Adversarial Collaboration Update

Here are the teams that have registered for the adversarial collaboration contest so far.

1. Joel P. and Missingno on circumcision.
2. Yaleocon and flame7926 on incarceration.
3. Eigenmoon and Andrew S. on the simulation argument.
4. James B. and Reed on abortion.
5. TracingWoodgrains and lazygraduatestudent on critical learning periods.
6. TracingWoodgrains and Rhys Fenwick on reducing the abortion rate.
7. David G. and Froolow on eating meat.

Since that’s more than five, the contest is officially going to happen!

I’ll give everyone else one more chance to sort out teams, in the comment section here. Please don’t comment unless you’re proposing an adversarial collaboration topic. All other posts will be deleted. Please email me at once you’ve got a team and topic.

Also, an experiment: only people with usernames A-M can propose. People with names N-Z, you’re stuck accepting from here out (people with names A-M can still accept if they want to). This is to address the problem where nobody accepts anyone else’s offer because they’d rather propose their own topic. If it works, I’ll do it the opposite way around next year. If you care enough about this to register a new username, whatever.

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

73 Responses to Adversarial Collaboration Update

  1. decorticate says:

    I am looking to form a collaboration about educational signaling. I believe signaling cannot explain the large returns to education that we see in the empirical economics literature. I am an applied microeconomist and hope to approach this topic using papers from empirical economics and education journals, although I would (of course) be open to investigating other evidence.

    My claim (happy to modify): “In the U.S., less than 20% of the economic return to a high school or college diploma can be explained by educational signaling.” I want to argue in favor of that claim, and I am looking for someone else to argue for the importance of signaling (eg. using arguments from Bryan Caplan as a starting point). This collaboration might work best if you have some experience reading quantitative statistics/economics papers.

    I want to stay anonymous, so those interested in collaborating can email me at adversarialcollaboration[at]gmail[dot]com, which I just created.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      I don’t have access to my personal e-mail at the moment, but I will e-mail you tonight. I think signaling can explain a high return on education. I have moderate experience reading such papers.

      • decorticate says:

        Thanks! I just accepted someone’s offer to collaborate, so we should be set on this one. But definitely feel free to email me to discuss the topic.

  2. Interested in Adveersarial Collaborartions in the following topics

    1. Watching the news is mostly a waste of time/Valuable (i’ll be arguing the waste of time)

    2. Locks are mostly security theatre that doesn’t stop people who intend to steal things (this is often phrased by locksmiths as “locks are there to keep honest people honest”

    • Dan L says:

      Let’s try this again.

      1. Watching the news is mostly a waste of time/Valuable (i’ll be arguing the waste of time)

      I could potentially be interested in a Collab on the general topic, but this wording is too broad and unfalsifiable to suggest a productive approach. Lets’s specify: are you interested in the news’ ability as a discoverer / disseminator of information in general? Are you arguing that most of what the news covers is irrelevant to the general audience, regardless of the truth value of its content? Its use as an information-neutral entertainment product? “Value” is a subjective term with far too many degrees of freedom, and that’s before we even dig into what “the news” is anyway.

      • Sure, email me at enelson3(at) to better hash those out

        For the most part I’m arguing about reading articles like “Trump Signs wall funding” or watching the presidential debates, or turning on *INSERT EVENING NEWS SHOW* is meaningless to every day decisions and if ignored has little/no impact on life. (unless you enjoy that sort of thing)

        the Weather has high value though

        • Dan L says:

          Especially with that parenthetical, I’m not sure that we would actually disagree too much on matters of fact! It’s definitely the case the the typical news program is designed more as entertainment than to deliver actionable information, and while I might defend the idea that there’s a stratum of media that really is a truth-seeking net positive, it isn’t the typical viewer’s typical program.

    • Aapje says:

      @Edmund Nelson

      Locks are mostly security theatre that doesn’t stop people who intend to steal things (this is often phrased by locksmiths as “locks are there to keep honest people honest”

      A thief may set out to steal, but they don’t necessarily set out to steal from you. I think that you can make them switch to your neighbor with good security or even skip an entire neighborhood.

      I also disagree with discounting casual thieves or just homeless people who would enter your home. Keeping them out of your home does improve security.

      So I don’t think locks are security theater in the sense that it doesn’t increase your security.

      However, my belief is not based on hard evidence, which I don’t think exists, so I don’t know how to argue with you based on really solid evidence. So any collaboration would then get stuck on merely listing possible threats, but without any solid data to show how much they are reduced by locks.

