic grandfather refused to come to our wedding and said our children were going to burn in hell because I had Lutheran minister (who also happens to be my uncle). He didn’t even know I was an atheist. That is an accusation of the ultimate child abuse, it’s just so incredibly normalized you don’t even recognize it for what it is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            Bill Donohue is the head The Catholic League, does he count?

            I dunno. Does he ever call for atheism to be treated like child abuse, or praise totalitarian regimes for killing their atheist citizens?

            But Dawkins et. al. are evangelists for atheism, and that’s roughly all they are. They are popular figures who promote the idea of Atheism. And there are not many of them. It’s quite unfair to then pick out the largest class of proponents of religion and exempt them from scrutiny.

            The whole point of this sub-thread was to compare like with like. Dawkins et al. are, as Troy said, “largely scientists, or at least educated men, who one would expect to know better”. So, the appropriate comparison would be to religious intellectuals. Comparing them to some random televangelist is like comparing a professional philosopher writing for other professional philosophers — like, I don’t know, Plantinga or Foot — to a populariser like Dawkins, and then concluding that, because the philosopher’s writing is more intellectually sophisticated or less pugnacious, therefore theists are better than atheists.

            The other thing to point out is that atheist writing, by definition, can only be anti-theism, there isn’t any actual theology to promote. So you will be able to find hundreds of thousands of pro-religious books, and the anti-secularism points will be hidden by simply being one part of the whole.

            Shifting the goalposts. The thread isn’t about general “anti-secularism points”, but about “arguing that atheism is equivalent to child abuse, could be classified as a mental illness or was justly persecuted under murderous dictatorships”. Can you find anybody with a prominence even comparable to that of Dawkins or Hitchens making these claims?

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        Disclaimer: I’m an atheist, ex-Catholic

        I interpret this as a difference in power rather than anything inherent to the positions. Between Christianity and atheism, atheism has the upper hand in mainstream culture; thus, popular Christian work tends to be more civil while popular atheist work is more relaxed on that front. To my mind, this is because people holding the Christian position need to put their best foot forward to convince an opposed audience, while the atheist needs only to convince the already largely secular audience that Christianity is horrible and that Christian views should be pushed out of the Overton Window.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Interesting theory, although new atheists tend also to portray themselves as a bunch of plucky underdogs bravely fighting to overcome the fanatical hordes threatening to plunge us into a dark age of superstition. I suppose that might just be a rhetorical ploy, though.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Yeah, I’ve witnessed what you’re describing on both sides, and I always map it to a bravery debate. I’ve noticed it most in intra-tribe communications, while it’s more subdued if not more rare in literature directed at the public.

        • Nornagest says:

          Secularity has the upper hand in mainstream culture vs. religiosity, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing as saying that atheism has the upper hand vs. Christianity.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            I tend to agree. However, I’d claim that the target audience for atheists of Dawkins’ stripe includes both ‘angry atheists’, who buy the book but are already convinced, and more importantly relatively secular non-‘angry atheists’. The goal is to portray the atheist position as a righteous anger at religion pushing its nose in everywhere, for someone who knows of religion and may already be somewhat disaffected, but doesn’t have a huge list of grievances. The audience is expected to be neutral to positive towards the book. The message is “Look at the bad things that have happened; this ideology is a failure.”

            Whereas for christians, the audience is also people who are secular and/or disaffected, and so the tone is more polite because they’re expecting the audience to already be at least mildly opposed to Christianity. The meaning of the argument is supplemented by the tone: “Look how reasonably I’m presenting my viewpoint; I’m not the monster you think I am.”

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think far too many people who live in progressive urban enclaves and live online have developed this fantasy that angry atheists are as prevalent, powerful, and toxic as the worst elements of religion. And I just don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of reality

      Is the Chinese government not powerful and toxic? Because last I checked they were still explicitly atheist. Still jailing believers because of it, too.

      And let’s not forget the conduct of all those other communist countries as well, and the actions they took based on their “scientific atheism.” This isn’t ancient history.

      I’m sure there are ways to explain all that away as not being True Atheism, but at least make the attempt to explain it away. That’s my chief complaint with most of these anti-theism rants; no baseline of comparison is given. So far, history seems to show that when you sweep away religion, all the bad things you blamed on religion get way, way worse. At least show that you’ve grappled with the historical record instead of ignored it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Private citizens differ, in important ways, from government bodies. Similarly, a Richard Dawkins has somewhat less power to limit my religious practices than does the government of China (assuming I am a Chinese national).

      • birdboy2000 says:

        China jails members of specific religious movements which the government believes (rightly or wrongly) threaten the state. This is something amazingly common for governments to do and the fact that thiis particular government happens to be atheist plays little role in the matter; China (like many empires) did the same thing long before communism. It’s also not all that similar to persecuting believers as believers.

        (That said I agree with you on the broader point about the general quality of most antitheist rants, and that a lot of things blamed on religion would happen without it anyway, albeit in different ways.)

  35. “is it possible that global warming might paradoxically decrease hurricane frequency?”

    Why “paradoxically?” Weather is a complicated system and there is no strong a priori reason to expect all effects of warming to be bad.

    Some time back, Chris Landsea wrote: “The climate models are also coming into agreement that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes will not go up and may perhaps even decrease (by around one-fourth fewer) because of the increased vertical wind shear. ”

    My old explanation of the error in the popular view of why AGW can be expected to make hurricanes worse.

    • TomFL says:

      I was just going to make that exact point. One answer could simply be there aren’t hurricanes in winter.

      One can definitely get the impression the media coverage is biased in “warming makes everything worse” direction and “everything bad is caused by warming”. They have not said Trump is caused by global warming…yet.

      So….if we started to get a prolonged trend of cooling everyone would celebrate because of all the improvements that will occur? Everything they claim is worse via global warming would get better with cooling? Extinctions will decrease. Food supplies will increase. Extreme events will decrease. Less snow storms. Less drought. Less war. Not likely.

      There is a media / science feedback circle that is not healthy for science. The media likes fear, they can find scientists to provide it. These scientists become media stars, and with the climate where you won’t be proven wrong for 50 years there isn’t much career downside. It amazes me the media still thinks Ehrlich has credibility.

      I promise to never read the internet again if someone comes out and says the world is going to end and we need to implement actions that go completely against their ideology to fix it.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      I hate climate science.

      There’s a few basics(and the major important points of the people involved) which are absolutely true. Its basic point is that releasing all these strange new things into the atmosphere is more likely to have something to catastrophically bad, which is a very good point, and has been shown time and time again with things like Acid Rain, the Ozone crisis, etc…

      Trying to go into all the specifics is horrible, and should probably be done away with, but Academia insists on every undergrad student publishing two papers to get into grad school, and every grad student publishing 10 papers to get into real academia, so it continues.

      More or less hurricanes based on a difference of 1.5 degrees Celsius, showing massively different migratory patterns that leads to extinction based on 2 C (and not perhaps more animals and plant life in a certain area) is all terrible,subject to chaos theory and the people involved should feel bad.

  36. Galton's Bulldog says:

    The actual voice actor for Zapp Brannigan has been reading Trump quotes:
    https://twitter.com/TheBillyWest/status/763531951827357696

  37. I’m not sure why you would call either Hillary Clinton or Peter Thiel neoliberals. Hillary is for all sorts of policies to intervene in the economy that hopefully help the poor through roundabout mechanisms rather than just taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor. The reason I voted for Obama in the primaries back in the day was that I thought Hillary’s proposal had was too complicated and I liked Obama’s healthcare reform policy better. Of course we ended up getting Hillary’s proposal as Obamacare so oops, maybe. And I’m under the impression that Peter Thiel isn’t interested in wealth redistribution

  38. Seth says:

    I think someone might be trolling the sovereign citizens – somehow it’s entered into their lore that if you officially write “I am an idiot” on your court paperwork, the government can’t prosecute you.

    While that would be a good troll, I can’t find any evidence via a quick Google Search that any other person has tried this. It seems to be just this one guy’s weirdness. And he is aware of the implication too. As best I can figure it, he’s saying something like “I have no idea about this legal stuff, so it isn’t reasonable to expect me to defend myself over stuff I don’t understand in the first place”. To the obvious reply of having a lawyer appointed to speak for him, he then says something like “Don’t be silly, nobody speaks for me, and I sure don’t want anyone claiming they’re speaking for me – they aren’t, I’m the only person who definitely has my best interests at heart”.

    It reads to me as kind of an unsophisticated version of the way geeks like to think they can hack law by finding some sort of contradiction. That is, he’s trying to claim he can’t be tried in court because he can’t be expected to argue stuff he doesn’t understand, but the court can’t appoint him a representative because he doesn’t trust anyone else to represent him. That doesn’t work, but he’s far from the first person to believe he’s found a clever legalistic escape-hatch.

    • In my office, we see many sovereign citizens wanting to file various strange papers or obtain certifications. Indeed, I got a long phone message from one just yesterday.

      So far, none of them have labeled themselves idiots.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I’ve seen ‘ignorant in the law’, ‘unlettered in the law’, ‘unlearned in the law’ and the oddly non-sequitur ‘unbeknownst to the law’, all claimed as reasons to waive certain statutory provisions.

        My favorite sov. cit filing by far involved a woman who was of the opinion that our state laws were waiveable at the discretion of the Court of Chancery of England and that, after our rebellion and secession, the power of the King’s Conscience had devolved to notaries public.

        (As I recall, our office did not agree)

      • Outis says:

        The sovereign citizen movement sounds like alternative medicine, but for the law.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, SC stuff is the homeopathic medicine of legal problems.

          But all alternative medicine is not like homeopathy. There are many plants and herbs and alternative medicine cures that are researched and then turn into allopathic medicine– like foxglove becoming digitalis. Not all alternative medicine works. But then not all traditional medicine works for all of its patients either.

          There really needs to be more alternative medicine research to find out what works and what does not.

          • Teal says:

            There are billions of dollars to be made in all sort of drug niches. There’s no conspiracy against researching leads that come from ancient druidic wisdom. Whatever works is called medicine, what’s left is unjustified speculation and outright quackery.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But then, I’m sure there’re leads that haven’t been adequately explored yet, which would still currently fall into the category of alternative medicine. Or, other leads probably aren’t explored because they wouldn’t be profitable; Scott’s written before of how too much drug exploration is circumscribed by profit.

          • Jill says:

            Yes, a lot of what is left, is left because it hasn’t been researched. Once it is, some of it will be found to heal various illnesses, and some of it will be found to be ineffective. It’s all called quackery now. But once it’s researched, some of it will be called wonderful cures for certain illnesses.

          • Teal says:

            Yes, that’s true. But there are no shortcuts. The only way to find out what works is research. You can’t intuit the wheat from the chaff. Even when alternative medicine advocates are correct they are still wrong, because it’s just random luck. Like a chartist that stares at historical prices and dreams up shapes. Or the sports fan than always makes sure to wear his lucky shirt for big games.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Teal
            There are billions of dollars to be made in all sort of drug niches. There’s no conspiracy against researching leads that come from ancient druidic wisdom.

            To make money, you need to find something you can patent. Not very likely with ancient druid stuff. If you find that X herb works, you can’t stop* competitors from harvesting some and selling it.

            So “it does not work” in effect means “it only works on Elderly Hispanic Women** so the potential market is too small for us to make a profit on it”.

            Patients who are EHW, or who look more closely at such tests, see that the curve always has a ‘tail’ of people for whom it did appear to work. Say it worked for 30% of the subjects, that is enough customers for the company to make a profit on, which is reported as “it works”. If it only appeared to work for 10%, then the company would report “does not work” and refuse to spend any more money on it. But as an OTC customer, I may be part of the 10% for whom it does work, and a $5.00 bottle of it would be worth me trying.

            * Except by gaming the FDA hoops

            ** I wish they’d use a term less likely to be taken as fact, and much less ‘racist’.

  39. anon says:

    I don’t know how I missed this.

  40. Anonymous says:

    BBC article about an SC campaign from two months ago:

    “It is nothing about law, and it is not harmless. Taking this daftness seriously can be legally dangerous. If people try to use such things to avoid their legal obligations they can end up with county court judgments or even criminal convictions. You may as well walk into court with a t-shirt saying ‘I am an idiot’.

    This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

  41. utilitarian troll says:

    From the article it sounds like Maine implemented the form of ranked choice voting known as “instant runoff voting”. From what I remember when I was geeking out about this a few years ago, instant runoff voting has some problems and will behave really unintuitively in particular situations. Approval voting was my favorite of the systems I read about I think. It’s really simple–you’re allowed to vote for as many different candidates as you like (whichever candidates you “approve” of).

    • pku says:

      Being complicated seems like more of an advantage for ranked voting over approval voting – it may prevent people for whom it’s too complicated from voting, and making things slightly more complicated could help reduce black and white views and partisanship. Both of these seem like good things.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        If you like complicated, score voting is complicated and has some theoretical advantages. I don’t have a strong pref between score & approval.

    • Sadly, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem means that every sort of voting has problems. But I agree that approval voting is better because it’s easier for people to wrap their heads around.

    • BBA says:

      The proposal is meant to address the situation that came up in the last two Maine elections for Governor – a left-leaning majority split between the Democrat and an independent candidate, letting the Republican win with a minority of the vote. With IRV the Democrat is the probable winner, with approval voting it’s a prisoner’s dilemma for Democrats and independents.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        Score voting should solve that problem somewhat.

        I’m not that opposed to giving political power to groups that are good at cooperating in prisoners’ dilemnas

    • Ryan Beren says:

      Ranked Choice Voting can be really weird. Consider this IRV election between Apple, Banana, and Cherry.

      4 voters: A>B>C
      5 voters: B>C>A
      3 voters: C>A>B

      The winner is Apple.

      If everyone had the opposite opinions and gave reversed rankings, then the winner would still be Apple.

