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OT76: Extropenism

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

1. San Diego meetup still planned for today, Irvine meetup still planned for next weekend. Details here.

2. In Silicon Valley: A Reality Check, I included Vox in a list of publications that were overly harsh on Silicon Valley because of the Juicero incident. Vox requests a correction that their article, although somewhat harsh at points, also did note that there was lots of good research and development going on too, and doesn’t deserve to be pilloried in the same way as the others. You can read their article here and judge for yourself.

3. There were a lot of complaints about Polyamory Is Not Polygyny, so let me clarify. The articles I cited were generally criticizing polyamory as it actually exists, ie in a few weird communities. I presented data from one weird community showing that it didn’t look like their criticisms were true. Some other people in the comments presented data from other weird communities showing the same thing. I don’t claim this is necessarily an accurate representation of what a future hypothetical worldwide polyamorous society would be like. For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

4. Mingyuan has been doing a lot of work aggregating data and comments from all of the SSC meetups that have been going on lately. See her writeup here. She’s also got a frequently-updated list of where and when the next SSC meetup close to you is here. I’m going to add that somewhere more prominent when I get around to it.

5. My serial novel Unsong is now complete. If you were waiting to read it until it was finished, now’s the time.

6. The Report Comments button is broken and seems to have been so for a while. If you posted something terrible in the past few months, you’re probably off the hook. My normal tech support has given up on this one, but if you want to try fixing it, let me know.

7. Cafe Chesscourt has agreed to serve as an unofficial (official?) SSC forum, so if you prefer bulletin boards to all the other methods of communication we’ve got around here, head on over.

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1,136 Responses to OT76: Extropenism

  1. pelebro says:

    I was reading this post by our host
    https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/22/freedom-on-the-centralized-web/
    and this got my attention “Certainly the well-intentioned solutions other people are working on, like a decentralized crypto-Reddit that can’t be moderated even in principle, are unlikely to help (hint: what is the most striking difference between Bitcoin marketplaces and normal marketplaces?)”
    Can someone clarify what the hint is hinting at?.
    Anyway, this caught my attention because it is not an hypothetical, we have the technical tools to build this, and it has actually been implemented!.
    I’m thinking of the fms in the freenet. The freenet is a censorship resistant web, so it’s about as hard to take something down as I can imagine it from a purely technical side. The fms is build over it, moderation is managed by having each user have something like a ban list, trusted members of the community can make such list for people to subscribe to. This makes it so that if their moderation power is abused then someone else can modify their lists and the ‘exodus’ can be made fairly frictionless. I think that their developers also have some experience addressing ddos and spam but I don’t know the specifics. I haven’t actually used it, but it seems pretty cool.

    • rlms says:

      My interpretation is that Bitcoin marketplaces are mainly for drugs and fake assassinations; they are the equivalent of sites that mainly contain “witches”.

      • pelebro says:

        I don’t know if that’s a problem inherent on bitcoin or if it’s due to alternatives coming first. I don’t know how this is called, but it would be sort of like how facebook is now when free software alternatives like diaspora or gnusocial exist. As a counterexample the same rationale would apply to end-to-end encryption, but since whatsapp implemented it is not only terrorists and other criminals that use it.

        • Brad says:

          I’ve never been clear on what problem bitcoin is supposed to solve exactly. It’s chief merit seems to be that transactions are somewhat harder for authorities to trace than say an international wire. Hence its attractiveness to various criminals.

          Don’t get me wrong, the distributed ledger is something I could see being useful in various applications and the blockchain is a clever implementation of a distributed ledger. But as to bitcoins qua bitcoins, I don’t see it.

          • pelebro says:

            “It’s chief merit seems to be that transactions are somewhat harder for authorities to trace than say an international wire”
            Put more charitably, the transactions are more private. You can donate to wikileaks without fearing US government retribution, or to journalists the Chinese Government disapproves of. It is not only government intervention one wants to prevent, there is no technical reason for credit card companies to not sell your purchase history for personalized advertisement or similar. Also, for example paypal doesn’t like having anything to do with porn, the decentralized nature of bitcoin gives a more robust environment for free expression.
            Also, as far as I understand bitcoin transactions are cheaper than paypal’s and credit card’s. Maybe not cheaper than an international wire transfer but I have the impression that’s not convenient for smaller quantities. At the very least an innovative competition is good for the market.
            My biggest reservation are scalability and energy usage, one would think that cost can serve as a proxy but maybe energy is undervalued with externalities like global change. I think it’s a good experiment anyway.
            As a side issue, one can note that bitcoin is not actually anonymous unless you buy them in an anonymous way, the distributed ledger is available to everyone. Something like Monero is preferable I think.

          • Brad says:

            The non-anonymous part is why I said “somewhat harder to trace.” If it were anonymous than it would be a somewhat different story.

            To take your example, I don’t think it would be a good idea to treat the security though obscurity of bitcoin as true security if your adversity is the USG or China. Granted the ransomware and drug people are doing that, but criminals aren’t exactly know for being risk adverse.

            The problem space of “more private than a credit card, but not really anonymous” just doesn’t seem that large to me. Even totally anonymous would be something of a niche.

          • John Schilling says:

            Put more charitably, the transactions are more private. You can donate to wikileaks without fearing US government retribution, or to journalists the Chinese Government disapproves of.

            Or to the pimp of that 15-year-old prostitute that caught your eye, or the thug who offers to kill your wife because she won’t shut up about all the prostitutes. Or buy heroin or automatic weapons, or rent botnets, or just cheat on your taxes.

            The people who will want to do that sort of thing, are likely to be much more numerous and much richer than the people who want to donate to Wikileaks et al. Less nerdy, so less likely to be among the early adopters of Bitcoin, but in the long run the advantage Wikileaks would get from only-semi-anonymous donations may not outweigh the disadvantage of being associated with such a generally disreputable crowd.

            As Scott has pointed out before, if the chief selling point of your community is “No witch hunts here!”, you wind up with a few principled civil libertarians and a whole lot of witches. That’s a problem if witches are a real threat, or if the witch-hunters are powerful enough to invade and destroy your community.

          • pelebro says:

            @John Schilling
            Possibly, but not necessarily. There is a currency that is more anonymous that Bitcoin and is used by normal users much more than by criminals. Cash. So it depends on how wide adoption becomes. I think the strongest selling point for the average Joe is how it’s cheaper than alternatives, if it becomes easy enough to use then it could get much wider adoption. I’m not much invested either way, I appreciate the competition in any eventuality.

          • Brad says:

            The transaction costs are relatively low, though not quite as low as they seem since they implicitly include two bid/ask spreads.

            However, at least in the United States the high transaction costs of credit cards are hidden from the consumer. Indeed credit card users actually come out ahead versus cash users in that the form of credit card miles or rebates. Further as a matter of both law and custom credit card users have the ability to relatively easily disclaim or reverse transactions made with a credit card.

            Unlike consumers, merchants are well aware of the high transaction costs associated with credit cards but they risk alienating the bulk of their customers if they offer discounts for payments in bitcoins.

          • Nornagest says:

            The most interesting part of Bitcoin to me is that it’s basically a math-backed currency. You don’t need to trust your government not to print a shitload of bills tomorrow (unlikely for USD in the near term, but not everyone uses USD), and you don’t need to deal with the various inconveniences of a commodity-backed currency — perennial fluctuations from industrial demand for the same commodity, everything going to hell if someone discovers a major new deposit (small scale) or figures out how to capture a nickel-iron asteroid (large scale), etc. And you can choose the parameters of the algorithm to give the currency the economic characteristics you need. This really is something new, and it’s worth watching even if the near-term applications are mostly in the realm of sketchy Internet people and the usual collection of breathless first-movers.

            The privacy advantages of Bitcoin per se are overbilled, and exist at this stage mostly because no one’s built a really good tracking infrastructure. (That I know of. The NSA might have one.) It is not theoretically harder than tracking wire transfers. You can design a blockchain that really is harder to track, and a few like that exist; however none of them have very much market penetration right now.

            (Disclosure: I own a few Bitcoins, and thus have a financial stake.)

          • random832 says:

            You don’t need to trust your government not to print a shitload of bills tomorrow

            No, but instead you’ve got a system that can’t print a shitload of bills when it needs to.

            Bitcoin’s “formula” of having the money supply asymptotically approach a finite limit (rather than, say, growing at a fixed percentage rate forever) is deflationary because it will inevitably be outpaced by real economic growth. The constantly increasing value of a bitcoin is corrosive enough to its usability as a currency when it’s due to a bubble, how much worse will it get when everyone notices that long-term it’s baked into the math?

          • Nornagest says:

            No, but instead you’ve got a system that can’t print a shitload of bills when it needs to.

            Yeah, that’s the tradeoff. Bitcoin is inherently deflationary and that gives it its own set of disadvantages. In the long run, I expect it to find a niche more as a store of value than as a transactional currency, if it doesn’t just fizzle.

            But that’s what I was trying to get at with the comment about choosing the parameters; there’s nothing stopping you from creating an altcoin with the inflationary characteristics you want. It isn’t unlikely that one of those, not Bitcoin, will eventually end up taking over the world, but it’ll still be based on the blockchain technology that Bitcoin pioneered.

          • Matt M says:

            Possibly, but not necessarily. There is a currency that is more anonymous that Bitcoin and is used by normal users much more than by criminals. Cash.

            And coincidentally, all of the arguments that everyone enthusiastically uses against Bitcoin are the exact same arguments the government is increasingly using in its push to limit (or in some cases outlaw) the use of cash.

          • John Schilling says:

            Possibly, but not necessarily. There is a currency that is more anonymous that Bitcoin and is used by normal users much more than by criminals. Cash.

            Cash can basically only be used to pay someone who is standing right in front of you. Bitcoin, AFIK, is almost never used between two people who are immediately present. They both fill the same “I don’t want anybody to know what I’m buying” niche, but are at opposite ends of the geographic spectrum.

            As Matt M notes, the same people who would prefer Bitcoin quietly go away, are nudging people towards abandoning cash as well. And sometimes more than nudging. But consider just the social side of the equation. I tell you that X payed Y for Z by handing him an envelope or briefcase full of $100 bills. What image does this invoke? What is your prior for X, Y, or Z being ethical or socially beneficial?

            What happens when Wikileaks getting its donations via bitcoin invokes the same images and judgements?

          • pelebro says:

            @John Schilling
            ” I tell you that X payed Y for Z by handing him an envelope or briefcase full of $100 bills. What image does this invoke? What is your prior for X, Y, or Z being ethical or socially beneficial?”

            It seems our perspectives are quite alien. Every week I buy groceries for the week, with cash, I’ve been doing this for the past few years. My parents did the same for the past few decades, we often go together. It’s in the kind of old fashioned market which consist of a building with several stalls where independent sellers sell their produce. There is sometimes haggling. I suppose most of them don’t even have the infrastructure to even receive credit card payments. This is one of the families mayor expenses and many of the people in the extended family and acquaintances go to the same place. We certainly don’t feel nefarious when we do it. I suppose sights like this are less common in your experience and I find it a bit sad that that could be replaced by a default social expectation of mass surveillance as a guarantor of decency, which your post seems to take for granted.

            In the consequentalist manner, I’m of course open to being convinced that I’m just being nostalgic, but I would much prefer it to see an effort to quantify the crime prevented by such intrusive schemes, versus the fat tail chance of a police state, hard as they are to pin down, before abandoning the heuristic of the appeal to tradition.

            Completely off topic remark, but in order to avoid leaving you wondering, I’ll note that it’s possible that I may not be commenting much after this one, at least on the shortish term. It can be somewhat finicky to post using tor with the security system in place in the blog, this time it seems I had some luck.

            Uhm, a last minute edit. In case the question is meant literally, then my prior would be something like the prevalence of crime, and the lenghty detour is just me saying that cash transactions are so mundane and common place in my experience that I expect the probability of someone using it for crime the same as the overall prevalence.

          • random832 says:

            He also cheated by making it a large transaction – large cash transactions are more likely to be illegal than small ones, because cash is very inconvenient for large transactions. A week of groceries is unlikely to require an “envelope full of $100 bills” (my image of that is closer to a significant fraction of a $10K stack rather than just two or three), let alone a briefcase, and even if you spend $200 or $300, as you described it it’s not going to be at a single vendor

          • Brad says:

            Is there any way to go : cash -> bitcoin -> bitcoin -> cash? If so, what’s the slippage? For bonus points let the first cash be dollars in Queens, NY and the second cash be pesos in a medium size city in Hidalgo, Mexico.

            This is a transaction that happens all the time, where the fees are high, and where semi-anonymity would be desirable.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      (hint: what is the most striking difference between Bitcoin marketplaces and normal marketplaces?)

      I think the difference he is referring to is that almost no one uses bitcoin.

      He states this thesis more explicitly earlier:

      Write weird erotica, the kind that other people might find offensive, and you might have to start your own website, take payment via some inconvenient method like Bitcoin, have trouble advertising it by word of mouth, and not be able to talk about it on literary discussion forums. It’s not that you’ve been banned from writing your erotica. You can write it. It’s just that practically nobody else will ever hear about it or buy it, except maybe the tiny fraction of people who are already extremely clued-in to the weird erotica scene and know exactly where to look for it.

  2. CarlosRamirez says:

    What do you guys think of Jordan Peterson? I was surprised to see Scott say he’s not very familiar with him. I personally would like his views to spread further in academia. Fat chance though…

    The Harvard interview was pretty great:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Urd0IK0WEWU

  3. Deiseach says:

    Shusah, this doesn’t seem to let me reply to the relevant comment, so third time trying this.

    HeelBearCub, genuinely thank you for the criticism, I appreciate that you are trying to help me be a better commenter on this site.

    I didn’t intend to ride the religion angle so hard, I did intend it to come across as it is lazy and inefficient to help continue the spread and existence of misunderstanding/misconception. If the image Americans have of “Russia and Russianness” is “St Basil’s Cathedral”, that’s okay to an extent, but when it comes to using a metaphor that is heavily reliant, for it to work, on alleged too-close ties between the White House and the Kremlin, then using something more factually aligned to the actual Kremlin works better.

    Using an incorrect stereotype because it’s too much trouble to be accurate and educate people is not very reassuring of the quality of a news analysis magazine, which is why I’m complaining about both TIME and CNN’s political blog apparently not knowing the difference between a steeple and a minaret. And the fact that CNN’s columnist used a religious reference means that the religious imagery does sink into people’s minds, whatever their surface conscious thoughts.

    Basically, though, it’s the sloppiness of “who cares, nobody knows the difference, nobody is interested in teaching or learning what the secular part of the Kremlin is” that annoyed me in a magazine that, at least in its past, was trying to educate and inform the American public about overseas affairs. If in future a non-American movie-maker or media outlet puts the Statue of Liberty alongside the Lincoln Monument, we can all agree that “but this is the symbol of America that most people recognise, so the truthiness is what counts here!”, right?

    Though I was tickled that nobody apparently took offence to me wanting to shut down the National Endowment for the Humanities when they stepped on my toes about T.S. Eliot. Dare to diss TIME, however… 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      TIME was trash in the Nineties and I doubt it’s gotten any better. CNN is… well, you probably know.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @Deiseach:

      I appreciate that you are trying to help me be a better commenter on this site.

      I don’t think I’m comfortable in the role you are casting me in.

      Perhaps I would prefer that it be put as “attempting to affect the Overton window of the commentariat”.

      but when it comes to using a metaphor that is heavily reliant, for it to work, on alleged too-close ties between the White House and the Kremlin, then using something more factually aligned to the actual Kremlin works better.

      But St. Basil’s is closely tied to the Kremlin. If someone were to reference the US Government by illustrating the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool no one would blink. Or French Government by referencing the Eiffel Tower.

      Red Square and St. Basil’s as it’s most recognizable architectural landmark is a symbol of Russia, regardless of whether you think that is “correct”. It’s not supposed to be correct in the way you are wanting it to be.

      The minaret/steeple thing is annoying and wrong, but it was gotten wrong because the steeples on St. Basil’s don’t look like steeples. They look like something out of Aladdin.

      Which, sure, you want people to be correct, but I also think I expect a ton of error in the world like this, especially when people are talking, unscripted, in real time. I’m not sure if you cracked open the brain of the person who made that mistake that it would contain the fact that a minaret is specifically religious, rather than specifically “Arab” architecture.

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Interview transcript about The Color of Law, a history of Federal government enforcing housing segregation from 1933 till 1968, with the FHA being the major agency responsible. The US is much more segregated and blacks are much poorer as a result.

    This is not to say that this was simply a top down policy. An amazon review mentions black people who managed to buy houses in the suburbs being physically attacked by their neighbors. However, I think the danger of high-status bigots has been ignored because it’s been easier to mock low status bigots.

    • Space Viking says:

      Now the US is much more integrated and whites are much poorer as a result. I’d rather USG not interfere with freedom of association from either direction.

  5. Zorgon says:

    I’ve been noticing something happening in the Culture Wars lately.

    First there’d been a few noises around the SJ-sphere, warning about the explicit existential danger posed by actually engaging with those outside the cult ahem, sorry, I mean “right wingers”.

    Then Laci Green – Ms “Rape Culture Is Everywhere” herself – released a video criticising feminism.

    Now, I keep seeing people on places like KotakuInAction and other worker ant sites raging about how anti-SJ YouTubers are a pile of crap and they can’t understand how they ever enjoyed their work.

    I have no choice but to blame the Rightful Caliph for my inability to see this as anything other than a shift in the Metacontrarian Stack and I’m wondering in which of the new political factions that will be generated in 6 months or so I’ll end up. (I’m gonna guess it’s whichever one spends less time threatening to destroy my career if I don’t toe the line.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      @Zorgon

      Now, I keep seeing people on places like KotakuInAction and other worker ant sites raging about how anti-SJ YouTubers are a pile of crap and they can’t understand how they ever enjoyed their work.

      Isn’t this about Thunderf00t throwing some sort of tantrum? I don’t keep up with long-form video Culture War drama, but there seems to be a lot of it, and I’m not sure it means much.

      • Zorgon says:

        It’s apparently ubiquitous – all sorts of anti-SJ types suddenly going after each other for no apparent reason. Thunderf00t is another example of what I’m talking about, though, given he’s very suddenly shifted camp out of Shitlord Central.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Thunderf00t is another example of what I’m talking about, though, given he’s very suddenly shifted camp out of Shitlord Central.

          he got assmad about Brexit and Trump, which is cool, but then he decided the solution was to basically say dumb stuff and then claim that he was triggering trump fans and the alt right so he must be doing something right

          shrug

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Perhaps Youtubers in general desire affirmation and praise. When SJism is popular, they’re SJ. When the wind shifts, they hold their fingers up to it and shift accordingly.

      And I’m just talking about the media stars here. There’s a difference between someone who does SJ work on the ground or anonymously for the sake of doing SJ work and someone who makes a career out of turning a camera on themselves to talk about SJ stuff.

  6. CarlosRamirez says:

    I’m trying to understand two things:

    1. How well is IQ correlated to general intelligence?
    2. How well is race correlated to IQ?

    I ask because I got the impression on this blog that both correlations are pretty much rock solid at this point. Yet I look at Wikipedia, at google results, and they make it seem like it’s a contentious debate with no clear resolution. Which is it?

    • rlms says:

      Your first question is ill-defined. The only way we can identify “general intelligence” is by measuring it, using tools like IQ tests. IQ tests unsurprisingly measure IQ pretty reliably (in that people generally get similar scores with repeat testing, and as far as I know different IQ tests correlate), and the thing measured by IQ (again as far as I know) correlates with other things like standardised test performance, wealth, and academic success. But how well it correlates with some “general intelligence” thing is not just unknown, but to some extent unknowable.

    • John Schilling says:

      1. IQ is strongly correlated with measures of specific types of intelligence (e.g. verbal or spatial), and with life outcomes that we would intuitively associate with intelligence (e.g. academic success, white-collar career earnings, not getting yourself thrown in jail). From this, we reasonably infer that there is such a thing as general intelligence that correlates strongly with measured IQ.

      2. IQ is strongly correlated with genetic heredity, but observed racial IQ variations max out at about the one standard deviation level and it’s hard to establish statistical significance at that signal-to-noise ratio. If this were any other field of science, the press would run with it while rationalists mumbled “replication crisis!” and sent the scientists back to the laboratory (well, office). With scorn and now actual violence being directed at scientists willing to talk openly about this and the press silent, the rationalist response seems to be to treat racial IQ variation as provisionally and weakly true, mumble something about not beating up the scientists so they can try to pin this down, and not be as clear as we should about the weak and provisional nature of this “fact”.

      3. Rationality is weakly correlated with contrarian bias, and some degree of skepticism is called for whenever rationalists tell you that the press / scientific establishment / “they” are wrong about something important.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        3. Rationality is weakly correlated with contrarian bias, and some degree of skepticism is called for whenever rationalists tell you that the press / scientific establishment / “they” are wrong about something important.

        Thank you for crystallizing this point so clearly and succinctly. That’s been my general feeling, but I hadn’t actually stated it (even to myself) so clearly.

        Although the “weakness” of the correlation is probably debatable?

        I think this might be at least partially due to the strong predilection for detailed support for every contention. Paradoxically, this means that “common” knowledge seems the most suspect.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Although the “weakness” of the correlation is probably debatable?

          There’s that contrarian bias 😉

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Yo dawg, I heard you like contrarian bias, so I gave you some confirmation bias to go with your contrarian bias…

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Your 2 seems so confused, I don’t know where to begin. Not even wrong.

      • The Nybbler says:

        observed racial IQ variations max out at about the one standard deviation level and it’s hard to establish statistical significance at that signal-to-noise ratio

        I don’t think that’s true. One standard deviation for a large sample is huge; the standard error of the mean is the sd/sqrt(N), where N is the sample size. So if I sample 100 people in a given subpopulation and get a sample mean of +1sd compared to the known population mean, my result is extremely significant.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s true in the simple case where there’s only the effect you are trying to measure and statistically random noise. If there are (or could be) multiple effects with unknown correlations, then the 1SD level is where it is impractical to sort out e.g. race vs parasite load vs pre-K education vs # of vowels in name as contributors to IQ, without either very large numbers or the sort of complex statistical analysis that nobody gets right the first time. Hence replication crisis.

          • Creutzer says:

            Wait. You’re equivocating between two different things here: (i) racial differences in average IQ, and (ii) racial differences in the average genetic potential (or whatever you want to call it) for IQ.

            The data on (i) are very solid, and things like parasite load are not confounders here. Environmental factors like that don’t introduce noise in the measurement of intelligence, they change intelligence itself.

          • John Schilling says:

            Environmental factors like that don’t introduce noise in the measurement of intelligence, they change intelligence itself.

            They may change intelligence itself. Racial genetics may change intelligence itself. That’s the debate.

            If you’re trying to determine whether [X] changes intelligence itself, anything else that also changes intelligence itself makes your job more difficult. You either need [X] to introduce a change bigger than all the others put together, or you need very complex analysis that is difficult for lone iconoclast scientists(tm) to get right.

            This is true even if the measurement of intelligence is absolutely noise-free.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not arguing with that. I’m merely arguing that you’re answering a different question from the initial “How well is race correlated to IQ? “.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is it not clear that my answer is “Race appears to be correlated with IQ at a level that makes it difficult to untangle from all the other things that are correlated with IQ, and so might not be correlated with IQ at all”?

            Because I’m pretty sure that is an answer to the question that was asked.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            You seem to be arguing that race may merely be correlated to race and not causally related.

            As in: poverty/bad eating habits may be correlated with race and IQ.

    • tscharf says:

      There are differences in race and IQ. Our host has written on this in other posts. The variation within a group is much larger than the variation between groups. The fact that measurable differences and their related outcomes exist is not very controversial. What is controversial is if you tie those differences to genetics. Although the fact that IQ is inheritable (~0.5) would seem to point to a genetic race/IQ causation, saying it out loud tends to get the mobs at Middlebury pretty riled up.

      Most people do not believe it is entirely environmental or entirely genetic but a combination of those two. The exact ratio has been estimated all over the place but suffice it to say 50/50 isn’t crazy. If you are in polite company it is best to not to even talk about it (I don’t make up the social rules). Most of the online commentary tends to indicate it is immoral to assert it is genetic.

      As an example of the “in polite company” view here is Vox:
      https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech

      “There is currently no reason at all to think that any significant portion of the IQ differences among socially defined racial groups is genetic in origin.”

      No reason at all? They actually laid out the reasons pretty well in the first section of this article.

      “Asserting that the relatively poorer intellectual performance of racial groups is based on their genes is mistaken theoretically and unfounded empirically; and given the consequences of promulgating the policies that follow from such assertions, it is egregiously wrong morally.”

      You mean polices that are science based and possibly more effective? I assume they are worried less money goes to education if one assumes the problem is intractable and can’t be fixed.

      A bit of emotional entanglement here. Suffice it to say this is one instance where what people want the data to show and what it does show aren’t exactly in sync.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        The variation within a group is much larger than the variation between groups.

        Could a statistician chime in? I don’t understand how this fact has any statistical implications.

        Consider the races

        A: 101.237438, 100.268263, 99.214716, 107.959729, 81.692870, 104.701754, 110.600146, 113.327399, 113.449232, 108.168194

        B: 98.606567, 77.628150, 72.737641, 97.003817, 119.599952, 55.763142, 80.026704, 64.014443, 94.587519, 70.789703

        each population consisting of 10 people. The between-groups variation is ~2200, the within-group variation is way higher, ~4100. Yet we would normally conclude that there’s a significant difference between the mean IQs (about ~20 points, in fact) of races A and B. Is this conclusion weakened in any way by the fact that withing-group variation is higher than between-group variation?

        • Spookykou says:

          I believe it is not brought up to directly challenge the idea of between group differences, but to try and add context. As I understand it (assuming they are real) between group differences are rather small, and in group differences are very large. So the between group differences are not very actionable/have very weak predictive power about any given individual.

          • tscharf says:

            This is exactly right. If you were to bet on who has a higher IQ based on people’s skin color you would be wrong quite often.

            I don’t have the exact numbers but you would likely be better off knowing their income, educational achievement, GPA, parent’s IQ, etc.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            @tscharf:

            This is exactly right. If you were to bet on who has a higher IQ based on people’s skin color you would be wrong quite often.

            No, this cannot be right.

            Take the races A,B considered above. If you were to bet who has higher IQ based on race, you would be right 87% of the time.

            You can even find situations where the between-group variation is smaller than the within-group variation, and yet every element of Group 1 is larger than every element of Group 2.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So the between group differences are not very actionable/have very weak predictive power about any given individual.

            Of course. This is why one should judge a person on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

            The problem is in technocratic politics people want to use things like median differences in income or wealth between races to prove systemic racism. It’s selective use of statistics.

          • tscharf says:

            @publiusvarinius

            Obviously it depends on the distribution / shape of the PDF’s and how far apart they are. Then you run the numbers. You would always bet on a particular race, but you are going to be wrong in a very measurable way. The closer the PDF’s are, the more often you will be wrong.

            Since I didn’t run the numbers, I cleverly used the ambiguous term “quite often” which means I am right no matter what, ha ha.

            If the PDF’s are 1 SD apart (the reported black/white separation) with a normal distribution, then the PDF’s are separated by 34.1% and blah blah blah my 5 second analysis says you will be wrong 50.0 – 34.1 = 15.9%….which is quite often!

            Of course there is an assumption you know a priori which race is smarter so the starting point is you are wrong 50% of the time or less. The 1 SD difference changed the odds from 50% to 15.9%.

            It looks like the final answer is going to change pretty quickly (approach 50%) as the PDF’s get closer so any errors in the measurement are pretty important to how reliable the estimate is.

            Admittedly this number was lower than I expected. Better not tell HR departments, I feel the Middlebury mod descending on me now….

          • publiusvarinius says:

            @tscharf:

            Thank you for trying to help me understand this.

            Your analysis implies that the difference of the between-group and within-group variance does not factor into our predictions at all: the difference between the means already told us everything there was to know (since we already know that IQ is normally distributed with standard deviation 15).

            That’s exactly what I thought, i.e. that the between-group/within-group thing is a red herring.

          • Aapje says:

            Whether 16% is ‘quite often’ is very subjective. I think that for many things in life, people would be pretty happy with only being wrong that often.

            However, there are usually much better measurements, especially if the consequences of being wrong are huge.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            But this is in a context where 50% is (roughly) as wrong as you can be, so intuitions on “acceptable” amounts of incorrectness aren’t necessarily valid.

        • lvlln says:

          In short, that fact really doesn’t have any meaningful statistical implications by itself. It’s just a shorthand for saying,”But I’m not racist.” Or “sexist” for the case of comparing genders, which I’ve seen that phrase used for as well, in both spatial skills and strength. I think the popularity of that statement really just reflects the relative statistical illiteracy of the general population.

          More relevant to me seems to be the phrase “there is significant overlap between the distributions.” Not as precise, but also more accurate in terms of actually conveying the meaning, which is that even though the means of 2 different populations might be different, the overlap is to a high degree, high enough so that knowing the difference in mean doesn’t let us predict with very high confidence in the difference between any 2 random individuals from the 2 different populations.

          But, like many people have said, the empirical science here hasn’t been very well explored, and so actual population differences are far from settled. It may actually be the case that the overlap between certain populations actually isn’t very large at all. Which could have terrible societal implications if enough people have the notion that the intelligence of a certain human population should determine its members’ moral worth or freedom to pursue their interests as independent and free beings.

      • DocKaon says:

        We know that IQ has a significant hereditary and environmental components. We know that the IQ differences between races are roughly similar to other population differences which have disappeared (Protestant/Catholic Irish differences, Irish & Jewish in America). Also on the order of the Flynn effect over a century. We know that there are substantial environmental differences on average for the different races (i.e. poverty, pollution, and discrimination). Some of those differences have well established biological causal links to lower IQ, like lead pollution. We know that African-American & White American children raised by non-American families don’t show the same differences. We know the differences have decreased significantly over time.

        Yet, a lot of people here seem very quick to leap to the hypothesis that it’s racial genetic variation instead of environmental. People do appear to want the data to show something, but that applies at least equally to both sides.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Do you have sources for any of that?
          It is true and mysterious that IQ in Ireland seems to have risen a lot over the past half or full century. It is true that the black-white gap in America has reduced maybe 25%, say, from 1.1 to 0.9. It is true that lead has a small effect. Of the rest I am extremely skeptical.

          I have never heard anyone suggest Protestant/Catholic IQ differences in Ireland.

          What do you mean about Americans abroad? Do you mean one German study? Do you really “know” something based on one study?

          Jewish immigrants gained a standard deviation in the second generation, just like all other immigrants who didn’t speak English.

          • random832 says:

            Jewish immigrants gained a standard deviation in the second generation, just like all other immigrants who didn’t speak English.

            If this (and the implied mechanism) is true, doesn’t it more or less prove that the tests are culturally biased?

          • Nornagest says:

            Could also be that you generally immigrate to somewhere you don’t speak the language because your life sucks in the old country, and whatever made your life suck might also affect your adult intelligence.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, tests administered in English are biased against people who don’t speak English. You should try to avoid using them and definitely not compare to scores for native speakers. So the only people who do are people trying to cast doubt on IQ tests. I don’t know if the people who originally administered them made this mistake.

            Is it a cultural barrier, or just a linguistic barrier? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if pre-war tests suffer some kind of cultural bias, but people have looked for it and not found any.

            What, specifically, do you mean by “cultural bias”? Why do you care?

            International comparisons are fraught and Raven’s Matrices are culturally biased. It is a lousy test, but they are used for many reasons, one being fear of accusations of cultural bias.

            Nornagest: no.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nornagest: no.

            Okay, probably not a complete explanation, but childhood famine’s hell on IQ.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Are you thinking of a particular 1920s immigrant group subject to famine?

          • random832 says:

            Sure, tests administered in English are biased against people who don’t speak English. You should try to avoid using them and definitely not compare to scores for native speakers. So the only people who do are people trying to cast doubt on IQ tests. I don’t know if the people who originally administered them made this mistake.

            How can you compare the results of two different IQ tests, if you are testing the hypothesis that the groups of people qualified to take each test have different median real intelligence and therefore the tests should not both be normed to 100?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’m not sure I understand the question. Is one test the translation of another into a new language?

            I suppose we should consider the hypothesis that growing up a peasant suppresses IQ scores, either by suppressing intelligence, or because tests are biased against peasants.

            I think that the literature addresses all of these questions. Maybe not convincingly, but that’s the place to start. Also, I think people overestimate the proportion of immigrants to America who were peasants.

