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OT95: Zoetropen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Happy Valentine’s Day! While you’re waiting for blockchain-based dating to materialize, remember that there’s already a rationalist dating site, Reciprocity.io. Go through your Facebook friends and check boxes for which ones you want to date or hang out with, and if they check you too the site will let you both know. It does require your Facebook friends also use the site, but if you’re socially exposed to the rationalist community many of them will. The Reciprocity team wants me to remind you that even if you’re already on there, this might be a good time to go back, update your selections, and see if anyone new has joined.

2. There will probably be an SSC meetup in Berkeley on March 3. I’ll post a clearer announcement later, but just wanted to give some advance warning.

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1,074 Responses to OT95: Zoetropen Thread

  1. DavidS says:

    I’m trying to find/source a quote from Richard Dawkins. It’s from some discussion (I think with a random person in an audience somewhere rather than someone famous), and essentially it’s along the lines of the below

    Them: ‘Do you think humanities students are just not as intelligent as science students’
    Dawkins: ‘Oh no, I think humanities students are often just as intelligent as science students. But science students have something to be intelligent about

    Grateful for any help. Shockingly googling for Dawkins combined with things like ‘science’ and ‘intelligence’ don’t help me sift through the internet.

  2. OptimalSolver says:

    Is there an upper limit to human attractiveness, beyond which it only elicits diminishing responses?

    Imagine there’s some neural mechanism in human brains that’s used to appraise physical attractiveness. What I’m wondering is if it’s capable of being completely maxed out, and whether everything over a certain point of hotness would be overkill.

    Say you instructed a strong (and friendly!) AI to design what most humans would agree is the most attractive girl/guy possible. So through a series of optimizations, the AI uses its unfathomable knowledge of human biology and psychology to do just that.

    Would the resulting human trigger a much different response than the people currently considered “the hottest”? Would it be like those Veelas in Harry Potter who make people completely lose their minds? Or would they just appear slightly more good-looking than your run-of-the-mill local beauty due to maxed out neural hotness receptors?

    • albatross11 says:

      It seems like we could at least somewhat answer this with available data.

      First, look at how much difference in impact there is between (say) a woman at the 97th %ile for attractiveness (say, the prettiest girl in your dorm at college) and a woman at the 99.99th %ile for attractiveness (say, the prettiest professional model you can find). When they walk through a restaurant or down a street, do we see notably more disruption from one than the other? If we can find a way to measure impact of attractiveness, then that at least tells us whether we see large differences in impact within the range of attractiveness we can find by selecting among millions of people.

      Second, look at how much difference in impact there is between a very attractive woman (say, 97 %ile) with cosmetics and careful wardrobe choices to maximize attractiveness, vs jeans and a T-shirt and no cosmetics. That tells us about whether we can have a noticeable effect on the impact of attractiveness with existing widely-used interventions we can do now.

      Third, look at the same question, but with plastic surgery. (Though you have to be careful–some plastic surgery gets into uncanny valley territory.)

      Fourth, look at image enhancement techniques–see how much more impact you can get from a 97%ile woman after the professionals at a fashion magazine have done everything they can to max out her attractiveness.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Attractiveness isn’t a quantitative factor, but a qualitative one.

      A better way to look at attractiveness, if we insist on numbers, is that people are compared to an ideal – or more likely, set of ideals – and their attractiveness is measured as a percentage of that ideal. The best we can figure, the ideal is something like “average of people seen”, at least to a first degree of approximation. (That is, facial averaging software produces faces that are pretty close to “perfect” attractiveness). Obviously the brain isn’t running facial averaging software, so this is better regarded as a metaphor than the way things work.

      101% attractiveness doesn’t make any sense, so there isn’t an overload problem.

      There probably is a diminishing return. And, amusingly, it is probably reached far lower than most people might expect; at, or perhaps even just below, average.

      Think about it this way: How would the most shallow assholes imaginable react to an individual? The biggest difference isn’t between “Meh” and “Woah!”, it is between “Ugh” and “Meh”, because that is the cut-off at which point dating somebody is socially acceptable within their social group.

      • Randy M says:

        The best we can figure, the ideal is something like “average of people seen”, at least to a first degree of approximation.

        I think this gets causation backwards. When you average faces, you’re going to remove small imperfections and asmymetries; that doesn’t mean symmetry and lack of blemish is only valued due to being close to an average.

        • Thegnskald says:

          There is also gross anatomy to consider; the ideal face shape, for example. Averages also happen to get this at least close to right.

          Which is why I consider it a useful metaphor.

          • Randy M says:

            metaphor

            Okay, if you mean that the average happens to be morphologically similar to the ideal rather than, say, the ideal is a mental composite of all the faces a person has seen, than I have no quibbles.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I’d guess it is some kind of weighted composite of faces you have seen; black people who grow up around more white people often find white people more attractive than black, to pick an example that will annoy some people. There is something going on there. “Average” is a decent metaphor for whatever the hell it is.

            But the fact that a single person can have multiple types of attractiveness – for example, maybe a long-haired brunette is attractive, but also a short-haired blonde. Which is what I was getting at with “multiple ideals”. So multiple weighted composites which don’t intersect.

            I’d guess Freud would say something about mothers, I’d guess it is about positive affect – so you tend to be attracted to the clusters of characteristics you associate with positive feelings. (Cluster of characteristics might be a better way of looking at it than compositing, really)

          • Randy M says:

            Interesting thoughts. Probably some truth to the matter, although there’s probably also an inborn element like the post about sexy boobs awhile back.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Probably!

            I lack the inborn pieces, I think, so it is a very hard matter for me to figure out through introspection mediated by observation, my usual method for piecing together how people work.

      • albatross11 says:

        Thegnskald:

        That sounds plausible, but how would you know if you were wrong? What would we observe in a world where there really was an implicit ideal standard of beauty in everyone’s mind and we were measuring how close to that ideal someone got?

        I don’t have any data, but one thing that seems off about your model is that you do, in fact, see people who grew up in (say) China surrounded by people who all look Chinese then go to Europe or the US and find someone with European features extremely attractive. Or media consumers who don’t spend a lot of time hanging out with Somalians or even non-whites immediately finding, say, Iman Abdulmajid.

        How can I grow up around whites during the whole time I’m growing/building my ideal beautiful woman model, and then go to Japan and find some woman I meet there extremely attractive?

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, it seems to me that we’d need not only an implicit standard of beauty but also some metric for how close you get to it, integrating across several very different dimensions, and there’s nothing saying that that metric must always weight (say) melanin levels or epicanthic folds highly. And it seems to me that for most features, the amount of variation within an ethnicity is usually going to be higher than the amount of variation between ethnicities — so we wouldn’t be talking a hard restriction here but rather a statistical tendency.

          Also, “attraction” is not quite the same thing as “beauty”. It seems quite plausible to me that someone might go to a faraway country, meet somebody, and find the locals somewhat less than perfectly beautiful by the standards they’re used to but more attractive — perhaps because their culture emphasizes attitudes that the traveler’s developed a liking for.

    • Randy M says:

      I think when you get to the high end individual preferences will be greater than gains by universally agreed to improvements.

  3. Manu says:

    Is Scott Alexander’s avatar (the spiral medallion) related to ‘Pataphysics? That’s what I recognize it from – Jarry, Ubu King, Boris Vian, etc.

  4. Andrew Hunter says:

    Hey local rocket scientists/engineers (I like that this is a place where that works): can John Schilling or one of you other fine people either explain to me (or point me to a good explanation of) why ignition of rocket engines is so difficult?

    This is brought to my attention by the recent Falcon Heavy reignite failure, but it’s been weighing on me for a while . Don’t get me wrong, I understand the general principle that a rocket ignition that doesn’t happen on the ground Must Work. But I note that many in-orbit systems choose extremely hypergolic fuels despite what seem like serious disadvantages (lower performance, hilarious toxicity), and even rockets that use good ol’ RP-1 (or LH2)/LOX often require TEA or the like to fire.

    Maybe I’m totally wrong about this, but it really doesn’t seem like it should be particularly hard to ignite liquid oxygen. (Wikipedia claims one reason we abandoned LOX-based exposives was their tendency to spontaneously detonate!) Sure, it’s cryogenic, but it’s also pure oxygen! Apollo 13 certainly found a tank of liquid oxygen to be easily ignited by sparks. (Though I guess the on-ground incident that caused the damage is evidence against this…)

    Overall my question remains: why is reliable engine ignition an extremely hard problem, as opposed to “introduce some small energy source into a nice mix of liquid oxygen and anything?”

    • bean says:

      I am not John, and he knows much more than I do, but I know at least part of the answer. Basically, it’s really easy to turn the engine into shrapnel if you get it wrong. After all, you’re feeding in a mix of a strong and concentrated oxidizer and a fuel. If they mix, you get an explosive. So you need to be very very sure that your ignition system works before enough propellant gets in to make that happen. You can’t just try again, because now you have a bomb. Hypergolics, of course, don’t have this problem. (This is why Gemini got ejection seats, actually.) Much of the work goes into “don’t be a bomb”, and if something goes wrong, the engine is most likely to not start instead.

    • John Schilling says:

      Bean got part of it. You need immediate, uniform ignition because you are pumping propellant into the engine at a prodigious rate and if any part of it doesn’t ignite within milliseconds, you’ve got the makings of a bomb. This requires not just a very robust ignition source, it requires reliable, immediate, and uniform mixing of the propellant, because you can’t ignite rocket fuel if the rocket oxidizer is in a separate injection stream somewhere else.

      The other part is that, for liquid-propellant rocket engines at least, it isn’t just ignition we are concerned with, it is engine startup. “Engine”, as in piece of machinery that includes e.g. a very powerful fuel pump. You need that, because once you do ignite the propellants in the rocket chamber, they will generate an extremely high pressure that impedes further flow of propellant. And pretty nearly the only energy source that will suffice for a large rocket-grade fuel pump is to tap off some fraction of the energy produced by the burning propellant. Which leads to an obvious catch-22, and a potential for instability, and you wind up having to choreograph an elaborate boostrap sequence starting from an independent power source, transitioning to feedback from the main engine through one of several interesting cycles, and keeping propellant flow, pump power, and energy transfer neatly balanced all the way to full power.

      If this fails, the best you can hope for is that the engine sputters and dies. Sometimes the turbopump overspeeds and explodes. Sometimes you wind up with unburnt propellant accumulating and mixing in the chamber until it finds a spark. Sometimes the whole thing just shakes itself apart.

      Two other aggravating factors. If one or both of your propellants are cryogenic (SpaceX uses liquid oxygen), then the first bit of propellant to enter the pumps and feed lines is going to boil instead of flowing neatly into the engine. You’ll want to prechill all the plumbing to prevent that, but the only coolant readily available for that purpose is the propellant that you don’t want accumulating in the engine. And if you are starting the engine in flight, then in the brief interval when you don’t have an engine running the vehicle will be in near-freefall. Which means fluids can’t be counted on to flow to and accumulate in the “bottom” of the system before you’ve got a pump working to force them where you want them to go.

      Also, if you’re trying to start an engine in flight, you don’t have the option of pressing the abort button and saying “that didn’t work, let’s see if we can fix it and try again tomorrow”.

    • gbdub says:

      “introduce some small energy source into a nice mix of liquid oxygen and anything?”

      “A nice mix of liquid oxygen and anything” does not necessarily describe the conditions in a rocket motor prior to startup and reaching a good steady state.

      Keep in mind that it’s not like you’ve got a static pool of well-mixed already vaporized kerosene and LOX – you’re flowing both into the chamber at a high rate. You need to get ALL of that going, basically all at once, and that takes a LOT of energy (particularly for a complex molecule like kerosene – LOX / LH2 is still hard). I think even some the spark based engines use a small preburner to basically create a mini torch into the main chamber. I’m sure there is some amount of electric sparking you could dump into the chamber to make it work, but it would almost certainly consume more power (and therefore more weight, in the form of batteries) compared to the TEA-TEB system used on Falcon.

      Falcon 9 is in even a weirder situation where it has to reignite, not in a nice zero gravity vacuum, but while zipping ass-first through the atmosphere, which I would think adds to the problem.

      On top of all that you have to get the turbopumps going, and most rocket engines can only throttle over a limited range. Basically it’s a very complex, self-driving, self-cooling system that is very hard to operate outside a narrow band of parameters, and will often blow up outside that narrow range, so startup is something you want to get through ASAFP with 100% reliability. That’s much easier to do with a hypergolic (or spark-and-mini-flame) system.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Would a more sensible society have legally permitted research into better recreational drugs?

    • John Schilling says:

      Hmm. I think most recreational drugs are fundamentally antisocial in that they either displace or degrade social interaction. There are exceptions, of course, in particular “party drugs”, but the most conspicuous of these is the one that needs no research because it predates (and may have been instrumental in creating) human civilization.

      So, to the extent that a society feels it has the right to meddle in such matters (most do) and has the power to do so without socially destructive Wars On Drugs, it may be in society’s collective interest to block widespread use of recreational drugs other than alcohol. That probably points to blocking research into such drugs, unless maybe that research can be channeled towards socially useful ones.

      Or society could shut up and mind its own business, but I’m not holding my breath.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems like there’s more incentive to invent extremely addictive/convenient/immediately appealing drugs than socially beneficial drugs.

      • quanta413 says:

        What about just refining the legal drug of choice? Research into non-toxic alcohol substitutes?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          David Nutt (the former UK government drugs advisor who got the sack for basically giving his honest opinion about how the relative risks of various drugs were not in line with the legal system’s classification) has been trying to do exactly that, though, of course, the same legal system that carves out a weird exception for alcohol will it difficult to test and bring to market.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Depends on who you ask.

      My answer will tend to be “Yes”, if for no other reason than people are doing some really terrible drugs right now, and if we could make recreational drugs that are less terrible, that would be a win.

      • John Schilling says:

        But where is the profit in that? The people who actually make the recreational drugs are going to want to make them intensely addictive, and they are going to want to make them enjoyable in solitude rather than limiting their customer base to people who already have enough friends to throw a party.

        The people who insist on selling “party drugs” are going to find that the biggest profit is is in selling something which works really well off-label as a “date-rape drug”.

        And if you let Society(tm) centrally plan the recreational-drug R&D program for maximal social benefit, they’ll probably give you G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate.

        And, yeah, there will be some freakish anarchists and rationalists and whatnot who want better nootropics and personality-enhancing hallucinogens and whatnot, but don’t kid yourself that this will be anything but a fringe of the market.

    • Fahundo says:

      Yes. The recreational drugs we have aren’t cutting it anymore.

  6. dtsund says:

    Scott Alexander:

    I agree with this last part. I can think of many people who could run Nathan’s diner program well – but I notice Trump hasn’t put any of them in charge of anything. In fact, I can think of many people who could run a country well – but I notice Trump. Maybe things are more complicated than this?

    And “ability to go elsewhere” is probably the most important ingredient. If I really want, I can spend some time looking into the dangers of sugary fruit juice. In fact, I did this a few years ago and haven’t bought any since; just like that, all of the horrors of capitalism lost their power over me. The last drink I bought was a sugar-free sparkling organic kiwi dragonfruit french soda with a total of five calories, because I personally preferred that to the two-thousand-or-so other options available within a five block walk of my house.

    On the other hand, I also spent a long time looking into the dangers of Trump. I voted against Trump. I begged other people to vote against Trump. I wrote a blog post officially endorsing literally any person in the world who was not Trump. Despite all of this, Donald Trump is my president. I feel less satisfied with this system than with the other one, honestly.

    Getting to choose my own food (and schools, and health care) works for me. I don’t want poor people to have to settle for anything less.

    Donald Trump: “What’s that? I think I heard somebody say my name. Do whatever it is that he said.”

    • Randy M says:

      My wife and I leaned towards the natural/attachment side. It required fairly little of me, although it prevented some things others might value, like nights out alone or a swift return to work for the mother. Our children were happy and healthy from birth to present, n=3 and all, but their parents are generally healthy and easy going as well, so who knows where causation lies. My wife enjoyed having the children wrapped to her, and hey, it frees up the hands. Cloth diapers are good for the environment and cheaper, and breastfeeding is cheaper and less likely to cause allergies, especially if the mother is willing to try changing her diet.
      I did rebut my wife’s assertions that too much crying would cause brain damage or similar justification with the reasoning that “if that were true, the species would have died out long ago”–though the same reasoning led me to not fear co-sleeping, given we don’t smoke or drink. But on the same grounds, the intense dislike I have for a babies cries is probably not an instinct designed to lead me to encourage such behavior.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      You know, I’m pretty skeptical of the baby advice industry. I probably lean a lot more towards “your instincts are probably correct, just do whatever feels natural.” My sister’s first kid sort of reinforced this: she read that the baby was only supposed to receive X ounces of milk at a time, and therefore only fed X ounces of milk at a time. Baby was always hungry, and screamed bloody murder non-stop. Baby was eventually fed to baby’s content, and baby stopped screaming.

      This seems pretty reasonable to me.

      Then I saw what my sister-in-law. And….What. The. Fuck. She’d watch The Walking Dead with her kid. He STILL sleeps with her and refuses to sleep in his own bed (he’s 5). He didn’t start talking until he was 3, possibly in part because she never talks to him, he still speaks poorly, he’s hyper-active, and I think he’s still not even fully potty-trained (so I don’t know how the hell he is supposed to start kindergarten. Wear diapers? Still?)

      I don’t know WTF happened with that, but there are clearly some missing lessons that might require some baby-book advice.

  7. Thegnskald says:

    I think Brad overstated the case a bit there, but there is a valid core in the argument, in that the argument for trans rights wasn’t much different than the argument for, say, gay rights.

    Extrapolating out is, however, very difficult, because you don’t know what arguments people will come up with tomorrow, which is sort of the core of the whole thing.

    Some predictions: Men’s rights will continue to slowly improve, because, as uncomfortable as society is with it, nobody can present any arguments against it. Circumcision will probably be a cultural battlefield in the next few years, since support for it has gradually declined, and looks like it might reach a critical mass soon.

    Poly rights will enter into the fray sometime in the next ten years. I don’t know the outcome, because I don’t know the arguments, but I can see it building.

    Prisoner rights will become a thing again, as a result of the rape thing.

    I’ll have to think about it. I’ll get back to you.

    • Brad says:

      FWIW although it got a little snarky there at the end I thought it was on the balance a good question and I think it was unfortunate that it got deleted. Not that I had any good answers.

      • Randy M says:

        I’ve orphaned this thread by deleting the post re-created below while Thengskald was posting. Upon rereading I felt I was doing little other than attempting to sound clever. But, to avoid having questions about what this subthread is about, here is the deleted post:

        I do think someone with a particular set of meta-norms about respect and self identification going into that coma would pretty quickly see what was going and adopt the new norm without much fuss.


        Curious if you would venture a guess as to what new norms may develop over the next five or ten years once as those norms are applied further afield.
        Will transracial take-off? There may not be brain scans to back it up, but what has that to do with respect, politeness, self-identification, etc. We’re often told that the definition of white expanded over the centuries to include Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. Would those principles suggest we’ll see other categories likewise expand, or for the concept to break down entirely?
        Will the mockery around trans-species or otherkin Tumblr snowflakes be viewed as bigotry, the new form of white supremacy, etc.?
        Will the institutionalized search for the fundamental particle of microaggression yield fruitful territory in engineering new forms of equality, or ought they realize that their goals have been won and there is nowhere else to push the borders, simply left with eternal vigilance of the newly established norms?
        I might have gotten carried away with the purple prose there, but the point is if these admittedly novel conventions are firmly rooted in established norms it should be possible to trace out their trajectory in advance as easily as convincing the 2008 Rip Van Winkle of continuity with the principles of xer time.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Your first two predictions strike me as very unlikely.

      Men’s rights, to the extent that they have a consistent set of positions, mostly involve moving resources from women to men. If you spend $X million today on sexual assault and domestic violence and tommorow a proportional amount is spent on men, then either you’re spending ~30-40% more or women are getting less. Reforms of family court and divorce law are even more zero-sum: you can’t give anything to one side without taking it away from the other. You wouldn’t just be fighting feminists but most conservatives as well.

      As much as I wish it were the case, I don’t see anything happening with circumcision. Anti-Semitism is the most politically toxic label which exists in this country, where even a six-pointed sheriff’s star is interpreted as crypto-nazi imagery. There’s no way that you can attack a Jewish religious practice and not get thrown into the pit.

      I’m agnostic on the rest of your predictions.

      • Matt M says:

        If you spend $X million today on sexual assault and domestic violence and tommorow a proportional amount is spent on men

        Sounds like a great excuse to massively increasing spending on domestic programs to me!

      • Thegnskald says:

        Men’s rights, to the extent that they have a consistent set of positions, mostly involve moving resources from women to men. If you spend $X million today on sexual assault and domestic violence and tommorow a proportional amount is spent on men, then either you’re spending ~30-40% more or women are getting less. Reforms of family court and divorce law are even more zero-sum: you can’t give anything to one side without taking it away from the other. You wouldn’t just be fighting feminists but most conservatives as well.

        I think it will change as soon as popular perception becomes that it is unacceptable to discriminate against men, and I think a lot of conservatives will go along with this one. I used to talk to a young Christian man, who watched church attendance among men plummet – because the sermons were increasingly anti-father. The particular case he gave which caused him to have serious doubts about continuing to attend was a father’s day sermon that was 100% berating the men in the congregation for the problem of children growing up without fathers. He was never pro-men’s-rights, but he saw serious issues with the way men are treated in our culture, and if his observations of the congregation were correct, so did the other men in his church.

        As far as funding goes, I think government funding for men’s issues in any significant capacity is much further down the road; the major shifts will be cultural, first.

        As much as I wish it were the case, I don’t see anything happening with circumcision. Anti-Semitism is the most politically toxic label which exists in this country, where even a six-pointed sheriff’s star is interpreted as crypto-nazi imagery. There’s no way that you can attack a Jewish religious practice and not get thrown into the pit.

        The point that will make this work is that most circumcision in the US isn’t done by Jewish people. I imagine, however, a religious exemption will probably end up being carved out – and I imagine the practice will die out regardless in a couple more decades.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pretty sure pedophilia’s coming around for another go, too.

      • Existing age of consent laws seem like a possible target. The ages got pushed up substantially over the past century and then restrictions on pre-marital sex get massively loosened, with the result that, in some states, the median age for loss of virginity is below the age of consent.

        A lot of the people who would oppose lowering the age are also people with an idealized version of European, especially Scandinavian societies. At some point they may have to face the fact that the only even partly European state with as high an age of consent as California is Turkey, and most European states set it at fourteen or fifteen, below the U.S. median.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Why would you think this? If anything, hostility towards age gaps in relationships is growing, at least if it involves an older man. It’s seen as more exploitative than it used to be. If age of consent laws have changed recently, it’s been to raise them. If some director were to do today what Roman Polanski did back then, they would get hit so much harder than he did. Roman Polanski was in the 70s, sure – you seem to be alluding to that weird moment in the 70s where some people were quite lenient in their views about statutory rape – but to give another example, I think Chaplin would get hit harder today than he was in his time.

        • Anonymous says:

          Just a hunch. There were some pro-MAP articles the other year, IIRC. Not sure how much traction the issue has with the far left, but it’s definitely one of the causes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s not really one far left, is there? I think there’s a very strong anti-libertine streak on the left, especially parts of the non-mainstream left today. The libertine streak in the 70s was not entirely the doing of the far left, either – while you had stuff like the Weather Underground trying to get rid of monogamy as bourgeois, you also had coked-up rockstars having sex with 15-year old groupies and not getting nailed for statutory rape, and while libertinism is usually left-coded, it’s not political.

            I think on some parts of the far left (and this is a spectrum – this bleeds into the mainstream left, just as the far right bleeds into the mainstream right) you’ve got an anti-libertine attitude that comes from their understanding of power dynamics. Porn isn’t OK, BDSM isn’t OK, they make fun of poly people (the joke trope is the bearded poly guy who makes a big deal of saying he’s poly, or the woman with an undercut and her bearded boyfriend making a joint Tinder profile to look for women for threesomes and claim they’re “queer”), and they generally disagree with the notion that “anything two consenting adults do is OK”.

            This isn’t really new, either. A decent chunk of later second-wave feminism, especially the more radfem bits, involved women who had experienced free love as coercive and as giving license to men to act in a predatory fashion.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dndnrsn

            There’s not really one far left, is there?

            Indeed not. They’d be semi-tolerable if there were! 🙂

    • Randy M says:

      Circumcision is interesting in this context. Done on infants it clearly violates consent. There are cases now of puberty blocking hormones being administered to pre-teens who feel trans (is that the same as a trans teen?)–Wikipedia says “commonly” though if pressed I don’t have examples at hand.
      Presumably the child is requesting this medical intervention, but they are considered too young to give consent to a great many things at the point that this is relevant, so I can see arguments made based on identity that hormone blockers are somewhat analogous to circumcision.
      Circumcision also brings in religious liberty issues, and frankly with only minor shifting of the overton window I could see this being seen as a quite extreme test case. What’s worse, a native wanting to partake some controlled substance, or a Jew or Muslim wanting to perform risky, elective surgery on their child’s genitals? On the other hand, I can foresee some extreme comparisons being made to a country banning a historic element of Judaic religion.

      Prisoner rights will become a thing again, as a result of the rape thing.

      It would be nice if it stopped being a joke. I could be talked into harsh sentences for harsh crimes, but the attitude that we should make criminals afraid of prison due to lax oversight of abuse is repellent.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Circumcision also brings in religious liberty issues, and frankly with only minor shifting of the overton window I could see this being seen as a quite extreme test case.

        I imagine a religious exemption will be carved out, when it comes time for that.

        • Randy M says:

          Perhaps, but it is not a a case of looking for allowances to harm yourself, it’s allowances to cut your child’s genitals. This is at the confluence of consent, sexuality, religion, medicine… It could be very interesting, and I don’t say that just because it will be blue-on-blue.

          Actually, Jews tend towards Liberals, but do the Jews who feel strongly pro-circumcision do so as well? I don’t know.

          • Thegnskald says:

            True, but a religious exemption deals with the major objections neatly, and is on-line with the way we have handled this sort of problem historically.

            But my confidence isn’t very strong on it (the exemption) happening, it depends on how strong the social pressure / social movement is.

        • Don P. says:

          I recognize that it’s kind of a term of legal art, but “carving out” a religious exemption seems like unfortunate phrasing here.

      • Vorkon says:

        Random note:

        The best non-religious argument in favor of circumcision that I’ve ever heard was “so I don’t need to spend so long cleaning shit out of there when I change his diaper.”

        A little selfish, true, but it’s definitely an argument I can understand the appeal of.

        • outis says:

          That’s not how it works, in my experience.

        • AnarchyDice says:

          Chiming in to say that you should definitely NOT be cleaning out the foreskin of a baby boy. It will still be highly connective with the glans and cause damage and pain if you force it apart to get in there to clean it. It will naturally separate as the child gets older and will keep itself clean without intervention. The rare case of UTI’s can be treated trivially with antibiotics.

      • Puberty blockers could raise a different set of issues, something I speculated about in Future Imperfect, when I was apparently behind on the tech.

        In our society people are not supposed to become sexually active until they become adults. In practice, it doesn’t work that way, leading to problems with which anyone who reads newspapers, watches television, or worries about his own children, is familiar. The essential problem is that we are physically ready to reproduce before we are emotionally or economically ready. That has become increasingly true as the age of physical maturity has fallen–by about two years over the past century, probably as a result of improved nutrition.
        With the continuing progress of medical science, we may soon be able to reverse that change.
        Suppose a drug company announces a new medication–one that will safely delay puberty for a year, or two years, or three years. I predict that there will be a considerable demand for the product. Are parents who artificially delay the physical development of their daughters guilty of child abuse? May schools pressure parents to give the medication to boys about to reach puberty, as many now do for other forms of medication designed to make children behave more nearly as schoolteachers wish them to? If schools do require it, are parents who refuse to artificially delay the development of their sons guilty of child abuse—or at least subject to the same pressures as parents who today refuse to put their sons on Ritalin?
        While we are at it, what about the application of a similar technology to other species? Cats are lovely creatures, but kittens are much more fun. If only they stayed kittens a little longer … .

    • Brad says:

      As I say above, I don’t have any good answers. But I would say that in 2008 I was in a professional grad school and there were already trans activists. The relevent club was already LGBT and there was already pressure in the group to look beyond gay marriage to issues that were important to trans people. Not that I thought back then that things would move nearly as quickly as they have, but there was a plausible path from there to here.

      Today, I have no connections to institutions of higher learning. Well except paying the debts they left me with. Anyway, if there aren’t already interest / pressure groups on at least several college campuses regarding say poly or prisoners rights, then I’d say it is probably not going to have exploded to the mainstream ten years hence. Things can move very quickly these days, but there’s has to be a kernel of ideas to build on in the first place.

      • Nornagest says:

        Prisoner’s rights was on activist radar when I was at college in the early to mid-2000s, but I don’t know how widespread it was. Poly was not, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it is now.

        • albatross11 says:

          My guess is that support for prisoners’ rights has to do with how upset/scared people are about crime, which is loosely correlated with how much crime there actually is. If we see a huge crime spike, or a huge spike in fear/outrage about crime, then political interest in prisoners’ rights will fade.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The kernel is in the current metoo movement (or rather the broader anti-sexual-assault movement), which is going to end up including men regardless of what its current proponents intend.

        Once it includes men, and once you have a few prisoners speaking out, then it will be very difficult to fight against it.

        I can’t say whether the poly movement will succeed or fail, but I can see the start of a movement starting up about – what, twenty, thirty years ago now? Whenever that goddamn book was written – and just now starting to accumulate some inertia. It will be sold, like everything else, as physiological/genetic/predetermined, as many poly people today sell it – there are people who are simply unable to be monogamous, and if forced into that situation, they will cheat on their partners.

    • Aapje says:

      @Thegnskald

      Some predictions: Men’s rights will continue to slowly improve, because, as uncomfortable as society is with it, nobody can present any arguments against it.

      Plenty of people present arguments against it, some are:
      – That men don’t have any structural/institutional problems, so there is nothing to improve
      – That men have all the power and/or are the sole cause of male problems, so it’s specifically up to them to fix any issues they have, not an obligation of society as a whole
      – That women’s problems are much worse, so we should exclusively focus on that forever now
      – That demanding attention for men’s issues is not honest, but a strategy in the culture war

      We’ve seen with #metoo that male victims and female perpetrators were generally ignored as much as possible by most of society, so the bias is still very strong. I think that a serious threat to female or general societal well-being, caused by men’s issues, is necessary before the bias is confronted. I suspect that the flash point will be male under-performance at colleges and the (increasingly) bad job situation for poorly educated people. Basically, women will increasingly have trouble finding the mates they desire and will be less able to benefit from benevolent sexism. This automatically means that the sacrifices that men make can’t be taken for granted as much. Furthermore, this severely weakens the memetically strong feminist narrative of men doing so well because they oppress others.

      Of course, a shortage of well-educated and high-earning men makes the normalization of polyamory more likely, as more women will logically seek to share top tier men. If this solution is favored strongly, it may prevent a serious push to help men and instead, cause severe issues if men either start giving up on participating in society en mass (like in Japan) or try to take down the system (which is probably more likely in the US than Japan, because the US has a far more violent culture).

      As for circumcision, that has become a (low intensity) atheist vs Muslim/Jews issue in my country (because Dutch people with a Christian background never adopted the practice). It seems plausible that part of blue tribe will ally with Muslims and/or Jews for culture war reasons. Generally, when people start talking about a law against it, you get the real backlash. Of course, even without a law, the practice may mostly just die out among Americans with a Christian background.

      • Thegnskald says:

        We’ve seen with #metoo that male victims and female perpetrators were generally ignored as much as possible by most of society, so the bias is still very strong. I think that a serious threat to female or general societal well-being, caused by men’s issues, is necessary before the bias is confronted.

        Nah. The bias will be confronted like everything else; one day, suddenly, it will be Wrong to say men aren’t discriminated against, and a bunch of people will be fed to Moloch before people get the hint. I don’t really look forward to that era, when, just after getting what I want, I will have to become The Enemy of Progress again for yelling at my ex-allies on the internet over mob justice. Sigh.

        This one is on the brink of falling over the edge – hell, I hear muggles talking about men’s rights now – and if not for Trump’s election distracting everybody with nonsense, I suspect it already would have. I expect the sudden social shift anytime between this year – seriously – and five years from now, depending entirely on when something triggers it.

        This is the sort of thing that will shove it over. Granted, that is from 2014, but the shift in tone on these matters over the last eight years has been quite remarkable; if that came out today, in the current anti-sexual-assault climate, it would be over tomorrow.

    • Another Throw says:

      Circumcision will probably be a cultural battlefield in the next few years, since support for it has gradually declined, and looks like it might reach a critical mass soon.

      Porn. An important driver for this will be porn–not that anybody is likely to admit it. A major norm, at least in the US, is that the foreskin is weird and therefore gross. (Consider, as a random example, Dean Venture’s various love interests shuddering in revulsion upon discovering that Mr. Baldy will forever wear his turtleneck.) The domestic porn industry has been extremely sensitive to this and basically never cast a man who was not circumcised.

      But California has passed laws that are (AFAIK) devastating the domestic porn industry. The only thing US audiences want to see less than a foreskin is a condom. Meanwhile, the international porn industry is much less inclined to cater to US specific biases. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a circumcised man. We are currently raising a generation that will not share the previously prevailing notion that the foreskin is weird and gross. Hell, older generations that are being exposed to the current porn landscape will have their anti-foreskin norm eroded.

      In the not to distant future I foresee a “why do we do this again?” moment. If, in that moment, there is a slight “mutilating the genitals of infants is probably not cool” nudge, the practice will be on the outs.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Don’t forget that circumcision is becoming less popular in the US, as well, so even if the US continues producing pornography, uncircumcised penises will start to get normalized anyways.

        • Another Throw says:

          I think you underestimate the institutional inertia. But my google history is weird enough without trying to research the question, so I will concede it is possible.

    • outis says:

      I think you have a completely incorrect model of society if you think these things are driven by rational arguments.

      • Thegnskald says:

        A good response to this will take some unpacking, because almost every word in that sentence is – wrong is the wrong word, but certainly not right.

        First, I didn’t say rational. I said argument. A woman crying is an argument, based on the prior that you care about her pain.

        Second, even if I had said rational, it would still apply; crying, as an argument, is an entirely rational way to demonstrate pain, as it is a difficult to convincingly fake signal of pain. Assuming a shared prior that the other person cares about her pain, she has made a convincing argument that she is in it, and that thus the situation needs to change in some way.

        Third, yes, rational arguments tend to be the driving force behind social change. They are what movements coordinate on; the emotional shitshow is just what you see from the outside, because you are far removed from the coordination, and seeing the uncoordinated messes at the edges. And by coordination, I do not mean a literal group of people in charge, I mean the influential members of the group trading ideas back and forth. Most people get their cues from individuals who act as movement schelling points; these individuals are the elements of the movement responsive to arguments. Members of the movement are less vulnerable to argument because they want to know their social group will approve of them, which requires their local schelling point to give arguments stamps of approval; this is perfectly rational behavior, because somebody who isn’t smart enough to identify the flaws in an argument shouldn’t therefore change opinion every time an argument is made, but instead appoint a trusted somebody to evaluate arguments for them. But even the partisans can be swayed if it becomes apparent that there isn’t anybody on their side who can effectively respond to an argument.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Opinion Leaders are responsive to arguments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot make up new doctrines to justify pre-determined positions. That actually seems like the kind of thing Opinion Leaders excel at.

          • Thegnskald says:

            What happens when three thought leaders make up and go along with new doctrine A, four buy into the argument and switch sides, five ignore the argument and go along as before, and two make up and go along with new doctrine B?

            It is kind of a self-correcting problem. When thought leaders do that, they fragment their followers, and either become the leader of a tiny cult, or else their congregation gradually dissolves as the world marches on.

            It is kind of a self-correcting problem, it just takes a while.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Poly rights will enter into the fray sometime in the next ten years. I don’t know the outcome, because I don’t know the arguments, but I can see it building.

      Yes there are poly people on SSC and I’m sure it’s all working out great for you. Normalization is something else, though. Poly is a really weird one to me, because it’s not like Chesterton’s Fence where everybody’s saying “hey, what’s this fence doing here?” and the bull is lurking quietly on the other side. No, this is a glass wall, with a clearly visible rampaging bull bouncing and snorting and turning red with steam coming out of its nose like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The normalization of poly relationships or marriages is not “everybody just loses their hang-ups and broadens their lovemaking horizons.” The normalization of poly relationships means Donald Trump has 100 wives.

      It’s going to start with some celebrities, because no shit of course some Hollywood star can afford two women or two men, and they’ll make a reality show out of it, and then it’ll be normal, and then your dentist has two wives because why not? And then the pareto distribution eats society.

      • albatross11 says:

        Maybe one way to see how this would work out in practice is to look at societies where openly keeping a mistress and some bastards is socially acceptable. Or to look at Muslim societies where people are allowed to have multiple wives. (Though I think Islamic law restricts men to no more than five wives–that might actually be a societal adaptation to the problem of very high-prestige men having a hundred wives.)

  8. Andrew Hunter says:

    Summoning DavidFriedman: is Legal Systems Very Different Than Ours available in any formats more convenient than “seventeen word docs”? I’d be very happy (I’d even drop a few dollars on Amazon) for something I can conveniently load on my kindle (a single pdf, epub, etc…)

  9. Well... says:

    If my budget for tax software is $50 and my taxes are somewhat complicated by having bought and sold a house, incurred business expenses, renovated part of a house for health reasons, paid interest on student debt, etc. last year, what piece of software will give me the best bang for my buck?

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ve been very happy with H&R Block’s software: you’d want the “Premium and Business” version, which is over your budget ($54.61 for the download) on Amazon, BUT it has a 5% refund bonus if you get it from Amazon that would probably make up for the difference.

      ETA: changed price because I was looking at disc vs download.

    • andrewflicker says:

      If you’re moderately clever, you don’t even need the “good” tax software. I’ve been using OLT’s online service for years now, and it’s mostly free (with small expenses if you file state with them).

      And I used it continuously through house purchases, renovations, student loans, full-time students, part-time students, divorce, re-marriage, mid-year move to a different state, etc., etc.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @Bakkot

    Any chance of moving the new comments floater over to the left? On tiny screens, when unrolled, it covers up the very posts one wishes to read, especially in the case of maximum-indent posts.

  11. ksvanhorn says:

    “Thanks to all the people who seem to genuinely dislike me…”

    That may be a smaller set than you think. I myself have criticized you on various occasions, but this remains my favorite blog, and you’re high on the list of people I respect.

  12. rlms says:

    One of the SSC diplomacy games mentioned on previous threads is looking for a replacement player: go here if you’re interested (first-come first-served, unless the original player turns up).

  13. johan_larson says:

    Over on the thread about “The Case against Education”, we were discussing conformism as a quality employers seek. I’m wondering whether that’s really something all employers want, since some of them at least talk a good line about wanting people who “think different” or whatnot. But looking back on my career in a number of software companies, I’m struck by how ordinary all of my colleagues have been. If I had to pick the two oddest, there was one guy who has a New Order Mennonite and another who was openly homosexual. But neither of those are really all that odd.

    Has anyone had a very different experience, and worked with some real freaks?

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’ve been told that I’m the team freak by every team I’ve ever worked with, so… yes ? That said, I’ve also worked with quite a few extraordinary people, as well as some more ordinary ones.

      That said, having been on both the employer’s and the employee’s side of things a few times, I’d say that the traditional sense of “conformism” is too strong to describe what employers seek. Nobody wants a yes-man on the team who is just going to do whatever you tell him to do, to the letter — otherwise, you’d just replace him with a script. However, nobody wants a self-proclaimed rock-star genius, either; at least, not the kind of genius who will start randomly rewriting all your libraries from scratch just because he doesn’t like the way you format your braces.