      If 2 more C>A>B voters showed up to the polls, then Banana would have won, which from their perspective means they would have made the outcome worse by voting. Good thing they stayed home.

      Similarly, the B>C>A voters would have been happier with the results if 3 of them (most of them!) had not shown up.

      If they knew their turnout was going to be too good, the B>C>A voters should have organized to vote C>B>A instead, to elect their lesser-of-two-evils.

      In general, RCV results are not at-a-glance obvious. You have to keep tallies of every permutation of the candidates, and you can’t tell who’s in the lead without considering all the permutations. By comparison, with approval voting you just sum up the number of approvals, and comparing the candidates is as simple as checking which sum is bigger. Also, if the approval is interpreted as “I’m OK with this candidate winning”, then approval voting always gives the win to the candidate whom the most people are OK with winning.

      • Yes, but this seems only an issue in very weird situations. The problem that RCV is trying to fix is to allow people to vote for their first choice even if it appears that person has no chance. Then maybe some dark horses would actually win, if a lot of folks really did support them. The kind of thing BBA refers to above, and the issue we often hear about in presidential voting, such as the voting for Nader in 2000, and possible voting for Johnson or Stein this year. RCV does solve that problem.

        However, there are real life problems with RCV. We use it here in Minneapolis, and some don’t like it. In 2013, we had 35 mayor candidates, and every one was on the ballot in November, so voters could pick using rank ballots. It was kind of difficult to analyze every candidate. I myself much prefer having too much choice over the usual situation of too little, but I can understand why some don’t.

    • Houshalter says:

      Yes thank you. Instant runoff voting is inferior and I don’t know why every alternative vote group supports it. Condorcet voting is so much better: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet_method

      Proportional representation systems are nice also.

  42. SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

    Your link about the Filipino president catcalling is probably supposed to be this one:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodrigo_Duterte#Women.27s_rights

  43. Acedia says:

    PT Barnum published a book in 1880 called “The Art of Money Getting”, which sounds like a joke title written by someone satirising PT Barnum.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      This is actually a good (and short!) book (at least from my perspective as someone who has never owned my own business) and doesn’t necessarily match the image you might have from the title and the author’s name (ie it’s not about scamming people).

  44. eqdw says:

    The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish. And like the Amish, they have big communities in Pennsylvania. But did you know there are also large Mennonite communities in Paraguay, Mexico, and Belize?

    Hi everyone. Resident Mennonite here. Family names Klassen, De Fehr, Epp, Fast. Anyone have any questions they’d like to ask?

    —-

    Some Mennonite Fun Facts:

    * Mennonites keep meticulous ancestral records in their churches. One perk of this is that there is a global database of all Mennonites, and how they’re related, at http://grandmaonline.org. I can plug any two names in and find out how we’re related. This is how I know, for example, that I’m sixth cousins twice removed to the creator of the Simpsons.

    * The city with the largest Mennonite population (as far as I know) is my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. By my rough back-of-the-envelope estimate, about 15% of the city’s population are Mennonite (~100,000). With a global population of two million, that’s not shabby.

    * Mennonites are traditionally a German ethnic group. They’ve been extremely isolationist, and this has been stable over 500 years. But fairly recently we hit a milestone: There are now more black Mennonites than white Mennonites. Apparently the missionaries have been busy in Africa.

    * Speaking of German, Mennonites generally raise their kids with german as their first language. Despite being a 4th generation Canadian (great grandmother was an immigrant), most of the people I went to school with were ESL. They never learned English until they started Kindergarten.

    * Many of the Mennonites in Canada immigrated from southern Ukraine in the 1920s. Turns out, not a great idea to be German landowners in the middle of a Russian communist revolution. During the revolution, roving bands of anarchist thugs raped and murdered most of my ancestors, with a wink-nod (formally denied) from the Red Army in Moscow. 3% of all the Mennonites on the planet at the time were killed by the revolutionaries.

    * Some Mennonites (called “Old Order”) live in technologically-retarded communities, similar to the Amish, but this stereotype is largely untrue. Most Mennonites have fully assimilated into modern society, no different from any other vaguely left leaning upper-middle class people of European background.

    • Troy says:

      Speaking of German, Mennonites generally raise their kids with german as their first language. Despite being a 4th generation Canadian (great grandmother was an immigrant), most of the people I went to school with were ESL. They never learned English until they started Kindergarten.

      I think this must vary from place to place. This is not true of most Swiss Mennonite families in the U.S., in my experience.

      • eqdw says:

        Yep. You are correct. This is a good jumping off point for something I forgot:

        —-

        Among the European Mennonites there are two major ethnic groups, generally referred to as “Dutch/North German” and “Swiss/South German”. I’m of Dutch Mennonite descent, so I’m not very familiar with the Swiss background Mennonites.

        The Swiss Mennonites came from Switzerland and surrounding areas. They colonized Pennsylvania in the mid 1700s and a handful of other places in the US, and later from there built colonies in Mexico and Belize.

        The Dutch Mennonites (my background, so I’m more familiar) had a few major moves. They established a colony near Danzig in Prussia (now Gdansk in Poland) in the 1700s. In the late 1700s, when Russia annexed Ukraine, Dutch Mennonites went on to colonize various rural areas near what is now Zaporizhia. They lived there until the Soviet revolution, fleeing as refugees to Canada in the 1920s. Most of the Mennonites who fled to Canada stayed there, but some moved out to start a new colony in Paraguay.

        That last detail is interesting to me, because I didn’t know until recently that Mennonites _left Canada_ to colonize Paraguay. This gives us interesting citizenship chains. So, for example, on my stepdad’s side:
        * He has Canadian citizenship
        * His dad has dual Canadian/Paraguayan citizenship (born in Paraguay, naturalized here)
        * His dad had Canadian citizenship (born in Canada, moved to Paraguay)
        * His dad had whatever passed for Ukrainian citizenship in the early 1900s.
        * His dad had whatever passed for Prussian citizienship back when that country existed.
        * His dad had whatever passed for citizenship in the Holy Roman Empire (I forget which state).

      • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

        This changed with the anti-German sentiment during WWII.

    • SamChevre says:

      I grew up Mennonite, in one of the more separate and more German (vs Dutch) groups. Here’s a hodge-podge of possibly-useful information. I find it useful to divide the Anabaptist groups along 3 dimensions: historical geography; level of assimilation; doctrinal distinctives.

      Geography: A large portion of the Anabaptists in the 1500’s were centered on the Rhine Valley–from Switzerland up to the Netherlands. In the 1600’s, a large group moved from the Netherlands to Prussia (near today’s Gdansk in Poland) and then in the 1700’s moved to Russia (mostly Ukraine/Crimea). Today, there are effectively three historical-geographical groups: the “Russian” Mennonites (like eqdw), who speak Plautdietsch and have names like Dyck and Klassen; the Swiss Mennonites, who speak Sweitz and have names like Schwarz; the German Mennonites, who speak Pennsylvania Dutch.

      Assimilation: all three groups have more and less assimilated sections. The assimilated groups are less distinct from each other (obviously). The less assimilated groups are frequently called, and call themselves, “Plain”; that’s in my opinion the most useful descriptor. They might have no internal combustion engines, or no cars, or only black cars (that’s the groups I grew up in); might forbid any form of telecommunications, or allow phones in businesses but not houses, or allow voice phones but not smartphones, or allow phones but forbid radio and TV. And etc: the rules vary from group to group, and are somewhat idiosyncratic.

      Doctrine: this includes the “old order” vs “new order” distinction, which IS NOT about assimilatedness (it’s about what makes for salvation–the old order are more like Catholics and focus on baptism and church membership, the new order more Baptist and focus on an individual change of heart and encounter with God–“New Birth”). They go together somewhat (best analogy: Hasidic Jews and strictly-kosher-keeping Jews go together, but they aren’t the same thing–you can be either and not the other.)

      The Amish split off from the other Anabaptists in the late 1600’s–after the “Russians” had moved, so there are Swiss and German Amish, but no “Russian” Amish so far as I know. The Amish shun people who leave–no buying, no selling, no taking gifts, no eating at the same table; Mennonites don’t. (CLARIFYING EDIT: only people who joined the church, which you normally do in your late teens. You can not join and be like any other non-Amish person.)

      There are Amish and Mennonites all over; the groups mentioned above are all from the Russian group, but there are German groups as well. I’ve known people who’d lived in (German) Mennonite groups in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Brazil. Both Amish and Mennonites welcome converts, although for the groups who still speak dialects of German that is a barrier. My parents converted 38 years ago, and they and several of my siblings are still Plain.

      A great history of a Russian Mennonite family is from Scott Martens, who used to blog at “A Fistful of Euros”. His grandfather was born in Russia, and spent a good portion of his adult life as a missionary in Congo.

      • “The Amish shun people who leave–no buying, no selling, no taking gifts, no eating at the same table; Mennonites don’t.”

        I believe that only applies to people who leave after having committed, as adults, to being Amish. Someone born into an Amish family who never does so is in the same category as any other non-Amish.

        The “lower” (more extreme) groups maintain meidung (shunning) until the person has been accepted back into the congregation he left, the higher only until he has been accepted into some congregation. I’m not sure if that can be a Mennonite non-Amish congregation.

        “There are Amish and Mennonites all over”

        Mennonites perhaps. I believe that at this point there are no substantial Amish populations outside of North America.

    • Most Mennonites have fully assimilated into modern society, no different from any other vaguely left leaning upper-middle class people of European background.

      So what does it mean to be Mennonite if fully assimilated? Do these assimilated Mennonites marry outside the group? If so, I expect they won’t be identifiable within a couple of generations. Is it like being Jewish in North America — that is, almost impossible to tell and probably fully impossible in 50 years?

      • Troy says:

        Being Jewish is a good analogy, because it’s both an ethnic group and a religious group. Non-plain Mennonites probably marry fellow Mennonites more commonly than other (non-plain) Christians, but many marry outside the group. The couple might attend a Mennonite church or they might attend the other partner’s church (or not attend church entirely, of course). In that respect they’re pretty similar to other Protestant groups. Mennonite Church USA’s numbers have been slowly declining since the 1970s (http://www.mcusa-archives.org/resources/membership.html), but this is in common with most other Christian groups in the United States. They do get some numbers from former Amish, as mentioned somewhere above.

  45. RIP Charb says:

    It’s unfortunate that even as Freddy writes an article defending the honor of the atheist community, he persists in his accusations of “Islamophobia” (a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood) against prominent atheists because they make uncomfortable observations based on demonstrable facts about Islam. If there is one thing atheists must not be afraid of, it is criticizing the one particular religion that is most closely linked to terrorism and horribly regressive attitudes than any other religion today. It strikes me as ironic that he is unable to see this even as he criticizes others for comparing strident atheists to souther Christians.

    • ““Islamophobia” (a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood)””

      It’s true: no one hates Muslims ever. Especially not in India, Sri Lanka or Burma.

      • Kusterdu says:

        Sri Lanka? I thought the main dispute was between Buddhists and Hindus.

        • Sandy says:

          The main dispute in Sri Lanka is between Sinhalese and Tamils; it just so happens that the majority of Sinhalese Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists and the majority of Tamil Sri Lankans are Shaivite Hindus, but the conflict is largely an ethnic war rather than a religious one.

      • hlynkacg says:

        no one hates Muslims ever. Especially not in India, Sri Lanka or Burma.

        Dislike and hatred are very different things from “phobia”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Is that a serious question?

            A phobia is an extreme and often irrational aversion to *thing*.

            Dislike is simply the inverse of “like” or affection.

            Hate is more instrumental than either, where opposition to *thing* gets adopted as a personal goal/value in and of itself.

            You needn’t worry about someone who is genuinely “islamaphobic” person attacking Muslims because a islamaphobic person’s first choice will always be to avoid Muslims all together. In contrast, a person who hates Islam will actively seek Muslims out because fighting them is part of who they are.

          • Ordnung says:

            Adding -phobe or -phobia to the end of stuff medicalizes it, as if you couldn’t possibly have any problem with Muslims unless you had a mental disorder. Which is real handy: if any person saying critical things about Muslims is just crazy, then you don’t have to listen to him and you can start looking into how to use instruments like government to shut him up or lock him up in state-run institutions. You know, like they do in Canada and Europe.

          • John Schilling says:

            A phobia is an extreme and often irrational aversion to *thing*

            According to the dictionary, yes.

            In common usage, “-phobia”, Islamo- or otherwise, is usually diagnosed with no particular effort at establishing that the aversion is either extreme or irrational. It is sufficient that the dislike for a thing be greater than that of the speaker.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @John

            I understand that this is what a certain subset of regressive leftists mean when they use the term (see Ordnung’s comment above about medicalizing disagreement) but I reject it’s commonality.

          • Jill says:

            Hlyn, regressive leftists? Speaking of slurs, or insulting categories, that sounds like one to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            I understand that this is what a certain subset of regressive leftists mean when they use the term

            I’m pretty sure it isn’t regressive leftists who invented “hoplophobia” and applied it on no other basis than someone arguing in favor of gun control laws.

            Don’t do that, whatever side of the political debate du jour you are on. And don’t deny that other people on your side of the debate are doing that. Accusing people on the other side of being literally mentally ill is an equal-opportunity political vice.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ John
            You’re right. But for what it’s worth folks who coined the term “hoplophobia” seem to put a whole lot more effort into establishing the existence of an aversion that is extreme or irrational than the folks who coined “homophobia” or “Islamophobia”

            @ Jill
            “Leftist” as a category is too broad and we just had thread about not using “SJW” as a pejorative so what term would you prefer I use to describe for the specific subset of professed leftists that display an affinity for belligerence and anti-enlightenment / anti-humanist positions?

          • Outis says:

            @John: I had never heard of “hoplophobia” before.