    • Protagoras says:

      I think Schilling described the situation fairly well. I would emphasize his point about the replication crisis; we know that social science results in general should be viewed with great suspicion. It seems that there are some around here who think that bias is a big part of the problem, and who think they know exactly how social scientists are biased, and so assume that the studies which appear support muggle realism must be more trustworthy than the other social science studies since they are the opposite of what they would expect from the prevailing biases. This strikes me as involving an utterly unreasonable overconfidence in their ability to diagnose how and why social science studies have problems, but perhaps that’s just my own bias at work.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        If you think Schilling described a situation, could you rewrite that situation in your own words?

        Claims about IQ are based on huge numbers of studies of huge samples. The only thing they have in common with the replication crisis is that they were done in psychology departments.

  7. Deiseach says:

    Until the return of the Rightful Caliph and a final decision on whether I am to be banned, censured, or merely receive a light flogging with the knout for that reported comment of mine, I’ll assume the best and keep commenting.

    Here’s one of those “laugh to keep from crying” stories about the general knowledge of religion/religion-related matters in the mainstream media, courtesy of GetReligion.

    So Time magazine has a striking cover, showing the White House morphing into the Kremlin, as commentary on those allegations of undue influence by the Russians over Trump. Very clever, very striking simile, great from a graphic design point of view.

    Except that building is not the Kremlin, it’s the church referred to commonly as St Basil’s Cathedral (the official name seemingly is different). Easy mistake to make, no?

    EXCEPT TIME‘S GRAPHICS PEOPLE USED PHOTOSHOP (OR SOMETHING SIMILAR) TO CUT OFF THE CROSSES OFF THE STEEPLES OF THE CHURCH.

    CNN apparently go one better, when commenting on the Time cover, by calling the steeples minarets; “White House overtaken by Russian minarets on new Time cover”.

    Steeples are not minarets. Minarets are not steeples. Two different things, and besides that, two different faiths.

    Why does this matter? Besides the fact that it demonstrates once again why the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is an actual thing, it also perhaps helps explain the mysterious and baffling circumstance that when the mainstream media deign to explain religion (and how they’re doing it wrong) to the masses, the masses never seem to listen and absorb the enlightenment bestowed upon them by their betters. Just maybe it’s because they can tell from what you’re saying that you don’t know your arse from your elbow on this subject?

    • John Schilling says:

      Hmm. On the one hand, I can accept that St. Basil’s Cathedral may have overtaken the actual Kremlin as the Architectural Icon of the Russian State, in much the same way the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia has overtaken the actual Confederate Flag as the Vexillological Icon of Dixie. Churches, and armies, are generally better at getting the aesthetics right than politicians.

      But when you get to the point of airbrushing out all the crosses, how do you not notice that you are dealing with a religious, not political, icon? That’s solid facepalm territory, right there. And I think unethical by the usual journalistic rules about such things.

      • Matt M says:

        You really think the issue here is that they “didn’t notice”?

        Come on, man!

      • Nornagest says:

        I think it’s more likely that Time (and for that matter MAD) knew what they’re doing and didn’t care. Hell, I might have done the same if I was designing that cover: to get the message across, you want to invoke the Architectural Icon of the Russian State, and St. Basil’s is more recognizable than the actual Kremlin. Why omit the crosses? Probably to avoid mixing in an unintended religious message.

        I can see how this might offend an Orthodox person, but it seems like a bit of a tempest in a teapot to me.

        • Urstoff says:

          This seems like such an incredibly obvious explanation that I’m surprised anyone is arguing about it (or is upset).

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I think this is the most likely scenario, and I don’t even think it’s all that hard to see.

          You want to show Russian influence over the White House, so you draw the most iconicly Russian building folk will recognize. You don’t want to accidentally send the message that the White House is becoming a theocracy or something (we’ll save that for President Pence), so you file off the crosses that most people don’t even know are there to begin with.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think anybody is questioning the, as you say rather obvious, thought process that lead to the sight gag. The question is, why didn’t they stop?

            I can easily imagine a range of gags, visual or otherwise, about 19th century white male authors writing dashing adventure stories about white male protagonists thoughtlessly oppressing women and minorities while everyone cheers. If I find myself illustrating such a gag, funny as it might otherwise be, with a whitewashed Alexandre Dumas, then I don’t think “…but most people don’t even know Dumas was black!” would cut it. Either find another way to make the joke, or put it in the “clever but inappropriate” file.

            Similarly, if you have to whitewash (redwash?) other peoples’ architecture and religion to make your clever joke, then don’t do that. Or at least, don’t expect not to be called out on it, and don’t pretend that it is the people calling you out who are out of line.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            The joke is intended as reinforcement for the in-crowd who don’t care to question it, not the gauche Trumpers nor the Orthodox Meme Squad who would pick it apart. When you’re preaching strictly to the converted, your standards are different.

    • bean says:

      I don’t think you have anything to worry about from that report. The comment was true, necessary, and not particularly unkind. (I know we should hook George Orwell up to a generator before I go here, but I kind of feel that the comment policy could be improved by putting ‘not un’ before each of the tests.)

    • herbert herberson says:

      Did St. Basil’s Cathedral have its crosses throughout the Soviet period? Is it possible that they just used an old picture?

      • Jaskologist says:

        The picture is a drawing, so they didn’t airbrush it out, but they did still have to choose to omit them.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Looking at the photo in the article (with Red Square in the foreground), I notice that those crosses are really easy to miss. They might also barely appear in whatever reference photo the artist used.

          It’s also common knowledge that St. Basil’s is a metonym for Russia. Putting the Kremlin tower atop the White House would not have grabbed the eyeballs.

          It’s an arguably incorrect metonym, sure. TIME is piggybacking on an even older and more widespread so-much-wrong-with-this.

          Could be worse. They could have painted a picture of a crane setting a giant hammer and sickle on the WH roof.

          • Evan Þ says:

            They could have painted a picture of a crane setting a giant hammer and sickle on the WH roof.

            Now, now, we all know Sanders lost the primaries.

          • engleberg says:

            ‘we all know Sanders lost the primaries’

            He won. Hillary stole them. She got caught. Sanders voters didn’t vote for her. President Trump.

            Or maybe Sanders lost and I just don’t know it.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You might want to look at who else made that “mistake” (and made it first).

      You can probably accuse TIME of a certain kind of intellectual theft, but the outrage over the “don’t kids know anything these days” and “religion is so misrepresented” is typical Deiseachism.

      Take something you know a lot about. Find someone drawing on that subject at third or fourth hand. Note the rampant mistakes.

      For example do a google image search for Kremlin.

      • John Schilling says:

        Really? Your argument is that we should lay off Time magazine because they are demonstrating at least as much journalistic integrity as Mad magazine and the average internet user? Or maybe just plagiarizing Mad, and we can’t expect plagiarists to correct mistakes in the source material.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          No, my argument is that the TIME mistake doesn’t have anything in particular to do with religion. Especially the “no crosses” part.

          Just as the fact that google image search for “Kremilin” is dominated by pictures of St. Basil’s doesn’t have anything in particular to do with religion.

        • random832 says:

          The Mad cover appears to use a photo that has the crosses edge-on to the camera. (Unless the mistake you meant was using St. Basil’s at all)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That’s a good point about the crosses being edge on in whatever the source is for the MAD cover. It still excises them from the image though, no matter how faithful to actual sight lines the image is.

            My point is simply that the image evokes Red Square and The Kremlin as a political place, not a religious one. This doesn’t have anything to do with anti-religious feelings, but rather the particular history and iconography of Red Square.

            There is a reason I put “mistake” in quotes. The choice to exclude specifically religious symbols makes perfect sense given the clear objective of the image. The image is not trying to make a link between Donald Trump and the Russian Orthodox Church (and, indeed, St. Basil’s is actually a museum and no longer a church.) The image is making a link between Donald Trump and Russian politics.

          • Matt M says:

            The choice to exclude specifically religious symbols makes perfect sense given the clear objective of the image. The image is not trying to make a link between Donald Trump and the Russian Orthodox Church

            Yes. They are altering images in order to more properly fit the narrative they want to promote. I’m glad we all agree on that.

            But isn’t that supposed to be a bad thing?

          • Nornagest says:

            C’mon, bro. With or without the crosses, with the Kremlin or St. Basil’s, it’s a Photoshop mashup on the cover of a C-list newsmag. It’s not evidence, it’s a metaphor. It’s not even supposed to be a very tight metaphor.

            Altering images to push a narrative is wrong or at least sketchy… when the images are working to document something. If the cover image was a Victory Day parade and we noticed that a couple blocks of ZSUs or marching soldiers had been copy/pasted over something, that would be worth asking questions about. This? This is stupid.

      • Deiseach says:

        Ah, HeelBearCub, the days of wine and roses! How sweet that you are so attuned to the nuances of my style that you have examples at your fingers’ ends!

        I don’t want to ride the religion angle (though that is certainly there) but rather the fakery going on. Using an iconic (ironic, in view of what is being referred to) image of “Russianness”that you know is not what the intended reference points to, is the equivalent of all those trash history/science/politics/economics etc. posts all too comment on the Internet that get reblogged on Facebook and spread around as “This is the REAL TRUTH”.

        How convincing and accurate would you find an article in a foreign media outlet discussing something putatively going on in Washington D.C. that was illustrated with images of the Statue of Liberty and which had a map showing Washington D.C. located in Washington State? And what would your opinion be if the magazine or paper photoshopped in images of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial into photos of Seattle, on the grounds that “well, our readers think Washington is in Washington!”

        What about an illustration showing Buckingham Palace being transmogrified into the National Cathedral (instead of the White House), the implication being “England is a puppet of the American government”?

        Would you take it that the article accompanied by this illustration was indeed factual, accurate and trustworthy? I’m sure there are people outside the members of Russian churches in the USA and indeed other religious types who recognise that the image is that of a cathedral and not the Kremlin, and that this gives them reason to think “Since they plainly don’t know the difference between their backside and a hole in the ground on this one, why should I think the article inside is any better than a steaming heap of manure and is worth reading?”

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Deiseach:
          This:

          I don’t want to ride the religion angle

          Seems to contrast directly with this:

          Here’s one of those “laugh to keep from crying” stories about the general knowledge of religion/religion-related matters

          and this:

          EXCEPT TIME‘S GRAPHICS PEOPLE USED PHOTOSHOP (OR SOMETHING SIMILAR) TO CUT OFF THE CROSSES OFF THE STEEPLES OF THE CHURCH.

          and this:

          it also perhaps helps explain the mysterious and baffling circumstance that when the mainstream media deign to explain religion (and how they’re doing it wrong) to the masses

          And really the entirety of your original post.

          So, I’m really not sure what point you are trying to make.

          As to the other matter, if an English media outlet wanted to make a point like “England is a puppet of the American government” there a variety of images they could use to illustrate this, depending on what specific point they wanted to make.

          Transforming Buckingham Palace into The White House would likely work generically, as the white house is iconographic enough to be recognizable to an English audience. On the other hand, if the issue at hand had to do with immigration (say Obama successfully had pushed the U.K. to stave off Brexit), morphing Big Ben in to the Statue of Liberty would make a different point. Morphing something into the National Cathedral wouldn’t work because it isn’t iconographic. No one recognizes it and there is no history of it serving as a metonym for the U.S. in the way St. Basil’s has for Russia and the Soviet Union.

          If the point was to say something about the influence of US Capital Markets on England, perhaps the famous Charging Bull of Wall St or even the Chrysler Building or The Empire State Building. The actual front of the Stock Exchange building would not work as well, because it is less well known.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To me the whole thing just screamed “Murray Gell-Mann amnesia effect.”

            “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
            In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.” — Michael Crichton

            The entire Putin-Trump connection looks like mass delusion and confirmation bias to me, so the screw-up with St. Basil’s makes me think “they don’t know enough about Russia to understand the significance of the various landmarks, and their heads are up their asses with regards to the workings of the Trump administration, too.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Deiseach referred to Gell-Mann amnesia to begin with.

            However, the TIME article (and the MAD Magazine cover) aren’t trying to make any particular point about the what buildings house what political function in Russia. They merely want to clearly evoke “a Russian building”. St. Basil’s is used because a) it’s across the street from the Kremlin on Red Square, b) and is far more distinct and recognizable than the Kremlin, therefore c) it has been used to signal “Russia” for about 70 years.

            The Statue of Liberty has no official US function either, but stands as a metonym for the the US nonetheless.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I mean, the statue of liberty has been held up as a bastion of U.S. values for a pretty long time. Whereas St. Basil’s is merely recognizable, but also has its own clear value, because it’s a church. Maybe you could swing it if Russia was super religious, but according to the Google machine only about 41% of Russians are Orthodox, although I believe Putin is pretty big into it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Ha! I did not notice that. I feel silly.

          • John Schilling says:

            although I believe Putin is pretty big into it.

            Putin was a literal card-carrying atheist Communist for the first forty years of his life, then became a devout Russian Orthodox Christian right after embarking on a political career in the newly non-atheist, who knew there were so many Christians, Russia. Unclear how serious he is about it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @John Schilling

            I was under the impression he was baptized secretly by his mother who was a devout Christian, and the cross you see him wearing while shirtless was hers.

            Obviously “I was just pretending to be a godless commie” is convenient, but in Putin’s case there’s a plausible cover story.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            is merely recognizable, but also has its own clear value, because it’s a church.

            It’s not, really an active church. Services have been held there very occasionally since the fall of The Soviet Union, but it’s essentially a secular tourist attraction at this point.

            As part of the program of state atheism, the church was confiscated from the Russian Orthodox community as part of the Soviet Union’s anti-theist campaigns and has operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928. It was completely and forcefully secularized in 1929[14] and remains a federal property of the Russian Federation.

            As such, it can stand as a sign of the power of the central state, although I doubt that has very much to do with why it is used.

            Again, it’s on Red Square. The Soviet’s used Red Square as a backdrop for propaganda displays like military parades. Stalin gave a famous address to Red Square in 1941 to rally the country as the Germans advanced. Even before the soviet era, Red Square was synonymous with Russia.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            “It’s not, really an active church. Services have been held there very occasionally since the fall of The Soviet Union, but it’s essentially a secular tourist attraction at this point.”

            I mean, the point is that it’s not really

            “a sign of the power of the central state”

            I don’t think tourist attractions are used in this fashion, especially ones which have and had a clear purpose before their conversion (heck, it still gets used for services occasionally).

            And if it is, in the form of Red Square,

            “synonymous with Russia.”

            Then it’s still kind of silly because Soviet Russia doesn’t exist anymore, even if Russia does, which already starts Time off on the wrong foot. On top of that, it looks like the Kremlin is in that same shot of the Red Square, so it’s not like that couldn’t have been used. And finally, even if Time is just going along with someone else’s category error, that still makes them look bad; at best, they’re talking down to people and dumbing down their message, which still makes them sound dumb.

            And to John Schilling: Yeah, I should’ve just said he projects that image, which is the same thing for what I was saying really (assuming that most people believe him, and I do think that’s the case.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            I really don’t think you are giving a fair hearing to what I am saying.

            If they had used an image of The Kremlin, what percentage of TIME subscribers would have recognized it as of Russian origin? What percentage of anyone? That is the only measure that matters.

            If someone had wanted to make a point about French influence, they might have painted an Eiffel Tower into being.

          • Matt M says:

            If they had used an image of The Kremlin, what percentage of TIME subscribers would have recognized it as of Russian origin?

            If they colored it in red and the word “RUSSIA” appeared somewhere on the page, a pretty high percentage imo

          • rlms says:

            A pretty high percentage would’ve recognised the word “RUSSIA” as signalling Russianness, but that would’ve also been the case if the background picture had been e.g. French government buildings.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            If they colored it in red and the word “RUSSIA” appeared somewhere on the page, a pretty high percentage imo

            There is a style of political cartoon where one is hit over the head with metaphor by literally spelling it out. This anti-Irish cartoon being an example.

            But that is not a style that is used frequently (perhaps ever) on the cover of TIME. Even if it were that TIME did sometimes use it, it’s not the style of this particular cover and there is no particular reason to demand that this cover be in that style.

          • Nornagest says:

            This anti-Irish cartoon being an example.

            I wouldn’t have known that was anti-Irish if you hadn’t told me, but I’m struck by how much better the art is than most modern cartoons.

          • Matt M says:

            Well call me crazy, but part of the calculus of deploying a sophisticated metaphor is that you take a chance your audience might not get it.

            So on the one hand, you’re arguing that they HAD to use a cathedral because the audience wouldn’t appreciate the Krelmin as uniquely Russian…

            But on the other hand, you’re also arguing that they can’t just use the word RUSSIA on the cover because that would just be too obvious and simplistic for their artistic tastes…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I think you are just arguing to argue at this point.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        is typical Deiseachism

        This seems unnecessarily rude for someone who goes around being the local manners police. The tone of the OP was rather hyperbolic but that doesn’t justify making things personal.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It is very typical of what Deiseach posts frequently on these topics, the getting down an eye level with the mole-hill to see the anti-religious mountain.

          But the criticism is fair enough. Probably a needlessly aggressive formulation of my point. Is it the -ism that grates? The typical? The two put together?

          In any case, I also think that Deiseach presumes the right to post in a needlessly aggressive manner on (at the very least) specific topics. It would be nice if sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Is it the -ism that grates? The typical? The two put together?

            Uh, imo probably the two put together. The phrase brings to mind something along the lines of checking the username and rolling ones eyes and moving on from there.

            I also think that Deiseach presumes the right to post in a needlessly aggressive manner on (at the very least) specific topics.

            On this I unfortunately agree. But casting the style as an eponym (I think that’s the right term?) is more petrol than water.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            In mild defense, I was originally thinking of the recent question on distinctive posting styles (that can be identified across forums and various pseudo-identities). But I didn’t make that point really at all.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            And in your defense, the recent Great Deiseach Revival has been harder to isolate and examine ever since the even more recent Sidlesbot Event.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            Care to point me at a post? I actually was curious about what Deiseach meant at the beginning of her post, but not enough to ask until now.

  8. Tibor says:

    How do you use the subjunctive in English properly? Now that I’ve finally understood it in Portuguese I have a tendency to use it in English also, it’s sort of neat. I know people might wonder which century you’re from if you use it in spoken word, but still, I like it 🙂 but I’m unsure where it is grammatically correct in English. If I understand it correctly it is only correct in a sentence which expresses desire of something, e.g. “I wish that he be quiet.” (Of course nowadays people would say rather something like “I want him to be quiet”.) Are there any other situations where it can be used?

    • Brad says:

      “I wish that he be quiet.” doesn’t sound right to my ear. It should be “I wish that he would be quiet.” I can’t help you with the proper use of the subjunctive, because I don’t know what it means even after looking it up.

    • Montfort says:

      There is one case I know (and enjoy using) – in the case of counterfactuals. So, for example, “If it were raining…” instead of “If it was raining…”, or in a common phrase, “I wish you were here.” This is still natural enough to usually pass without notice among middle to upper class americans.

      Or, actually, two. What wikipedia calls the mandative subjunctive (in “that” clauses conveying a want/need/requirement, e.g. “Candace insisted that Horatio be admitted” vs “was admitted”) is pretty much mandatory in my area.

      Edit:
      This second instance looks like your example, but as Brad says it sounds a little weird to me. I’m guessing “wish” doesn’t require subjunctive there? Or it needs an auxiliary? In contrast “I demand he be quiet” or “I request he be quiet” seem to be okay (though better as “he be silenced/he be quieted”?).

    • The Nybbler says:

      The subjunctive is often used in a counterfactual. “If I were a rich man…” as opposed to “If I was a rich man…”; the former indicates that the speaker is not a rich man and the rest of the sentence describes what he would do if he were indeed rich. The latter technically refers to being rich some time in the past, but in practice everyone will take it as the former.

      “I wish that he be quiet” is an unusual sentence; it sounds oddly imperious, as if some royal figure is announcing this to the world at large and expecting someone to enforce that desire. “I wish that he would be quiet”, as Brad suggests, would be the normal phrasing (still subjunctive)

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Another counterfactual subjunctive fan here.

        “Were I an advocate of lawyers, I’d agree.”

        Subjunctive is appealing to me because it reduces word count.

        “If you were more attentive, you’d’ve spotted the finch hiding in the upper left.”

    • Michael Foland says:

      Some people (including me) will use it after “suggest” and “recommend,” as in, “I suggested/recommended that he go home immediately.”

      Also, in sentences like this: “It is important that she go home immediately.”

    • Creutzer says:

      There are two subjunctives in English, the uninflected one that you are talking about and the one in counterfactuals that some commenters are referring to. The latter one is, as they say, used in the antecedent of conditionals, as well as the complement of “wish” specifically. You say “I wish he were quiet”, not “I wish he be quiet”.

      The uninflected subjunctive that you’re asking about is used not with verbs of desire, but with verbs that express demands, orders, or the like. So “ask”, “demand”, “ordered”, “suggest”, etc. Also, as Michael Foland points out above, you also use it after “be important/essential/necessary” when you are talking about the requirements for achieving some goal.

      The word order is as if there were a silent verb “should”: for example, “The doctor ordered that the patient [should] not be disturbed.”* My impression is that the uninflected subjunctive is predominantly American, whereas British speakers tend to actually pronounce the “should”.

      *For this reason, the silent “should” is arguably the correct analysis of the phenomenon, so your uninflected subjunctive is simply the infinitive, preceded by an unpronounced modal verb. If it were actually a finite subjunctive verb form, then “be” and “have” would precede negation.

      • Tibor says:

        I seem, well, I did not recognize “should be” as a subjunctive, I thought subjunctive in English was specifically the construction where you don’t conjugate the verb and keep it in the infinitive. I thought that desire/demand both belonged to that category but yeah, rolling it on my tongue a couple of times after people pointed out that my example is weird, I guess it makes more sense with demand.

        In any case, it is way more common in Spanish and Portuguese, in English you don’t really have to use it at all, which is not the case in those two Romance languages.

        I wonder whether there are other Germanic languages which have subjunctive or whether that is a part of Romance grammar adopted by English. German has the Konjunktiv I (z.B.: “Er sagte es sei so und so”), which is quite a unique grammatical feature (AFAIK), but that’s something else.

        • Creutzer says:

          The comparison with the Romance subjunctive is really not useful for making sense of the English phenomenon. There is neither a historical connection nor a wide-reaching similarity in the environments in which they occur.

          It is also not true that you don’t have to use the construction in English. You can pronounce or leave out the “should”, but you can’t just have a plain indicative of the main verb.

          I don’t know what the historical usage of the Konjunktiv I was, I wouldn’t be surprised if it used to occur in contexts like “want” or “demand”. Some varieties of German use “sollen” under both “demand/order” and “want”.

  9. Ilya Shpitser says:

    How cool, Trump wants to shut down the national endowment for humanities.

    • albatross11 says:

      What would you expect to be the consequence to the nation of shutting down the national endowment for the humanities?

      It’s easy to see benefits for funding science and technology and engineering research. You may disagree on the amounts or the priorities or the management of that kind of funding, you may even philosophically disagree with having the government do it, but it’s not so hard to see why it could benefit the nation over time–better science and technology have a direct impact on the world that’s pretty easy to observe. This makes it a lot easier to make a case for, say, NIH grants.

      It’s not so easy to make that case for funding arts or humanities. It may be a good idea, maybe there’s a deep societal payoff in the future, but it’s not something you can easily point at. When Alice says “this program is funding a bunch of scholarship that craps on my cherished beliefs” and Bob says “this program is wasting money on boondoggles,” it’s a lot easier to come up with a good answer when we’re talking about science/technology research, rather than humanities or arts.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Just to clarify, do you think the government shouldn’t fund arts and humanities?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m not albatross11, but yes absolutely.

          I marched for the NSF and NIH when their funding seemed to be in jeopardy. I’d like to think I’d do so even if I wasn’t a scientist. Science is key to American greatness after all.

          But funding the humanities is worse than burying the money in a ditch. Most of it will simply be spent to no effect, and what remains will fund propaganda in support of radical anti-American ideology.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I think one consistent theme I identified with Trump supporters is they are willing to burn EVERYTHING to win the culture war. EVERYTHING.

            If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US is a combination of “no effect” and “radical anti-American ideology,” (your words, not mine) then you are a very small, very sad person.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US is a combination of “no effect” and “radical anti-American ideology,” (your words, not mine) then you are a very small, very sad person.

            care to offer some thoughts on which arts and humanities funded by the US aren’t simply no-effect or radical anti-American ideology?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I think one consistent theme I identified with Trump supporters is they are willing to burn EVERYTHING to win the culture war. EVERYTHING.

            Have you ever read “Rules for Radicals” by any chance? If not I’m afraid that you’re in for a surprise…

            Anyway I’m not terribly interested in responding to personal attacks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US

            Totality of _government funded_ arts and humanities. It’s an important distinction.

            Taking down the opposition’s propaganda organs does not count as burning “EVERYTHING”.

          • cassander says:

            >If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US is a

            since when is the national endowment for humanities “the totality of arts and humanities in the US”?

          • Incurian says:

            I wonder if Bastiat has anything to say on the matter.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            That article can easily be rebutted by pointing to the many arts that didn’t get government support, yet did spread globally. Rock & roll, jazz, rap, graffiti art, etc.

            Government funding of art nearly always goes to already established art of the type that is appreciated by the elite. Theater tends to be heavily subsidized for the claimed purpose of supporting art, while this is far less true for movies. Why? Theater is for the elite and movies are for the common man.

            Now, of course you are free to argue that the tastes of the elite are so superior that the rest of society needs to pay for them, but this is a fundamentally anti-libertarian position, where the state decides for people which entertainment they ought to enjoy.

            It is at a completely different level than funding for science & technology and engineering, where discoveries can enable us to solve major problems or do entirely new things. By contrast, most art tends to merely seek new ways of expressing the same, which, while entertaining and potentially uplifting, provides no obvious obvious improvements over the ability of the art of yesterday to entertain and uplift.

            Furthermore, humanity seems to have a fairly strong drive towards art and self-expression in general, so given the population of the earth, there seems to be no dearth of it; where we can point to some lack that needs to be resolved to clearly improve upon the human condition. In contrast, it is trivial to point out many cases where scientific, technological and engineering advances would better mankind.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Ilya Shpitser asserts “Trump supporters are willing to burn EVERYTHING to win the culture war. EVERYTHING.”

            This week’s effulgent alt.praise of “Saint (mass-murderer) Anders Breivik” — in particular the hundreds of alt.comments that, upon explicitly racial grounds, praise and justify Breivik’s child-homicides — is objective evidence of a high prevalence of “burn EVERYTHING” (including people) alt.Trumpish cognition that richly deserves to be called “pathological”, isn’t it?

            The contrast with NEH-aligned humanists like Sherman Alexie is striking:

            I used to be quite a black and white thinker in public life and private life until 9/11, you know?

            And the end game of tribalism is flying planes into building. That’s the end game. So since then, I have tried — and I fail often, but I have tried — to live in the in-between.

            What did Fitzgerald say? The sign of a superior mind is the ability to hold two different ideas. Keats called it negative capability. So I have tried to be in that and fail often, but I try.

            And so, on the evidence, Ilya Shipster’s assessment of alt.Trumpish cognition is pretty well-grounded in fact, isn’t it? Yikes.

          • Anonymous says:

            @John

            Hey, what’s your opinion on Nelson Mandela?

          • beleester says:

            Instead of making sweeping generalizations about how the NEH is or isn’t radical anti-American propaganda, we could actually look at what they funded. They have a nice, searchable database of all their grants.

            Here is a list of all NEH grants in 2016 that received media coverage. (There were over 800 grants total in 2016, but I narrowed it to ones with media coverage to make it easier to skim. Besides, it can’t have been good propaganda if nobody heard about it.)

            There are two major categories that most of these fall into: First, museums, archives, and preservation – collecting and digitizing historical documents, documenting near-extinct languages, that sort of thing. This is totally unobjectionable – you can’t study history at all without sources.

            Second, you’ll see a lot of historical studies, funding the production of a book or research paper. Now, maybe I’m just not up to date on how the culture war is being waged, but I don’t think a study of a leper colony in the Philippines is the battlefield that shapes our country.

            There’s no objective measure of whether something is culture-war-related, but of the 48 grants on that list, there are a total of 4 Women’s Studies grants and 5 African-American History grants. Most of which have only a very tenuous connection to the culture war, like “This study on 19th-century female art collectors will give us insights into how marginalized groups gain cultural capital.”

            Conclusion: The NEH generally funds historical research, not anti-American propaganda.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @beleester

            If the study of the leper colonies is so vitally important, then it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get people to voluntarily donate to fund it then, should it?

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            In support of beleester’s admirable comment, NEH-sponsored awards like the annual Jefferson Lectures represent a standard of civil, rational, history-respecing, science-respecting discourse to which SSC commenters can reasonably aspire.

            What’s the altermative? Converting the Library of Congress to the “Golf Course of Congress“? Yikes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t know the numbers, but plenty of government support goes to the film industry, usually in the form of “tax credits if you film here” to support local business, etc.

          • beleester says:

            @Conrad Honcho: That’s an argument that proves way, waaay too much. Try applying that logic to literally anything else the government funds:

            “If national defense is so vitally important, then it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get people to voluntarily donate to fund it then, should it?”

            “If research on climate change is so vitally important, then it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get people to voluntarily donate to fund it then, should it?”

            Better yet, since everyone in this thread is talking up how science and technology funding is so important, how about taking a look at the NSF’s grants? How many of those are something cool where you can easily point to the benefits, and how many of them are the equivalent of the leper-colony study, things that have only a niche interest or a vague handwave about how they might kinda sorta be useful later?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            That tends to be corporate welfare though, which also goes to other corporate activities. For example, corporate welfare for Apple is also not support for the arts, even though there are multiple Apple computers in the Museum of Modern Art.

            At least in my country, you have special committees which decide what art gets funded and what doesn’t (staffed by the established ‘elite’ art scene, who look down on most innovation). The ‘film here’ subsidies generally don’t care about what the quality is of your movies (Uwe Boll famously took advantage of this). Also, the ‘stage’ theaters themselves get a lot of subsidies, while movie theaters generally don’t.

          • Incurian says:

            @Incurian

            That article can easily be rebutted by pointing to the many arts that didn’t get government support, yet did spread globally. Rock & roll, jazz, rap, graffiti art, etc.

            I suspect you did not read past the first paragraph, and are not familiar with Bastiat in general (which is unfortunate because he’s pretty awesome).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            There are two major categories that most of these fall into: First, museums, archives, and preservation – collecting and digitizing historical documents, documenting near-extinct languages, that sort of thing. This is totally unobjectionable – you can’t study history at all without sources.

            This actually flipped me from “meh, pork flows are always getting rerouted, Uni departments can deal with it until the next inevitable cycle” to “oh shit, please don’t” on this one. Thanks, beleester.

            Though I’m not convinced it shouldn’t read as

            Conclusion: The NEH generally funds historical research, in addition to anti-American propaganda.

            😉

          • Space Viking says:

            @Ilya Shpitser:

            You’re a troll. Reported.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t particularly agree with Ilya in this case, but he is not a troll and that comment wasn’t trolling.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Space Viking

            The reporting system doesn’t work.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            You are correct that I was in a hurry and didn’t give your link fair consideration, which was rude, for which I apologize.

            Then again, it is also good manners not to merely reply with links to semi-long articles, without a summary, an introduction or an excerpt to convince others that the article is worth reading as none of us have infinite time; and all the comments here have many more readers than writers (one, usually). So I would suggest taking the time to do so, in the future.

            As for the article, it is correct in arguing against the claim that employment is a good argument for these kinds of subsidies. However, no one in this thread made that argument, so I fail to understand why you chose to link to that article, as it does not seem à propos.

          • Incurian says:

            Aapje: Shoot! I thought that was the essay comparing many public vs private art thingies. I guess I should have reread the whole thing to be sure.

          • Space Viking says:

            @Nornagest:

            If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US is a combination of “no effect” and “radical anti-American ideology,” (your words, not mine) then you are a very small, very sad person.

            Obvious trolling.

            @Anonymous:

            Then it looks like the trolls will come out of the woodwork. Fun times ahead.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Ilya is not a troll. He was actually one of the top quality posters here until recently, but he has not taken Trump’s victory well.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems that he feels that his job is under threat by Trump.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Ilya:

            If you think the totality of arts and humanities in the US is a combination of “no effect” and “radical anti-American ideology,” (your words, not mine) then you are a very small, very sad person.

            This is the worst comment of yours I have ever read, for reasons others have pointed out. It’s about two sigmas below your average comments, which are thoughtful and well-reasoned. I’m not going to psychoanalyze you, but I am going to say -1.

            I think one consistent theme I identified with Trump supporters is they are willing to burn EVERYTHING to win the culture war. EVERYTHING.

            Still 1 SD low, but interesting. My take on Trump supporters is that they are willing to burn everything to end the culture war. Last-ditch, scorched-earth defense.

            Also, Trump voter != Trump supporter. I’d prefer President Pence, frankly.