      Joining a team requires one to be able to learn, which does require some degree of conformity; but it is also expected that one would offer original ideas (and not merely offer them, but defend them), once he had learned enough.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yes, I should have said “conformity”, not “conformism”. It’s about being able to fit in and not piss people off, not about mindlessly doing what you are told. You’re right about that.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s a bit cliche at this point – but I think it’s true that most employers are looking for diversity of background, but not diversity of thought.

      Background diversity (which roughly maps to race/gender/sexuality – but not quite!) is good just because it’s interesting. I’m as skeptical of “diversity is our strength” claims as anyone – but I’ll readily concede that it’s just plain more interesting to work with co-workers who come from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds and can tell me stories about their childhood and upbringing that are unlike anything I ever experienced.

      But when it comes time to work – everyone is expected to conform to “how we do things around here” and little deviation is tolerated. Similarly, having unorthodox personal or political opinions is frowned upon – presumably for HR reasons.

      Edit: I’ll also add that diversity of background benefits the employer – if only for image purposes. It makes their HR and recruiting teams look really good if they can find those “diamonds in the rough.” Finding someone who grew up in a poor village in Nigeria and somehow struggled to obtain the skills to make them a viable candidate for Elite Employer X is a major coup. Any company can scoop up the rich preppy kids who went to Harvard. But “diversity recruiting” is where the real battleground is.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve worked with a furry, does that count?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I have limited experience, and mostly in a rote, procedural environment. So take that FWIW. Nonetheless, there was still some talking about “thinking different”. So here it goes:

      It’s not JUST about racial diversity. In every company I’ve been at, we’ve had mandatory diversity training. They’ve emphasized that racial diversity is illegal, but they still want to encourage diversity of thought. Several times they have specifically mentioned introversion as an example. So, they acknowledge that racial diversity =! intellectual diversity, and they say they want the latter as much as they want the former.

      However, “Think Different” is just buzzword. In most cases, culture eats strategy (and with that buzzword, I’m only 3 away from Manager Bingo!). Upper management and middle management like the idea of diversity…but honestly, I think it’s because their expectations are just too high. Their expectation is for some fresh hire with some out-of-the-box thinking (2 away!) to take a look at the best practices (1 away!) and come up with some low-hanging fruit (AND BINGO WAS HIS NAME-O!) to improve them. Like, Fresh Hire will come to my office and just come up with some brilliant new way to apply cash that no one has ever thought of before, and suddenly efficiency will jump through the roof.

      That’s part of why these diversity examples in my college business books always seem to be marketing-based, particularly international marketing. Like, did you know Ford adverstised the Pinto in Brazil as a Pinto, even though Pinto means “tiny gentials?” Hahahahahaha, if only they had a Portuguese person on the team, #diversityisourstrength #livestrong #hopeandchange #resist #notmypresident.

      So, what’s the reality?

      In this case, I think it’s instructive to look where we do NOT want people to “Think Different.”

      In my last position, we outsourced our A/R to a team in India. The US team was meant only to supervise. Now, you’d think if we wanted people to “Think Different,” this would be a GREAT opportunity! Dozens of people on the other side of the world with a cultural experience absolutely nothing like ours and no familiarity with any of our processes.

      We did not tell them to Think Different. We had something like 4-6 hours of meetings every single day, which basically consisted of us trying to ram our Best Practices down their throats. We tried hard to change their entire culture, like getting their low-level employees to speak up on our conference calls, rather than deferring to their management structure. Except, “speaking up” wasn’t really the right word. We did not ask for their opinions. We gave them instructions. We expected “Yes” answers in return, even as we then got irritated that they reflexively answered “Yes” to everything.

      We “wanted” them to explain their difficulties to us, and explain what they thought the priority should be. This would simply end in us lecturing them about what the REAL priorities were, how the difficulties weren’t really difficulties at all, and some added passive-aggressiveness about how stupid they were with a healthy dose of “you need to learn to think.”

      So, these low worker drones? No, don’t “think different,” stick your nose to the grindstone. If I want your opinion, I’ll tell it to you.

      That’s because the work really isn’t all the novel. It’s a series of set tasks. You sure as hell can automate some tasks, and possibly improve SOME processes. However, Worker Bees have next to no technological ability and next to no ability to work with our databases anyways, so they can’t really do much on the automation front. That work tends to be at the Director-level or above, and these people work directly with the Application Analysts, Business Analysts, Network Analysts, etc, that support the department. I could go to the IT teams myself, but on the futility scale it ranks probably a few steps below “write a letter to Trump” or “send an email to the CEO.”

      On the process side, Worker Bees tend to ignore Chesterton Fences with reckless abandon. The Worker Bee normally has knowledge of the purpose of these Fences: they usually are not established for the Bee’s own work, but either to prevent novel situations, to ensure an audit trail, or to make things easier for another department (which the Bee may or may not interface with). Razing the fences might seem like a good idea to the Worker Bees, but it’ll unleash holy hell with other processes.

      So basically Worker Bees have almost no useful ideas. We don’t need them to Think Different.

      We do need them to THINK, at least a little bit. We need them to make decisions on priorities, we need them to know when they can make a decision and when they need to defer to a manager, we need them to know when an issue is stuck and they need to escalate to a manager, we need them to provide useful information to the manager without overloading the manager with useless information.

      A good example might be, say, driving a truck. It’s not the most innovative job in the world. You’re not going to be able to 10X productivity as a truck driver. But you need to not be a complete idiot. You need to know that Wal-Mart will penalize you if you are more than 5 minutes early or late, you need to know that you can speed in certain areas and not in other areas, you need to know when it’s wayyyyyy too dangerous to drive in a blizzard and when it’s totally okay to drive, and how that might vary depending on how important your load is. You need someone who knows some basic algebra, so if they are 500 miles away and driving 60 miles an hour, they will be there in 8.33333 hours, except maybe he will need to stop and pee and eat some lunch and actually the speed limit in the city is 30 MPH and traffic is sometimes bad on I-80, so let’s call it 9.5 hours.

      So you need a truck drive who can think at least a little bit, but throwing Einstein in that position is useless. Throwing a non-conforming disagreeable idiot in there who takes pleasure in “thinking differently” isn’t going to improve efficiency, he’s going to drive 90 MPH in a school zone while flicking off a cop, and then say “WHAT? I thought this was America!” when he gets pulled over.

    • maintain says:

      >some of them at least talk a good line about wanting people who “think different”

      How different are we talking?

      I’m sure they want employees who think creatively, are willing to challenge dogmas, etc. They probably don’t want employees who throw temper tantrums and show up late and make racist remarks. They need a way to filter these people out.

    • andrewflicker says:

      My office is fairly weird. We’re mostly white men, but we’ve got all sorts- hardcore conservatives, hardcore liberals, swordfighters, marathon runners, falconers, math-geeks, people-who-hate-math, readers who never stop carrying a book, people who haven’t read a book since college, people with PhDs, people who never went to college at all (in the same ranks), Mormons, atheists, reformed Jews, born-again Christians, vegans, near-obligate-carnivores, etc.

      Our main requirement (beyond professional skills) is that people get along well with others, can joke around a bit and resolve conflicts diplomatically, that don’t get heated and defensive when pressured, etc.

      EDIT- We are getting better about the “mostly white men” thing. Our original core was a bunch of startup-y high-risk-tolerant folks in Sacramento, CA, with a big programming skew. Since then we’ve hired at more demographically-normal rates for our region.

  14. Is there anywhere I can find a straightforwards account of exactly where we are up to in the Russian hacking/Donald Trump story? It all just seems like a tangled mess of reports that contradict reports that contradict reports to me right now.

    • Lambert says:

      Researchers have successfully demonstrated that pretty much every electronic voting machine the US has employed can be hacked without too much difficulty. So Russia very plausibly has the technical ability to hack the elections.

      • Murphy says:

        It’s depressing that the legal standards for slot machines are orders of magnitude better than the legal standards for voting machines.

        Currently if someone made a slot machine to Vegas spec, built to accept a token to allow voting (issued by staff at the voting hall with tokens tracked and votes written to a visible paper tape etc etc) they would be so much better than the standard crapware-laden-barely-working-unpatched-windows-xp-physically-insecure-Diebold-shit that seemingly gets used as standard.

        I mean the voting machines are so unbelievably badly made as standard that it stinks of intention.

        How does Diebold even keep getting contracts?

      • S_J says:

        My understanding is that most electronic voting machines are non-networked. As in, not on a wireless or wired network. (At least, the ones in use in my area are of that type. For more than a decade, I was an election-worker in the State of Michigan.)

        Still hackable, but most such hacks require physical access.

      • Loquat says:

        Wait, has anyone serious come out with evidence voting machines were actually hacked, by Russia or anyone else? I thought the only real accusations were that Russia hacked HRC’s emails and/or the DNC, and paid trolls to spread their preferred message.

        Also, while it may be technically simple to hack most of our voting machines, you’d need physical access to each machine individually, since they’re not connected to the internet. So you’d either need a whole lot of agents to infiltrate a whole lot of precincts, which ups the likelihood that one of them gets caught or blabs to the wrong person, or have an already-close election and successfully predict in advance a small number of precincts where hacking will change the overall election outcome.

        • Wait, has anyone serious come out with evidence voting machines were actually hacked, by Russia or anyone else?

          No. But lots of people refer to other things vaguely in the hope that people will think there is.

        • AKL says:

          I believe the bigger hacking concern is upstream of the actual polling locations, e.g. if the source code was altered at the factory. I don’t think anyone has suggested that this has happened, just that it has been proposed as a risk.

      • Murphy says:

        @S_J

        Case study of some old diebold machines showed that you don’t need physical access to each machine. Once one is infected poll workers distributing the settings for the next election can spread your infection to the rest.

        1: the lock on the machine could be picked in a few seconds by a semi skilled picker, on a par with luggage locks.

        2:Now with access to the ports it was trivial to write a virus which would infect the machine and spread to any other drives connected to it.

        3: infected drives could then spread it to other voting machines.

        So simply walk into the booth. Pick the lock, plug in a flash drive, unplug and close it up again.

        The next time legit workers go around updating the machines your code infects them all, carried by the legit workers between machines. use custom code and you can avoid AV scanners.

        Defcon had an event for this last year. Turns out some voting machines even have wifi enabled or are networked.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/07/31/hackers-take-control-us-voting-machines-less-90-minutes/

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/29/us_voting_machines_hacking/

        • Case study of some old diebold machines showed that you don’t need physical access to each machine. Once one is infected poll workers distributing the settings for the next election can spread your infection to the rest.

          That could be true, but neither of your links supports it–do you have one that does? The two stories you link to about Defcon describe hacking by people with physical access to the machines and the only one where they mention a WiFi connection is a machine not by Diebold but by a company that has been out of business for a decade, used in “some county elections.”

        • S_J says:

          @Murphy,

          I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing.

          1: the lock on the machine could be picked in a few seconds by a semi skilled picker, on a par with luggage locks.

          2:Now with access to the ports it was trivial to write a virus which would infect the machine and spread to any other drives connected to it.

          3: infected drives could then spread it to other voting machines.

          So simply walk into the booth. Pick the lock, plug in a flash drive, unplug and close it up again.

          The example that I saw when I worked as an election-inspector was:

          A. Voter receives paper ballot
          B. Voter takes ballot to voting booth
          C. Voter marks ballot with pen
          D. Voter takes ballot, inside secrecy sleeve, to the Tabulator. (This it the piece of electronics that I think we are discussing as voting machine that might be hackable.)
          E. Voter inserts ballot into tabulator, which confirms whether or not the ballot was marked in a readable manner.

          F. The entire process is supposed to be overseen by election workers who have affirmed that they are from more than one political party.
          At the end of the day, these worker use the keys/controls on the Tabulator to print out the voting results. The results, plus a sealed box containing ballots, are taken back to the local City/Township Clerk with a signed book of Poll Results.

          G. If a recount is ever attempted, the boxes of paper ballots and their seals are checked, and the paper ballots are run through the tabulator again.

          You are correct that the Tabulator is a piece of programmable electronics, inside a box with a lock (by appearances, easier to pick than most door-locks) and a seal (tricky, but not impossible, to bypass). If any part of the process is hackable, it is the Tabulator.

          But the Tabulator is not inside the privacy of the booth with the voter.

          I recall that other regions/States use some form of electronics ballot with electronics that are inside the privacy of the booth. However, I’m pretty confident that even those regions do not give the Voter private access to the Tabulator/voting-machine.

      • Nornagest says:

        Wait, that’s news? I saw a Defcon presentation that demonstrated that three or four years ago.

        The hard part isn’t hacking the machines, it’s hacking enough of the machines to affect the election and doing it without immediately getting caught. No centralization means no one point of entry, and poor standardization means it’s hard to scale.

      • Vorkon says:

        While this is true, and is definitely a problem, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Russian hacking/Donald Trump story.

    • Bugmaster says:

      IMO the bigger story is that the American political system is so unstable, that a moderately large troll farm (perhaps combined with a few judicious bribes) has a very good chance of influencing the Presidential election. Sure, this time it was Russia who got there first; tomorrow it will be China or Bosnia or the freaking Sierra Club, for all we know. Sure, nominally we still live in a democracy, but the fact that the system appears to be almost completely unmoored from reality should cause us at least some concern.

      • Murphy says:

        Why just foreign nations?

        If I can hire a troll farm in russia why not a troll farm in detroit, staffed with americans and paid for by americans.

        • a reader says:

          Because a troll farm in Detroit will cost a lot more. You can employ a college educated Eastern European for less money than a high school dropout American.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            All right then, a troll farm in Russia, paid for by a group of Americans and putting out the message the group of Americans wants put out.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Yeah that’s why I mentioned the all-American Sierra Club. That might be better than Russia, but IMO not by much.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Hillary did that. It was called “Correct The Record.” There’s FEC fillings and everything.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Isn’t the more likely story that the troll farm didn’t actually influence the presidential election?

        • Matt M says:

          Ding ding ding.

          “It’s so cheap to steal the election that the side who was outspent nearly 3:1 is the only one who figured out how to do so.”

          I mean if you want your narrative to be that red tribers and/or Russians are just that much smarter when it comes to computers than the blue tribe is, I could go with that too.

          • Bugmaster says:

            My worry is not that the Russians are somehow “that much smarter”, but than any rando with a troll farm can swing an election. This means that a). both major parties are about as computer-savvy as a drunken squirrel, but more importantly, b). either the number of swing voters is critically low (and thus influencing even a small number of them is effective), and/or there no longer exists a reliable mechanism for people to stay informed about the issues they care about (possibly because neither political party has any definitive platforms to speak of).

          • Matt M says:

            My worry is not that the Russians are somehow “that much smarter”, but than any rando with a troll farm can swing an election.

            OK – but why did no other troll farms figure this out? Why didn’t the Hillary campaign employ a rando troll farm? Why didn’t George Soros? Why didn’t any other foreign country who might have preferred an HRC victory (as far as I can tell, media consensus is that absolutely every foreign country except Russia absolutely hates Trump)?

            It strikes me as decidedly non-credible to simultaneously argue:

            1. It’s very easy to steal an American election (can be accomplished with a monetary cost <1% of what the typical Presidential campaign spends)
            2. Only Vladimir Putin was able to figure out how – nobody else ever bothered to try

          • The Nybbler says:

            OK – but why did no other troll farms figure this out? Why didn’t the Hillary campaign employ a rando troll farm?

            You mean Correct The Record?

          • Matt M says:

            Nybbler,

            That was a hypothetical. My personal opinion is that of course Hillary tried something similar. Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders probably did too. Given the money and power at stake here, it’s unbelievable to me to suggest that only one side was engaged in this sort of behavior. Especially when it’s the side that is generally assumed to be older and less tech-savvy than the other…

          • Jaskologist says:

            Whatever kind of advantage one could get from a cheap troll farm is the kind that will get cancelled out in no time by the other campaign, which can also afford troll farms.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I would also argue that the Obama campaign tried something similar, and that it did work for them.

            So, that’s kind of my point: are we really at the point now where the best troll farm wins, and nothing else matters ?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        the American political system is so unstable

        Why wouldn’t you instead come to the conclusion that the two parties are so finely balanced in the electoral college that yellow journalism like behavior can throw the results one way or another?

      • These discussions seem to confuse several different things:

        1. Hacking into voting machines to alter the results. As best I can tell, nobody has offered any evidence that that happened, although a lot of people talk as though it has, presumably in the hope that ignorant listeners will be fooled.

        2. Illegally getting access to true information unfavorable to one side in an election and spreading it. That happened, and it may well have been done by Russians.

        3. Doing things that are entirely legal to influence an election, such as using Facebook to persuade people that a candidate is bad, done by foreigners. There seems to be good evidence that it happened.

        Note that 3 was also done, openly, by Obama in an unsuccessful attempt to influence the Brexit vote.

        • Anonymous says:

          1. Hacking into voting machines to alter the results. As best I can tell, nobody has offered any evidence that that happened, although a lot of people talk as though it has, presumably in the hope that ignorant listeners will be fooled.

          So far as I know, it’s plausible. If you have physical access to an electronic device, the sky is the limit in what you can do with it.

          • albatross11 says:

            First, voting machines are generally insecure, in the sense that when you give serious computer security experts access to those machines, they always seem to end up with a bunch of attacks that they can demonstrate at least in laboratory conditions.

            This is actually what you should expect. Computer security is *hard*. Designing a computer that will resist this kind of attack is really, really hard. Voting machines are made by companies that have little specialized expertise in security, and they don’t have a ton of money to spend on getting things right. And in fact, most computerized things that get exposed to computer security experts get broken–IoT devices, the internal computer networks in cars, medical devices, etc.

            Second, there’s a *huge* distance between hacking the machines (even with some clever hack that spreads through all the machines) and altering the vote totals in the election. Pretty much every jurisdiction (sometimes states, sometimes counties) has different technology and customizations and different procedures, which makes your job (as an attacker) a lot harder. (Consider your software QA problem.) I’m not claiming this is insurmountable, but it’s not enough to just find a way to hack the machine, even for the crappiest DREs–you still need to figure out how to get your attack to work, and not to trigger on any testing done on the machines.

            Further, you need to make your attack fairly subtle–if all the Diebold DREs in the country give 100% of their votes to the libertarian candidate in 2020, nobody’s going to believe the result and they’ll reverse it in court. Realistically, you can probably shift the vote by a few percent without it being obvious. This is actually a common pattern–if you want to tamper with an election by, say, “cleaning” the registration database in a way that gets rid of more legitimate voters on the other side than on your side, or you want to mess around with poll opening/closing times to depress turnout in the other side’s precincts, or you want to pay homeless people to vote under dead peoples’ names in some precinct, you’re going to be able to move the vote totals a little bit, but you’re not going to be able to change a clear victory for one side into a victory for the other side without being really obvious.

            Finally, and most importantly IMO, most states now use voting technology that includes some kind of paper trail. (This link gives a listing of election technology in different states.)

            DREs are just computers that ask you what your votes are and count them. They’re the most vulnerable to software-only attacks, but they’re also pretty rare at this point, because we’ve had like a decade plus of computer security experts pointing out how vulnerable they are.

            Some DREs have a paper trail–usually a receipt-type printer bolted on the side. You make your selections on the screen and then eventually the printer prints out the same selections on the paper, and you can look at them.

            A lot of the DREs with paper trails are really badly designed and hard for voters to check well, but they *do* put a limit on how much fraud you can engage in–either you leave a paper trail that contradicts your electronic records, or you print a different thing on the paper than you put on the screen and leave the chance that the voters will notice.

            For optical scan ballots (human-marked ballots that get scanned electronically and counted), you’ve got very clear human-readable ballots that can be recounted if there’s a question about the electronic totals. A software-only attack can change the electronic totals, but as soon as someone smells a rat and gets a recount done, this gets detected and we can get the correct result by hand counting.

            For mail-in or paper ballots, again, you’ve got human-readable, human-countable ballots. They’re probably machine counted by default, but you can always do recounts.

            All those systems really need some kind of automatic random recounts as part of their procedures, to keep the systems honest. But even without them, the power of a software-only attack is pretty limited by the existence of the paper trail.

            The result of all this: I don’t believe that outsiders (Russians, Chinese, Israelis, Germans, whatever) tampering with our voting software have any serious chance of changing the election outcome. I don’t think it’s a realistic threat.

          • John Schilling says:

            So far as I know, it’s plausible. If you have physical access to an electronic device, the sky is the limit in what you can do with it.

            The same is true of mechanical devices, like ballot boxes. Yes, even ones with “tamper-proof”seals.

            Election security absolutely cannot depend on assuming that your voting hardware will remain secure even if you allow enemy agents to have physical control of it. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be. Particularly with highly decentralized systems like the ones used in the United States, it is operationally infeasible for anyone to secure the level of broad access that would be required to reliably control national election outcomes without getting caught in the act.

            But if the Russians just want to cast doubt on the US electoral process and so damage the legitimacy of the US government whomever the winner turns out to be, they can do that easily enough and without hacking a single voting machine. For that goal, the number of voting machines hacked is absolutely irrelevant, what matters is the number of useful idiots running around shouting “It is technically possible that the Russians hacked our election machines! Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!”

            You are answering the wrong question, to the advantage of the adversaries of the United States. Are you sure that’s what you meant to do?

          • Anonymous says:

            @John Schilling

            You are answering the wrong question, to the advantage of the adversaries of the United States. Are you sure that’s what you meant to do?

            Who, me?

    • S_J says:

      Is the accusation that Trump is a stooge of the Russian government?

      Or that the Trump campaign engaged in back-channel negotiations with foreign spies in an attempt to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton?

      Or that a foreign agent, likely from Russia, tried to use the “we have dirt on HIllary” approach to request special promises from then-candidate Trump?

      Or is the accusation that the Russian government finds it useful to cast doubt on the validity of the American electoral process?

      On that last front, the Russian government may be succeeding.

      The counter-accusations appear to be that the Clinton campaign and/or the Obama Executive Office used allegations of some of the above as a reason to use USGov counter-intelligence agencies against some of the officials of then-candidate Trump. (I’m not clear whether the phone-tapping that was approved also included retro-active access to call-data/call-metadata/text-messages.) This may, or may not, have involved the FBI treating a political-opposition-research company, and its documents, as the only source of the above allegations. (The political-opposition-research company, known as FusionGPS, tried to hide who had paid for the research…best information I have is that the research was paid for by a law office that was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign.)

      There is a side-order of claims that Federal investigators deciding the results of the Hillary Clinton private-email-server investigation before they finished the investigation. And of FBI agents using their text messages to discuss some sort of “insurance policy” against the possibility of Trump winning the campaign.

      And there is another potential foreign-collusion scandal. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, may have accepted donations to the Clinton Foundation as quid pro quo for her signing off on the sale of many Uranium mines in the U.S. to the Russian company known as Uranium One.

      My opinion is that neither political campaign has clean hands in this. And it is also my opinion that the FBI has been doing some internal house-cleaning. (Have you noticed how many FBI officials have resigned or been re-assigned to different roles in the past few months?)

    • Iain says:

      Above, David Friedman breaks the situation up into three categories. Using those as a starting point:

      1. Russian hacking of voting machines: there’s no evidence that this happened, and it is not a major element of the ongoing story. (It is independently true that many / most current voting machines are woefully insecure, and steps should be taken to prevent future hacking.)

      2. Illegally getting access to true information unfavorable to one side in an election and spreading it: this definitely happened. There is solid evidence that Russian groups were behind it. (For example, the infrastructure set up to phish John Podesta’s account was reused to attack a large number of other targets of clear interest to Russia.) Similar things have also taken place in other countries: for example, during the French presidential runoff between Macron and Le Pen, the Macron campaign’s emails were hacked and released shortly before the vote. In all the cases I’m aware of, the side that says mean things about Putin has come under attack, and the side that says nice things has not: for example, Marine Le Pen supported Russia’s control of Crimea.

      3. Facebook propaganda campaigns: This definitely happened. Notably, this part of the campaign was non-partisan: the ads are a weird mishmash of pro-Trump, pro-Bernie, pro-cop, pro-BLM, and so on. It looks like the goal was to encourage partisan polarization and get people worked up, rather than to support any particular candidate. (My favourite example: the Russians allegedly organized both a protest and its simultaneous counter-protest.) The troll farm is not about swaying the election to one side or another; it’s more about general disruption.

      4. The Mueller investigation is ongoing. Mueller has proven pretty good at keeping things quiet when he wants to — see, for example, the three-month gap after the arrest of Papadopoulos before it became public knowledge — so it’s hard to say exactly where that is. There have been a few indictments. There is some evidence that he is looking at money laundering. He is apparently looking to interview Trump himself. There’s been lots of talk about trying to fire Mueller, but at least so far he’s been allowed to operate freely. Reading the tea leaves only gets you so far, though: people on either side will claim that Mueller’s actions prove them right, but we’ll only know for sure when he releases a report.

      • albatross11 says:

        The Russian propaganda campaign looked like it was intended to stir shit up and make it hard for Hillary (they presumably expected her to win, just like everyone else) to govern. This actually makes a lot more sense than trying to control the outcome of the election. The Russians were trying to push sideways on the rope–rather than trying to sway voters toward Democrats or Republicans (where they’re playing tug-of-war alongside vast teams of people pulling on both sides), they can maybe make it harder to get anything done, or discourage voters on both sides, or whatever.

        This seems entirely consistent with the Trump investigation, to me. The Russian government may have offered dirt to Trump’s associates with the hope of causing more trouble in the election and subsequent Clinton administration than they could do by leaking it to Wikileaks or putting it on their own websites or on RT. Now that Trump’s in power, they presumably are just fine with lots of information about that coming out and undermining Trump’s ability to govern (such as it is). A war between the president and the intelligence community, a large chunk of the population convinced the deep state has railroaded their guy out of the white house, reflexive suspicion on the FBI/NSA/CIA by Republicans–all that’s probably a pretty good outcome, from a Russian government perspective.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Agreed; from Putin’s point of view, there’s very little downside.

          1). Stir shit up, Hillary wins: it becomes hard for her to govern. The USA is destabilized. Russia can now act with some degree of impunity.
          2). Stir shit up, Trump wins, he’s now in your debt: even better, you can extract concessions directly.
          3). Stir shit up, Trump wins, he’s doesn’t care about you: Same as (1), only more so, since now you’ve got an incompetent leader in charge.

          • John Schilling says:

            Stir shit up, Trump wins, he’s now in your debt: even better, you can extract concessions directly.

            As has been mentioned before, that trick never works, or at best works so rarely and unreliably that Putin isn’t going to risk it. #1 and #3 are sufficient, and sufficiently safe, to justify meddling.

      • Vorkon says:

        2. Illegally getting access to true information unfavorable to one side in an election and spreading it: this definitely happened. There is solid evidence that Russian groups were behind it. (For example, the infrastructure set up to phish John Podesta’s account was reused to attack a large number of other targets of clear interest to Russia.)

        This is actually my biggest problem with the Russian hacking narrative. There is clear evidence that the Podesta hack was carried out by Russians, but the worst thing to come out of the Podesta hack was Pizzagate, which convinced absolutely no one who did not already believe Hillary Clinton was a lizard person of anything. What is the evidence that the Russians had anything to do with the DNC hack?

        (That’s not just a rhetorical question, by the way. If anybody knows what that evidence is, I’d love to hear it. It’s just that nobody is talking about it, for whatever reason.)

        • Rob K says:

          Security companies and intelligence agencies that reviewed the DNC’s servers concluded they’d been compromised by two Russian entities.

          (edited to add: “russian entities” sounds weasely, but I don’t know exactly the right way to describe whatever these hacking groups are. “An FSB-related and a GRU-related hacking group” is my understanding but I could be mischaracterizing them.)

    • BBA says:

      It’s one big nothingburger. Most of my fellow Democrats are still in denial, but the real story is very simple: Trump is who we thought he was, and we let him off the hook.

      I’m not saying the Mueller/Russia stuff won’t go anywhere. There might be campaign finance violations – either taking in-kind contributions from foreign nationals, or plain old embezzlement and misuse of funds. If not, well, Trump is certainly short-sighted enough to obstruct justice where there’s no underlying crime. But it won’t get him out of office, and all the hacking stuff is nonsense.

      • John Schilling says:

        Most of my fellow Democrats are still in denial,

        This, and in a most self-destructive way where their last, best hope is to fail.

        There are plenty of avenues of attack available against Trump, most of which lead to an ineffectual Trump presidency and Democratic wins in Congress 2018 and the White House 2020. The “Impeach Trump because Russia” attack is almost certainly not going to be a winner, because the evidence isn’t going to be there for anything more than taking down some of his staff. But the attack will encourage ambivalent Republicans to defend “their” man, the failure will make Trump look stronger and the Democrats weaker, and in the unlikely event that Mueller comes through with something impeachment-worthy…

        Welcome President Mike Pence. Or maybe Paul Ryan. Either way, a competent Republican with a mandate to avenge Trump and strike down the Democrats and whatever “cuckservatives” crossed the aisle to impeach him. Way to go, Democrats.

        Or do they still believe that somehow, Mueller + Russia – Trump somehow adds up to President Hillary Clinton?

        • Nornagest says:

          Welcome President Mike Pence. Or maybe Paul Ryan. Either way, a competent Republican with a mandate to avenge Trump and strike down the Democrats and whatever “cuckservatives” crossed the aisle to impeach him. Way to go, Democrats.

          A lot of Trump’s sharpest critics would be fine with that.

          They certainly don’t like his policy, but, although I’ve heard stuff like “if you take down Trump you have to take down Pence too” here and there, I don’t get the impression that it’s in the driver’s seat. They don’t like him because he’s rude and crass, and probably most importantly because he drips contempt for conventional standards of political delicacy. And in terms of long-term strategy this might not be as short-sighted as it seems: Trump’s not getting a lot done directly, but as long as he’s in office he proves that candidates can buck those standards and get away with it, which removes one of the strongest weapons from the Democratic arsenal.

          Even if it is that short-sighted, though, I think a lot of people would be willing to give up some policy wins for a return to “normalcy”.

        • Iain says:

          Agreed: The path to victory for Democrats runs directly through the 2018 midterms, and the 2020 presidential election. Of the angles of attack that can be used against Trump, Russia does not appear to be a particularly strong one.

          Disagreed: In the unlikely case that Mueller comes up with something potent enough to get Senate Republicans to vote Trump out of office, the resulting GOP civil war has got to be good for Democrats. Trump’s base will be incandescently angry, sure, but Trump’s base is not enough to win an election on its own. Gerald Ford was not a powerful president; why should we expect a more powerful Pence?

          • Randy M says:

            I’d agree with your disagreement provided the average voter understands and agrees with the criteria used for removing Trump. Or is there no longer a center to be appealed to?

          • Matt M says:

            Agree on both counts. A Trump removal is a disaster for the Republican party. Pence would be seen as the stooge and crony of the LITERAL WORST PRESIDENT EVER!!!! Dems would steamroll in 2020 in this scenario…

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump’s base will be incandescently angry, sure, but Trump’s base is not enough to win an election on its own.

            It wouldn’t just be Trump’s base. Everyone who even leans Republican will see a not-bad Republican incumbent faced with a Democratic challenger whose campaign slogan is almost certainly “Now it’s payback time!”. They may not have liked Trump, and some of them didn’t vote for Trump, but look, Trump is gone, mission accomplished, and why rock the boat?

            Since Trump won in without the #NeverTrump Republican votes in 2016 and with the boost to Democratic turnout that Trump incited, that pretty much has to be an electoral victory for a Republican incumbent who can keep Trump’s base on board. Which seems to be something Trump’s VP could do.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pence would be seen as the stooge and crony of the LITERAL WORST PRESIDENT EVER

            By whom, other than the solidly Democratic block that has voted for every Democratic presidential candidate in their adult life? Yes, including the “liberal media”, but note that all of the WORST PRESIDENT EVER crowd including the media were not able to stop Trump from being elected)

          • Iain says:

            In a hypothetical world where 15+ Republican senators feel strongly enough about Mueller’s revelations to remove Trump from office, it is safe to assume that many moderate Republicans will feel the same way. Equivalently, but more cynically: if moderate Republicans do not feel the same way, no conceivable revelation will get 15+ Republican senators to put their necks on the chopping block and remove Trump from office.

          • Matt M says:

            By whom, other than the solidly Democratic block that has voted for every Democratic presidential candidate in their adult life? Yes, including the “liberal media”, but note that all of the WORST PRESIDENT EVER crowd including the media were not able to stop Trump from being elected)

            Every election is decided solely by the 5-15% of the populace who isn’t a blind partisan.

            The electorate tends to reward the party when things are going well, and punish the party when things are going poorly.

            Even a good economy wasn’t enough for Al Gore to shake off the stink of having been the VP of a slimeball who got impeached. If Trump was removed, the next GOP nominee, whether it was Pence, or anyone else, would lose in a landslide.

  15. fz8hp says:

    What is the approximate discount rate for donating to MIRI? I want to donate at some point and want to understand the opportunity cost.

  16. johan_larson says:

    Well, that’s the oddest coincidence I’ve seen in some time.

    4:20, time to smoke marijuana
    4/20, Adolph Hitler’s birthday

    • Nornagest says:

      I remember there being some debate about that around the time of the Columbine massacre. It took place on an April 20, and no one could agree on what that was supposed to signify.

      (Given that the perpetrators were a pair of literally terminally edgy teens, it may well have been both.)

      • outis says:

        Now I’m genuinely surprised that the SPLC didn’t use that to go back and retroactively label the Columbine kids as alt-right, like they did with Elliot Rodger.

        • Rob K says:

          I hope that you’ve updated your model of the relevant parts of the world to incorporate this surprising information, then!

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          @Rob K

          From their website, so no, no updated needed…Their story is that Harris and Klebold were radicalized by neo-nazis on the internet.

          In case anyone is confused, no, this is not an accurate picture of events.

      • hyperboloid says:

        It was Hitler. Eric Harris was obsessed by the Nazis, for reasons that had much more to do with nihilism, and a psychopathic obsession with violence than any coherent political ideology.

        @outis

        Around the time of Columbine the militia movement was doing a pretty good job of making right wing fringe look dangerous and frightening, so nobody would have felt the need to tar them by trying to connect the massacre to any political agenda.

        Though the term did not exist at the the time, the mid nineties forerunners of the alt right committed dozens of act of violence culminating in the murder of 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which stood until September eleventh 2001 as the deadliest act of Terrorism in American history .

        As for Elliot Rogers, he was not part of any political movement, but if your using “alt-right” to mean little more than racist, then his inane manifesto provides plenty of evidence for that. As much I would rather not expose anybody unnecessarily to the mental diarrhea of this pathetic distended rectum of a human being, the following quote is pretty representative:

        …this black boy named Chance said that he lost his virginity when he was only thirteen! In addition, he said that the girl he lost his virginity to was a blonde white girl! I was so enraged that I almost splashed him with my orange juice. I indignantly told him that I did not believe him, and then I went to my room to cry. I cried and cried and cried, and then I called my mother and cried to her on the phone. How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more. I tried not to believe his foul words, but they were already said, and it was hard to erase from my mind. If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I’ve had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is…

  17. JRM says:

    Can I just say that I saw the new slogan, and immediately had to reread it, knowing there was a second “the,” that I had missed.

    I was a little less susceptible than usual to this on the annual survey, but man it’s annoying to keep getting caught like that.

    When I was a kid, this illusion was in a Highlights Magazine. (Look, I was a kid a long time ago, and we had magazines. On paper.) I looked for the the puzzle for about an hour, which was an eternity for me. I don’t know when I figured it out – I think I came back to it days later.

    I have a strong eye for detail, too. My brain just doesn’t want to learn this one.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      “the the”s I seem to frequently miss, but I’ve caught “is is”s and “that that”s.

      Is this something peculiar to “the”?

      • Randy M says:

        Yes, I think so. In reading it is pretty easily glossed over, especially if you read with any speed, since it doesn’t signal much and is very common, even relative to the the other words you mention.

        Yes, had to.

      • fion says:

        “is” and “that” arguably contain more information than “the”. It seems pretty sensible to me that when you see “the” your eyes skip past it to see what the next, information carrying, word is.

  18. Hence says:

    Site dedicated to significance testing (and p-values), and why the practice should be abandoned: http://pv.mm.st

    For researchers, editors-in-chief, and anyone who reads scientific papers.

    I hope it’s useful. Please comment.

    • alef says:

      Sorry to sound a bit critical but … what’s the delta over the wikipedia page? And in general, there seems to be a ton of discussion out there as to why these techniques are bogus (you cite some) – so anyone who is open to hearing this probably already has.

      Two of your ‘what you can do’ steps urge people to insist on ‘proper methodology’ but here, crucially, you don’t have any citations or pointers.

      (N.b. if there is a ‘proper methodology’ that has a hope of usurping p-values and s.s., you’ve missed the most important target in your list of “if you are a …” recommendations: the statistics teaching profession, who should surely appreciate all your arguments as well as anyone, should then universally stop teaching p-values and statistical significance altogether (because the arguments are compelling), and teach these proper methodologies right from stats 101. Why aren’t they?)

      • Hence says:

        > Sorry to sound a bit critical but …

        Please do.

        > what’s the delta over the wikipedia page?

        Wikipedia has too many examples and lots of text and things like history, how to calculate, etc. Here I try to go to the point. Wikipedia also keeps neutral, whereas after showing the current options, I point out why one seems strongly preferred.

        > And in general, there seems to be a ton of discussion out there as to why these techniques are bogus (you cite some) – so anyone who is open to hearing this probably already has.

        Many people seem to be mostly unaware of the problem. So this helps those.

        Other are aware but think it’s just a matter of fixing the “right threshold”. Over there, I try to show that the problem is deeper.

        Also, there are the undecided. They see a ton of discussion and just assume it’s all too complicated. Then they keep doing their p-values as usual. I show the options and point out why one seems superior. I also went through many of the papers and selected to link over there some of what I considered the best.

        > Two of your ‘what you can do’ steps urge people to insist on ‘proper methodology’ but here, crucially, you don’t have any citations or pointers.

        You’re right, and that’s intentional. The focus of the page is to remove what doesn’t work. Suggestion of what to do instead is a separate matter. Read the second Trafimow quote. And to paraphrase Cohen (1994): “First, don’t look for a magic alternative to NHST, some other objective mechanical ritual to replace it. It doesn’t exist.”

        > (N.b. if there is a ‘proper methodology’ that has a hope of usurping p-values and s.s., you’ve missed the most important target in your list of “if you are a …” recommendations: the statistics teaching profession, who should surely appreciate all your arguments as well as anyone, should then universally stop teaching p-values and statistical significance altogether (because the arguments are compelling), and teach these proper methodologies right from stats 101. Why aren’t they?)

        Thank you, ALEF. Professors should be on that list. I will add that.

        For what the proper methodology is, have a look at Gigerenzer & Marewski 2015 linked there.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      So what do you recommend instead of p values?

      The biostatisticians at my institution prefer 95% CI and effect size, but that doesn’t seem substantially different than reporting p value and effect size. It’s a bit easier to interpret and conveys a bit more information but seems like a small difference to justify making such a big stink.

      Bayes factors seems interesting but using Bayesian statistics runs into the problem of choosing prior probabilities. I don’t trust scientists not to fudge by using made-up statistics. The only way I would support moving over to a Bayesian standard would be if it came with commitment to employing the Principle of Indifference as the accepted method of generating priors. objective Bayesian statistical inference.

      Edit: My previous statement was too strong. While the PoI is a great heuristic, here are other forms of information which can be justifiably used. The important point is that it’s not up to the whims of individual researchers but set by some established procedure.