          • Meanwhile, in common, actual, daily usage, “islamophobia” is equivalent to “antisemitism”, it just means hatred of the group. The etymology of “-phobia” is not relevant (just like everyone understands that “antisemitism” means “hatred of Jews” and not “opposition to semitic people”).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            a) “A certain segment of the regressive left” is doing a double segmentation. I think you were going for ensuring that you weren’t talking about the left as a whole, but what it looks like is that you may be applying regressive to the left as a whole.

            b) You like “regressive left”, but regressive is commonly understood as pejorative. I prefer “illiberal”, because it is more precise in identifying the segment. We are talking about people who, in practice, reject the common liberal values of freedom of speech and assembly.

            Illiberal perhaps suffers from the same problem of being pejorative though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We know who coined the term “hoplophobia”; it was Colonel Jeff Cooper, a big name in firearms. Its use to apply to any advocate of gun control is a (common) misapplication; he meant it to refer to those with an unreasoning fear of weapons, particularly those who believe the weapons have a will of their own.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Machine Interface
            The etymology of “phobia” is very relevant if you expect to communicate with people outside your bubble. Ditto “hate”.

            @ HeelBearCub
            Fair points.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Another possibility would be to go back to referring “politically correct”, perhaps referring to the group as “pro political correctness”.

            Yes, it developed a pejorative connotation, but it’s out of fashion for anyone to refer to, and it is, broadly, the segment of people you want to identify. It also has the advantage of having been a self-appellation originally, IIRC.

            Of course, one option is to not to refer to a group of people, but rather various actions or ideas, at least as much as possible. That’s not bad as a rule-of-thumb to allow for communication that avoids some pitfalls.

          • Jill says:

            “what term would you prefer I use to describe for the specific subset of professed leftists that display an affinity for belligerence and anti-enlightenment / anti-humanist positions?”

            Good question. Thank you for asking. Maybe just “There is a subgroup of Leftists believes that ______________ (Insert the position on the issue your are talking about.) Otherwise it’s confusing, and is unclear whether you are talking about a majority of Leftists vs. a small group. “Regressive” means going backwards, and it sounds insulting and is also unclear what “backwards” means to you.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Jill

            Advance apologies to you and others for future misgendering, mispartisaning, misnationing y’all and doubtless others yet. But I simply can’t remember all these fine points.

            Data point: the only terminology that I might be able to follow would be ‘Obama-ish’ … ‘McCainish’ … ‘Bushy’ ‘Bush-like’ … ‘Bill-ish’ … etc.

            Using Theresha May wouldn’t work for this USian, as I always think of Cousin Minnie Pearl.

          • Jill says:

            Houseboat, why not just avoid insulting sounding terms like “regressive” when categorizing a group, and just say what you were going to say about what a certain group of people believes?

            OTOH, plenty of folks here make no effort to avoid insulting terms, so if you can’t or don’t, you wouldn’t stand out in any way.

        • Jill says:

          We need to revise standards for political speech. Racism, Islamophobia — these sorts of terms lose their meaning when used in a vague way to describe huge groups of people or everybody.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agreed.

          • LPSP says:

            Very, very true.

          • Jill says:

            The current system of political correctness in speaking, seems to have originated from university liberal arts departments, teaching classes such as African American studies, Women’s Studies etc. It was a solution to the problem of how to treat minorities fairly, since had been suffering from discrimination.

            Next time, journalism departments, law departments, social scientists, journalists, attorneys and others with experience in these matters, need to all participate.

            This is one of those problems with specialization in society. Every field has its blind spots. Liberal arts, and universities themselves, have some disastrous blind spots in this area. Those blind spots resulted in the situation where the standards they came up with, did not work well in the real world outside the university– in journalism, law, and numerous other areas.

            Another example of the problems with specialization is Congress. Far too lopsided with attorneys. Congress needs more of a balance of people from a variety of fields– school teachers, accountants, engineers etc. Then Congress would have more varied inputs into what they are doing.

          • Evan Þ says:

            ” Far too lopsided with attorneys. Congress needs more of a balance of people from a variety of fields– school teachers, accountants, engineers etc. Then Congress would have more varied inputs into what they are doing.”

            Indeed. I remember one (possibly apocryphal, but plausible) story about a Congressman who retired, opened a small hotel, and quickly realized just how much of a burden all the regulations he’d voted for were on small business owners. We need to get more people in Congress who’ve already been small business owners, minimum wage workers, and in many other walks of life so they can bring their experiences to the table instead of only finding out about them too late.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Not apocryphal! It was George McGovern, and yo can read about the experience in his own words:

            In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.

          • Gil says:

            Phobia is implicitly understood to mean a pathological / non-rational fear of something.

            So if someone finds themselves in a burning building. No one would call them a pyrophobe if said person admitted they were terrified of the ordeal. There are no disagreements

            Likewise no one would call a professional firefighter a pyrophobe since his entire line of work is centered on identifying, mitigating, and treating risks associated with fires. So a firefighter’s attitude about fires is at worst a professional bias then anything pathological (usually), particularly since this person in question is professionally qualified to enter burning buildings whilst remaining calm.

            Regardless if a word has a strong positive/negative connotation regardless of the definition, it will inevitably be deployed opportunistically rather than descriptively. It also has an Orwellian streak in how it treats the sanity of dissidents . I can forgo thorny questions about whether and to what extent X group is a threat to Y by such methods.

            And don’t get me started on R-ism

      • LogicDragon says:

        There’s some merit to the term in the sense of unfair hatred towards Muslims as people, but come on: in this article as elsewhere, it’s being used as an unreasonable snarl-word towards anyone arguing against Islam as a philosophy.

        Dawkins can be counter-productively abrasive, and sometimes has an unpleasant tinge of arrogance about him, but a bigot he is not. Calling him a word designed to call to mind things like homophobia is outrageous.

        • Agronomous says:

          Calling him a word designed to call to mind things like homophobia is outrageous.

          Please, please, please tell me you’re joking.

      • RIP Charb says:

        I regret making the claim that Islamophobia is a propaganda term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood, because it is apparently untrue (my belief was based on the claim of an ex-member of the Brotherhood, but apparently the term was coined much earlier than he claims), and because it was somewhat inflammatory, and thus has drawn attention away from the point I was actually trying to make. So allow me to clarify.

        I am not saying there is no such thing as bigotry against Muslims. There absolutely is, and I condemn it unreservedly. But to use a word that is now considered more or less tantamount to “racist” to describe Dawkins and Harris is a deplorable, dishonest tactic of the kind DeBoer frequently and forcefully criticizes when the subject is something other than Islam. Harris has written an entire book (Letter to a Christian Nation) criticizing Christianity specifically, and nobody on the left calls him a “Christophobe” for this.

        DeBoer also seems to have no qualms about criticizing Israel, despite the fact that Muslims outnumber Jews by a factor of more than 100; that Jews are still persecuted in many Middle Eastern countries; and that even in the west Jews remain more likely to be victims of hate crimes than Muslims. You might object to this on the basis that “Israel” and “Jews” are not the same thing… but that’s precisely the point! Neither are “Islam” and “Muslims.”

        Call people out on their bigotry, by all means. If you want to call Donald Trump a bigot, you are not going to hear any argument from me. But most of the time when I see the word “Islamophobia,” it’s being used as a rhetorical bludgeon to shut down conversation about the regressive and harmful beliefs that are all too easy to find support for in Islamic doctrine. I oppose all religions, but there’s only one that I can’t criticize openly without fear of ostracism or worse.

        • Aapje says:

          I agree with your point, but have to point out that Israel doesn’t relate to Jews in the same way that Islam relates to Muslims. So your comparison rings false.

          • RIP Charb says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that Israel is to Jews as Islam is to Muslims. I’m just saying that one can imagine how criticizing Israel could lead to anti-Jewish sentiment. So if people like Freddie believe that ideas associated with vulnerable minorities should not be criticized, then they should probably not criticize Israel either, since it could just add fuel to the existing fire of anti-semitism.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      The OED has “Islamophobia” attested as far back as 1923, five years before the Muslim Brotherhood was founded. The word appears to have gained wide currency after being used by Edward Said in the mid-1980s.

    • That’s southern Christians. AFAIC, you are in phobia territory as soon as you start lumping a whole religion together. Nobody does that to religions that are part of their own culture.

      • pku says:

        Not sure if it’s necessarily phobia, just ignorance. When I moved to america I was pretty confused by how different types of Christians seemed to consider each other alien, but I didn’t have anything against Christians. Phobia is when you lump them all in with the worst of them (e.g., to be christianphobic, I’d have to have had the above beliefs and also form my view of the Christians based on something like the Westboro Baptist Church.)

    • herbert herbertson says:

      He’s a leftist, who is against western interventionism and considers it to be highly damaging to human life, freedom, and prosperity on a scale measured in the millions. He, like myself, considers the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be probably the greatest moral atrocity of the 21st century, and certainly the greatest one which the country he resides in is responsible for. Meanwhile, statistically, Islamic terrorism remains a very minor threat to Westerners, and, really, anyone who doesn’t live in Syria or northern Iraq. While the way in which Islamicist ideology affects the female and LGTB citizens of Islamic-dominated countries is lamentable, there is no cure available to Westerners which is not worse than the disease.

      Starting from this valueset, I reject the idea that there’s anything remotely irrational in condemning Islamopobic athiests. Islam is obviously not true, and the fact that its practitioners do a better job of acting like it is true than do, say, Christians, makes it a little worse for the world than, say, Christianity, but I’d be irrational to spend a lot of time talking about that, particularly in an aggressive/inflammatory/evangelical manner, if I have good reasons to think that rhetoric could lead to something very very bad (another Iraq invasion).

      This is why I reject “Islamophobia” (I tend not to actually use the word, fwiw), I think it’s why most people on the left (certainly the far, anti-war/anti-imperialism left) reject it, and it’s a line of thought that seems to fly far over the head of those who would take a more militant approach to Islam/Islamic terrorism. Note that at no point is this about political correctness. And, of course, I don’t expect such people to agree with me, it’s starting from a valueset that they may not share at all–but it’d be nice if they seemed to understand it.

      • Anon. says:

        You imply that there’s a connection between “islamophobia” and military adventurism in the middle east. Care to offer an explicit argument for the connection between the two?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Good point. Bush was explicitly not an “islamophobe” because he never criticized Islam. If anything, being a hardcore “islamophobe” would have implied discouraging democracy since conservative Muslims usually win those elections.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            This is almost the exception that proves the rule, though. Bush opposed Islamophobia out of a hearts and minds strategy, believing it was critical for us to rebut Wahabbism/Salafism’s claims to represent true Islam. The possibility of the bellicose right abandoning this strategy is very concerning to me–and it’s not even close to hard to find Islamophobes (I’m going to take the liberty of dropping the scare quotes for these types) advocating my worst fears very openly and directly.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            I’d add that that it’s a pet project of mine to point out as much as possible that pretty much all “Islamic” terrorism can actually be attributed very specifically to that Salafist/Wahhabist tradition. For example, outside of some fighting in Iraq, the last major Shia attack against America was in 1983. Care to take a wild guess at the sorts of internet commentors who become very angry when I try to more accurately define the bad (or at least worst) actors in the Muslim world?

        • herbert herbertson says:

          1. It is routine for those who seek to inflict violence to dehumanize their opponents, and “Islamophobia” seems to fit comfortably into that position.

          2. “Islamophobia” seeks to emphasize and publicize (unduly imo) the problem of Islamic terrorism. If Islamic terrorism is a problem, it should be solved, and interventions are the most intuitive and straightforward way of doing so.

          3. If my agenda is peace, then I will want to form a coalition with others who are interested in peace. Given who suffers most from the breaking of this particular form of peace, it is likely that many of my potential coalition partners are going to be Muslim and “Islamophobia” could interfere with that (this actually IS essentially political correctness, but I think it’s tertiary, and certainly is for me personally, since I live in a rural area and am not directly involved in any activism).

          I’d add that while the most prominent current critic of Islam in America has made statements which non-crazy people can conclude indicates his opposition to imperialism/interventionism, I personally don’t believe them for a second, as I think his temperament and lack of any ideological commitment to peace would lead him to be very willing to intervene if he were in power.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        He, like myself, considers the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be probably the greatest moral atrocity of the 21st century,

        I’ve been criticizing the Iraq war for going on thirteen years now, but this strikes me as needless exaggeration. The second Congo war, the genocide in Darfur, and the civil war in Syria all have a higher body count, and the genocide of the Rohingyas in Burma is more morally appalling.

        • pku says:

          You could make a strong case for the later weaker statement, though (“greatest 21st century moral atrocity committed by the US”). I can think of things last century that were probably worse, but nothing from this century comes to mind.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The people in charge of planning the invasion and occupation were culpably negligent, but describing it as a “great moral atrocity” strikes me as over-the-top. It’s not as if it was the US which made it a policy to deliberately target civilians, after all.

          • herbert herbertson says:

            “The people in charge of planning the invasion and occupation were culpably negligent, but describing it as a “great moral atrocity” strikes me as over-the-top. It’s not as if it was the US which made it a policy to deliberately target civilians, after all.”

            Keep in mind that the statement open purports to apply to a valueset of leftist anti-imperialism, however. That valueset is highly consequentialist (i.e., it’s not that important that the US didn’t directly/openly intend large numbers of civilian deaths, they happened and were foreseeable) and has no patience for the Iraq War causus belli, which, even if taken at face value, was based on “they have weapons of a type that we have not yet finished destroying (chemical) and are seeking weapons we don’t even intend to destroy (nuclear)”

            In my book, it qualifies as the proverbial “supreme war crime”

        • herbert herbertson says:

          I think you could reasonably characterize Syria, and especially ISIS, as a consequence of the Iraq invasion. That said, yeah, you make me glad I hedged with “probably” because the Congo is a pretty effective rebuttal.