            (To be perfectly intellectually honest: I’m a Trump voter, just not in the narrow technical sense of actually having voted for Trump; since my vote was guaranteed not to make a difference, I voted my conscience, and filled in the bubble for the Solidarity Party.)

        • Zorgon says:

          Just to clarify, do you think the government shouldn’t fund arts and humanities?

          Please stop doing this. It doesn’t do you or the causes you profess to support any favours at all.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            What’s so objectionable about the question? Quite a few of us don’t think the government should fund arts and humanities.

          • Zorgon says:

            What’s so objectionable about the question?

            It’s an attempt at reversion to the object level, which is used in almost every case (this one included) to attempt to offhandedly negate whatever meta-level argument has just been put forward.

            Albatross gave an excellent meta-level account of the potential reasons why someone may be against government funding of arts and humanities, while not actually presenting a moral judgement on it. Ilya then immediately demanded an object-level response. The only reason to do that rather than engaging on a meta-level is because he was attempting to force a moral judgement in one direction or another. The trash-fire nature of the rest of the discussion stems directly from that insistence, since any possibility of a meta-level treatment had been pushed away.

            This is an extremely common tactic, one that is easily recognised, and one which tends to immediately turn me against those who use it.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        What’s the point of alt.smashing the NEH, if refugee writers and poets find welcoming shelter — even creatively stimulating shelter! — at the NIH and/or the NSF?

        For details, see (for example) Andrew Jacobs’ article “Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception” (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2015), and his followup article with Roel Willem, “The fictive brain: neurocognitive correlates of engagement in literature” (Review of General Psychology, 2017).

        Transdisciplinary STEAM-works like these provide ample evidence that Snow’s “Two Cultures” — science as contrasted with humanities — are merging creatively and enthusiastically.

        Perhaps alt.SSC commenters are apprehensive — with ample reason (as it seems to me) — that the 21st century’s irretrievably integrative threefold marriage of science, the humanities, and psychotherapy may spawn a 21st century threefold-hybridized Cphulthu-fish that “swims levo” with trebled velocity and irresistible neuroprogressive power.

        Gosh, that even sounds like fun! `Cuz in games of “alt.Whack-a-Mole”, the smart money bets on the creative NeuroEnlightenment! 🙂

      • Null42 says:

        1. The USA has a very pragmatic orientation where things are only good if they are useful and/or make money , so the humanities and arts, which tend to favor non-commercial virtues, tend to be looked down on. Note that commercial arts such as popular music, movies, and bestsellers are quite celebrated. I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks or 50 Cent aren’t artists.

        2. One of the side effects of academia going so far left is to get conservatives really mad at them and eager to defund them. As stated above, the scientists can go ‘well, you do want a cure for cancer, don’t you’ (and as I recall Congress restored most of Trump’s science funding cuts), but the humanities people (as you say) have a much harder time making that case in our business-oriented society.

        • Matt M says:

          How much government funding goes to helping out aspiring commercial artists.

          I’d be willing to bet that 50 Cent never got a NEH grant to help him get off the ground…

          Your second paragaph is largely correct, but I’d rather cut to the chase. If 90% of humanities professors spend 90% of their time shouting about how wicked, stupid, and awful conservatives are, it’s no surprise that if you put conservatives in charge of their budget, they MIGHT want to make some changes…

          • Iain says:

            If 90% of humanities professors spend 90% of their time shouting about how wicked, stupid, and awful conservatives are, …

            If 90% of your exposure to humanities professors is soundbites cherry-picked by people trying to get you worked up, I can see how you might believe this. That doesn’t mean it’s even remotely close to the truth. Do you actually know any humanities professors?

          • Matt M says:

            The 90% of their time is a clear exaggeration.

            That said, I’d be shocked if any more than 10% of Humanities professors have a positive or neutral view of American conservatism. And many of them do not hesitate to make this known.

            As I said back when we were discussing the march for science, if you want to openly identify yourself as an enemy of Group X, then you shouldn’t be shocked that if Group X gains power, they aren’t exactly accommodating towards your wishes…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            if you want to openly identify yourself as an enemy of Group X, then you shouldn’t be shocked that if Group X gains power, they aren’t exactly accommodating towards your wishes

            There is a chicken and egg problem here.

            Another way to say this is that “ivory tower” has been a slur directed at academics, primarily from the right, for a looooong time.

          • Iain says:

            I would similarly be shocked if more than 10% of the things humanities professors heard coming out of the mouths of conservative commentators were positive about the humanities. The percentage of humanities professors who have nice things to say about conservatives may be low, but it is not as low as the number of conservatives who have nice things to say about humanities professors.

            As I said back when we were discussing the March for Science, let’s not pretend that academia declared a one-sided war here.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            The question “What do humanitarian academics think about conservatives” is (of course) a subset ot the broader question “What do humanitarian academics think about?”.

            In this regard, please let me commend to SSC readers two well-reviewed, academia-centric, SJ-positive, works by Elif Batuman: her (nonfiction) The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (2010) and her (fiction) The Idiot (2017).

            A essential virtue of Batuman’s works — a virtue that is not readily evident in alt.angry critiques of academia — is that her observations are funny.

            Take the SSC Batuman Self-Assessment Test:
            Of GoodRead’s 29 reader-chosen Batuman quotes, how many impress you as being either funny, or true, or both?

            00-09  keep reading alt.Roosh
            10-19  pre-med, pre-law, or engineering
            20-29  unhappy, but in your own way!

            Here’s a type-specimen of a Batuman-quote

            I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo’s tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies.

            But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.

               — Elif Batuman, The Idiot

            Hasn’t Batuman provided the SSC commentariat with a working credo that is solidly grounded in contemporary neuroscience?

            “The SSC: where everyone thinks they’re Dumbo!” 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            Moving swiftly along…

            The humanities is a big tent. It’s certainly fond of themes that most conservatives aren’t, and it’s been infected with the cultural fungus of critical theory, so it would certainly be a hostile work environment for your average conservative, and I don’t blame conservative policy-makers for taking a dim view of the field; but e.g. the lit professors I’ve met spend most of their time talking about literature, as one might expect. I went to one of the leftier schools in the States, and even there I don’t think most of my humanities professors viewed what they were doing as a political enterprise — although some did.

            I’d say it’s the softer social sciences — sociology, poli sci, area studies — that have the real hate-on for conservatism. It wouldn’t be far wrong to call sociology the study of leftism.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Nornagest asserts [without providing evidence, rational argument, or links] “It’s the softer social sciences — sociology, poli sci, area studies — that have the real hate-on for conservatism.”

            Sayyyy — those are nice em-dashes! 🙂 Yessir, we’re all Dumbos now!

          • Nornagest says:

            k

          • Controls Freak says:

            Another way to say this is that “ivory tower” has been a slur directed at academics, primarily from the right, for a looooong time.

            How long are we going back? It doesn’t take very long for modern left/right distinctions to be completely meaningless when mapped onto a historical time period. Can Deiseach provide some historical context? Did people use the phrase “ivory tower” when they were describing, say, theology departments considering the question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (and the metaphysical question of whether each individual angel was an individual species, too)?

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            In quantitative support of Controls Freak’s point, the invaluable textual resource Google Ngrams establishes that the phrase “Ivory Tower” was essentially unknown prior to 1920, and came into general use only following WWII.

    • Deiseach says:

      How cool, Trump wants to shut down the national endowment for humanities.

      After going to their website and reading the article on T.S. Eliot, I want to shut down the National Endowment for the Humanities.

      (A more desperate grasping at straws for clickbait headlines I never saw; “people ain’t gunna read no long article ’bout no dead white male poet ‘lessen we sex it up or sumpin’! How ’bout some semi-salacious hintin’ he wuz gay as Christmas?” Never mind that Auden, who was gay and was a contemporary and indeed Eliot was his editor at Faber, never mentioned anything of the sort that I know of, and the omission of Auden’s name from the select name-dropping of “here are London literary figures who thought he was a bender” is very telling).

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        Lol … Deiseach, your NEH observation is 100% correct! 🙂

        Yes, that NEH/Eliot article was pure clickbait — clickbait for NEH’s banner-link to the NEH’s crown jewel for 2017: Martha Nussbaum’s “Powerlessness and the Politics of Blame”, which was this year’s Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities … the Jefferson Lecture being the NEH’s most prominent annual award (by far).

        In Nussbaum’s own, explicitly SJ-positive words (video here, text here):

        Recent years have seen three noble and successful freedom movements conducted in a spirit of non-anger: those of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela — surely people who stood up for their self-respect and that of others, and who did not acquiesce in injustice.

        I’ll now argue that a philosophical analysis of anger can help us support these philosophies of non-anger, showing why anger is fatally flawed from a normative viewpoint — sometimes incoherent, sometimes based on bad values, and especially poisonous when people use it to deflect attention from real problems that they feel powerless to solve.

        Anger pollutes democratic politics and is of dubious value in both life and the law. I’ll present my general view, and then show its relevance to thinking well about the struggle for political justice, taking our own ongoing struggle for racial justice as my example.

        And I’ll end by showing why these arguments make it urgent for us to learn from literature and philosophy, keeping the humanities strong in our society.

        Hmmm — perhaps Nussbaum’s SJ-positive NEH-highlighted topics and methods of discourse, are no bad thing for SSC commenters to embrace?

        Among the SSC commentariat, there’s no shortage of SJ-oppositional anger that is (in Nussbaum’s terms), “poisonous”, “incoherent”, based upon “bad values”, and “fatally flawed from a normative viewpoint” … isn’t that pretty evident?

        It’s unsurprising that angry alt.Trumpistas hope to silence eloquent, rational, committed, science-respecting, history-informed, SJ-positive, NEH-aligned voices like Martha Nussbaum’s, isn’t it?

        And it’s unsurprising, too, that alt.Trumpistas dream of a thought-policed alt.Elysian SSC: “where newbies are unconfused by Jeffersonian ideas” 🙂

        • Deiseach says:

          I counter Professor Nussbaum’s proposal with Star Trek’s The Enemy Within 🙂

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Lol   Deiseach, please let me say, that’s a mighty fine Star Trek link that you posted! 🙂  🙂  🙂

            Yes, if-and-when the Technobarbarous Enlightenment achieves something like a neurocognitive “reboot” capacity, it will be mighty interesting to see how moral philosophers like Martha Nussbaum advise people to adjust their recommended Cluster B pathology-vs-virtue trait-setpoints.

            Hopefully, when the alt.fear, alt.ignorance, alt.anger, and even alt.violence, that the advent of neurocognitive reboot therapies surely will elicit, all diminish sufficiently that reasoned moral discourse is feasible, the emergent stable consensus preference will be something like “mid-range, with plenty of individual choice, and plenty of individual diversity, and plenty of societal embrace of individual diversity”.

            It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.
              — Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
                  Mark Twain

            In hoping for an SJ-positive, diversity-respecting, Star-Trekkian neurocognitive equilibrium (and even working concretely towards the requisite regenerative healing capacities) perhaps no small number of SSC commenters — including you and me, and even luminaries like Martha Nussbaum and Elon Musk too — can all of us “splice hands”! 🙂

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            John: you do know that “SJ-positive” sounds like the bad result of a blood test, right?

          • Aapje says:

            alt.STD?

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      A half-measure taken by a sellout. Now he’s never going to get around to establishing the National Endowment Against the Humanities….

      (Contrast art, literature, and history supported by a government with that opposed by a government: the latter is almost without exception better.)

  10. hlynkacg says:

    So it’s late in the thread but I wanted to give a shout out to everyone who made it to the San Diego meet-up last night. I had great time even though I only really spoke to those on the northern end of the table and I didn’t get to say anything to Scott beyond “hi, I’m a fan of you blog”. Special thanks to Shawna for acting as organizer and to Katja for being nice while we were standing in line and before knowing that I was a cactus person.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I didn’t get to say anything to Scott beyond “hi, I’m a fan of you blog”.

      This is probably just a typo in your comment, but it’s also the sort of verbal typo I can imagine myself making when meeting someone (internet) famous for the first time.

  11. Mr Mind says:

    Is there any reason to believe that the distinction between alpha and beta male is real in humans?

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think it’s anything so clear cut, as it is in some other species. Humans aren’t really pack animals.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Worth noting that even in wolves, contemporary research has pretty much discarded the whole greek numeric thing as an artifact of observations of very atypical packs.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          +1

          I’m wondering why the alpha-beta thing got such a hold on people’s imaginations.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Because it’s a useful shorthand for describing “collections of behaviors that get you laid versus collections of behaviors that do not get you laid.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m wondering why the alpha-beta thing got such a hold on people’s imaginations.

            Because it fits observable behavior, to first order.

          • Brad says:

            I’m wondering why the alpha-beta thing got such a hold on people’s imaginations.

            For the same reason self help books, cults, and MLM grab a hold of people’s imagination. They allow people to think they understand a complicated world and can effectively manipulate it through “one neat trick”.

            It’s an understandable impulse.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve been working from the assumption that the alpha/beta thing is a useful model for the problem of guys picking up women in bars. But I don’t see any particular reason to think it’s a great model for understanding politics or the larger society.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m wondering why the alpha-beta thing got such a hold on people’s imaginations.

            As well as the reasons given above, I also note that while canids don’t have a simplistic pack-dominance hierarchy of the kind denoted by “alpha/beta” mechanics, primates certainly seem to. And I don’t think anyone reaches adulthood without noticing that specific individuals within a given social group develop obvious dominant traits or the way in which others respond to them.

            The real problem is that “human social mechanics are complex, multidimensional and difficult to tease out due to operating on so many levels at once” isn’t a satisfying or vindicating statement, especially to those who may already be feeling victimised by said mechanics. Meanwhile, as our host has previously evinced, the primary alternatives presented to people in that situation are, in order: “Oh well, sucks to be you!” and “Shut up you disgusting white male!”

            Given that context, I’d be surprised if a comforting mythology of some form didn’t eventually manifest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Zorgon

            I don’t think it’s used as a “comforting mythology” but a practical model for achieving a goal. If you want to get laid and are not getting laid, then stop doing the behaviors that are labeled “beta” and start doing more of the behaviors labeled “alpha.” If you then get laid more, that validates the model. If not, update the model.

            Alpha and beta are map, not territory.

          • Incurian says:

            Alpha and beta are map, not territory.

            Without taking a position on whether the “alpha” model is good/correct/useful, the criticisms in this thread remind me of the fallacy of grey: “This idea is in the map and not the territory (as if there are ideas that aren’t?), therefore this idea is wrong.”

          • Zorgon says:

            I don’t think it’s used as a “comforting mythology” but a practical model for achieving a goal. If you want to get laid and are not getting laid, then stop doing the behaviors that are labeled “beta” and start doing more of the behaviors labeled “alpha.” If you then get laid more, that validates the model. If not, update the model.

            Alpha and beta are map, not territory.

            While I don’t doubt that this is a powerful internal narrative for those sold on the “alpha/beta” model of human social dynamics, I feel obliged to point out that an observed increase in desired outputs from enacting a model does not mean that the model accurately reflects reality or even is necessarily successful in truth (due to all the usual biases).

            Accurate beliefs should pay dividends in predictive capacity, but apparent predictive capacity is not necessarily evidence of an accurate belief. There needs to be evidence of a causal arrow and even if there is, A->B does not mean B->A.

            Shunting back from the meta-level a bit, The Nybbler basically hit the nail on the head with this:

            Because it fits observable behavior, to first order.

            As does treating human mate-selection as a transactional system, and a handful of other models. The mistake is not in noticing the pattern; the mistake is in believing that’s the whole story.

          • Null42 says:

            It’s an interesting question. I’d say the alpha-beta thing in wolves was actually our projecting our own primate social dynamics onto canids that don’t actually have them!

            Is is true? Well, certainly there are plenty of polygamous societies where high-status men collect lots of women, but as people here point out, being high-status doesn’t always increase your Darwinian fitness (politicians may actually have less freedom in some ways given how many people are watching them), so leader-of-men and ladies-man don’t always go together. However, since the sort of introverted man who spends a lot of time on the Internet is likely to be neither (and I definitely count myself in this), he tends to conflate all the things he doesn’t have.

            The other thing I’d add to Zorgon’s correct statement is that having a more complicated model may not be useful, even if it’s correct. If thinking you are the greatest thing since sliced bread inflates your confidence and makes you more effective at attracting the opposite sex…well, it’s an incorrect model, but if it gets you the results you want, who cares if it’s the whole story or not? Most people would rather have success than knowledge.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What do you mean by “real?” Is it true that there are men who have higher social status and charisma than others? Yes.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It depends on how literal-minded you’re feeling.

      Technically alphas and betas don’t even exist in wolves, and there’s no reason to expect outdated models of canine pack hierarchies to apply to primates anyway.

      But if you’re willing to not take figurative language literally, there has been some research on fast and slow mating strategies in humans. It’s not definitive by any stretch and people who present the question as settled in either direction are overconfident. More research is needed.

      Personally, I buy it because of what I’ve seen anecdotally. That shouldn’t convince you and I don’t expect it to.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Is it real in anything?

      What’s the analogy supposed to be, wolf packs? But wolves in the wild do not in fact form multi-family packs, and the only alpha/beta relationship you see is father/juvenile sons.

      • Nornagest says:

        Wolves don’t normally do complex male dominance hierarchies, but a lot of mammals do. Elephant seals are the first that comes to mind, but there are lots of others.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Okay, granted. But how many people who peddle pop human alpha/beta male psychology have a nuanced understanding of elephant seal behavior?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think the analogy to any particular species is supposed to be all that tight. Alpha/beta/omega describe status levels in biology, not specific roles; a dominant male elephant seal is playing a different role than a dominant male gemsbok, say. (Could say the same for gorillas and chimps, but “alpha” is rarely used in primatology, for basically historical reasons.)

          • rlms says:

            If there are any, I bet they read SSC comments.

          • Deiseach says:

            I kinda get the impression that when pop-psych websites are talking about “are you an alpha male or not?” it is wolves they have in mind, not elephant seals. Lone, fearsome hunter versus blubbery beach layabout and all that.

            Though this would mean that Barry “Walrus Of Love” White was indeed the most alpha male of all! 😀

  12. Anonymous says:

    Bible scholars: How many times did it happen that Isrealites messed up by abandoning the God of their fathers, for which God smote them by siccing their enemies on them?

    • John Schilling says:

      IANABS, but IIRC roughly every second generation in I/II Kings and I/II Chronicles. An exact count may be tricky because Kings and Chronicles cover overlapping time periods from a different perspective. Most of these are relatively low-grade, non-genocidal smitings, and in many of them the enemy was the other Jewish kingdom next door. The three big ones, with unambiguously foreign enemies, are slavery in Egypt, the Assyrian conquest of Israel, and the Babylonian captivity.

      • dodrian says:

        It was also pretty regular in Judges.

        Strictly speaking the slavery in Egypt isn’t described as the Israelites abandoning God as much as the Pharaohs forgetting Joseph’s service to their predecessors.

        • Brad says:

          Yeah I wouldn’t count slavery in Egypt. Not sure about the Golden Calf though. It was the Israelites abandoning the God of their fathers, but the punishment wasn’t in the form of sic’ing their enemies on them.

        • John Schilling says:

          Agreed on both counts. The initial migration to Egypt has a strong element of “this would have gone a lot better if y’all hadn’t been such dicks to Joseph (but that was my master plan all along, because omniscient)”, but it didn’t turn into outright slavery for many more generations and for reasons unrelated to any Israelite theological deficiencies. I was mentally condensing the two.

          The Golden Calf was one of only many occasions in which the Jews of the Exodus abandoned the god of their fathers present selves, which in my book earns the Jews of the Exodus the title of Stupidest People on the Face of the Earth. Y’all have seen the Lord God Almighty part the Red Sea. You eat the Manna he sends down from heaven, every day. This isn’t mythology or superstition. And while we’re on the subject, how many times have each of you, personally, seen some unbeliever consumed by a pillar of fire or fissure in the Earth or whatnot for his doubt or disobedience? But every time Moses turns his back, it’s another round of whining about how there’s no Tabasco to go with all the bland manna, and another false idol or orgy in the name of Baal or whatnot.

          Or possibly it’s just an allegory of some sort, not meant to be taken as the literal history of a bunch of complete idiots. But regardless, the nature of that story doesn’t allow for foreign enemies to do any smiting on the Big Guy’s behalf, so for forty years he has to keep stepping in to do it himself.

          • CatCube says:

            …the title of Stupidest People on the Face of the Earth. Y’all have seen the Lord God Almighty part the Red Sea. You eat the Manna he sends down from heaven, every day….

            I don’t know that this makes them stupider than any other people, to include people today. There is absolutely nobody who starts smoking crack that hasn’t heard the jokes about people getting so addicted that they suck dick for crack, or who picks up a meth pipe without knowing that plenty of people who did that before them ended up with addictions that turned the lives of their children into blasted hellscapes, but every day there are people that start doing drugs.

            I don’t see much daylight between this and the Exodus Jews who had seen the smiting that God delivered to the last guy to do whatever sin they were doing.

          • John Schilling says:

            The person who smokes crack or meth or whatever, is merely betting that they have more common sense and willpower than the obvious losers they see about them – and not every user is an obvious loser, so this is something that is at least subject to argument or analysis. The person who worships Baal in year 20 of the Exodus, is betting that they can put one over on vengeful interventionist deity after a generation’s worth of experience with the varied forms of smiting.

            These are two different degrees of stupidity.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            To be fair, the Bible only gives us the examples of those who were smitten … sorry, smited 😛 … nothing (as far as I know) about those that went a-worshipping foreign gods and got away with it.

            If we had good data on the probability God smiting you for worshipping foreign gods, relative to the probability of getting disastrously addicted if you start smoking crack (and indeed data on how much fun it is to worship foreign gods relative to worshipping the God of Israel, versus how much fun it is to smoke crack relative to limiting yourself to currently-legal drugs), then you’re talking 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            Isn’t the past tense smote?

    • Deiseach says:

      Several. Can’t remember off the top of my head, but the Babylonian Exile was the big one here, I think.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think it was six. The story of the old testament is “Israel obeys God, Israel does well, Israel becomes corrupt and disobeys God, Israel gets jacked up.” And the story of the new testament is basically “stop expecting state laws to fix your shit, you have to behave righteously as an individual.”

      • Vojtas says:

        And the story of the new testament is basically “stop expecting state laws to fix your shit, you have to behave righteously as an individual.”

        Is that what the story of the NT is? The state is part of ‘the world,’ but I didn’t get the impression that was the part they focused on in general. I’m willing to believe this is present to some extent, and would be interested to hear you expand on it.

        • dodrian says:

          It’s an interesting interpretation for sure.

          The Jews were expecting a warrior-king Messiah to come and overthrow the Romans and restore their claim to the promised land. Jesus spoke out against the legalistic (religious) laws that were fed by this belief leading to much missing the point of the religious laws, and much of the NT is about reinterpreting the OT in light of Jesus’ life and teachings.

          I would say the story of the NT could be phrased as “God has created a New Covenant not limited to a people group or state”

          I would be wary of the ‘behave righteously as an individual’ interpretation – that’s more of a reformation/puritanism belief. In some ways there’s a more individual focus, yes, but the NT is still very big on the importance of community (or assembly, church, what have you).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          (In the context of the stories) Jesus is the perfect human. The perfect instantiation of the logos, the highest aim for any individual person, he understands truth and he acts correctly, in the spirit of God’s law, ignoring or overthrowing the corrupt law of the Pharisees. This is the path to follow for the Kingdom of Heaven, for which humans should strive individually within themselves, which if everyone does creates a community like the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which actually exists metaphysically in heaven. C.S. Lewis said “aim at heaven and you get the earth thrown in.”

          In the OT God judges the tribe of Israel, with collective virtue, collective guilt and collective punishment. Christianity though, is personal. When you die, God judges your soul, not your government’s soul.

          I think this is a valid reading of the text. Does it make sense? Obviously I’m not qualified to explicitly state the one and only correct interpretation of the story of Jesus Christ 🙂

          • Vojtas says:

            That was a very helpful clarification, thank you. The confusion was that your description of the OT is a reasonable summary simpliciter, but that of the NT more so when viewed from a specific angle.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Too many to count. Judges 2:10-19 gives the core theme of the OT histories:

      After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

      16 Then the Lord raised up judges,[c] who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

  13. ddxxdd says:

    So… that Manchester terrorist attack happened. 19 dead, 50 injured during an Ariana Grande concert.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn’t there a moratorium of 3 days for this stuff?

      • ddxxdd says:

        You mean on this blog? I’ve never heard of it, but i apologize if i broke a rule.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yeah. This blog has a lot of rules that are somewhat lazily promulgated. Catches people off-guard often.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            To be fair, it’s a moratorium on politicising tragedies, rather than talking about them at all. Though under the circumstances, that might be very difficult to avoid.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Well, now that we’re past the three-day moratorium, perhaps some here might have at it? There’s several avenues of discussion I see brought up about this:
      1. What does the choice in target, in particular, signal? How much is there a “sexually-frustrated young man” component to this?

      2. Does the reaction — or more specifically, the lack of one — indicate acquiescence and/or doom for the English. Namely, the attitude expressed frequently around my circles is that if the random slaughter of 8-year-old girls cannot cause “the Saxon to begin to hate”, then nothing ever will, and so Manchester will “continue to embrace with open arms those that murder their children and rape their daughters” to the last.

      3. The use of “but native born, so checkmate, xenophobes” as an argument mode in the wake of events like this. As if we weren’t talking about the children or grandchildren of previously-admitted immigrants. If anything, doesn’t the fact that this sort of problem is not limited merely to immigrants themselves, but their descendants for generations after, point towards needing to be more selective about who one lets into one’s country?

      4. The poll and survey data I’ve seen shows Western women (especially single white women) to be some of the most consistently strong supporters of not only immigration, but Islamic immigration; this, despite, presumably, having more reason to oppose the importation of sizeable, young-male-skewed groups of “regressive”, patriarchal, hard-to-assimilate (based on the track record so far in Europe) populations. I know of a pair of proposed explanations for this apparent paradox floating around the far-right zones I inhabit, but I doubt folks here would agree with either of them.

  14. Kevin C. says:

    How often do other people, in reading around the Internet, find themselves recognizing an individual across multiple handles/pseudonyms due to frequent usages of the same particular phrases? Perhaps the key, go-to example for me is “James Bowery“, who, for years before he began sticking to that name consistently, was highly recognizeable across multiple pseudonyms in the comments of places like Overcoming Bias and Marginal Revolution. Just try Googling and searching phrases like:
    “If males are liberated, the glass ceiling would be shattered along with all positions of authority”
    “Modern economic theory is genocide”
    “the eusocial insects and their negation of sex”
    “the fact that you’re successfully committing genocide”
    “Something must give. That something is sex itself.”
    for a ready sampling of what is recognizeably a single individual making the same points, the same way, over and over.
    (Similarly, I suspect that this belongs to one of my favorite commentors here, thanks alse to very recognizeable repeated phrases.)
    I strongly suspect that I may have a bit of that “favorite turns of phrase” issue myself.

    And, of course, we also have a ready local example, in style as well as specific phrases, in our own John Sidles.

    • cactus head says:

      On non-anon forums it (with one exception) hasn’t happened to me, if only because I mostly lurk on rationalist and rationalist-adjacent spaces where people use one name for all of their contributions.

      On 8chan’s /monster/ board (nsfw) there’s one guy who keeps popping up and posting /r9k/ style self-pity, anonymous like everyone else, but the rest of the board’s cottoned on and tells him to shut up sometimes. I also saw two posts on two separate, slow-moving boards that had pictures of flower-of-life symbolism (pic) and I suspect they’re by the same guy. It’s fun picking that stuff out!

      >(Similarly, I suspect that this belongs to one of my favorite commentors here, thanks alse to very recognizeable repeated phrases.)

      That would be the one case I noticed. I like that guy’s comments too, and I wish he could be cured of his incurable hyper-depression.

    • MNH says:

      I have never experienced this before reading the linked blog. I, too, recognize that style, though.

  15. Kevin C. says:

    Given that, from what I’ve seen in the past, the openness expressed on this website toward, shall we say, “non-mainstream” sexual and relationship norms and practices has extended to a measure of tolerance toward the “BDSM community”, I have another question. Specifically, with regards to tolerance toward “kink”, and the “D” in BDSM, what is the plausibility vis-a-vis a heterosexual couple behaving in accord with “Patriarchy/Christian Headship/White Shari’a” as a “dominance/submission” “kink”? Particularly when one can postulate forth a defense of “role play” versus “real belief” of at least one of the couple being an atheist? “YKINMKBYKIOK”, and all that?

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Kevin C – I had a discussion a while back with someone here about Christian Domestic Discipline, which near as I could tell is an attempt at christian-compatible BDSM. They were of the opinion that it was straight-up misogyny and/or normative Christian behavior, though. Generally, anything in that area seems pretty fraught from a Social Justice angle, but it seems to me that social justice loses out to sexual liberation on a society-wide angle, so odds of the sort of thing you mention working long-term seem reasonable.

      • Kevin C. says:

        it seems to me that social justice loses out to sexual liberation on a society-wide angle,

        On what basis do you conclude this?

    • Tibor says:

      I have no idea of what YKINMKBYKIOK means but I’d say that the difference between roleplay and actual lifestyle is that one is a fantasy with rules and ways to get our, safe words etc., so that if you’re not comfortable to continue it stops immediately. If you live in a relationship where one partner is actually dominant this cannot happen. Thus in a roleplay a lot is permissible which would be far beyond condemnable if it were not within the roleplay context since consent is easy to withdraw.

      If you were asking about someone pretending to be doing roleplay while actually forcing someone else into a submissive role, well the roleplay is not likely going to happen 24/7 so that seems to be a way to tell the difference.

    • Brad says:

      What exactly are you looking for in a “measure of tolerance”?

      Speaking only for myself I tolerate the “‘D’ in BDSM” in the sense that I don’t think it should be illegal. And if a friend told me he and his wife were into it, I’d wonder why he was telling me but probably wouldn’t shun him. But if a friend and his wife came to a dinner party at my house with him leading her around on a leash and she conspicuously calling him master and asking for permission before speaking or doing anything they probably wouldn’t get invited to any more dinner parties.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        That sounds like eminently reasonable tolerance to me. At the risk of appearing to shitpost, what would your stance be if you were hired to cater the dinner party laid out in your latter case?

        • Brad says:

          I’m not sure I’d want to be in the catering dinner parties business. But if I was, I don’t think I’d refuse to cater a party like that. If there were actual sex acts in the open or if the staff were somehow dragged into it (e.g. told that they couldn’t talk to any of the women) that would be a different story.

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t think this really happens, (unless it is some kind of a BDSM themed party but then everyone is on the same wave), it is basically dragging (sorry for the pun :-)) your sex live to a dinner party. People don’t do that, regardless of heir kink. Well, unless they’re exhibitionists, I suppose. I am not super happy about people even tongue kissing in public in my close proximity (say a couple on a subway standing 20 cm from me), although I grudgingly tolerate that.

    • Null42 says:

      There are a couple of related questions inside this very interesting and relevant post.

      Let Alan be a male dominant, and Beatrice be a female submissive. Let them have a 24/7 D/s relationship, where Alan is the D-type.

      A. Would SJWs (for any value of SJW) tolerate this? Depends on the SJW. Some might say (1) ‘well, it’s because of the D/s relationship not because of the gender/sex, so it’s OK’, while others might say (2) ‘no, M/f is always bad because it reenacts oppressive social power structures’.

      (For what it’s worth, I can confirm from personal experience that the number of women with expressed feminist views and submissive preferences in category (1) is nonzero. I cannot speak with regards to other orientations or genders. I would further advance the suspicion that doing it as a kink makes it ‘edgy’ and ‘rebellious’ and hence makes it more palatable to someone with left-wing views (and I had at least one person confirm this!)…but that’s a lot harder to prove.)

      B. Now let this be a part of Christian Domestic Discipline. Would SJWs tolerate this? I suspect the ratio (2)/(1) has now significantly increased, because it seems to them more like the oppressive structures they are fighting against.

      Hypocritical? Sure, but your view toward the people performing the exact same heathen ritual is going to change quite a bit if I tell you those guys also moderate on Stormfront.

      • Iain says:

        The standard argument in favour of D/s is consent: so long as everybody involved is a freely consenting adult, your sex life is nobody else’s business. If two people choose of their own accord to engage in a 24/7 D/s relationship, then — hey, you do you.

        When you bring Christian Domestic Discipline into the fray, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to feel a little less comfortable. If a woman seeks out a D/s relationship, that’s one thing; if a woman is told that she has a religious obligation to submit, a little bit of doubt creeps in. Given that the rigid enforcement of non-consensual gender roles is one of the main problems that social justice people have with “oppressive power structures”, I don’t think it’s particularly hypocritical to distinguish between the two cases.