      • alef says:

        Here’s a non-answer.
        There’s no valid alternative to p-values, and never will be, if you want the same or similar utility. People learning statistics come away thinking (which hey, is what they wanted in the first place!) that there’s all sorts of useful stuff the field can give you as deterministic_function(“a few basic properties of your domain”, “your data”). Turns out that this isn’t possible, and nothing within a million miles of it is possible. “p-values” that the ilk say it is, but an honest alternative is going to seem so complex and so limited that no one will (or given institutional incentives, could) care. We are stuck with “statistics” as “reading rabbit entrails” for a long time.

  19. enye-word says:

    Many chapters of Unsong have epigraphs. Some have more than one! I’d like to propose that one of the chapters receive the epigraph

    IF THE ZOO BANS ME FOR HOLLERING AT THE ANIMALS I WILL FACE GOD AND WALK BACKWARDS INTO HELL
    @dril

    This is for two reasons. 1) This is an exceptionally powerful sentence. 2) (rot13 for spoilers) Gur xnoonyvfgvp fvzvynevgvrf orgjrra guvf dhbgr naq gur Pbzrg Xvat’f wbhearl ner vzzrafr.

    Come to think of it, I’m also quite fond of the epigram

    The eleventh commandment was “Thou Shalt Compute” or “Thou Shalt Not Compute” —
    I forget which.

    by Alan J. Perlis. Perhaps it would make a good Unsong epigraph as well.

  20. mark_o says:

    I skimmed but didn’t read the entirety of the conflict/mistake theory comments, and I was surprised I didn’t see mentioned how isomorphic it is to something like the dramatic premises of tragedy versus comedy, as I understand them, anyway. Something like the concept of the inevitability of conflict due to inherent tragic flaws versus that of capricious circumstances afflicting mostly innocent people, with the possibility of sudden amelioration.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Moishe Abraham “Two-Gun” Cohen was a London juvenile delinquent born to Polish Jewish immigrants. Said parents shipped him off to Western Canada in his late teens in hopes that farming and cow-punching would reform him. Becoming a gun-slinging, gambling cowboy stereotype, he made friends with the local Chinese community when he beat up a man robbing a Chinese restaurant and hurled him into the street. His Chinese friends invited him to join the Tongmenghui, Sun Yat-Sen’s resistance movement to replace the Qing Dynasty with Chinese Democracy. These connections would lead to Cohen moving in with Sun Yat-Sen as his bodyguard in 1922, but first he had to go fight in World War I and almost get killed at the Third Battle of Ypres…

    You may now start writing your Western/war/Hong Kong action hybrid spec scripts.

  22. Florgh says:

    Long time reader currently visiting SF and the bay area for few weeks, aside from the potential March 3 meetup – anything of particular interest/affinity to this community or the greater ratiosphere taking place ?

  23. Folamh3 says:

    An article I found on Medium, tagged under #MeToo.

    • Matt M says:

      Oh, wow. I’d be willing to bet this gets removed soon!

    • Evan Þ says:

      I take it this’s a reference to something?

    • Well... says:

      Heh, pretty funny. I enjoyed the way the background changed. I thought the Arabic-looking font could have both looked more Arabic-ish and been easier to read.

      I guess if you go either Left or Right far enough you wind up in ISIS. It’s a circle.

    • BBA says:

      Eh, I don’t really see it. To me the extreme of that argument is “kill all men” radical feminism, which is (to put it lightly) incompatible with Wahhabi Islam.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Falls apart at the first “he should be flogged 100 times” text. The side that spent the last 15 years arguing solitary + waterboarding is a punishment too terrible to endure doesn’t just let that slide.

      • Murphy says:

        Ya… that didn’t flow. Some of the other stuff kinda smoothly led on. Though I feel it needed some more intermediate steps in some parts to smooth it over.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I agree with BBA and ilikekittycat.

      Nitpicking the text of your link:

      I hate the term “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. I think the original had “sauce” in place of “good” – e.g. dead male and female geese can indeed be prepared with the same sauces. Living people are not dead meat to be sauced for dinner.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Normally I’d call this kind of thing a strawman, but as recently as last week I’ve had an IRL argument with some coworkers in which they unironically argued all the way up to the “… and not tolerate these kind of invitations in any civilized, orderly space” part.

  24. Mark says:

    If you wanted to reduce the world population, what would be the best way to do it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Reduce how much? To what end?

      • Mark says:

        I guess reduce to about 1.5 billion.

        I think that the remaining people would be richer if there were fewer people. Whatever proportion of doctors, nurses, builders, we need can be maintained, but with more space and resources for everyone.
        Becomes more and more true as automation gets better.

        Additional people are more likely to cause problems than they are to solve problems.

        • Matt M says:

          This is provably untrue. Go read your Julian Simon.

          • Mark says:

            So, does technological advancement rely upon population growth?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t necessarily know, but if you were to plot them, you’d surely see a pretty significant correlation…

          • Mark says:

            It could be that population growth requires technological advancement, though.

            I suppose with respect to space and peace of mind as resources, in some ways things have become cheaper.
            It’s cheaper and easier to be a recluse than ever before.

            I guess we’ll see more marginal land made available to people, through technological advancement, as well.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, but you could also add a general “quality of life” measurement, and it would correlate as well.

            There is zero evidence that more people = worse lives for everyone else. We don’t need any more space for nature or whatever.

            Wanna know where the most expensive real estate is? Manhattan. Hong Kong. You want space? Go to West Texas where you can buy land for $1000 an acre.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There is zero evidence that more people = worse lives for everyone else.

            Working in Manhattan and/or taking public transit provides ample evidence for this proposition.

          • Matt M says:

            Working in Manhattan and/or taking public transit provides ample evidence for this proposition.

            Then why do so many people desperately want to work in Manhattan?

            If empty spaces are so great, why isn’t everyone flocking to Wyoming?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Then why do so many people desperately want to work in Manhattan?

            Money. And especially for younger and less crotchety people, opportunities to find members of the appropriate sex.

            If empty spaces are so great, why isn’t everyone flocking to Wyoming?

            Money again. Also weather; people aren’t the ONLY thing that screw things up.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Why not 1.5 million? Why not 150,000?

          Why not 1.5 trillion?

          What makes that particular number seem desirable to you?

          • Mark says:

            I think you’d still have enough of a population that you wouldn’t have to change the basic population layout – you could still have big cities where there are big cities – but there would be a lot more space for everyone and a lot more space for nature.

    • Incurian says:

      Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

    • Murphy says:

      maximum reduction:

      Release of a few dozen to a few hundred highly contagious, highly deadly engineered pathogens followed by worldwide international nuclear and chemical warfare.

      Could probably get it down to zero if done right.

      Reduction while trying to maintain living standards and without murder:

      Attempt to elevate as much of the world to first world living standards and stability while handing out free birth control and good sex education until average birthrate drops below the average death rate. (super-long-term 500 years plus view: also restructure taxes and social benefits to discourage quiverful-types from going absolutely hog wild)

      • Artificirius says:

        Not if Madagascar closes their seaport.

      • Helaku says:

        Attempt to elevate as much of the world to first world living standards

        If it were successful, consequences of that (on climate) would hugely reduce the world population even further anyway.

        • Unlikely. You are wildly exaggerating the magnitude of predictable effects of climate change. Making Minnesota as warm as Iowa, which is about what the IPCC projection for the end of the century amounts to, is not going to kill hundreds of millions of people.

          The latest estimate I saw of the effect on human welfare of warming of 2.5°C was that it was about equivalent to losing one year of economic growth.

          • Helaku says:

            1) Climate in itself is a highly unpredictable thing.
            2) I think you understand that global warming is not only about warming.
            3) I heard that the latest (+-10 years) natural disasters in some parts of the world possibly were caused (strongly correlated with) by changing climate. But I cannot firmly prove the truth of those claims ’cause I didn’t dig the papers on the topic.
            4) Sometimes it’s may be better to exagerrate for laypeople. Sure, people driven by fear is not a good option to begin with. But are rational arguments so convincing for the majority? I doubt it. We might combine emotional and rational arguments though.

          • Nick says:

            But are rational arguments so convincing for the majority? I doubt it. We might combine emotional and rational arguments though.

            That sounds like a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). Does it generalize? How many other public debates do we get to do this for?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.” — Megan McArdle

          • Sometimes it’s may be better to exagerrate for laypeople.

            Other commenters have pointed out some problems with that. But there is another and perhaps less obvious problem.

            On an issue like climate, nobody knows enough to form an opinion based only on his own first hand knowledge. Each specialists is looking at his bit of the issue, using as some of his inputs what he believes other specialists have found. If the position you argue for is accepted as the norm, each of them has an incentive to slant the results he reports–in particular, to avoid reporting anything that could be quoted as evidence against the orthodoxy he wants laypeople to believe.

            Since everyone is doing that, including the people whose work feeds into his, the result may be that he believes in an orthodoxy that isn’t true.

            One way of looking for such an effect is to look for patterns in false predictions. Some time back, after observing that people on each side of the climate dispute claimed the IPCC was biased for the other side, I tried the experiment of looking at each of the early IPCC reports and seeing what, on the basis of that, I would predict for global temperature thereafter. I reported the results on my blog.

            They projected high four times out of four, twice by a lot.

            2) I think you understand that global warming is not only about warming.

            Correct. In particular, the effect we can predict with most confidence is due not to warming but to the increase in CO2 concentration that causes warming–the effect of CO2 fertilization on agricultural yields.

    • Randy M says:

      Is best defined as effective or most moral? Or most likely to be actionable by an individual?

    • DunnoWhatToDo says:

      Gather statistics about which places have the highest birthrate, and contaminate their water with something that will sterilize them. (Better yet, their water treatment plant)

      Dangerous as this may be, it’s the least-effort scenario I can imagine, in economic, environmental, and social costs.

      • Mark says:

        Could be a bit genocidal.

        I wonder if there is some way to make sure that women only have one or two children – disease wise.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          It is, but it’s also the point: rather than just killing them, they still get to live their lives rather than drop dead.

          Other wannabe cool scenarios (nukes, viruses) and the such are far more larger in scale. My solution seems the best I can come up with from a cost-benefit viewpoint.

          The nuke scenario is especially hilarious when you consider that the population needs to go down but so does the habitable area.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I mean, I feel like this is a trick question. Like Anon said, how much, to what end? What timeframe? Immediately, or 100 years? What’s my technology level? Who am I? Because if I am invading alien species intent on building a dyson sphere, maybe I can just hurl re-direct an asteroid and laugh as NASA/Bruce Willis fail to save the Earth.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Convince the AIs that paperclip production is The Most Important Thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Divine Intervention.

      Anything else is pretty much instant global war, or quick domination of the world by defectors.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Wait a hundred years or so. That’s when average world birthrate is expected to go under average world death rate.

      • alef says:

        > That’s when average world birthrate is expected to go under average world death rate.

        I never know what to make of this. I assume you are referring to the global decline in fertility, particularly as societies become wealthier. By now this just seems to be a fairly robust fact about the modern world so, granted continued progress in the world, we should really expect global birthrate to fall near/below replacement in the foreseeable future. I guess any long term demographic projection has to be approached with caution, but this would seem to be backed strongly by the evidence. (Furthermore, it’s a really nice thing to believe IMO; it makes the future look much brighter if Malthus never arrives.)

        And yet … where is evolution in this? Wealthier societies with a reasonable safety net will today allow one to have a large number of ‘successful’ (live to adulthood) children, and even if your life in doing so isn’t a fulfilling one, the selective edge of (say) 5 offspring vs 1 or 0 is seems huge. Even if biology can’t do much over 5 or 6 generations (even against this pressure?) why shouldn’t we expect highly-fertile sub-cultures to utterly prevail over a hundred year timespan? I think there probably is a reason why not, or this would be more apparent already, but I’d like to understand it better: why is the evolutionary argument not right/compelling?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Because memes evolve faster than genes, is the short answer.

          • Anonymous says:

            OTOH, there almost certainly is something like a genetic resistance to certain memes. I expect that in the long run, resistance to anti-natalist ideas will be bred out of the human population. The memetic plague of anti-natalism is particularly pronounced in our time, but I expect that a substantial minority of us will make it through this evolutionary bottleneck.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The gripping hand is, however, that resistance to today’s memes does not imply resistance to tomorrow’s.

            Whatever survives, survives – meaning that whatever memetics color our brains in the future will be perfectly adapted to filling whatever emotional or physical need that evolution cranks up.

            That is the real kicker; memes flourish best exactly when they redirect and “fulfill” evolutionary drives.

          • Anonymous says:

            Derp. I meant, “bred into”.

          • alef says:

            I’m still sincerely puzzled by my original question, but your short answer doesn’t enlighten me. There are memes (certain religious beliefs, others) than encourage high fertility. Even if we take biology off the table (and a 5:1 selection ratio, or more extreme, is this definitely right?) why isn’t there a huge selection pressure to high fertility beliefs.

          • Anonymous says:

            @alef

            What do you mean, there isn’t? There totally is. We’re in the meat grinder right now.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Alef –

            Because two people spending their effort converting people to their meme is more efficient than two people spending their effort producing more people for their meme, and memes are penalized for complexity (or rather, complexity doesn’t reproduce well).

            Breeding memetics are the herbivores of memetic evolution. Conversion memetics are carnivores. The metaphor works right down to running into trouble when they run out of herbivores to eat.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Why do you say that having many offspring gives people a selective edge? It doesn’t. Offspring are not the parents. And my existence grants absolutely nothing to my distant ancestors – who are all still dead and who all still spent a great deal of their lives seeing that their children would thrive, partially in the hope that their children would take care of them in their old age.

          Regardless of whether you’re seeing this as a cultural selection or a personal selection, the below analysis should still stand – cultures and people both change, even in isolation, which they aren’t. At a minimum technology and environment forces that change:

          I see in this a balance between two kinds of egocentrism: 1) Time for one’s self, spent on one’s self (and possibly partner) – this includes siloed work at one’s company. 2) Identifying kids as an extension of one’s self, and thus having them.

          There is a tension between 1 & 2, and the balance changes as means of living change. Too much of an emphasis on 1 used to mean having no support in one’s old age, or against one’s enemies. In many ways having children now adds to burdens far more than it takes away from burdens (children are no longer co-workers with the parents, and making older siblings take care of younger [ala 19 kids] is beginning to be seen as unfair behavior, and also may have a negative impact on those kids’ own children #s). And since children are now far less likely than prior centuries to follow in the same work or beliefs as their parents, that form of egocentrism is weakening.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think he means “people” collectively, rather than as a bunch of individuals. If you regard, say, blood relatives, or even ideological-religious groups as collective peoples, then having many offspring does, in fact, help them to survive over time. Individuals come and go, but the collective survives.

            Or it doesn’t.

          • alef says:

            I don’t understand your comment.
            I don’t have any idea what it means that a person has a selective edge. But I assume (perhaps this is where we differ -?) that the desire to have (and then love/support) children has a significant genetic component. I imagine a genetic situation that encourages someone to have as many children as they can, regardless of one’s “self” situation. Nowadays, in a western society, those children have a solid chance at thriving no matter what else your life is like. Why aren’t these genetic (or memetic) cases being selected for with a pressure rarely seen before in nature?

          • Anonymous says:

            @alef

            They are. Where are you getting the idea that they aren’t?

          • alef says:

            > They are. Where are you getting the idea that they aren’t?

            Because today’s western societies just aren’t growing that much in size, especially after removing net immigration. Imagine a gene (or meme) that urge one to have as many children as possible. Given that society will support all those children, how long or short should it take before we (credibly! evidenced!) hear that “those people” will dominate our future. But there doesn’t seem to be such. O.k. you say, we haven’t waited long enough … ??? … but we’ve see at least three generations where a 5:1 selection ratio is a lower bound (on the metric:- there are no effective resource constraints; breed as much as you can and your children will all be viable). Everything I know says we should be facing Malthus. In reality, it’s not so, indeed (in the west, at least) it seems emphatically the opposite.

          • Anonymous says:

            @alef

            Because today’s western societies just aren’t growing that much in size, especially after removing net immigration.

            Indeed they aren’t.

            Imagine a gene (or meme) that urge one to have as many children as possible. Given that society will support all those children, how long or short should it take before we (credibly! evidenced!) hear that “those people” will dominate our future.

            The Amish were already mentioned by Douglas Knight.

            They definitely have a pro-natalist memeplex, and given that they allow free exit, and only 20% or so leave the Amish (), I expect that they have plenty of genetic basis supporting that memeplex.

            I’m not saying they will actually do it, because I’ve no ability to look into the future. The Amish certainly didn’t seem to be on a road to domination a hundred years ago – but they are now, but it seems largely because they stayed the way they were, and the outside world has changed.

            The New England Puritans pulled off a similar feat of reproduction, but subsequently appear to have lost their memeplex. I can’t find a source, but I remember Puritan descendants being something in the range of tens of millions currently.

            But there doesn’t seem to be such. O.k. you say, we haven’t waited long enough … ??? … but we’ve see at least three generations where a 5:1 selection ratio is a lower bound (on the metric:- there are no effective resource constraints; breed as much as you can and your children will all be viable).

            I’m not sure what you mean. Humans aren’t like chickens, which can raise like twelve chicks per hen per year. Human reproduction is really slow.

            The last high-fertility generation was around a hundred years ago, but society overall has fallen under replacement only about 25-45 years ago. This isn’t quite enough time to easily see the problem, given the advances in staving off death. But if you look at the population pyramids, they have changed, a lot. Lots more old people, lots fewer children.

            Additionally, high-fertility people don’t have easily-identifiable birthmarks on their forehead. You could be surrounded by high-fertility genotypes and not realize. (And at the moment, the hedonic/careerist memeplex is suppressing most of natural fertility, so it’s even less likely to spot those who would have big families in a different social environment.)

            People who are a) natalists, b) drink their Kool-Ade, c) are resistant to social pressure to have few or no kids, are few and far between. Some countries have concentrated and organized minorities, such as the aforementioned Amish in the USA and the ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel. But most places, there’s no organized opposition to the basic lifepath of “pursue happiness, get educated, have a career”.

            Everything I know says we should be facing Malthus. In reality, it’s not so, indeed (in the west, at least) it seems emphatically the opposite.

            Yes. We probably will face Malthus eventually, but at the moment food production is so easy, we’d probably not reach it yet even if we were reproducing like rabbits.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Evolution takes time because human generations are long.

          In 1920, there were 5 thousand Amish and 100 million Americans. Today there are 300 thousand Amish and 300 million Americans. At that relative growth rate, it will take 230 years for the Amish to become a majority.

  25. Mark says:

    I think there was a post on here, or a links thread, about how the ancient Chinese argued against explicitly stating laws, so that people would be forced to obey the spirit of the law rather than quibbling over the letter.

    Anyone remember where that post was?

    • AlphaGamma says:

      This is discussed in the Imperial Chinese Law chapter of David Friedman’s Legal Systems Very Different from Ours which Scott reviewed here.

      (note that the version linked and presumably reviewed is an earlier one than the one I link to)

    • Tenacious D says:

      To add to AlphaGamma’s answer, I think the first couple of excerpts here are what you’re looking for:

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/11/15/list-of-passages-i-highlighted-in-my-copy-of-legal-systems-very-different-from-ours/

      Edit: quaelegit beat me to it

    • Mark says:

      Thanks!

    • Matthew S. says:

      This strategy has some drawbacks if there is disagreement about the spirit of the law.

      • Protagoras says:

        It is a strategy that favors the political elite, as their interpretations will always carry the day when there is vagueness.

    • BBA says:

      I read somewhere that the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was made intentionally vague for similar reasons – that if it had been more specific, a hostile court could use the language to thwart the amendment’s intentions. (This happened anyway, and although we’re closer to its intent now, from a textualist perspective the cure was worse than the disease. But again, the framers of the 14th Amendment weren’t textualists.)

    • onyomi says:

      One interesting point Bodde notes is that the Chinese rarely offered religious justifications for law codes. Instead, laws were described as explicitly by man, for man, and, in very early sources, even a foreign innovation. The Book of Documents, for example, describes a now-extinct non-Han people who, unlike the ancient Han people, used severe punishments to order their society rather than moral example. The high god took pity on all those innocent victims of harsh punishments and wiped out these people.

      This is also a point on which the early Daoists and Confucians agreed: Laozi says “when laws are many, thieves and robbers are many.” Confucius says “I have heard many cases, but what I want is to not need to hear cases.”

      The idealized compromise with the Legalists, who wanted strict, clearly defined, evenly applied law, was to have written law but with lots of wiggle room for consideration of e.g. status differences, extenuating circumstances, the astrological desirability of meting out punishment (certain times of year, such as periods of new growth, were deemed inauspicious for harsh punishments and executions, for example).

  26. onyomi says:

    I’ve noticed in the past few years a lot of comics, memes, etc. making fun of people who are concerned about big technological and/or cultural changes by essentially pointing out that culture has always been changing, before people had their eyes glued to cell phones people were worried about too much novel reading, etc. etc.

    Historical perspective is nice antidote to alarmism, sure, as well as a good reminder how good we have it compared to people of times past in so many ways. That said, this kind of thing has really started to rub me the wrong way because it seems to support, essentially, a Hegel-Fukuyama view of history where everything that happens is inevitable and good and anyway, it’s all been done before anyway, so no need to worry.

    But problem is this isn’t true. People can really be more or less alienated. Art and music can get worse. Culture and behavioral norms can get worse. I’m not saying go full Amish, but the idea that you would actually consider what sort of effect a new technology is going to have on a culture does not deserve to be mocked.

    • Matt M says:

      But problem is this isn’t true. People can really be more or less alienated. Art and music can get worse. Culture and behavioral norms can get worse.

      Sure, it can. But if the overall historical trend has seemingly always been “things get better” then I think the extreme onus is on critics of technology to prove why this time will be different. It’s not just that people today say “cell phones will destroy society” and before they said “newspapers will destroy society” and were wrong, it’s that the exact specific criticisms they have of cell phones are the exact same ones that previous generations had of newspaper. The same criticisms of online porn are the same criticisms of Elvis Presley.

      If you are alleging a huge shift in broad historical trends, you need to prove why we should take you seriously, and you damn well better have a new argument…

      • albatross11 says:

        Is it really true that practices get better, or is it just that they get closer to current practices/values as they get closer to the present?

        MLK has that famous quote about the arc of history bending toward justice. But it might be an illusion, the way every point in an expanding universe will appear to be the center of the expansion. Suppose we are no more likely to have the right moral values than anyone at any other time/place, and that societal moral values slowly and randomly drift over time. Then we would expect to observe the arc of history bending toward justice.

        In some alternative universe, the societal moral consensus is that eating any animal or animal product is unthinkable, that slavery is a moral necessity for caring for the lesser races, and that homosexuality is a grave sin that must be stamped out at all costs. Over time, people in that universe will note that meat eating has diminished to almost none (like cockfighting in our universe) over time, that opposition to slavery has faded out and slavery has expanded to benevolently care for all those lesser peoples who need to pick our cotton for us for their own good, and that, while people a hundred years ago tolerated a certain amount of homosexuality as kind-of open secrets, we’ve stamped out most of that stuff now, and filled the asylums and prisons with gays. And they will see that as the arc of history bending toward justice. “Why, do you know that in the past, there were people, apparently no crazier than anyone else, arguing that we should abolish slavery and treat the races equally? And most of them made these “moral” arguments over dinners of cooked animals, sometimes while associating with obvious gays as though they were just normal people instead of pariahs? What can you say–the past is a foreign country.”

        • onyomi says:

          I think this is an important potential bias to keep in mind: the fact that history tends to look more like the present the closer you get to it combined with status quo bias may give the impression you are on a morally positive trajectory at any given time.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know when this became a moral debate. I’m talking about life expectancy, GDP per capita, and virtually any other measurable outcome you might generally use to measure “quality of life.”

            If you have some sort of moral system wherein the best thing is to live in the woods alone, and everyone having cell phones makes it harder for you to do that for some reason – then fine, complain away.

            But it’s hard for people to sell me on “technology is destroying society!” when virtually all of the objective measures we use to evaluate how “societies” are doing are trending rapidly upward.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Define “get better”. I don’t think anyone doubts that current technology is more advanced than previous technology and that people live longer lives with higher rates of consumption. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

        As far as criticism being the same, the difference in scale is massive. Maybe there were people who read so much they missed out on life’s experiences. But that’s different from nearly every person having a smartphone. The criticisms may have been similar but the situations are certainly not the same.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Do you have examples of people saying that newspapers, cell phones, and Elvis would destroy society? Did they say anything more than “destroy society”? If they said something specific, did society change in that specific way?

        I don’t know about those examples, but there are lots of examples where people made concrete predictions that came true. It’s just that we, today, think positively of these changes. Maybe because we adapted and there’s more to the change than the headline, or maybe it’s because we changed our morality to fit the new status quo (cf albatross).

      • toastengineer says:

        The fact that children almost never play outside and get most of their socialization on the Internet, which from my experience and apparently a lot of scientist’s opinion is way lower quality socialization than the real thing, as opposed to our grandparents and to some degree parents generation where you could just go to the local empty lot and meet other kids to kick a ball around with, seems to me to be a provably existent and somewhat provably negative change.

        I remember being young and hearing stories from my grandfather and reading stories from the 20s-60s about what children got to experience back then and being extremely jealous. Kids raced around in wagons and home-made wooden cars back then, I was lucky if I spoke to another person outside of school more than once every few months!

        • Nornagest says:

          I think that’s less a product of technology and more a product of an insanely overprotective parenting culture.

          • Well... says:

            It’s certainly both to some extent or another, though I think “insanely overprotective” is unfair. I’m a parent now, but I was raised to believe “stranger danger” and all that stuff, and even though I kind of unlearned it later in life there are a lot of other external enforcement mechanisms — social and otherwise — that keep it intact for many people of my generation. Add to this that the availability of screens in all their forms also lowers the cost to parents of keeping kids inside.

            (With no computer in the house and none of our 13 TV channels being of interest to us kids most of the day, our mom would have been driven crazy if my brothers and me were kept in the house all day.)

            So my basic point is, I agree parents keep their kids inside too much, but I don’t think it’s because parents are insane and overprotective.

          • Nornagest says:

            The thing about insane cultures is that once they get bad enough, it becomes rational to do insane things because not doing so would carry too much stigma.

          • Well... says:

            I agree, that’s part of it. But I’m saying another part of it is that keeping your kids inside in front of screens is kinda shitty, but it isn’t that crazy — and I say that with a solid record of ludditism, smartphone-hating, and instincts toward free-range parenting styles, at least where play is concerned.

            Technology lowers the cost of keeping your kids inside. It’s a pulling force.

            Another factor might be divorce: with no fathers around (and sometimes even with), moms don’t have the confidence to let their kids roam, so the natural maternal neuroticism overpowers the more rational tendencies.

    • Well... says:

      Agreed. And worse, the mocking/dismissal is almost always done as a way to justify the technology adoption, or else to convey a sense that “it’s [the current year] so OF COURSE we should have [whatever new technology].” It sabotages even the attempt to think more deliberately about our technology adoption choices.

      • yodelyak says:

        Chiming in for further agreement. If you look for them, there are *definitely* multiple readily obtained examples of things getting worse, culturally.

        Fall of Rome -> Middle Ages.
        Amarna -> post-Amarna Egypt (?)
        Any of several transitions in China
        Greenland nordic community pre-collapse => post-collapse

        There are also really persuasive examples of specific technologies nowadays that were really harmful. (E.g. lead in gasoline) and unexplained bad trends that might relate to technological change (why is everyone fatter?) and kinds of technological change that seem almost assuredly must have some costs, but whose costs are the kind nobody can be bothered to find, because that tech is a ship that has sailed and can’t be recalled. (does radio/cell phone/etc radiation mess with our bodies? Does widely available pornography mess with social cohesion and result in Nash equilibria where anomie and alienation are inevitable for thinking people? Maybe there’s no point in anyone researching these questions, because we’re not putting these genies back in their bottles.) Is the right description of the service Facebook provides is “It captured your network and everyone else’s, and is leasing our network back to us, where the rental price is the price of navigating an algorithmic interface aimed at maximizing addictiveness/advertising effectiveness.”

        It’s worth thinking about these things and, where possible, aiming to coordinate a little to have that better, more deliberate life.

        • Matt M says:

          There are also really persuasive examples of specific technologies nowadays that were really harmful. (E.g. lead in gasoline) and unexplained bad trends that might relate to technological change (why is everyone fatter?)

          A. How do the problems associated with lead in gasoline compare to a counterfactual wherein gasoline was not invented until an unleaded version could be worked out?

          B. Similar. As a hypothesis, perhaps everyone is fatter because food is no longer meaningfully scarce. Fatness is the price we pay for eliminating large-scale starvation.

          • albatross11 says:

            Gasoline was invented first, lead was an additive to make engines run better.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah. Gasoline engines are prone to abnormal ignition (“knocking”), which damages engines over time and causes various other problems, and which can be minimized either with some complicated engineering work on the engine or by anti-knock additives in the fuel. Tetraethyl lead is a cheap and effective anti-knock agent that also happens to be a neurotoxin.

          • yodelyak says:

            I wasn’t pointing at these things as definitive, just as proof that being reflective about ways technology can make things worse is a valuable. As in, otherwise we wouldn’t have noticed that lead was making us stupid and/or violent. Otherwise we wouldn’t be looking for ways to counteract any possible harmful effects of more often seeing friends via Facebook than via real life. And so on.

          • Protagoras says:

            However, tetraethyl lead is not the only anti-knock agent known at the time; it was known at the time that ethanol blends also have reduced knock. The standard story would have it that tetraethyl lead was used partly because the oil industry was hostile to ethanol (presumably because an ethanol blend includes less gasoline, and they didn’t like the idea of reducing demand for their major product).

    • melboiko says:

      A common trope in that discourse is to mention that Plato/Socrates decried the divine invention of writing:

      > If people learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder.

      I find it boundlessly amusing that people appear to cite this with the implication that Plato would be wrong. To me it’s perfectly evident that he was obviously correct. People have, indeed, ceased to exercise their memories thanks to writing. How many song performers do you know who could recite a whole epic comparable to the Iliad? (“Those guys in the Balkans”—the remainder of the oral tradition; my point exactly). Hell, how many people can even recite a long-ish poem or a good section of a holy book? How tidy is your memory palace these days? How long has it been since mnemonic aids like “in the first place” became dead idioms?

      “But it was a price worth paying”. Natürlich. This is also perfectly obvious. The kind of externalization of expertise that we’re building on the Internet is worth its price, too. These are, nonetheless, prices; it’s illogical to pretend that progress is just progress, that nothing is ever lost. Just compare our lifestyles to that of hunter-gathering.

      On that note, it’s remarkable that one of the most common sacrifices demanded by the God of Progress are kinds of pleasure. Roland Barthes has a snippet describing the early French tram cars: they had open train wagons at the tail, meant for cargo but also usable by people in the everyday; and going in an open wagon was a delight, a festive choice, people smiled and rode with the wind. I had similar experiences as a child in rural Brazil, driving atop the cargo compartments of trucks and pickups, happily growing brown with dust. These practices were, of course, incredibly dangerous and not very smart, and that they were abolished is a progress—with regards to safety. But in terms of delight, progress took away a kind of fun in transportation. It gave us new ways of enjoy (e.g. a 3DS), but ate those old ones. It appears to me to be nonsensical to claim that the average Westerner has more fun than a Pirahã; by any neuro metric such as cortisol, dopamines etc. the Pirahã will prove to do just as well, pre-progress hardly changing from post-; progress give us new delights while destroying others, in matters of fun we have “change” more than “progress”. For those who miss the specific kinds of pleasure of their childhood, it’s perfectly rational to feel sad that progress took them away. If you’re craving for waffles, you’ll be sad that waffles are over, even if they give you free cake in exchange. (In other metrics—e.g. the number of people who can have fun, or how long are they alive to have fun in the first place—true progress is possible.)

    • Machine Interface says:

      Fatalistic and nihilistic view: things are not getting better or worse (because that doesn’t mean anything objectively), they’re just changing, they always have and always will, and adopting new technology is not actually a choice. Societies that are late in the technological game get swept away by early adopters. And once a technology is here there is no coming back. Once hunter-gatherers get a taste of agricultural life, taste cheese, alcohol, bread and cultivar vegetable, they have zero incentive to get back to the foraging life. Same for agricultural people getting a taste of the industrial life.

      Even the Amish are not really a reversion, because to be allowed to be part of American society, they still have to use electricity and computers for a number of professional activities, and they still vaccinate their kids, use modern roads and have direct or indirect access to news and information from all around the world. They don’t live like premodern, agricultural humans, they live like poor industrial farmers in developping countries.

      • yodelyak says:

        Onyomi says

        That said, this kind of thing has really started to rub me the wrong way because it seems to support, essentially, a Hegel-Fukuyama view of history where everything that happens is inevitable and good and anyway, it’s all been done before anyway, so no need to worry.

        People can really be more or less alienated. Art and music can get worse. Culture and behavioral norms can get worse. I’m not saying go full Amish, but the idea that you would actually consider what sort of effect a new technology is going to have on a culture does not deserve to be mocked.

        You respond with nihilism and fatalism, and conclude no need to worry.

        If I understand Onyomi–or anyway, if you want to know what was in my head when I agreed with Onyomi, well, your comment is an example of the problem being complained of.

        I see this pretty commonly with most of the places I encounter nihilism and fatalism day-to-day. It’s not from people who are nihilistic or fatalistic in any overarching philosophical way. (As in, they still experience their lives as containing meaningful projects where effortful engagement with the problems can improve prospects of success.) It’s just knee-jerk mockery of ideas they find inconvenient as insufficiently “woke” to the meaninglessness/futility of “it all” at the same time that they plan to go right on taking convenient ideas as fertile ground for effortful pursuits and meaning.

        So, I respond: The fact that you may have some degree of choice w/r/t/ what you do about the fact that so many of your own/your kids’ friendships are only-mostly or online-only is *fact* and you do have a *choice* to make about what you do in the face of that fact, and philosophical fatalism/nihilism about meaningness can be a balm (maybe) for the general philosophical malaises that you may experience when faced with this fact, and with the limited range of options you have to respond to the fact (care bears explain philosophical malaise) but it remains the case that you have a choice to make, as do the rest of us, and we don’t need to be mocked for considering our options mindfully.

        • Machine Interface says:

          I am not mocking anyone. I don’t believe in free will, so I don’t believe in choice. I trully do not believe in objective values or morality. This is not a balm or a curse. It’s just what I believe.

          I am not saying Onyomi’s concerns are laughable (or rather, I am not saying they are any more laughable than any other kind of concern stemming from any other variety of moral realism). I am explaining why, from my point of view, this is a non-question.

          To the question “what do we do about the disturbances brought about by technological progress”, I just answer “we do nothing, because there’s nothing to do, and because there’s no ‘we'”.

          • toastengineer says:

            I am not mocking anyone. I don’t believe in free will, so I don’t believe in choice.

            And yet you’ve chosen ~200 English words to string together and a website to put them on….

            If you have no value function then why do you do anything?

          • Machine Interface says:

            I have desires. I follow them. This requires no free choice. Otherwise even a jellyfish has free will.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Machine Interface: Hm. That’s not what I expected you to say. If you’d said what I’d expected (something still aimed at telling us to stop worrying about technology), I’d have left the conversation, as it’d seem we were talking past each other. Although it looks like you understand my view, it still seems that there is no more to add to this conversation. How could anything change your view, after all? Nice chatting, anyway.

  27. Machine Interface says:

    Heraldry in western/central Europe is an interesting example of pre-modern standardization.

    Starting from fairly local and idosyncratic systems in the early middle ages, by the Renaissance French, English, German and Southern European heraldry had largely converged to the same inventory of tinctures (up to using the same crosshatch patterns in lieu of color when the latter wasn’t avalaible), the same spatial divisions of the coat of arms, the same rules of composition/combination, the same figures, and the same conventional written system to describe a given coat of arms unambiguously, so that a German noble reading the translated description of a Portuguese coat of arms could accuratedly picture its appearance.

    This wasn’t *completely* standardized – there was a lot of stylistic leeway in the interpretation of a given description within the framework imposed by heraldric rules, although this was mainly equivalent to glyph/police variation in a text: just like an A was an A whether it was written in humanist or gothic script, a “lion rampant” is a “lion rampant” whether its design is extremely flowery or on the contrary very minimalistic.

    This is speculation, but I imagine the origins of this standardization are to be found in the frequent intermarriages of the various noble families of Europe; thus the different systems were frequently exposed to each other and mixed together, resulting in a natural drive for homogenization, perhaps reinforced by coats of arms having a legal weight as a symbol of nobility, and thus many of the rules becoming enshrined into law as well, and not just local law, but into the “international” law of the time, the codes that all the monarchies came to agree upon regarding aristocratic matters.

    This is in sharp contrast, for instance, with units of measurements, which until the industrial era often varied from province to province, sometimes even from village to village, and the standardisation of which was often brought about by sudden and authoritarian movements (the French revolution instated the metric system, which Napoleon’s conquests then propagated through Europe).

    • melboiko says:

      Is there such a thing as a multilingual glossary of heraldry terms? I’m curious to see how things like “lion rampant” were rendered in various languages.

      • dark orchid says:

        I believe they were rendered in French everywhere, as it was the lingua franca of the time? Even in English we adopt the French words and word order for “lion rampant” for example.

      • Lambert says:

        I’d imagine that by the renaissance, everyone involved with heraldry could speak Latin.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        German wikipedia has a small dictionary of colors, in German, French, and English. The French and English are slightly different. They are often spelled differently, but there are some substantial differences, like Vert vs Sinope. The German is completely different, ordinary German words. I post this mainly to suggest that the prior commenters are wrong, although I’m not sure. In particular, I’m not sure the German column is intended as historically accurate technical terms, rather than modern descriptions. But gelöwte Leopard and leopardierender Löwe (leopard rampant and lion passant) sound like technical terms.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Aks and ye shall receive: http://www.heraldica.org/topics/glossary/atlas.htm

        Based on this, it appears that English more or less directly adopts the French terms, other Romance language loan the French terms or translate them if there’s a close equivalent, while German and Dutch generally prefer to translate them and use native syntax rather than French one. So for “lion rampant” we get:

        lion rampant (fr./eng.)
        león rampante (es.)
        leone rampante (it.)
        steigender Löwe (de.)
        klimmende leeuw (nl.)

        Though borrowings do also occure in German and Dutch, as can be seen in the names of some of the tinctures:
        English > Azure, Gules, Vert, Purpure, Sable
        German > Blau, Rot, Grün, Purpur, Schwarz
        Dutch > Azuur, Keel, Sinopel*, Puper, Sabel,

        (*: borrowed from French “sinople”, which is the French heraldic term for “green”, whereas “vert” which English borrowed is the ordinary French word for “green”).

    • In addition to intermarriage, you also had tournaments with knights competing from a variety of countries. That doesn’t force standardization–all you really need is the ability to recognize the members of your own team. But it does expose people of one country to the heraldry of other countries.

      I addition, of course, a lord might have holdings in more than one country, hence want to be able to describe his device in the same way in different places.

    • Peffern says:

      I don’t know if you intended but I’m giggling at “standard”-ization.

  28. gbdub says:

    The Olympic Mixed Doubles Curling is down to the medal round, and (Spoilers!) the gold medal game is no surprise – reigning world champions Jenny Perret and Martin Rios of Switzerland take on Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris of Canada.

    Canada won the round robin game between the two handily, but it’s hard to bet against the Swiss. Canada probably has the best chance of any country to sweep (ha!) the three curling events, this will be a tough out for them.

    The bronze medal match is first, and is between Russia and Norway.