      • “While the way in which Islamicist ideology affects the female and LGTB citizens of Islamic-dominated countries is lamentable, there is no cure available to Westerners which is not worse than the disease.”

        Open immigration. Not a full cure, of course, but an escape hatch for those for whom the effects are most serious.

        • Phasma says:

          That doesn’t seem great for our LGBT citizens, considering that the majority of immigrants from Islamic countries would be normal Muslims from those countries with all the attitudes common in those lands.

        • Utopn Naxl says:

          I don’t quite agree with that. That’s a strategy which may easily backfire in Malthusian terms over the long term.

          There is also the danger of accepting large amounts of people from a culture that isn’t easily integrated into the general culture, with violently expansionist memes contained.

          Lastly, in these days we can do a few simple tests that determine with strong accuracy in groups of 10 which groups are likely to perform well in schooling and become/not become criminals. A simple english version of the LSAT’s logic reasoning and a spatial game could work. Add a testosterone level check and ensure that those with low G and high T do not come in could work if there is no underlying ideology. Selection methods such as that hardly appeal to peoples ideals.

          Of course in a few years there are going to be quite accurate genetic tests similar to Gattaca that can determine with some accuracy who is likely to produce and who isn’t.

          Would you support a refugee country? Or a sectioned off area of the world with only open to refugees? How sustainable would that country be? Would it flourish? Would it turn out that some refugee groups end up highly disproportionate as the winners and intellectual leaders, and others as violent criminals?

          Would that refugee country end up producing refugees of its own if it could not hold itself together?

        • It sounds like an asylum system woukd be better than open immigration fior the reasons mentioned.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        I am not sure on Iraq. I actually lean towards it being an intelligent decision, even if a power bubble helped spring up ISIL.

        But ISIL is actually a far weaker group then Iraq ever was under Saddam. I feel that ISIS is a group that’s allowed to exist for political reasons, and could be destroyed any day of the week. Its just a hunch, though. I mean for the love of god, we have solar powered weaponized drones with facial recognition and weapon recognition technology and self-destructing software.

        its explicitly and entirely religious though, which adds a bit to complexity. I wonder if the US is just waiting for a threatened regional largely muslim country to take the bait in taking them out.

  46. Wrong Species says:

    I think declaring that democracy and freedom are incompatible is a quick way to get kicked out of the neoliberal club. I’m not sure I would be accepted even though I feel like I identify with them more than many other groups. If neoliberals were to form their own organization, I wonder where they would draw the line between neoliberals and non-neoliberals?

    • hlynkacg says:

      But they are incompatible.

    • Seth says:

      The line between neoliberals and non-neoliberals is fairly clear. Versus the left, neoliberals are very much against government provision of public services (e.g. single-payer health care, free education, transport), and pro-privatization, often with a technological gloss. Versus the right, neoliberals are extremely concerned with race and gender and orientation, etc issues, as a matter of social consciousness. Thus, for example, if you want to destroy public education in favor of an online testing mill which will profit like gangbusters, but are strident that the company’s board of directors and executives who are making out like bandits must have an appropriate number of female and nonwhite profiteers, you’re a neoliberal.

      I suspect many SSC commentators wouldn’t be able to deal with the part about race and gender and orientation, etc issues. Neoliberalism is not merely about being conservative without the religious aspect. You have to pay for the guilt of basically being an anti-labor capitalist by trying to expiate racism, sexism, etc.

      • That’s not Bowman’s version of neolib, since he supports UBI. He’s basically in favour of the Scandinavian model. Calling it the Scandinavian model is dicey, because people often don’t realise how important markets are to it. But calling it neoliberalism is dicey too, because it implies welfare cutting.

      • Wrong Species says:

        When did promoting racial diversity become a marker of neoliberalism? I think it’s fair to say that no one agrees on how to define other than it being market friendly and distinct from libertarianism.

      • Tekhno says:

        Neoliberal started as a slur for generic evil pro-capitalists, like it was classical liberalism back from the dead on steroids. Since it was applied from the outside, there was never any consistent group it applied to with clear boundaries. Trying to reclaim it means redefining the word more precisely and drawing boundaries, and then the definition of neoliberal becomes whichever group self-identifying as it is loudest.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, there’s problem with words that become insults. For a long time, no one was liberal. They had to be progressive, because liberal had been made into a dirty word. Neoliberal is a dirty word to a lot of people in the media. So its meaning gets conflated by some into “all that bad unfair economic and trade stuff”– and it ends up being used always as something bad by these writers, but meaning different bad things to different writers.

          • There is a certain cosmic justice to the declining reputation of “liberal.”

            The word got its strong positive connotations back in the 19th century when it meant something close to what “libertarian” means now (plus support for expanding the franchise). The enemies of liberalism stole its name (in the U.S.–in continental Europe it seems to have largely maintained its 19th c. meaning) and eventually their actions reversed the sign of its connotation.

      • Seth says:

        @Wrong Species – if you’re market-friendly but not much interested in diversity and not Libertarian, you’ll likely go under the heading of “compassionate conservative” or something like that. An interest in diversity of some sort is a very strong llberal marker. Yes, there’s nobody enforcing definitions, but again, the diversity divide is a rather large separator.

        @TheAncientGeek – neoliberals love Universal Basic Income. They view it as the ultimate privatization of government helping the poor. Here’s a great article that examines the topic at length:

        https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/22/silicon-valley-universal-basic-income-y-combinator
        “Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income”

        “Rather than steer technology towards social progress by promoting projects that contribute to public benefit and human flourishing – not just reflect the desires of privileged groups – Silicon Valley elites can shake off critics by pointing to UBI as the solution, and one that does not restrict their profit motive.

        UBI can, in some ways, be seen as welfare for capitalists. …

        The logic is to shut down “public housing, food assistance, Medicaid, and the rest, and replace them with a single check”, writes Nathan Schneider in Vice. …”

        • The guardian article is about SV liberalism, not neoliberalism. That neoliberalism want reductions in govt. spending s mentioned in the first para. of the wiki article.

          • Seth says:

            Quote, by Sam Bowman:

            “I’m a capitalist, neoliberal advocate of a basic income, or something like it. ”

            https://austrian.economicblogs.org/adam-smith/2016/bowman-neoliberal-income/

            He said it, not me.

          • Seth says:

            Let me clarify, the above came out wrong, too hasty, sorry – further on, Bowman talks about “Perhaps it would work if we did a huge one, as Charles Murray has proposed, that replaced most of the state’s activities altogether with cash payments.” That is, the neoliberal universal basic income is seen as a way of cutting government spending. When one gets into the details, the neoliberal concept is to take away government social services, with the idea that the UBI will replace it by market purchases. While in theory the UBI payment could exceed the government spending on these services, in practice in the history of politics that has very strong tendency not to happen. The cynical might even say it’s a feature, not a bug, in the implementation.

          • But Bowman is not describing mainstream neoliberal thought, heis launching a project of the own.

  47. Skef says:

    I apologize for the length of this. Not sure how to condense it effectively.

    I’ve been reading Audit Cultures (except for parts of section 3, not as bad as you might think) and the word “Neoliberal” comes up quite a bit. The papers are mostly written by European anthropologists and Europe may have a different slant on the term, but it reminded me of and provided some further evidence for some earlier thoughts I had about uses of the word with a negative slant.

    The complaints about Neoliberalism in the papers focus on a pattern where (roughly): 1) governmental offices mandate that organizations (such as universities or even college departments) “self-audit”, 2) organizations are set up or charged with “collecting information” and 3) the “self-auditing” plans are rejected if they don’t meet certain “standards”.

    But the main standard is inevitably the evenness of the statistical spread in the results from “good” to “not-so-good”. Importantly, the middle organizations admit they not in a position to judge the audit standards more specifically: that’s why it’s always “self-auditing”. So ithe effect is that organizations are pressured to come up with some standard, however meaningful, of labeling some of their colleagues as crappy. Then outside pressures (promotions, grant money, etc.) make everyone to try to follow the standard.

    This fits with my own thoughts about how at least westerns societies have been trending over the past few decades, which are also wrapped up with the idea of “meritocracy” and an emerging meritocratic “class”. And it also has to do with #1 in Bowman’s article, “We like markets–a lot.” Here are two pictures of market competition:

    1. Competition leads to efficiency as competitors adopt each other’s innovations and prices are driven down towards the cost of production.
    2. Entrepreneurs create wealth by making new products and industries and the economy works best when we keep obstacles out of their way and let them do their good work.

    Now, the psychology I associate with picture 1, if everything is going “right”, is someone really stressed out about what their “competitors” are doing and whether they’re measuring up. But with picture 2 I associate someone concentrating on solving some problem without distraction. In that light, here is a compact statement of the direction of societal change in recent history: picture 2 for a meritocratic elite (think 2-4 steps down, on a variety of metaphorical staircases, from Davos) and picture 1 for everyone else.

    For example: I can remember when leaders of organizations that had really bad things happened were expected to resign, even if just for “symbolic” reasons. Now it takes Katehi-level public clusterfuckery to get the boot, and the golden parachute is released anyway.

    In contrast, fields of work below that level where competitive pressure was once internal, and therefore spottily distributed, have been called out and subjected to auditing regimes where the only real success criterion is that the people involved are sufficiently stressed out. I mean this literally: Everyone pretty much agrees that there is too much pressure to publish across academia and that it results in more superficial work and less good work, but we can’t imagine getting rid of that system without some other way of judging people over the short term. Apparently the judgment itself is the important thing, even if it makes the results worse.

    This picture also fits with the 80’s rhetoric you sometimes run into about “taming labor”. And there has certainly been a general trend of transferring the costs of uncertainty to individual workers. I know too many people with lowish wages, irregular schedules that never seem to get much over 30 hours, and a routine pattern of firing turnover. (Firing for trivial mistakes cultivates paranoia but not much else.) I guess Uber is supposed to be the answer for filling in those hours, if only these folks could afford a car.

    What makes all this especially pernicious is that picture 1 has apparently never been pervasive in normal markets anyway. This leaves us all increasingly devoted to structuring the life of most people around a caricature. It stinks and should stop.

    • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

      This touches on what I think of as “the failure of metrics based leadership.” If you spend all your goddamn time measuring everything, you never get any fucking real work done.

      • You need to have a conversation with my management team. They don’t believe it when I say it.

        • Jill says:

          Humans can be very hierarchical tribal animals. It matters a lot WHO says something. If the boss says something, people will most likely listen, even if it’s nonsense. Someone else says something and it goes unnoticed.

          • Yeah, this is tangential, but I do not understand this reflex. Maybe it’s the INTJ in me, but when my boss says something stupid, I still realize it’s something stupid.

            About 1/2 the time, other team members seem to convince themselves that this is a brilliant insight that needs to get done immediately.

            I suspect ass-kissing is a factor (these co-workers are all ass-kissers in general), but I am not sure if they are convincing themselves “we should fly to the Moon on a parasail” level ideas are smart, or if they are successfully acting like it is smart.

            I am thinking they are convincing themselves it is smart, because the 1/2 time they reject the idea, they still privately complain about the ridiculous logic.

            I am ruling out “ADBG is wrong and this legitimately a great idea!” because a lot of these ideas are “parasail to the Moon” level stupid.

          • Jill says:

            Scott Adams in his Dilbert cartoons captured a lot of these kinds of ridiculous situations. He’s a great cartoonist, although his blog makes no sense whatsoever to me.

            People do often work hard to convince themselves that what they think they need to do to get ahead, or what they need to do to have a comfortable naive unquestioning trust and faith in their leader/boss. Cognitive dissonance, resolved by changing your assessment of the bad idea you just said yes to.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    • multiheaded says:

      (Firing for trivial mistakes cultivates paranoia but not much else.) I guess Uber is supposed to be the answer for filling in those hours, if only these folks could afford a car.

      Don’t worry, Uber will give them one, then make them pay it off and threaten suspension for the slightest mistake.

    • onyomi says:

      Somewhat related: in addition to being amazing, inspiring, power of the human spirit, etc. does anyone else find the following to be a tad depressing?

      Comparison of 1950s and 2016 olympic gymnastics.

      The old video, of course, is very unexciting compared to the new, but I also look at it and think “oh, so you could, like, be a normal person and be in the Olympics?” Whereas I look at the video on the right and I’m like “were these people genetically engineered and trained from birth?” I mean, doesn’t Michael Phelps have like flippers for feet?

      I know to some extent we have better training methods and so better results with the same level of talent and effort, but it sort of depressingly reminded me of just… everything. How college admissions is so much harder, how getting a high-status job is so much harder (note that the people judging your tenure case won their “medals” in the left-hand context). Yes, we’re technically richer in a lot of ways, but status is still kind of zero sum…

      This is probably me at my least libertarian, but, I feel like, given a sufficiently broad definition, we could call the right-hand side a result of “neoliberal athletics.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I mean, doesn’t Michael Phelps have like flippers for feet?

        Well, he has an otter-like body shape (which is, I think, what led him to be picked out of the crowd and groomed for competitive swimming).

        The old thinking was that the average body type was best suited to all manner of sport (I didn’t watch the video, but did the 1950’s athletes appear more “normal”?). Later on, specific body shapes were sought for particular sports.

        [Edit] – Watched the video. Women’s gymnastics in particular has become much more athletic, possibly because women in the 1950s weren’t expected to be very powerful.

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, well this is part of what makes it depressing, arguably: before people realized that there were ideal body types for each sport, there was a better chance of “I decide I really like swimming–>I train really hard at swimming–>I get into the Olympics for swimming.”

          Now, no matter how much you love swimming, you’re probably not going to have a chance if your body is shaped like an ox and all your competitors are shaped like otters. You might have a chance at weightlifting, say, but what if you aren’t interested in that?

        • Tekhno says:

          The women on the right hand side in 2016 don’t look that much more muscular or different in general, yet they can jump so much higher.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Technology devalues human effort, worth, and knowledge. Always has, always will. This holds true whether you’re a gymnast today or a chandler a century ago.