        (I don’t know enough about Christian Domestic Discipline to speak confidently about whether or not the additional concerns are justified; if I had to guess, I would say that the number of women unhappy with submission in a CDD context is higher than the number in a general D/s context, but that there are still probably plenty of cases of CDD where both partners are happy with the situation, and I don’t have a problem with those.)

        • Wrong Species says:

          And that’s the problem with the consent argument. It has been redefined to “anything I like is consent, anything I don’t like isn’t consent”. That’s why sex with a drunk person, a 15 year old or someone in a traditional culture isn’t considered consentful even though the person could be begging for it. At some point we have to realize that consent is not the be-all and end-all of whether sex is permissible.

          • JayT says:

            Also, I would guess that in many relationships that have a dominant and a submissive, that the dominant person goes out looking for people that can be convinced to be submissive, in which case I don’t see it being any different from the religion case.

          • Iain says:

            @Wrong Species:

            If a person does not like religion because it imposes roles on people without their consent, then it is not “redefinition” to say that those roles are not consensual. Less “anything I don’t like isn’t consent”; more “anything that is not consent, I don’t like”.

            @JayT:

            The difference between the two cases is that one group has “God says you have to submit to me, even if you don’t want to” available as an argument, and the other does not. It is not hard to see how one group will end up with more abusers than the other.

          • John Schilling says:

            If a person does not like religion because it imposes roles on people without their consent, then it is not “redefinition” to say that those roles are not consensual.

            But religion itself is, at least in most of Western civilization, consensual.

          • rlms says:

            @JayT
            I don’t have any actual experience with BDSM, but my understanding is that the situation is actually the opposite of what you describe (to the extent that people into BDSM are largely classed as subs, doms, and people who will sometimes dom if they have to). See the comments here.

          • JayT says:

            I think that the type of people for which “God says you have to submit to me” works on tend to be the same type of people that will accept “you have to submit to me because that’s your kink”.

            I could be totally wrong, I know my view on this is colored by the fact that the only people I ever knew in this type of relationship was a lesbian couple where my friend was the submissive one, and for a long time would talk about how great it was, but eventually admitted that she was just in an abusive relationship and there was nothing consensual about it.

        • Kevin C. says:

          @Iain

          But this sort of consent argument reminds me a bit of what Scott talked about with “fake consensualism” and BETA-MEALR, the “Yes, but how can we be sure the people involved in it really consented? Deep down? I bet they didn’t” attitude; “false consciousness”, “internalized oppression”, yadda yadda yadda. As if there’s no social pressure in other communities, as say, some liberal subcultures, toward, say, being “more open to sexual experimentation”. I know I’ve seen very left-leaning folks on Tumblr complain about feeling pressured by their social circle toward “bihacking”.

          And, as always, let’s add a third comparison: take the “religious traditionalist inegalitarian” couple, and replace “Christian” with “Muslim”. If anything, the “less consensual” argument applies even more strongly there, and yet I note the pattern with regards to “tolerance” (from the Left at least) does not match that.

      • Kevin C. says:

        B. Now let this be a part of Christian Domestic Discipline. Would SJWs tolerate this? I suspect the ratio (2)/(1) has now significantly increased, because it seems to them more like the oppressive structures they are fighting against.

        I agree with the ratio shift you posit. But now consider:
        C. Let this be a part of a Traditional Islamic Culture. What happens to the (2)/(1) ratio then, and why?

  16. blumenko says:

    About the medical baking soda shortage. In articles about this and similar shortages in generic medication it is often stated that consolidation and low prices lead to one supplier being vulnerable to factory outages. I really don’t understand. If there is only one supplier they can charge whatever they want, leading to high prices, and would have incentive to have constant supply. If there are two, then when one goes offline, the other can charge high prices and has incentive to make sure outages don’t coincide (unless anti-gouging laws get in the way).

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I’ve done some work on this in the context of generic pharmaceuticals.

      The implicit model (without drawing any conclusions as to whether it’s applicable here) is that sellers participate in an initial auction to determine who will get the longish-term contract to supply generic drug x.

      If these auctions focus exclusively on price, rather than reliability, etc, then sellers will cut margins to the bone in order to offer the lowest price – this includes cutting back on excess capacity, inventory and/or the kinds of expertise which make supply interruptions less likely.

      The buyer chooses a single supplier, who is making very little profit from any individual drug, and no other produced has an incentive to retain capacity to produce that drug in the short run. (You make the point that they ought to keep such capacity in anticipation of outages and resulting price spikes – in practice this seems to be too risky when dealing with slow moving buyers who would struggle to agree to a massive price hike which they might not be able to claim back from the first contractor – I proposed creating more certainty around who would be chosen for emergency supply and how much they would be paid, along the lines of peaker power generators in electricity markets)

      So it’s not a monopoly/duopoly, it’s a series of perfectly competitive (ish) deals, with the problems occurring between them. There does seem to be a genuine market failure here.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        The buyer wants (or at least would benefit from, or retrospectively want) a reliable supply, but does not offer to pay for it, or make multiple-source arrangements (which even GM does), or stockpile the product (easy for sodium bicarbonate, harder for some pharmaceuticals).

        This is not a market failure; this is a stupid buyer.

  17. Mark says:

    If you could design a new human race, what features would they have?

    I would like to have a race without genitalia, grown in cloning vats.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The incidences of knee trouble, lower back trouble, and shoulder trouble, indicate that better design would probably be possible in those areas.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I seem to recall that the knee is pretty close to the best possible tradeoff between several competing qualities? Or has there been more research done?

        • dndnrsn says:

          If this is the best possible knee, then that’s just upsetting.

        • Cheese says:

          It’s more repair capacities that it lacks. Better repair capacity for hyaline cartilage in particular and CT in general would improve a lot. But then you have to get more delicate blood supply to a mobile tissue that takes a lot of loading. So yeah. Trade-offs.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Better healing for connective tissue, possibly through increased blood supply.

      Those “live past ninety in good health” genes should be a standard feature.

      • engleberg says:

        I’d like a net of shutoff valves on all my arteries, and sensors to detect cancers. Shut down the blood supply before they grow.

        In one of Poul Anderson’s last novels, a normal human (hundreds of years old, but otherwise baseline) comes back to an Earth where everyone is connected to a worldwide internet at will. He thinks their ability to decide at will what mood they are in is the most alien thing about them.

    • Wander says:

      I’d like greater control over some bodily functions. The ability to instantly fall asleep, and determine exactly how long/what conditions to awake would be useful, or maybe even the capacity to not sleep at all. Maybe a stronger sense of the passing of time, to the extent that we have something of a natural clock? I’m not sure exactly how that would work, but I feel like it wouldn’t be totally impossible.
      I’d also like pain to not be as debilitating as it is – while there’s a lot of obvious evolutionary sense to make pain an absolutely unignorable experience, if I had the chance to redesign the human body I’d like to think there would be a way to notify the body of damage without it being unpleasant enough that torture is a thing that can occur.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      What are the rules of this? Something with at least a passing degree of biological plausibility? I assume I’m not allowed to give everyone teleportation, superman-like flight, or invulnerability, right? How about superintelligent nanotech swarms?

      It seems to me to be highly within the realm of plausibility that you could design a human who, at least as an adult, needs to sleep 4 or fewer hours per night with very little “cost” that was meaningful in the modern world. That’d be like roughly +25% lifespan with a proportionate breakdown of “good” and “bad” years, and strikes me as more likely possible than any other comparable lifespan gain.

      Obviously, lifespan gain to whatever extent was possible.

      If some kind of increased regenerative capacity was possible in a net-positive way (like: not a huge increase in cancer risk, for example), then that.

      Tetrachromacy for everyone! Tetrachromacy sounds cool. I have no reason to believe that this would be particularly important, except that tetrachromacy sounds cool and I wish I were a tetrachromat (except I don’t wish I was a woman).

      I vaguely believe — without, I must say, a lot of evidence — that there might be some economic benefit to making people generally a bit smaller? Like, make the 5th percentile to 95th percentile human heights for both sexes be 5′ to 5’4″? We’d need less food and we could make a lot of things a bit smaller and more efficient?

      • Spookykou says:

        I am pretty sure the last thing is correct, making people smaller without making them stupider is a huge boon. I remember thinking about this back when I read the Rats of NIMH, how cool human intelligence global modern rat civilization would be.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Birds have amazingly compact brains. I’m not sure how far you can shrink people, even using corvid/parrot brains for inspiration, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you could maintain human intelligence in 50 pound people.

          • baconbacon says:

            You could go the Octopus route and just have neurons all through the body.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @baconbacon I expect that that’s not really congruent with a human mind-plan. The latency seems like it would be too high for a centralized consciousness, and I expect it would weird people the fuck out if their arms were doing things without their conscious control.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            We’re at least somewhat modular– we can walk without paying attention to it.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Granted that our consciousness is less in control of us than we tend to imagine (see: works of Peter Watts), but I think if it were several major steps less in control of us than it is now, we would Not Like It.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think a lot of people would dislike any major change. Less control probably means less awareness– a blank spot in your experience. More control could seem a great deal like work. A nifty interface for choosing how much control you have here and there would be a *lot* like work.

            Being more flexible about change should be on the wish list.

            I’ve been thinking about how apt children are to believe what they’re told and then have a hard time changing it later. What might be tweakworthy about this?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “You could go the Octopus route and just have neurons all through the body.”

            Serious limb injuries now come with a free side of brain damage!

          • baconbacon says:

            Serious limb injuries now come with a free side of brain damage!

            If zefrank is a reliable source of information severed octopus limbs continue to seek out food and attempt to return it to their mouths that they can’t find. That would make for some horror movie shit on battle fields and hospitals.

    • ChetC3 says:

      Total remake into a race of cybernetically enhanced dinosaurs. Everyone knows mammals are lame.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Mark asks:  “If you could design a new human race, what features would they have”

      Coming Soon  The ability to redo adolescence, as many times as desired, until each individual “gets it right”.

      At present, humanity languishes in a biomedical dark age, in which individuals who emerge from their first adolescence with persistent neurocognitive personality disorders — disorders that many endure, but no one really wants — have lamentably few, ineffective medical options.

      Still, having directed one adolescent effulgence of connectomic rewiring, every human possesses the inborn genetic capacity to do it again (in principle) — such that this inborn neurocognitive “reboot” capacity provides (plausibly) the chief “unicorn” pivot strategy for Elon Musk’s Neuralink (a startup that is now-hiring).

      Also to mention, the “reboot” experience of hormonal charge PLUS neural plasticity PLUS accompanying low-grade amnesia PLUS unreasoned adolescent optimism, would hopefully be experienced, in aggregate, as … well … pleasurable. Or at least, not nearly as horrible as the experience of adolescence can be, the first time around! 🙂

      Let’s see … 10^10 people times (say) $10^5 per neurocognitive “reboot” (cheap at the price) … hey … that’s one mega-unicorn! Initiating this mega-unicorn neuroenterprise is (as it seems to me) what Neuralink most plausibly really is all about.

  18. Nornagest says:

    The Report Comments button is broken and seems to have been so for a while. If you posted something terrible in the past few months, you’re probably off the hook. My normal tech support has given up on this one, but if you want to try fixing it, let me know.

    Well, I’m not a front-end Web guy, but having to scroll through a bunch of John Sidles comments without the ability to report them is annoying enough that I might want to take a whack at this. The “Cheatin’, uh” thing appears to be an error message that can be provoked by permissions issues, session expiration, or some other stuff. I’d bet on session expiration in this case, since I seem to temporarily restore my ability to report comments when I log out of WordPress and back in.

    The easiest thing to do might be to install a different reporting plugin and hope it isn’t broken.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      Another possibility is to make the report button a mailto: link with the URL and content of the offending comment pre-filled. I don’t know enough about wordpress specifically to say how hard it is to add a mailto link based off a comment’s contents to each comment, but if that’s straightforward, you could easily switch over to a “email this address for moderation issues” system.

    • While I’m really late to the party as usual: I’d love to help out with this, too, if an additional pair of eyes is wanted. 🙂

  19. Paul Brinkley says:

    Previously, on open threads: Why don’t we keep the monuments, but add others memorializing the victims of slavery? Correct the whitewashing of history by adding more context, more information for future generations, rather than just sending the side we don’t like down the memory hole.

    I found this idea so compelling that I think it’s worth a first-level comment.

    I find it compelling because of the general motif: I struggle to think of any monuments to conflicting individuals whose conflict made the the world better, where both were framed as protagonists. Like, say, Maynard / Keynes, or Lincoln / Douglas (this exists), or Kant / Hume, or Lee / Grant.

    Are there any like that?

    • gbdub says:

      Does it count that e.g. the Gettysburg battlefield has monuments to both sides, so that taken as a whole the battlefield is a memorial to the conflict more than a victory celebration for the winners?

    • Evan Þ says:

      A lot of (US South) plantations portray both the planters and slaves as protagonists in different parts of the site and tour. It might not be strictly a “monument,” but I’d say it’s on-point.

      Also, the last time I went to Bennett Place, both generals Johnston and Sherman were treated as equally protagonists.

    • andhishorse says:

      There might also be an argument to be made for Confederate monuments as memorials meant to inspire not reverence, but humility.

      “We remember Confederate Soldier Smith, lost to us twice: first when seduced by an unequal and evil policy, and second upon his death fighting for it.”

      “Here lies John Smith, who was no less a loving husband and father, no less a loving member of the community, no less a man of charity and kindness to those he saw as equals, for the horrible practice he fought for and defended, and no less a villain because of his good attributes.”

      “In the memory of John Smith, let us never forget that honor, valor, and loyalty are no defense against succumbing to evil, when that honor belongs to a society of slave owners, that valor is exercised in its defense, and that loyalty is to a way of life which we took too long to condemn. Remember that your enemies can be honorable, their soldiers valiant; and that those to whom you are loyal are not right because of it.”

  20. spinystellate says:

    I am confused by the quote:

    For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite

    and I think an edit would clarify this confusion. Either Scott meant:

    1) “socialism” as “Scandinavian socialism” and this was a dig at rightists who think that this kind of socialism would be a disaster, even though it evidently works out OK for Danes. Here his implication was “traditionalists think polyamory wouldn’t scale because socialism doesn’t, but socialism does scale at least to Nordic-sized economies, so the scaling argument against polyamory is crappy”.

    OR

    2) “socialism” as “state-ownership of the means of production” and this was a dig at traditionalists who he sees as being armed with mere theories about how worldwide polyamory would work out, and who he sees as refuted by modern, small-scale successful (in his view) examples of polyamory. Here his implication is that successful local examples of polyamory are as illustrative as failed national examples of communism in refuting the underlying theory (“polyamory is bad” or “communism is good”). This interpretation seems weird because the Chestertonian fences (monogamy, markets, and social heirarchy) are on the theory side in the one case but against it in the other.

    Or did he mean something else?

  21. > I don’t claim this is necessarily an accurate representation of what a future hypothetical worldwide polyamorous society would be like. For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

    Or it’s like saying a Kibbutz works well, so socialism would work the same. Playing with rhetorical analogies has a lot of degrees of freedom.

    • Bugmaster says:

      As far as I understand, the Kibbutzim work well because they are heavily subsidized by the government, which makes its money from taxes, which are collected by taxing capitalist ventures. So, it’s a rather special case…

      • Brad says:

        The kibbutzim are barely kibbutzim anymore, for better or worse.

      • vV_Vv says:

        So, it’s a rather special case…

        While a self-selected group of few thousands people that has been existing for ~10 years, where the members are 90% male, on average 30 years old, IQ 140, etc., is totally representative of the general population?

  22. SchwarzeKatze says:

    “For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.”

    It would seem that in real life, nation-states that have more socialist policies AND less hierarchy/individualism fare much better in terms of standard of living than nation-states which do the opposite. And when exactly was a non-hierarchical socialist society tried without immediately being a victim to the U.S. foreign policy of the “threat of the good example”?

    • Civilis says:

      It would seem that in real life, nation-states that have more socialist policies AND less hierarchy/individualism fare much better in terms of standard of living than nation-states which do the opposite.

      Can you cite some examples for me?

      As for me, I usually use Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom* as a good proxy for how libertarian (little-l) an economy is, and there’s definitely a correlation between economic freedom as measured by Heritage and high standards of living. If you think ‘socialism’ corresponds to better standards of living, where do you think Heritage’s ratings are wrong?

      It’s certainly possible to be relatively economically free and still not be free in other respects. It’s also certainly possible to for a country to be economically unfree for reasons other than Socialism. Finally, it’s certainly possible to provide a decent level of social welfare without falling too far on the economic freedom rankings.

      I suspect that to be proper, previous economic states matter; perhaps that it should be said there’s a correlation between economic freedom and increasing standards of living. It could be cyclical: rich, prosperous states can afford to spend more, lowering economic freedom and dragging the economy down. The natural tendency is to use government power to treat the symptoms, further lowering economic freedom and accelerating the decline down.

      *Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom is at http://www.heritage.org/index/

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        John Quiggin noted in 2004 that even though government expenditure is entered to the index negatively it actually correlates positively with the rest of the ratings. http://crookedtimber.org/2004/07/24/big-government-is-good-for-economic-freedom/

        “Looking back at Alex’s post, I thought it likely that high levels of government expenditure would be positively rather than negatively correlated with gender development, which raised the obvious question of the correlation between government consumption expenditure and economic freedom (as defined by the Fraser Institute index). Computing correlations, I found that, although it enters the index negatively, government consumption expenditure has a strong positive correlation (0.42) with economic freedom as estimated by the Fraser Institute. Conversely, the GCE component of the index is negatively correlated (0.43) with the index as a whole. By contrast, items like the absence of labour market controls were weakly correlated with the aggregate index.”

        • Civilis says:

          Thanks for finding that! It made for interesting reading. I wonder if he’s re-examined the numbers after the most recent economic downturn? Either way, the results should prove interesting.

          State capacity tends to rise with income, so in wealthy countries the state can achieve more, with less obtrusive use of power, than in poor countries” certainly sounds very much like my “rich, prosperous states can afford to spend more”.

          It would also suggest that the initial poster’s “nation-states that have more socialist policies AND less hierarchy/individualism fare much better in terms of standard of living than nation-states which do the opposite” then seems to be refuted regarding the other measures of economic freedom: sound money, a fair legal system, free trade, and limited regulation.

      • SchwarzeKatze says:

        Nordic countries may have economic freedom in theory, but in practice that’s not going to help a whole lot when something displeases the employees and they go on strike.

        From wikipedia:

        “In 2013, labour union density was 85.5% in Iceland, 69% in Finland, 67.7% in Sweden, 66.8% in Denmark, and 52.1% in Norway. In comparison, labour union density was 13.6% in Mexico and 10.8% in the United States. The lower union density in Norway is mainly explained by the absence of a Ghent system since 1938. In contrast, Denmark, Finland and Sweden all have union-run unemployment funds.”

        Worker unions, unemployment funds were invented by anarchists.

        Another example of a socialist policy is health care based on mutualism which was developed by none other than Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          The unions are strong enough that workers don’t need to actually go on strikes all that often. The workers in France, which has a lower union density, are considerably more strike-prone than the workers in the Nordic countries. (Of course, the French labor market system contains other differences). The entire system of co-bargaining has been set up to avoid the need for strikes.

          “Labor unions being invented by anarchists” gives far too much credit to the anarchists. “Let’s stick together to collectively bargain for our wages and working conditions” is not exactly such a radical plan that it needs anarchists to invent it.

    • ChetC3 says:

      Anti-socialism is a sacred value for much of the grey tribe, there’s no point trying to discuss this here.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Let’s be fair, here. I could be wrong (the last survey didn’t ask), but I’m pretty sure the median commenter is a (relatively) high-income earner in the tech sector. There are likely a far greater-than-average proportion of people who style themselves entrepreneurs, and a significant proportion of them probably really are such. This is not a space where anti-socialism needs to be a “sacred” value; rather, it is entirely rational and practical reaction to the relevant material realities.

        • ChetC3 says:

          This space may not “need” to be one where anti-socialism is a sacred value in some abstract sense, but it concretely is a space where enough regular commenters have demonstrated that it is one of their sacred values to frustrate productive discussion on the topic.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            It kind of feels like you’ve defined “productive discussion” as “discussion that accepts my basic principles without question and goes from there,” and I’m not sure why you’d expect to find that at Slate Star Codex, of all places.

          • where enough regular commenters have demonstrated that it is one of their sacred values

            How do you distinguish a sacred value from a belief you disagree with? Or is that the implicit definition?

          • ChetC3 says:

            My definition of productive discussion assumes engagement beyond reciting tribal slogans followed by attaboys. I wouldn’t recommend trying to seriously discuss socialism on SSC for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend discussing fascism in venue full of antifa.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            How do you know that would happen if you refuse to try it?

            I’ve seen socialist arguments engaged here before. They seem to have a hard time getting around the problem of avoiding telling other people to do things they don’t want to do. But that isn’t a tribal slogan. It’s an observation of a characteristic of a socialist argument that socialists themselves do not prefer.

          • Wrong Species says:

            My definition of productive discussion assumes engagement beyond reciting tribal slogans followed by attaboys.

            How can you tell the difference between that and replies that all say the same thing because they’re right? If I’m talking to a creationist, I’m going to use the exact same talking points as everyone else because those talking points are right. Some people have beliefs that are so thoroughly discredited, there isn’t much more to say and pretty much every socialist I’ve seen hasn’t given me a reason to believe otherwise.

          • herbert herberson says:

            This space may not “need” to be one where anti-socialism is a sacred value in some abstract sense, but it concretely is a space where enough regular commenters have demonstrated that it is one of their sacred values to frustrate productive discussion on the topic.

            Definitely. But I’m saying that the difficulty in discussing radical left politics is downstream of a straightforward material reality. One of the best things about socialist thinking is that you can so routinely answer questions in exactly that way, and are accordingly will find it far less necessary to rely on vaguely reactionary armchair sociology like “tribes” and “sacred values” and “virtue signaling” (god, especially that last one)

            edit: and that’s not to say it never makes sense to advocate socialism to bourgeois people. Engels owned a factory, after all. Capitalism likes to treat its most skilled labor aristocrats pretty well, but communism isn’t exactly known for disrespecting technical skills either. But if you make that approach, it should be done with understanding that, in at least some ways, you’re asking for a sacrifice.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Anyone you would equate with creationists is not someone you are interested in engaging with seriously. I’ve been reading the SSC comment section for years now, and discussions of socialism here are as low quality as discussions of race and IQ by mainstream liberals, or discussions of theology by standard issue net atheists. Bad arguments are still bad arguments even if their conclusions are correct. For example, I agree completely that the doctrine of transubstantiation is nonsense, but plenty of the arguments against it are still garbage, largely because the people making them can’t be bothered to learn what it is they’re arguing against.

          • Vojtas says:

            vaguely reactionary armchair sociology like “tribes” and “sacred values” and “virtue signaling”

            These terms and this type of analysis happen to be associated with people of certain political persuasions, but there’s no reason they need to be. Fred Clark, e.g., uses equivalent concepts against religious conservatives

          • herbert herberson says:

            Virtue signaling is one I object to no matter what. It is a disgusting rhetorical trick to undermine people’s efforts to act ethically.

            And even the others, sure, they can be rehabilitated–the “Red Tribe” and the “Blue Tribe” can be easily seen as the cultural manifestations of particular clusters of capital (extractive industries vs. finance seems like obvious, if obviously oversimplified, take). Even so, at least from a socialist perspective, they remain masters’ tools–lenses of analysis that were at least initially stripped of class/economic components, popularized by people for which that was very much a feature rather than a bug.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            and are accordingly will find it far less necessary to rely on vaguely reactionary armchair sociology like “tribes” and “sacred values” and “virtue signaling”

            “false consciousness”?

          • Vojtas says:

            Virtue signaling is one I object to no matter what. It is a disgusting rhetorical trick to undermine people’s efforts to act ethically.

            It does typically get used as a slur, but would you disagree the now-dominant usage is a distortion of a useful concept? Surely people do in fact signal virtue, whether consciously or otherwise, and this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. The easiest way to appear just is by being just.

          • Nornagest says:

            My definition of productive discussion assumes engagement beyond reciting tribal slogans followed by attaboys.

            90% of the pro-socialism talk I’ve seen on here is precisely that, including half this thread, but who’s counting?

          • Brad says:

            It does typically get used as a slur, but would you disagree the now-dominant usage is a distortion of a useful concept?

            I object to it precisely on those grounds. The original usage that looked at things like religious rituals in a new way was pretty interesting.

            The sneering usage over the last 2-3 years is not only totally worthless in and of itself but has also ruined it for the original context.

          • Creutzer says:

            I think virtue signalling is possibly the least objectionable of that whole cloud of concepts, because it strikes me as eminently useful in making sense of the worlds. It’s well-defined, and it is, in many instances, a plausible alternative hypothesis to “people try to do good but are completely incompetent and for that reason fail miserably”.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @ChetC3

            I know you don’t believe me but if someone gave an honest to God good argument for communism I think I can believe it. I can understand a social democrat even though I don’t agree with them. I just don’t see how anyone could have a rational reason for believing communism is possible. Even when communists come here and try to promote their arguments I can’t help but feel bad because they are so unconvincing. And yes, I’m not exactly receptive to arguments from the far left but I don’t think you guys are helping your cause.

        • Tarhalindur says:

          Anti-socialism may not *need* to be a sacred value, but it’s hard to imagine how it could *not* be a sacred value given that the SSC commentariat leans strongly Grey Tribe; anti-Communism is (or at least was) a core Grey Tribe value for both ideological and contingent historical reasons. Ideologically, Grey Tribe tends to draw on classic liberalism (i.e, what gets called liberalism in Europe), which is basically the opposite of socialism. More importantly, historically speaking Grey Tribe is a splinter of Red Tribe, and specifically of *the* Red Tribe faction defined most strongly by opposition to Communism (and support of capitalism).

          (I should probably write up a taxonomy of the major constituencies of the American tribes, I’ve been mulling over it for a while and it seems like it would be useful.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            As originally described by Scott, Gray Tribe is a splinter of Blue, not Red. This is one place where tribes and politics don’t quite correspond.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          “Let’s be fair, here. I could be wrong (the last survey didn’t ask), but I’m pretty sure the median commenter is a (relatively) high-income earner in the tech sector. There are likely a far greater-than-average proportion of people who style themselves entrepreneurs, and a significant proportion of them probably really are such. This is not a space where anti-socialism needs to be a “sacred” value; rather, it is entirely rational and practical reaction to the relevant material realities.”

          …which would, of course, be exactly what socialist theory would predict.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Bingo.

            A socialist that operates under the assumption that bourgeois people will support socialism if they can just be handed the right argument or convinced to overcome their “irrational” biases is going to be a very, very frustrated socialist.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            To be fair, it happens sometimes, Bertrand Russell and Kropotkin were not from the lower classes. It was not in their immediate material interest to be socialists. But these people are rather rare.

      • Brad says:

        Anti-socialism is a sacred value for much of the grey tribe, there’s no point trying to discuss this here.

        I don’t think it is a sacred value. It’s contingent. The overriding driver is poking a stick in the eye of the hated enemy. You can observe by looking at the collectivist elements of the conservative philosophy and note that the grey tribe rarely or never attacks these things. In fact, given the strict adherence to Reagan’s 11th commandment I’m not even sure it makes sense to talk about a separate tribe at all.

        For a concrete example, take a look at the distortions in the student loan market and the distortions in the housing markets (both in the US). You cannot get libertarians to ever shut up about the former, in the case of the latter they’ll be happy to talk about the CRA — which not so coincidentally conservatives don’t like either — but that’s about it. Freddie, Frannie, and Ginny whose lending dwarfs all student loans put together get barely a passing mention. Because attacking those institutions would be sticking a finger in the eye of conservatives as well as liberals and that’s not done.

        • psmith says:

          Freddie, Frannie, and Ginny whose lending dwarfs all student loans put together get barely a passing mention.

          I’m curious to know how you came to this conclusion. For instance, did you ever Google “fannie mae libertarian“?

          • Brad says:

            fannie mae libertarian
            About 169,000 results (0.46 seconds)

            cra libertarian
            About 562,000 results (0.94 seconds)

            Which one is more impactful? Which one is more socialist?

          • BBA says:

            Probably not a fair comparison there, Brad. CRA also stands for the Civil Rights Act, a much larger libertarian bugbear.

          • psmith says:

            About 169,000 results

            That’s quite a passing mention there.

            CRA also stands for the Civil Rights Act

            I don’t know that it’s abbreviated all that often, see for comparison.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You are probably also picking up some Canadian hits, as CRA is the Canadian tax authority.

          • Aapje says:

            Google results are a very poor way to analyze how much people care about things.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I do talk occasionally about the mortgage deduction being used to segregate America. It has also given white people a subtantial financial advantage over black people.

          I’m inclined to think that whether people own or rent their homes is the kind of thing a government shouldn’t be trying to influence.

          In general, I think the mortgage crisis was a result of banks (not all banks) scrambling to give bad loans, and as far as I know, the CRA didn’t have a lot to do with it. The mortgage crisis was failure by business, by government, by religion (the prosperity gospel was a piece of the problem), by education (people in general aren’t taught how to manage their finances), and an emotional failure (people were too fond of riding the boom to think clearly about it). There was a racist piece of the situation (black people were more likely to be pushed into bad mortgages).

          Arguably, there was also a problem of complexity. A lot of people knew that the housing bubble couldn’t last, but damned few knew how much was dependent on the boom. Those who spoke up weren’t listened to.

          I consider myself a libertarian, though a liberal-flavored libertarian. I’m willing to accept that the default libertarian is conservative-flavored, but I will keep saying that I exist and I am a libertarian.

          • Brad says:

            To me the housing crisis is just about the clearest example of a problem created by massive government intervention in the economy. The level of homeownership we have in the US is not a result of market forces. It is a result of massive and ongoing government efforts dating back to the GI bill signed by FDR.

            This ought to be catnip for libertarians. Back when I was a libertarian it was a big issue for me — and now that my ideology is more center-left it is still a big issue for me.

            Maybe my observations are totally non-representative but it is my sense that self-declared libertarians would much rather talk about the community reinvestment act or zoning or student loans than about Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie, the FHA, VA loan guarantees, and so on. How to explain that leads to me to my thesis about coalitions and driving forces.

            There’s no problem with being a conservative-flavored libertarian but I do think you aren’t a libertarian at all if you have no disagreements with conservatives or whatever disagreements you have with them are of such low saliency that you never even want to talk about them.

            I acknowledge that there are exceptions. I know that left libertarians exist. I’m sorry if you thought what I was saying erased people like you.

          • Skivverus says:

            Insufficiently toxoplasmic, maybe?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Apology accepted.

            Part of the situation is that I’m exposed to a lot of hatred for libertarians from the left, even though I agree with the left more than I agree with conservatives.

        • gbdub says:

          Brad, I feel the need to point out that this comment generalizes and hyperbolizes about libertarians in a manner that, were it another poster complaining about SJWs or feminists, you would be extremely quick to criticize.

          • Brad says:

            That’s a very fair criticism. I should not be talking about “libertarians” but instead narrow it to someone specific or some better defined group.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          Why do you think conservatives are fans of Fannie and Freddie? The Wall Street Journal has had it in for them for at least 20 years. Democrats have been the ones appointed to their ridiculously-overpaid executive positions (e.g. Franklin Raines).

          I’m an economic-libertarian-leaning conservative, and can’t think of any conservatives who have defended the GSEs. Especially since they did, ultimately, screw up and cash in their implicit government guarantee, getting it made explicit.

          If libertarians don’t talk much about Fannie and Freddie, I imagine it’s for the same reasons they don’t talk much about the Khmer Rouge: it’s such an obviously bad outcome that it doesn’t require argument.

          • Brad says:

            I meant conservative in the vector sense of:
            Republican – libertarian = conservative

            Having been reasonably chastised by gbdub I don’t want to make further big sweeping generalizations, but it is my sense that there’s a faction within the Republican Party supports government intervention in favor of homeowership as part of a middle class, mom, apple pie, and little league agenda. Those government interventions include the GSEs, the FHA and the MID among other things.

            If the Republican coalition is united against the GSE than how come they continue to exist given the six year hegemony the Republicans had last decade?

    • Anon. says:

      It would seem that in real life, nation-states that have more socialist policies AND less hierarchy/individualism fare much better in terms of standard of living than nation-states which do the opposite.

      Complete nonsense. Individualism at the national level is positively associated with basically everything nice, including (but not limited to): Social capital, Interpersonal trust, Wealth, Happiness, Innovation.

      The spam filter won’t let me link it, but google “population differences in individualism”, there’s a ton of references there. Also search google images for “eupedia map of individualism”.

    • Urstoff says:

      Can you first give a rough definition of “socialism” and provide some examples of policies that you consider “socialist”? Without this basic calibration, all discussion is going to be pointless.