    • Urstoff says:

      Why is curling gendered? Are there significant athletic differences between men and women that affect curling performance?

      • Artificirius says:

        Anecdotally, it does seem like Men’s Curling can make more energetic shots, which have certain advantages in clearing the house.

      • Iain says:

        gbdub had a good writeup in the previous open thread. Relevant section:

        The more upper body mass and strength you have, the better you can sweep, so male curlers are essentially throwing to a wider target. Strength also helps with the delivery itself (men can throw harder while staying in control) but this is a smaller effect.

      • gbdub says:

        Thanks for the link, Iain.

        It really is mostly sweeping. People unfamiliar with curling tend to really underestimate how athletic sweeping is, and how much of a difference it can make in the shot. A curling shot covers about a hundred feet from the time of release until it stops, and might take 30 seconds to do that. During that time, you might need to be sweeping as hard as you can – pressing as much force as possible into the broom head and moving it as fast as possible. If you aren’t out of breath after a hard sweep, you could have been sweeping harder. In a 10-end game, the two lead players will repeat this 60 times. Yeah, curlers might not always look like the fine physical specimens on the speed skating track, but out of shape curlers will never be elite sweepers.

        The ability to carry a stone an extra couple feet over your competition is a huge asset – you’ll miss less shots because there are a wider range of weights that will result in the stone coming to rest where you want it. You can shoot a wider variety of shots with lower risk – maybe you can use a good sweep to sneak around a guard and then let the rock finish with a strong curl and end up nicely buried. Sweeping can fine tune the trajectory of a take out shot – meaning that not only will you hit the target stone, but your shot rock will roll exactly where you want it.

        Net result of that, plus the second factor (more speed while remaining in control) is that elite men have shotmaking accuracies (discussed in my last post) about 10% or a little less better than similarly elite women. That’s basically the difference between the best and worst finishing teams at The Brier (the top Men’s tournament) – and doesn’t account for the fact that the men might be attempting objectively tougher shots.

        Of course tradition also plays a role – not only in gender segregating the sport to begin with, but also in that there may be a larger pool of men playing at a seriously competitive level, there is more money in men’s professional play (therefore more full-time curlers that support themselves with the sport), etc.

        FWIW, when this has come up among curlers, the usual consensus is that the best women’s team would probably rank somewhere in the Top 20 of men’s teams – not nearly as far off as say tennis or golf, but not enough to be consistently competitive.

        I will say at the club level curling is usually coed until it gets quite competitive. At this low-amateur level individual skill matters more than gender. Then again our club has plenty of interest to support one men’s only league and a few coed leagues, but no ladies’ league.

  29. DunnoWhatToDo says:

    Does anyone miss their teenage sex drive? I know I do. It’s one of the few pleasures I have in life. Is there any way to get it back?

    • Anonymous says:

      Stop watching porn.

      • DunnoWhatToDo says:

        Haven’t watched porn in a week, to be honest. I just miss being able to feel more than “wow, she’s cute”.

        • Anonymous says:

          How old are you?

          Try eating more stuff that boosts your T-level, like red meat, eggs, cabbage, etc.

          Stop drinking alcohol, and reduce your sugar intake. Stop eating soy.

          If you are overweight, lose the fat.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            Almost 24. I’ll try the red meat thing, eggs can be okay, never ate too many vegetables.

            I drink alcohol very rarely, but I do eat lots of sugary stuff. No soy though.

            Only slightly overweight because of lifting weights.

          • Anonymous says:

            @DunnoWhatToDo

            OK. So the action plan is to:
            a) drastically cut refined sugar intake, since that probably sinks your testosterone a lot,
            b) cease porn and masturbation forthwith, since that reliably lowers sex drive and may cause erectile dysfunction.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            @anon

            Is there any proof those are the actual reason, by the way? Something kind of feels off..

          • Anonymous says:

            @DunnoWhatToDo

            How am I supposed to know? All I know is what you’ve told me, and according to my learnings, some of those things may be the cause of your loss of sex drive. If you want better advice than me helping you google this suff, I suggest visiting an actual doctor.

          • Protagoras says:

            I would say actual doctor is the way to go if you’re having a reduction in sex drive you find unacceptable at 24. Not that any of those other things couldn’t possibly help, but unless you’re unusually sensitive to something they shouldn’t be having a dramatic effect at 24. I seem to do a decent number of things that I shouldn’t, according to previous comments in this thread, and yet have plenty of sex drive in my 40s. I’d put it down to individual variation (which seems to be huge), but you say you were fine in your teens, so I’d say you really should investigate the possibility that you’ve developed some health problem between then and now.

          • Murphy says:

            @DunnoWhatToDo

            if you’d said 30’s or 40’s that would be unsurprising but if you’re a reasonably healthy early 20’s that’s a tad unusual….

            I mean some reduction from the teenage “holy shit my mind is filled with this all the time” levels of sex drive is normal but such reduction that it’s causing you distress is a bit more worrying.

            re: anon, porn and masturbation are probably irrelevant except in the super-short term. Sugar consumption, while good to control also shouldn’t destroy your sex drive.

            I’ll agree with Protagoras, if it’s such an extreme dropoff that it’s distressing you it might be a sign of something you might to check out with a doctor.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            OP here. Lemme try something new here..

            Hypothesis: my sex drive has been reduced.

            In support of the hypothesis is my own anecdote. But my own anecdote is based on (unreliable?) memory (or perhaps comparison?) to my 19 year old self.

            So, obviously I need to find evidence that my sex drive actually did go lower, rather than me believing that it actually did go lower. Perhaps it’s a cognitive thing?

            Any ideas for some good tests? I’ve fired up my (inactive) facebook account and looked at pictures of girls I like, and yep, my reaction is still “hot damn, what a babe”. So I still have some. A more generalized version of this idea is to put myself in situations where people’s sex drive does fire up, and see what happens. I’ve tried imaging a situation where I get a hug from a girl, and yep, I did feel like just lifting her up in the air and sticking her up against a wall and doing all kind of fun stuff. I even got turned on a bit, to.

            A different tangent would be that I’m more able to control it, but something doesn’t feel right about it.

            Anything I can do to improve my hypothesis testing?

      • Incurian says:

        Watch more porn?

    • Aapje says:

      @DunnoWhatToDo

      No, it decreased the gap between my needs and what I can realize, which is good.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Does anyone miss their teenage sex drive? I know I do.

      Absolutely not, no. My life is much simpler and more quiet now that I don’t constantly get the urge to shag everything with breasts.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Pretty much, lol. Being a teenage male sucks. Quite frustrating, if anything.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve had not quite the opposite, but the inverse experience – my sex drive has gotten stronger as I’ve aged. Definitely annoying at times, but also a source of motivation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It’s hard to compare since now I am a married man and actually getting some on the regular, but this is closer to my experience, excluding the madness that is age 19. Anecdotally, I’d say that more sex actually leads to more libido (it probably raises your T levels or something), but it becomes much more controllable because you know where and when your next fix is coming from.

      • Murphy says:

        The few times my SO and I have had to do the long distance thing I’ve had a reminder of how much more sucky life is with a dialed-up sex drive. It is so so much easier to enjoy normal social events when the bit in the back of my head isn’t screaming “hey! HEY! Hey! Have you noticed that girl has amazing tits! Hey! Hey! HEY! Look at the amazing curve on those hips! HEY! HeY!”

        The reduction from simply sleeping cuddled up with my SO grants almost zenlike inner calm by comparison.

    • Matt C says:

      I miss my sex drive when I was 30. I see you’re only 24. Gather ye rosebuds.

      Probably a lot of variation between people here. At 16 I was constantly thinking about sex. Yeah, I might take it if I was married to someone with an equal drive. Otherwise, at 16, it was to the point of being a nuisance.

      I can tell you that the really big drop in my sex drive (routinely having sex twice or more in a session to basically never doing so) happened in my mid 30s. Sucks to get old. You eventually get used to it. I am happy to say that the continuing decline from 35 to almost-50 has been quite gradual and mild in comparison.

      You can be reasonably optimistic that sex will remain fun. I have some tendencies toward anhedonia myself. Sex, and (less so) eating still stay enjoyable even when not much else is. Maybe you should take up cooking.

      I agree with the other guy that you might want to see a doctor if you’re sure you’ve experienced a sharp drop in drive. I also agree with the usual health recommendations here: exercise, enough sleep, not eating crap, not overstressed with responsibility.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      No. The constant erections, hours upon hours of time lost watching sexy things that I immediately lost interest in despite seeming incredibly compelling shortly before (not just porn but also bad movies with sexy parts, or even MTV spring break bikini dancing shows,) powerful urges to betray lifetime friends at the drop of a hat, not being able to enjoy the company of exclusively male friends at a get-together because “this is too much of a sausage party,” never knowing when to escalate while talking to any remotely attractive female, even in obviously inappropriate situations, always wanting to escalate things to sex as soon as possible instead of delaying things to make sure there’s a good interpersonal basis with a mate, the urge to dominate and all the side effects like driving like an asshole, not being able to pay attention in class from 13-21, sweating (god the sweating!)

      Don’t get me wrong, I would never be happy with celibacy or impotency; but every year libido diminishes, the better life is

    • Baeraad says:

      Good lord no. It was a constant source of misery. Not just the being horny all the time, but the being shamed by feminists for being horny all the time. At least these days, society has one less thing to judge me for.

    • powerfuller says:

      Sort of waiting for this to happen to me: my desires being what they are, it seems unlikely I’ll be able to commit to marriage unless I lose much or most of my interest in sex (or marry a magical sexy unicorn).

      • Randy M says:

        Feel free not to elaborate on your complaint, but from my perspective as a married person, sex is a lot more plentiful than the stereotype.

        • powerfuller says:

          Eh, I mostly mean a lack of attraction or intimacy, not frequency. I’ve seldom felt a strong enough connection in that regard to justify permanent exclusivity or to feel capable of offering it. Never mind sexual compatibility having a tenuous relationship to other positive qualities in a spouse. If I cared less about sex, it would be easier. I could go into greater detail, but I should probably be giving up “complaining about my sex life” for Lent.

  30. 2irons says:

    https://promarket.org/angus-deaton-discussed-driver-inequality-america-easier-rent-seekers-affect-policy-much-europe/

    Some good confirmation of the cost disease posts from Angus Deaton. And some hints at why free markets, and making them freer, as opposed to more pro business – would be better for poor people than socialism.

    But resistance to rent-seeking is an issue that both the right and left can get behind. You’ve got libertarians on one hand and left-wingers on the other hand that would agree that rent-seeking is a really bad thing. They may not agree that free market capitalism is a good thing, but they can agree on disliking rent-seeking. Maybe there’s something of a consensus to be built there

    • Matt M says:

      You’ve got libertarians on one hand and left-wingers on the other hand that would agree that rent-seeking is a really bad thing. They may not agree that free market capitalism is a good thing, but they can agree on disliking rent-seeking. Maybe there’s something of a consensus to be built there

      I doubt it.

      “Rent-seeking” strikes me as a boogeyman phrase, like “neoliberal,” seemingly maximally designed to get everyone to agree that it sucks – even while specific examples of it in place remain popular.

      Can you provide me with some specific policy examples of “rent-seeking” that both the left and right hate?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Can you provide me with some specific policy examples of “rent-seeking” that both the left and right hate?

        Requiring schools to buy Epi-Pens, convincing the FDA to block alternatives, and jacking up the price.

        • Matt M says:

          But those are three different policies.

          1. Requiring schools to buy – I don’t think either the left or right really opposes this
          2. Convincing the FDA to block alternatives – The right hates the FDA over-regulating, but the left definitely doesn’t
          3. Jacking up the price – The left hates that markets sometimes result in high prices, but the right doesn’t

          You could not get bipartisan support on a change to any one of these three things individually. And if we could compromise on some sort of deal where we change them all at once, we already would have.

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        Jumping in–the mutually reinforcing dynamic of homeowners in desirable suburbs restricting housing development to avoid newcomers to their schools, the quality of which maintains and enhances their home values. It’s a situation that both the left (wealthy suburbanites lean conservative, and it hits on economic/racial inequality) and right-libertarian (because it’s all propped up by government intervention on free markets in housing and education) sides can hate.

        But of course, the policy answers are diametrically opposed: the left (broadly speaking) wants mandates from the state or federal government (or judiciary) that require integration across communities to level out quality and make the “opportunity hoarders” mix with the rest of society, and more money for poor-off schools. Libertarians want to liberalize land use regulations and build market-based alternatives to public schools, ruining both the means and the incentive for municipalities to restrict housing so heavily. Meanwhile, both the Republic and Democratic parties have large and influential chunks of their constituencies that benefit from the status quo and would (at least in the short term) lose out under either set of alternatives.

        As someone with sympathies for both left and libertarian thinking, I’d love to see a compromise hammered out here, but you’re right to be cynical on the potential for consensus here.

        • Matt M says:

          As someone with sympathies for both left and libertarian thinking, I’d love to see a compromise hammered out here, but you’re right to be cynical on the potential for consensus here.

          I would suggest that the status quo is the compromise. It gives both parties a little bit of what they want, while requiring a little bit of a sacrifice as well.

          Yeah, nobody loves the status quo. But they love it more than they’d love either the left-wing or the right-wing solution.

          So like, it’s not false to say “the one thing we agree on is that this compromise kinda sucks.” But at the same time, it’s not really an actionable thing that can lead to any reasonable change…

          • Matt M says:

            The more I think about this, the more I think I’m onto something here – not just for rent-seeking specifically, but for any sort of scenario where someone jumps up and says: “We all agree that this situation is not ideal! So surely there’s an easy compromise to be had!”

            Consider that any time you are looking at something everyone views as sub-optimal, you are quite possibly looking at the result of a compromise, rather than the opportunity for one.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M: +1

            If it were easy to fix, it would have been fixed by now. So either there’s some reason it’s hard to fix, or there’s nobody with any power to fix it who knows/cares.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It’s a situation that both the left (wealthy suburbanites lean conservative, and it hits on economic/racial inequality)

          I’m not so sure I agree on that. Suburbs are battle-grounds. Looking at the Illinois House of Representatives, I see a bunch of wealthy suburbs represented by Democrats.

          Anecdotally, walking through my neighborhood every day, I see a LOT of “Hate Has No Home Here” and “In this House we believe in Love and Science” placards. Just looking at my precinct, HRC took a good 57% of the vote.

          They also really hate density. So I think there are a lot of wealthy liberal suburban types that still don’t want big apartments going up next door.

          • Brad says:

            There’s certainly some pure aesthetics. Wanting to live on five acres down a long twisty unpaved road isn’t mutually exclusive with almost any ideological positions. (Some kind of extreme green maybe.)

            But on the other hand, when the mooted apartment building isn’t literally next door, when it’s on the other side of town and you aren’t going to see it while riding around on your riding lawn mower, and the increased traffic argument is looking pretty thin given that there’s shopping closer to the proposed site in the other direction, it starts to look at lot like you just don’t want “those” kids in “your” school.

            Which, okay, doesn’t exactly make you Adolf Hitler, but don’t go around with your nose in the air about how left wing you are. Maybe my attitude towards these guys, summed up by:

            The people of old Mississippi
            Should all hang their heads in shame
            I can’t understand how their minds work
            What’s the matter don’t they watch Les Crane?
            But if you ask me to bus my children
            I hope the cops take down your name
            So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

            ends up hurting the candidates I prefer by alienating people that would rather I don’t notice their hypocrisy. But frankly, I don’t much care. I’m not a politician and it isn’t my job to figure out how to win elections.

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe most peoples’ voting strategy mixes self-interest and ideology. When you want to ban the bomb, that’s a faraway issue that I respond to on ideology, whereas when you want to put up low-income housing in my kids’ school district, I respond on self-interest.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, that’s also my suspicion, Brad. Even if it’s not necessarily racial, if you’re a left-leaning individual, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to share our pretty-good school districts with some underprivileged kids.

            I don’t care if they argue against this. They moved here for the same reason I did, it has really good schools.

            A lot of it is argument against density, just for density. The apartments going up by me are luxury condos with a combined HOA and mortgage higher than what I pay on my own house! However, the arguments preventing higher density in livable areas directly lead to higher rents, therefore pricing out lower income households (especially minority households).

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad, ADBG:

            Why do you imagine the liberals in question (as well as conservatives in the same neighborhood) don’t want poor, mostly minority kids going to their kids’ school? Is it just some kind of irrational racial hatred by people who self-identify as strongly anti-racist? Or is there some more direct reason that would explain this preference?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Why do you imagine the liberals in question (as well as conservatives in the same neighborhood) don’t want poor, mostly minority kids going to their kids’ school? Is it just some kind of irrational racial hatred by people who self-identify as strongly anti-racist? Or is there some more direct reason that would explain this preference?

            Because then the school has to spend a bunch of money educating poor kids, which is less money for other things. Plus peer effects: now my kids are hanging out with poor kids with bad behaviors as opposed to upstanding upper middle class kids that are going places.

          • JDG1980 says:

            Even if it’s not necessarily racial, if you’re a left-leaning individual, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to share our pretty-good school districts with some underprivileged kids.

            Because once “underprivileged” (i.e. underclass) kids start showing up, it won’t *be* a good school district any more.

          • Matt M says:

            1. Good school
            2. Public school
            3. Lots of poor people

            You only get to have two out of three.

          • toastengineer says:

            Because once “underprivileged” (i.e. underclass) kids start showing up, it won’t *be* a good school district any more.

            Why?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @toastengineer

            Firstly, because the quality of a school is mostly determined by the quality of the attending students.

            Secondly, because once you add enough _really terrible_ students, you reach a tipping point where the school becomes completely ineffective due to those students actively disrupting things.

      • Guy in TN says:

        I’m going to have to agree with Matt M here. A focus on rent-seeking is likely a dead-end, because the faction of people opposed to it in principle is extremely small. This is because the Left and Libertarians both want to use rent to increase their share of wealth.

        On the Left: Rent-seeking is the basis for welfare, using the government to transfer wealth from one person to another. The Left is absolutely opposed to the concept of structuring our economy so that only producers receive wealth, hence their support for things like CHIP, Medicaid, public schooling, ect.

        Libertarians: A significant blind spot in libertarian discussions against rent-seeking, is that the seeking of rent is rent-seeking behavior. Land rent is, at its most basic, an increase in wealth that is independent of wealth creation. The current libertarian trend of trying to divorce “the seeking of rent” from “rent-seeking behavior” is not convincing. So unless libertarians want to abolish one of the fundamental powers of private property ownership, they are stuck with economic rent.

        In addition, the concept of “rent-seeking” itself is mired in quasi-LTV philosophical ambiguity. Is the rent you pay to your landlord really “rent”? After all, he does…something every month, right? (Driving to the bank to cash checks is work!) And why is regulatory capture necessarily considered “rent-seeking”, if the industries are still are adding wealth to the economy? Do we have to compare it to a (wholly hypothetical) non-rent-seeking baseline to determine if its less productive than it could be?

  31. OptimalSolver says:

    How do you psychologically deal with the extreme unfairness of having been born in a time before radical life extension?

    • Bugmaster says:

      Tell you what, I’ll feel a lot worse about it once there’s any evidence that it’s even possible.

      • Mark says:

        What would count as evidence ?

        • albatross11 says:

          1000 year old time travelers from the far future?

        • Murphy says:

          A 1 year old living Fruitfly.

          A 10 year old mouse.

          Right now we can’t even extend the lifespans of fruitflies by more than a few dozen days at most.

          If we can’t even keep model organisms like fruit flies alive when we can breed them any way we like and engineer them freely without having to worry too much about ethics…. it implies that radical life extension for humans isn’t even on the roadmap from where we are now.

    • 2irons says:

      Can we assume that procreation will radically slow in a world of radical life extension?

      If so, I can at least offer you that it’d be extremely lucky to born in anything other than a time before radical life extension.

      • Anonymous says:

        I wonder whether procreation would actually slow in that case.

        I mean, if we’re curing natural aging, physical decrepitude and senility, a silly issue like menopause doesn’t sound like a problem for the medicine to get around. In the long run, I would expect that in a situation where the only causes of death are disease, accident and homicide, the population would be increasingly genetically predisposed towards extreme natalism. Just because they’re the ones having a kid every one or two years, and intend to continue doing that as long as they live.

    • US says:

      What are you talking about? Don’t you mean after radical life extension? As per wiki, world-wide life expectancy at birth was 31 years in 1900 and 71.5 in 2014. “During the 20th century, despite a brief drop due to the 1918 flu pandemic[41] starting around that time the average lifespan in the United States increased by more than 30 years, of which 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health.”

      You’re living in the radical life extension era right now.

      Also, what bugmaster said.

      Perhaps more helpfully: Lots of people use religion to deal with their fear of death, and it seems to work well for many of them. They tend to go for some form of eternal life (in ‘heaven’) instead of just some more decades on Earth. Religious approaches also allow you a lot more flexibility in terms of the desirable end state conceived and are generally culturally conceived of as much harder to ‘disprove’, and address many concerns and issues which might be relevant in a life extension context (issues of affordability and access, for example).

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s not so much “life extension” as “preventing diseases from killing a whole lot of infants”. Advances in life expectancy at adulthood have been much more modest.

        The current state of the art isn’t life extension per se, but rather incremental advances in fighting unnatural causes of death. I think OP is after stuff that would extend natural human lifespan from the 120ish limit, possibly even extending the amount of time you have on the Earth before senile decrepitude sets in.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Yeah, when you look at the nitty gritty, things aren’t as encouraging as would be suggested just by looking at the progression of average life expectancy.

          Basically, modern medicine is helping more and more people to live closer to the natural limit, which is a great thing. But must people understand “radical life extension” to mean a great deal more than that. For me, it means that maintaining the human body is like maintaining an automobile, i.e. you can keep it running literally forever if you have the money for replacement parts and fuel.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      It’s iffy enough at the moment that it’s easy to ignore and instead compare yourself to the poor unfortunates who were born before the 20th century.

      But one can imagine a situation where an anti-mortality pill comes out but it’s initial price is prohibitive for 90% of the world’s population. That would be psychologically difficult for a lot of people, perhaps enough so that the world’s governments step in and force/subsidize the supply to be dramatically increased.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t experience a lot of positive emotion anyway, so it’s business as usual. Life’s a bitch and then you die (which is no excuse not to do your best anyway).

    • sty_silver says:

      I think there is an issue here of people, including you, having differing assumptions as to what will or will not kill them which they falsely assume to be universal.

      You seem to assume that we will develop anti-aging technology, but it won’t be in your lifetime (correct me if this is wrong, please).

      Burgmaster seems to doubt that such technology is even possible, and I know others do, too.

      Meanwhile, I would argue that if you are below 40, you are already unlikely to die of aging, and much more likely to die via human extinction.

      So you might want to list your assumptions before asking these kinds of questions, and limit responses to people who agree. But if you actually believe what I ascribed to you here, my advice as to how to deal with it is: buy a cryonics insurance and hope that things work out.

      • Anonymous says:

        Meanwhile, I would argue that if you are below 40, you are already unlikely to die of aging, and much more likely to die via human extinction.

        Why so optimistic?

        • sty_silver says:

          It’s just my probability distribution of when AI goes foom. But note that I only give humanity about 1/3 of making it, so I’m not sure if optimistic is the right word. I’m just worried about other things.

    • Fuge says:

      You become thankful you aren’t living in a nursing home for 70 years, or are taking a cocktail of drugs complete with side effects for 160 years plus. Nothing says life extension equals great quality of life or perfect mental health.

    • Incurian says:

      When you’re dead you won’t feel bad about it.

    • honhonhonhon says:

      I believe in cryonic suspension. Gb or pyrne, guvf vf abg zrnag gb or fnepnfgvp, whfg frys-pevgvpny.

    • Anon. says:

      Worse is the extreme unfairness of having been born in a time before radical intelligence optimization but also being young enough that I will witness it in my lifetime.

      The prospect of going from x sd above the mean to 2x sd or 3x sd below it is terrifying.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      By living with my loved ones in safety and comfort unimaginable to the most beloved Roman Emperors every single day

  32. Anonymous says:

    Calling all Catholics!

    Lent begins 14 Feb 2018.

    What are you fasting plans?

    • outis says:

      Intermittent fasting + lifting for leangains, plus abstinence from sex (got a head start on that).

    • SamChevre says:

      Probably to the normal hodge-podge (what you get when you’re a Catholic convert who spent time in the Episcopal world and has Orthodox friends.) Also note-I’m very intolerant of dairy, so I will avoid it, but I do that year-round.

      No meat except on Sundays.
      Vegan on Fridays, probably most Wednesdays. (My goal is more days vegan each week than days with meat.)
      No sugar (what we chose as a family, since we weren’t going to avoid meat on all weekdays.)
      No alcohol (because I do it every year), and alcohol and sugar are similar.

      Probably will have water only from Thursday of Holy Week until after the Great Vigil. That is a mind-changing experience, and I try to do it every year.

      For context–the Orthodox fast is vegan except on a couple feast days, and no food with oil on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    • Tenacious D says:

      If a protestant may answer, I plan to give up a few time-sink websites (e.g. Reddit and Buzzfeed) for Lent. I also have a book I’d like to re-read (a biography of St. Paul).

      Oh, and I plan to cook pancakes for supper tomorrow.

    • No signal says:

      (Semi-seriously) not reading Slate Star Codex?

      By the way, any good Catholic slate-star-codex-like blogs and sites? I like to read http://www.patheos.com/blogs/catholicauthenticity/ and http://wmbriggs.com/ – polar opposites (but both Catholic).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Standard fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstinence on other Fridays. And giving up booze. Sweet, delicious booze. My Dad does the same, and at Easter Sunday dinner we have a tradition: “The Lord is risen! Let’s get hammered.”

  33. fortaleza84 says:

    I read Hanson’s latest book and I’ve been thinking a lot about undisclosed motivations. It’s a bit depressing, but I’ve been paying close attention to my and other peoples’ conversations, and a shocking percentage is devoted to showing off; establishing dominance; and/or trying to get laid.

    Is it good to be aware of one’s hidden motivations? One could argue that we fool ourselves for a reason and an individual is better off believing that he has pretty motivations. But having thought about it a bit, I am leaning towards thinking that it’s better to be aware. If you are subconsciously trying to show off and you become aware of it, then one can use one’s conscious mind to think of more effective ways of showing off.

    Not only that, but a lot of the time people don’t really object if you are somewhat open about your selfish motives. When I say “I’m trying to do the right thing and I’m also trying to make a few bucks in the process,” it doesn’t seem to upset people.

    I wonder what colleges do with applicants who write things like “And of course a big part of the recent I want to go to Harvard is because I want to have a successful career and it will be a boost both to be able to tell people I went here as well as to make connections with other people with a similar privilege.”

    • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

      I think the spaces in which being bluntly open about selfish motives is accepted is smaller than you think, and therefore the college-app gambit you suggest goes poorly.

      This is true even in business contexts where you might expect it to be otherwise. Do (non-financial) companies market themselves as “we’re driven by making a boatload of money?” No. They say they’re “obsessed with data” or “driven to create the best possible [product] or “customer-centric” or any number of buzzwords that deliver an impression that money is a pleasant byproduct of the stuff they care about. Everyone knows it’s sort of bullshit, in the sense that if the data-obsessed engineers weren’t getting paid they’d be out in a heartbeat, but the fact that it’s near-universally adopted, whereas “we’re the best because we want to get paid a lot” is not, should make you question whether your “and I’m also trying to make a few bucks” tagline is serving you well.

      The college-app question is like the probably-apocryphal story of the class asked to write an essay on “What is courage?” and the student who turns in a one-word response–“This.”–and gets an A. Cute, but it can only work once (if it ever did), since submitting the same response once you’ve heard it works is neither brave nor clever. Similarly, the college application letter is a filtering mechanism for selective colleges to, among other things, provide their students with a group of high-quality peers to make social and potential future business connections with. Blunt pragmatism is, as you said of Hanson’s book, a bit depressing, and not very fun at parties. Moreover, it may be interesting and shocking the first time you hear it, but any halfway-clever 17 year old could tell you that “Go to Harvard –> ? –> Profit” is a solid plan. If it’s known to work, it’s a poor signal, because anyone can do it. An essay tying together your science fair project, your missionary trip to Haiti, and your lifelong love of chess may be a load of BS, but it does require individual, hard-to-fake effort.

      All that said, I think some self-awareness about motives can provide value and better guide strategies to accomplish your ends, especially in directing effort towards life projects where surface-level motives and hidden motives don’t conflict badly. But there are diminishing returns, in that telling yourself “I’m not learning to play the piano/improving my tennis serve/gunning for my next promotion because I like these things, but to impress people and get laid” is going to make the learning process a lot less enjoyable, and probably hinder your eventual results. Many athletes describe being too goal-oriented as a hindrance to peak performance, and being process-oriented as a desirable mindset.

    • toastengineer says:

      My theory is that if you admit your hidden motivation, it just gets double counted. I.E. companies begin with the assumption that people asking for a job want money, so if they say “why do you want to work here” and you say “because I need a job for money,” they get the message that money is literally the only thing you care about and that seems kind weird.

      Or maybe it’s not “double-counting” and more just that you’re not supposed to say things that everyone already knows anyway (unless it’s in a “the Ultimate Good Thing sure is ultimately good, huh?” way), so if you do people just think you’re weird.

      Like if a fella approaches a lady to talk to her in a bar or a club or something, she’s going to begin with the assumption that he wants to engage with her, uh, ‘romantically’ so to speak. So if the guy goes up to her and says “ayy bb u wan sum fuk” he’s implying all sorts of things that aren’t immediately apparent, even if the core message wasn’t anything anyone didn’t know already.

      • Matt M says:

        I agree with this logic. Interview questions are designed to pick from multiple candidates – so answering a question in such a way that does not distinguish you from other candidates at all is basically shooting yourself in the foot, proving that you are too dumb to possibly be worth consideration.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        “ayy bb u wan sum fuk”

        I was just about to run that through rot13.com…

        • toastengineer says:

          If you approach women in bars and begin speaking to them in ROT13 you’re performing another kind of signaling entirely.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Really it’s all in the delivery.

      If I pitched my company to another business as “we’re in it to make money, and I’m personally trying to maximize my salary given my input”, of course that’s going to be shit.

      But if I say “we’re maintaining a proud tradition of more than 4 decades of profitable revenue growth every single year, we pay well for the quality talent we need to continue that growth, and I’m working to drive value to the company and grow my own career and personal opportunities”… well, I think I heard some version of that nearly a hundred times last year.

    • Matt C says:

      > I read Hanson’s latest book and I’ve been thinking a lot about undisclosed motivations. It’s a bit depressing, but I’ve been paying close attention to my and other peoples’ conversations, and a shocking percentage is devoted to showing off; establishing dominance; and/or trying to get laid.

      Yup. Once you read Hanson you never go back.

      Me, I’m glad I did. I like feeling like I understand things, and social-status-colored glasses make a lot of things clearer than they were before. Although in my case I think it helped that I was getting older and starting to notice social patterns more on my own anyway. Might have felt more conflicted when I was younger.

      I’ve always tended toward socially awkward bluntness and oversharing. If anything, learning to see the status positioning/affirming involved in everyday interactions has improved my social graces. A little. Sometimes.

  34. Argos says:

    Given the extraordinarily high salaries good software engineers can command not only in the Valley but all across the US, why is outsourcing and offshoring not used more by startups and the big tech companies?

    The explanations I have heard usually refer to the difficulty of working with remote teams across language barriers and different time zones, in addition to having contractors who are incentivized to only perform the minimum work to meet the requirements, get paid and move on to the next project. Which is a reasonable explanation for why outsourcing does not eliminate the high wages of US engineers compared to engineers around the world, but still leaves offshoring unexplained, where Google would open offices in cheaper countries and hire people there.

    In fact, all big tech companies have already opened up a lot of offices across the world, and started to let foreign engineers work on their core product (so it’s not just sales people that they hire).

    Even if one could argue that India’s or China’s education system is just not up to parenting with the American education system, which just produces more exceptional engineers, surely this can’t explain why the Big 4 would not hire across Europe and Canada. An engineer at Google London makes AFAIK 60000 dollars a year, which is just one third of his colleague in the Valley.

    Given that the major operating cost for tech companies is labor, this seems very counterintuitive to me. Is it American culture that makes better engineers? Or are the big tech companies so successful and rich at the moment that they don’t perceive the external pressure needed to change their way of doing business, aka market inefficiency?

    • johan_larson says:

      This

      the difficulty of working with remote teams across language barriers and different time zones

      and this

      Or are the big tech companies so successful and rich at the moment that they don’t perceive the external pressure needed to change their way of doing business, aka market inefficiency?

      Also, there is a certain amount of self-fulfilling prophesy going on. Everyone knows Silicon Valley is the place you find the best engineers, so ambitious companies are keen to locate there and are willing to pay a premium, which pulls in ambitious and capable engineers and enables them to stay, fulfilling the prophesy.

      Finally, Silicon Valley is far and away the easiest place to get venture capital funding to start a company, because that’s where the VCs are located. The VC community is shockingly parochial and prefers to fund companies they can drive to. Hot young companies are therefore disproportionately likely to start in the Bay Area, and mostly stay.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Slightly cynical take:

        “The people who have moved to Silicon Valley and bought property are invested in bringing more people to Silicon Valley to continue bidding up property values. If we discover people can do software anywhere in the US, SV land values will plummet.”

        I’m not sure I believe that last sentence, but a huge portion of SV paychecks are just going straight into rents and mortgage payments, so I ask who benefits most from this racket?

    • Aapje says:

      @Argos

      Outsourcing and offshoring work great for the hypothetical development cycle: get specs -> built to specs -> get specs -> etc. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t follow the theory.

      The issue is that writing extremely good specifications is pretty much impossible for business oriented people and quite hard and unpleasant for technically oriented people. So the actual specifications that get produced are generally half-baked, missing all kinds of details.

      So if programmers merely built what is asked, they tend to have unhappy customers. So instead, they have to figure out all the missing details on their own. This is not that easy and becomes much harder if you don’t share a cultural context. It is harder if you are not close to the customer. It is harder if you come from a culture where taking initiative is generally punished, rather than rewarded. It is harder if you have to ask questions by mail and regularly have to wait hours/a day because of time zones. Etc.

      This is also a major reason why agile development methodologies were developed, BTW. The quick turnaround times and having the customer (representative) near the team makes the real development cycle more effective: guess what the customer wants -> built it -> get feedback -> guess what the customer wants -> etc.

    • Matt M says:

      You also have to consider the “pipeline effects.”

      When you hire an entry-level software engineer, part of what you want is entry-level coding or whatever. But another part of what you’re expecting to get is a 1 in 1000 chance you just hired your future CIO or CTO or maybe even CEO.

      If you outsource everything, you have no real leadership pipeline to assume the really important, non-transactional jobs in the future. When I was in business school, it was common knowledge that most businesses actually lose money on MBA hires for the first 2-3 years. They treat people like private equity funds treat investments. You’re fine with getting no return or even losing money on most of them, so long as you hit a “home run” and get 5-20x return every once in a while.

    • temujin9 says:

      In addition to all the good reasons you and others have given:

      The tech sector continues to be the only reliable growth sector in recent years. That means investors can’t wait to buy into it, and successful companies make cash hand over fist.

      With so much money going into the system, and so much unpredictability in individual results, you’re going to see results that are:
      – inefficient, because the industry can well afford to be in ways few other can, and
      – more focused most on increasing odds of a runaway success (e.g. “the next Google”) than saving money

      Runaway success requires multiplicative effects and are incredibly hard to predict. Given that, the investors would rather follow the formula that’s known to work (“a small and expensive team that sees its other faces, and is from the culture the product targets”) than innovate on model to save a bit on underlying cost.

      Of course, this is specific to the U.S. tech market. I’ve seen some evidence that things are different elsewhere, though not enough to speak certainly.

      • toastengineer says:

        D’ya think there’s room for a “Ben and Jerrys of software” type company to start these days? That is, intentionally growing slowly and strongly, keeping money saved up instead of behaving like the stereotypical startup. Like, it seems like you’re suggesting companies are inefficient just because of insufficient competition, rather than any kind of Moloch-y type stuff, which would presumably leave spare energy for someone to come in and do better if they knew it was an option.

  35. Aapje says:

    In an OT in the past, we discussed whether Bill C-16, which adds gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights code, could be used to suppress (supposedly) trans-critical speech or such.

    Back then we didn’t discuss a case that Peterson points at as evidence, which I’ve recently become aware of, which is the Lindsay Shepherd case (I was aware of the case before, but not of the C-16 link). In her class, teaching assistant and grad student Lindsay Shepherd showed a Jordan Peterson clip that was earlier shown on Canadian public television.

    She was subsequently invited to a meeting with 3 people:
    – two professors, one of which was her supervisor
    – an acting manager for ‘Gendered Violence Prevention and Support’

    She was admonished in the meeting for showing the clip and partway through the meeting, decided to tape it. The full transcript of what she taped is here. The relevant part to C-16:

    Supervising Professor (SP): So the thing is about this, if you’re presenting something like this, you have to think about the kind of teaching climate that you’re creating. These arguments are counter to the Canadian Human Rights Code, and I know you talked about C-16. Ever since this passed, it is discriminatory to be targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression. So bringing something like that up in class, not critically, and I understand that you’re trying to-

    Shepherd: It was critical. I introduced it critically.

    SP: Howso?

    Shepherd: Like I said, it was in the spirit of debate.

    SP: Okay, “In the spirit of debate” is slightly different than “This is a problematic idea that maybe we want to unpack”

    Shepherd: But that’s taking sides.

    SP: Yes.

    So the demand was that teachers may only use such clips, if they declare that they are wrong and explain their wrongness, instead of allowing students to come up with arguments in favor and against & then to come to their own conclusions. So this means that they want to disallow Peterson’s point of view from being advocated for in the classroom, by students.

    Furthermore, given the reason that was given, one can assume that this point of view would also not be acceptable outside of the classroom, in places where college authorities have power to decide what is unacceptable. After all, the claim was that the point of view is “counter to the Canadian Human Rights Code” and that the viewpoint is “targeting someone due to their gender identity or gender expression.”

    So I think that we can then conclude that this case was an example where at a college, people in a position of power compared to students/teaching assistants, attempted to stifle free speech using Bill C-16.

    However, this of course does not mean that their interpretation will be upheld by the courts, nor that the entire university supports this reading, especially since one of these professors from the meeting (was probably forced to) write a letter of apology. This suggests that the university as a whole does not support this interpretation. However, it does suggest that this interpretation has non-trivial support at this college (after all, 2 professors and an acting manager supported this interpretation). Given Cthulhu, one can see why some people, like Peterson, may worry that more and more people will interpret the law this way, perhaps including judges.

    In the US, we see that Title IX, which seems totally benign if one reads the law, has resulted in Title IX panels. These are outside of the judicial system, resulting in people being tried by people without legal training, resulting in trials with absurd rules that often withhold important rights from the accused (and sometimes also from the accuser). When convicted people appeal to the (real) courts, they seem to often get a verdict in their favor, suggesting that some/many colleges over-interpret the law. However, I see no evidence that a correction is happening at universities, to act more in line with the judicial interpretation.

    Furthermore, even if students get a judicial verdict in their favor, this generally merely means that they get monetary compensation, while their education has still been severely disrupted, at an age where such disruption may be very damaging. Students may also not always have the cultural baggage or means to fight back, especially since Title IX cases seem to target minorities very disproportionately. So many people may continue to be harmed, especially when reasonable improvements are resisted due to culture war reasons.