        • onyomi says:

          I’m not sure what technology has to do with the sports case, unless you consider superior ability to pick out genetically talented individuals and train them with weights to be a kind of “technology” (steroids and other forms of “doping,” of course, come closer to the mark).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        How college admissions is so much harder, how getting a high-status job is so much harder

        I think one of the things you are discounting is that the Olympics are, depending on your point view, much higher status now than they were then. The Olympics was for amateurs then.

        Also, being ordinally first, or even top 100, is much harder in a world of 7 or 8 billion. You could always take up swimming and move to Ethiopia if you want to say you are the best in a smaller pool, so to speak.

        • onyomi says:

          Is it more high status now to be “the best x in the world” than it was 50 years ago? Probably the most famous of the famous can make more money in product endorsements, but even the best in most sports are still doing it for love/amateur reasons. And then there’s Ryan Lochte, who “would be the Michael Phelps of swimming” if it weren’t for Michael Phelps.

          Which is by no means to say that Michael Phelps doesn’t deserve money, fame, etc. but it does seem like it’s moving more in the “huge rewards for the very top performers, little or nothing for everyone else” direction. That is, arguably a critique of neoliberalism, or whatever it is I’m talking about is that it pushes more and more pursuits into the realm of what Scott described as “dualized” professions/pursuits.

          And yes, of course the competition is stiffer due to sheer numbers. But that complaint also applies to jobs and the global market for labor. Though it is a good thing from the perspective of humanity as a whole, it definitely makes it much harder for any given person to stand out.

          • “Though it is a good thing from the perspective of humanity as a whole, it definitely makes it much harder for any given person to stand out.”

            The solution is to view your status in terms of some smaller group–fellow hobbyists, fellow members of your ethnic group, fellow citizens of your city/state/small country.

            Is standing out in a reference group of a billion people in a world with ten billion less impressive than standing out in a world with a billion people?

          • Manya says:

            I would also like to point out that in the 50s, only about 60 countries took part in the Olympics, compared with this year’s 207.

          • onyomi says:

            “Is standing out in a reference group of a billion people in a world with ten billion less impressive than standing out in a world with a billion people?”

            Maybe not less impressive in some abstract sense, but less valuable, personally and financially, because ten billion people can eat out of the same Wheaties box.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            The solution is to view your status in terms of some smaller group–fellow hobbyists, fellow members of your ethnic group, fellow citizens of your city/state/small country.

            But isn’t the march of “universal culture” reducing the supply of exactly these opportunities for differentiation? Will there eventually be an accounting of the relative value of status/achievement/uniqueness type goods versus health/rights/consumption/longevity type goods?

            I have seen a few commenters here railing against “honor cultures” as basest atavism, and these cultures are the ones that seem to optimize for “mean status” by creating lots of little honored roles in family, village, congregation, trade, and tribal groupings. Meanwhile, the universal culture is eating these cultures alive, forcing them to optimize for “mean consumption bounded by individual rights”.

            Maybe this is for the better, maybe status/achievement/uniqueness have no value which is fungible for any quantity of health/rights/consumption/longevity. If that’s the case, I would like see the universal culture bite the bullet and state this explicitly.

            Then, once it does, the universal culture should stop pretending that spectacles of individual achievement like the Olympics evince it’s greatness.

      • Artemium says:

        Relevant N.N.Taleb quote :


        THE OLYMPICS

        There used to be a distinction between an athlete representing virtus (human-ness*) and ἀρετή (the quality of being what you are made to be) on one hand, and, on the other the circus acrobat selling uniqueness and deformity. Mediterranean ideals, as opposed to the Egypto-Babylonian ones, were about scale and balance: even the Gods were brought down to human scale. (Yet homines sumus, non dei: we are men, not gods)

        Today’s Olympics, by dint of specialization and overoptimization, thanks to the media and the huge financing involved, have transformed the athlete into a circus acrobat, a mutant selling deformities.

        Let me insist: anything overoptimized, or even barely optimized, is no longer human.

        Hominem te esse memento!

        * manliness in PC terms.”

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, I think this is sort of what I’m getting at. As someone with too many different interests, I sometimes get depressed at the death of the “Renaissance Man.”

          • The issue shows up for me in my reaction to changes in the SCA over time. In the early years, if you wanted something–medieval pavilion, medieval shoes, helmet, …–you mostly had to make it yourself or get someone you knew to make it for you in exchange for something you did for him. Nowadays you can buy almost everything, generally in higher quality and greater historical authenticity than you could make it. The result is much better garb, armor, etc.

            But much less reason for many people to learn to do many things.

            There’s a Heinlein quote about what a human should be able to do which I identify with emotionally despite my professional bias in favor of specialization.

          • Jill says:

            A huge percentage of the creativity and progress in the world comes from Renaissance type people. How can you make any of the important connections between field of study, if all you know is your own field of study. It’s a societal disaster to discourage Renaissance type people.

          • Well, you cannot be a renaissance man at the upper echelon of society, but you certainly can be a renaissance man in your own social group with relatively little expert.

            For instance, installing your own backyard garden with dual rain-capture drip irrigation and nearby compost is almost stupid-easy, but none of your friends are doing it (probably). Then you can make your own home-made pasta sauces for additional bragging rights, and know how to properly make a martini, and learn to dress reasonably well.

            You won’t be top in any field, but you can be “Most Interesting Man In Your Friend Group.”

          • LPSP says:

            I think ADBG’s outline is perhaps the secret to my inadvertent success in many small avenues of life. I just implement things I read about into other things that I regularly encounter, and people pay me compliments about my versatility. It’s not like I earn more than them, I just optimise my circumstances within the remit of my awareness.

      • Yes, I'm judging you says:

        Comparison of 1950s and 2016 olympic gymnastics.

        That video doesn’t depress me, because while Olympic gold metals may be zero sum, athletic skill is not.

        I have seen better and stronger performances in local junior high and high school exhibitions and by people just playing around and having fun in gyms, public parks, and music concerts, than those 1950s Olympian gymnasts. We live in a world where there are tens of thousands of people who are as strong and as skilled as the very best people were 70 years ago. This is a much better world in that respect, and we all are richer for it.

        I disagree with the hateful philosophy of Syndrome in Pixar movie “The Incredibles”. A world where everyone is better than they were before, is a better world.

  48. Jeffrey Soreff says:

    Re the desalinization link, re

    (Sometimes people will say a region doesn’t have enough water to go around and so should limit construction and density. An American uses about 100 gallons a day of local water [2] which at desalination rates would be just 15¢/day. This is a water bill of $4.50/month, which is not enough money to even enter into the decision. People want to live in dry sunny regions, and the economics do work out.)

    I am heartily sick of hearing calls for water conservation in bay area cities.
    I’ll cheerfully pay my 15¢/day for desalinated water.
    I wish the bay area would just build the damned plants, tap the seawater of the Pacific, and have done with it.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      In practice, the restrictions are:

      * You need to ask your waiter for water.
      * Your HOA can’t complain when your grass goes brown.

      It’s a backdoor way to avoid doing lawncare.

      • At least in San Jose, there is a restriction on watering–a specific two days a week (which two days depending on whether your address is even or odd) and time of day. I don’t know how much effort is made to enforce the limits.

  49. Wrong Species says:

    Scott hasn’t done a post on the productivity slowdown yet has he? I would like to see his take.

  50. Mitchell Powell says:

    A quibble: the Amish are Mennonites. All Amish are Mennonites; not all Mennonites are Amish. So it’s not quite right to say that “The Mennonites are an anachronistic German Protestant group much like the Amish.”

    Better, “The Amish are the most anachronistic subset of the anachronistic German Protestant group known as Mennonites.”

    Now, I’m not sure you’re completely wrong in the way you said it, because colloquially, the word “Mennonite” does tend to get used with the meaning “non-Amish Mennonites.” But the Amish would all consider themselves Mennonites. And part of the reason Mennonites are common in the same areas as Amish is that if you’re a religious kid raised Amish, but you want to leave the community without leaving the broader faith, you join a Mennonite church. So every year thousands and thousands of people raised Amish turn Mennonite. So if you go to Holmes County, Ohio, for example, most of the non-Amish Mennonites have Mennonite ancestors.

    And then, of course, there’s the Beachy people, who can’t agree on whether to call themselves Amish or not. But they’re a whole nother story.

    • Troy says:

      I don’t usually hear the Amish referred to as Mennonites. Rather, they are a splinter group from the Mennonites. (Perhaps many of them consider themselves Mennonite, while non-Amish Mennonites do not consider the Amish to be Mennonites; somewhat like Mormons and Christians.) Note too that the Amish are not a part of Mennonite World Conference, unlike other Anabaptist groups such as the Brethren in Christ Church.

      You are right, though, that historically and demographically, Mennonites are the main group, and the Amish should be understood in comparison to them. But more people in the U.S. have heard of the Amish, because they stand out more in modern society, and so most people, like Scott, will learn of the Mennonites by way of the Amish, rather than conversely.

    • Ordnung says:

      I still think “anachronistic” misrepresents the Amish. They never said “We want to live like back in olden times.”

      They simply said “We don’t need new gizmo A. We don’t need new gizmo B either. We can use new gizmo C. New gizmo D we’ll modify so it can be driven by propane instead of electricity. And let’s try and keep our clothes simple.”

      You and I both do this to some extent. The Amish just do more of it. The way you’re using “anachronistic,” anyone who doesn’t have the absolutely newest version of everything is anachronistic.

  51. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    Q: What is the weirdest sensation that you only experienced ONCE?
    A: to blink & time travel

    I had this feeling once too.

    > University student.
    > 1st week of class.
    > About 15 classmates.
    > There’s 3 rows of seats.
    > I’m in the center column, 2nd row.
    > There’s a guy on my left; a girl on my right.
    > The 1st row seats directly in front of me are empty.
    >
    > We’re halfway through the lecture.
    > College Dean is discussing engineering.
    > The lecture is really interesting.
    > let’s_hear_more.png
    > blink.
    > The dean is still talking.
    > 5 minutes of deja vu.
    > something’s_fishy.png
    > Look to my left.
    > Is… is that the same guy?
    > Look to my right.
    > See my male dorm-mate.
    > “Hey FMR, I didn’t know you were in this class!”
    > tfw_you_fall_asleep_in_class_and_wake_up_in_the_next.png

    I swear to God, I only blinked. But all the external evidence suggests that I fell asleep in class and didn’t realize it. It’s as if I had blinked and been teleported an hour into the future. Realizing the deja vu might be real was incredibly disorienting.

    After I did realize what had happened, I internally freaked out. “Should I get up and leave? But I’m in the middle of a lecture — it might be disrespectful to the Dean if I leave apropos of nothing. Guess I have to sit through this.” So I just kind of awkwardly sat there for the rest of the lecture. The Dean must have known, but he never said a word.

    • Chalid says:

      This happened to me once, except I lost a whole night. I was quite young though (under 10 years old?), so I just shrugged it off as something that happens sometimes.

  52. Nadja says:

    In the atheism post, the author mentions that his views have evolved as he moved from a place where he wasn’t at all inconvenienced by religious people to a place where he is. Very much along the lines of many of the discussions we’ve had here regarding what we see/interact with/perceive as an actual threat.

    My own evolution has been in the opposite direction. I grew up in an atheist family in a very religious town, and I now live in a very socially liberal state. So, over the years, I grew to feel much more friendly towards religion in general than I used to be.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I just loved how his only example of atheists behaving badly is them saying “ugly, ignorant, Islamophobic things” on twitter, like “help, they’re cutting off my head”.

      Not much mention of all the other stuff the atheism movement’s been up to the last few years…

      • Nadja says:

        Yes, I was actually wondering if he was being serious there.

      • CommonPlebeian says:

        I’m genuinely curious to what you’re referring to, I’ve been out of the atheist loop for the last few years. Mind educating me?

      • Ordnung says:

        Not much mention of all the other stuff the atheism movement’s been up to the last few years…

        Like being key players in the fight to normalize abortion and out-of-wedlock births?

        • That guy says:

          Normalizing out-of-wedlock births is a net loss for society, I think.

          More general response to the thread: do communist atrocities count as atheists behaving badly? I mean this as a genuine question, not a rebuttal.

          • Jill says:

            Well, perhaps. But some might say that if you have to go around to the other side of the world to find atheists behaving badly, you’re stretching things to make a point.

            If atheism is so bad, why do you end up having to go around to the other side of the world, and then find people behaving atrociously– due to a particular ideology and authoritarian government– and then note that that ideology involves atheism?

            Authoritarian governments often commit atrocities– whether they are atheistic, or are they are Christian fascists or Naziis. It seems to be the authoritarian aspect that causes the atrocities– not the predominant religion or lack therof of the people or the leader.

          • Adam says:

            Sure, but I always wonder what the heck people seriously think they’re proving when they have these arguments? It’s pretty obvious that, as Jill says, any government that attempts to gather together a whole bunch of people who believe many different things and then forces them upon pain of death to believe only one thing, is going to do some damage. In some cases, as we’re seeing with China, arguably with Saudi Arabia for a long time, they’re largely successful anyway even if morally despicable.

            But so what? There are a few religions that explicitly tell believers to convert people, but they don’t all do this. It’s not a necessary endemic feature of religion. And atheism is certainly not a necessary feature of communism. It happens that Marxism developed in a place where the church really was used as a tool of the powerful to subdue the masses for the last several thousand years, but that isn’t the case everywhere in the world with every religion, and there are other examples of communalistic societies that were not atheist and even the roots of communism in Europe originally sprang from the writing of Sir Thomas More, a Catholic saint.

          • Jiro says:

            There are a few religions that explicitly tell believers to convert people, but they don’t all do this.