  23. I wrote up a review of The Righteous Mind in which I agree with the author’s most basic point but disagree about almost everything else.

    So when Haidt talked with a few fellow researchers about the survey responses he got and tried to sort them into categories it’s almost a certainty that he failed to carve nature at the joints. Care and Sanctity do seem like natural categories to me that are maybe as clear as extroversion is but I wasn’t at all convinced that Fairness, Loyalty, and Authority were natural categories and in particular Fairness seemed to be covering a lot of complexity.

    Sure enough, after Haidt does some experiments, gets some pushback, and adds a sixth foundation of Liberty which is broken our of Fairness. But without some sort of factor analysis I’m not at all sure that the six factors in Haidt’s new moral matrix actually correspond naturally to the foundations of individual morality. Still, I think the notion that there are foundations to our sense of morality is a useful one.

  24. pistachi0n says:

    I’m sorry to harp on point 3 even more, but polyamorous bonobo rationalists (or even the people who took the latest SSC survey) are not representative of the general population. I know you were defending polyamory as it exists today in your subculture, but not mentioning this when I’m not the only one to have pointed it out is short sighted.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I’m sorry to harp on point 3 even more, but polyamorous bonobo rationalists (or even the people who took the latest SSC survey) are not representative of the general population

      I think it’s actually worse than that, since asking people their preferred relationship style doesn’t necessarily correlate with their actual relationship style; moreover, people might not understand the consequences of their preferred relationship style; and may be stating their preference out of ideological or signalling reasons.

      By analogy, you could survey Americans and you might very well find that wealthy Americans prefer higher taxes than do middle class Americans. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that higher taxes make you wealthier.

      Anyway, it’s well known and very easy to verify that when it comes to relationships other than traditional marrage marriage, girls can and do date up; men must and will date down. The Roissy scenario follows more or less inevitably from this observation. So it will take a good deal more than an informal survey to overturn it.

  25. vV_Vv says:

    For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

    This remark is unnecessarily condescending.

    As it has been already pointed out to you, polyamory, under other names, has been in fact extensively tried outside your favored small weird communities, and the results are less than encouraging.

    • SchwarzeKatze says:

      While I personally prefer monogamy, even though they are relatively rare, egalitarian (non-polygynous) polygamous societies do exist in some amazon tribes. Perhaps two factors are at play here, because of the low population, the mate choice is limited so hypergamy is essentially hard to do (like it must have been for most of humankind’s evolutionary history) and then there’s the assumption that a one-size-fits-all centralized/hierarchical society is the only desirable/possible kind of society.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Scott is just unable to take criticism.

      • Nornagest says:

        Good thing you’re here to provide it, then!

        • vV_Vv says:

          It has been provided, and Scott’s response is: “yes, theoretically polyamory may not work in some cases, even though every time we tried it it worked just fine. Just like Socialism theoretically may work, but every time we tried it it failed. So if in order to believe that polyamory may not work despite the contrary evidence you have to be as stupid or fanatic as you have believe that Socialism may work despite the contrary evidence”. Except that Scott doesn’t say this explicitly, he just insinuates it.

          This is not only terribly smug and condescending, it is also false, because polyamory has been already tried out many times, under other names, and it typically results in polygynous societies that are often high-conflict, high-emigration, or at least, when they are very wealthy (due to oil money) they are highly hierarchical and illiberal, and exploit large immigrant populations.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sarcasm, bro.

          • INH5 says:

            This is not only terribly smug and condescending, it is also false, because polyamory has been already tried out many times, under other names, and it typically results in polygynous societies that are often high-conflict, high-emigration, or at least, when they are very wealthy (due to oil money) they are highly hierarchical and illiberal, and exploit large immigrant populations.

            I’m pretty sure that most people who advocate polyamory under that name favor a system that isn’t quite the same as that of Saudi Arabia. For example, they tend to favor systems where women can have multiple sexual partners without facing a significant risk of getting killed by their families and/or stoned to death.

            It’s absurd to point to a society where polygyny is the only legally and socially allowed form of polyamory as evidence that polyamory inevitably leads to polygyny. And I say this as a person who is somewhat skeptical of polyamory.

            There’s also the question of whether polygyny is actually the cause of the problems that you mention. As I’ve pointed out before whenever the subject of polygamy and Middle Eastern conflict/terrorism has come up, the country that is the highest per-capita source of foreign ISIS fighters, Tunisia, is also a country where polygamy has been banned for more than 60 years.

          • rlms says:

            @INH5
            I don’t think you can claim that being the highest per-capita source of foreign ISIS fighters is indicative of Tunisia’s general culture, since it is also the only country to come out of the Arab Spring with a democracy.

  26. Silverlock says:

    In the spirit of bean’s posts on battleships — except that I’m too lazy to actually acquire the relevant knowledge — I present basic fighter moves.

    Man, this takes me back to the days of playing Falcon.

    • bean says:

      That’s at least 20 years out of date. These days, basic fighter maneuvers are very simple. You fire your missiles, and hope you do so before the other guy. Then you go back to base, reload, and repeat.

      • Silverlock says:

        Even if you win the shoot-and-scoot race, what’s to stop the opponent from firing his missiles are yours are underway?

        This reminds me of a question I have about modern missiles: do they still require several seconds of lock-on in order to acquire a target? I would think they would be sufficiently discriminatory that they could acquire a target, get verification from the pilot/armaments officer and be fired within a matter of a few seconds.

        • bean says:

          Nothing. Firing first just means that you don’t have to choose between shooting back and dodging.
          I’m not honestly sure how much lock-on time modern missiles take. It probably depends heavily on the missile and the system it’s connected to. Keep in mind that BVR missiles don’t acquire the target directly. They’re fired at where the target is expected to be, and updated by the firing aircraft’s radar in flight. Once they get close, their own radar comes on. I think that modern short-range missiles tend to have very short lock-on times, for obvious reasons.

        • Nornagest says:

          Radar lock-on is still relevant to missiles using semi-active radar homing (technically active as well, but active-homing missiles use their own radar), but semi-active homing is no longer as common as it once was, and modern missiles that do still use it no longer need to have their targets continuously painted by the launcher’s radar throughout flight. These days it’s more common as a terminal guidance method: you’d fire a missile using inertial or GPS guidance, wait for it to get close to your target, then paint the target with your radar for the terminal phase. Often modern missiles come with infrared or anti-radiation seekers too, also for use in the terminal phase.

        • tscharf says:

          Signal lock is never going to be binary. There is always a phase of “we think there might be something out there” at the limits of the sensors. Software algorithms can choose to be aggressive or not in determining “good enough to fire now”.

          I would imagine what is good enough changes depending on the tactical situation. If your sensors are far superior to your enemies then you would wait for high probability to fire. If your sensors are inferior and you know you are very vulnerable when your sensors are reliable, then you probably fire pretty early in the maybe phase.

          There lots of things involved that I’m not well versed in. Sensor range vs missile range for example. Evasion probability based on opponent and missile type. One may fire at the earliest opportunity as a “stay out of my territory” message knowing probability is low.

          I would agree with the general consensus, it is more about weapons systems now then jet maneuverability.

      • John Schilling says:

        We went through this before, of course. But to elaborate: Air combat maneuvering was from roughly 1940-1990 something you trained for in case Plan A failed miserably and you were forced to do battle with a foe who had the unmitigated gall to know you were there. Since the development of helmet-mounted sights and off-boresight missiles, even that is pretty much irrelevant. See the enemy, press the button, boom, no maneuvering required.

        To the extent there is maneuvering, it is mostly in pre-combat deployment to maximize the possibility of seeing the other guy without being seen, and to some extent in specialized maneuvers that augment your ECM’s ability to break the lock of the missile that the enemy deviously managed to launch before you killed him. And most of the latter have the disadvantage of making you a sitting duck for his next missile, given that he clearly knows where you are.

    • cassander says:

      To elaborate on what john said below, for as long as there has been air to air combat, roughly 4 out of 5 kills have been achieved without a sexy dogfight, because 4 out of 5 people who get shot down are shot down by someone they didn’t know was shooting at them until it was too late. Dogfighting is mostly relevant only to that 5th kill where both pilots know each other are around and neither tries to run away.

  27. moridinamael says:

    In all the recent talk about basic income I haven’t come across any serious discussion of economic consequences. On a Vox podcast recently somebody mentioned a concern that basic income would lead to inflation, and that concern was immediately dismissed without actual argument.

    To a first approximation it would seem to follow that basic income would cause price inflation in exactly the goods that the poorest people are buying. The McDonald’ses and Walmarts of the world know that their market now has more money to spend, so prices rise. There could be a next-order effect when/if significant numbers of people lose their jobs and have to rely on basic income completely, and the pool of people living on very little money actually increases. This seems like the kind of thing you might tune for when deciding what the dollar figure for the basic income check should actually be.

    I anticipate the complaint that “the government is subsidizing McDonald’s and Walmart”. And that will be true, as far as I can tell, but that’s already happening.

    Another consequence – I can’t say whether this is positive or negative – is that at certain levels of basic income, wages for shitty jobs might actually increase. If you have a choice between being unemployed and being a sewage drainpipe cleaner, you might just decide to hold off and look for a better opportunity. In effect the pool of applicants for undesirable jobs shrinks and wages increase. Again, I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, because that wage increase comes at the cost of some number of people choosing to be unemployed.

    You often hear the soundbite “what if people just sit around all day playing video games?” which always immediately makes me think about the synthetic economies of MMO video games. Every MMO quickly develops its own complex economy with a black market for dollars-to-in-game-currency. Human beings crave social interaction, so even a future where people retreat into video games may actually look like people retreating into fundamentally healthy modes of social belonging and participation in the economy. Virtual gold coins are just as “real” as dollars, and if people are willing to trade dollars for them, that indicates that they represent real value.

    Most of the above is “to first order”, and most economic disasters seem to happen several layers of abstraction deep, so whatever the nightmare consequences (or hidden silver linings) of basic income are, I’m sure I can’t guess, but it might be interesting to try to think of some. I’m not an economist and what I said is probably a mix of patently obvious and blatantly wrong, but again, I haven’t really seen much discussion of this anywhere, so I’m here to learn.

    • Money is ultimately an abstraction over the productive capacities of an economy. If someone or something is being taxed to pay for basic income then the net transfer of money will eventually be reflected in a net transfer of the use of assets. Diminishing returns means that yes there will be some inflation in the prices of the stuff poor people pay but those margins look pretty elastic so probably not too much.

    • knownastron says:

      I noticed that the inflation question is never brought up and addressed either.

      Perhaps this is like discussions of minimum wage in the mainstream (this includes my Facebook feed). People argue over whether it is “fair” that business owners need to pay more, instead of talking about the unemployment that happens when the minimum wage is higher than a worker’s production per hour.

      Does this match anyone else’s impression on discussions of minimum wage in the “mainstream.”

      • moridinamael says:

        I agree, I’ve never seen people disagree about minimum wage in a way that involved empirical predictions. Even the above-linked discussion about these basic income issues between two actual economists seems to spend a lot of time going back and forth in essentially kneejerk left-vs-right compassion-vs-fairness patterns.

      • albatross11 says:

        Assuming we fund UBI from taxes, there should be no net change in the amount of money being spent. However, if poor people who used to have very little cash suddenly have more, then prices of things mainly bought by poor people will go up (the demand curve shifts right), and prices of things mainly bought by wealthier people will go down (the demand curve shifts left) in response to those wealthier people having less after-tax income to spend.

      • pharmst says:

        One of the reasons for this is simply that making accurate economic predictions about the effects of (say) a minimum wage turns out to be really hard. Especially for relatively small minimum wages, the precise outcome turns on the detailed economic context in which it is applied. Hence what you end up with is lots of argumentative heat, but little light.

        There’s a lovely funnel plot of the papers published analysing the outcomes of minimum wage laws on the wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_in_the_United_States#Economic_effects Essentially, it looks like the Keynesians are right & at the levels currently set the employment effects of mandating a minimum wage net out to a big fat zero.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @ pharmst:

          There’s a lovely funnel plot of the papers published analysing the outcomes of minimum wage laws on the wikipedia page […] it looks like the Keynesians are right & at the levels currently set the employment effects of mandating a minimum wage net out to a big fat zero.

          There are three sentences about CEPR minimum wage findings at the paragraph you’re pointing us at. Let’s look at the other two first to clarify what’s going on. Here’s #2:

          Another CEPR study in 2014 found that job creation within the United States is faster within states that raised their minimum wage.

          What they counted as “states that raised their minimum wage” largely consisted of states where the minimum had been indexed to inflation so (in this low inflation year) there were automatic insignificant cost-of-living increases, unlikely to swamp whatever else was going on in the economy and cause measurable job losses. There were only a few states in their sample that had significant REAL (inflation-adjusted) minimum wage increases due to brand new laws taking effect that year, and job creation was actually much worse that year in those states than in the US at large. In fact, if you do a scatter plot of their sample set plotting the percentage wage increase versus job loss/gain you’ll notice a slope – the worst job gains were in the states with the highest percentage minimum wage increases.

          Thus even if we accept their criteria (which seem to be “the net job gain amount in this one arbitrary year tells us if the minimum wage increase did harm, ignoring all other years and the base rates and whether the jobs gained/lost are high or low-wage”), then by their own criteria they should have found that raising minimum wage by a significant amount (say, more than 2%) “causes” job loss. That they didn’t notice this seems like a problem.

          The third sentence:

          In 2014, the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation, Washington, exceeded the national average for job growth in the United States.

          “exceeding the national average for job growth” is a pretty low bar. Suppose we don’t want to just be slightly better than average. Suppose we want to see great job growth – what states had the highest job growth in that same year 2014? Why, it’s North Dakota, Texas and Utah – all of them states whose minimum wage was $7.25 (the lowest rate allowed by the federal government).

          Now getting back to the first sentence and associated funnel plot, the theory says the minimum wage harms jobs among low-wage workers, people earning less than the new minimum, and does more harm the larger the increase. Their funnel plot isn’t really testing this at all. Given that low-wage workers are a tiny fraction of the workforce it’s perfectly plausible that you could have a big negative effect on low-wage workers that doesn’t show up as statistically significant in the overall employment rate. The fact that CEPR is obviously bad at studies (see above) leads me to suspect this study of theirs is bad too but even if it weren’t, it doesn’t demonstrate the minimum wage effect is zero on the people we care about and expect to be harmed the most, low-wage workers.

          • pharmst says:

            The funnel plot was taken from what looks (to an outsider to the topic) to be a fairly comprehensive literature review: http://cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2013-02.pdf

            Go to the source rather than critique random sentences from Wikipedia?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @pharmst:
            You were the one who initially linked to wikipedia as the source. Given that you were saying “look at this study result from CEPR, referenced in this wikipedia section!” it seemed relevant to me that the other two study results from CEPR quoted in the exact same paragraph which you linked are trivially shown to be bogus. Given that their SIMPLE claims are obviously wrong, I don’t have much faith in their more COMPLEX claims.

            What you have linked to now is also not the original source for that chart, that plot is merely included by reference from an earlier study ( Doucouliagos and Stanley (2009)) which…appears to be paywalled. But looking at the Schmitt survey anyway it’s…not very good. (I see a lot of confirmation bias in which studies they choose to find credible and on what basis.)

            As a remedy for the Schmitt survey, I suggest you read Neumark & Wascher (2014)

            If you torture the data enough it’s usually possible to produce a finding of no employment effect. So those who are ideologically committed to liking the minimum wage tend to run studies which do that, then N&W come along every few years to pull back the curtain and show that, no, the latest round of “corrections” these guys used were just as bad as the previous round and yes, there really was still a negative employment effect after all. That seems to be what happened here.

            There’s nothing wrong with claiming it’s difficult to establish the precise effect of minimum wage on employment, but confidently claiming it is proven to be “a big fat zero” goes way too far.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, you can accuse your ideological opponents of fraud, but funnel plots allow you to actually measure it.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            If you want to wade into this mess too, after more google-fu I think I found the actual funnel-plot paper in non-paywalled form – it’s here.

            Of particular note: even if we agreed with everything the plot-generators say, their paper did NOT find the disemployment effect to be a “big fat zero” – they merely found it to be small. Less than traditional estimates. But even “small” is not “zero”.

            The two sides have very different priors. Schmitt can ignore all results prior to this century because Card’s paper in the 1990s used new methods. Then he can ignore Neumark(2011) because there were some papers that hadn’t been published yet then and so clearly (in 2014) their results are incomplete. Also he can ignore a recent study that found a LARGE negative impact on employment because…it’s too big an effect, inconsistent with the rest of the literature so it’s obviously wrong and we should ignore it, even if we don’t know why.

            Meanwhile the other side thinks studies finding NO effect are dubious and need to be corrected, given the massive amount of evidence for a negative effect in all the literature which Schmitt is ignoring or handwaving away, and notices that certain attempts to apply appropriate controls are doing most the work of hiding what would otherwise appear to be an unambiguous effect – they call it “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. Shrug…

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Your prior on the real effect has no effect on the interpretation of a funnel plot and the measurement of fraud.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Douglas Knight:

            Your prior on the real effect has no effect on the interpretation of a funnel plot and the measurement of fraud.

            Okay, I give up. Care to be less terse? I have no idea what you are saying. Where did fraud come into it? The Doucouliagos paper claims one of his funnel plots showed possible publication bias (in a specific set of papers earlier analyzed by Card), not outright fraud. And Neumark is concerned with (plausibly inadvertent) researcher bias, which he demonstrates by reanalyzing the data and methods used by others and showing how fragile some of the conclusions are. Again, not fraud. So…what gives?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Why would we expect inflation? We aren’t increasing the total amount of money in society, we’re shifting it from rich people to poor people. It wouldn’t increase the cost of production for McDonald’s or Walmarts. If they raised their prices, what would stop competitors from undercutting them?

      It might produce inflation in housing, where obviously there’s much more supply limitation. You could make a fairly complex argument about shifting money from wealthy to less-wealthy people reducing investment (since poor people use a larger proportion of their money for consumption than do wealthy people), but we’ve seen various kinds of taxes on the rich for a long time without obviously creating massive inflation, and in general there’s at least a decent argument that increased consumption would be overall economically healthy.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Arguing against a few of the commenters here, I believe you likely *would* see a minor bump in overall inflation, even with no net increase to the monetary base… because you’d see a net increase to the “virtual” monetary base due to an increase in velocity-of-transfers. It’s (I believe) pretty well established that poor people tend to spend money received more quickly, so you’d likely see more/faster transactions with the same starting pool of dollars if more of them were allocated to the poor. This would result in (some) inflation on it’s own.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          That sounds plausible, though it also sounds minor, and probably you could adjust existing monetary/fiscal policy to hit a desired inflation target.

          I note also that if a UBI does serve to “subsidize Walmart and McDonald’s,” as the OP hypothesizes, that plausibly their customers would share in some of that subsidy and you might see a reduction in nominal prices for the goods of companies that employ lots of low-skill labor.

      • You might get inflation if the result was that more people chose not to work, reducing total output–the amount of stuff that the fixed amount of money is bidding for.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          True, though I think that a lot of people who push for a UBI believe that there will be enormous slack in the labor market, and others believe it would increase long term employment.

          On a practical level, I doubt that a UBI that was causing an employment crisis would last.

    • hls2003 says:

      If you’re describing general inflation from a UBI, then I think the economist’s answer would be Milton Friedman-esque, that as long as the overall monetary base was not affected, one would not expect inflation. So if you printed $4 trillion in new money and handed it out, you’d see inflation; tax the same amount from a set of rich people and hand it out, and you’d not.

      I think you’re on pretty strong ground with the “goods specific to the poor” inflation, however.

    • sohois says:

      I can’t speak for the US, but in the UK the income of the poorest probably wouldn’t increase with a basic income. The welfare of the UK is not especially generous compared to some European countries but single people can still receive up to £15’000 per year, or households can get £23’000 per year if they receive all benefits. The poorest 20% in the UK would likely receive a similar or even a smaller amount in a UBI system. So I’m not sure how much demand would suddenly surge for the favoured goods of the poorest.

      • Matt M says:

        Most of the people who say “UBI would replace welfare, not be additive to it” don’t actually mean it. It’s a trick to get centrists/rightists to support the idea in principle.

        • sohois says:

          I disagree with the form of UBI that says “Let’s just roll up the entire welfare state into one payment and give that to everyone,” since that would be excessive burden on the disabled. Even if you eliminate minimum wage, which should be a part of any sane UBI proposal, there will be a lot of disabled people who simply cannot work, and those same people are likely to have excessively high care costs. I think you would need to have some kind of extra disability benefit on top, ideally quite stringent on who qualifies, to prevent damage there. And there are probably some other fringe cases that might need a bit of extra help.

          In any case, whether UBI is some extra amount given in addition to the welfare state, or a more libertarian interpretation that replaces welfare and possibly health or education spending, would seem to depend on the party in power? Again, speaking for the UK, one would expect the latter given that the conservatives seem a good bet to get another 10 years in power. Meanwhile I suppose continental Europe or a Scandinavian country might try the former. Also probably worth noting that seemingly right wing Macau and Alaska both have basic income systems that resemble the former, being an additional stipend on top of their existing welfare.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            since that would be excessive burden on the disabled

            That is not necessarily so.

            Rather, it would either be “inefficient” or burdensome. Inefficient here means that the payments to the non-disabled would need to be sufficiently high to cover all the needs of a disabled person, so the nominal cost of the program has to be higher (entailing a higher tax base).

            Of course, taken to some logical extreme where everyone is expected to (say) pay out of pocket for healthcare or where health insurance is a completely private affair, you end up in a state where either (at least) the congenitally disabled or ill cannot get healthcare or the total tax burden is higher than GDP.

    • brokilodeluxe says:

      I’m not an economist. I do lurk on various econ blogs and such. My understanding of it is this:

      It wouldn’t be net inflationary. Just like any redistribution of wealth, cost of “poor” goods will go up, prices of “rich” goods will go down.

  28. haljohnsonbooks says:

    A question: All my life I’ve heard that a nuclear war would destroy all life on earth, or rhat the nuclear arsenal was sufficient to “destroy the world 10X over” etc. Does anyone know WHEN statements like this became true? What year marked the watershed between war and potential extinction?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Never.

      John Schilling will be able to explain this better than I can, but while the winning move in Global Thermonuclear War is still not to play the worst result still comes far short of human extinction.

      • John Schilling says:

        The biggest discussion on that subject was here, though that one was specifically focused on nuclear winter (TL,DR: not really) and we dealt with blast, fire, and fallout in some of the earlier open threads. Really, there was never a point where even total nuclear war would have done much more than kill a billion people and set civilization back a century or so. Which would be bad (citation required), but not extinction-level bad.

        People began to believe it would be extinction-level bad in the mid-1950s, with the introduction of thermonuclear (i.e. hydrogen bomb) weapons, because this graph looks really scary if you don’t do the math for converting megatons to casualties. As that math is not a simple linear calculation, most people just eyeballed it and got the wrong answer.

        For actual human extinction, and barring Strangelovian mine shafts, you’d need an arsenal about two orders of magnitude larger than history ever produced, and a perverse willingness by military commanders to court rather than avoid extinction. At one order of magnitude past history you’re in the handfulofsavages scenario, more or less.

        • haljohnsonbooks says:

          Very interesting, thank you! I should probably learn not to take my information about casualties from bumper stickers.

        • cassander says:

          given how many people depend on civilization not being set back 100 years to get food, I would think the figure of “kill all BUT a billion people” is probably closer to accurate that just kill a billion. Once you toss society back a century and wreck global trade flows,a whole lot of people are going to go hungry.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not as much as you’d think. The Green Revolution made for something close to regional self-sufficiency in food production everywhere even without ammonia-based fertilizers, and tossing society back a century still leaves you plenty of ships and railroads.

            Indian peasants are going to keep on being Indian peasants, as always. Lots of Americans are going to be come farmhands to make up for the machinery as it goes out of repair.

          • cassander says:

            We don’t ship food around in huge quantities for the most part, but where is the fertilizer going to come from when most of the factories have been blown up? What happens when the spare parts for the combine harvesters stop getting dropped off every week? Everywhere that runs short of food for any length of time will see industrial collapse, and those collapses will ripple though the system in unpredictable ways. Each problem might be individually solvable, but lots of them at once can wreck things, even before you consider that people running short of food will turn to violence to get it.

      • bean says:

        The best discussion of direct effects is probably here. Or at least that’s the first one I could find, and includes my targeting workup of St. Louis.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not even true, and never was. We probably couldn’t even nuke ourselves into the stone age if we actively tried. Iron age, tops.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Insufficient ambition.

        The Sun contains ~74% hydrogen by weight. The isotope hydrogen-1 (99.985% of hydrogen in nature) is a usable fuel
        for fusion thermonuclear reactions. This reaction runs slowly within the Sun because its temperature is low (relative to
        the needs of nuclear reactions). If we create higher temperature and density in a limited region of the solar interior, we
        may be able to produce self-supporting detonation thermonuclear reactions that spread to the full solar volume.

        http://file.scirp.org/pdf/CWEEE_2013071113213239.pdf

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Nuclear warface and biological warfare each are sufficiently advanced as to decimate the global population, without however extinguishing the human race.

      However, the lethality of each class of weapon is greatly amplified by deploying the other class of weapon. Thus a nuclear war that substantially eliminated humanity’s vaccine-development and public-sanitation capacities, combined with the simultaneous release of engineered strains of tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, measles, AIDS, ebola, malaria, yellow fever, influenza, cholera (etc.), plausibly could entirely extinguish the human race, via the same epidemiological interactions that were exhibited in the (newly demonstrated) extinction-level New World vulnerabilities to novel Old World infections.

      Conversely, treaties that outlaw nuclear weapons are generally beneficial, and treaties that outlaw bioweapons are generally beneficial, and — to the degree that we highly value safety from risk of human extinction — the value of embracing each class of treaty is greatly increased by embracing the other class of treaty.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        There’s a small problem with that analysis: any nuclear war severe enough to cripple our response to an epidemic will also be severe enough to cripple our transportation infrastructure. Which means infections will have a harder time spreading, and thus be less lethal.

        If you want a really scary thought, consider a coordinated attack targeting food crops. Most of our food crops are monocultures and our response to crop diseases is completely insufficient. I’m much more worried about that than the standard bioterror narrative.

    • abc says:

      As others have pointed out the “destroy the world 10X over” claim is BS. I think part of the cause is that in most discussions, the person who gives the smallest estimate for the destructiveness of a nuclear winter is perceived as the crazy “General Ripper”-warmonger. This causes estimates of the destructiveness of a nuclear winter to ratchet up over time without evidence.

    • Sfoil says:

      It’s not true, and never was. I won’t add to what John Schilling said on the subject of nuclear weapons, except to go a little further and say that even the death of 99% of living humans wouldn’t be an extinction-level event without aggravating factors, and the better part of the fuss was and is the result of an inability to comprehend the orders of magnitude involved.

      What I can tell you though is that anxiety about “modern warfare” causing the extinction of humanity significantly pre-dates nuclear weapons. Certain pacifistic creeds have held this with varying degrees of mysticism for a long time, but in the concrete sense this idea dates to the early 20th century and particularly to the aftermath of the First World War. Some theorists, most vocally an Italian named Douhet but many others, held that aerial bombing was both so destructive and so unstoppable/cost effective — allowing for the direct annihilation of strategic objectives like cities and ports regardless of intervening ground forces — would or at least could lead to the total destruction of societies via a combination of physical damage and a sense of hopeless demoralization inflicted on affected populations. The bombing in question would be done not only with high explosives but with chemical and biological agents, all of which were relatively novel and extraordinary lethal with many promising developments on the horizon. A particularly vivid and detailed pre-Hiroshima account of a speculative apocalypse along these lines can be found in Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 novel Last and First Men.

      This theory of the effects of aerial bombing along with the unprecedented tactical experience of warfare in the early 20th Century and a newly rediscovered sense of civilian vulnerability in Europe produced fears of an apocalypse that would LITERALLY. KILL. US. ALL. It didn’t help that plenty of people who probably knew better fanned these fears for political reasons. Which continues to be true into the present; there is a certain degree of esotericism about dire portrayals of a nuclear holocaust. OK, World War Three won’t _actually_ kill everybody, but it would be very bad and quite possibly the worst thing to ever happen, so we smart people have a duty to say things that make nuclear war less likely at the expense of saying things that are 100% true.

  29. gruce digby says:

    Is the term “Social Justice Warrior” derogatory?

    (Sorry — I realize this is a funny question but I actually want to know. I think the original use of the term was dismissive but now it seems to be in more common use?)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I know people who identify as SJWs.

      • Incurian says:

        But is it one of those things where they’re allowed to say it but if you say it, it’s bad?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s taken as a postitive description.

          I don’t think you understand how much dominance Social Justice has in some social circles.

        • swarmofbeasts says:

          Like with “feminist,” I can pretty much tell the difference between the word being used as an insult and the word being used as a descriptor. (I’m not going to be annoyed because someone thinks I’m pro-social-justice; I might be mildly annoyed if they think I’m too pro-social-justice; if they use it as a “LOL your views are hilarious and terrible” kind of thing, it’s not the words that are the problem, it’s the fact that they think my views are hilarious and terrible.)

          I used to identify as an SJW but I don’t quite as much anymore because I want to be a little more careful about appearing to endorse warring in situations where warring isn’t warranted. (Is it odd that the number of feminists with views more extreme than mine haven’t turned me off the word feminist, but the number of SJWs with views more extreme than mine have turned me off the word SJW? I guess it’s that I’ve been in more situations where I’ve been forced to think to myself, “Oh, but I’m not one of THOSE, don’t lump me in with THEM.”)

      • Brad says:

        Okay, but when you use it are you using it only and solely to refer to people that self describe as such?I don’t think a few examples of attempts at “reclaiming” (as dumb as I think that is) are sufficient to disprove the observation that the overwhelmingly primary usage is as a pejorative.

    • episcience says:

      Yes, I think so. It’s certainly not a term that intersectional feminists or anti-racists, or LGBTQ activists, would use to describe themselves. If it’s not derogatory, it’s at the very least disrespectful (and it often meant disrespectfully) and seems more like a handy grouping for opponents to use than an attempt to grapple intellectually with feminism/anti-racism/queer theory on their own terms.

      Edit: I saw Nancy’s comment above, which mentions people who self-identify as SJWs. I haven’t seen that personally, and I see the concept more often on here (and on r/The_Donald) than I do among leftists and liberals I know or follow.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s certainly not a term that intersectional feminists or anti-racists, or LGBTQ activists, would use to describe themselves.

        Some I’ve known would disagree. Usually followed up by a crack about the type of person for whom “social justice warrior” sounds like a bad thing.

        It’s certainly not a universally accepted self-description. I don’t think it was coined in the SJ community. But it is a self-description for some, and not just in a reclamatory way.

        • abc says:

          I don’t think it was coined in the SJ community.

          I believe it was. It was originally a self-description that became derogatory it came to be associated with the behavior of those it applied to.

    • cassander says:

      I’d say it’s like hippy. It can be derogatory, or it can be how people describe themselves, depending on context.

    • Iain says:

      Is “queer” a derogatory term?

      Like many terms, “social justice warrior” is derogatory when it is used in a derogatory way. In any given context, it’s almost always easy to tell. Unless anybody has an ambiguous example, discussing whether it is derogatory in the abstract seems like a waste of time.

    • ChetC3 says:

      Yes. Even the people who use it as self descriptor do so because of some mixture of irony and spite.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I know some people who take the words straight. Surely Social Justice is good. Surely fighting for it is good. Being a Social Justice Warrior must be a good thing.

        Some of these people are Jewish, and I think some of them are pulling away from SJW because of anti-Semitism there. Jews (at least on campuses) are getting hassled because some SJWs assume that being Jewish means supporting hardline Israeli policies.

        • Brad says:

          I’m confused. Does the ‘SJWs that assume being Jewish means supporting hardline Israeli policies’ group overlap at all with the ‘people you know who take the words straight’ group?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Sorry for the confusion.

            I don’t know whether the groups overlap.

            I don’t know any of the anti-Semitic SJWs as described, or at least I hope I don’t.

        • abc says:

          Jews (at least on campuses) are getting hassled because some SJWs assume that being Jewish means supporting hardline Israeli policies.

          I don’t think it’s so much that the SJWs assume or care what the individual Jews support, as that they’re big on collective guilt. This is no different from how all whites are guilty of “white privilege”, whether or not their ancestors personally benefited from or even had anything to do with slavery.

        • ChetC3 says:

          I know some people who take the words straight. Surely Social Justice is good. Surely fighting for it is good. Being a Social Justice Warrior must be a good thing.