    So I would argue that it is equally possible for colleges or other places where certain ideologies are common to wield power against those in a weaker position, based on C-16 type laws, even in the absence of judicial support for an interpretation of Title IX that bans such things as:
    – Not using a pronoun that a person wants to be used
    – Arguing that two genders exist, which have somewhat different biological properties on the group level
    – Arguing that people who don’t fit in a gender binary are abnormal relative to normal human development
    – Being critical whether certain trans identities are ‘real’
    – Arguing in favor of Blanchard’s transsexualism typology

    • LadyJane says:

      I fail to see the problem. It’s perfectly fine for universities to take sides, and prohibiting teachers from expressing certain points of view (e.g. that a particular race is inherently superior or inferior) is well within their rights. Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from the consequences of that speech, such as getting reprimanded or fired, nor does it entail a positive right to a public platform (and certainly not one with official institutional backing like a university podium). As long as people aren’t getting sued or going to jail for expressing offensive opinions (or otherwise being punished by the government, or by extra-governmental entities using violence or the threat thereof), then the libertarian principle of free speech is not being violated.

      Now, you could argue that even if universities could prohibit their employees from expressing certain views, that doesn’t mean they should. But I would argue that the entire purpose of universities is to teach facts that – to the best of the modern academic establishment’s collective knowledge – are empirically correct, and thus preventing their representatives from spreading misinformation is exactly what they should do. If there was a university that allowed science professors to teach young Earth creationism and hard climate change denialism, then I wouldn’t consider it to be performing its function well. (And yes, I consider Blanchardism to be just as empirically wrong as creationism and climate change denialism, just like I consider “trans people’s gender identities aren’t valid” to be as offensive and inaccurate as “non-whites are physically and mentally inferior to whites.” If you disagree with me on those points, then at least you can start engaging me about those object-level issues instead of making this about free speech.)

      And as for the pronoun issue, people like Peterson make it sound trivial, but the fact is that deliberately misgendering someone on a frequent and consistent basis amounts to harassment. They like to argue that trans people shouldn’t be so sensitive, but cis people would consider it harassment too, and that’s obvious if you actually stop to consider the scenario. If someone kept insisting that one of their cis male co-workers was a woman, and exclusively referred to them by female pronouns, that would be seen as extremely rude and unprofessional behavior, and could easily get that person fired if they continued to do it. But since the gender identities of trans people aren’t seen as valid, the same behavior is somehow considered more acceptable when aimed at them, at least in the eyes of people like Peterson.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If you disagree with me on those points, then at least you can start engaging me about those object-level issues instead of making this about free speech.

        I’d love to, but my university would fire me for hate speech.

        • LadyJane says:

          Then it’s a good thing the SSC forums aren’t your university.

          No one is saying that all discussion of this topic should be completely banned. I was saying that universities should not endorse something like Blanchardism as the correct theory or even as a possible correct theory, not just because it’s offensive, but also because it’s just plain wrong (at least according to the vast majority of the modern scientific and medical establishment). It’s the same reason that universities shouldn’t endorse creationism as correct or possibly correct.

          So yes, I would be fine with a professor getting reprimanded or fired if he proposed “trans women are all just either repressed gay men or autogynephiles” as a valid theory (or worse, the only valid theory) of transgenderism. Professors should only teach Blanchardism in the context of being an obsolete and discredited worldview, in the same way that they should only teach flat Earth theory in the context of being an obsolete and discredited view.

          Now, I don’t think a student should get in trouble just for bringing it up those ideas in class, since students aren’t acting as official representatives of the university’s views and should have more freedom than professors to question the academic establishment. But I would expect a psychology student’s grade to suffer if he continually insisted that Blanchardism was correct in class discussions and on tests/essays, just like I would expect a geography student’s grade to suffer if he continually insisted that the Earth was flat.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Does anybody actually think that professors act as “official representatives of the university’s views”? Usually having a range of opinions in the faculty is considered a good thing, so unless the university’s official views are schizophrenic, I don’t think you can say “This professor endorses X, therefore the university endorses X”.

          • a reader says:

            @LadyJane:

            So yes, I would be fine with a professor getting reprimanded or fired if he proposed “trans women are all just either repressed gay men or autogynephiles” as a valid theory (or worse, the only valid theory) of transgenderism. Professors should only teach Blanchardism in the context of being an obsolete and discredited worldview, in the same way that they should only teach flat Earth theory in the context of being an obsolete and discredited view.

            That is an extremely inaccurate presentation of “Blanchardism”. Maybe Blanchard’s terminology for type 1 (“homosexual transsexuals”) may be misleading, but not only don’t Blanchard & Bailey say that type 1 transwomen are repressed homosexuals, but Bailey is closer to saying that homosexuals are repressed type 1 transwomen. He says in his book (and there are many studies that say the same) that most of the feminine little boys become gays, not trans, as adults, and that some gays were feminine in childhood, but as adults they are embarrassed by remembering that, because femininity is perceived as unattractive by the other gays.

            Far from “Blanchardism” being “an obsolete and discredited worldview”, an important part of Blanchard’s theory was repeatedly confirmed by research: Blanchard’s hypothesis about the fraternal birth order effect on gays – that the more older brothers a man has, the more chances he has to be gay (or type 1 MTF trans):

            Fraternal Birth Order, Family Size, and Male Homosexuality: Meta-Analysis of Studies Spanning 25 Years

            Meta-analyses were conducted on 30 homosexual and 30 heterosexual groups from 26 studies, totaling 7140 homosexual and 12,837 heterosexual males. […] The Older Brothers Odds Ratio was significantly >1.00 in 20 instances, >1.00 although not significantly in nine instances, and nonsignificantly <1.00 in 1 instance. The pooled Older Brothers Odds Ratio for all samples was 1.47, p < .00001.

            The third finding was that the FBOE occurs in different cultures and in widely separated geographic regions. The FBOE has been demonstrated in Brazil (VanderLaan et al., 2016), Canada (Blanchard & Bogaert, 1996b), Iran (Khorashad et al., 2017), Italy (Camperio-Ciani, Corna, & Capiluppi, 2004), The Netherlands (Schagen, Delemarre-van de Waal, Blanchard, & Cohen-Kettenis, 2012), Independent Samoa (VanderLaan & Vasey, 2011), Spain (Gómez-Gil et al., 2011), Turkey (Bozkurt, Bozkurt, & Sonmez, 2015), the UK (King et al., 2005), and the U.S. (Schwartz, Kim, Kolundzija, Rieger, & Sanders, 2010).

            Male homosexuality and maternal immune responsivity to the Y-linked protein NLGN4Y

            Plasma from mothers of sons, about half of whom had a gay son, along with additional controls (women with no sons, men) was analyzed for male protein-specific antibodies. Results indicated women had significantly higher anti-NLGN4Y levels than men. In addition, after statistically controlling for number of pregnancies, mothers of gay sons, particularly those with older brothers, had significantly higher anti-NLGN4Y levels than did the control samples of women, including mothers of heterosexual sons. The results suggest an association between a maternal immune response to NLGN4Y and subsequent sexual orientation in male offspring.

          • albatross11 says:

            How would we determine whether Blanchardism was right or wrong? What evidence would prove his theories wrong in a convincing way, and do we have that evidence?

          • I was saying that universities should not endorse something like Blanchardism as the correct theory or even as a possible correct theory, not just because it’s offensive, but also because it’s just plain wrong (at least according to the vast majority of the modern scientific and medical establishment).

            I know nothing about Blanchardism beyond what I can deduce from the discussion here, but I am curious as to the basis for your confidence. Are you a professional in one of the relevant fields? Have you made an effort to find and argue with intelligent supporters of Blanchard’s views and found that you are familiar with all of their arguments and what is wrong with them, while they have obviously never seen your arguments or the evidence you offer?

            In part, my reaction to the confidence of your statement reflects my experiences long ago in another field. When I was an undergraduate at Harvard another undergraduate commented that he couldn’t take an economics course at Chicago because he would burst out laughing. That attitude, by a student who had been exposed to one side of an academic controversy, is what your confidence reminded me of.

            Within a decade or so, the Chicago view on some of the controversial issues, such as the meaning of the Phillips Curve, had become the orthodoxy. At this point, Chicago has accumulated more Nobel prizes in economics than any other university.

            I note that your comment was followed by a response by someone arguing in some detail that you are mistaken. I await with interest your crushing rebuttal. Since Blanchardism is, according to you, not merely wrong but so clearly wrong that a professor ought to be punished for teaching that it might be right, it should be easy.

          • LadyJane says:

            @a reader: The part of Blanchard’s work that I find the most objectionable is his concept of “autogynephilia” as an explanation for trans lesbians, and the psychiatric establishment has basically rejected that theory wholesale.* As a trans lesbian myself, I find the idea extremely dehumanizing (and no, reciting the litanies isn’t going to make me change my mind).

            I also strongly dislike the fact that he refers to straight trans women as “homosexual transsexuals,” since it’s implicitly rejecting the idea that they’re actually women. But I’m willing to cut him some slack for that, given the time period that he was writing in.

            Also, if all gay men are repressed trans women (which is not an interpretation of Blanchardism that I’ve ever heard before, but I’ll take your word on it), then why are there so many masculine gay men? Are they all just embarrassed of their femininity? Do they engage in sexual activity with other guys simply because they want to feel like women, rather than out of any genuine attraction? I find that all very unlikely. And what about cis lesbians, straight trans men, and gay trans men? How do they fit into the equation? Is “autoandrophilia” a thing too?

            More to the point, regardless of which direction the causal chain goes, why does one’s sexual preferences have to be tied to their internal sense of gender identity in the first place? I’ve known plenty of cis homosexuals/bisexuals and plenty of trans people of every orientation, and that makes it very hard for me to believe that sexual orientation and gender identity exist on the same axis. If that was the case, wouldn’t at least some of those combinations not exist?

            And yes, Blanchard was completely right about the fraternal birth order effect on cis male homosexuals. He’s also made a lot of valid contributions to the study of sexual paraphilias. Scientists can be correct or partly correct on some things and still be egregiously wrong on others. When I denounce Blanchardism or “Blanchard’s theories,” I’m referring to his ideas on trans people, most specifically his transgender typology (which he actually distanced himself from in his later years).

            *The DSM-5 does mention autogynephilia, but it’s considered an isolated sexual paraphilia that’s unrelated to gender dysphoria.

          • a reader says:

            @albatross11:

            I don’t think that there is definitive evidence yet and I am not sure how such evidence could be obtained. Maybe by studying the brains – and also testing the psychological similarities/differences – of a large sample of both types of MTF transsexuals before starting taking hormones, compared with control groups of (cis) hetero and gay men and women?

            There was a study about the brains of MTF trans before starting hormones, but it seems to have a conservative bias: they seemed to want to prove that MTF transgenders are men, so they restricted their sample to “gynephillic” MTF trans (that would be type 2 “autogynephiles” according to Blanchard&Bailey typology):

            Sex Dimorphism of the Brain in Male-to-Female Transsexuals

            Gender dysphoria is suggested to be a consequence of sex atypical cerebral differentiation. We tested this hypothesis in a magnetic resonance study of voxel-based morphometry and structural volumetry in 48 heterosexual men (HeM) and women (HeW) and 24 gynephillic male to female transsexuals (MtF-TR). Specific interest was paid to gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) fraction, hemispheric asymmetry, and volumes of the hippocampus, thalamus, caudate, and putamen. Like HeM, MtF-TR displayed larger GM volumes than HeW in the cerebellum and lingual gyrus and smaller GM and WM volumes in the precentral gyrus. Both male groups had smaller hippocampal volumes than HeW. As in HeM, but not HeW, the right cerebral hemisphere and thalamus volume was in MtF-TR lager than the left. None of these measures differed between HeM and MtF-TR. MtF-TR displayed also singular features and differed from both control groups by having reduced thalamus and putamen volumes and elevated GM volumes in the right insular and inferior frontal cortex and an area covering the right angular gyrus.The present data do not support the notion that brains of MtF-TR are feminized. The observed changes in MtF-TR bring attention to the networks inferred in processing of body perception.

            Of course “The present data do not support the notion that brains of MtF-TR are feminized.” if they exclude by design the ones whose brains are probably feminized – and the sample is small (24 trans) but anyway, this is the only study I know about the brains of the supposed type 2 “autogynephiles” without mixing them with type 1.

            For the psychological traits, maybe some evidence can be found by analyzing Scott’s survey (the one from 2016 had an unexpectedly big sample of transsexuals).

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I get the impression that Peterson is not objecting to using a transgender person’s normal masculine or feminine pronouns, especially if they personally ask you to (i.e. referring to a female-presenting person as she/her and a male-presenting person as he/him) but to having it punishable by the government not to use whatever neologism a particular person wants used (ze, zer and things of that ilk).

        And this particular case, as far as I can tell, was not about Shepherd being censured for expressing her point of view (in the sense of siding with Peterson in the debate clip she played – she says she didn’t) but rather for failing to take sides against him. Not sure if that makes a difference to your argument, but if Peterson’s argument was that Bill C16 would have a serious chilling effect on freedom of expression (afraid I’ve not actually watched the clip in question yet, and am not on a machine with sound right now), then I wouldn’t have thought that that could be reasonably compared to espousing creationism in a biology class.

        He’s also made the argument elsewhere that he considers the law to be likely to do more harm than good to the gender-fluid / non-binary people it purports to protect, by making potential employers extremely wary of hiring them, if they could be held criminally liable if any of their employees inadvertently fail to use the correct neologism for the person in question. Again, you can argue that he’s overblowing things, but I don’t think you can reasonably claim that he is obviously, young-Earth creationist level wrong.

        • LadyJane says:

          To clarify, I didn’t think Peterson’s views on this law were akin to creationism. I think the object-level idea that trans identities aren’t valid (i.e. that trans women are just delusional cis men and trans men are just delusional cis women) is akin to creationism. Over the past two decades, there’s been an enormous amount of hard scientific evidence confirming that trans people have noticeably different neural structures and hormone levels than cis people, to the point where gender dysphoria could basically be considered an intersex condition.

          • Anonymous says:

            Over the past two decades, there’s been an enormous amount of hard scientific evidence confirming that trans people have noticeably different neural structures and hormone levels than cis people, to the point where gender dysphoria could basically be considered an intersex condition.

            That doesn’t mean that their condition should be encouraged, rather than treated and hopefully, someday, cured.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I am skeptical that the studies we have provide epistemic certainty that everyone who identifies as trans has biology-based gender dysphoria, because of experience with West coast male hipsters putting extremely little effort into passing and then hitting on women.

          • Iain says:

            That doesn’t mean that their condition should be encouraged, rather than treated and hopefully, someday, cured.

            I think Scott’s response to this argument is definitive:

            Imagine if we could give depressed people a much higher quality of life merely by giving them cheap natural hormones. I don’t think there’s a psychiatrist in the world who wouldn’t celebrate that as one of the biggest mental health advances in a generation. Imagine if we could ameliorate schizophrenia with one safe simple surgery, just snip snip you’re not schizophrenic anymore. Pretty sure that would win all of the Nobel prizes. Imagine that we could make a serious dent in bipolar disorder just by calling people different pronouns. I’m pretty sure the entire mental health field would join together in bludgeoning anybody who refused to do that. We would bludgeon them over the head with big books about the side effects of lithium.

            Really, are you sure you want your opposition to accepting transgender people to be “I think it’s a mental disorder”?

          • Matt M says:

            But the surgery/hormone route is pretty radical, compared to other potential discoveries, is it not?

            What if we could just give someone a pill that would cause them to “forget” they were trans and immediately be happy and content identifying with their biological sex?

            How do you think people would react to such a discovery? Could anyone even get money to start research on such a thing?

          • CatCube says:

            @Iain

            Scott’s response is definitive only if you already agreed with it. I, and I’ll bet everybody on my side, agrees that you shouldn’t misgender people. The issue our sides disagree on is which direction the “misgendering” arrow points.

            I’m not going to use female pronouns for somebody born male. (Or vice versa) The farthest I’m willing to go is to compromise by avoiding the use of pronouns entirely. Having a doctor chop off your hoink and give you a counterfeit vagina doesn’t change the fundamental facts. I’m willing to feel bad for people so afflicted; I’m not willing to be browbeaten into dishonesty. “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

          • Brad says:

            I think we are all familiar with the very selective compulsion to never speak an untruth. Funny how that tic works.

            “Here’s a picture of my new baby. Isn’t she beautiful?”
            “No, actually she looks like an alien.”

            Surely you aren’t willing to be browbeaten into dishonesty, right? Something, something the gulag! Four lights!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Having a doctor chop off your hoink and give you a counterfeit vagina doesn’t change the fundamental facts.

            Suppose the technology improved to the point where you couldn’t tell without a genetic test that the person was “born male”? Would this change your feelings? Where does the fundamental fact lie?

          • Over the past two decades, there’s been an enormous amount of hard scientific evidence confirming that trans people have noticeably different neural structures and hormone levels than cis people, to the point where gender dysphoria could basically be considered an intersex condition.

            That may, for all I know, be true. But it doesn’t follow that someone who is biologically male and has gender dysphoria is really female, hence that anyone who thinks that person is male with dysphoria is objectively wrong, which seems to be what your argument requires.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman: Even by a strict biological definition, sex is not purely defined by chromosomes or visible genitalia, it’s a classification that encompasses a lot of different traits (e.g. internal genitalia, secondary and tertiary sex characteristics, hormone levels, neural structures).

            If gender dysphoria is indeed caused by endocrinological and neurological factors (and there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that it is), then someone who was assigned male at birth but feels gender dysphoria isn’t biologically male or biologically female, they’re biologically intersex. If someone has a Y chromosome and a penis, but they also have developed breasts and high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels and neural structures that resemble those of cis women more than cis men, then I wouldn’t consider them male by a strict definition of the term, and the medical community would agree that they should be classified as intersex.

            It is, in fact, objectively wrong from a biological perspective to say that trans women are exactly the same as cis women. My point is that it’s also objectively wrong from a biological perspective to say that trans women are exactly the same as cis men.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @LadyJane: My working hypothesis is that some “transwomen” have intersex brains and other body parts, and some don’t. I think some biological males in areas of leftist hegemony are performing a role to get better treatment (“I’m not a cishet dude, I’m a lesbian! Look how I wear my hair (while making no other effort to pass!)”
            I think there’s a very low rate of background gender dysphoria, 0.2% tops, and a society can increase gender-bending among females by being rigidly patriarchal or among males by being absurdly Blue.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: Sure, but who cares? Some people pretend to be disabled to get government benefits, but it would be ridiculous to use that as evidence that no one is really disabled, or to subject all disabled people to rigorous scrutiny in all social situations because they might be faking it. And I’m sure there are a lot less people pretending to be trans than pretending to be disabled, since there are a lot fewer concrete benefits to being trans.

            I’d rather assume good faith, wouldn’t you?

          • CatCube says:

            @The Nybbler

            Would this change your feelings?

            Still being deceived. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t know that I’m being deceived, by the terms of your hypothetical. However, even a deception that you can get away with is wrong.

            @Brad

            I think we are all familiar with the very selective compulsion to never speak an untruth. Funny how that tic works.

            Which statements of mine are you thinking of? I’ll be happy to clarify. I try to be consistent, but humans can be inconsistent, and I’m human, so therefore I’ve done it in some of my posts. Post a link and we can talk.

            “Here’s a picture of my new baby. Isn’t she beautiful?”
            “No, actually she looks like an alien.”

            1) A small social white lie to get through a one-off conversation is a little different than an ongoing demand. I generally try to be honest but noncommittal (see 2), but if I can’t avoid it I’ll bite my tongue a couple times. However, if they keep waylaying me with pictures of the kid and demanding to know if she’s beautiful, the truth is eventually going to come out. As tactfully as I can, but there’s a fuckin’ limit.

            2) Tapdancing to technically tell the truth is my preferred solution. I’ve been lucky to not be presented with a baby or pictures thereof that isn’t cute, so I’ve not been faced with this exact situation. However, “Wow, she is something!” are words to consider–the parents can take them as they will. I’m not a superstar in tact, so if suddenly confronted with this situation I might not get a technically-true but noncommittal statement mentally put together before reaching for the social lie, but putting in the effort is often worthwhile.

            3) Most everybody would agree that the white lie is, well, a lie. If I were to turn to a compatriot after the parents leave and say, “Whoa. That kid is going to have a rough time of it,” I would expect agreement. Here, however, the debate is about what the truth is. I mean, unless you’re willing to acknowledge that we’re all just lying by calling a woman “he” to make transsexuals feel better. I’d be willing to talk, if you’re saying that’s the case, since I would consider it an improvement over the status quo.

            Surely you aren’t willing to be browbeaten into dishonesty, right? Something, something the gulag! Four lights!

            Yeah, I went back and forth on including the Solzhenitsyn quote. I’ve never actually been confronted with this issue in real life, so I can’t claim there’s some kind of oppression I’m personally fighting here. I went with it because it’s the most concise statement of the necessity to be honest, even in the face of a dishonest world. It also ties in with the Lutheran conception of adiaphora in the Formula of Concord, and the necessity to stand firm in what would otherwise be unimportant details when you’re being forced to make a change.

            However, it’s better to fight it before it becomes oppression, and it feels like we’re heading in that direction. The demand that we acknowledge that men are really women and vice versa is absolutely bonkers on the order of “four lights”, though nobody is threatening the things I care about to try to make me acknowledge it. Yet.

          • Nornagest says:

            The fraction of AMAB people I know that wound up having what Tumblr used to call “genderfeels”, leading to social transition in most but not all cases, is as best I can figure somewhere north of 2% — so one or two orders of magnitude higher than the old estimates for intersex conditions or GID. Now, I don’t think any of them were or are consciously faking it for attention or to gain special treatment, but I also have a hard time believing that they’d all have lived the rest of their lives in gender misery if they’d been born twenty or thirty years earlier. That seems like the kind of thing that would’ve been noticed, by Freud et al. if no one else — 2% is about the prevalence of most personality disorders.

            Also, it just occurred to me that most, maybe all the transwomen I know not only live in extremely Blue environments, but also grew up in Red ones or in non-Western countries. We aren’t talking “moved to somewhere that’ll accept their real self” either, though — in every case I’d known them for years as men before they transitioned. Granted, it’s not exactly rare to move like that, but it’s uncommon enough that this probably isn’t a coincidence. Not sure what to make of it though.

          • It is, in fact, objectively wrong from a biological perspective to say that trans women are exactly the same as cis women. My point is that it’s also objectively wrong from a biological perspective to say that trans women are exactly the same as cis men.

            The question isn’t whether they are exactly the same–no two people are. It is whether, given a grammatical structure with only three options–male, female, neuter–which makes a better imperfect fit for the trans woman.

            The answer is not obvious. So far as my intuition goes, it can be either male or female depending on which the person comes across as–which is a statement about external appearance and behavior, not what someone thinks of him/her self as.

            Other people might draw the line in other ways. But your position seems, if I correctly understand what you have been posting, to be that everyone has an obligation to draw the line in the way you prefer, to classify someone who self-identifies as female as female, someone who self-identifies as male as male.

            Is that a misreading of your position?

          • Anonymous says:

            Suppose the technology improved to the point where you couldn’t tell without a genetic test that the person was “born male”? Would this change your feelings? Where does the fundamental fact lie?

            If technology improves to the point where SRS actually produces a fully functional person of the opposite sex, there’s no pronoun problem – that person would actually be of that sex.

            Surely you aren’t willing to be browbeaten into dishonesty, right? Something, something the gulag! Four lights!

            You forgot Havel’s greengrocer and the purpose of communist propaganda.

            “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
            ― Theodore Dalrymple

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            Many people see two distinct groups of transwomen, those who generally transition early and those who generally transition late. Many in the latter group seem to describe their trans feelings as having increased over time, which is peculiar and which suggests a possible cultural cause (or a combination of nature & nurture).

            I’ve seen several trans people argue that the ‘I always felt that I was my new gender’ is a false narrative that they use for expediency, because people cannot understand their true feelings.

            I’ve heard quite a few people argue that they have autogynephilia.

            We also see that a fairly large percentage of kids stop feeling transgender later in life. So apparently, these feelings can both increase and decrease over time.

            In very blue tribe environments, there also seem to be subcultures where gender non-conformance is seen as being trans. I wonder if these people are not just being confused by a broken subculture that assumes an overly strong link between traits and sex, so they think that having traits that are less common for one sex, means that one is
            (partially) of the other sex.

            I think that some blue tribe environments are highly misandrist, so it makes sense that some people would try to escape that oppression by claiming to be trans. I would seriously think about doing so if I were forced to live in such an environment. When being ‘oppressed’ is seen as legitimizing bad behavior towards the ‘oppressors,’ it is crucial to stay out of the latter group.

            Finally, lots of the research and other information around this subject seems tainted by advocacy, where people reason towards conclusions that they think will help them/transgender people.

            So this leaves me wary of drawing strong conclusions right now, including dismissing or accepting Blanchard’s transsexualism typology, believing or not believing that transitioning is helpful for everyone who at one point in their life has dysphoria, believing that there is a single cause or not, believing that there are a substantial portion of people who claim to be trans who are honestly or dishonestly faking it, etc, etc.

            When the evidence is so weak, I also believe that professors/teachers should be allowed to have and espouse their own beliefs, preferably while noting that the evidence for their beliefs is highly imperfect and that there are other beliefs.

            Ultimately, universities are not just about teaching, but they are about generating knowledge. This requires that professors can have heterodox views.

          • Brad says:

            @CatCube

            3) Most everybody would agree that the white lie is, well, a lie. If I were to turn to a compatriot after the parents leave and say, “Whoa. That kid is going to have a rough time of it,” I would expect agreement. Here, however, the debate is about what the truth is. I mean, unless you’re willing to acknowledge that we’re all just lying by calling a woman “he” to make transsexuals feel better. I’d be willing to talk, if you’re saying that’s the case, since I would consider it an improvement over the status quo.

            I wouldn’t say lie because I don’t think the group of people for which the pronoun ‘she’ should be used is the kind of question for which there is a fact of the matter in the first place. Your side of this debate seems to implicitly transform each usage of ‘she’ into some kind of creedal statement.

            But to the general point, yes, I would expect you to say ‘she’ under the same reasoning that you would say ‘what a pretty baby’ and for much the same reason. LadyJane may not be happy with me for saying so, but that’s my position.

          • Iain says:

            @CatCube:

            Scott’s response is definitive only if you already agreed with it. I, and I’ll bet everybody on my side, agrees that you shouldn’t misgender people. The issue our sides disagree on is which direction the “misgendering” arrow points.

            This is a non sequitur. Did you read my entire post, or did you just see “Scott’s response is definitive” and start typing angrily?

            I am not claiming that two paragraphs from Scott destroyed every argument against recognizing trans people. I am claiming that Scott pretty conclusively refuted the specific argument that Anonymous made and I quoted. Note that your post says nothing at all about the effective treatment of mental disorders.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Iain
            @CatCube

            I am claiming that Scott pretty conclusively refuted the specific argument that Anonymous made and I quoted.

            News to me. When I read that argument, I ignored it as a non-sequitur of some sort. Now I think it’s a strawman, but it’s not Scott’s fault, obviously.

            Really, are you sure you want your opposition to accepting transgender people to be “I think it’s a mental disorder”?

            I don’t oppose accepting transgender people any more than I oppose accepting schizophrenics or people who believe they are Napoleon. I think their plight – dysphoria – is real, and unfortunate.

            What I oppose is:
            – Regarding the condition as perfectly normal, or deserving of normalization, as opposed to a delusional state like other mental disorders.
            – Attempting to solve the issue via means that cannot possibly work with the current medical technology, most notably SRS.
            – Propagandizing and privileging the condition so much that people who are not afflicted pretend to be to gain bennies.

          • CatCube says:

            @Brad

            I wouldn’t say lie because I don’t think the group of people for which the pronoun ‘she’ should be used is the kind of question for which there is a fact of the matter in the first place.

            If it’s a question that you think can’t be answered one way or the other, then why do you care which I use? If you happen to think that it’s a trifling matter about which we can’t really know the truth anyway, then why the issue with me using the ones that I feel strongly about?

            Your side of this debate seems to implicitly transform each usage of ‘she’ into some kind of creedal statement.

            Just as your side of the aisle transforms the use of “he” in that situation into a creedal statement.

            But to the general point, yes, I would expect you to say ‘she’ under the same reasoning that you would say ‘what a pretty baby’ and for much the same reason. LadyJane may not be happy with me for saying so, but that’s my position.

            You’re trying to use the language of politeness as a lever to enforce your policy prescriptions. FWIW, I think you’re sincere, but incorrect. If I don’t agree with your policy prescriptions, saying “Oh, just suck it up. You don’t want to be rude, do you?” is a hell of an imposition.

            That aside, I actually do not agree that politeness demands that I use the pronoun “she” for a MtF transsexual (or vice versa). I think the maximum that I’m obligated to do is to not use the pronoun “he”, which is a real stretch, but one I’d be willing to make.

            As I said, I’ve not been faced with this situation IRL, but if it came up my objective would be to avoid having anybody notice I’m not using pronouns for the individual in question. Given that the Pronoun Police would be out in force at that point (the only place I could see this coming up is work, since I’d probably drop a personal relationship or group that required it), I doubt I could keep it unnoticed for very long, but I’m damn sure going to make somebody look for it. I’m certainly not going to announce it, and evade to the maximum extent possible if asked about it. However, what I will not do is actually use “she”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Still being deceived.

            OK, then where exactly does sex/gender reside? A person with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome may always have appeared outwardly female, despite the XY genotype? Are they (perhaps accidentally) deceiving people about their gender? A person with Swyer syndrome (also XY) will appear female as a child, but fail to develop secondary sexual characteristics without hormone therapy… are they deceptive if they take the therapy?

            Is it just that they once were anatomically male?

          • As I said, I’ve not been faced with this situation IRL, but if it came up my objective would be to avoid having anybody notice I’m not using pronouns for the individual in question.

            That is the solution I try to use in real life for a situation where my perception of a person’s gender and that person’s self identification are different.

            I think putting it as my perception is more accurate than putting it as “what the person’s gender is.” The one MTF post surgery transsexual I know comes across to me as a woman, if a somewhat odd looking one, so I would be more uncomfortable using “he” than “she.” The one person who I know self-identifies as female while having an apparently male body and behavior I think of as male, so try to avoid using gendered pronouns when referring to.

            If I knew that someone was genetically one gender but morphologically the other, as I gather very occasionally happens, I’m pretty sure I would go with the morphology.

            The reason using the “wrong” pronoun feels to me like lying is that my speech expresses my thoughts, so if I don’t think of someone as female it is dishonest to use feminine pronouns for him.

          • Iain says:

            If it’s a question that you think can’t be answered one way or the other, then why do you care which I use? If you happen to think that it’s a trifling matter about which we can’t really know the truth anyway, then why the issue with me using the ones that I feel strongly about?

            Words are just tools that we use to communicate. Some languages use separate words to refer to light blue and dark blue; others, like English, use only one and modify it. Is the sky the same colour as my blue jeans? What is the truth of the matter?

            Pluto is no longer a planet; plenty of people argued against the change, but as far as I’m aware nobody did so on the basis that denying the planethood of Pluto would be a lie, and that would violate their moral convictions.

            Words are just Schelling points. If you refuse to acknowledge Mrs. Rockefeller as Nelson’s wife, you aren’t falling back to some immortal truth about what the word “wife” really means. You are making a political claim about how you think society should be organized, and what the institution of marriage should look like, in an attempt to shift the Schelling point. Similarly, if you refuse to use somebody’s preferred pronouns, that’s not a heroic commitment to the truth. It’s an assertion about what the word “she” should mean. It’s a claim that society is better when we think about gender in terms of birth sex than when we think about gender in terms of a person’s self-conception.

            Now, maybe that claim is right, and maybe not. We each have our own opinions. But it’s not the sort of claim where either side can just say “We are defending the truth, and you are asking us to lie”. The entire debate is about where we should draw the boundaries of a category. When you claim that your preferred boundary is the truth, you aren’t making an argument; you’re just stating a conclusion.

          • CatCube says:

            @The Nybbler

            Is it just that they once were anatomically male?

            Bingo.

          • CatCube says:

            @Iain

            You are making a political claim about how you think society should be organized, and what the institution of marriage should look like, in an attempt to shift the Schelling point. Similarly, if you refuse to use somebody’s preferred pronouns, that’s not a heroic commitment to the truth. It’s an assertion about what the word “she” should mean. It’s a claim that society is better when we think about gender in terms of birth sex than when we think about gender in terms of a person’s self-conception.

            Now, maybe that claim is right, and maybe not. We each have our own opinions. But it’s not the sort of claim where either side can just say “We are defending the truth, and you are asking us to lie”. The entire debate is about where we should draw the boundaries of a category. When you claim that your preferred boundary is the truth, you aren’t making an argument; you’re just stating a conclusion.

            You have it exactly correct. I very much do believe that “that society is better when we think about gender in terms of birth sex than when we think about gender in terms of a person’s self-conception.” The reason I originally commented (and I normally scroll by all arguments of this type here because they’re uninteresting–this one is boring, too, but I’m trying to avoid throwing a grenade and then leaving) was because of your claim that Scott’s article was “definitive”, where it really requires a bunch of left-wing assumptions.

          • Brad says:

            @CatCube

            If it’s a question that you think can’t be answered one way or the other, then why do you care which I use? If you happen to think that it’s a trifling matter about which we can’t really know the truth anyway, then why the issue with me using the ones that I feel strongly about?

            For myself it’s a non-issue. I’m not trans and I don’t have any friends or family that are trans. But some people really care quite a bit.

            I don’t think they especially care whether or not you “really” believe that they are a woman. I think using the desired pronouns is good enough. More like Judaism than Christianity in that sense. That’s frankly where I am–more orthoprax than orthodox.
            (N.B. I have low confidence in this understanding, it could be that most trans people really do care.)

            You’re trying to use the language of politeness as a lever to enforce your policy prescriptions. FWIW, I think you’re sincere, but incorrect. If I don’t agree with your policy prescriptions, saying “Oh, just suck it up. You don’t want to be rude, do you?” is a hell of an imposition.

            What policy prescription exactly? I usually think of that as something having to do with governance.

            Anyway, I do think it is a matter of rudeness. I acknowledge that “it’s rude” isn’t the be and end all of the discusison. I chimed in here to makes the points that a) I don’t think ‘lie’ really captures what’s going on and in any event b) most people lie all the time for reasons of politeness. Maybe not you, but most people. If there is something unusually objectionable here I don’t think it suffices to just say “you are forcing to choose between being polite or lying”.

            That aside, I actually do not agree that politeness demands that I use the pronoun “she” for a MtF transsexual (or vice versa). I think the maximum that I’m obligated to do is to not use the pronoun “he”, which is a real stretch, but one I’d be willing to make.

            Given sufficient charisma and grace to pull it off, this seems like a very good compromise. The ideal from a politeness perspective is that no one walks away with hurt feelings.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            I feel like you are missing an important element:

            Nobody is demanding that other people stop using preferred pronouns for transgender people. (Well, nobody here I have seen, and I have zero interest in trying to steelman that position anyways)

            There is literally only one side behaving as if their preferred definition is Truth here. Only one side is demanding the other capitulate and use words the Right way.

            Can you guess which side it is?

            Also, I am tapping out as translator after this. Somebody else can try to convert heat to light. This whole debate is kind of dumb, and I am getting just a little annoyed that I am spending it defending a position I think is kind of dumb because the opposition can’t put forward an actual argument.

            So, the actual argument, stepping outside my neutral zone:

            You change word definitions all the time, your language constant adapts and changes. Your objection is not to the change in language, which you accept without thought in 99% of cases, but the sense that the change in language is being forced on you. But the assholes pushing the change aren’t the people who actually want it – they are pushing the change exactly because they know you will resist it, so they can paint you as antisocial, anti-trans neanderthals.

            This is not the goddamned hill to die on. There is no useful principle here. This is a wasteland battlefield of their choosing, not yours, over a situation that doesn’t actually matter to you except that the enemy has chosen to fight you on it. Because ten years ago we weren’t having this freaking debate, because almost nobody actually cares, except as some bullshit to hate the other side for.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler: +1

            Perhaps it’s just too much science fiction at a young age, but when I see trans people, I mainly see people being screwed over because our medical technology sucks. They want the Donna->Donno transition from _A Civil Campaign_, but they get the hack job we can do with modern medical technology.

          • Fahundo says:

            “Here’s a picture of my new baby. Isn’t she beautiful?”
            “No, actually she looks like an alien.”

            If someone told you your baby was ugly would you:

            A: push for them to be professionally reprimanded
            B: stop showing them baby pics

        • LadyJane says:

          @Matt M: If there was a pill that relieved all feelings of gender dysphoria, then I’d imagine that some people with gender dysphoria would be extremely grateful, and many others would reject it. Personally, I view a person’s fundamental identity/sense-of-self as being a product of their mind (i.e. brain/nervous system) more than their body (i.e. outwardly visible sex characteristics), so I would consider altering their mind to actually be more radical and invasive than altering their body. Either way, it wouldn’t fundamentally make a trans woman suddenly become a cis man, no more than transitioning via hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery will fundamentally change a trans woman into a cis woman.

          You’re looking at the narrative as if it’s “[Biological Male] who wants to be [Biological Female] uses drugs and surgery to become [Biological Male Resembling A Biological Female],” and your alternative is “[Biological Male] uses a cure to stop wanting to be [Biological Female].” In actuality, it’s more like “[Biological Intersex Person Who Resembles A Biological Male But Feels Closer To Being A Biological Female] uses drugs and surgery to become [Biological Intersex Person Who Resembles And Feels Closer To Being A Biological Female]”, and your alternative is “[Biological Intersex Person Who Resembles A Biological Male But Feels Closer To Being A Biological Female] uses a ‘cure’ to become [Biological Intersex Person Who Resembles And Feels Closer To Being A Biological Male].”

          • Anonymous says:

            1. You appear to be ignoring that there may be people who are not “intersex” but still want to be the opposite sex. And you can’t reliably determine which are which.

            2. The state of the art SRS is little more than cosmetic surgery with a side of mutilation.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            It is absolutely normal to alter the mind. In fact, most of the West forces children to go to mind altering institutions (schools).

            You seem to believe that it is crucial to preserve people’s mental traits, but this very belief may be a broken mental pattern.

            Suppose that we have a person who is so pessimistic that he doesn’t participate in life beyond the bare necessities and that this person is resentful of the more optimistic. He doesn’t want to be like those privileged people who take their abilities for granted, etc, etc. Basic ego-protection by resenting those with a better life.

            Now suppose that we give him a pill to remove that extreme pessimism. Now the person can have a job, partner, social life, etc. Do you think that this person will now resent himself or do you think he will alter his views because the resentment was merely a crutch? I think the latter.

            People are great at rationalizing. Why should we avoid helping people who are in agony to preserve their mind, when the way that their mind works is part of their agony? Doesn’t the same logic prohibit helping anyone? ‘That missing leg is part of who you are and how you relate to the world, so no prosthesis for you.’

            Isn’t this just cruel?

          • publiusvarinius says:

            @Aapje

            If pre-pill-person states that he’d prefer not to become post-pill-person, then post-pill-person’s experiences are not going to be very relevant in the debate.

            Suppose that we have a person with normal human emotions. He repeatedly states that he does not wish to engage in the usual behaviors that a robot only experiencing pure bliss would engage in.

            Now suppose that we replace the person with a robot only experiencing pure bliss. Do you think that robot will now experience resentment or do you think that it will experience pure bliss? I think the latter.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Anonymous: Regarding your first point, you’re right insofar as we can’t ever be 100% certain that someone claiming to have gender dysphoria actually has it. Some might be lying, for whatever reason. Others might genuinely believe they have it when there’s actually a different reason for their feelings. Nonetheless, I would much rather assume good faith, since there’s no real harm in a false positive, but a lot of harm in denying an honest person’s claims about their psychological state and sense of identity. (Obviously if I was a certified gender therapist, I’d apply more rigorous standards to my patients, but I’m talking about day-to-day personal interactions here.)