            Memes evolve. In other words, religions which say to convert people will outcompete similar religions which don’t. So even though not every religion seeks converts, the existing believers are going to be mostly members of religions which do.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

            No matter how powerful the idea, nothing explains everything.

    • Vinnie Baker says:

      Yep, that post is a perfect example of the human tendency to ironman far groups and the extent to which social bubbling can affect which movements and ideologies we perceive as threatening. At first, this doesn’t sound so bad; I mean, don’t we want to be charitable towards people different from us? But it can be dangerous, mainly because the principle of charity and ironmanning are two subtly different things.

      The principle of charity is about interpreting opposing arguments in the light, you’re opponent most probably meant it. It’s when you let go of pedantry and small gaffes, in order to truly debate ideas and not semantics.

      Ironmanning is about constructing an argument for your opponents position that is most sturdy against your argument.

      Basically, the difference between ironmanning and principle of charity is whether your opponent would agree with your restatement of their argument.

      When we ironman far groups, we’re doing two troubling things: we’re downplaying their potential danger and we’re attributing to them positions they don’t even hold.

  53. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    Q: What is the weirdest sensation that you only experienced ONCE?
    A: doubting your sanity

    Oh man. I had an experience similar to reddit’s top post.

    > Be highschool sophomore.
    > Walking to the bus stop at 7:30 am.
    > Half asleep; nodding off; looking downward.
    > (!) Something’s at the top of my peripheral vision.
    > There’s a beaver statue in the center of the road?
    > Beaver statue is 4 ft away, erect, and looking right at me.
    > I freeze.
    > Time stops.
    > zoom_blur.jpg
    > Question sanity.
    > “What’s a beaver statue doing in the middle of the road?”
    > “Did it drop out of a car’s window?”
    > “Should I pick it up?”
    > “Is this The Matrix?”
    > “Am I on drugs?”
    > Beaver statue scampers off into someone’s lawn.
    > oh_it’s_not_a_statue.png
    > Continue towards bus stop.

    In retrospect, the beaver was obviously real. But what’s interesting is the surreal state-of-mind it triggered. Here’s my hypothesis.

    I generally don’t expect small animals to be within my vicinity, let alone arm’s reach. So I think the beaver caught me off-guard so much, my brain didn’t know how to process the thing in front of me. While my brain was still processing, my vision did this zoom_blur effect on my peripheral vision, such that the only part which wasn’t zoom_blurred was the beaver. And while still categorizing the object, I started questioning reality/sanity and had thoughts like “is this The Matrix? Am I on drugs?”. After exactly 1 eternal second of questioning reality, the beaver moved (which broke the spell).

    When I consider The Matrix right now, I don’t get the same visceral feeling that THE SEAMS OF REALITY ARE COMING APART AND EVERYTHING I KNOW IS WRONG. Nor have I ever experienced the distinct zoom_blur effect again. A beaver isn’t nearly as surprising as an elephant, but my reaction exactly matches how the elephant guy reacted.

    I’ve never shared this event with anyone because — well I mean subjectively, it was significant. But at the time, the objective facts didn’t seem worth sharing. E.g. “You saw a beaver? So what. There’s beavers everywhere.” And I didn’t have the vocabulary to properly convey to others the psychological gravitas of the event. So I just kinda forgot about it until now.

    I imagine this has been analyzed somewhere in the tumblr sphere though.

    • Tom Vanderbilt’s book on traffic mentions the observation that drivers in Maine brake more quickly on seeing a moose in the road than seeing a penguin.

      I had an experience like yours when I witnessed a minivan overturn on an expressway during a light snowstorm. The van stood straight up, its chassis facing me from across the median, and stayed there, dark, towering, steaming slightly, seemingly motionless, like the monolith from 2001, for a VERY long time.

      Eventually, it fell down and landed on its roof.

      • pku says:

        Tom Vanderbilt’s book on traffic mentions the observation that drivers in Maine brake more quickly on seeing a moose in the road than seeing a penguin.

        I would love to know how they found this out.

        • qwints says:

          If I recall correctly – driving simulator.

          Edit – nope, just a phrase illustrating the point (it takes longer to react to the unexpected) after discussing the driver simulator results. page 182-183.

    • Phil says:

      You might recall that there was an earthquake in DC a few years ago.

      I lived close enough to feel it. Earthquakes aren’t common there, I’d never experienced one before.

      My first thought when it happened was to wonder if I was having a stroke or some other medical issue

      Fortunately I was at work, so a second or two later I heard other people “is the building moving?” to cue me in that the experience wasn’t internally generated

  54. Troy Rex says:

    A few years back a brother and I took a six-month motorcycle trip through Central and South America. En route we replaced tires and chains many times.

    In Belize we had to replace our tires, and I think something else. In Central America “la moto” is a vehicle for a family of five (no lie), and they have a lot of mechanics. The best motorcycle mechanic in Belize was a Mennonite named Wolf. We were pretty surprised to find Mennonites in Belize, with traditional farm buildings and clothing.

    They all spoke the old language, and so their English was German-inflected. Wolf of course spoke Spanish as well and often traveled to Guatemala City (a very bad place to go) to get motorcycle parts.

    Wolf could put on and take off our motorcycle tires with his bare hands. Like everyone else, we carried tire irons to wedge them on and off. We still talk about this with awe.

  55. bluto says:

    I’ve always thought one of the most interesting things about the Mennonites is that it’s one of faiths whose members can opt out of social security.

  56. Anonymous says:

    In case anyone missed it, here’s Peter Thiel’s Commencement Speech mentioned by Scott a while ago.

    I quite like this part

    Looking back at my ambition to become a lawyer, it looks less like a plan for the future and more like an alibi for the present. It was a way to explain to anyone who would ask — to my parents, to my peers and most of all to myself — that there was no need to worry. I was perfectly on track. But it turned out in retrospect that my biggest problem was taking the track without thinking really hard about where it was going.

    • LPSP says:

      Sounds like my brush with a physics degree. Last OT or so I had a chat with a guy who felt he was just going through the motions every day, dreading having to get up and do things utterly bereft of meaning. My thought is that guy didn’t know his own utility function.

  57. onyomi says:

    Is there a comparison of drinking wine to drinking grape juice? I have heard the claim that the benefits of wine drinking can be entirely credited to the antioxidants, polyphenols, etc. in the grape, but that the alcohol itself isn’t doing anything useful. Of course, I also enjoy drinking wine more than grape juice, so will continue to do so… but it would be nice if I could continue to justify it on health grounds relative to a non-fermented equivalent.

    • Nadja says:

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but just wanted to note that there’s hope it might be (moderate consumption of) alcohol itself that makes us healthier. There are people out there who believe that HPA-axis dysfunction is to a large extent responsible for heart disease, and moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have a positive effect on the HPA-axis. =)

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2011/08/the_doctor_and_the_pomegranate.html

      Its been about 30 years of research on antioxidants in these types of foods and nothing good/great has been convincingly found. I chawk up the new articles every year to the same system that decides saturated fat kills you one month, and then decides its great for hormone levels the next and something something good bad cholesterol.

      Publishing papers and books, and that’s about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope something like this turns out to be true. Due to severe acid reflux, I can’t safely consume alcohol on a regular basis. Would be good if there were another way to gain the health benefits of wine.

      • Jill says:

        Do you know the cause of your acid reflux? I’ve had it at times. Depending on its cause, you may be able to get it fixed so that you can have more of the kind of diet you desire.

        I have found naturopathic doctors N.D.’s, and also holistic M.D.’s to be of more help than gasteroenterologists with this issue. Only one has to go to the best ones in one’s region of the country or world, because some folks in this field have not had very useful training and don’t know anything helpful to do.

        E.g. in the Seattle region, Tahoma Clinic is a big internationally famous holistic medicine place, with a reputation of being able to help more people than most other holistic clinics there.

  58. Porkburger says:

    Technically, Clinton is edging towards Ordoliberalism, but so far, only the Germans have been able to make that work … Wiki defintion : “Ordoliberalism is the German variant of social liberalism that emphasizes the need for the state to ensure that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential.”

  59. Massimo Heitor says:

    The west often makes the best Chinese culture movies and products. Japan definitely makes the best Euro medieval themed game with Dark Souls. The best wild west movies were made in Italy. Often outsiders do the best job of a culture.

  60. JGWeissman says:

    It looks like the real world Hamilton was arguing that immigrants should be residents for 5 years before being naturalized as citizens, which is a lot less anti immigrant than one might think from the quote. He’s not saying don’t let them in, he’s saying don’t let them vote until they have had some time to assimilate.

    • Adam says:

      I think people miss historical context very easily pulling quotes from people that said something that long ago. The idea that a foreign country could get someone elected to the presidency by sending over stealth immigrants to sway the vote is a pretty damn realistic threat in a country that only has 50,000 voters and is still fairly well packed with European loyalists. This really doesn’t tell us much about how Hamilton would feel about any of the immigration issues the country faces today.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        On the other hand, it’s a lot easier today to be an immigrant without assimilating. In Hamilton’s day, immigrants crossed an ocean they would probably never cross again, and their ability to maintain communications with their old life was comparatively nonexistent. Arguably, today that five year wait should perhaps be ten or twenty.

        I don’t read Hamilton as fearing anything as paranoid as a stealth invasion by an actual foreign power, but was instead concerned (like immigration skeptics today) by the dilution of the existing culture and the resulting decoherence of direction.

        Regarding the swaying of an election, note that the margin of victory in the last four Presidential elections was smaller than the number of illegal immigrants in the same year. Yes, illegal immigrants (mostly) did not vote, and they would not necessarily have all voted the same way in any case, but by the numbers it certainly doesn’t seem insane to share Hamilton’s worries, or to suspect that Hamilton would be just as likely to hold them today.

        And then there is the fact that the government is vastly more intrusive than in Hamilton’s day, so that the results of an election are potentially very much more significant to your daily life. Perhaps that would not affect his opinion: popular wisdom in some libertarian circles is that Hamilton was much more of a statist than many other founding fathers.

        • Adam says:

          Honestly, I think these are mostly just comments from the very end of his life and he was a crabby old man by then. He didn’t express opinions like this in his heyday.

          The stealth election thing can’t happen just because there are a sufficient number of immigrant voters (his issue was not about illegals but about immigrants period) to reverse the margin of an election. The concern then (and it was a real concern even if this wasn’t the concern he was expressing) was that a foreign power could get a specific candidate elected who was an agent of that foreign power. That would require 1) coordinating the efforts of every immigrant voter, and 2) getting a person onto the ballot who otherwise wouldn’t even be there.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            You could be right; I’m not familiar with Hamilton’s writings as a whole. My take on the passage Scott pointed to still seems right to me; in Hamilton’s day, even the two requirements you describe wouldn’t have sufficed, because the Electoral College still had teeth. (If a cadre of stealth immigrants had given George III or IV the popular vote, it would never have been rubber stamped by the College.)

            As such, the plausible danger would seem to be wholesale shifting of the zeitgeist rather than tricky election-hacking. Offhand I’d agree that does seem more of a risk with a population of 50 thousand voters than with 125 million. On the other hand, as best I can tell the legal immigration rate now is three times what it was in 1820, and it was probably even less when Hamilton wrote this passage in 1802. So it still doesn’t seem absurd to me to claim that Hamilton would be concerned today. If that matters.

            (Finally, heh, though this passage was written only two years before his death, he was only 45, so I have to object to characterizing his views as those of a crabby old man.)

          • Adam says:

            Actually, I was under the impression that the point of the electoral college was in part to prevent such things. It wasn’t just that they didn’t trust the masses to make good leadership selections at all. They also didn’t trust them not to come under the thrall of a foreign demagogue. I could be misremembering my history, though.

            Of course, there were certainly many other indicators of the fear of foreign influence in American elections. The Alien and Sedition Acts, which were brought about by a fear of French influence. Even now, paranoia about foreign campaign contributions.

  61. Nadja says:

    The Atul Gawande piece is incredible. Thanks for linking it. Relevant not just to the field of medicine, but to the question of what makes some people outstanding performers in general.

    (Also, if anyone is interested in the issue of data transparency and accountability in medicine, I recommend the book “Unaccountable” by Marty Makary. The fact that a lot of data on the performance of doctors and hospitals is out there, but not available to the patients, makes me frustrated. And worried. If someone I care about has a serious illness, how do I figure out where to take them for treatment? Makary suggests talking to nurses and doctors, the best question to ask being along the lines of where they would want to get treatment themselves. If that’s the best way for most conditions for which data is not public, then it – again, again, again – goes to show how important people skills are. The better you connect with these people, the more info they’ll be willing to share. A very frustrating thing to admit for an extreme introvert who’s on the wrong end of the social skills bell curve.)

  62. Jiro says:

    Authors write that this suggests previous bias against women lopped off the bottom half of the female ability distribution, leaving only women who were so brilliant that they could effectively compete on a skewed playing field, and who therefore did better than men once the playing field was leveled. I find this a little self-serving, but it’s hard to explain why blinding review would have this effect otherwise, and I don’t see any obvious attempts to cook the data.

    That seems to be subject to conservation of expected evidence. In other words, if you really believe this, you must also believe that women doing worse than men is evidence against discrimination.

    • brightlinger says:

      I’m not sure I follow?

      The evidence of discrimination is the delta between blinded and non-blinded performance. If that delta were non-significant or negative, that would be evidence against discrimination. This part is totally kosher by CoEE.

      But then, we have the weird result that women performed _better_ than men after blinding. This isn’t itself evidence of discrimination, the authors just propose a mechanism by which it might happen, and that mechanism happens to involve discrimination. Another possible mechanism is “women are better linguists”, or etc.

  63. Ordnung says:

    Buffalo NY has a court building that’s pretty evil-looking. Brutalism at its finest. Surprised it’s not on there, but then again maybe this just means there are tons of evil-looking buildings so a given evil-looking building has a low probability of being well-known for that.