          And without assholes, we’d all die, so someone, somewhere, could reasonably conclude that an asshole is a good thing. But even if they earnestly believed that, they’d still be wrong if they said “asshole” wasn’t derogatory.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I take the angle that you can’t understand a multi-word name for a thing by parsing the words.

            Science fiction isn’t reliable about science. Social Justice isn’t reliable about justice. This doesn’t mean that there’s no science in science fiction, or that Social Justice is always wrong about justice.

            This strikes me as a sensible piece of social justice writing.

          • Aapje says:

            This strikes me as a sensible piece of social justice writing.

            Half of it is OK, the other half is nonsense.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, which half is which?

          • Aapje says:

            The bits where he complains about anti-racists caring about symbols over things that harm black people more than just hurt feelings are fair complaints.

            The bits about racial profiling are fair complaints.

            The cultural appropriation complaint is nonsense.

            The Instagram feed complaint is mostly nonsense. First of all, I actually looked at the feed and it doesn’t reflect his complaints well at all. Even though the feed does have a lot of focus on sports and music, quite a few of the black people I saw were not part of his four categories for black people and there were quite a few white people in those categories. In so far that the frequency differs for certain topics, that can plausibly reflect actual race differences in what people actually do. His complaint is also absurdly detailed. Apparently, only white people are portrayed as wedge-heel-wearing rugby players (you guessed it, only 1 picture in that category). Besides, if those guys would have been black, he would have taken it as evidence that black people are portrayed too often in the context of sports. When both X and Not X are taken as evidence for a claim, this tends to reflect the bias in the claimant, generally.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Yes.

  30. smocc says:

    Would anyone here provide an argument in favor of claims like “we need more women in physics”?

    In particular, I am less interested in arguments that are of the form “The current lack of women indicates bias in hiring and teaching that should be fixed for egalitarian reasons.”

    I am especially interested in arguments that diversity is good for a field intrinsically. Are there such arguments?

    • Anonymous says:

      Are there such arguments?

      The arguments you disallow are the only arguments. Equal competence and interest is assumed a priori, and policy made to match.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The arguments you disallow are the only arguments. Equal competence and interest is assumed a priori, and policy made to match.

        I believe that’s true for physics (and mathematics and some other subjects), but there are arguments for diversity for its own sake in other fields (notably, tech). The basic theme is that it will improve the product or service if the people building the product or service have some sort of connection with the customer. This argument is nearly always made disingenuously; it works for cultural, religious, political, and other sorts of diversity besides the usual sex, race, religion, but the proponents will gasp in horror if you suggest perhaps this means you should hire Republicans or Evangelicals. However, the fact that the argument is made dishonestly does not mean it’s never valid.

        For theoretical physics and math and other very “hard” endeavors… well, I’m pretty sure the equations don’t care a bit about diversity.

        • bean says:

          There are two issues with this argument, even if we assume it’s true. First, you need a woman, not 50% women to gain advantage of it. No field is so female-starved as to make that hard. Second, it equivocates between ‘our workforce has a diversity of viewpoints’ and ‘our workforce comes in many colors and shapes’. These are not the same. Take the following candidates:
          1. A white American male from a middle-class background
          2. A white American female from a middle-class background
          3. An Asian-American male from a middle-class background (raised in the US)
          4. A white immigrant male from Poland
          Now, which is most likely to add diversity of viewpoints to your team? Yes, #4. Who doesn’t actually add any ‘diversity points’ on most metrics.

          • The Nybbler says:

            First, you need a woman, not 50% women to gain advantage of it. No field is so female-starved as to make that hard.

            There might be a few such fields, but I don’t think I-beams or coal or ore or HVAC equipment care about either your gender or your culture. However, in computer programming there are few enough women, unevenly enough distributed, that you can have workplaces with a dozen or more programmers, all of them men.

            Your second point is what I was getting at with the disingenuousness. If your workplace is all white males with a middle class background, then if this argument is true, either an immigrant from Poland or a white female might add more useful diversity of viewpoint (depending on your product and market). Of course a group in tech with a white male from Poland, two Asians from Japan and China, a white man from the hollers of West Virginia, and a white middle class American man is considered “non-diverse”, but just because the arguers are dishonest doesn’t mean the argument is false.

          • bean says:

            However, in computer programming there are few enough women, unevenly enough distributed, that you can have workplaces with a dozen or more programmers, all of them men.

            Fair point, but if that’s the case, you pay a modest premium for that one female and move on. If there are more slots where (insert group here) actually add value than there are members of that group in the relevant field, wages will be driven up for that group. The fact that this doesn’t seem to happen makes me strongly suspect that this effect is pretty weak.

          • Controls Freak says:

            which is most likely to add diversity of viewpoints to your team? Yes, #4. Who doesn’t actually add any ‘diversity points’ on most metrics.

            I have a personal example to attest to this problem. Two of my best friends from college grew up together. They lived on the same block of a standard middle class neighborhood, went to the same schools, and were both very much ‘universal culture’. Friend A and I won national merit awards. Friend B was, frankly, somewhat less talented than us, but he was still by all means a very good student. He also had [foreign] heritage, but no real connection to it that I’ve ever been aware of. We all went to the same department in the same university. Friend B and I got full rides; Friend A left undergrad with some $60k in debt. I got my full ride because I was an in-state student with a national merit award. Friend B got his full ride because of his [foreign] heritage. Friend A got shafted, because their standard middle class neighborhood was on the other side of the state border, and they only offered a pittance to out-of-state national merit awardees. I never understood how you could justify treating culturally identical students so differently.

            This was never a problem or a big deal for any of us; we’re all still good friends to this day. But it frankly boggles the mind to think about the ridiculous lines on which universities are able to massively price discriminate and how the only response is polite applause rather than, “Uh, do you think you could maybe make a coherent argument for all this?”

          • tscharf says:

            The full ride explanation is quite simple for state schools, at least in Florida. If this a National Merit Scholar award it is state funds that are paying for the full ride over the NMSC one time award, and the goal of this program is to prevent brain drain from the state’s public schools. This is the case in Florida where it is as you described. It worked to keep both my daughter and her roommate from going to GT instead. Friend A would be excluded intentionally due to the goals of the award.

            At University of Florida the school was offering basically zero merit awards. This particular scholarship is funded directly by the state, not the school.

            There are many options for National Merit Scholars for full rides in different states.

          • tscharf says:

            If the software product is for a US market, and it depends on knowledge of US culture or practices, the Polish immigrant may be a net negative impact to the product. One can imagine a totally diverse international team that would fail miserably on this product. Diversity for its own sake is not always a benefit. I’m sure this last statement has broken a few fundamental laws of nature in these times.

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          Donald Knuth is an ardent self-professed Christian whom Scott Aaronson has described as

          Priest of Programming, Titan of Typesetting, Monarch of MMIX, intellectual heir to Turing and von Neumann, greatest living computer scientist by almost-universal assent … alright, you get the idea.

          Not much “gasping in horror” in evidence here, is there? 🙂

          Dozens of other examples could be cited (Bill GASARCH … Jocelyn Bell Burnell!). Hmmm … perhaps the SSC’s perennial alt.anecdotal complaints in respect to religious intolerance are not well-grounded in contemporary SJ/STEAM-reality?

        • Anonymous says:

          I wonder if any of them consider that there might be actual downsides to diversity and upsides to homogeneity.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If having a more female workforce improves the quality of the product, shouldn’t the market already have corrected for that? Evil greedy misogynist capitalists would be paying top dollar for female talent so they can make better products to beat the competition?

          It seems unlikely to me that the motivation of the non-STEM people involved in “more women in STEM” advocacy is to increase the profits of corporations despite the corporations’ desire to be less profitable but more woman-hating.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If having a more female workforce improves the quality of the product, shouldn’t the market already have corrected for that? Evil greedy misogynist capitalists would be paying top dollar for female talent so they can make better products to beat the competition?

            Doing that explicitly is illegal in the US. But indirectly, it IS done (diversity recruiting is a thing), though the reasons may not be to make better products.

            Also I’m generally wary of perfect market arguments, as there are always confounding factors. Consider the parable of joke about the economist and the $20 bill.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “If having a more female workforce improves the quality of the product, shouldn’t the market already have corrected for that?”

            No. The market, like evolution, doesn’t optimize.

            It prunes the least efficient and least lucky organizations, but that doesn’t mean that only the best succeed.

          • 1soru1 says:

            If having a more female workforce improves the quality of the product, shouldn’t the market already have corrected for that?

            Try doing the math for how long such a market correction would take, under plausible assumptions.

          • Matt M says:

            Try doing the math for how long such a market correction would take, under plausible assumptions.

            To actually achieve an ideally balanced ratio would take a long time to be sure.

            But to change current hiring policies should be relatively quick. Assuming the whole “diversity is our strength and clearly and obviously provides huge benefits” crowd is correct (or at least believed to be correct by some definite amount of hiring managers), then plenty of companies will institute “let’s achieve diversity going forward” policies which would mean that for any given woman entering the workforce, she will receive a fair (or perhaps biased in her favor) shot, even if the companies don’t go as far as “let’s immediately fire all our white cismen and replace them with more diverse people”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @MattM

            That has already happened.

    • Chalid says:

      The presence of women in physics makes female students more likely to see physics as a career they would want to pursue, and therefore increases the amount of talent available to the field?

    • Longtimelurker says:

      I have yet to see a good one, beyond diversity is good because diversity.

      • 1soru1 says:

        One of EE Doc Smith’s WWII-era space operas had one.

        To defeat the latest cosmic menace, they had some physics that needed working out. They collected all the galaxies best physicists, and put them in a room. They spent all their time squabbling in ego battles, and none of the military men running the operation had any idea who was right or wrong, or what any of it meant.

        So they got a second room and filled it with smart but non-genius physicists, with what would these days be called better social skills. They had them work with the geniuses to mediate, interpret and check their results, and explain it to the military.

        So the cosmic menace got blown up, by the power of diversity.

        Note this argument doesn’t work if you assume men and women are statistically exactly the same, but more or less no-one actually believes that, and it’s ruled out by the premise anyway.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Reuben Hersh’ and Vera John-Steiner’s book Loving and Hating Mathematics: Challenging the Myths of Mathematical Life (2010) sets forth at least some of the pro-SJ arguments that your comment requests (book index here, book “Introduction” PDF here).

      Is the 21st century STEAM-Enlightenment evolving towards an SJ-positive society in which mathematical pedagogy is appreciated (in large measure) as an explicitly psychotherapeutic, conscientiously CBT/DBT-compatible discipline? A considerable body of literature points toward the answer “Oy yeah”! 🙂

      Can any amount of alt.fulmination obstruct this widening, deepening, accelerating, inherently SJ-positive evolution toward Enlightening pedagogical unification?

      Hopefully not! 🙂

    • Swimmy says:

      For biology, women might be more likely to interpret animal behavior differently than men. This could counteract various biases in research. For social sciences, same argument. Interpretations of data from either gender might include some self-serving bias. The discipline is better off on average if there’s counterargument. I think this argument is correct for biology and you can find real examples without looking hard. I don’t know about the social sciences.

      For physics, chemistry, computer science, etc., I can think of arguments regarding different mental structures, but I’ve never seen anyone advance those arguments.

      • smocc says:

        I don’t know much biology. Could you share a real example? I could buy it.

        • Swimmy says:

          See here for one claimed example: Sarah Hrdy’s work.

          Here‘s another example. The interesting stuff is on page 70-72, where the authors claim male researchers were blinded while studying a kind of jay. They say the researchers were so dead-set on male dominance, they missed that the roles are totally reversed in this species.

          I don’t know much biology and can’t endorse any of these claims for sure. They’re just to support the plausibility of the argument.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks very much– I was going to mention Hrdy, but I was low on time. I didn’t know about the jays.

            More generally, feminist issues get some research because that’s a constituency. I suspect there are tremendous depths of ignorance in areas where there’s no constituency. We need more sorts of people.

            I’ve wondered whether there’s math that doesn’t get discovered because some possible areas aren’t interesting enough to mathematicians.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, you can imagine some difference in womens’ and mens’ brain structures/intuitions/etc., such that if there were more women in math, some areas of math which are now not well-understood would be. I have no idea if there is any such difference in brain structure, or where you’d look for evidence, though.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I am especially interested in arguments that diversity is good for a field intrinsically. Are there such arguments?

      Short version: BOOBS!

      Long version: Physics, math, computer science, and other math-intensive intellectual fields, are predominantly practiced by men who tend not to be very attractive to the general female population, and have even more finding a mate if they restrict their choose to the few females in these fields. Therefore, they would appreciate a larger dating pool of females.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Amusing, and probably somewhat true, but in the current climate dangerous for the men and insulting to the women.

      • Anonymous says:

        OTOH, this is work, not a prom. Mixed environments will cause problems, because suddenly people are trying to fuck each other instead of working.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          “Used to be, people would spend all day at the office coming up with ways to fuck each other! And now, now they’re all coming up with ways to fuck each other!”

        • rlms says:

          Yes, men should be banned from working.

    • Deiseach says:

      If there are good women physicists out there who are being ignored or overlooked or not brought into the field because of lack of policies or initiatives to find them, then the field of physics is at a loss of good thinkers, workers and researchers and is being impeded.

      So, not “diversity for the sake of diversity, now we have enough non-white/non-male faces in the faculty and student photos on our website”, but “we need to look outside the places we usually look and consider candidates we don’t usually consider to see if we’re missing out on genuine talent”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Which seems a non-issue these days. We’ve hit diminishing returns long ago with regards to encouraging everyone to study what interests them, rather than for other reasons (like getting a paying job). Which hilariously results in fewer women going into hard sciences and technology, because those things generally don’t interest them as much as soft sciences and interacting with other people.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        If women prefer fields where they’re not the only woman in the lab/office/classroom, then having an extremely skewed gender distribution will lead to fewer women wanting to go into that field than would otherwise be the case. That in turn means that some of the people who would have contributed the most to physics wound up going into some other field instead, because even though they liked the field and were good at it, it was uncomfortable being the only woman in the room all the time.

        Again, I have no data on how important this effect is, but it’s at least a plausible reason for wanting efforts to make women feel more comfortable in fields where a lot of women explicitly say they feel unwelcome.

        The tricky part comes with deciding on tradeoffs. It’s quite possible that physics would be better off if it were more woman-friendly, but that a given set of proposed techniques for making it more woman-friendly would do a lot more harm than good overall. (For example, affirmative action in grad school applications might end up with a lot of marginal applicants washing out of PhD programs, re-enforce stereotypes about women being bad at physics, and make things worse.)

        • John Schilling says:

          If women prefer fields where they’re not the only woman in the lab/office/classroom, then having an extremely skewed gender distribution will lead to fewer women wanting to go into that field than would otherwise be the case.

          But if that’s the real problem (I’m dubious but not dismissive) that’s not a problem that calls for more women in physics, or whatever, but for e.g. assortative hiring in physics.

          If 20% of the top physics candidates are women (mumble something science that must not be named) but women are reluctant to work in any environment that isn’t at least 40% female, you don’t want to lose the 20% but neither do you want to kick out 20% of the qualified men and replace them with less qualified women. You want half the physics schools, laboratories, and institutes to be all-male, and the other half to be 40% equally qualified women.

          Which is the sort of thing that is likely to happen naturally, and to adjust to a changing candidate pool naturally, if you just let people decide where they want to study and work. Might be room for some targeted nudging, if you are thoughtful about it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, a sort of monastic system? All-male physics monasteries, all-female physics nunneries?

          • John Schilling says:

            You have a very strange definition of “all-female” there, or perhaps just poor reading comprehension. And a narrow view of history and sociology, if religious orders are the only de-facto single-gender institutions you can think of.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Poor reading comprehension it is – I saw “other half to 40%”, missing the “be”.

        • If women prefer fields where they’re not the only woman in the lab/office/classroom, then having an extremely skewed gender distribution will lead to fewer women wanting to go into that field than would otherwise be the case.

          Wouldn’t that result in some universities doing well by specializing in hiring women?

          One observes that problem, and solution, in the context of academic minority schools of thought. My first position as a professor was at the Public Choice Center of VPI. The public choice approach was relatively new and uncommon at the time–UVA seems to have made a deliberate attempt to drive Buchanan (and Coase) out. So if that was what attracted you, there was a big advantage to the one school that was specializing in it.

      • bean says:

        I don’t think that this is particularly likely to be the case today, at least in the west. To some extent, the best people are going to be the ones who will be in the field come hell or high water. Yes, you can keep them out, but the women among them have been doing physics since the 50s, if not earlier. In college, I helped with a ‘Women in STEM’ event where we talked to a bunch of middle school girls about aerospace engineering. My job was helping show off the wind tunnel. Frankly, it just didn’t seem like the sort of thing which was going to make someone realize a deep and untapped love of physics. The people you’re going to be picking up today, where almost everyone has some exposure to science, are going to be the marginal ones who are decent workers and OK at the field. The number of potential superstars who haven’t been exposed to the field is vanishingly small, and most of them are off being superstars or near-superstars in other fields. To use a personal example, I was interested in naval stuff before I moved to LA, but the battleship obsession has grown massively since then. If I’d gone to, say, San Diego instead, I might well be regaling everyone with details of aircraft carriers. Or maybe I’d have stayed with space warfare. But I’d be deep into some highly technical hobby, or a job that doubled as one.

        • gbdub says:

          Yeah I have similar feelings, at least as far as aggressive efforts to recruit more women at this point.

          Pro-science, and pro-women-in-science, messaging is very strong. While sexism is not entirely eliminated, I would think at this point the pro-women messaging combined with the existing mass of women in the sciences that the number of young girls actually interested in science not going into it because it’s “men’s work” is very small. If anything, I’d at this point be more worried about overencouraging not really interested young women to take up science and wrecking their freshman GPAs in classes they don’t care for. Or scaring young women away by exaggerating the impact of sexism in the field.

          But I think you have to get them early, and that’s part of the problem. The messaging for young girls now is better, but that means that their presence in the workplace is going to lag 20 years behind. You aren’t going to convince today’s 30 year-olds to switch careers, but if you try to calibrate today’s education off the time-lagged results of early 90s education, you’re going to over-correct.

          • bean says:

            I’d also be worried about overpromotion to women, although it should be fairly easy to test, if we can get access to the records for the engineering department at a mid-range college.
            Basically, if women are more interested in STEM relative to their ability, they’ll have a higher dropout rate/worse GPA than the men in their classes. If they’re less interested (which could include being scared away by tales of sexism), then you’ll see a higher GPA for the women than the men, as only the women who are really interested (and thus likely to have greater aptitude and/or study harder) will be in the room in the first place.
            My money is on it being pretty close to even.

          • @Bean:

            The case I’m somewhat familiar with is Law. When my sister went to Bolt (Berkeley law school) in the late sixties, women were about 10% of the class. One year, of the two top students in each of the three classes, five of the six were women.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The most serious argument I can devise is that we need more women in physics because we need more people in physics. Open those gates as wide as possible. Expand the total number of meatbags who understand what will happen to the water level in a glass when the ice cubes in it melt, or how a battery works, or why absorption lines are important. By sheer statistics, more of them will be women than men (unless there’s something we as yet don’t understand about brain morphology and comprehending relativity et al.).

      More women will be a side effect, though, not an end objective, so this is not really a supporting argument. Women might be the largest bloc of people one could appeal to for minimal marketing effort, I suppose.

      • bean says:

        Slow down a bit. There’s a massive difference between ‘people in physics’ and ‘people who understand physics’. I’m in the later category, as are most of the readers here. This does not make me a physicist. And while an increase in the later category might well be a good thing, it’s going to be a very different program than one designed to get people into a field.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          You’re quite right about the difference. Addressing it had crossed my mind.

          To my thinking, there’s no shortage of deep physics research to be done, although there may be a shortage of funding for it. Opening the gates would mean more people capable of research, but they admittedly may be relegated to more mundane work.

          Meanwhile, though, we could do with a greater amount of understanding of the subject among laypeople. Understanding physics in a general sense would be a cultural change; it would lead to more people understanding math, logic, and reason. It would also yield a morale boost – more people thinking of their environment as a knowable thing, more people able to predict what will happen if they try to improve it in various ways, rather than laying all their hopes for change on an executive god-king.

      • BBA says:

        Conversely, in the areas I’m most familiar with (finance, programming, etc.) I take the William F. Buckley-inspired view that we don’t need more women, we need fewer men.

      • vV_Vv says:

        The most serious argument I can devise is that we need more women in physics because we need more people in physics.

        Do we? The academic system is strongly selective: many more people want to be physicists (or other kinds of professional academics, even outside the hard sciences) than the number of available positions.

        Increasing the number of women in physics would not increase the number of physicists: these women would just displace some men. So the question is, how would the overall competence of physicists change?

        Feminists argue that there are women just as talented, hard-working and interested in physics as men, but they don’t pursue careers in physics because they are being held back by the Patriarchy. If these sexist barriers to entry were eliminated, more competent women would displace less competent men, increasing the overall competence of the field.

        Non-feminists/anti-feminists argue that there are no significant sexist barriers to entry against women, and the observed gender disparity is caused by a difference of interests, talent and ambition between genders. In fact, they argue that where there sexist barriers exist, these are against men, in the form of affirmative action programs that privilege women. The only proposed methods to increase the number of women in the field, more affirmative action, would decrease the overall competence of the field as less competent women would displace more competent men.

        The mechanism by which affirmative action reduces overall competence unless it is well-calibrated to counterbalance a biased barrier to entry is well understood, while there is no strong evidence that a anti-woman barrier to entry even exists, therefore I think that there is no good argument (based on increasing the overall competence of the field) to support affirmative action.

    • spinystellate says:

      I think the strongest argument would be something like:

      Intrinsic ability and interest alone would lead to women making up X% of physicists. X might be 50, or it might be less (or more). Suppose that we actually observe that Y% of physicists are women, and we don’t know whether YX. Since Y actually is low, potential women physicists notice this and take that as evidence that physics is not for them. This alone could cause Y<X. Countervailing measures (e.g. coordinated action to get more women in physics) could increase Y back towards X. Ideal measures would get Y to equal X.

      This argument does not require X to be 50, or any other number, or make any assumptions about the benefits of diversity, or accuse anyone of sexism. It just requires Y to be significantly lower than 50 (which it is), and for that to influence educational paths and career choices of some women. I don't know if I believe this argument or not, but it is the most persuasive one to me, because it doesn't require a bunch of assumptions that appear false based on my experience and familiarity with the literature.

    • rlms says:

      You’re asking the wrong question. We need more women in physics (and more men in nursing, primary school teaching etc.) because there are various distortionary factors (bias is one, I won’t make any claim about how important it is) that mean physics talent that belongs to women is underused.

      • smocc says:

        But then why is the question “how do we get more female physics talent?” rather then “how do we get more physics talent?” (again, physics chosen only as an example). Is there something special about female physics talent or male nursing talent? If there is, I am interested.

        • rlms says:

          I’m modelling the field of physics as having a fixed number of positions, each of is filled by someone with a certain innate aptitude for physics. If there are `n` positions, we would approximately like them to be filled by the top `n` people for physics ability Suppose women are banned from being physicists. Then those positions will actually be filled by the top `n` men and non-binary people, a group which almost certainly has less total physics ability than the top `n` of all people. Women aren’t actually banned from being physicists, but it seems plausible that there are factors that make them less likely to become physicists, which have the same sort of effect.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            But what if those women are instead using their talents elsewhere?

            A major problem I have with your argument is that it tends to paint women who don’t go into male-dominated professions as wasting their talent.

            Furthermore, if one of the factors that keeps women from becoming physicists is that they feel that the job is incompatible with the life they desire, while we pressure men into sacrificing their well-being for the benefit of society, then your argument boils down to putting equal pressure on women as on men. So then we get to BBA‘s argument: perhaps we should have fewer male physicist?

          • rlms says:

            “But what if those women are instead using their talents elsewhere?”
            That’s where the “approximately” in “we would approximately like them to be filled by the top `n` people” comes from: there are multiple fields and some people are talented in several (there are probably some people in the top `m` physicists who would be better working as mathematicians). But this issue isn’t specific to women. If you want to argue that women with talent in physics are disproportionately more talented than men in other fields, and they choose to work in those fields over physics, then you need to point out those fields.

            I don’t think your argument about pressure applies. I think there is very little pressure on men to “sacrifice their well-being for the benefit of society” in the context of physics. Lawyers have a pretty much 50/50 gender balance, and I think they are on average much more pressured than physicists.

          • The Nybbler says:

            think there is very little pressure on men to “sacrifice their well-being for the benefit of society” in the context of physics.

            The pressure on men is to sacrifice their well being for _money_. It is expected — less so now than in the past, but still so — that a man will make enough money to support himself and his family. If he does not, he is a failure, to be despised or (if he has children) punished. This applies across professions.

            It is also true that men’s social status is more tied with their profession than women’s, and this provides additional pressure; generally, it is better for a man’s status to be a poorly-paid postdoc than a poorly-paid grocery clerk.

          • rlms says:

            But men who do actually sacrifice their wellbeing for money become lawyers and doctors, not (typically penniless) physicists.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            I don’t think your argument about pressure applies. I think there is very little pressure on men to “sacrifice their well-being for the benefit of society” in the context of physics.

            Men in general work more hours and have longer commutes (unpaid work time), while their happiness decreases with more hours worked.

            They also consider parental duties more rewarding than paid work, yet do less of those than women -> sacrifice.

          • rlms says:

            Do men work longer hours and have longer commutes because they are disproportionately physicists? I don’t see why those aspects of patriarchy you mention are relevant.

          • Aapje says:

            Men are disproportionately physicists in part because the jobs tend to involve long hours and long commutes, yes. Women tend to favor the opposite (directly and indirectly, the latter because they favor female-dominated workplaces).

          • rlms says:

            I’m considering physicists to largely be academics. I don’t think academia is particularly known for having long hours and commutes, or for being generally gender-imbalanced.

          • Anonymous says:

            Depends which sort of academia. “People sciences” seem to be greatly dominated by females of late, while “things sciences” remain dominated by males.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            A number of recent reports have once again raised the issue of the increasing working hours of academic staff. Those in the teaching and education sector are doing more extra work and unpaid overtime than any other group of employees and the average academic is working 13.4 hours (the equivalent of almost two days) over and above their contract each week.

            https://productiveacademicblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/challenging-the-long-hours-culture-in-academia/

            As for commuting, I think that it is fairly common for academics to travel to symposiums and the like.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            Those in the teaching and education sector

            The key word there is “teachers” and if you click the underlying link, you will see that they are not restricting this to university academics. This sector is (at least in the US, but I think most places) dominated by women teaching at the primary and secondary level.

            As such, the idea that women aren’t willing to work long hours in this sector would seem refuted.

          • John Schilling says:

            As for commuting, I think that it is fairly common for academics to travel to symposiums and the like.

            Traveling to symposiums is not “commuting” in any normal sense of the word.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            OK, here then:

            https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/08/25/essay-working-40-hours-week-academic

            It’s American too, for extra applicabilitititititiness.

            @Schilling

            OK, work related travel then.

            I would argue that logically, the female preference for shorter commutes which is found in studies, is actually a reflection of a more general dislike of work related travel.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that “I have to sit in traffic for an hour on the 405 every single day” and “I have to jet off to places like Rome and New Orleans and stay in nice hotels for a few weeks every year”, are such very different things that I would draw no conclusion at all about one from the other.

          • Incurian says:

            As such, the idea that women aren’t willing to work long hours in this sector would seem refuted.

            Do primary school teachers work particularly long hours?

          • Anonymous says:

            Not really. Primary and secondary school teachers, at least where I’m from, have pretty leisurely schedules, good benefits and great job security, but are rather poorly paid. For some reason, nearly all of them are female.

          • Iain says:

            @Incurian:

            Yes, teachers do work long hours. The school day may end at 3:30, but marking, lesson plans, and extra-curriculars don’t. I don’t know where Anonymous got the idea that teachers have leisurely hours, but it’s probably not from talking to actual teachers.

          • Matt M says:

            Teachers work leisurely hours if you average out having summers off, winter break, spring break, etc.

            Source: My mom was a teacher.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            My Mom has taught Pre-school through Kindergarden aged children (at a private, Montessori school) for 40 years.

            Leisurely does not describe her schedule.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HBC, @Iain

            I don’t mean “20 hours/week work-from-home flexitime”. I mean “less than 10 hours a day, weekends and summers off”. This is pretty leisurely. My family has several retired teachers.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Anonymous – are you in the US, or one of those fabled lands where teaching is actually respected as a profession instead of as the rejects of Real Business(TM) (“if you can’t Do, Teach”)?

          • Zodiac says:

            My Mom has taught Pre-school through Kindergarden aged children (at a private, Montessori school) for 40 years.

            Your average teacher doesn’t work at a private Montessori school. I’d imagine that working in an alternative school model is more demanding than for an ordinary public school alone for having less of a pool of pre-made work sheets and other ressources available.

          • Nornagest says:

            Montessori is fairly popular and it’s been around for a long time. I’d be astonished if template lesson plans didn’t exist, unless its teaching model forbids them. Same for worksheets, insofar as they’re relevant to it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            In the US, the name “Montessori” seems to work like “Jello” – you can refer to your own curriculum as Montessori without even necessarily copying the official form.

            The son of a friend of mine goes to a school which isn’t specifically named this, but appears to follow a similar model. We refer to it as “Montessorta”.

          • JayT says:

            I’m married to a teacher, and as such a large portion of my social circle is made up of teachers, and I would say in comparison to the people I know that work in industry (tech especially), teachers have much more leisure time in their schedule.

            People always bring up the added time of grading, but in reality that is a very boom or bust situation. Teachers may have a couple of weeks where they get home at 3:00 and have the rest of the evening off, followed up by a few 12 hour days of teaching and frantic grading. I would say, on average, teachers work about as many hours in a workday as any other white collar professional. Newer teachers or teachers that are teaching new classes have more hours of prep, but that is balanced by the teachers that teach the same subject year in and year out and have almost no prep time.

            However, they also have far more holidays and something like 12 weeks a year off. So, overall, I would say that teachers spend less time at work than other white collar professionals.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Certification is available in Montessori instruction from at least one source (the American Montessori Society) and certified instructors will have developed materials and lesson plans as part of the certification process.

            But the daily work of “following the child” is ongoing. Noting and responding to the needs of each class and each child is a process, not a template.

            Classroom time is only one portion of any teacher’s day, regardless of method. Preparing for upcoming lessons, whether they are ones you have given in previous years/semesters or not, assessing progress via grading or other metrics, and formulating and communicating on the needs of specific children are all going to to consume time outside of the classroom.

          • JayT says:

            Classroom time is only about six hours a day though, so if you are working an eight hour day that gives you two hours for prep, grading, and student interaction. Obviously, some days that won’t be enough, but then other days it’s more than is needed.

            A teacher would have to spend about four and a half hours a day, every work day, on these other responsibilities to spend as much time working as an average white collar worker. I don’t see that being anywhere near true.

    • Wander says:

      I find that most arguments about the benefits of diversity tend to lack strong object-level examples. I don’t really know what people mean by diversity of view or opinion in most scenarios.

  31. postgenetic says:

    Argument abstract of sorts:
    “The most fundamental phenomenon of the universe is relationship.” Jonas SalkAnatomy of Reality
    Religion, democracy and capitalism are essentially coding structures / apps for relationship interface.
    Genetic code, the same.
    The dominant phenomenon of our era is exponentially accelerating complexity.
    Add 5.9 billion people since 1900. Add exponentially accruing knowledge. (Human knowledge doubles roughly every 13 months according to Ray Kurzweil, and that may be dated.) Give many of the ~7.5 billion people exponentially more powerful tech.
    These additions have generated new, unprecedented and far more complex environs / relationships in-and-across geo eco bio cultural & tech networks.
    Re CODE
    Code is physics efficacious relationship infrastructure in bio, cultural & tech networks: genetic, language, math, moral, religious, legal, monetary, etiquette, software, etc.
    Survival Interface with Complexity — from the biological network:
    “The rule of thumb is that the complexity of the organism has to match the complexity of the environment at all scales in order to increase the likelihood of survival.” Physicist, complexity scientist Yaneer Bar-YamMaking Things Work
    Currently, our species isn’t adequately coded — biologically, culturally or technologically — to pass natural selection tests in environs undergoing exponentially accelerating complexity for X number of years.
    Year X approaches.
    Culture, Complexity and Code2: link text

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      ATTENTION SCOTT!

      I propose a new moderation rule, the Sidles Rule, that anybody whose writing style cannot be distinguished from Time Cube is banned until they learn to communicate clearly. It mostly worked with John, he’s way more lucid these days, and it will greatly increase the quality of discourse.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        It mostly worked with John, he’s way more lucid these days

        Alternative explanation: We’re all way crazier.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          I know I’m way crazier: I have this persistent delusion that Donald Trump is president.