            @Aapje: It’s a difficult question, and I don’t proclaim to make any judgments on the “correct” answer, if such a thing even exists. All I can say is that I personally would much rather change my anatomical structure than my mental state, given a choice between the two.

            Your first example doesn’t quite match the situation, because the dichotomy there is “alter your mind or keep suffering,” whereas the trichotomy here is “alter your body, alter your mind, or keep suffering.” And even then, the choice still isn’t as black and white as you make it out to be, as publiusvarinius demonstrated.

            As for your example about the person with a missing limb, I’d say that’s more of an argument for physical transitioning than against it. Having gender dysphoria is like having phantom limb syndrome, and hormone treatments and/or sexual reassignment surgery are like the prosthetic limb used to treat it. If you were missing a limb, what would you prefer: a pill that would cure all feelings of phantom limb syndrome, or a replacement for the actual limb?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Nonetheless, I would much rather assume good faith, since there’s no real harm in a false positive

            Yes, there _is_. Demanding I refer to e.g. a bald guy with a beard as “she” is _messing with my head_. If it can be harmful to a trans- person to be referred to by pronouns they feel don’t match their identity, why can it not be similarly harmful for a cis person to be required to refer to others by pronouns the cis person feels are inappropriate?

          • Iain says:

            Demanding I refer to e.g. a bald guy with a beard as “she” is _messing with my head_.

            And this happens to you often?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Personally, of the three trans people I have known, two were quite earnest, and the third wanted to both be referred to using female pronouns while also sporting a magnificent beard.

            So… I can say that it happens. Couldn’t guess at the frequency.

            I waver on the optics of the situation. On the one hand, normalization. On the other, obnoxious special snowflakes might just make people angry.

            Granted it is out of my control even if I cared overmuch, but I do wonder whether people who do care should be forwarding the idea, pushing back on it, or continuing to ignore it.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            30 year follow-up study:

            Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.

            Also:

            It should therefore come as no surprise that studies have found high rates of depression,[9] and low quality of life[16], [25] also after sex reassignment.

            Now, my argument is not that we should ban or remove funding for hormone therapy and/or sexual reassignment surgery, but rather that it is dangerous to idealize it, just because being in favor is seen as the way to support trans people, because criticizing it is seen as handing the political outgroup ammunition, etc.

            Furthermore, the fairly rapid increase in trans diagnoses may consist in (large) part of people with different characteristics than those who were diagnosed and/or treated in the past. So we should be open to the possibility that the same treatment is less effective for them, for example because more people seek help with less severe dysphoria or because people see transitioning as the best way to gain respect and/or support from their (hateful) subculture.

          • Iain says:

            Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.

            Comparing to the general population is not particularly meaningful. It’s not hard to see why trans people might still have problems, even post-SRS — particularly since this data is from 1973-2003.

            If you saw a study saying “Depressed people using SSRIs have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidality, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population”, would you take that as an argument against SSRIs?

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            I explicitly said that my objection was not to having the treatment, but to those who idealize it. Perhaps you read my comment too quickly, not grasping what I argued?

            In my opinion, your criticism* of the study merely supports my argument that we should be willing to recognize that the treatment can work differently for different year groups.

            * And I also think that it is too dismissive, because a 30 year study is not nothing.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje: I’d agree that the findings of a 30 year study are significant. In this case, they proved that trans people (or in this case, the subset of trans people who’ve medically transitioned) have higher rates of depression and lower overall life satisfaction than the general population, which I don’t think should be surprising to anyone.

            My point (and Iain’s point) is not that the study is insignificant, but that it doesn’t offer any proof that it’s the hormone treatments or surgery that cause depression and lower life satisfaction, which seem more likely to result from simply being trans in the first place. In order to prove that, there would have to be a sample group of trans people who haven’t medically transitioned. So I don’t see how this is evidence against HRT/SRS, or even really evidence that we shouldn’t “idealize” it, whatever that means. (Unless you’re just saying “we shouldn’t let trans people think HRT/SRS will automatically solve all of their gender-related issues instantly,” in which case you’re correct but also stating the obvious.)

            On the object level, I find it very likely that trans people who undergo HRT/SRS tend to be less depressed and have higher life satisfaction than trans people who don’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was by a huge margin. (Whether they’d be more or less depressed than trans people who took a hypothetical dysphoria cure is debatable, since no such cure exists and real-life conversion therapies tend to be both barbaric and ineffective.)

          • LadyJane says:

            @The Nybbler: Quite frankly, the ‘harm’ caused by the fact that using someone’s preferred pronouns “messes with your head” is almost laughably trivial, to the point where I can’t even seriously consider it any real kind of harm. Especially compared to the much more severe psychological and social consequences facing the trans people whose identities are being put into question.

            At worst, you’re being forced to confront the fact that one of the categorical lenses through which you view the world is only ~98.5% accurate and not 100% accurate, and sometimes there are exceptions that don’t fit neatly into one of your pre-existing boxes. Sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but in the grand scheme of things, I really can’t bring myself to care that much.

            It also says a lot that you had to resort to such an extreme example to justify your feelings of discomfort. Most trans women do not look like bald men with beards.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @The Nybbler: Quite frankly, the ‘harm’ caused by the fact that using someone’s preferred pronouns “messes with your head” is almost laughably trivial, to the point where I can’t even seriously consider it any real kind of harm. Especially compared to the much more severe psychological and social consequences facing the trans people whose identities are being put into question.

            OK, then the ‘harm’ caused by the fact that someone used what you consider the wrong pronouns in referring to you is laughably trivial. I dismiss those psychological and social consequences thus (waves hand).

            Once you’re simply arbitrarily dismissing the concerns of one group, you open up yourself for them to do the same.

          • LadyJane says:

            @The Nybbler: You’re a group now? Because there are plenty of cis people who have absolutely no problem using trans people’s preferred pronouns. If the group in question is “transphobes and stubborn confused people who feel uncomfortable about things they don’t understand,” then yes, I’m fine arbitrarily dismissing their concerns.

            Considering the amount of discrimination and dehumanization that trans people face on a regular basis, it’s really hard for me to take “it makes me feel uncomfortable” seriously as an argument. Does it honestly make you feel uncomfortable to the same degree that being actively harassed on a frequent basis would make you feel uncomfortable?

            Hell, even without comparing it to vastly more severe wrongs, it still seems very trivial in its own right. It’s exactly the sort of “my feelings are more important than scientific facts/social norms!” attitude that conservatives love to make fun of social justice warriors for.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Goddamnit.

            This is just bad tactics, LadyJane.

            You know what helps? “Look, I understand that when you look at me, your first and entirely non-malicious inclination is to refer to me with this pronoun set, and believe me, no one wants to remedy that confusion more than I. I understand that doing this might be confusing, that is a significant ask for some people, and in fact, too much for some. So, because this is legitimately and deeply important to me, I’m asking you to work with me on this, with the understanding that you doing this is effort, and I’ll accept slip-ups and confusion that arises in good faith.”

            The point where you say “I’m fine dismissing the concerns of people who have issues using preferred pronouns.” is the point where quite a lot of people with those issues shrug, nod, and become equally fine dismissing your concerns, and the concerns of a lot of trans people, in turn. And no matter where you think the weight of moral suasion lies, that’s a really, really bad tactic when you are a tiny minority, because if you get coordinated action with two teams, one being trans people and the other people being people with a notable discomfort with using preferred pronouns which contradict someone’s apparent or historic gender presentation, the second group is going to be a hell of a lot larger.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @LadyJane

            OK then. If the answer to you feeling uncomfortable is that I must change my terminology to make you feel comfortable, but the answer to me feeling uncomfortable is to say I’m a transphobe whose feelings don’t matter… then we’re just down to a pure power struggle, as with no reciprocity it seems unlikely there’s any true moral component. And while there is thankfully only one of me, I would bet there’s a lot more people who don’t want to be bullied about their pronouns than there are trans people.

            Hell, even without comparing it to vastly more severe wrongs, it still seems very trivial in its own right.

            The point is I’m not comparing it to vastly more severe wrongs. I’m comparing it to a rather similar sort of wrong. One is creating a sort of mental dissonance in you, the other is creating a sort of mental dissonance in me.

          • Matt M says:

            I would bet there’s a lot more people who don’t want to be bullied about their pronouns than there are trans people.

            Probably, but this isn’t the right comparison.

            I would bet that it’s pretty close to there being a lot more people who want to bully you about pronouns than there are people who don’t want to be bullied about it. And the balance tilts farther in their favor every day.

            That group includes the host of this blog. Which is low stakes enough. But I definitely wouldn’t recommend intentionally “misgendering” someone at school or at the workplace. That’s more likely to end very poorly for you than it is for them…

          • LadyJane says:

            @Robert Liguori:

            You know what helps? “Look, I understand that when you look at me, your first and entirely non-malicious inclination is to refer to me with this pronoun set, and believe me, no one wants to remedy that confusion more than I. I understand that doing this might be confusing, that is a significant ask for some people, and in fact, too much for some. So, because this is legitimately and deeply important to me, I’m asking you to work with me on this, with the understanding that you doing this is effort, and I’ll accept slip-ups and confusion that arises in good faith.”

            You mean like this?

            “I know that it’s not uncommon for people to misgender a trans person they just met, and I understand that slip-ups can happen from time to time, especially if the trans person in question isn’t particularly passable.”

            “If someone misgendered me or another trans person I knew, I would politely correct them. After that, if they made an effort to use the correct pronouns (or neutral pronouns, or no pronouns), but still slipped up from time to time, I would ignore the periodic slip-ups. If it became too frequent, I would correct them again, still politely but a little more firmly.”

            I’ve said more or less exactly what you recommended at two separate points in this very thread. The reason I was so flippant with The Nybbler is because I’ve spent a good deal of time writing detailed arguments for why trans identities are valid and should be respected, and his response basically amounted to “but it’s weird and I don’t wanna!”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If the group in question is “transphobes and stubborn confused people who feel uncomfortable about things they don’t understand,” then yes, I’m fine arbitrarily dismissing their concerns.

            It’s exactly the sort of “my feelings are more important than scientific facts/social norms!” attitude that conservatives love to make fun of social justice warriors for.

            how do you manage to go from “picture-perfect SJW rhetoric” to “You’re the real SJW!!!11!!” so easily?

            Seriously, I’d make a good-faith response here, but you’ve demonstrated your complete lack of good faith via the picture-perfect SJW rhetoric already. I’m fine with arbitrarily dismissing your concerns, and I bet President Trump is too. Sad!

          • If the group in question is “transphobes and stubborn confused people who feel uncomfortable about things they don’t understand,”

            On the evidence so far, I’m not the one here who feels uncomfortable about things I don’t understand–unless your definition of “understand” is “Agree with Lady Jane about.”

            I discussed the fact that the binary model of gender is only an approximation, in print, and some of the issues it raises, nine years ago, partly inspired by a student paper in a course I taught some years earlier (Future Imperfect, Chapter XIV). I know at least two people who are in one sense or another transsexual, and get along with both of them.

            What I am uncomfortable with is the idea that I am obligated to either believe something or pretend to believe something on someone else’s orders. The claim that a true statement of my beliefs will make someone uncomfortable does not strike me as close to justifying that.

            As far as I know I have never met you, so I don’t know whether, if I did, I would see you as male or female. But whichever it is, I am not prepared to pretend differently in order to make you feel more comfortable.

          • LadyJane says:

            @The Nybbler: No, I don’t see it as being purely a power struggle between competing preferences, because I firmly believe that a trans person’s discomfort at being misgendered is both more severe and more valid than someone else’s discomfort at using their preferred pronouns. More severe, because I know trans people who’ve questioned their own identities and self-worth over being misgendered, sometimes to the point of being depressed or even suicidal. More valid, because they have an actual reason to feel upset (they’re being told that they’re something they aren’t, and nothing they do can convince people otherwise), whereas you haven’t explained why using their preferred pronouns would upset you, and I’m rather doubtful that you have any real reason beyond an instinctive knee-jerk reaction.

          • LadyJane says:

            Honestly, the real question here is why so many people feel “uncomfortable” with the idea of using a trans person’s preferred pronouns, and more broadly, with the idea of accepting trans identities as valid.

            I’ve been going back and forth in this thread for a while now, and from what I can tell, there are four main reasons people might reject the validity of trans identities:
            1.) They’re highly devoted to a religion and/or a culture in which trans identities aren’t considered valid. I feel some sympathy for these people, just like I feel some sympathy for creationists. At the same time, I don’t think their personal religious/cultural beliefs should take precedence over social norms in secular settings (as I said in response to Friedman’s example below, I’d consider it incredibly rude if a Catholic refused to call a remarried woman by her new surname).
            2.) They believe that the gay/trans agenda is part of some postmodernist left-wing feminist Cultural Marxist conspiracy, and they think they’re defending free speech and fighting (or at least spiting) the SJW establishment by being aggressively contrarian about issues like preferred pronouns. These people are misinformed at best and completely delusional at worst, and I find them to be morally repulsive, to the point where I refuse to engage or associate with them at all.
            3.) They earnestly believe that “transgender identities aren’t real” (i.e. that there are no meaningful biological differences between a trans woman and a cis man (or between a trans man and a cis woman), that gender dysphoria is caused purely by societal factors and has no biological basis, and that the best treatment for gender dysphoria is to get people to stop wanting to change their apparent sex rather than entertaining their delusions), and they refuse to deny what they see as Truth by “pretending” that people are things they aren’t. These people are the reason I’m posting about this topic. They’re rational and genuinely well-intentioned and they tend to be fairly open-minded, and I’m hoping my arguments will change the minds of at least a few of them. For what it’s worth, I used to be in this category myself.
            4.) They have no real reason that they can articulate or explain in any meaningful way, beyond the fact that it clashes with their intuitions and makes them uncomfortable in some ineffable fashion.

            There also seems to be another group that believes only *some* trans people’s gender identities are valid, while other trans people are either delusional or simply pretending to be trans for the sake of some perceived benefits. (For what it’s worth, I live in an ultra-liberal enclave city, and even in social circles comprised mostly of socially progressive 20-somethings, trans people are still very much treated as barely-tolerated token minorities, or as outcasts altogether. The idea that there’s any social benefit to being trans – outside of a few extremely small and insular queer groups – is laughable.) There’s probably some low percentage of people claiming to be trans who are just confused or lying, but I doubt they comprise more than a small fraction of the already small trans population. At any rate, I don’t know why so many random cis people think they’re qualified to judge whether or not someone’s really trans at a glance, considering it can take professional gender therapists weeks or months to figure it out. In the spirit of good faith, I would much rather err on the side of caution and take people at their word.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            We are used to taking it for granted that each of us is either male or female. For a long time that was quite a good approximation. But not for much longer.

            Well, at least we can agree on that.

            It’s going to be an interesting century.

            And that.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            They have no real reason that they can articulate or explain in any meaningful way, beyond the fact that it clashes with their intuitions and makes them uncomfortable in some ineffable fashion.

            People have argued that having to use a pronoun that mismatches with their pattern matching causes mental dissonance and/or high mental load.

            From what I’ve heard, it is common for people who have known a trans person before the transition, to have built up a mental model based on the pre-transition gender. It can then be extremely hard to alter that mental model, especially since gender is so fundamental to how most people categorize & make sense of people and their behavior. So it’s not a mostly unconnected fact at the edge of the mental model, that can be fairly trivially altered, like to update the model when someone gets a new haircut, but one that has a neural connection to many parts of the mental model. Updating the model so extensively is hard and updating it fully or partially may be impossible for many/most. This can cause accidental misgendering. Many people fear being attacked over this as if they intended to do harm, when their behavior is unintentionally offensive. Such a fear can mean that a person is permanently stressed while near the trans person and scientific research suggests that being stressed for long periods is extremely harmful.

            A separate possible cause of mental dissonance and/or high mental load is that most people have pattern matchers used to categorize people into male and female. This is important because of gender roles. Treating a man as a woman or vice versa by default is generally a socially unsuccessful strategy. So people who encounter a non-perfectly transitioned person will then logically have conflicting perceptual information, causing mental dissonance. This can mean that they will then escalate to a higher cognitive system, which causes a high mental load. However, their more base cognitive systems may also decide on their own, especially if the person is already under high mental load, causing misgendering without any ill intent or even intent at all (since the base cognitive systems made the decision, below the level what we generally call ‘intent’). Again, people may fear being attacked over this and may experience high stress while near the trans person.

            To be blunt: SJ people have not been particularly empathetic with male nerds in the past, mostly demonizing the common mental traits of this group and the consequences thereof. Or to put it in SJ parlance: they have been extremely ableist. In general, SJ people seem very prone to stomp all over the rights and needs of those whose issues they have trouble recognizing & worse, the ideology is full of rationalizations why cries of pain from certain groups should be ignored (or even taken as evidence that the stomping is helping to create a better world). So my standard assumption is that SJ people will generally not try to find a balance between the needs and limitations of various groups, but that they will implement extremist policies that causes immense harm to their outgroup whenever possible, even if their rhetoric is merely about helping the ingroup. This is the logical consequence of severely under-appreciating the needs of the outgroup, made worse by an ideology that tends to see resistance by the outgroup as a desire for oppression, rather than fighting for their own needs.

          • Thegnskald says:

            LadyJane –

            You say you see four types of people.

            But your “four types of people” looks more like the category you had before you entered into this discussion than anything that arose from it – who here has argued on religious grounds against trans identities? Conrad is the only person I am certain is religious who has spoken up here, and his basic attitude is pretty clearly “Make an effort at passing and I’ll make an equal effort at trying to recognize you as the gender you want to be”.

            You have quite the closed mind there. Since you don’t seem to realize this, let me impress something upon you: You are asking people for something. Shitting on them when they negotiate for anything other than exactly what you want isn’t how you convince people you are working in good faith at arriving at a world which is better for everybody.

            Doubly so when you say their complaints are illegitimate and don’t matter. If you have a good argument why their complaints are less legitimate, make it. Don’t just assert it like they are subhuman garbage for having complaints.

            I’m on your side. I’m fucking on your side. Quit making me regret being there.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Also, on number 4, I have given you an explanation.

            You just don’t understand the explanation.

            So, let me drive this a little deeper:

            When most of us grew up, “Gender is evil” was the dominant social narrative. Believing “he” and “she” referred to anything other than sexual characteristics was regarded as SEXISM. There were two freaking decades dedicated to the idea that “man” and “woman” is just a way of describing physical characteristics, and insisting on any deeper meaning is sexist. This was drilled into two generations of people’s brains.

            So when somebody who has zero interest in presenting as a woman comes along and insists on being referred to as “she”, it makes us really fucking uncomfortable, because what the fuck is this insistence supposed to convey? What are you saying about yourself? What are you saying about the role you want to play in society?

            Clearly you are saying there is something to “she” other than what your physical sex characteristics are. It sounds like that sexism thing we spent the 90s shutting down. It sounds like you are saying there is something to that kind of sexism, that it is something meaningful. It sounds like you are saying something about women. And the fact that you keep insisting on the word “gender” rather than “sex” really, really doesn’t help.

            And I don’t give a shit, because it pattern matches to “punks playing polka”, which is to say, people doing uncool things because they are uncool because fuck society. But I do understand why the other people do, and you aren’t trying to understand why they are getting upset, you are just insulting them for it.

            They have a legitimate reason to be upset. You just don’t understand that reason because you apparently didn’t grow up in a society in which “she” meant you weren’t supposed to play with Legos, and you literally seem incapable of understanding what all this pattern-matches to. You are welcome, by the way.

          • If it can be harmful to a trans- person to be referred to by pronouns they feel don’t match their identity, why can it not be similarly harmful for a cis person to be required to refer to others by pronouns the cis person feels are inappropriate?

            The baseline assumption is that pretty much everyone is required to be polite, and that politeness involves saying things you don’t necessarily believe. Inasmuch as you are saying you can’t play the game, you are effectively claiming to be in some special category yourself.

            People have argued that having to use a pronoun that mismatches with their pattern matching causes mental dissonance and/or high mental load.

            Is that supposed to relate to transness specifically? Because otherwise these people are going to be socially disabled.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald
            Eh. There are certainly parts of trans culture and advocacy that are in significant tension with second wave feminism, but I don’t think pronoun choice is especially one of them.

            In some alternate universe where at the same time mailman was becoming mailperson and chairman was becoming chair, gender neutral pronouns could have started taking over. If that had been the case, and we were 30 years downstream from it, then sure insisting on gendered pronouns for and only for trans people would be retrograde and cause dissonance. But we aren’t in that universe. If a staunch second wave feminist is okay with using he/she on the basis of largely meaningless dangling bits than he should be okay with also using them on request. And singular they, along with the entire concept of gender non-binary, should be enthusiastically embraced as the unfinished work of the 70s.

            To sum up, I agree there’s a horseshoe between “I love to shop because I have a woman’s brain” and “Woman are natural nurtures and don’t belong in competitive fields” but I don’t think pronoun debates invoke much of those problematic aspects.

          • SamChevre says:

            The baseline assumption is that pretty much everyone is required to be polite, and that politeness involves saying things you don’t necessarily believe.

            This is only unusefully true. Politeness requires saying things you don’t necessarily believe, and that everyone knows you don’t necessarily believe and that have no real consequences. Politeness may well include addressing the guy with the sign on his bike “King of Germany” who’s shadow-boxing with a telephone pole as “Your Majesty”; it doesn’t include addressing Charles Stuart as “Your Majesty”, or inviting the crazy guy to the reception for the German ambassador.

          • Matt M says:

            and that politeness involves saying things you don’t necessarily believe

            Is it “polite” to loudly and abrasively insist people call you a woman when you look like a man?

            Or, even worse, to loudly and abrasively insist they refer to you by some made-up, non-existent term like “xhe”?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            I am pretty sure the whole TURF thing is pretty explicitly second-wave.

            (Autocorrect keeps trying to turn that into second-rate. I am half tempted to leave it.)

            At any rate, my point isn’t that the pronouns fit neatly into that horseshoe. The new definitions are built on self-identity. The problem comes in because the identity that somebody is identifying with – the category they are asking to be placed in – isn’t the same category for other people it is for them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1.) They’re highly devoted to a religion and/or a culture in which trans identities aren’t considered valid. I feel some sympathy for these people, just like I feel some sympathy for creationists. At the same time, I don’t think their personal religious/cultural beliefs should take precedence over social norms in secular settings (as I said in response to Friedman’s example below, I’d consider it incredibly rude if a Catholic refused to call a remarried woman by her new surname).

            The Catholic position on transgendered individuals is that they’re individuals who need empathy and compassion. Some may have a mental problem where they believe they’re a sex they’re not, others may have a physical problem where their genitals don’t match their mind. Either way, we are called to empathy and compassion for the sick.

            The divorce thing is a bit trickier. No one would gleefully refuse to acknowledge a remarriage, and would probably do so with some internal turmoil. I’m going through this right now. Two of my married Catholic friends are going through a divorce, and she’s dating a new guy. She is wonderful 10,000% wife material. I’ve never met such a wonderful person and homemaker. And her ex-husband is the biggest fool on the planet. No idea what the hell he’s doing. Perfect wife, two adorable children, and he’s all “naw I’mma go bang younger chicks.” It’s very awkward. I hung out with the woman and her new boyfriend this past weekend and I was super friendly but yeah I kept thinking “JESUS DOESN’T LIKE THIS WHY DID EVERYTHING GO WRONG HERE THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.”

          • Is it “polite” to loudly and abrasively insist people call you a woman when you look like a man?

            People don’t like playing the politeness game with people who aren’t playing the politeness game. That works both ways.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            And singular they, along with the entire concept of gender non-binary, should be enthusiastically embraced as the unfinished work of the 70s.

            To sum up, I agree there’s a horseshoe between “I love to shop because I have a woman’s brain” and “Woman are natural nurtures and don’t belong in competitive fields” but I don’t think pronoun debates invoke much of those problematic aspects.

            But LadyJane is not just talking about using pronouns for politeness. Her position is not yours, but also about

            more broadly, with the idea of accepting trans identities as valid.

            There can be implications for accepting gender binaries if you also accept trans identities as valid. Mostly if you’ve come from the angle LadyJane has about how their are clear biological differences in the brain separating trans from cis people and that these are a sign that trans people’s identities are scientifically correct. Less so if you come from an angle like “do whatever you feel best, gender is make-believe anyways”.

          • Randy M says:

            I am pretty sure the whole TURF thing is pretty explicitly second-wave.

            I think that’s TERF, but perhaps you are actually more correct with turf.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The baseline assumption is that pretty much everyone is required to be polite, and that politeness involves saying things you don’t necessarily believe.

            Generally, in social situations or cultures which have elaborate politeness rules, there are also elaborate rules to make sure you don’t put somebody in a place where it is hard for them to be polite. If I say “your baby is ugly” I’m the asshole. If you keep pestering me to tell you if I think the baby is cute why haven’t you said anything yet isn’t the baby cute I notice you haven’t commented on its cuteness, you’re the asshole. Making up new pronouns or changing the definitions of existing ones and insisting everybody who doesn’t obey your new rules is rude seems much more like the latter to me. It’s not saying we won’t play the game. It’s saying you’re not the referee, and you don’t get to change the game on the fly.

            Anyway, arguing over who is being most impolite reminds of arguments over who has the burden of proof. It’s just an attempt to sidestep the real argument and win by rules-lawyering.

          • @David

            What I am uncomfortable with is the idea that I am obligated to either believe something or pretend to believe something on someone else’s orders.

            So do you not follow any social norms, or do you just not perceive the other 99% as forced on you?

            @Jaskologist

            The equivalent of forcing someone to be rude would be inventing new pronouns but not saying what they are. Which is not happening in our reality (although it is in Royston Vasey).

          • Matt M says:

            or do you just not perceive the other 99% as forced on you?

            Speaking for myself, probably this.

            If I call your baby ugly, you may consider me rude and be less likely to be my friend… but you won’t haul me in front of some sort of human rights tribunal with the power to fine me and/or send me to jail. You won’t organize massive protests trying to get me fired from my job, etc.

            The reaction to “misgendering” is completely and entirely different in scale than to virtually all other examples of simply being impolite. If the only reaction to it was that people who were more blue-tribe minded whispered to each other that you were kind of a jerk – I don’t think we’re having this argument in the public square.

          • Nick says:

            The divorce thing is a bit trickier. No one would gleefully refuse to acknowledge a remarriage, and would probably do so with some internal turmoil. I’m going through this right now. Two of my married Catholic friends are going through a divorce, and she’s dating a new guy. She is wonderful 10,000% wife material. I’ve never met such a wonderful person and homemaker. And her ex-husband is the biggest fool on the planet. No idea what the hell he’s doing. Perfect wife, two adorable children, and he’s all “naw I’mma go bang younger chicks.” It’s very awkward. I hung out with the woman and her new boyfriend this past weekend and I was super friendly but yeah I kept thinking “JESUS DOESN’T LIKE THIS WHY DID EVERYTHING GO WRONG HERE THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.”

            Yeah, this is an interesting case*. One thing I probably should have brought up in my original response to the Rockefeller case David brought up, and which I think Anonymous may have been gesturing towards, is that maybe our norms about what it is and isn’t polite to say aren’t the best, and so as a friend maybe you should be able to counsel them on their marriage and faith, and the seriousness of what the husband is doing here, and the wife too by now dating another man. Of course, this is pretty far afield of the Rockefeller case, and I’m a lot less sure the norms in the Rockefeller case need to change.

            *I don’t mean to downplay their suffering by speaking clinically here, so sorry if I come across that way.

          • The reaction to “misgendering” is completely and entirely different in scale than to virtually all other examples of simply being impolite.

            It’s pretty explicitly in the same bracket as using a derogatory racial epithet in the workplace. Do you think that sort of thing should go unpunished?

          • Randy M says:

            It’s pretty explicitly in the same bracket as using a derogatory racial epithet in the workplace.

            This is the an assertion. I don’t think there’s a convincing argument that “he” carries the same negative affect as any common racial slur.

            Part of what is being reacted against is the privilege to declare common speech as offensive on subjective reasoning.

          • Matt M says:

            Is that even the assertion though? Because I’ve heard very little “misgendering someone is like using a racial slur” in this thread, and a whole lot of “misgendering someone is like calling a baby ugly”

          • Nick says:

            Jaskologist,

            Making up new pronouns or changing the definitions of existing ones and insisting everybody who doesn’t obey your new rules is rude seems much more like the latter to me. It’s not saying we won’t play the game. It’s saying you’re not the referee, and you don’t get to change the game on the fly.

            A number of people have made the argument that not calling someone by their preferred pronoun is, if not dehumanizing, at least extremely distressing to some trans folks. My trouble here is, what do we do about cases like that? It’s not like we can cleverly avoid the use of pronouns all the time, not the way we might skirt around other differences, so it seems inevitable that by sticking to your guns here you’re sometimes going to cause someone extreme distress.

            I want to say the solution is just for people to develop a thicker skin à la Haidt or Peterson, but 1) I’m not sure that’s practical, and 2) I’m not sure how that generalizes, and 3) I guarantee that proposal in this case has terrible, terrible optics.

          • This is the assertion. I don’t think there’s a convincing argument that “he” carries the same negative affect as any common racial slur.

            I don’t know how you *argue* about affect, but I’ve heard *reports* that it causes significant negative affect to some people. As not using it does for others, apparently.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’ve been avoiding this because I don’t mind using people’s preferred pronouns as long as they don’t get offended if I mess up accidentally, but I have to register some agreement with one of Thegnskald’s points. Gender essentialism makes me uncomfortable, and a lot of trans people seem to have pretty strongly gender essentialist views. Not all of them, of course; Ozy clearly doesn’t, to take a well-known example. And, yes, gender essentialist views bother me when they come from people who aren’t trans as well; I read Maggie McNiell’s blog because I support the sex worker cause and she’s a good source to keep updated on news related to that, but she’s pretty strongly gender essentialist and it always bothers me a little bit when that comes out in her discussions too.

            Anyway, as a result the rhetoric of “everyone has a real self that is gendered” which LadyJane is pushing makes me a little uncomfortable, and I am not happy at feeling like I’m pandering to gender essentialism in going along with it. I go along with it anyway, because I don’t think gender is a big deal and I do have a strong streak of live and let live and people can be what they like, but I still always dislike the rhetoric when it comes up.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know how you *argue* about affect

            For instance, you say “The n-word is associated with centuries of oppression of African-Americans, and for that reason using it clearly communicates disregard.” Or you say, “Calling a woman the archaic name for a dog is dehumanizing because it is literally a reference to a non-human, therefore it is emotional abuse in most context.”
            In this case, the argument is “Using the pronoun of the human gender a person appears to be or has been in the past is dehumanizing because … ”
            Fill in the blank with something reasonable or you look like a utility monster.

            It looks like the argument is “because determining one’s own identity is a fundamental human right” but this is not currently the case for most contexts.
            You cannot unilaterally declare yourself Japanese, a doctor, a member of a random family, or any number of things.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M: I think you hit the nail on the head by mentioning utility monsters. It seems like society is facing a threat where people who have, or pretend to have for personal advantage, a certain brain or hormone disorder get to say “call me by the pronouns I want or it’ll hurt my feelings so bad it violates my human rights and I’ll call down the power of the state to have you dragged before a human rights tribunal!”
            My goodness, I certainly hope for the sake of overall human utility that 1.7% of the population hasn’t always and everywhere been this fragile, suffering incalculable stress because the police werent swooping in to protect their feelings…
            It makes me embarrassed to have ever had gender dysphoria. I never want to be one of Nietzsche’s Last Men.

          • More valid, because they have an actual reason to feel upset (they’re being told that they’re something they aren’t, and nothing they do can convince people otherwise)

            Happens to me all the time. People have been claiming I am a utilitarian for thirty years or so, despite the fact that the relevant index entry in my first book is “Utilitarian, why I am not.” I see lots of other misrepresentations of what I am, ideologically speaking.

            I don’t think I have any right to have people only believe true things about me, although it would be nice. Their beliefs are in their heads, which belong to them. Certainly I have a right to feel upset, although mostly I don’t, but “it’s wrong for you to do anything that upsets me” strikes me as an unreasonable moral rule.

            I just put up a post on my own blog discussing, among other things, a historical claim made by the Rabbi who officiated at my son’s wedding that I believe is clearly wrong. She is unlikely to read the post, but I have also made the point, in slightly weaker form, in email correspondence with her. She seems to be someone willing to be argued with, so it’s possible that being told that she was publicly saying obviously false things about the subject she is supposed to be expert in won’t upset her–but if it would, am I obliged to refrain from pointing out the error?

          • @Lady Jane:

            I’ve been going back and forth in this thread for a while now, and from what I can tell, there are four main reasons people might reject the validity of trans identities:

            As best I can tell, none of those four describes my reasons for declining to use pronouns for people that don’t fit my perception of what those people are. That supports the point I made earlier, that I’m not the one failing to understand the views on the other side.

            Could you be clearer about what “accept the validity of trans identities” means? As I think I made clear in the passage in Future Imperfect that you read, my guess is that at least some people who see themselves as having female minds in male bodies (or the reverse) are correct. I don’t know which.

            Does “accept the validity” mean “believe that anyone who claims to be female really is female”? Does it mean “pretend to believe that …”? Does it mean “revise my concepts of male and female so that ‘male’ means ‘claims to be male’ and ‘female’ means ‘claims to be female'”?

          • Thegnskald says:

            (Also, completely unrelated to this topic, but my apologies if you are feeling dogpiled LadyJane. I think you are the only representative of whatever view it is you hold here. Let me know if you are and I’ll drop out of the discussion; I’m just engaging you because I try to play translator, and don’t need to be adding to it.)

          • @The Ancient Geek:

            So do you not follow any social norms, or do you just not perceive the other 99% as forced on you?

            I can’t think of any social norms I obey that require me to pretend to believe things I don’t believe. The closest I can come to it was, a few days ago, reciting a blessing at my son’s (Jewish) wedding which clearly implied the existence of God. Doing that bothered me a little, but it was obvious that I was reciting an existing text–the Rabbi first recited the text in Hebrew and I then gave the English translation–so I thought it was closer to an actor speaking lines than someone saying what his own views were, so was willing to do it.

            Confronted with a baby–I like babies–I am likely to say something positive, but I wouldn’t describe a baby as beautiful if I thought it was ugly. In the sort of social situation where you are expected to say something false I generally find evasions that don’t require me to do so.

            Can you offer an example of a situation where I would be following a social norm that required me to say something false?

            On another point you make … . Someone who uses a racial slur is doing it in order to offend, which is under most circumstances something you shouldn’t do. Someone who perceives an mtf transsexual as female but uses “he” in order to offend is similarly acting badly. A more plausible example would be someone who calls a man “she” in order to imply feminine behavior, as an insult.

            That has nothing to do with someone who refers to an mtf transsexual as “he” because he perceives that person as male.

          • One point that I don’t think has been raised in this discussion but should be …

            A is talking to B about C, not present. C is a transsexual who self-identifies as female but appears, at least to A, to be male. A refers to C as “he.” A is, in Lady Jane’s language, “misgendering” C. Is there something wrong with doing so? What?

          • LadyJane says:

            @Le Maistre Chat:

            It seems like society is facing a threat where people who have, or pretend to have for personal advantage, a certain brain or hormone disorder get to say “call me by the pronouns I want or it’ll hurt my feelings so bad it violates my human rights and I’ll call down the power of the state to have you dragged before a human rights tribunal!
            My goodness, I certainly hope for the sake of overall human utility that 1.7% of the population hasn’t always and everywhere been this fragile, suffering incalculable stress because the police werent swooping in to protect their feelings…
            It makes me embarrassed to have ever had gender dysphoria. I never want to be one of Nietzsche’s Last Men.

            Nice strawman. Yes, I believe that if someone accidentally misgenders someone, they should be arrested by heavily armed men and dragged to the Hague and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, without trial. Is that what you’d like me to say?

            All I’ve argued is that 1.) intentionally misgendering someone is extremely rude and should be considered a violation of social norms, on par with using racial epithets, and 2.) constant misgendering directed at a specific person amounts to harassment, and is valid grounds for expelling or firing someone, just like constantly directing racial epithets at a fellow student or co-worker would be.

            You all keep acting as if trans people are demanding special treatment, when in fact we’re just asking to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. If you’re walking down the street and say “hey, miss!” to the person in front of you, but they turn around and it turns out they’re actually a cis man (and very visibly so), you’re probably not going to get upset or feel like you’re being oppressed if they correct you, and you’re probably not going to stubbornly keep referring to them as a woman. And if you did continue to call them “miss” for whatever reason, then I don’t think most people would blame them for getting upset with you. Why should it be any different for trans people?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @LadyJane: To the best of my knowledge, it’s not a strawman, it’s how state power works in Canada. If you want to argue that Canada is a weakman of the LGBT rights position, with the American LGBT defenders who outnumber them 10-1 disapproving, that’s fine.
            Because that’s what’s at stake in my mind: that “transgender” means “utility monster” and they want state power to be their nanny protecting them from the incalculable disutility of hurt feelings. This is nothing against the brain or hormonal problem, which is entirely sympathetic, and all about choosing to serve the Left in a dialectic that will lead to the Last Men, unreasoning utility monsters who think all of human history was nothing but oppression until their mores invented happiness. (blink)

          • Nick says:

            Le Maistre Chat, I did a double take too, since Aapje’s original post was about C16 and the Shepherd case, and LadyJane’s first comment was “I don’t see the problem,” but, looking back, she’s never actually defended the use of state power. Rather, her focus has been on the right of universities (and organizations more broadly, I take it) to regulate such things among its employees; that the professors said Shepherd was violating C16 doesn’t appear to factor into her argument.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            Does “accept the validity” mean “believe that anyone who claims to be female really is female”? Does it mean “pretend to believe that …”? Does it mean “revise my concepts of male and female so that ‘male’ means ‘claims to be male’ and ‘female’ means ‘claims to be female’”?

            If you want to get really technical, I suppose it would mean 1.) revise your concepts of male and female to acknowledge the fact that people with male ‘minds’ (i.e. neuro-hormonal systems) and female ‘bodies’ (i.e. outwardly visible sex characteristics) exist, and vice-versa, 2.) accept people with male minds as being male, and people with female minds as being female, even if their bodies don’t match, and 3.) believe that someone who claims to have a male/female mind is both correct and honest.

            Honestly, an argument could be made that all trans people are really just intersex, and thus aren’t truly male or truly female. If you referred to all trans people with gender-neutral pronouns on that basis, or refused to describe them with any gendered pronouns at all, I would be fine with that and wouldn’t consider it misgendering. Other trans people might disagree, though.

            On another point you make … . Someone who uses a racial slur is doing it in order to offend, which is under most circumstances something you shouldn’t do. Someone who perceives an mtf transsexual as female but uses “he” in order to offend is similarly acting badly. A more plausible example would be someone who calls a man “she” in order to imply feminine behavior, as an insult.

            If you continually insist on misgendering a trans woman – even if you’re just using the term that seems most intuitive to you, and your intent isn’t to offend them – you’re still effectively making an object-level claim that they are not a woman (which is debatable, depending on how exactly you define “woman,” but I would strongly disagree), and furthermore that they actually just a delusional cis man (which is objectively false). Does that adequately explain why they would take offense to it?

            A is talking to B about C, not present. C is a transsexual who self-identifies as female but appears, at least to A, to be male. A refers to C as “he.” A is, in Lady Jane’s language, “misgendering” C. Is there something wrong with doing so? What?

            The claim that C is male is wrong on the object level.