  64. Chalid says:

    Poll finds that 37% of Trump supporters have zero friends who support Clinton; 47% of Clinton supporters have zero friends who support Trump.

    Unfortunately what we should take away from this is highly dependent on the number of friends people have. If people have 30 friends then there is some serious ideological sorting to get half of Clinton supporters not knowing any Trump supporters, whereas if they each have two friends then it would not be surprising at all. Relatedly, the poll questions seem to be about “close friends,” not just “friends,” which makes a big difference because the number of close friends is likely a lot less than the number of friends.

    According to the poll, the difference between Trump supporters and Clinton supporters is driven entirely by race, which makes sense; black people near-unanimously support Clinton, and black people are likely to have a disproportionate number of black friends. “Fully 72% of Clinton’s black supporters say they have no close friends who support Trump. Just 36% of whites who back Clinton say the same, similar to the share of whites supporting Trump who do not have close friends who back Clinton (33%).”

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Came here to make this point.

      Note that people with no close friends are all in this category.

    • pku says:

      Also, there are about 8-9% more Clinton than Trump backers, which in itself may be enough to explain the difference (depending on your model of how randomly people make friends).

    • TomFL says:

      So your theory is Trump supporters just don’t have friends, and not that people tend to sort themselves ideologically and that liberals may do this even more according to the data?

      I guess black people have almost no friends at all according to this theory.

      • So your theory is Trump supporters just don’t have friends, and not that people tend to sort themselves ideologically and that liberals may do this even more according to the data?

        I guess black people have almost no friends at all according to this theory.

        None of those assertions make sense to me.

        White Clinton supporters look to be closely similar to white Trump supporters. Black Clinton supporters are likely to have close friends who are also black and also Clinton supporters.

        The fact that people in all categories have similarly varying numbers of close friends is entirely consistent with this.

      • Chalid says:

        Why don’t you carefully reread the last paragraph of the post you’re replying to?

    • Jill says:

      One factor here that might make the data mean less than they appear to mean, is that many people live in an area that is extremely red or extremely blue. So that you’d have to really go to a lot of trouble to find Trump supporters, or Clinton supporters, in your locale. Whereas some geographic areas are more mixed, so that you’d have to go out of your way if you desired to avoid people of the other political tribe.

  65. Utopn Naxl says:

    Why would it be a surprise that the GDP may be shrinking, or growing slowly?

    My pet theory is that its going to slowly decrease as we get ever more of our entertainment and news from these cheap iphones, instead of subscribing to a newspaper and the ink, paper, and manpower involved for 2 years. Not buying movies. Less frequent movie theaters. All the stores involved in movie rentals for the past 30 years have gone away. Been replaced by a few people online. More goods watched and produced, less people involved.

    Alarm clocks, general GPS systems, cameras, film developers . Why would someone expect the GDP to increase with this?

    Today is the world of more electronic goods being consumed with data, but less of its components being produced, all being put into one cool smartphone/laptop. When something can double as both, it decreases further.

    What about 15 years from now, when computers may be so powerful and general (with a slow enough rate of improvement) that they become the family car again?

    Its also may decrease if we get good efficiency in cars and little accidents with computers driving cars. Less maintenance of cars = less people repairing them.

    And green tech. Is that even easy to include if we start getting really efficient green-tech?

    But of course, the real meaningful stat is inflation-adjusted gdp per capita. Everything else is piss in the wind.

    • Wrong Species says:

      http://www.vox.com/a/new-economy-future/technology-productivity

      “This is a challenge to the mismeasurement hypothesis: We’ve never measured productivity perfectly. We’ve always been confounded by consumer surplus and step changes. To explain the missing productivity of recent decades, you have to show that the problem is getting worse — to show the consumer surplus is getting bigger and the step changes more profound. You have to prove that Facebook offers more consumer surplus than cars once did; that measures of inflation tracked the change from outhouses to toilets better than the change from telephones to smartphones. That turns out to be a very hard case to make.”

      “Syverson reasoned that if productivity gains were being systematically distorted in economies dependent on informational technologies, then productivity would look better in countries whose economies were driven by other sectors. Instead, he found that the productivity slowdown — which is evident in every advanced economy — is “unrelated to the relative size of information and communication technologies in the country’s economy.”

      Then he moved on to the consumer surplus argument. Perhaps the best way to value the digital age’s advances is by trying to put a price on the time we spend using things like Facebook. Syverson used extremely generous assumptions about the value of our time, and took as a given that we would use online services even if we had to pay for them. Even then, he found the consumer surplus only fills a third of the productivity gap. (And that’s before you go back and offer the same generous assumptions to fully capture the value of past innovations, which would widen the gap today’s technologies need to close!)”

      “A March paper from David Byrne, John Fernald, and Marshall Reinsdorf took a different approach but comes to similar conclusions. “The major ‘cost’ to consumers of Facebook, Google, and the like is not the broadband access, the cell phone service, or the phone or computer; rather, it is the opportunity cost of time,” they concluded. “But that time cost … is akin to the consumer surplus obtained from television (an old economy invention) or from playing soccer with one’s children.”

      There is real value in playing soccer with one’s children, of course — it’s just not the kind of value economists are looking to measure with productivity statistics.”

    • multiheaded says:

      Und so… you are saying that the growing efficiency of capitalist production results in a crisis of underconsumption?

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        Yup!. Like a well-made 70 dollar pair of shoes adds less GDP then 4 pairs of 25 dollar crap shoes.

        • Yes, but that means more income for other things. I am spending $25 on a new kitchen implement, like that garlic roller.

          Demand is infinite, so increases in supply will always be met by increases in the demand. The constraining factor needs to be supply (in some fashion).

          • “Demand is infinite”

            But some of it is for leisure, which doesn’t get counted in GNP.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            People spend money on their leisure which does get counted as gdp though, as does the increased productivity/work they need to do to afford that weekend getaway, pleasant dinner out, ect.

            Assuming general preferences for leisure over income haven’t changed I don’t see how leisure as a catagory could lower measured growth unless the means of leisure is itself getting more efficient in a way that isn’t counted: free video game entertains better and for more hours than $12 movie, airbnb gives you both a nice and cheaper vacation.

            It could be our modes of entertainment are just that much better (increase demand without preference change) and cheaper, both of which don’t show up on gdp.

            I don’t know, seems quantifiable enough (hour spent on leisure, average cost of leisure, etc.) But I haven’t heard of any studies that look into it.

          • Leisure definitely is a positive good, but in recent history, I think we’re talking mostly about shifting household work hours into leisure hours and remunerative work hours.

            If we’re talking about declines in productivity, entrepreneurship figures seem more relevant than a preference for leisure. Just my take. An undeveloped heuristic, admittedly.

          • Utopn Naxl says:

            Perhaps. It can mean that in a hyper-capitalist society where people don’t care about anything environmental. With proper environmental taxations and even rewards for not heavily polluting, that can reverse. I will give this video that reversing the GDP in many areas can be a good thing, even if it effects the final measure.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77IdKFqXbUY

            I wonder how much money can be counted in the status boosting activities like buying pricier diamonds, or houses in nicer areas. As a cynical observation, some computer companies sell their stuff for 3X the price of the competation, just making it slightly slimmer and prettier. Is the future buying pretty overpriced version of the same goods to increase GDP somehow?

            How does that status grubbing effect the GDP? That reminds me I need to restudy that issue.

            But I don’t think demand is actually infinite, at least for all people. Its certainly not infinite for *every* person. The hippie movement showed that(and its regulations probably did reduce the possible max GDP and made the world a cleaner place)

            The current hikkimori problem in Japan shows that lots of people can now live in their rooms getting entertainment from gaming and free videos, to the point where real life is substituted. The matrix is just some electricity applied, very cheap! Even the crappy hikki version of the matrix.

            I suppose in societies where certain over-excesses like lots of cars are frowned upon, with perhaps a tax dis-incentive here and there, I think this combining of multiple devices into one *will* reduce the gdp, while increasing consumption.

            I guess that adds a question as to if good renewable solar energy is created, will that *reduce* the gdp in the books? No transactions would be occurring for that energy.

    • It sounds to me that the crisis is no crisis so long as you don’t think dollars are utilons.

  66. BBA says:

    “No major hurricanes” – as long as you don’t count Sandy, which was a major hurricane at its peak but weakened before it made landfall. And even if it didn’t have sufficient wind speed to make it a “major hurricane” by the official definition, it was certainly a big deal, at least among us parochial New Yorkers.

    • Loquat says:

      The article is defining “major” as “category 3 or higher at time of landfall”, with no reference whatsoever to the actual level of destruction inflicted. It seems an odd definition, since Sandy managed to become the second-costliest hurricane in US history even though it wasn’t technically strong enough to even be called a hurricane at time of landfall.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Sandy was expensive because it hit a very populated, very wealthy area. Didn’t help that it’s also an area with a lot of underground infrastructure.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The benchmark number that was being tossed around breathlessly after the 2005 hurricane season was “Category 3+ hurricanes making landfall in the continental US”. Sandy doesn’t count by that definition; it was nowhere near Category 3 at landfall. Seven Category 3+ hurricanes made landfall in 2005, none since. This may or may not be the best measure, but it is a measure predictions were made about.

    • Chalid says:

      I don’t know anything about the topic really, but it seems obviously wrong to make inferences about *global* warming by looking at a category like “major hurricanes that made landfall in the United States.”

      • John Schilling says:

        And yet every local extreme weather event, even those of extreme cold, will be put forth as one more proof of the Imminent AGW Catastrophe.

        The best climate scientists, the ones that don’t need scare quotes around the scientist part, don’t do this. They are careful to distinguish between climate and weather and to note that AGW doesn’t mean universally worse weather. They are careful to acknowledge that they really don’t know how to do long-term weather prediction very well.

        And then they try to do the best they can anyway, because people are asking and it’s important, which results in a body of literature with more noise and scatter than data. Which the worst sort can cherrypick for whatever they need.

      • TomFL says:

        The reason US landfall records are often used is that this is the most reliable long term records (> 50 years) available.

        Before the global coverage satellite era records from the other basins were very poorly kept.

    • TomFL says:

      Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane at landfall. That’s why it’s called Superstorm Sandy.

      http://www.climatecentral.org/news/nws-confirms-sandy-was-not-a-hurricane-at-landfall-15589

      It was a large storm that hit a woefully unprepared NY/NJ coast at high tide and an unfortunate angle. In terms of power, it was not a very powerful storm.

      The existence of large storms is neither surprising or unprecedented. NY/NJ should have been better prepared.

  67. mobile says:

    Hurricanes are a heat transfer mechanism from lower latitudes to higher latitudes.

    Global warming affects the planet at higher latitudes more than around the equator.

    Smaller temperature differences between higher and lower latitudes means fewer and weaker hurricanes.

    • The Nybbler says:

      An interesting story, but did anyone predict this effect?

      Also, I don’t think there has been a drop in the number of major hurricanes. Only in those making landfall.

      • Pete says:

        My understanding of the science was that there should be fewer hurricanes, but the ones that do form should be stronger. I think there’s also a cycle, and it’s difficult to know how much a change in hurricane activity is due to a multi-decadal cycle and how much (if anything) it has to do with climate change.

        Here’s a video from 2010. Potholer is a science journalist, not a scientist, but he does link his sources in the video description.

        Some of the papers linked, just in case people are too lazy to watch the video (which is fair enough).

        “Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under 21st century warming conditions.”– Tom Knutson, Nature Geoscience 2008

        “Warmer Ocean Could Reduce Number Of Atlantic Hurricane Landfalls”
        — Wang et al, Geophysical Research Letters 2008
        Here is an article discussing this one.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s things like this that make believing in horrific climate change hard to believe. How can people change their beliefs so drastically and not expect anyone to notice?

        • Pete says:

          Can you point to scientific literature that predicted an increase in hurricane activity? I’ve quoted 2 papers (and linked to a video that quotes more) from 2008 that predict the opposite. Was there ever consensus otherwise?

          If you only focus on what’s said in the media, you’ll get an inaccurate view of the scientific consensus. The media gets science wrong constantly. You shouldn’t let that fact colour your opinion of the science itself.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I linked to four highly cited articles below. And here’s an article with a quote from Michael Mann.

            http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090812/full/news.2009.821.html

          • bluto says:

            I’m not climatologist but my reading of this paper appears to attribute increases in hurricanes due to climate change. Specifically,

            We can now develop the following causal chain.

            SSTs in the main hurricane development regions of the NATL ocean have increased over the past century, particularly in the past 30 years, due primarily to greenhouse warming associated with anthropogenically introduced gases.

            There is a strong and statistically significant relationship between SSTs and tropical cyclone activity at longer periods, with eastern NATL SSTs explaining over 60% of the variance in overall cyclone frequency and Gulf of Mexico SSTs explaining a similar level of variance in the proportion of major hurricanes.

            The SST/cyclone relationships are primarily due to transitions between distinct climate regimes and are independent of known data uncertainties.

            Collectively, this causal chain leads to the strong conclusion that the current level of tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic is largely a response to climate change from anthropogenic causes.

            If I were guessing, I would expect that this quote from an Inconvenient Truth had more influence on people hearing a tie between global warming and hurricanes than any study:

            Now I’m going to show you, recently released, the actual ocean temperature. Of course when the oceans get warmer, that causes stronger storms. We have seen in the last couple of years, a lot of big hurricanes. Hurricanes Jean, Francis and Ivan were among them. In the same year we had that string of big hurricanes; we also set an all time record for tornadoes in the United States. Japan again didn’t get as much attention in our news media, but they set an all time record for typhoons. The previous record was seven. Here are all ten of the ones they had in 2004.