      • Marshayne Lonehand says:

        It’s from wearing my red-ziggurat DEVO Energy Dome! 🙂

      • Incurian says:

        Sufficiently advanced word salad is indistinguishable from Sidles. You’re right, we got side-tracked by trying to detect Sidles rather than the style, which was the problem no matter who was doing it.

      • Deiseach says:

        Ooooh, I’d go a bit easier on postgenetic. I got all the way to the end without my eyes bleeding or my brain dribbling out my ears, and I even understood many of the sentences 🙂

        So postgenetic is not up to Sidles levels quite yet!

        (Or perhaps a steady course of Sidles comments has altered our brains so that we find such comments more comprehensible, in a fashion akin to the warping influence of contact with Lovecraftian entities?)

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          Lol … it’s more that SSC comment-bandwidth has been pretty greatly increased, by dialing-down the Kandel / Grothendieck / Foucalt / Faulkner / Pessoa / Spinoza modulation, while at the same time, dialing-up the Twain / Rogers / Goodall / Francis / Chiang / DEVO modulation. The theme of a broadening, deepening, accelerating, science-respecting, SJ-positive Enlightenment, however, “ain’t changed all that much!” 🙂

          • bean says:

            Are you feeling OK? There’s only one link in this comment.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Lol  are we feeling link-hungry?

            Let’s consider an ultra-new, peer-reviewed, cognitive-science discipline: neurocognitive poetics. Oh, wow! 🙂

            Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception

            A long tradition of research including classical rhetoric, esthetics and poetics theory, formalism and structuralism, as well as current perspectives in (neuro)cognitive poetics has investigated structural and functional aspects of literature reception. … In this paper, I discuss methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literary reading together with pertinent results from studies on poetics, text processing, emotion, or neuroaesthetics, and outline current challenges and future perspectives.

            As it turns out, there’s no shortage of fascinating literature that is rapidly developing this brand-new, science-respecting, trans-disciplinary, SJ-positive, psychiatrically crucial, medical research enterprise — see for example, the Jacobs and Willems preprint “The Fictive Brain: Neurocognitive Correlates of Engagement in Literature” (2017).

            And this medical literature is broadly SSC-compatible, hurrah! It’s like some beautiful, endlessly unfolding, eminently rational, deeply literate, marvelously thought-provoking, therapeutically promising, gently humorous, scientific dream … 🙂

      • postgenetic says:

        Thinking this means I shouldn’t run for student council.
        Okay, I reread; and yes, sloppy and weak framing, ordering, dot connecting. My bad. My apologies.
        Think the linked article is more accessible. Maybe it isn’t.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          I liked it; you started with:

          Argument abstract of sorts:

          …which counts as fair warning in my book; if this comments section ever becomes restricted to fully-formed thoughts I’m in trouble. I think we all go around with lots of partial thoughts, and exchange them with each other, seeing if any fit together in interesting ways. I forget if I thought that before I read The Diamond Age….

          Then you went straight to:

          “The most fundamental phenomenon of the universe is relationship.”

          …which I think is true, and underappreciated/underbelieved. In my view, information is a relationship, and “the world consists of facts, not things” (translations vary, unless the original is in English, in which case I’m misquoting).

          I doubt you think of these things the way I do, so I’d be happy to explain.

          Code is physics efficacious relationship infrastructure in bio, cultural & tech networks

          This sounds interesting; can you rephrase or expand on it? Is a “network” just a pattern of information flow?

          “The rule of thumb is that the complexity of the organism has to match the complexity of the environment at all scales in order to increase the likelihood of survival.”

          This is interesting, but I don’t believe it as stated: bacteria seem to be doing just fine. I do spend a lot of my time trying to (a) make solutions complex enough to solve complex problems while (b) making those solutions simple enough not to fail. “All scales” doesn’t match anything in my experience, as far as I can tell.

          You might be interested in Dave Snowden’s concept of “Cynefin”.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Am I the only one hearing this in Mordin Solus’s voice?

  32. Richard says:

    Is there an e-book version of Unsong available?

  33. Art Vandelay says:

    For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

    So you expect a world-wide socialist government to take away public health care, schooling, bring in tax breaks for the rich, etc. ?

    Seems a pretty weird assumption.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It depends on what you mean by socialism. The nordic capitalist society with a strong safety net looks fairly sustainable to me.

      If you’re talking about a centralized (government-controlled) economy, then there’s a risk of the society not being able to afford the safety net, or even failing to produce ordinary necessities, with Venezuela as a prime example.

      • Urstoff says:

        How much stronger is the safety net in Scandinavian countries than in the US? It seems like welfare capitalism is the dominant, perhaps only, economic system in first-world countries, with the differences being the various amounts of regulation and barriers to market entry. Labor market regulation seems to vary pretty widely too, but not so widely as the basic employer-employee dynamic isn’t the norm around the world.

        • Art Vandelay says:

          I guess welfare capitalism is the dominant form because the powers that be tend to be pretty favourable towards capitalism–for obvious reasons–but clearly capitalism in its pure form doesn’t work and so they have to implement some socialist policies to make the system sustainable.

          • Urstoff says:

            What do you mean “doesn’t work”? And since when are regulations and welfare measures exclusively “socialist”?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            By “doesn’t work” I mean that attempts to implement something close to a pure free-market, strong forms of laissez-faire, are unstable and always lead to the necessary reintroduction of measures to counteract this.

            See e.g. the history of the development of industrial capitalism in Britain, Russia in the 90s, Pinochet’s Chile.

          • cassander says:

            >the history of the development of industrial capitalism in Britain

            you mean the first time in history a country dragged itself out of the misery of agrarian economics?

            >, Russia in the 90s,

            You mean one of the least capitalistic places on earth?

            >Pinochet’s Chile.

            the most economically successful country in latin america, by a wide margin?

            Your evidence doesn’t prove what you seem to think it proves.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            Chile is slightly poorer than Uruguay by GDP per capita, slightly richer when PPP adjusted, and close to Argentina in both cases. There isn’t a wide margin between its level of economic success and the other top three countries (and it isn’t even that far from Venezuela in non-PPP adjusted GDP/capita). But I think Art Vandelay’s point is that a couple of years after the junta introduced laissez-faire policies there was an economic crisis which resulted in banks being regulated and in some cases nationalised.

            Regarding Russia, the point is that they tried drastic libertarian reforms in the 90s, but still ended up in a pretty horrible state.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @Cassander

            Rims has dealt with some of your points more substantively but for my part I will just point out that nothing you’ve said contradicts anything I’ve said and yet for some strange reason you’ve presented it as if it does.

          • cassander says:

            @RLMS

            Chile is slightly poorer than Uruguay by GDP per capita, slightly richer when PPP adjusted, and close to Argentina in both cases.

            Argentina’s figures are lies.

            There isn’t a wide margin between its level of economic success and the other top three countries (and it isn’t even that far from Venezuela in non-PPP adjusted GDP/capita).

            Chile has 50% more per capita GDP than the LA average, and while Uruguay has been richer than average for LA for a long time, chile has not. absolute level of wealth today is not the only measure of success. growth matters.

            But I think Art Vandelay’s point is that a couple of years after the junta introduced laissez-faire policies there was an economic crisis which resulted in banks being regulated and in some cases nationalised.

            chile remaisn hte economically freest country in latin america, again by a wide margin. Pointing to one contrary policy episode does not disprove that.

            Regarding Russia, the point is that they tried drastic libertarian reforms in the 90s, but still ended up in a pretty horrible state.

            No, they didn’t. They started to, but abandoned the effort after a couple of months before it really got started. Russia did not undergo shock therapy, Poland and Czechoslovakia did.

    • Matt M says:

      Yes. That is exactly what I assume.

      See: Venezuela

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Pray tell me, which Venezuelan president was it who brought in tax breaks for the rich, Chavez or Maduro?

        • Matt M says:

          “tax breaks” is a very opaque way of looking at things

          But if you think that there aren’t an elite and protected class of people in Venezuela who have been largely kept from suffering the brunt of the negative impacts of socialism (disease, famine, repression) you haven’t been paying attention.

          Willing to bet Maduro’s lifestyle as compared to the average poor Venezuelan makes corporate write-downs of depreciation seem like pretty tame stuff…

        • Douglas Knight says:

          bring in tax breaks for the rich

          Chavez. He introduced currency controls in 2003. In the short term this taxed “the rich” and gave tax breaks to the politically connected. But it quickly became taxing the poor and giving tax breaks to the rich.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        Venezuela’s a fairly low-tax country. Their highest marginal income tax rate is lower than the one in the US (34% vs. 39.6%). Their total central government tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is significantly lower (something like 13% vs. the US’s 20%).

        Normal welfare capitalism takes some money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Scandinavian “socialism” does the same. Venezuelan socialism simply decrees that meat costs $1/lb now, and then wonders why nobody will sell meat in Venezuela anymore.

    • I think he’s using socialism to mean the Stalinist thing, not the Swedish thing.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Ahh I see, the tired, old, capitalist meme of “socialism = Stalinism”. I guess it’s a hell of a lot easier than actually engaging with opposing ideas.

        • LHN says:

          If “socialism” is now ambiguous between “state ownership of the means of production” and “capitalism, but with a strong regulatory and welfare state”, is there a commonly accepted term that encompasses only the former?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            I don’t think you will find many people advocating total state control of the means of production. If you do, you can ask them how they identify politically. Stalinist perhaps?

            There are socialist parties throughout the world that support things like state-owned energy, transport, health service, etc. but do not want to nationalise every company in the country.

            My personal experience is that socialists who want to go further and have all industry collectively owned tend to emphasise worker-owned and managed factories, which is quite a different proposition from state-ownership.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Marxist-Leninist would be the most reliable self-applied designation, but I’d suggest that anyone calling themselves “communist” while still advocating a system that allowed for some privately owned capital is being dishonest.

            (although the fact that there are forms of ownership other than “by the state” and “by private capitalists” muddies the water a little bit, as Art notes in his last paragraph)

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t think you will find many people advocating total state control of the means of production. If you do, you can ask them how they identify politically. Stalinist perhaps?

            Yes you do, all the time. Single payer healthcare, nationalization of credit, national financing and control of education, national systems of retirement, the modern left desires to control more than half of the economy outright, and regulate almost every aspect of the rest. Nationalizations isn’t dead, it just operates under new names, and goes after a different set of commanding heights.

            >state-owned energy, transport, health service, etc. but do not want to nationalise every company in the country.

            No, just the important ones, exactly the same plan old school socialists had.

        • Urstoff says:

          I think it’s more along the lines of: socialism = collectively owned means of production = state owned means of production = authoritarian state

          I don’t know if modern socialist try to block the second or third step.

          • LHN says:

            AFAIK, no first world countries with nominally socialist governments have a majority of the means of production either collectively or state owned, so the question of whether that leads to an authoritarian state doesn’t arise. (My impression is that Norway’s oil sector is big, but not that big.) Or am I missing some?

          • Urstoff says:

            Right, hence the confusion over the term “socialist”. If Norway is socialist, then I don’t see why the US wouldn’t be considered socialist too.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Collectively owned means of production is the marxist definition of socialism.

            Socialism at it’s core is the opposite of individualism. It views humans as a social animal that cannot be understood, exist, or be abstracted out of the context of the group. Science shows this is true. On the other hand individualism is a system of belief that sprang from the dualism of christianity: people are just equal monads existing independently of each other that have a magical thing called “free will”. From this comes the view that society is merely the sum of “rational” economic monads whose only goal is to maximize their own interest. Equal opportunity instead of equal outcome. Multiculturalism, or the belief that you can lump together people of different cultural backgrounds and they will coexist peacefully through commerce. Laicism, or the belief that you can do the same with people of different religious backgrounds. Freedom of religion instead of freedom from religion. Socialism is not the left. The left is liberalism, an ideology of merchants, bankers that requires individualism as an assumption. They opposed monarchy because it limited their freedom to engage in economic trickery (rent, speculation, hoarding) to maximize their own interest. They sat on the left wing of parliaments. Socialists didn’t give a shit about parliaments and opposed both reactionaries wanting to roll back society to monarchy and liberals. Neither Proudhon or Karl Marx never said they were on the left. There are two forms of socialism, hierarchical and anti-hierarchical (anarchism). Soviet-style communism is a variant of hierarchical socialism. Because of anthropological reasons (individuals with more psychopathic traits rise at the top of hierarchies) it always fails at creating a society that is fair for all. Soon it’s ruling class realizes that roman-inspired methods of slave-management used in liberal regimes are a better way to control the masses.

          • Vojtas says:

            Socialism at it’s core is the opposite of individualism. It views humans as a social animal that cannot be understood, exist, or be abstracted out of the context of the group.

            Was Aristotle a socialist, then? I’m genuinely interested in hearing about the Roman-inspired methods of slave-management.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Were Roman slave owners the first management theorists?

            https://aeon.co/essays/were-roman-slave-owners-the-first-management-theorists

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The general pattern when people try to implement Marxism, that we’ve seen from the Spanish and Russian revolutions to Venezuela, is of doubling down on failure. Which is both why those who claim that “socialism has never been tried” are worrying ​and why the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties aren’t.

      Socialists begin with an plan, often a very clever one like in Allende’s Chile. And then when the plan turns​ out like this either the regime is overthrown, as Allende’s was, or the leadership doubles down on the failing policies and starts hunting for wreckers. Which can get very bloody and leaves the underlying issue unsolved.

      The Chinese Communist Party​ under Deng represented a rare third option, of socialists who learned their lesson and went with pragmatism over a dogmatic adherence to ideology. It doesn’t look much like socialism but you won’t hear many Chinese complaining over it.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        How exactly does one implement a critique of capitalist political economy? You surely realise that Marx intentionally left no prescription for what should come after capitalism and according to his theories none of the places you mention were ready for a transition to socialism?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Marx himself would seem to disagree, since advocated for revolution within his own lifetime.

          But I’d rather not get into the weeds of socialist apologism.

          Let’s say you’re right and that the world wasn’t and isn’t ready for true socialism. Why advocate for it now then? If global revolution really is inevitable due to historical-material forces then waiting it out in relative comfort, as the CCP are, would seem like a much better way to spend your time than trying to bring about a change before its time.

          That has the side benefit that, if you’re wrong, you haven’t killed tens or hundreds of millions of Innocents for nothing.

        • SchwarzeKatze says:

          No mention as well of the U.S. foreign policy of the “threat of the good example” every time any alternative society that forbids U.S. corporations to rob and exploit it is implemented somewhere and looks like it could be successful, the U.S. oligarchy immediately proceeds to destroy it by any means. The U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receeded there since Chavez.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ SchwarzeKatze:

            The U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receeded there since Chavez.

            How old are the numbers you’re looking at? Venezuala’s recent regular poverty rate is over 75% and its “extreme poverty” rate is similarly, well, extreme. (If you’re looking at Wikipedia, the relevant charts there cheat by cutting off the data at 2013, right before the wheels fell of the bus).

            It’s true that effective poverty had gradually declined somewhat over time in Venezuela (as it had in much of the rest of the world) but in retrospect it looks like they postponed disaster by eating the seed corn rather than with sustainable economic development. It’s a real mess now, one that needs no help from the US to look bad.

          • cassander says:

            >he U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receded there since Chavez.

            what has the US done to Venezuela since, say, 2010, that has caused mass hunger and even starvation. Please be specific.

          • bean says:

            @SchwarzeKatze
            Are you seriously giving us links to a news organization that’s sponsored by the governments of every leftist Latin American state and expecting us to just believe it? Even if they’re telling the truth, US Army uniforms can be acquired surplus, and frankly we aren’t incompetent enough to get caught with such a simple mistake. And the NSA spying on everyone isn’t exactly news, nor is it proof of sabotage.

          • Matt M says:

            “Communism only failed because at least one person in the world wasn’t properly communist so this is clearly the fault of capitalism!”

          • cassander says:

            @SchwarzeKatze

            You’re literally and sincerely blaming hoarders and wreckers for the failure of socialism? Words fail me.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Are you seriously giving us links to a news organization that’s sponsored by the governments of every leftist Latin American state and expecting us to just believe it?

            Are you seriously expecting me to believe news organizations that are owned by the rich who have an interest in making the venezuelan government look bad and making sure every attempt at an alternative to capitalism fails?

            This isn’t anything new. This has been a longstanding practice of the U.S. There’s documented evidence that the U.S. funded and had the U.S. military train contras in Nicaragua so the sandinistas would be forced to divert their resources to fight them instead of working on social programs which they had been doing successfully. The U.S. also recently sent back Lybia to the stone age which had the highest standard of living in Africa using pretexts that as usual were entirely false. And that’s just two examples. There are many others. So why would it be any different in Venezuela?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @SchwarzeKatze

            Even if the US had been doing the reprehensible things that Venezuelan propaganda attributed to it, that still can’t alone cause hyperinflation and shortages. That’s not how economics works.

            Let’s imagine that we could prove that the problems of Venezuela were caused by its own government. Just curious, how would that affect your beliefs?

        • moscanarius says:

          How exactly does one implement a critique of capitalist political economy?

          This is a thing I expected Socialism symphatizers would tell us, since they are the ones who want to implement Socialism. Preferentially, they should sort this out before trying to actually make the revolution.

          It shouldn’t be expected that Socialism skeptics should do all the work.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            That’s an interesting response, are you from the USA by any chance?

            It seems that you were unable to grasp the point I was making. Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism. If you define Marxism as what Marx wrote–which would seem like the most sensible definition–then it’s hard to see how you would implement it. If we define Marxism as the ideology and policies of people who say that they are Marxist then the term covers such disparate views as to become meaningless.

          • moscanarius says:

            Not from the US.

            It seems that you were unable to grasp the point I was making.

            I am afraid I was. The point is that we cannot say Socialism didn’t work/won’t ever work from its previous attempts of implementation because there was no clear plan for implementation from the start, and Marx himself saw many possible problems.

            The point is, on its virtuous side, either a demand for extreme rigor in dealing with induction; or an argument to the definition of Socialism. On the vicious side where it can possibly go (and in my experience often does), it can become either an isolated demand for rigor or a denial of true Scotishness.

            Reading this with good will, I do concede that there is no way of being absolutely sure, 100% sure, that no attempt of Socialism will ever work based on previous experiences. But I am also fully aware that every attempt at implanting a Socialist regime has been a miserable failure, and even the relatively wealthy and powerful Soviet Union crumbled in three generations. When I see things failing repeatedly, that is a compelling argument for said thing not being able to succeed. Ever. I cannot reach 100% certainty, but I can get close to 95%.

            Of course you could argue that, according to Marx, none of these countries were ripe for Socialism, but… isn’t it weird that no country was ever ready for the regime?

            Meanwhile, you say that according to Marx none of these failed places were ready for Socialism. Having not read Marx, I cannot tell whether these observations are fair or if they are ad hoc interpretations. I mean, if Russia, Spain, Venezuela, and China (the countries Nabil mentions) were not ready, what would a “ready” country look like? Could you tell beforehand that these four places would flunk under Socialism? And which of the existing countries in today’s world would be Socialism-ready?

            Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism

            cassander posted two links above that seems to contradict your claim.

            If you define Marxism as what Marx wrote–which would seem like the most sensible definition

            Here I disagree. Marxism is not just what Marx wrote, in the same sense that Darwinism is not just Darwin’s works and Christianity is not only what Jesus said in the Gospels. These terms cover not only their supposed founder’s view, but also the developments of disciples and followers. The current versions of each of these intelectual movements are distinct from the original views first layed down, which is expected with the passage of time and the development of the principles established in the initial phase.

            If we define Marxism as the ideology and policies of people who say that they are Marxist then the term covers such disparate views as to become meaningless.

            But if we define Marxism as strictly as you want, then the term also becomes meaningless for lack of Marxists. With a super broad definiton of Marxism we would be attacking Strawmen Marxists (which you rightfully criticize), but with a super strict one we get no Scotsmen left to attack. This is also bad, as it puts Marx’s idea above any criticism: every wrong turn can be dismissed as unorthodox, and hence the orthdoxy is spared from the attacks. Every wrong Camarade is not an actual Marxist, and so on.

            I am not against excluding Kim Jong Un and the Chinese Communist Dinasty from the definition of Marxist, but we cannot take this as far as to excluded the likes of Chavez and Maduro.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            cassander posted two links above that seems to contradict your claim.

            No they don’t.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Oh, well, that settles that then, I guess.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @ Chevalier

            The onus is on the person posting the links to explain why they believe they contradict my point.

            Two people in this thread have claimed these links contradicts me without putting forth any explanation or citing any passages. If either of them wants to actually wants to make their case I will be happy to respond to them. But as it is, they have posted links which do not support their claims so I am going to assume, for now, that they haven’t actually read these links properly.

          • moscanarius says:

            No they don’t.

            For me that’s fine, since my point does not depend on that. I was just being lazy in link-hunting. But since this was the only thing you cared to answer in my comment, let me try again. The claim I was answering to was

            Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism

            But he did. From the Communist Manifesto:

            In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

            We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

            He calls himself a Communist, and summarizes what he believes must be done. But there’s more: he also proposes a series of measures that would lead to the implementation of the goals of Communism:

            These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

            1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

            3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

            5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

            6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

            8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.

            This looks a lot like a plan to me.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Sorry, I don’t think I expressed myself very clearly on the planning point. I wasn’t saying Marx never speculated about what he thought the proletariat would do once they seized power or make suggestions about what socialist/communist society would be like, but that he never laid down a clear or at all detailed plan to be implemented.

            Note also, he is here, in the passage you quote, talking about proletarians, not an elite vanguard party of middle-class intellectuals. He is predicting that the proletariat will seize power and they will institute policies like this, not that a small group of committed Marxists should seize control of the state and institute these policies.

            The quote you’ve picked out also strengthens my point that Marx believed this should take place initially in the more advanced capitalist countries.

            The same was true with link that Cassander posted that was actually written by Marx (Cassander didn’t seem to realise that the other one was written by Engels). He’s talking about the possibility of sections of the Russian peasantry moving towards socialism without passing through capitalism and he stresses several times that this must happen very gradually, how resistant the peasantry are to sudden changes or having much of their what they have produced taking away and that they can only develop towards socialism spontaneously i.e. he is not suggesting that a small group of middle-class Russians seize control of the state, violently force all the peasants onto collective farms and appropriate all their grain.

            So yes, he did perhaps offer a plan of some sort, my opinion is that it is nowhere even close to being detailed or consistent enough to be able to talk simply about “implementing” Marxism. A key point here is that he was actually actively opposed to intellectuals trying to plan out the future society as he believed this was mere utopianism (he wasn’t keen on the utopian socialist tradition). But as the writings you and Cassander yourselves have supplied make abundantly clear, the plan, to the extent that it did exist, was opposed on many key points to what the Bolsheviks and their counterparts elsewhere actually did.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          If you’ve no idea what’s involved in the transition to socialism, how do you decide that any place isn’t ready for it?

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          This sounds a bit like a prescription for what would come after capitalism. A description of “communism”, if you will.

          “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity…society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, herdsman or critic.”

          I don’t think that’s an isolated example.

          Overall, “Marx just had some thought on capitalism, how can we judge him for what happened when people did the things he advocated their doing?” strikes me as an extraordinarily desperate gambit, and one which tends to confirm that communism is entirely indefensible.

          • engleberg says:

            ‘communism is entirely indefensible.’

            No, you can say Marx meant ‘State of Seige’ as an awful warning and an exposure of tyranny, then say that Ludendorf’s War Communism, Ludendorf’s protege Hitler, and Ludendorf’s ally Lenin all took it as a blueprint. Ludendorf really was that much of a creep.

            This would mean a communism that abandons Marxist-Leninism. I’d call that a feature, not a bug, but an awful lot of socialists would disagree.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement. The fact that you think “Marxist” regimes ‘did the things he advocated their doing’ demonstrates the paucity of your knowledge.

            This is the general problem here. There are many people holding forth on a topic that they clearly have an extremely poor understanding of.

          • moscanarius says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement.

            Indeed, but these excerpta from the Communist Manifesto are:

            These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
            1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
            3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
            5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
            6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
            8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

            There you have them: these are policies one could implement, which Marx and Engels believed would lead to the implantation of Communism. That is his version of how things should be done.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement.

            Art, this looks like an ongoing and, frankly, fairly weak attempt to shift the goalposts from what you wrote originally, which was:

            You surely realise that Marx intentionally left no prescription for what should come after capitalism

            So, yes, Marx’s description of what communism would look like is impracticable and ridiculous (it’s not clear to me why you think that represents a defence of your position), but he certainly had such a vision, not just a critique of capitalism.

            So I think the tone you’ve adopted across your posts here is completely unearned and unhelpful – no one is buying your “superior knowledge” shtick.

            You seem to be unaware of, or wilfully blind to, whole tracts of Marx’s work. You should embrace the opportunity for someone to make up for the apparently significant gaps in your knowledge of a topic in which you seem very interested.

            Engelberg, I think you’ve truncated that quote so much that it doesn’t bear much relation to what I was arguing, which means your response doesn’t either.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @pdbarnlsey

            As I point out above, Marx was opposed to trying to plan the future society in any detail. I was perhaps not clear in earlier posts about the “in any detail” part. Yes he did make vague speculations or predictions, but he did not leave behind a plan to implement which was the initial point.

            I’m not an expert on Marx by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I have any particular desire to be, but it is abundantly clear to me that I have a far better understanding of his work than the people who are disagreeing with me in this thread. Whether you “buy” it or not is of no concern to me.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Art, “under communism we will all be completely free to just wander around between different tasks as we see fit” is an extremely complete description of an economic system.

            It’s brief, yes, but only because it doesn’t require any additional conditions or explanations. The communism, apparently, will see to all of that in the background.

            So he had a very clear prescription for the end point, contra your initial claim.

            Now, did he also create a detailed plan for getting there? Well, it depends what we mean by “detailed”. To you it seems to mean “more detailed than any plan with which I am presented, updated as and when my previous claims are contradicted”.

            That just seems like a (silly) word game, rather than a magisterial demonstration of superior knowledge.

            I think your overall point seems to be “no attempt to implement Marxism can be see as actually existing Marxism, because Marx didn’t leave enough instructions to follow”. If we grant that, then it sounds like Marx didn’t leave us with anything practically usable, just some fairy tales about taking care of cows when we feel like it, and that those who attempt to follow him are, at best, misguided.

            I’m fine with that, but I don’t imagine you really are.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Art, “under communism we will all be completely free to just wander around between different tasks as we see fit” is an extremely complete description of an economic system.

            I’m going to assume that your claim here is some odd joke that you’re making because I can’t really see any way to interpret it as a serious statement. You vacillate between calling this an extremely complete plan for how to run a nations economy and calling it a fairy tale about cows.

            I think your overall point seems to be “no attempt to implement Marxism can be see as actually existing Marxism, because Marx didn’t leave enough instructions to follow”. If we grant that, then it sounds like Marx didn’t leave us with anything practically usable, just some fairy tales about taking care of cows when we feel like it, and that those who attempt to follow him are, at best, misguided.

            What I have repeatedly said is that Marxism is not a plan you can implement and this is because Marx intentionally did not leave proper instructions. What Marx left was a large body of writing on philosophy, economics and history, in particular a critique of the mainstream economics of his day and a theory of history and the development of societies. This was his aim, not leaving a plan for how to organise a communist society (and just to repeat it once more because it doesn’t seem to be hitting home, he intentionally did not leave a plan). What he left, and what most people read him for, are his ideas on these topics. I do, however, agree that people around today who try to “follow” Marx are generally misguided, but they’re rather few in number (in the UK at least) and you probably don’t need to worry about them all that much.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      One of the problems in this discussion is that you have two definitions for “trying socialism”:

      1. Implementing (a certain version of) socialism by force as state policy without a possibility for implementing an alternative (Soviet Union, Cuba etc.)

      2. Participating in a strong socialist movement in a mixed-economy capitalist state so, that the socialist movement in question has a real effect on labor policy, economy etc. (such as what happened in the Nordic countries)

      I should hasten to add that what I mean by section 2. is *not* building a mixed economy in itself but rather the existence of the socialist movements (including parties, labor unions, other organizations) in themselves. In many ways, social democracy means simultaneously accepting the existence of capitalism (at least for the time being) and urgently believing that since the capitalists are going to advance their own interests, they need a strong counterweight with clearly set ideals and effective means of getting things done. This also led to good results in many countries – and now, as the socialist movements and labor unions are less strong, those gains have been partially dismantled.

      One of the problems with these discussions is that they’re being had only from the perspective of state policy as a deliberate choice made by the policymakers themselves (“Should we implement socialism? Or capitalism? Or something else?”), not from the point of view of movements and their interplay in a society.

  34. Longtimelurker says:

    Between Unsong (which is now finished) and The Good Student (which is on a very slow burn), I am short a good wed serial. What do the people here think about The Good Student.

    Side note, if anyone here wants to take the survey, it can be found here (Its painless, I promise)

    • Murphy says:

      I’ve read up to the current point in Good Student, very very readable but no real payoff yet in terms of plot. I’m honestly surprised it was holding the #1 slot on topwebfiction when it has yet to grow much meat on its bones.

    • barcodeIlIl says:

      The guy who writes The Good Student is also writing two other serials on topwebfiction.

      I enjoy How To Avoid Death On A Daily Basis, but, uh, content warning for the protagonist being prone to antisocial and misogynistic rants.

      The other active web serials I read are Dungeon Keeper Ami and Mother Of Learning.

      I agree with you that TGS doesn’t have much payoff yet.

    • platanenallee says:

      I too was surprised to find The Good Student so high up on topwebfiction. How to Avoid Death on a Daily Basis, also by Mooderino, is much better imo: laugh-out-loud jokes, unexpected plot twists, character development, memes, – AND it updates five days a week! – everything you could wish for in a web serial.

      You might want to check out /r/rational, that’s where I usually get my fic recommendations. Do you read fanfiction or original fiction only?

    • RoseCMallow says:

      I read How to avoid death on a daily basis for a while, by the same author, and it was okay. It irritated me in how the main character was portrayed as being great and right about everything all the time, while also being terrible.

      I’m currently reading The Fifth Defiance, which is good fun. It’s a superhero thing with a rather unique setting and the characters are all very distinct and interesting. I’d suggest giving it a try if you need more things to read.
      Link

  35. Dabbler says:

    Sorry for the brevity here, but does anyone here have any views on Pope Francis? Despite being an atheist, I’ve been consistently astonished at his level of lack of intellectual consistency, as well as the sheer lack of consistency with what came before him and traditional Catholic doctrine.

    • Murphy says:

      I’ve noticed he’s unusually liberal for a pope. Of course if you’re head of one of the worlds most conservative organizations and obliged to not outright reject their positions any level of liberalness is going to look inconsistent. At least he seems more appealing to younger people and seems to have slowed the previous freefall of the churches reputation/popularity. Sometimes it’s good for the church to change it’s position.

      It’s not a bad thing when the roman catholic church occasionally moves with the times sometimes does things like say “actually we’ve changed our minds and we now think it’s ok for a paraplegic to get married”

      • Anonymous says:

        At least he seems more appealing to younger people and seems to have slowed the previous freefall of the churches reputation/popularity. Sometimes it’s good for the church to change it’s position.

        No. Appeasing the progressives is not a good strategy. It will lose members in the long run, in addition to defiling tradition.

        It’s not a bad thing when the roman catholic church occasionally moves with the times sometimes does things like say “actually we’ve changed our minds and we now think it’s ok for a paraplegic to get married”

        It’s only good if the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          No. Appeasing the progressives is not a good strategy. It will lose members in the long run, in addition to defiling tradition.

          It would be interesting to see how many non-Catholic Francis fans have joined or are seriously considering joining the Church as a result of his Papacy. My guess is that the number is going to be very small.

          • Murphy says:

            Don’t forget to account for people who would have left the church were it not for him.

            Which will be figures hard to come by because, for example, in ireland so many were officially defecting from the church that the church abolished defection from canon law (oh wait, isn’t it supposed to be bad to change ancient laws and traditions as a knee-jerk response to current conditions) and just started pretending that those people had never left. Like a demented teacher talking to an empty room refusing to accept everyone has walked out in disgust.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_act_of_defection_from_the_Catholic_Church

            A surprising number of older people simply up and walked out of mass after some of the crap that was read from the pulpit prior to irelands vote on gay marriage.

            It was already reeling from decades of uncovering of sex-abuse, mass graves, financial fuckery and various other scandals.

            With the current popes slightly softer, slightly less odious/hateful positions on some matters the church might see less people simply walking away.

            Catholicism typically hasn’t been big on evangelizing and gaining converts, it’s basically a rounding error. On the other hand if existing Catholics and the children of Catholics walk away in disgust then that hits the church hard.

          • rlms says:

            There also is the possibility of him making existing Catholics more so, for instance increasing the chance of people raising their children as Catholics.