            In terms of social etiquette, I don’t think A is necessarily being rude; manners, unlike morality, only apply when people who care about them are around. But I also don’t think it would be rude for B to correct them, or get upset with them if they continued doing it, or tell C that A really thinks of her as a dude.

            If A was talking to B in a professional context (for instance, if the three of them were all co-workers), then I don’t think it would be appropriate at all, and I wouldn’t blame B for reporting A to their boss.

          • Randy M says:

            Honestly, an argument could be made that all trans people are really just intersex, and thus aren’t truly male or truly female. If you referred to all trans people with gender-neutral pronouns on that basis, or refused to describe them with any gendered pronouns at all, I would be fine with that and wouldn’t consider it misgendering. Other trans people might disagree, though.

            Is the standard for employability going to be set by the average transexual advocate, or the most disagreeable?

            But more importantly, here you very nearly reach a point of agreement with the opposition with which I would align.
            Other than this concession above, you are wanting “female” to be defined entirely by the mental experience, ostensibly verifiable by brain scans (but the trans individual is not required to present any evidence beyond the subjective, right?). Not “socially classed as female” but “actual female”. As in, no essential difference between transsexual person claiming female and median representative of the category.

            I can accept with compassion that there are individuals exhibiting a regrettable mismatch between brain and body. I will agree decency requests we treat these people kindly. I will entertain the notion that they are distressed by word choices and attempt to minimize this.

            The broader ideological claim, though, that the category of woman should contain both the woman-brain man-body and the woman-brain woman-body, and there is no reason for a linguistic distinction beyond bigotry or ignorance–this claim is attempting to alter reality through naked force of will and is bound to failure and smacks of forcing people to admit to a falsehood in order to show your power over them.

            Of course, this is all well trod ground around here by now. I thought Scott’s Tumblr post from a year or so back outlined the disagreement clearly, but little chance I could find the post I’m remembering.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: Even the Canadian law doesn’t make it illegal to misgender someone. It doesn’t even regulate what universities can teach like Aapje was claiming. The university in question decided to set a standard, as it has every right to do; it wasn’t legally obliged to do so.

            The C16 law prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of gender identity and gender expression (i.e. refusing to serve or rent to trans people, expelling or firing someone for coming out as trans), and it expands hate crime laws to cover instances where the victims were targeted for their gender presentation. The idea that someone’s going to get arrested for accidentally misgendering a trans person is ridiculous, it’s just another paranoid conservative fantasy.

            In principle, I don’t disagree with your stance. In practice, I think your particular concerns are very far removed from the actual reality of the world, and worse, they make you apathetic if not outright hostile towards the very real struggles facing trans people today. You’re tilting at windmills and running through peasants in the process.

            While I do worry a lot about the ever-increasing power of the state and the rising trend toward authoritarianism, I really don’t think the main threat to liberty is going to come from trans people or gay rights activists or feminists or any other SJW boogeymen. If anything, it’s a lot more likely to come from their ideological opponents. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, you’re running around looking for a fire extinguisher while the ship is sinking.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Randy:

            Other than this concession above, you are wanting “female” to be defined entirely by the mental experience, ostensibly verifiable by brain scans (but the trans individual is not required to present any evidence beyond the subjective, right?). Not “socially classed as female” but “actual female”. As in, no essential difference between transsexual person claiming female and median representative of the category.

            No one claims or believes that trans women are physically identical to cis women. The claim is that both groups fall under the broader classification of “women.”

            The broader ideological claim, though, that the category of woman should contain both the woman-brain man-body and the woman-brain woman-body, and there is no reason for a linguistic distinction beyond bigotry or ignorance–this claim is attempting to alter reality through naked force of will and is bound to failure and smacks of forcing people to admit to a falsehood in order to show your power over them.

            First off, no one is claiming that there should be no linguistic distinction between cis women and trans women, that’s why the terms “cis women” and “trans women” exist. I don’t think I’m cis, or even particularly want to be cis.

            But getting to the meat of the issue: Maybe you’re right that categorizing that trans women as women requires a redefinition of the word. But by that logic – and this is basically the key point I’ve been making this entire time – categorizing trans women as men would also require a redefinition of the word.

            The traditional definitions of male and female don’t take intersex and trans people into account at all. According to the traditional definitions, male refers to “male brain, male body” and female refers to “female brain, female body” and anything else wouldn’t fall into either category.

            So when some conservative says that Caitlyn Jenner is just a dude in a dress, he’s trying to “alter reality through naked force of will” every bit as much as the trans activist who says that Caitlyn Jenner is actually a woman in every meaningful way, whether he realizes it or not. Both sides of the debate are trying to redraw the boundaries to suit their agendas.

            That’s why I find it very hypocritical and self-serving when the anti-trans people claim to have science and objective truth on their side. The only thing they actually have going for them is a classification system that – while less accurate overall – matches a lot of people’s immediate intuitions better than the alternative, since it exclusively prioritizes the most obviously visible traits (as evidenced by The Nybbler and Aapje’s claims about how trying to use trans people’s preferred pronouns causes mental dissonance). But as increasingly more people accept the validity of trans identities, and as the social and aesthetic lines between men and women blur together even among cis people, the conservative model of gender categorization will lose even that one advantage.

          • Iain says:

            It looks like it is once again time for me to link to the actual text of Bill C-16, the justification for all these horrible Canadian atrocities.

            LadyJane’s characterization is correct. Le Maistre Chat’s interpretation of Canadian law is not. Consider, for example, the Canadian Bar Association’s statement on the Bill:

            Recently, the debate has turned to whether the amendments will force individuals to embrace concepts, even use pronouns, which they find objectionable. This is a misunderstanding of human rights and hate crimes legislation.

            Equivalent laws to Bill C-16 have existed at a provincial and territorial level in Canada since 2002. If utility monsters demanding protection from the nanny blanket of the state were a real problem, you would expect to be able to find examples from the Canadian legal system. Where are they?

          • Randy M says:

            when some conservative says that Caitlyn Jenner is just a dude in a dress, he’s trying to “alter reality through naked force of will” every bit as much as the trans activist who says that Caitlyn Jenner is actually a woman in every meaningful way, whether he realizes it or not.

            But, if you don’t lead with the brain scans and instead lead with the feels and the rights and the self-identification, it is a very fair assessment of the situation and perfectly expected to not realize it–given that Bruce Jenner acted very much like a dude, being a competitive athlete and father, and looked unfeminine for much of the time he was feted for wearing a dress.

            Both sides of the debate are trying to redraw the boundaries to suit their agendas.

            It is very obvious that almost all people fit cleanly, on a physical level, into male or female categories. Behavior has considerably more variance, and only correlates with gender on net (that is, biological women have fewer masculine traits than feminine, but not always all or nothing) so it is not readily apparent that there is easily identifiable mismatch between biological mental inclinations and biological physiological function. Given this, I think one side is clearly pushing for a change in understanding. Reality lies at some point in between the prior understanding and the rhetoric of the advocates; but that doesn’t make it the case that both sides are advocating a change.

            The traditional definitions of male and female don’t take intersex and trans people into account at all. According to the traditional definitions, male refers to “male brain, male body” and female refers to “female brain, female body” and anything else wouldn’t fall into either category.

            Yes, that is what the words do and should mean; it is more sociologically useful to have terms that mean “male/male” and “female/female” and then clarify in the <1% of cases of mismatch than to strip the terms of meaning and be forced to clarify in the majority of cases or risk misunderstanding.

          • @Lady Jane:

            3.) believe that someone who claims to have a male/female mind is both correct and honest.

            If “someone who” means “some people who,” that is already my belief, or at least my best guess, as I said in Future Imperfect.

            If it means “anyone who” then I can’t believe it and you probably don’t either. Some people are dishonest and some people are mistaken in their beliefs about themselves. You might as well ask me to believe that two plus two equals five.

            you’re still effectively making an object-level claim that they are not a woman (which is debatable, depending on how exactly you define “woman,” but I would strongly disagree), and furthermore that they actually just a delusional cis man (which is objectively false).

            You insist on treating your interpretation of the meaning of my choice of pronouns as if it meant what you want it to mean instead of what I have repeatedly explains it means. My referring to someone as “him” is making the claim that I perceive that person as male.

            We all have to operate with maps that are simpler than the territory. Since I am speaking a language that only recognizes three categories, one of which (neuter) is inappropriate, I have to sort people into two categories, grammatically speaking. Some people don’t make a very good fit for either category. You insist that I have to speak as if I was sorting those people in the way they prefer instead of the way in which my mind actually sorts them. But my speech represents the contents of my mind, not of theirs.

            But I also don’t think it would be rude for B to correct them, or get upset with them if they continued doing it, or tell C that A really thinks of her as a dude.

            It would not be rude for B to point out that he sees C as female and try to persuade A to do the same. It is not so much rude as unreasonably arrogant for B to insist that A is making a mistake, that the only way it makes any sense to classify C is the way B does it.

            It isn’t rude for B to inform C of A’s position, but I would have thought that you would be strongly against B doing so. You, after all, have been arguing that it badly hurts C to know that some other person regards C as male. If so, isn’t B being needlessly cruel by passing on the information?

          • albatross11 says:

            LadyJane:

            This is just an aside, but I want to let you know how much I appreciate you being willing to stay in this conversation and explain your position in calm and rational terms, against what probably feels like a dogpile at times.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s pretty explicitly in the same bracket as using a derogatory racial epithet in the workplace.

            No, using a gendered insult in the workplace would be explicitly in the same bracket as using a racial epithet in the workplace.

            “Misgendering” transgender indviduals is pretty explicitly in the same bracket as calling Rachel Dolezal white. There is a very big difference between calling Rachel Dolezal white, and calling her [racial epithet]. And grotesquely exaggerating the degree of insult associated with what is ultimately a factual disagreement, is not arguing in good faith.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Randy M:

            Yes, that is what the words do and should mean; it is more sociologically useful to have terms that mean “male/male” and “female/female” and then clarify in the <1% of cases of mismatch than to strip the terms of meaning and be forced to clarify in the majority of cases or risk misunderstanding.

            Fine. But that’s not the argument that the social conservatives and the TERFs and all the other transphobes are making. Aside from a handful of people in a few intellectual playgrounds like the SSC forums, no one is saying “trans women aren’t women because they’re some other type of person that’s not truly male or truly female,” they’re saying “trans women aren’t women because they’re delusional cis men.”

            And if you want proof, you need look no further than this very thread for a myriad of examples. For instance, CatCube said that “the demand that we acknowledge that men are really women and vice versa is absolutely bonkers,” which doesn’t exactly indicate a nuanced view of the limits of traditional gender classifications. And most of the posters in this thread seem to be taking his side.

            If our culture and our language were different, and better acknowledged the existence of people who fall outside of strict definitions of ‘male’ or ‘female’, then I wouldn’t find it so objectionable to be classified in a different category than cis women. But if people are going to insist that you can only be a man or a woman, and deny that any other possibilities exist, then you’re forcing outliers like me to round ourselves off into one of two imperfect categories. And if you’re going to force us into boxes like that, you’d better believe that we’re going to fight tooth and nail to at least be in the box that fits us better.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            You insist on treating your interpretation of the meaning of my choice of pronouns as if it meant what you want it to mean instead of what I have repeatedly explains it means. My referring to someone as “him” is making the claim that I perceive that person as male.

            I understand. But I was explaining why so many trans people feel so offended and invalidated by misgendering. I wasn’t trying to misinterpret your intent, I was explaining how misgendering is likely to be interpreted by any given trans person.

            Other people can’t read your mind, and most of them are not going to understand the very subtle distinction between “I’m making a claim that this person is objectively male” and “I’m making a claim that my mind perceives this person as male,” especially when there are so many people out there who actually do argue against the validity of trans identities on the object level. You can explain your thought processes to them, as you’ve explained them to me, and maybe some of them will be less offended after hearing your reasons. But I hope you can at least understand why they’d be so upset in the first place.

          • Nornagest says:

            most of them are not going to understand the very subtle distinction between “I’m making a claim that this person is objectively male” and “I’m making a claim that my mind perceives this person as male,”

            If I point at a rock in the river, and say “check out that rock”, and it turns out to be a crocodile, I think most people are going to understand pretty well what I meant.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            Even the Canadian law doesn’t make it illegal to misgender someone. It doesn’t even regulate what universities can teach like Aapje was claiming. The university in question decided to set a standard, as it has every right to do; it wasn’t legally obliged to do so.

            That is not what I claimed! I noted that Title IX also seems to not make it legally mandatory to have an amateur legal system at universities, especially given that the courts seem to generally rule against the universities when people who are convicted by Title IX seek judicial redress and that a sane reading of the law does not require it.

            Nevertheless, there was political coercion of universities to make them have Title IX panels, based on a claim by politicians that the law did require Title IX panels. Furthermore, there seems to be no move towards ending/fixing this travesty. At this point, a certain reading of Title IX laws, which makes little sense to me, has become very popular among many on the left. When certain beliefs are dominant, this can result in institutional oppression when people act on their beliefs, even if this is not legally mandated or allowed.

            So at this point, I cannot trust that people will not go far beyond what is currently described as the clear meaning of C-16, because we’ve already seen people go far beyond the clear meaning of Title IX law and not be stopped.

            Good faith in the absence of evidence is necessary to be able to cooperate. Good faith in the face of strong evidence of bad faith just makes you a victim.

            In practice, I think your particular concerns are very far removed from the actual reality of the world

            Title IX panels are actual reality. There are many horror stories about them that seem to check out. How can I believe you if you claim that something that already happened once, is unlikely to happen again?

            While I do worry a lot about the ever-increasing power of the state and the rising trend toward authoritarianism, I really don’t think the main threat to liberty is going to come from trans people or gay rights activists or feminists or any other SJW boogeymen.

            Title IX panels don’t seem to register as a major threat to individual liberty to you, nor do you seem to see them for what they are. This makes me doubt your ability to recognize actual threats.

            You seem to worry about LGBT issues, but it seems clear to me that in the West, policies are moving in the direction of things becoming gradually better for LGBT. You have some hiccups and last minute backlash, which is temporarily unpleasant & unfair to individuals, but it’s not a permanent worsening.

            Perhaps you should explain what (out)group you think will be the true threat? Alt-right? Conservatives? White men? Capitalists? Some other group?

            PS. AFAIK feminists are the largest self-identified group in the West who commonly believe in a conspiracy theory blaming the oppression of some identity groups on other identity groups. History shows that such an ideology is extremely likely to result in abuse of power against the groups that are claimed to be oppressive.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve been going back and forth in this thread for a while now, and from what I can tell, there are four main reasons people might reject the validity of trans identities:

            1.) [Arbitrary religious belief]
            2.) [Conspiracy theory]
            3.) [Deny reality of trans-identities]
            4.) [Arbitrary intuition]

            If that’s really all you’ve come up with, you haven’t been trying hard enough. Here’s a few more.

            5. They don’t like the unfairness of one group being asked to do all the work, for the sole benefit of another group who won’t even meet them half way on the issue. The issue of pronouns and misgendering rarely comes up when a trans-man or trans-woman makes a consistent and good-faith effort to publicly present as their preferred gender, because nobody even thinks to ask for a blood test or genital exam before saying “her” about Sue-with-breasts-in-a-dress. But people are being told that they have to use “Sue’s” preferred pronouns even if “Sue” is sporting a beard.

            The bit you complain about not understanding why some transgendered individuals are being treated differently from others, I’m pretty sure this is why. And the number of Sues-with-beards may be tiny, but if that’s the hill you all are willing to die on…

            6. While accepting that transgender identities are real in the sense that cis-male. cis-female, trans-male, and trans-female are four different things, they believe that the word “Woman” and its synonyms and associated pronouns best encompasses cis-female + trans-male, rather than cis-female + trans-female.

            7. Given that traditional gender roles are increasingly seen as being arbitrary and archaic in every context other than “usually it’s one guy and one girl pairing up for sexyfuntimes”, they don’t like the cognitive dissonance associated with being told that now it’s really important that they get the right traditional gender label for this particular group of people. Particularly when this demand is coming from the same people who told them to drop the traditional gender roles already.

            8. They feel that, given the one remaining role for traditional gender labels as noted above, they are being asked to signal e.g. “I as a penis-bearing person hereby proclaim this other penis-bearing-person as a member of the class of people I like to have sexyfuntimes with”, when this is A: not true and B: well beyond the sort of white lie one can be asked to tell in the name of politeness. And I’ve seen too many trans-women seeking validation of their sex appeal to cis-hetero men to discount this one.

            9. If they don’t feel they are being asked to lie about their own sexuality, they see this whole apparently meaningless and arbitrary demand as an imposition of power for the sake of power, a means of establishing dominance and submission. And yes, if one person gets to decide what words another person is allowed to use and with what meaning, dominance and submission have been established. Which leads to,

            10. There Are Four Lights, and they absolutely reject demands that they should see a fifth light no matter how pious the cause.

            I think your attempt to model the whole of the opposition to your cause in this matter as religious fanatics, conspiracy theorists, and various sorts of fools, is leading you badly astray.

          • Nornagest says:

            AFAIK feminists are the largest self-identified group in the West who commonly believe in a conspiracy theory […]

            As much as I dislike patriarchy theory, I don’t think “conspiracy theory” quite fits. Even the least sophisticated versions seem closer to theories of class struggle, where there’s no centralized conspiracy to advance class interests but there doesn’t need to be, because everyone defaults to doing that anyway.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje: I don’t think the real threat is any particular group, but rather a systemic trend toward immediate authoritarian responses to complex large-scale problems that require more subtle long-term solutions. The Trump campaign’s strongman rhetoric is certainly an example of that, but I’m a lot more concerned with things like the War on Drugs and the War on Guns and War on Terror and foreign interventionism and police militarization and the surveillance state. I definitely don’t think any major threats to liberty are going to come from either side of the culture wars; I find the more extreme SJWs to be obnoxious and the more extreme social conservatives to be utterly reprehensible on every level, but I don’t think either group has enough real social, political, or economic power to seriously threaten people’s civil rights. Furthermore, I think the people who are overly worried about either group are ignoring the real problem.

            As for Title IX panels, universities can do whatever they want. That doesn’t mean they should, or that I necessarily approve of what the Title IX panels are doing (I don’t know enough about these cases to make a judgment either way), but I don’t think you can say they’re violating freedom of speech/expression/association, since the universities don’t have the force of the state behind them. In fact, the universities in question are exercising their own freedom of association by refusing to hire or serve people who don’t meet their standards.

          • And if you’re going to force us into boxes like that, you’d better believe that we’re going to fight tooth and nail to at least be in the box that fits us better.

            If I required everyone to treat you as male, and made rules saying that no restaurant could allow you into the ladies room and no bar could treat you as a lady on lady’s night and you had to wear male dress and you could be punished for fraud if you told anyone you were female, you could legitimately claim that I was forcing you into a box.

            But it isn’t forcing you into a box if I choose to treat you as male rather than female, still less if I let you know that I regard you as male rather than female. What you are is not defined by how I see you.

          • LadyJane says:

            @John Schilling:

            5. To me, this comes across as somewhere between “women only deserve to be treated with respect if they’re attractive” and “black people only deserve to be treated with respect if they act white.” Maybe that’s assuming bad faith, and you just find it a lot easier to refer to people with pronouns that match your initial appearance-based assumption of their gender (which is basically what David Friedman and Matt M and The Nybbler all said). But in practice, that tends to mean that the only trans women who are treated with respect are those lucky enough to naturally look passable or wealthy enough to afford extensive cosmetic surgery.

            If given a choice between making a moderate amount of people slightly uncomfortable because they don’t want to change their default mental heuristics, and making a small amount of people extremely uncomfortable just for existing, I’m going to favor the latter option.

            6. At that point, you’re basically asking for “male” and “female” to be defined solely by chromosomes and/or genitalia. I don’t see any good reason for that. Unlike the previous example, you can’t even argue that it’s more intuitive this way, because you can’t tell what chromosomes someone has just by looking at them, and you usually can’t tell what genitals they have from a cursory glance either. Hell, for most of history, people didn’t even know what chromosomes were. And if you’re going by genitals alone, would trans people who’ve undergone sexual reassignment surgery be grouped together with cis people?

            7. This is the kind of argument I’d expect from one of those goofy memes with the guy struggling to choose between two buttons. I already repeatedly explained why gender identity isn’t the same thing as societal gender roles. There is no conflict between accepting gender identities and rejecting gender roles, it’s a false dichotomy.

            8. So what about trans people who’ve undergone sexual reassignment surgery? If you’re attracted to women with vaginas, then a post-op trans woman would fit that description too. Speaking more broadly, I’d agree that it’s probably a good idea for people to specify their genital configuration to potential sex partners, but I don’t see why that should prevent trans people from identifying as their preferred gender in public.

            9-10. I’m not even going to bother responding to these.

          • Controls Freak says:

            1.) revise your concepts of male and female to acknowledge the fact that people with male ‘minds’

            …and that’s where I get off the train. We didn’t get very far. My queer theory coursework taught me to be quite suspicious of gender essentialism without a significant amount of evidence. I’ve seen the brain scans; they don’t suffice. I don’t think this is quite captured by (3), but I think you intended it to.

            (Aside: How would you respond to someone who reacted to this statement by saying that they reject Cartesian dualism?)

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            If I required everyone to treat you as male, and made rules saying that no restaurant could allow you into the ladies room and no bar could treat you as a lady on lady’s night and you had to wear male dress and you could be punished for fraud if you told anyone you were female, you could legitimately claim that I was forcing you into a box.

            You mean like states making laws forcing people to use the bathrooms corresponding to the genders they were assigned at birth? Or not allowing trans people to change their legal gender marker? Or declaring trans people’s marriages null and void because their assigned birth gender doesn’t match the gender on their marriage license, even in states and countries where gay marriage is legal? Or denying trans people the option to start hormone treatments unless they live as their preferred gender for two years beforehand, as is the case in some European nations?

          • LadyJane says:

            @Controls Freak: If you think my view on trans people requires a belief in Cartesian dualism, then you’re seriously misinterpreting my arguments.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I didn’t say your argument requires belief in Cartesian dualism. I asked how you would respond to a statement. This sounds like “go away”, in which case, I would go away, and I wouldn’t really have much chance to be convinced by anything you have to say.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Controls Freak:
            If someone earnestly asked me that, I would try to explain that when trans people talk about having a female mind in a male body (or vice-versa), they’re using the term ‘mind’ to refer to their neurological structure and the sex hormones that influence it, and they’re using the term ‘body’ to refer to their outwardly visible physical characteristics. It doesn’t require one to believe in the concept of an immaterial soul.

            As I already explained earlier in the thread: I’m effectively using the word gender to refer to the neurological and hormonal traits that determine someone’s internal sense of gender identity (i.e. whether they see themselves as male or female or both or neither, not in terms of societal expectations and gender roles, but on a purely somatic level; to be even more specific, what sex their internal ‘map’ of their body views itself as).

          • Controls Freak says:

            they’re using the term ‘mind’ to refer to their neurological structure and the sex hormones that influence it

            It doesn’t require one to believe in the concept of an immaterial soul.

            Suppose they respond, “I’m not talking about a ‘soul’. I’m talking about a ‘mind’. I reject your ability to use to term ‘mind’ to describe biological structures.”

            to be even more specific, what sex their internal ‘map’ of their body views itself as

            Now is probably as good a time as any to note that you only responded to the aside in my comment, not the main comment.

          • LadyJane says:

            Then I’d start to feel like they were arguing in bad faith, since that seems like quibbling over semantics in a deliberate effort to ignore my actual point. I suppose I would reframe my statement as “trans women have some physiological traits associated with cis women and some physiological traits associated with cis men, and the former have a greater impact on their psychological state even though the latter are more obviously visible.”

            Leaving aside that hypothetical, your actual argument seemed to be “I’ve seen all the evidence and I’m not convinced,” which makes me feel like there’s little point in trying to persuade you otherwise.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Iain, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has since 2014 explicitly listed misgendering (and dead-naming) as harassment, thus discrimination. In 2016-12, during federal debate and probably in response to Peterson, they issued a clarification that they really mean it, but there are some disclaimers, such as not all of society is covered by discrimination law, and they’re not sure about new neutral pronouns.

            Of course, the federal Commission can do whatever it wants, but the original plan was to copy Ontario.

            The CBA has an abysmal record on human rights law.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If given a choice between making a moderate amount of people slightly uncomfortable because they don’t want to change their default mental heuristics, and making a small amount of people extremely uncomfortable just for existing, I’m going to favor the latter option.

            The rationalist jargon for this argument is “utility monster”. In this case a negative utility monster, but it’s equivalent.

          • @Lady Jane:

            You mean like states making laws …

            followed by a long list of things that does not include “individuals failing to use the gendered pronouns that correspond to the self-identification of transsexual persons.”

            Which was what we were talking about.

          • LadyJane says:

            @TheNybbler: By that logic, I’d imagine it would be quite easy to label a lot of minority groups as ‘negative utility monsters’ for wanting equal treatment. “Refusing to let black children attend the same public schools as everyone else would cause them harm… but allowing them in would cause some white families to be uncomfortable, so it’s more ethical to keep them segregated.”

            @DavidFriedman: And where do you think these laws come from? The state, obviously, but why do you think politicians are so inclined to pass them? Who do you think wants them? I’d imagine there’s a very large overlap between “people who deliberately misgender trans people” and “people who support anti-trans legislation.” (That’s not to accuse you of supporting any of the laws I described; I don’t know your position on them and I don’t like to make assumptions about specific individuals’ views. I’m just making a broader point that these two issues aren’t entirely unrelated.)

          • The rationalist jargon for this argument is “utility monster”. In this case a negative utility monster, but it’s equivalent.

            There might be an objection from negative utility monstering, but if you are going to go down that route, you should not also go down the route of saying that using “she” or xhe” causes you mental anguish, because that is itself negative utility monstering.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            As much as I dislike patriarchy theory, I don’t think “conspiracy theory” quite fits. Even the least sophisticated versions seem closer to theories of class struggle, where there’s no centralized conspiracy to advance class interests but there doesn’t need to be, because everyone defaults to doing that anyway.

            I would call Marxism a conspiracy theory as well. I see a claim of extremely aligned behavior by an ‘oppressor’ group that causes extreme harm to another group, where the actual evidence is extremely divergent with this claim, as the relevant criterion for what makes such theories truly dangerous*. This danger is even greater when it is combined with a strong dismissal, strongly divergent from the evidence, that significant harm is done collectively and/or individually by the other group to members of the ‘oppressor’ group.

            At that point you have the basis for extremist solutions being implementing that are not justified by the evidence. When those who implement these solutions also blind themselves to the negative consequences to the outgroup, there is then no mechanism that prevents a spiral into ever more extremist solutions, when the less extremist solutions don’t work (and they generally don’t, because those are based on falsely accusing the outgroup, so oppressing the outgroup generally won’t help).

            Merely believing that the ‘oppressors’ themselves must be oppressed because they are naturally disposed to oppress and assuming extreme bad faith on their part that results in their needs being framed as illegitimate, seems little different from the perspective of the ‘oppressors’ to being treated badly because of a claim that they follow ‘protocols’ or do other explicit coordination.

            AFAIK, there is no overarching category/term for both the kind of theories that argue that there is explicit coordination with the intent to do harm and those that claim that certain people cannot help but oppress. So either I have to put effort into going into detail, like the above, or I have to make do with terminology that confuses some.

            * And yes, I realize that my opposition to most feminism (most strongly the political, scientific and activist forms) is seen as the same by some, but I think that my claims are relatively well supported by the evidence.

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            The Trump campaign’s strongman rhetoric is certainly an example of that, but I’m a lot more concerned with things like the War on Drugs and the War on Guns and War on Terror and foreign interventionism and police militarization and the surveillance state. I definitely don’t think any major threats to liberty are going to come from either side of the culture wars;

            On the one hand I agree with you that there are dangerous mechanisms that are problematic in themselves, because people can grab the levers of the machine and wreak havoc.

            However, I also believe that ideology greatly influences how willing people are to grab those levers, make sure that their political opponents don’t get to keep the levers from being pushed too far and blind themselves to the evidence of the havoc that they are causing. The machine doesn’t just operate itself, someone has to run it. If a more moderate person operates a dangerous machine, that person will not maximally take advantage of what the machine can do. However, if extremists gain control, they will not restrain themselves.

            So the way I see it, it is critical that extremists do not gain power over the machine, which depends on the ability of moderates to recognize and resist it. My impression is that the left is currently far less able to recognize and resist their extremists than the right. This is in no small part because the kind of dumb pattern matching that people tend to do to recognize evil, is based on object level comparisons, rather than judging ideas by more abstract principles. In other words, people can recognize unfair treatment of black people, women, gays, etc; far, far more easily today than they can recognize unfair treatment of white people, Asians, men, straight people, etc.

            As for Title IX panels, universities can do whatever they want. That doesn’t mean they should, or that I necessarily approve of what the Title IX panels are doing (I don’t know enough about these cases to make a judgment either way), but I don’t think you can say they’re violating freedom of speech/expression/association, since the universities don’t have the force of the state behind them.

            When the regulatory environment makes it unrealistic to not depend on federal funding, which in turn requires compliance with certain rules, you have ‘force of the state.’ In practice, it seems that it is almost impossible to run a university without federal funding, which is logical, because doing so effectively means that those who fund the attending students have to double pay: both for the federal funding of the universities they don’t attend and for the one they do. Such an environment is inherently coercive (which doesn’t make it wrong, but which does not allow freedom of association to work as you claim).

            I think that it is very dangerous to pretend that people have a choice, when they don’t actually do in a realistic sense. I don’t consider ‘of course you have the option to opt out, you just have to accept a severe decrease in your ability to compete with others’ an acceptable outcome.

          • Anonymous says:

            @LadyJane

            9. If they don’t feel they are being asked to lie about their own sexuality, they see this whole apparently meaningless and arbitrary demand as an imposition of power for the sake of power, a means of establishing dominance and submission. And yes, if one person gets to decide what words another person is allowed to use and with what meaning, dominance and submission have been established. Which leads to,

            10. There Are Four Lights, and they absolutely reject demands that they should see a fifth light no matter how pious the cause.

            9-10. I’m not even going to bother responding to these.

            Why shouldn’t you?

          • Randy M says:

            Fine. But that’s not the argument that the social conservatives and the TERFs and all the other transphobes are making. Aside from a handful of people in a few intellectual playgrounds like the SSC forums, no one is saying “trans women aren’t women because they’re some other type of person that’s not truly male or truly female,” they’re saying “trans women aren’t women because they’re delusional cis men.”

            Feel free not to respond, the thread is long and plenty of others are raising their own points. But I think the explanation of this is that the activists aren’t leading with brainscans and hormone measurements to prove the case, but emphasizing identity, feeling, and rights. People understand that mental defects are beyond an individuals control and are legitimately deserving of treatment if they can be objectively established. People can understand that there are individuals that don’t fit the categories.
            Many people will react strongly against being told that a manly man who felt like wearing a dress, seemingly out of the blue, is an “actual woman.”

            So what about trans people who’ve undergone sexual reassignment surgery? If you’re attracted to women with vaginas, then a post-op trans woman would fit that description too.

            Does sexual reassignment surgery give a woman who until recently had a man’s body a working womb? Because sex actually has a purpose, and if Transexuals are going to get offended by people who use the concept of gender to screen for potential mates, they lose out.

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:

            The Ontario Human Rights Commission has since 2014 explicitly listed misgendering (and dead-naming) as harassment, thus discrimination. In 2016-12, during federal debate and probably in response to Peterson, they issued a clarification that they really mean it, but there are some disclaimers, such as not all of society is covered by discrimination law, and they’re not sure about new neutral pronouns.

            Sure, there’s a bunch of stuff on that list that would be troubling given blind enforcement. Getting arrested for “comments or conduct relating to a perception that a person is not conforming with gender-role stereotypes”? Going to prison for “Intrusive comments, questions or insults about a person’s body, physical characteristics, gender-related medical procedures, clothing, mannerisms, or other forms of gender expression”? Terrifying!

            But that’s not how the Canadian justice system works. Canadian law is big on case-by-case balancing of rights. See, for example, the OHRC’s three-stage process for evaluating competing rights claims, or this 2012 Supreme Court decision about wearing the niqab while testifying. Judges are routinely expected to evaluate the reasonableness of claims, and balance various rights against each other.

            Le Maistre Chat’s nightmare scenario can only come to pass if judges throw their principles out the window and go all-in on anti-discrimination law. That is prima facie implausible; if you want to make that claim, pointing at proclamations from the OHRC isn’t enough. You dismiss the caveats as mere disclaimers, but the Canadian justice system is very serious about those caveats. The burden of proof here is on the people who claim state power is being wielded as a protective blanket for trans people to find a real-world example. It it’s as bad as they say, it should be easy.

            PS: This case is the closest I’ve been able to find. I’ve read through the decision, and it seems careful, thoughtful, and proportionate. For example, consider pages 52-53: the Vancouver jail has a policy for determining whether claims of being transgender are legitimate, and the judge explicitly declines to call that policy discriminatory.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            In general, I think that SJ is heavily people-oriented, which rubs thing-oriented people very much the wrong way and vice versa.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            SJ adherents like to use thing-orientedness as a bludgeon, mostly because it’s effective. Thing-oriented people know they’re thing-oriented, so you have a good chance of snowing them by asserting that the reason they don’t accept your claims is your thing-orientedness results in a blind spot. This is not the same as actually being people-oriented.

          • Brad says:

            @Iain

            But that’s not how the Canadian justice system works.

            Apparently some people are very confused about the distinction between Canada and the United States.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Iain, OK, maybe, maybe Chat’s vague claims are false. Indeed, the decision of the OHRC to spell this out, both in 2014 and in response to Peterson is almost the opposite of her concerns about vague powers. But there is a big gap between her being wrong and Jane being right. I don’t mean to pick on Jane, since she seems to have been dragged into the Canadian topic, but you specifically defended her reading. Moreover, you said that it was useful to read the law, when that is exactly where she went wrong. For example, her failure to know that “discrimination” includes “harassment,” although that is hardly original to Canada.

            But the unconscionable error is in the CBA document. The content of any particular law hardly matters when the CBA is lying to you.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @LadyJane

            “trans women have some physiological traits associated with cis women and some physiological traits associated with cis men, and the former have a greater impact on their psychological state even though the latter are more obviously visible.”

            This sounds vague enough that we can likely swap in almost any condition which affects psychological state. It certainly doesn’t come with anything remotely close to the same rhetorical force of, “A person has the ‘mind’ of a male/female,” which is why it seems like saying the latter is cheating.

            your actual argument seemed to be “I’ve seen all the evidence and I’m not convinced,” which makes me feel like there’s little point in trying to persuade you otherwise.

            Not really. It’s that I’ve seen the brain scans. I’m not convinced by them. That means that you can either proceed to explain why I’ve insufficiently understood the evidence from brain scans, or you could also point to additional evidence aside from brain scans which you think make the point as well. If I were teaching someone about aerodynamics, and they said, “I don’t think you can show lift over an airfoil via Bernoulli, because the flow doesn’t have to meet back at the trailing edge at the same time,” that doesn’t mean that they’re simply convinced that lift doesn’t exist and there’s not point in continuing. Instead, I have to go through the process of actually bothering to explain the details of the argument. Not doing so (especially when one suspects that his interlocutor is cheating, as above) is a pretty surefire way to not convince anyone.

          • Controls Freak says:

            My standard question when someone spams links to me goes like this: In your own words, what portions of the argument (which you ultimately find persuasive) do you think that each of your sources brings to the table? I live in the academic world; you make a list of references to go along with a written literature review section; it does not simply stand alone.

        • Nick says:

          I get the impression that Peterson is not objecting to using a transgender person’s normal masculine or feminine pronouns, especially if they personally ask you to (i.e. referring to a female-presenting person as she/her and a male-presenting person as he/him) but to having it punishable by the government not to use whatever neologism a particular person wants used (ze, zer and things of that ilk).

          This is tangential to your point, but I think Peterson has evolved on this. Peterson said in the now-infamous Channel 4 interview a few weeks ago that he would use a person’s pronouns if they asked him to, but no one ever has. However, I’ve now seen some older clips where he’s said he wouldn’t. Either he had different cases in mind and the older clips failed to capture that (say, and I’m just speculating here, he’s personally opposed to using various coined pronouns but would use he, she, or they if someone asked him to), or he’s changed his mind about this.

          That aside, I think you’re right both that his objection to that Ontario is framed in terms of free speech and that he has actual, cogent, perhaps decisive or perhaps weak arguments for his position.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I have met two transpeople in my life (one transitioned and one transitioning). I referred to them by their preferred pronouns because they were nice people, clearly had put in/were putting in the effort to be their “felt” gender, and I’m not that big of a dick.

            Now you want to make a law that forces me to say their preferred pronouns and we’re in tree of liberty is gettin’ thirsty territory.

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like there’s a big difference between doing something nice for someone after they’ve politely asked you to do so – and doing something because you accidentally messed it up and someone yelled and screamed at you and threatened to have you locked in jail if you did not accommodate their request.

            I’m sure the guy in Tianamen Square would have gotten out of the way of the street for a little old lady who was trying to cross – but that doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind on whether or not blocking the street is an acceptable thing to do in other contexts…

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t think that there has been much change. My memory of his earliest statements is that he would take things on a case by case basis. Here is a recent video in which he says something similar. That’s not as definitive as his answer to Newman, but I suspect that he didn’t intend that answer to be so definitive, but to include gricean caveats. The assumption is not just a student, but that this is all relevant information, as opposed to a stunt intended to create conflict. (Of course, such a stunt would not have occurred before he was a celebrity.)

            Whereas here is an old clip in which he says that he would accept new, gender-neutral pronouns if they were accepted by society, and not just promulgated by activists.

          • Nick says:

            Since we’re discussing person practice now: I’ve long considered using someone’s preferred pronouns a matter of simple politeness. I don’t think I’m committing myself to the belief that they “are” that gender by using the pronoun they ask me to, so I don’t feel any objection to so respecting their wishes.

            Of course, if someone does think he’s committing himself to the belief that the trans person is that gender by saying it, or that in some important way he’s compromising his beliefs, I don’t see how I can say that view is empirically wrong and should be punishable by law. As several people have pointed out, analogies to various slurs don’t hold because he doesn’t necessarily mean anything disrespectful or harmful about it. I think this sort of approach to one’s speech is murky at best—most people, for instance, address priests and popes by their titles even if they think religion is nonsense—but I don’t think it’s grounds to call it hate speech.

            Douglas, I’m at work right now but I can take a look at the clips later. I’m basing my conclusion he changed his views on an old clip from him talking to a Senator, I think? But yeah, I didn’t cite my sources here, so I’ll be checking clips!

          • lvlln says:

            Of course, if someone does think he’s committing himself to the belief that the trans person is that gender by saying it, or that in some important way he’s compromising his beliefs, I don’t see how I can say that view is empirically wrong and should be punishable by law. As several people have pointed out, analogies to various slurs don’t hold because he doesn’t necessarily mean anything disrespectful or harmful about it.

            I’ve definitely heard the claim that he would be “denying their humanity” by refusing to use whatever pronoun they declared to fit them, with the implication that “denying” someone’s “humanity” is at least as bad as calling them slurs. And that “denial” of their “humanity” doesn’t get all affected by whether he meant to be disrespectful or harmful, and is entirely determined by the judgment of the person being described with the pronoun.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            FWIW, I found those clips by typing “jordan peterson pronoun” into youtube and watching the shortest clips. Since then I tried “jordan peterson senate.” The three short clips I found didn’t seem relevant. One of them starts with like «Why don’t you just use the pronouns?» but Peterson doesn’t really concede that he doesn’t.