            The science textbooks that have to be re-written because they say it is impossible to have a hurricane in the South Atlantic. It was the same year that the first one that ever hit Brazil. The summer of 2005 is one for the books. The first one was Emily that socked into Yucatan. Then Hurricane Dennis came along and it did a lot of damage, including to the oil industry. This is the largest oil platform in the world after Dennis went through. This one was driven into the bridge at Mobile.

            And then of course came Katrina. It is worth remembering that when it hit Florida it was a Category 1, but it killed a lot of people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. And then, what happened? Before it hit New Orleans, it went over warmer water. As the water temperature increases, the wind velocity increases and the moisture content increases. And you’ll see Hurricane Katrina form over Florida. And then as it comes into the Gulf over warm water it becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. Look at that Hurricane’s eye. And of course the consequences were so horrendous; there are no words to describe it.

            How in god’s name could that happen here? There had been warnings that hurricanes would get stronger. There were warnings that this hurricane, days before it hit, would breach the levies and cause the kind of damage that it ultimately did cause. And one question that we, as a people, need to decide is how we react when we hear warnings from the leading scientists in the world.

            So I would suppose you would need to find Gore’s sources for that statement to determine why people have been hearing this for years.

          • Pete says:

            Thanks bluto. The claim I’m making (apparently poorly) isn’t that there have been no papers making that claim, only that it has never been considered settled science, and that there have certainly been papers pointing in the opposite direction.

            But I appreciate the link anyway. I’ll give it a read.

            And I hate AIT. It’s propaganda, not science, and makes a number of questionable claims. This then leads to people dismissing the entire field.

            Edit: A line from the linked paper that stood out

            A formal statement released by NOAA after the 2005 hurricane season stated unequivocally, with no reference to peer-reviewed literature to the contrary, that the current high level of activity was entirely due to natural variations

            This suggests that Gore was disagreeing with NOAA at least.

          • anon says:

            Key language from IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers: “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low”. Which I think translates to “we are capable of building computer models which exhibit more hurricanes, statistical evidence for an increase is basically nonexistent, but the sample size is small and the older data is crap”.

          • TomFL says:

            There are two things.

            1. Observations
            2. Predictions

            The quote from AR5 is about observations so (very little) modeling is not involved. Like tornadoes improved technology (satellites) has increased the count of smaller storms that would have gone undetected 100 years ago. The best 100 year trend to use is USA Cat3+ landfalls because these are never missed.

            Observations do not show any significant trends occurring.

            http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/gw_hurricanes/fig33.jpg

            http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-V9Zqz_djQhw/U5ZjNCvNY_I/AAAAAAAADhk/UahVOH12Hic/s1600/noaa.hurrfreq.jpg

            https://cei.org/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/Pielke%20Jr%20US%20Hurrican%20Power%20Dissipation%20Index%201900-2013.jpg?itok=dtfLUux_

            Predictions are a different thing. If people want to model, speculate, predict a major change in this trend in the next 100 years that is fine by me, but there is no particular reason anyone should believe them.

          • Some years back Chris Landsea, who was one of the IPCC hurricane experts, resigned from the IPCC to protest a claim that AGW had increased hurricanes which was made by the person who, if I remember correctly, was in charge of the next iteration of the hurricane part of the report. Landsea’s claim was that there was no peer reviewed support for such a link at the time.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I tend to listen to Mueller. He has long said “scientists have never said global warming causes more storms.”

            I’m acutely aware that when I would tell people this, I would get called a climate-denier, and an idiot for believing Mueller over Gore. Just saying.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t follow this issue closely, but for as long as I can recall the prediction has been lower frequency, increased severity.

          • Chris Landsea’s view sometime back was that increased intensity and reduced frequency was a plausible but not certain result, with both changes fairly small.

    • So why is it that I have been hearing for years that global warming was going to cause more and stronger hurricanes? I have never, ever heard anyone say, “Global warming is real, it’s caused by humans, and it’s going to give us fewer hurricanes.”

      • Pete says:

        Maybe because you don’t keep up with the published scientific literature. From the article I linked above (from 2008).

        A warming global ocean — influencing the winds that shear off the tops of developing storms — could mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes striking the United States according to new findings by NOAA climate scientists. Furthermore, the relative warming role of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans is important for determining Atlantic hurricane activity.
        The article, to be published on January 23 in Geophysical Research Letters, uses observations to show that warming of global sea surface temperatures is associated with a secular, or sustained long-term increase, of vertical wind shear in the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes. The increased vertical wind shear coincides with a downward trend in U.S. landfalling hurricanes.

        ETA and here’s a quote from the abstract of the other.

        Here we assess, in our model system, the changes in large-scale climate that are projected to occur by the end of the twenty-first century by an ensemble of global climate models, and find that Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm frequencies are reduced. At the same time, near-storm rainfall rates increase substantially. Our results do not support the notion of large increasing trends in either tropical storm or hurricane frequency driven by increases in atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations.

        • Wrong Species says:

          You should probably check Google Scholar before you make claims so obviously untrue.

          http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-87-5-617

          “However, while there are obvious large and
          natural oscillations, in our view the growing body
          of evidence suggests a direct and growing trend in
          several important aspects of tropical cyclones, such
          as intensity, rainfall, and sea level, all of which can be
          attributed to global warming. Aspects of the association between global warming and tropical cyclones
          and other extreme atmospheric events are uncertain,
          in part because climate change is continuous, yet
          irregular. However, in a warmer, moister world with
          higher SSTs, higher sea level, altered atmospheric
          and oceanic circulations, and increased societal
          vulnerability, it would be surprising if there were no
          significant changes in tropical cyclone characteristics and their impacts on society. Indeed, the broad
          agreement between theoretical and modeling studies,
          together with the strong evidence from observational
          analysis, suggests that not only will tropical cyclone
          intensity increase with anthropogenic warming,
          but that this process has already commenced.”

          http://science.sciencemag.org/content/309/5742/1844.full

          “We conclude that global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes, corroborated by the results of the recent regional assessment (29). This trend is not inconsistent with recent climate model simulations that a doubling of CO2 may increase the frequency of the most intense cyclones (18, 30), although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.”

          https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jmsj/84/2/84_2_259/_article

          “Possible changes in the tropical cyclones in a future, greenhouse-warmed climate are investigated using a 20 km-mesh, high-resolution, global atmospheric model of MRI/JMA, with the analyses focused on the evaluation of the frequency and wind intensity. Two types of 10-year climate experiments are conducted. One is a present-day climate experiment, and the other is a greenhouse-warmed climate experiment, with a forcing of higher sea surface temperature and increased greenhouse-gas concentration. A comparison of the experiments suggests that the tropical cyclone frequency in the warm-climate experiment is globally reduced by about 30% (but increased in the North Atlantic) compared to the present-day-climate experiment. Furthermore, the number of intense tropical cyclones increases. The maximum surface wind speed for the most intense tropical cyclone generally increases under the greenhouse-warmed condition (by 7.3 m s−1 in the Northern Hemisphere and by 3.3 m s−1 in the Southern Hemisphere). On average, these findings suggest the possibility of higher risks of more devastating tropical cyclones across the globe in a future greenhouse-warmed climate.”

          http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7051/abs/nature03906.html

          “Theory1 and modelling2 predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperatures, but work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend. Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities. I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.”

          To be fair, I did find some articles criticizing the above ones, but to claim that no scientists were suggesting so is truly incredible. And no, you can’t escape by saying that only a few fringe scientists were saying so, these were the most cited studies.

          • Pete says:

            I didn’t claim that no scientists were claiming that. Such a claim would have been absurd. All I said was that there were papers stating the opposite. I don’t believe there has been a solid consensus on the subject.

            The claim I was responding to was,

            I have never, ever heard anyone say, “Global warming is real, it’s caused by humans, and it’s going to give us fewer hurricanes.”

            I provided examples where that was the case.

            I appreciate the articles citing the alternative view. This was never my area of study.

            Actually, could you point out exactly where I made an untrue claim?

            Also, from the very text you cite

            although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.”

            work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend.

            Aspects of the association between global warming and tropical cyclones
            and other extreme atmospheric events are uncertain,
            in part because climate change is continuous, yet
            irregular.

            Indeed, the broad
            agreement between theoretical and modeling studies,
            together with the strong evidence from observational
            analysis, suggests that not only will tropical cyclone
            intensity increase with anthropogenic warming,
            but that this process has already commenced.

            None make firm claims, 2 are studying the intensity not the frequency (and if you read my first post above, you’ll see that my understanding of the science was that hurricane intensity would increase) and one of those 2 even states that there has been no trend in the frequency of hurricanes.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Kevin said:

            “So why is it that I have been hearing for years that global warming was going to cause more and stronger hurricanes?”

            To which you replied:

            “Maybe because you don’t keep up with the published scientific literature. From the article I linked above (from 2008).”

            So that’s where I got the implication that you were saying that no one was making that claim. But looking back, it does seem you were replying more to his second statement than his first. My apologies.

          • Pete says:

            No worries. Easy to misinterpret things online.

            And I really do appreciate the linked studies. Back in 2011, one of the modules of my physics degree involved the science of Global Warming. I had a much firmer grasp of the literature then, but sadly I seem to have forgotten most of what I studied at university.

          • TomFL says:

            Pete,

            There is nothing that frustrates climate “skeptics” (I am using the required scare quotes here) more than people pretending claims like there will be stronger and more frequent hurricanes weren’t really made and here is a single paper that says the opposite. Look at the cover of Al Gore’s famous epic and what do you see?

            Here is a Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalism piece on the exploitation of hurricane climate models for insurance purposes.

            Florida insurers rely on dubious storm model
            http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20101114/article/11141026

            I have been skeptical of climate science for a while now and the Florida insurance market link with climate science turned me towards the dark side. I’m a bit more moderate now and see the media / science interface to be where most of the fault lies. Too many activists in the media.

            The media says lots of crazy alarmist things about climate, especially extreme events, and climate science rarely corrects them. I fault them for this. So if you were to present that (1) the science never claimed this link and (2) they made lots of attempts to correct that impression than I would be sympathetic. It’s wrong on #1 and really wrong on #2.

          • I had a blog post a couple of years ago on the contrast between what the IPCC actually said and what climate alarmists in the popular literature claimed.

            One of my favorite IPCC quotes (on sea level rise):

            “Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.”

          • One of the things that most frustrate believers is sceptics quoting the crippling cost of anti GW measures, when the pro GW side actually proposing something much more modest. The nonsense factory doesn’t work in just one direction.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But would those more modest measures actually do meaningful good (assuming AGW is correct)? My impression has been most anti-AGW people think of them as the camel’s nose poking under the tent.

          • If the deniers can prove, using real facts, that modest measures would have no impact, they would have the beginnings of a rational case.

          • TallDave says:

            TAG,

            But there’s an enormous asymmetry there. It’s like the US government cutting people’s heads off live on national TV and then telling critics “so what, Al Qaeda does it too.” We’re already spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars per year globally based on beliefs about global warming, and doubts are conflated with Holocaust denial at the highest levels.

    • TomFL says:

      The question I always ponder is:

      “What would happen if there was a record number of Cat3+ landfalls in the US over the last 11 years?”. So many that it was a 1 in 2300 chance that it would occur naturally.

      Would the science and the media be claiming this it was just “dumb luck” as appeared in the NYT?
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/opinion/where-are-the-hurricanes.html?_r=0

      I very much doubt this. I just want the same standard to be used for event trends that go in both directions. This is where the confirmation bias I believe exists with climate change, and specifically the media coverage.

      The point made in this article is valid. We aren’t having “US coastal warming”, we are having global warming. We should examine the global trends, not a single basin. (Not much happening in global trends).

      Frustration #1: If you are doing numerical analysis on data that is sparse, sporadic, and noisy why would you split the dataset and expect to gain better insight? When you don’t have enough data points to get reliable trends, using 25% of those points isn’t going to improve things. It is frequently done to get the answer a researcher is looking for.

      If you want to claim this regional data is somehow indicative of something it is borderline unethical to not also present the entire dataset to show the differences.

      Frustration #2: Size of the effect. It has been warming for 100 years. Hurricanes don’t care why the warming is there. If we can’t detect any changes in hurricanes over the past 100 years of warming, why would we expect the next hundred to show a significant change? There may be an effect, but it may be negative, and it is probably small.

      Frustration #3: Causation. Even if a trend did exist, it is almost impossible to separate natural variability from other potential sources given the meager data available. This is not something you just throw into a computer and get an answer.

      Frustration #4: Model reliability. Due to the nature of the length of trends involved a model cannot be validated. It is educated guessing at best, pure speculation at worst. If the same model used to raise my FL insurance rates 80% also successfully predicted a reduction in landfalls I would be impressed. Obviously it predicted the opposite. Models to predict hurricane seasons have been laughably bad. There is no reason to expect long term models to be any better. Trust is being placed here that has not been earned.

  68. ComfotablyNumb says:

    A cheeky response to the neoliberal post:

    1. We like markets – a lot.
    “Only Economics Matters.”
    2. We are liberal consequentialists.
    “The description is that of hedonic individualists, though. We value philosophical descriptors, but don’t feel the need to use them accurately, because we are Non-Ideological.”
    3. We care about the poor.
    As opposed to all those other people.
    4. We care about the welfare of everyone in the world, not just those in the UK.
    As opposed to all THOSE other people.
    5. We base our beliefs on empirics, not principles.
    “While this explains the shoddy terminology in 2, we really want to emphasize that we don’t really have a solid grasp of what principles are, because they’re so self-evident, see?”
    6. We try not to be dogmatic.
    “We’re really invested in the idea that we are removed from ideology, history, and human culture; which is convenient when Only Economics Matters.”
    7. We think the world is getting better.
    “We are currently dominant and expect this to continue.”
    8. We believe that property rights are very important.
    “We’re not going to get into any thorny descriptions of what exactly those property rights are, though.”
    9. But we’re comfortable with redistribution, in principle.
    “Now you understand the vagueness of 8!”