          • Dabbler says:

            Murphy- Going by your own link it was made in 1983. Hardly an ancient tradition.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Don’t forget to account for people who would have left the church were it not for him.

            And how many of those are there? Given that conservative denominations generally have an easier time retaining members than liberal ones, I’d be very surprised if making the Catholic Church more liberal would result in fewer people leaving, but maybe you have evidence to the contrary.

        • Murphy says:

          How do you decide when the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter?

          If the pope came out with an official statement that god had called him up and told him in his official capacity as pope that god really doesn’t have a problem with gay people, that god considers it to be in the same catagory as shellfish,loan interest and mixed fabrics then would that mean that the church had actually been wrong or would it be one of those other times?

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you decide when the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter?

            That’s for the Church to decide, not me, but generally it concerns matters of fact, replicable by experiment, such as the arrangement of the solar system.

            If the pope came out with an official statement that god had called him up and told him in his official capacity as pope that god really doesn’t have a problem with gay people, that god considers it to be in the same catagory as shellfish,loan interest and mixed fabrics then would that mean that the church had actually been wrong or would it be one of those other times?

            AFAIK, he can’t do that. The Pope can change canon law at will, but he can’t make sweeping changes to doctrine without summoning an Ecumenical Council, and can’t change dogma at all, because that’s set by God*. Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable. Shellfish, mixed fabrics and even charging interest aren’t so protected versus editing.

            * Apologies for any legalistic or terminological failures. I am not a canon law scholar. I present my best understanding of the mutability of various levels of law in the Church.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable.

            Well that’s a new one to me.

            I assume you might be referencing “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” simply because it mentions the word wife, but I don’t know how you get a condemnation of homosexuality from that.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s actually the 6th, not the 9th, that’s in question. Specific heading here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            A) That heading refers to tradition, rather than an intrinsic grounding in the commandment itself.

            tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

            B) It puts homosexuality in the same category as lust and masturbation (and fornication, pornography, prostitution and rape).

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

          • Anonymous says:

            A) That heading refers to tradition, rather than an intrinsic grounding in the commandment itself.

            That doesn’t mean it doesn’t implicitly follow from the rest of the core of Christian sexual morality.

            B) It puts homosexuality in the same category as lust and masturbation (and fornication, pornography, prostitution and rape).

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

            I should hope so, but I can’t say for certain if they haven’t been tweaked a little, given new wording, etc. (Almost certain they did, but don’t have access to the old catechisms here.)

            Supposing that some group of heretics would seize control of the visible Church’s hierarchy and enforce their homosexual agenda, they could change things around to accept homosexual acts and homosexual marriage. But in order for that to be consistent with everything else, they would have to throw out the requirement that marriage needs to be at least remotely capable of resulting in children from the union of the partners, change the definition of a proper sex act, and the teachings against contraception and masturbation would need to go, too.

          • Deiseach says:

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

            Yes, which is why (for instance) IVF etc. is forbidden, even if it’s a married couple wanting to use the husband’s sperm.

            That’s part of the whole “to the outsider it looks completely insane but it does at least hold together with logical consistency, even if it takes it to the reductio ad absurdum” 🙂

          • J Milne says:

            AFAIK, he can’t do that. The Pope can change canon law at will, but he can’t make sweeping changes to doctrine without summoning an Ecumenical Council, and can’t change dogma at all, because that’s set by God*. Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable. Shellfish, mixed fabrics and even charging interest aren’t so protected versus editing.

            The current teaching on homosexuality would fall under ‘doctrine’, and it’s entirely possible for doctrine to ‘develop’ in any direction the church wants it to.

          • Anonymous says:

            The current teaching on homosexuality would fall under ‘doctrine’, and it’s entirely possible for doctrine to ‘develop’ in any direction the church wants it to.

            Like I said, I really doubt that there’s much wiggle room here without throwing out either logical consistency, or smashing existing sexual morality. FWIW, homosexuals are offered the same deal by the Church as the rest of us, including asexuals and attack helicopters: be chaste, and you’re fine; if you’re capable of reproductive intercourse with the opposite sex, you may marry as well.

          • J Milne says:

            Like I said, I really doubt that there’s much wiggle room here without throwing out either logical consistency, or smashing existing sexual morality.

            There’s as much wiggle room as the Church wants there to be. Divorce used to be impossible, now you just need to go to a tribunal where a wand gets waved and everyone declares that the marriage never actually happened. Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            The idea that the Catholic church is some bastion of ‘logical consistency’ is laughable.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s as much wiggle room as the Church wants there to be.

            Not if the Church wants to continue existing there isn’t.

            Divorce used to be impossible, now you just need to go to a tribunal where a wand gets waved and everyone declares that the marriage never actually happened.

            Divorce has, AFAIK, always been possible in the Church, via the Petrine and Pauline privileges. Not to mention that annulments were available at least from the 10 century onwards, and the Church has strived successfully to reduce divorces and put marriage under its jurisdiction before then.

            Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            Not magic, sacraments. If you pour water over someone’s head and say the appropriate rite, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve performed a valid baptism. So too in case of sacramental marriage, which has requirements that need to be fulfilled at the time of marriage, or else the sacrament fails silently.

            The idea that the Catholic church is some bastion of ‘logical consistency’ is laughable.

            The idea that you can tell one way or the other is dubious.

          • J Milne says:

            Not if the Church wants to continue existing there isn’t.

            I agree that public opinion plays a large role in what the church decides.

            Not to mention that annulments were available at least from the 10 century onwards,

            Do you think the proportion of marriages that have turned out to not actually exist has changed? Do you think whether someone in the past got an annulment or not might have depended on their position on society?

            Not magic, sacraments

            Sacraments are pretty magical, but I’m referring to the particular bit of time travel that takes place in the annulment procedure. If the Church has sufficient wiggle room for that, I think it can handle some non-PIV intercourse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My parents were married for 20 years (and had two children 12 and 18 years old at the time), then divorced for another 20 years, with one of them remarried for 17 years or so, the other remarried for 2 years, before they finally filed for annulment. (Because my mom wanted to be remarried in the Catholic Church).

            So, yeah.

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            It’s no more magic than the principle of “guilty until proven innocent” is. A guilty person is still guilty even before he’s convicted, after all.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree that public opinion plays a large role in what the church decides.

            What I meant is that if the Church starts officially sanctioning logically inconsistent policies, its own hierarchs will revolt and leave. The Pope running his mouth occasionally is bad enough.

            Do you think the proportion of marriages that have turned out to not actually exist has changed?

            Yup. If you look at, say, the rates annulment in the US and Europe, you’ll see that there’s a wide gulf. And some of that is justified, given how often American Catholics are heretics more like Protestant Americans than like non-American Catholics. And the other side is that some of the clergy is borderline heretical as well, and willing to bend canon law into a pretzel to get the resolutions it wants. This, however, is corruption, not how things ought to work, and work elsewhere.

            Do you think whether someone in the past got an annulment or not might have depended on their position on society?

            Totally. Welcome to fallible human nature. The clergy are not free from sin.

            Sacraments are pretty magical, but I’m referring to the particular bit of time travel that takes place in the annulment procedure.

            You’re equivocating. The sacrament truly taking place or not is not time travel. An annulment merely recognizes that it did not take place, given new information about the past. An annulment does not undo the de-facto, non-sacramental marriage that did occur in between then and now. The parties in question would have had the same kind of relationship as informal cohabitators (which is sometimes considered a “common law” marriage), or people who just married civilly (with the state as the regulating organ, not the Church).

            If the Church has sufficient wiggle room for that, I think it can handle some non-PIV intercourse.

            Formalizing corruption and evil is not the way here.

          • J Milne says:

            It’s no more magic than the principle of “guilty until proven innocent” is. A guilty person is still guilty even before he’s convicted, after all.

            The church holds that something supernatural happens when two people are married. And that up until the point of an annulment, that thing really has happened, until the annulment finds that it hasn’t, in which case it’s not invalidated, but rather it’s suddenly the case that it never did happen. Similarly, see radical sanation.

          • Anonymous says:

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

            AFAIK, bastardy is currently unregulated in the Church.

          • J Milne says:

            An annulment merely recognizes that it did not take place, given new information about the past.

            It does more than this, because the church holds that up until the annulment the marriage really has taken place. Not just that you should assume that it has, but that it really has. Until the point where it’s determined that it hasn’t. In which case it never took place.

            What I meant is that if the Church starts officially sanctioning logically inconsistent policies, its own hierarchs will revolt and leave.

            I guess I’ll have to ask what logically inconsistent means. Certainly changing doctrine seems fine, again pointing to the example of charging interest. And if you mean in the sense that both A and not-A hold, well this annulment business seems to stray into that territory.

          • Anonymous says:

            The church holds that something supernatural happens when two people are married. And that up until the point of an annulment, that thing really has happened, until the annulment finds that it hasn’t, in which case it’s not invalidated, but rather it’s suddenly the case that it never did happen. Similarly, see radical sanation.

            The bolded part is wrong. We don’t actually ever know, because of the unknowable elements involved. Some people may get “married” in the Church, but in fact the sacrament failed, and was never recognized as such. The Church’s opinion does not matter regarding whether the sacrament happened or not. It merely recognizes our best understanding of whether it did or not.

          • J Milne says:

            The bolded part is wrong. We don’t actually ever know, because of the unknowable elements involved. Some people may get “married” in the Church, but in fact the sacrament failed, and was never recognized as such. The Church’s opinion does not matter regarding whether the sacrament happened or not. It merely recognizes our best understanding of whether it did or not.

            The church really does have the power to acknowledge the sacrament into existence under this nifty ‘binding and loosing’ business. Here’s another example of retroactively declaring things into existence: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P47.HTM

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think that necessarily contradicts what I said, but I’d have to consult a canon law scholar to be sure. Thanks for the link, though.

          • Murphy says:

            I’m getting the distinct impression that the people talking about how “logical” the churches positions are working of a radically different concept of what constitutes logic. Normally for popular philisopical positions it’s easy enough to find the logic, there’s a differing set of precepts and assumptions but the implications fall out using genuine logic (like with pro choice and pro-life positions. )

            but this… this looks more like someone slapping lipstick on a bulldog and declaring that it’s the most beautiful human woman in history.

            People have written a great deal but there’s no apparently coherent thread of logic.

            Anonymous talks about “logical consistency” and all the things that would be thrown out if the church threw out the “reproductive intercourse” criteria for marriage while ignoring that the parent comment talks about the church having already thrown out that criteria for some people like paraplegics. Such logic should have already triggered. But I’m sure they’ll insist that the “logic” still holds. Somehow.

            Bonus: Anyone who calls bullshit is labelled a heretic and must henceforth be ignored.

            Shouting that there is “logic” and “consistency” in a position doesn’t make it so, especially if you use examples which have already had any possible consistency dissolved from under them.

            In a logical system of precepts any false statement that is allowed to be slipped in can be used to “prove” anything else regardless of truth value. That’s remarkably important to remember, one false precept and you’re fucked. unfortunately they’ve not defended their precepts terribly well and they weren’t particularly big on strong filtering in the first place.

            The church has had thousands of years to end up riddled with false statements in it’s central precepts that have little more behind them in reality than “eeeeewwww that’s yucky” combined with inventive motivated reasoning and an already doomed system of deduction. So it’s not terribly surprising that the …. “logic”…. is so obviously no such thing at this point.

            Since doctrine already contains plenty of utter bollox it would be trivial for the church to to the same kind of heel-turn they did for infertile people: simply classify homosexual couples similarly to infertile couples. The church even has the ceremonies for blessing gay couples in it’s archives. Unfortunately a few centuries back it seems the church abandoned tradition in the face of changing public sentiment and allowed it’s ancient traditions to be shelved in favor of anti-homosexual crap.

            http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/when-marriage-between-gays-was-by-rite-1.181956

          • Dabbler says:

            Murphy- I can’t think of any objections to your claims on the Church changing it’s rules (don’t know enough), but you haven’t given reasons why a system can’t be wrong and yet entirely internally consistent, especially when it comes to false factual premises, e.g. about the will of God.

          • Murphy says:

            @Dabbler

            Once a system of formal logic becomes inconsistent it can be used to prove practicality anything.

            The traditional example is someone using the flawed/false precept “2+2=5” and using it to prove the statement “I am the pope”.

          • J Milne says:

            In a logical system of precepts any false statement that is allowed to be slipped in can be used to “prove” anything else regardless of truth value. That’s remarkably important to remember, one false precept and you’re fucked.

            Sure, when you’ve got a formal system and you’re moving symbols around according to certain rules of inference, but this sort of thing doesn’t apply to real world reasoning. (This is essentially the content of Hume’s fork that I mentioned above)

            The traditional example is someone using the flawed/false precept “2+2=5” and using it to prove the statement “I am the pope”.

            Do go on.

          • Anonymous says:

            Anonymous talks about “logical consistency” and all the things that would be thrown out if the church threw out the “reproductive intercourse” criteria for marriage while ignoring that the parent comment talks about the church having already thrown out that criteria for some people like paraplegics. Such logic should have already triggered. But I’m sure they’ll insist that the “logic” still holds. Somehow.

            I’m ignoring it because I cannot find any confirmation that this is actual policy, rather than an isolated instance of corruption or failure of judgment. (Or even what specific case this refers to.) Canon law still requires both ability to consummate and consummation to occur for a marriage to be valid. Some paraplegic cases can get through this, naturally. You don’t necessarily need to have full command of your lower body in order to have sex.

            From the wiki, via Canon law citation:

            Physical capacity for consummation lacking.[14] Per Canon 1084 §3 “Without prejudice to the provisions of Canon 1098, sterility neither forbids nor invalidates a marriage.” Both parties, however, must be physically capable of completed vaginal intercourse, wherein the man ejaculates “true semen” into the woman’s vagina. (See [2] for details.) To invalidate a marriage, the impotence must be perpetual (i.e., incurable) and antecedent to the marriage. The impotence can either be absolute or relative. This impediment is generally considered to derive from divine natural law, and so cannot be dispensed.[15] The reason behind this impediment is explained in the Summa Theologica:[16] “In marriage there is a contract whereby one is bound to pay the other the marital debt: wherefore just as in other contracts, the bond is unfitting if a person bind himself to what he cannot give or do, so the marriage contract is unfitting, if it be made by one who cannot pay the marital debt.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Since doctrine already contains plenty of utter bollox it would be trivial for the church to to the same kind of heel-turn they did for infertile people: simply classify homosexual couples similarly to infertile couples. The church even has the ceremonies for blessing gay couples in it’s archives. Unfortunately a few centuries back it seems the church abandoned tradition in the face of changing public sentiment and allowed it’s ancient traditions to be shelved in favor of anti-homosexual crap.
            http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/when-marriage-between-gays-was-by-rite-1.181956

            The ceremony of adelophopoiesis described in that article was, as the name (adelphopoiesis means “brother-making”) suggests, not actually sexual, and not seen as equivalent to marriage.

          • Murphy says:

            “real world reasoning.”

            If the chain of reasoning doesn’t have an equivalent (even theoretically ) expressible in any formal consistent system then you still run into the same problem only you no longer even have to meet the criteria of having incorrect precepts to reach incorrect (aka bullshit) conclusions.

            In that case the bullshit can flow freely with no reference to truth ,consistency or reality and you’re basically free of constraints.

            “real world reasoning.” doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to consistency. If anything it’s a few tiers down and utterly crippled from the get go if your goal is consistency.

          • Murphy says:

            @The original Mr. X

            That does seem to be the position taken by people utterly desperate to believe.

            From the linked article:

            affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

            Certainly sounds nothing at all like marriage. Nothing!

            When I looked for people talking about it on catholic forums I saw a lot of facile screeching about heretics but what it mostly reminded me of was this

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/13/debunked-and-well-refuted/

            people willing to call anything that anyone wrote arguing against the position to be a “debunking” despite…. well… reality decency and common sense .

            They call gut feelings “logic” (that apparently is so transcendental that it can’t be expressed in any formal system of logic) and disgust “natural law”.

            you can put a pig in a dress and call it a supermodel but you can’t stop it oinking.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

            An interesting quotation. Let’s look at it in slightly greater length:

            Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement”[13] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, argued that the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records. These were not, however, contiguous with the earlier Eastern tradition, and not described in sexual terms in parallel to modern concepts of sexual identity.

            So, not only did you cut out the first half of the first sentence, thereby making it seem like this view of affrerement is the historical consensus as opposed to just one scholar’s opinion, you also ignored the part of the article which quite clearly undermines your attempted equivalence between adelophopoiesis and modern same-sex marriage. Somehow I get the impression that you’re not entirely arguing in good faith here.

          • Iain says:

            Do go on.

            The traditional route from “2+2=5” to “I am the pope” is variously assigned to Bertrand Russell and GH Hardy and goes:
            2+2=5
            4=5
            4-3=5-3
            1=2
            The set containing me and the Pope has 2 members.
            Therefore the set containing me and the Pope has 1 member.
            Therefore I am the pope.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think the 2+2=5 thing is what Dabbler was talking about. Presuming for the sake of argument that God doesn’t exist, then “God exists” is a false premise, but in a different way from “2+2=5”. In the latter case, the ability to deduce anything comes from assuming a statement “2+2=5” and its negation. You can prove any proposition `x` from this by saying “One of `x` or 2+2 = 5 must be true (since we know 2+2=5). We also know 2+2 != 5, therefore `x` must be true.”. But Catholicism doesn’t assume the negation of “God exists”. If you believe “all swans are white” and “this is a black swan”, you can derive anything, but believing the (false) former statement alone doesn’t let you do that.

          • Dabbler says:

            THANK YOU. That is exactly what I meant! A system can be false but intellectually rigorous if it has false premises but has a set of beliefs that are entirely consistent within themselves. The “God exists” example illustrates that point nicely.

          • J Milne says:

            The traditional route from “2+2=5” to “I am the pope” is variously assigned to Bertrand Russell and GH Hardy and goes:
            2+2=5
            4=5
            4-3=5-3
            1=2
            The set containing me and the Pope has 2 members.
            Therefore the set containing me and the Pope has 1 member.
            Therefore I am the pope.

            And Hume would say this is an argument about sets, and has nothing to do with the pope.

          • J Milne says:

            If the chain of reasoning doesn’t have an equivalent (even theoretically ) expressible in any formal consistent system

            You can’t express reasoning about the world we live in in a formal system, by definition.

          • Murphy says:

            @J Milne

            Sure, because the magic of existence is just too full of magic I’m sure.

            Stop calling it “logic” when would be more accurately described as “someone made statements based on their feelings and called them self evident features of the universe”

          • Deiseach says:

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

            If you’re talking about damnation, the salvation of your soul is not reliant on the status of your parents’ marriage.

            If you’re talking about illegitimacy, that depends. Assuming there was genuine cause for annulment of the marriage (and it wasn’t the American church ‘divorce mill’ ruling), then you are not considered a bastard. The idea is that the innocent should not be held guilty for the faults of others; it is not just to stigmatise children who could not affect the marriage or have any influence on it (not being born yet) as born outside of wedlock. Given that annulment is that at least one of the parties believed they were licitly married, and had the intention to marry, and did not intend knowingly to have children by fornication outside of wedlock, then the children of an annulled marriage are not illegitimate.

            As to “magic wands making and unmaking marriages”, there are rules as to what pertains to a sacramental marriage: among them are intent to marry, knowledge of what a marriage entails, free consent, and other matters. So if someone goes into the marriage with, at the back of their mind, “ah well if this doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce”, that’s not an intention to marry. If someone is mentally incapable – too immature, has a mental illness, some other reason – of understanding what is involved in marriage, that is not full consent and intention to marry. Someone being forced by their parents to marry Jack because he’s rich – that is not free consent.

            Take, for example, the case in a Sherlock Holmes story where there is a forced marriage. The plot revolves on making a woman marry a man whether she wants to or not; if he can trick her into marrying him because she falls in love with him, great; otherwise they plan to carry out a forced marriage.

            Even though the women absolutely does not consent and is being forced at gunpoint, literally gagged, to ‘marry’ the villain, the gang say that she really is married in the eyes of the law (until Holmes puts a spoke in their wheel by pointing out some overlooked points).

            So are we to say that this is a magic wand undoing a real marriage? That Violet Smith was married up until Holmes announced she wasn’t? Plainly, by any understanding, we all say “No, of course she wasn’t married, never mind if there was a clergyman officiating and a marriage licence procured”.

            Same with a judgement on annulment. Same with civil annulment, if it comes to that.

          • LHN says:

            The idea is that the innocent should not be held guilty for the faults of others; it is not just to stigmatise children who could not affect the marriage or have any influence on it (not being born yet) as born outside of wedlock. Given that annulment is that at least one of the parties believed they were licitly married, and had the intention to marry, and did not intend knowingly to have children by fornication outside of wedlock, then the children of an annulled marriage are not illegitimate.

            Given the first clause about stigmatizing the innocent, how do the parents’ beliefs and intentions enter into it? If illegitimacy exists as a status at all, it can only apply to people with no control over the circumstances of their conception.

          • Brad says:

            Are there any religious implication to being a bastard in Catholicism? In Judaism, certain kinds of bastards (mamzer) and all of their descendants forever are forbidden from marrying non-mamzer Jews (with certain exceptions and loopholes).

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Brad, during the Middle Ages, bastards couldn’t be ordained as priests. AFAIK, there aren’t any implications anymore.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It was Vatican 2 that allowed the ordination of bastards.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          The Catholic Church has stopped growing pretty much everywhere except Latin America and Africa. I don’t know about Africa, but Latin America is getting more progressive over time.

      • Dabbler says:

        Despite believing Catholicism to be objectively false, I don’t like what he is doing for a combination of reasons.

        1- Catholicism’s level of intellectual coherence is declining rapidly thanks to vague statements, all-new contradictions, criticism “rigid” Catholics etc. Encouraging intellectual coherence is a good thing, and the principle you should follow your own laws (rather than playing them down and encouraging doctrinal anarchy) isn’t.
        2- I am skeptical (because of the Anglican Church, for instance) that Pope Francis is even reversing popularity at all.

        In all organisations, I believe it better that they stick to positions that are intellectually coherent because intellectual coherence is an essential virtue for creating true positions. Pope Francis’s Catholicism is not intellectually coherent any more- it lacks clarity (see vague response to the Dubia), it lacks internal logic (Amoris Letitia is not very compatible with what has come before it), and decentralization of authority is philosophically very incompatible with Catholic views e.g. on going to hell for heresy.

        Worse still, I don’t think Pope Francis even realizes any of this.

      • Matt M says:

        “unusually liberal” is one way of putting it

        “barely disguised communist” might be another

        • Murphy says:

          “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.”

          Confirmed commie.

          • moscanarius says:

            Calling him a communist may be too much, but I think we have some evidence of the current pope’s sympathy for communism. He talks quite often against imperialism, consumerism, the excesses of capitalism, and how money and the US are to blame when things go wrong. These topics are not exactly literal quotations of Das Kapital, but are quite close to the kind of rethoric we get from communist sympathizers in the West. He is also a Jesuit from Argentina, which kinda garantees that he was influenced by that weird Theology of Liberation which sweeped Latin American clergy inthe 70s/80s/early 90s.

            He also tends to adopt quite a soft stance when dealing with communist(-inspired) rulers of Latin America. For example, when he visited Bolivia in 2015, Evo Morales gave him an image of Christ crucified on a hammer and sickle; though a bit embarassed at first, Francis accepted the gift and was quick at making apologies for the controversial imagery.

          • Matt M says:

            Who else other than communists actually believes that one of the major threats to society today is that the education systems are being over-run by dangerous libertarian ideals?

            “I cannot fail to speak of the grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education,”

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a feeling that the “libertarian” in “libertarian individualism” isn’t actually doing any work, and that the phrase should just be read as “individualism”. Education and culture in the US right now isn’t remotely libertarian, but it isn’t very collectivist either.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Who else other than communists actually believes that one of the major threats to society today is that the education systems are being over-run by dangerous libertarian ideals?”

            This is more about your overview than about Francis. Individualism being “a bad thing” is an idea in Catholicism that predates Marx by centuries.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Francis’ Pontifical Academy gets the planetary science mainly right (as a strong consensus of the world’s scientists thinks, anyway).

      Francis himself gets the planetary morality mainly right (as many folks think, both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church).

    • J Milne says:

      This tweet is a good example of what I like about Francis: https://twitter.com/antoniospadaro/status/817144723093733377?lang=en

      I think there’s far too much emphasis on the ‘intellectual’ aspect of the Catholic church. Scholasticism used to be another word for sophistry, and while it’s suddenly popular in niche communities of online lay people reading Feser and Dr. Taylor Marshall (PhD), it hasn’t really responded to the past 200 years of philosophy and doesn’t seem to have as much currency with the actual clergy.

      • Dabbler says:

        I think we can both agree that 2 + 2 in philosophy can never, literally or metaphorically, make 5. Why should theology be different, if it is to even be a theory of truth at all?

        • J Milne says:

          I read it as a rejection of the voodoo metaphysics that permeates Catholic thought, and an acceptance of Hume’s fork.

          I don’t think “2 + 2 in philosophy” is a meaningful statement in any way, and I don’t think theologians should be describing their field as ‘a theory of truth’.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given that Hume’s fork is notoriously self-refuting, I don’t think it obvious that accepting it counts as a good thing.

          • J Milne says:

            But it’s not, and that’s a great example of Feser being a bad philosopher.

            Hume isn’t claiming to be making a metaphysical statement (obviously), but if you’re going to insist that he is, I’d love if you’d give me some criteria for when a sequence of characters constitutes such a thing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So which is Hume’s fork, then, a “relation of ideas” or a “matter of fact”?

          • J Milne says:

            A matter of fact.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Since, for Hume, “matters of fact” refers to “experimental reasoning”, what experiments can you produce in favour of Hume’s fork? Hume himself, as far as I can see, doesn’t provide any.

          • J Milne says:

            He uses ‘matters of fact’ to catch whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’. He would happily place “We should vote for the liberal party” in the former pile, for instance.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He uses ‘matters of fact’ to catch whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’.

            No he doesn’t:

            If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

            So, maybe we should try using this test on Hume’s fork itself. Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matters of fact and existence? No. I guess that makes it nothing but sophistry and illusion, then, and we should get rid of it. It’s what Hume would have wanted us to do.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, if we do suppose that “matters of fact” is simply a catch-all term for “whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’”, then Hume’s fork becomes tautological and uninteresting. “All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Things That Aren’t Relations of Ideas.” Thanks for the insight, David, but I think I could have worked that one out on my own.

          • J Milne says:

            of divinity or school metaphysics

          • The original Mr. X says:

            of divinity or school metaphysics

            So what, it’s somehow unfair to use the principles Hume uses to judge other philosophers to judge his own work?

          • J Milne says:

            So what, it’s somehow unfair to use the principles Hume uses to judge other philosophers to judge his own work?

            He’s giving principles by which to judge tracts of abstract reasoning.

            Suppose there’s a meaningless intellectual activity called Blorf that people engage in. If I come along and say ‘All these Blorf statements are meaningless’ that isn’t “self-refuting” even if the Blorf-equivalent of Ed Feser says that I’ve just made a Blorf statement.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He’s giving principles by which to judge pieces of abstract reasoning.

            That’s not what Hume himself says: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry” is clearly a much broader category than “Pieces of abstract reasoning”, and Hume’s fork explicitly refers to the former, rather than the latter.

            Suppose there’s a meaningless intellectual activity called Blorf that people engage in. If I come along and say ‘All these Blorf statements are meaningless’ that isn’t “self-refuting” even if the Blorf-equivalent of Ed Feser says that I’ve just made a Blorf statement.

            It is self-refuting if your reasoning is “Blorf statements are neither mathematical nor derived from experimentation, and every meaningful statement has to be one or the other.”

          • J Milne says:

            That’s not what Hume himself says: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry” is clearly a much broader category than “Pieces of abstract reasoning”, and Hume’s fork explicitly refers to the former, rather than the latter.

            Right, and his advice on when to burn things applies to that which falls under the ‘relations of ideas’ heading.

            It is self-refuting if your reasoning is “Blorf statements are neither mathematical nor derived from experimentation, and every meaningful statement has to be one or the other.”

            Hume uses ‘experimentation’ to refer to anything discovered from observation or experience, and would describe his fork as an observation about how certain groups of people reason.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Right, and his advice on when to burn things applies to that which falls under the ‘relations of ideas’ heading.

            Huh? Hume quite clearly denies that the books he wants to burn contain “relations of ideas”, which for him seems to basically consist of maths.

            Hume uses ‘experimentation’ to refer to anything discovered from observation or experience, and would describe his fork as an observation about how certain groups of people reason.

            Actually, Hume doesn’t, as far as I can see, cite any observations to back up his fork, at least not in the Enquiry. Also, it’s clearly not just an observation about “how certain groups of people reason”, but a claim about reason in general: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry.”

          • Protagoras says:

            Sorry I’m coming late to this, but Hume’s Fork is certainly a relation of ideas (or to put it in the terminology that has become more common since Kant, it is analytic).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sorry I’m coming late to this, but Hume’s Fork is certainly a relation of ideas (or to put it in the terminology that has become more common since Kant, it is analytic).

            So I guess, following the rest of Hume’s philosophy, Hume’s fork can’t actually tell us anything about the real world?

          • Protagoras says:

            @The original Mr. X, Yes, in the same sense in which that is true of mathematics. But that doesn’t prevent it from telling us about metaphysics, since that doesn’t concern the real world.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            metaphysics… doesn’t concern the real world.

            Citation very much needed.

          • Protagoras says:

            @The original Mr. X, OK, a citation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            For the realm of metaphysics (including any science or philosophy of values or norms) the logical analysis leads to a negative result, that the ostensible propositions of this realm are complete nonsense.

            Well, that’s just plain false: I’ve come across plenty of metaphysical propositions which were perfectly intelligible.

    • eccdogg says:

      My wife refers to me as a practicing non-Catholic (as opposed to the more common non-practicing Catholic). I attend mass about every Sunday with my family.

      I am not a fan of Francis. My main beef is that he tends to speak about areas that he is ill informed on (Economics, Libertarianism are two) and does not seem to have put any effort into actually becoming informed before speaking. And consequently sometimes reaches wrong and potentially harmful conclusions (to his own goals).

      ETA: As someone with an open mind towards joining the Catholic church (but with an admittedly low likelihood) his statements have nudged my personal probability of joining lower. But I am probably not his target audience.

    • Deiseach says:

      That rueful laughter you hear is me.

      Um. I should start off by saying Benedict was my pope, in a way that John Paul II wasn’t (but Paul VI before him was, even though I was barely aware of him by the time I was old enough to be aware of the world around me and he was at the end of his reign then). So I’m prejudiced here, because I had great sympathy for what Benedict was trying to do, whereas Francis doesn’t get that from me.

      He is a Jesuit, so “lack of intellectual consistency” is probably not as much as it looks to be on the surface. He is much more pastoral than Benedict who was a scholar, so there is that. The theme of his pontificate to date seems to be Mercy, particularly the mercy of God. He has made very much of this, and if you take that as the motivating force behind his thought and actions, it may help tie things together better for you.

      He doesn’t care about the rules qua rules so much, he is very big on being pastoral and going out to seek the lost sheep. On the other hand, he has been quoted out of context by the media a lot, who love the (perceived) contrast between Big Bad Rottweiler Enforcer Did You Know He Was Head Of The Inquisition Benedict and Kind Liberal Spirit of Vatican II At Long Last Gay Rights And Women Priests Francis.

      Gay rights women priests is… not gonna happen, despite the hopes of the Spirit of Vatican II lot. Francis, for instance, is not simply all “God is merciful and wishes to forgive”, he does insist that people need to go to confession and repent their sins. He favours a lot of the old devotions and religion of the laity that the post-Vatican II reform-minded wanted to sweep away as superstition and not sufficiently consciousness-raising as we liberate society from the ills of capitalism.

      He has ruffled a lot of feathers. The big one so far is Amoris laetitia, which he is sticking fast on and is being very hardline about, despite all the requests for clarification (he refused to answer dubia put to him by four cardinals, which is a really big deal).

      He has a vision for the Church, and he’s ploughing on with it. The big resistance is not so much outraged conservatives, it’s the institutional inertia of the Vatican bureaucracy (the Barque of Peter has the turning circle of a supertanker) which prefers to operate on a calendar timescale of decades or even centuries. Francis is trying to reform all this, but most of the comfortably bedded in officials who have their little power-bases will rely on the traditional Italian tactics (if that’s not being culturally insensitive) of smiling, saying “yes of course”, then going back to their offices and dicasteries and doing nothing while producing excuse after excuse, in the hope of running out the clock and then when he’s gone there will be a new guy and they’ll still be in their comfortable position.

      I can’t say I really have a read on what or who exactly Francis is. I don’t have the frame of mind sympathetic to his. But you know