          • Nick says:

            Douglas,

            Home now. I’ve rewatched the stuff and you may be right. From a clip on the news:

            Newscaster: But would you use alternate pronouns if a student asked you to?
            Peterson: I think I’ve made my position on that clear already.
            ….
            Newscaster: Would you use alternate pronouns?
            Peterson: No.
            Newscaster: And why not?
            Peterson: Because I don’t believe that other people have the right to determine what language I use, especially when it’s being backed by punitive legislation, and when the words that are being required at the constructions—they are artificial constructions of people I regard as radical ideologues whose viewpoint I do not share.

            So, pace Peterson I don’t think his position is clear just from this. It sounds like he might be saying he’d refuse gender neutral pronouns like ze/zir, or he might be saying he’d refuse to use a person’s preferred pronouns entirely; it didn’t touch on the latter case, so we don’t know.

            In another one, he says, “… I regard these made-up pronouns, all of them, as the neologisms of radical PC authoritarians….” Again, it sounds like he’s taking issue with made-up pronouns.

            And he seems to say the same thing around 4:30 in the first video you linked. So okay, I suppose this was his view all along, and I overinterpreted his rejection of the neologisms. Mea culpa.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that his position is that he would use ‘she’ for a sufficiently transitioned transwoman and ‘he’ for a sufficiently transitioned transman, but not alternate pronouns.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t think he’s taking issue with neologisms, per se. He puts a lot of weight on it, but it’s not the point.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here is his first statement. I dunno. Maybe it is all about the neologisms.

        • subject all disabled people to rigorous scrutiny

          Oh, you haven’t heard of ATOS..

      • AeXeaz says:

        Stop lying.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from the consequences of that speech, such as getting reprimanded or fired

        I don’t think this argument really works when you’re the one doing the reprimanding or firing.

      • liskantope says:

        You make some reasonable-sounding points but I’m a little skeptical of classifying misgendering someone via pronouns as “harassment”. (Disclaimer: I lean in favor of a workplace/campus rule forbidding misgendering someone.)

        Harassment refers to direct and deliberate targeting of another person. That certainly does apply to some forms of misgendering (e.g. repeatedly making remarks about how (wo)manly someone is), but using pronouns is a semi-conscious aspect of communication that’s hard to avoid and usually doesn’t involve deliberation.

        • LadyJane says:

          That’s why I specified “on a frequent and consistent basis.” I know that it’s not uncommon for people to misgender a trans person they just met, and I understand that slip-ups can happen from time to time, especially if the trans person in question isn’t particularly passable. That’s different from actively making an effort to misgender a trans person every time you talk to them or talk about them, as a deliberate statement that their gender identity isn’t valid.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Your central example doesn’t extend well to SCC, where as far as I can determine, the median position is “Gender is a made-up category”.

            Which is to say, there is a position outside of pro-trans and anti-trans, which is that transgender isn’t referring to anything. (As distinct from transsexual, which does exist in their framework, and which I won’t be getting into here.)

            For this subset of people, “gender” doesn’t refer to a meaningful concept. So, for an only somewhat related example I may regret, a man who wants to wear a dress isn’t violating gender norms, but rather sexist rules.

            The distinction is both subtle and important, because it underlays a significant percentage of the angry debate on the matter. To this group of people, “gender expression” and “gender conformance” is a kind of fundamental error in thinking, in treating a conceptual framework for understanding the way society interacts with sex (gender-sex, not the act) as if it is referring to a real and meaningful concept.

            From this framework, gendered nouns refer to sexual characteristics, not to gender. They are literally incapable of misgendering anybody because they don’t have any concept that maps to “gender” in their brain; it isn’t a characteristic they assign to people.

            The “gendering” argument literally sounds to them like you are insisting they pretend people have different genitals, because that is literally what the words mean to them.

            Some go along with it, even though they don’t actually understand it, because they understand that other people feel hurt by it.

            Others, who prioritize Truth, fight the whole thing tooth and nail, because from within their framework, you are demanding they be dishonest.

            (I lean towards the old-school framework of “Gender is something we ought to be tearing down, not building up”, because I think gender conformance is stupid, and I find many trans people incredibly frustrating because they just switch which role they are performing to, which looks to my perspective like escaping one prison by hiding in another. But I don’t feel strongly enough about it to yell at the kids that they are doing it wrong. At least they are experimenting with the boundary conditions of societal expectations, and maybe along the way they’ll figure out that they don’t have to fit into any box.)

          • LadyJane says:

            @Thegnskald: You’re making the same mistake a lot of well-meaning liberals make (including me, back during my teen years), which is to confuse gender roles/expressions with gender itself. Gender roles and expressions (e.g. that men wear pants and women wear dresses, that men are more assertive and women are more passive, that men like video games and women like shopping) are societal norms, and I would agree that they could be considered made-up categories. But gender itself is distinct from those, and refers to one’s internal sense of self, their own feelings about their mind and their body. Gender roles and expressions are subjective, but gender itself is just as objective and ultimately just as rooted in biology as sex (i.e. visible anatomical sex characteristics).

            If we took your rationale to its logical conclusion, then it would follow that in a world with no sexism and no gender roles, people would no longer suffer from gender dysphoria at all, and trans people would no longer exist. I find this highly doubtful, given the myriad of hard evidence showing that there are observable biological differences between trans and cis people. There’s even some (admittedly inconclusive) evidence that animals can suffer from gender dysphoria.

            The fact that many trans people don’t actually conform to the norms and expectations of their ‘chosen’ gender is also evidence that gender is not the same thing as gender roles. I’ve known plenty of masculine trans women and feminine trans men; the fact that they still felt the need to transition despite matching the expectations of their assigned birth gender indicates that there’s definitely something to gender beyond just societal norms.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Gender, as the word was developed, is a way of describing the societal protocol that is both performed and experienced by an individual within that role; it carries with it expectations and privileges.

            Sex, as the word was used as distinct from gender, is the physical sexual characteristics of an individual.

            What, exactly, is gender, as you describe it? Because this:

            “and refers to one’s internal sense of self, their own feelings about their mind and their body. Gender roles and expressions are subjective, but gender itself is just as objective and ultimately just as rooted in biology as sex”

            is nonsense. It’s a subjective experience that is objective? No. Insofar as we are describing the body, we are describing sex; dysphoria about one’s body, insofar as sexual characteristics are concerned, is what we used to label “transsexuality”, although the labels tend to be used pretty imprecisely anymore.

            Gender dysphoria, as described by those who experience it, appears to be a social dysphoria – which is why it is so important to those who have it that they be gendered correctly. It is literally the social protocol; it is the gender role. Insofar as you care how other people gender you – insofar as your concerns are socially rather than internally rooted – we are talking about a social protocol, which is to say, the gender role.

            Now, I am quite willing to admit to the possibility that there is yet another category, that I’ve been lumping into one of the others, but you’re going to have to describe it a little more precisely than “subjective objective experience having to do with the mind and body”, which just sounds like a combined category including elements of both gender and sex, because if you want other people to incorporate this categorization, you have to actually be able to explain what the categorization is and why it is important. Don’t expect to convince them that this categorization is uniquely important and should supersede their own, however.

          • Brad says:

            Gender roles and expressions (e.g. that men wear pants and women wear dresses, that men are more assertive and women are more passive, that men like video games and women like shopping) are societal norms, and I would agree that they could be considered made-up categories. But gender itself is distinct from those, and refers to one’s internal sense of self, their own feelings about their mind and their body. Gender roles and expressions are subjective, but gender itself is just as objective and ultimately just as rooted in biology as sex (i.e. visible anatomical sex characteristics).

            This seems a bit hard to swallow. I don’t think that mental phenomena are in any sense fake, but they are certainly messier and less objective than gross anatomy. It shouldn’t be at all controversial that our own feelings about ourselves are shaped by our upbringings and cultures.

            If we took your rationale to its logical conclusion, then it would follow that in a world with no sexism and no gender roles, people would no longer suffer from gender dysphoria at all, and trans people would no longer exist. I find this highly doubtful, given the myriad of hard evidence showing that there are observable biological differences between trans and cis people. There’s even some (admittedly inconclusive) evidence that animals can suffer from gender dysphoria.

            Both the brain and the body are extremely plastic. There’s every reason to believe that environmental effects (e.g. how people are treated) can feed back into observable biological differences. That means that the presence of observable biological differences between groups of people does not imply that those groups must not have socially constructed definitions.

            If you want to look for human universals you have no choice but to study people from as disparate cultures as possible. Unfortunately, most of the contemporary scientific establishment is very bad at doing that.

            To put my cards on the table, I do think that in a culture with no sexism or fixed gender expectations that gender dysphoria would at the very least be significantly reduced in prevalence.

          • as a deliberate statement that their gender identity isn’t valid.

            How about routinely using the pronoun in the way consistent with how you actually view that person?

            Part of what bothers me about the whole “misgendering is harassment and should be preventing” idea is that it amounts to a claim by someone else over the inside of my head, a claim that I am obliged to think about someone in whatever way that person wants me to.

            If I view someone as male, requiring me to use female pronouns in referring to him is requiring me to lie about my views, or alternatively requiring me to change my beliefs on someone else’s orders. Both of those strike me as ugly and objectionable things to do. I have no objection to using female pronouns for someone who I know is genetically XY but who I actually view as female, but that doesn’t describe all mtf transsexuals.

          • But gender itself is distinct from those, and refers to one’s internal sense of self, their own feelings about their mind and their body.

            That may be what you mean by the term, but it isn’t what I or, I think, most people mean by it, so you are demanding that other people change the meanings they assign to words to fit your preferences.

            It also isn’t a very sensible way of using the term if the purpose is for me to decide what pronouns to use in referring to people, since your definition depends on facts not externally observable. If I refer to someone as “she” I want that to convey information about who I am referring to to whomever I am speaking to, which it doesn’t do if gender is a statement about what’s inside someone’s head.

            It doesn’t work perfectly in a world in which conventional gender markers, such as clothing, don’t perfectly correlate with biological gender, but it works a lot better than your alternative.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Thegnskald, @Brad, @DavidFriedman: I realize my wording in the previous post was vague, and I understand how that can be confusing when dealing with loaded words like ‘gender’ which lots of people define in lots of different ways.

            So, to (hopefully) clarify: I’m effectively using the word gender to refer to the neurological and hormonal traits that determine someone’s internal sense of gender identity (i.e. whether they see themselves as male or female or both or neither, not in terms of societal expectations and gender roles, but on a purely somatic level; to be even more specific, what sex their internal ‘map’ of their body views itself as).

            I apologize if that’s still not clear, but it’s very hard to describe gender dysphoria to someone who doesn’t personally experience it. It’s more akin to somatoform disorders like phantom limb syndrome than to psychosocial or psychosexual disorders.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @LadyJane: … huh, I think I’ve experienced both gender dysphoria and a somatoform disorder.

          • So, to (hopefully) clarify: I’m effectively using the word gender to refer to …

            That’s fine as a description of how you use the word. But you seem to have been arguing that everyone else is obligated, morally if not legally, to assign pronouns to people on the basis of gender defined in that particular way.

            As I already argued, that makes less sense than assigning pronouns on the basis of appearance and behavior, since those are externally visible and internal self-image is not.

            If we all went around naked, it would make sense to assign pronouns on the basis of visible genitals, with a very few ambiguous cases. If we all went around with a list of chromosomes written on our foreheads, it would make sense to use “he” for XY, “she” for XX, again with a few ambiguous cases. But since the function of grammatical gender is to convey information to the listener, it makes no sense to base it on something observable only to the person being referred to.

          • liskantope says:

            In response to LadyJane’s original reply to my comment: Yeah, I guess that’s fair, as long as it’s an “active effort”. This gets a bit muddy when it comes to repeatedly misgendering someone because one has to occasionally use pronouns and doesn’t want to cater to a viewpoint of transness that one doesn’t believe in — rather than going out of one’s way to use the wrong pronouns in order to make one’s point — but yeah. I tend to believe that a trans person’s pronoun preferences should trump other people’s comfort in using them anyway, however we use the term “harassment”.

          • John Nerst says:

            It’s more akin to somatoform disorders like phantom limb syndrome than to psychosocial or psychosexual disorders.

            Is this the standard view among researchers and trans-activists? I was of the impression that leaning heavily on the biological perspective wasn’t particularly popular and that self-identification was supposed to be the only standard?

            (Also, what you call gender would probably be a lot less confusing if it was called “psychological sex” or something – because that’s what it appears to be. “Gender” is not a good word for clear communication.)

          • Aapje says:

            @John Nerst

            I think that the beliefs range all the way from ‘it’s a hard biological mismatch between the mind and the body’ to ‘It’s a mismatch between the traits of the person and the gender role.’

            The irritating part is that these very different beliefs all tend to get referred to with the same term: gender dysphoria. Even worse & confusing is that many of those who see gender dysphoria as biological, see gender as referring to the gender role. Confusion guaranteed.

          • Thegnskald says:

            LadyJane –

            That sounds like an elaborate restatement of “transsexual”. So what’s the difference between a transgender person using that definition and a transsexual person?

            ETA:
            To reiterate my understanding of the categories, so we are on the same conceptual page: Sexual dysmorphia (transsexuality) is a feeling of discomfort centered around your body. It is associated with hormonal and brain structure differences, and is usually, but not always, helped by surgery/transitioning.

            Gender dysmorphia is a feeling of discomfort centered around how other people perceive you, and in the gender-mediated social interactions everybody engages in. It is sometimes, but not always, associated with sexual dysmorphia – and in the last decade or so in particular has become much more common as an independent issue, whereas previously it was largely correlated. It isn’t particularly helped by surgery/physical transitioning, and although social transitioning can mitigate the symptoms, it remains strongly comorbid with other illnesses such as depression, suggesting that in many cases there is an as-yet unidentified root cause separate from gender itself.

            (I’d suggest at least some of the modern increase in gender dysmorphia is caused by a negative perception of the gender role one is born into – for example, a perception that male gender role conformance requires being sexually abusive – but that is pure speculation.)

          • LadyJane says:

            @Thegnskald: As far as I can tell, the term transsexual refers to someone who’s actively taken steps to physically transition. It’s also a rather outdated term that I don’t really hear people using much anymore.

            What you call “sexual dysmorphia” is what I’ve been referring to as gender dysphoria. What you call “gender dysmorphia” is a symptom that results from having gender dysphoria in a world with a strict binary gender classification. In a hypothetical world where there were no gender norms at all – to the point where everyone had gender-neutral names and exclusively referred to each other with gender-neutral pronouns, and the only time sex/gender came up at all was in regards to situations and issues where the actual physiological differences mattered – there would be no such thing as gender dysmorphia at all, but there would still be people with sexual dysmorphia.

            And yes, the language on this topic is confusing and inconsistent and often loaded, which makes it difficult to discuss with people who aren’t familiar with the terminology. As John Nerst suggested, “psychological sex” would probably be a more accurate term for the concept that I’ve been describing with “gender.” When psychologists and trans activists say that “sex doesn’t always match a person’s gender,” what they really mean is “outwardly-visible physical sex characteristics don’t always match a person’s psychological sex.”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Not to be a linguistic prescriptivist myself, but we developed the specific language for a reason, which was to avoid specifically this kind of confusion.

            Bloody kids on my bloody lawn.

          • LadyJane says:

            @DavidFriedman: Well, that’s kinda my point, you can’t know someone’s true biological sex just by looking at them, since biological sex includes not only their visible sex characteristics, but also their “psychological (i.e. neuro-hormonal) sex” as well as genetic and anatomical sex characteristics that aren’t externally visible. There are people with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who are physically and psychologically identical to cis women, yet still have a Y chromosome; many probably go their entire lives without ever realizing that they’re intersex.

            Since true biological sex is basically an unknown quantity (at least short of extensive medical testing), it’s best to simply refer to people the way they want to be referred to. If you don’t know what their preference is, then judge based on their presentation until you find out.

          • Matt M says:

            Since true biological sex is basically an unknown quantity (at least short of extensive medical testing), it’s best to simply refer to people the way they want to be referred to.

            This does not logically follow.

            True biological sex correlates with “what gender do you appear to be” with at something approximating 0.99. Why isn’t it “best” to simply refer to people based on what gender they appear to be?

          • LadyJane says:

            @Matt M: As I said, if you don’t know what pronouns someone would prefer to use, then it’s perfectly reasonable to judge based on their appearance. I’m not saying that we should always use gender-neutral pronouns for everyone unless they specifically say otherwise, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accidentally misgendering someone. But I do think someone’s personal preference should take priority over their appearance, where the two conflict.

            In general, you’re correct, there’s about a 98-99% chance that any random person you see is the biological sex they appear to be. Among someone actively claiming to be a different gender than they appear to be, however, that chance decreases very sharply.

            As of the most recent statistical estimates, 0.6% of people are trans and another 1.7% of people have other intersex conditions. Assuming there’s some overlap there, that’s roughly 2% of people who are neither biologically male nor biologically female. But if you see someone who looks like a man but claims to be a woman, the odds of them having gender dysphoria and/or another intersex condition is a lot higher than 2%, it’s probably closer to 99.2%.

            A lot of these arguments seem to be built around this weird implicit premise that huge swaths of people are just pretending to be trans for attention or whatever, despite not actually having gender dysphoria. I find this assumption extremely bizarre and unlikely.

            Also, even saying “we should judge people based on their appearance and presentation” is a big improvement (in my eyes) from the position a lot of others seem to be taking here, which is “we should always treat people as if they’re the sex/gender they were assigned at birth.” Your view wouldn’t result in misgendering a passable trans woman (and depending on how charitable you are, it might not even result in misgendering an unpassable trans woman who was clearly trying to present female), whereas someone like CatCube objects to ever referring to trans people by their chosen pronouns as a matter of principle.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A lot of these arguments seem to be built around this weird implicit premise that huge swaths of people are just pretending to be trans for attention or whatever, despite not actually having gender dysphoria. I find this assumption extremely bizarre and unlikely.

            I don’t. There’s this place called tumblr, you see. And…

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t. There’s this place called tumblr, you see. And…

            Seconded.

            I’ll also note that I’m prone to take someone seriously who makes a great deal of effort to pass, considers hormone therapy, surgery, whatever… as opposed to the people who call themselves “genderfluid” and basically do nothing but occasionally crossdress and browbeat anyone who doesn’t treat them as a beautiful and unique snowflake.

            I feel the same way when it comes to homosexuality. One can usually tell the difference between serious people who make a big commitment to live as openly gay – and the college girls who are “bisexual” to the extent that they’re willing to make out with other girls at frat parties if boys are watching – but that’s about it.

          • Nornagest says:

            People say all sorts of stuff in the weirder corners of the Internet. I used to know a guy who swore up and down that he was living out the plot of a harem anime — and not just any harem anime, but one of the ones with a highly specific ridiculous gimmick. And that’s not even the strangest identity-as-performance-art bit I’ve come across, just the easiest to explain.

            But on the other hand, I think that while “pretending… for attention or whatever” is probably gonna be vanishingly rare among emotionally stable adults, it leaves out whole swaths of possible motivations that have nothing to do with classical gender dysphoria. It also leaves out the possibility of gender dysphoria arising (or at least being greatly amplified) for socially mediated reasons, which I would have scoffed at a few years ago but I now think is a real possibility. And there are plenty of people out there who aren’t adults or aren’t emotionally stable.

          • lvlln says:

            I used to know a guy who swore up and down that he was living out the plot of a harem anime — and not just any harem anime, but one of the ones with a highly specific ridiculous gimmick.

            I hope it wasn’t School Days, for his sake.

          • Nornagest says:

            No, Hayate the Combat Butler.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, we’re too deep in this subthread for me to respond to everyone…

            @Nornagest: Hayate the Combat Butler?!

            On passing well: some people do it, so I call them as I see them. The problem I keep encountering is males who put minimum effort into passing and bring down the power of hegemonic leftist social pressure on anyone at the party who doesn’t treat them as the special snowflake they want to be. As far as I’m concerned, they’re straight dudes who want the privileges West Coast cities and college towns give to lesbians.

            On prevalence: I don’t buy that 1.7+ percent of the population is neither male nor female. Since the Agricultural Revolution, typical humans have lived in villages of Dunbar’s Number people, and there weren’t multiple intersex people in each village. There might be one “two spirit” per numerous villages, or males who wanted to be women might leave their villages and link up as the hijra jati (occupation/caste), but it wasn’t that common.
            This “empirics of history” argument is the same reason I don’t believe that 10% of men have always and everywhere been homosexuals. There’s got to be a socialization factor.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hayate the Combat Butler?!

            I know, right?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Yyyeah… I at least hope this was someone you knew from the internet who claimed to live in a developing country where having a house servant is still actually a thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nope. He eventually revealed he was living in the suburbs of Seattle, although he was pretty cagey about nationality most of the time — I got the impression he wanted people to think he was Japanese, but didn’t know enough about Japan to actually say so.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: haha, that’s so sad.
            I had a friend from the internet who claimed to have a hot nudist wife but didn’t bring her when we met in person, then went on to claim she gave birth to twins and the camera broke when they tried to take a family photo, but that’s mild in comparison.

          • Randy M says:

            After years of marriage, he realized his wife was a secret nudist when she gave birth to naked babies.
            Shocking twist–she actually cheated on him with a nudist.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: Which do you find more likely: that a lot of gay/trans people pretended to be straight/cis when there were extreme negative consequences to being openly gay/trans? Or that a lot of straight/cis people are now pretending to be gay/trans, despite there being no real benefits to doing so, because the negative consequences for being openly gay/trans are no longer as extreme as they used to be?

            Not to mention, trans people living in a society where there wasn’t even a concept of “transgender” would probably have a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to even contextualize their feelings of dysphoria. Also, plenty of intersex people aren’t actually aware that they’re intersex, even today, and I’d imagine that it would’ve been a lot less likely for them to find out without modern medical testing.

          • Matt M says:

            despite there being no real benefits to doing so,

            Disagree. There are definitely some social circles in which identifying as gay or trans increases ones status significantly. And plenty of non-social situations as well (college applications, job applications, diversity in procurement requirements, etc.)

            And these spheres seem to be increasing, not decreasing.

          • Also, plenty of intersex people aren’t actually aware that they’re intersex, even today, and I’d imagine that it would’ve been a lot less likely for them to find out without modern medical testing.

            If I understand you correctly, you are using “intersex” to cover a bunch of different things. A short list:

            1. A hermaphrodite–someone with both male and female genitals.

            2. A transsexual–someone whose body is unambiguously of one gender but who identifies as the other.

            3. Someone with non-standard genetics. XXY is the most common but, as you probably know, others exist. Mostly such people appear as somewhat atypical males or females.

            There may well be more I haven’t thought of. I should probably include a Tumtum, since the ancient Jews did (along with hermaphrodites–both raised puzzles for the application of religious law). But I’m not certain what one was and it probably is due to a problem that can be eliminated by modern medicine.

            These different categories raise different issues, so lumping them together makes discussion more difficult.

          • liskantope says:

            There’s this place called tumblr, you see. And…

            Not sure what is meant to be proven through the link on “And…”, unless I’m not reading enough of the website.

          • Aapje says:

            @liskantope

            This video may be illuminating. Danielle often wears a beard, has a super low voice, is balding and otherwise presents 100% like a man, but claims to be a transwoman. You can also see an apparent non-effort to appear female in the photos at the bottom of this page.

            As you can see at Danielle’s site, this person seems to use the trans/female identity to get to speak on behalf of trans people/women in a way that a man would often not be allowed to, in the blue tribe. In fact, this seems to be Danielle’s career.

            So it seems possible/likely that the trans identity gave Danielle access to a SJ advocacy career.

          • Barely matters says:

            despite there being no real benefits to doing so

            So, this is both exactly the kind of story that this account is for (Ridiculous, probably offensive to some, and definitely of the stripe that I know better than to tell at work), and relevant here.

            A partner that I dated for roughly 4 years recently came out as nominally trans. They’re still entirely physically female and have said they have no plans to physically or hormonally transition at all. All of this comes on the heels of an official borderline diagnosis while having plunged deep into the fetlife scene. Extrapolate at your leisure.

            Where it gets interesting is that they say they’ve always been trans, but are only coming out with it now, which means I was retroactively in a gay relationship for several years. I presume they’re telling me this because they think it’ll get under my skin, cithet hegemonic scum that I am, but let’s be cereal for a moment here: This is absolutely fucking hilarious!

            Since then, I’ve been able to preface points with “As a gay man, I feel that…” in discussions with my other friends who’ve frequently pulled out this gambit in the past. Whereas previously it would shut down discussion, because who am I to contradict the lived experience of my more fabulous compatriots? But now it lets me meet that particular powerplay with an equivalent and continue speaking as an equal. It’s eye opening.

            Having never experienced the ability to make arguments that are privileged by virtue of the disprivilege of the speaker before, I can see the appeal! At this point I can safely say that anyone claiming that there are not real social power benefits to having a dispriviliged identity in modern society is lying, full stop. The power involved becomes apparent seconds after deploying it for the first time. And while I’d prefer we all just ditched identity based power games altogether, I’m flexible, y’know?

          • liskantope says:

            @Aapje: I’m listening to the video you linked to, ~18 minutes in (probably won’t watch the whole thing). While I don’t doubt that some people who call themselves trans don’t actually have gender dysphoria, I don’t see great evidence from the video that Danielle Muscato, who claims to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and making small changes with the advice of a therapist but to be unable to go through hormones and full transition for health reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @liskantope

            That sounds like BS to me. Is there a health condition that makes it impossible to use hormones AND impossible to smoothly shave and impossible to grow out your hair or wear a wig and to wear a little makeup and …

            Muscato also makes conflicting statements, for example, claiming to be prevented from transitioning due to expenses and difficulty getting hormones, 6 months after claiming to have medical reasons to not be able to transition.

            It seems extremely unlikely that one would announce in 2014 to want to gradually transition entirely without mentioning any medical issues that may prevent that and then know in December of 2016 that one cannot take hormones due to medical reasons, without actually trying to transition by taking hormones in the meantime. However, in that case it makes zero sense to claim in May of 2016 that one does not have access to hormones for multiple reasons. Are we supposed to believe that those multiple reasons all dissipated in less than 6 months?

            The evidence that I see suggests insincerity much more than another explanation.

      • Adrian says:

        Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from the consequences of that speech, such as getting reprimanded or fired […]

        Yes, it does, otherwise it’s not freedom of speech. “You’re free to criticize the regime, comrade, but that doesn’t free you from the consequence of being sent to the gulag.”
        What is your definition of “freedom of speech”, then?

        just like I consider “trans people’s gender identities aren’t valid” to be as offensive and inaccurate as “non-whites are physically and mentally inferior to whites.”

        How can you reach a public consensus for that idea when you censor all debate on that topic? Because there’s certainly no broad consensus that “trans people’s gender identities aren’t valid” is a false statement.

        • Ketil says:

          I think the interpretation of “freedom of speech” is one which applies to government suppression of speech only. Employers are free to fire you (and your children can be kicked out of school, stores can refuse you service, etc, etc) if you express (or are suspected of subscribing to) undesirable views – or in this case, fail to express the views deemed correct.

          Obviously, this kind of lynch mob mentality can be just as stifling for political discourse and debate as governmental censorship, but by using this definition, we can still claim “free speech”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’d be much more sympathetic to such arguments if the people proposing them used them across the board. E.g., “Freedom from discrimination only covers government discrimination; as long as the government isn’t passing laws discriminating against a certain race, private businessmen should be free not to serve them.”

            (And, on a more quibbling note, I think “your children can be kicked out of school” would still count as government suppression of free speech, at least if you’re one of the vast majority of people whose children go to state schools.)

          • Murphy says:

            That becomes a little more awkward when the employer is the government. (as in this case since she’s an employee of a public university getting government funding)

            Should the government be allowed fire employees for publicly campaigning for the opposition party in their free time?

            How about for failing to criticize the opposition parties position in a video shown to a class while on the clock?

            “Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from the consequences” becomes vastly vastly more worrying when the state employe a sizable fraction of the working population and can suddenly inflict “consequences” on employees who don’t toe the party line hard enough.

          • SamChevre says:

            I would agree, and would strengthen what you said: free speech applies to government suppression of speech, direct or indirect.

            Direct: blasphemy laws, anti-sedition laws, etc.

            Indirect: “if you hire people who hold those views, or won’t hire people who hold these views, you can be punished–you may find it difficult to get business licenses, or be fined, or…

            I’m very OK with any private business deciding that it doesn’t want employees who refuse to use its customers preferred pronouns working there: but if the government requires it to ensure that it’s employees do so, that’s not free speech. (I’m similarly OK with private businesses only hiring people who think the whole notion of transgender is nonsense. Or only people who think the only proper breakfast is congee. It’s not the government’s business.)

          • LadyJane says:

            @Adrian, @Ketil: I’ll freely admit, I’m exactly the kind of libertarian that Scott complains about in https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/07/29/against-signal-boosting-as-doxxing/. He thinks it contradicts the spirit of libertarian ideals, if not the letter. I think his view unfairly favors the people making unpopular arguments, and limits the freedom of speech and freedom of association of the people responding to them. The marketplace of ideas is exactly that, a marketplace, and there are (and should be!) consequences to failure there. Those consequences just shouldn’t be enforced by the state at gunpoint.

            And among the scientific and medical establishment, there is indeed a broad consensus that “trans people’s gender identities aren’t valid” is a false statement, as I explained in my reply to Winter Shaker above. That consensus might not exist among the general populace, but who cares? 42% of Americans don’t believe in evolution either, that doesn’t mean the issue is still up for debate in any serious academic context.

            @The original Mr. X: If it makes any difference, I think anti-discrimination laws should only apply to government agencies and contractors.

            @Murphy: I would say that, as a general rule, government employers should not be allowed to fire employees for not supporting the current political establishment. I would also say there should be exceptions for cases where not supporting the current political (or academic/scientific establishment) would directly interfere with the function of the job. For instance, I would expect a press secretary who publicly denounced the politician he was supposed to be representing to be fired in short order, and I wouldn’t expect a government-funded climate research institute to hire a climate change denialist. Likewise, I think it’s acceptable for a government-funded university to punish a professor who taught outdated psychological theories like Blanchardism.

            @SamChevre: I mostly agree. Although, as I explained above, I think deliberately and constantly misgendering a specific individual is tantamount to harassment, and I would consider that valid grounds for a civil suit.

          • And among the scientific and medical establishment, there is indeed a broad consensus that “trans people’s gender identities aren’t valid” is a false statement, as I explained in my reply to Winter Shaker above.

            What is a valid gender identity is not a question on which the scientific and medical establishment has any special expertise. If what I mean by “gender” is genetic gender then their gender identity is not valid. If what I mean by “female gender” is “does not think of self as male” (etc.) then it is.

          • Murphy says:

            @LadyJane

            It’s a tad suspicious that all the exceptions you carve seem to favor one political ideology while all the things you take a hard line of disfavor it’s opponent.

            It’s like a chirstian who claims to be all about areligious principles and tolerance but happens to support laws that happen to ban the traditional garb of other religions but carves out exceptions for any times when their own religion calls for wearing things that would otherwise violate the rules.

          • honhonhonhon says:

            I don’t think that kind of personal attack is fashionable here Murphy.

          • Murphy says:

            @honhonhonhon

            Is there a nicer way to express that someone seems to be carving carefully around their own ideology or markers for their own social group?

            deciding that saying things [popular with their own social group] and unpopular with [ideological group popular with the other 50% of the population] are where free speech is right and proper to apply

            but that saying things [unpopular with their own social group] and popular with [ideological group popular with the other 50% of the population] is where we need to take and stand and suppress things.

          • honhonhonhon says:

            No, because the thing you’re trying to express is itself not nice. You’re assuming that the other side is intentionally favoring unprincipled solutions. A lot of people instinctively prefer rules that favor them in the moment, but that’s different in intent from “yeah I’m carefully making unprincipled rules here so my side wins”. The instinctive group is engaged by building a thought experiment where the rules apply against them, the intentional villain group is engaged by discussion about the futility of villainy, but you only engage the audience by announcing “you unprincipled villain!” (a real villain wouldn’t care or would think you a loser, and someone unintentionally doing it would be discouraged from maintaining the same good faith and civility in debate as before the allegation)

      • Aapje says:

        @LadyJane

        You seem to view my framing of the issue as a free speech issue to be a disingenuous attempt to argue for the right to harm a person.

        However, what we see in the Shepherd case is that she was not reprimanded for misgendering anyone, nor for showing a clip where a person was misgendered, but rather for showing a clip where Peterson argued on the meta level. I agree with you that, at the object level, certain behaviors should be outlawed/punished/etc. However, I believe that it is crucial for a free society that one should always be allowed to argue that the law is wrong.

        Fundamentally, arguing that a law is wrong, without breaking the law, does no direct harm, except the offense that is taken. For example, while a person who is denied a job for her race is harmed in the opportunity that she has been denied, merely hearing someone advocate for the right to deny her a job does not in itself cause direct harm. Indirect harm, like other people being convinced that the law is wrong and undoing it, is something that in my view best handled by having the opponents make their best case and having society make a democratic decision. Abandoning that solution generally leads to a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ (in the eyes of those who rule), which is often not considered very benevolent by the ruled.

        As such, my worry about the implication to free speech is not (just) a way to resist a certain object-level policy, but rather, it is what I care about most. In fact, it is the conflation of the object level with the meta-level, which we see in the Shepherd case, in your comment and among a certain portion of society, which makes me far more wary to extend protections. What I see is exactly the opposite of what you worry about: that arguments at the object level are used to push through bad changes on the meta level.

        A second issue is that I don’t believe that protecting people is as black & white as you claim. For example, let’s take your claim that we should ban people from arguing that a particular race is inherently superior or inferior. The problem here is that this can be counter to the scientific evidence and (therefor) make it harder for us to help people.

        I believe that my light skin makes me objectively inferior at living in places where the sun shines very brightly, while it makes me objectively superior at living in places where the sun shines less. Disallowing me to argue this, effectively makes it impossible for me to argue that people with light skin color should more often use sunscreen & that people with dark skin color should more often take vitamin D supplements, even though such race-based advice seems appropriate.

        Another example that demonstrates the difficulty in making general rules, is that people in some black subcultures like to call each other by the n-word. People are diverse, with different culture, different relationships to each other, etc; so it is hard it make good rules. Perhaps transwoman 1 never wants to be called a ‘he,’ but transwoman 2 actually prefers that transphobes call her that, so she knows to be wary of them, rather than have the prejudice affect her in more subtle ways that are hard for her to see, but which do much harm. So instead of top-level rules, it may be better to push such rules to the communitarian level as much as possible, based on the self-organizing ability of people.

        I also don’t particularly trust authorities, other than judges, to properly navigate these nuances, especially since (significantly) erring in the direction of a stifling environment tends to be the most pleasant to them (easier and requiring less effort, at least, at first).

        While I agree with you that it is not necessarily wrong for organizations to pick a side, it is important that we then allow multiple sides to exist in separate organizations. Where this is not possible, we should demand neutrality (or at least, democratically backed decisions) as much as possible. This is true in particular for public and semi-public organizations, because there is only one state. I consider colleges to be semi-public organizations, given that even ‘private colleges’ tend to get much of their funding from the state & that we see in practice that the state leverages this to force the colleges into adopting certain policies.

        • albatross11 says:

          Lady Jane:

          In the US, the first amendment also applies to government-run schools (state universities, for example), so a state university probably could get in first-amendment trouble for imposing rules restricting what viewpoints were welcome on campus. I have no idea how that works in Canada, though.

          On the object-level questions you mentioned, I think you are making a tradeoff, and you should be open about that tradeoff.

          a. On one side, some discussions, questions of fact, or intellectual inquiries will offend the hell out of some people.

          b. On the other side, suppressing those discussions, questions of fact, or intellectual inquiries will probably block off some paths of learning new things about the world.

          As a pretty simple case of this, consider the theory of evolution. To advocate for this theory was to call into question the most deeply held beliefs of a big chunk of the population, including most of the students at any university at the time it was beginning to be taught and researched. A lot of authorities wanted to suppress these discussions and inquiries, either to avoid offending these people, or for fear that undermining traditional beliefs about religion and morality would lead to a lot of social problems. But if those efforts had been successful, we would be enormously worse off right now.

          • Thegnskald says:

            And it is important to remember that the people trying to suppress speech about evolution thought they were doing the right, socially responsible thing.

            It isn’t enough to think you are right, this time, and they were wrong. Nobody thinks that that doesn’t apply to them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Bah, I posted something about this, but you got to it first. Most Canadian universities are public; Wilfred Laurier is. We have fewer speech protections than the US; the hate speech type laws in Canada would never fly in the US. I believe Peterson is on the record as saying he supports the current Canadian system – he’s OK with banning speech, but not with compelled speech, I think.

            So, rather amusingly, a “free speech crusader” in Canada holds basically the same opinion as someone against free speech in the US.

      • Matt M says:

        If someone kept insisting that one of their cis male co-workers was a woman, and exclusively referred to them by female pronouns, that would be seen as extremely rude and unprofessional behavior, and could easily get that person fired if they continued to do it.

        Because if they did that with one person and with no one else, it would be seen as bullying (and it would be).

        Someone who adopts, as a general framing of the world, the idea of “gender is not a social construct” and chooses to refer to everybody based on the pronouns of the gender they were born with is doing no such thing.

        The former is a bully who is picking on one person and deserves to be punished. The latter is someone who simply has a different worldview.

        • LadyJane says:

          If someone adopts, as a general framing of the world, the idea of “non-whites are subhuman inferior races who are undeserving of respect,” that doesn’t make it socially acceptable for them to start insulting every African and Asian person they meet.

          You’re free to believe whatever you want, and to express those beliefs, but when you start treating specific people disrespectfully because of those beliefs, then you’re engaging in targeted harassment. (There’s a reason that this forum prohibits misgendering specific posters, despite allowing debate over the validity of trans identities in general.)

          • Matt M says:

            You’re introducing an analogy of inferiority and disrespect where none exists.

            If my general policy is to identify people based on their biological sex – that is not claiming they are inferior in any way, nor is it treating them disrespectfully.

          • LadyJane says:

            Unless you’re going to do chromosomal testing on everyone you meet, that doesn’t really hold water.

          • Matt M says:

            Sure. I suspect that people who make a great deal of effort to pass are very rarely misgendered by complete strangers.

            But if you’re unwilling to put in that level of effort. If you still appear, to most people, to be a man, then don’t be surprised if you get called and treated like a man.

          • You’re free to believe whatever you want, and to express those beliefs, but when you start treating specific people disrespectfully because of those beliefs, then you’re engaging in targeted harassment.

            So if you treat people who don’t believe in evolution disrespectfully because of your beliefs about the subject–make it clear that you think they are scientifically ignorant–you are engaged in targeted harassment?

            If you treat people who believe that gender is defined biologically disrespectfully, insist that they are ignorant people defying a correct scientific consensus–which is pretty close to what you have just been doing–that too is targeted harassment?

            I am not entitled to have people respect me. The inside of their heads, which is where their view of me resides, belongs to them. Nor am I entitled to have people lie about their beliefs to keep me from being offended by them.

          • LadyJane says:

            If I had a co-worker who didn’t believe in evolution, and I kept referring to him as “creationist” in every single interaction with him, and prefaced every statement about him by saying “he’s a creationist,” then yes, that would count as targeted harassment and most employers would agree. That might seem like an extreme example, but if you’re misgendering someone on every single occasion in which you talk to or about them, then it’s every bit as relentless and pervasive as the situation I described.

            People are not entitled to respect. But I would say that they’re entitled to being treated respectfully, or at the very least, entitled to not being treated with active disrespect on a constant basis.

          • Jiro says:

            If you kept calling the guy a creationist whenever you were going to use a word related to him being a creationist anyway would it be harassment?

            Pronouns come up a lot more in conversation than “creationist”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Public universities are at least a de facto part of the govern