    • AVal says:

      2. That’s a very peculiar position which I struggle to see how it is defendable. As such, I would love to see a collaboration on this topic! Out of curiosity, if you have a bike, would you lock it? Similarly, do you leave your house door open?

  3. Erusian says:

    Reposting to see if there’s any additional interest:
    –The biggest problem facing the American economy is the declining rate of high-quality new business formation and that the new cohort of business owners is becoming wealthier, more geographically concentrated, better educated, and better connected due to a variety of barriers.

    –America is developing an Old China-style political/social elite based on an expensive course of education with a series of key examinations creating ranked tiers. Further, American politics is beginning to take on the character of a conflict between central bureaucratic nobility and provincial local nobility as was a repeated pattern under the system in East Asia.

    –Automation/AI will not lead to a general, sustained economic crisis within our lifetimes or for the foreseeable future. Automation/AI’s effects into the future will have effects similar to technology’s effects in the past and, on the whole, follow the general trend.

    –It would be advantageous to return to the pre-Progressive Era policy of letting in almost everybody who met some basic requirements and then granting them citizenship after a period of well-behaved residence.

    -And if anyone’s interested in finishing up the old collaboration from the last contest, I was doing UBI is bad not only for general economic output but inferior to more practical policy prescriptions in helping the lower classes. We got pretty far but my partner dropped out and no one else came forward.

    • Frederic Mari says:

      Happy to take you on re. Automation/AGI and/or UBI (inasmuch as UBI is likely to imply *some* discussion around automation/AGI/the future of work).

      NB: some comments were made on phrasing in the previous thread. Did you think any of them were worth taking on board? I don’t care too much either way but, for clarity/relevance to others’ sake, might be worth thinking about it a bit.

      PS: I’ll let you contact Scott, right? My email is fredmari421 (at) gmail (dot) com

      PPS: if you want to go through the UBI again, please share the previous work done so we/I can pick it up faster/we get to the more interesting/debated bits faster.

  4. Edrith says:

    Edrith and Atreic would like to register to do one on changes to the UK benefits system.

    Exact title being worked out, but along the lines of:
    The changes to the UK benefit system since 2010 have been fair and effective at leading towards a more just distribution of resources. Edrith arguing for, Atreic against.

    • atreic says:

      Just to confirm, this is true, and I’m not being registered without my consent. I think getting to the actual title might involve much of the meat of the collaboration, but I’m seeing more ‘Do the Undeserving Poor actually exist?’, with subquestions of ‘is their existence generally played down or exaggerated’ and ‘do policies to address the ‘problem’ of ‘the undeserving poor’ cause more harm than they solve’. All through a UK lens, and I think ‘do policies to address the problem of the undeserving poor cause more harm than they solve’ will end up on the specific case of ‘were changes to the UK benefit system fair / effective/ just’.

      [I feel ikky every time I _type_ the phrase ‘the undeserving poor’. Until Edrith and I were discussing what we disagreed on and he used it, I thought it was something that had vanished from polite conversation like racial slurs have… but it does as a concept seem to be really central to the narrative of why the benefit changes happened and whether they were achieving a Good Thing.]

      • robirahman says:

        I want to make you both aware of some sources that might be useful. American economist Bryan Caplan has debated several people on the topic of deserving vs undeserving poor, and he and his opponents bring up good points that you may want to include. Google “Bryan Caplan deserving poor” for many links/examples. (Caplan’s position is that the undeserving poor do exist.)

  5. Athrithalix D says:

    I would be interested in collaborating with someone on the value of space exploration and specifically colonisation from an X-risk perspective.
    My position is that it is important to establish multiple independently viable human colonies within the near future.

    In terms of qualifications, I am a masters year aerospace student who has worked for a while in the space industry.
    I posted this in the previous thread and got some interest, but I didn’t include an email address, I can be reached at

    Some people asked what kind of data I was thinking of looking at, as there isn’t exactly a close historical example. I think the collaboration would look like an assessment of the probabilities of various x-risk scenarios that could be mitigated against by an offworld colony, and the speculative costs of setting up such a colony.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I might be interested in collaborating with you. I’d describe my general position on the issue as, Most likely X-risks that I can think of which would wipe out humans on Earth, would also wipe out humans on nearby colonies and Establishing an independently viable colony would be extremely difficult, unlikely to provide any direct benefit, and thus is unfeasible in the near future. Consequently, Resources would be better spent on preventing/mitigating X-risks directly rather than establishing offworld colonies. If you generally disagree with these statements (which it sounds like you do), I’d be interested in a collaboration. I do however agree that X-risks are a vitally important consideration that deserves attention, work, and funding, so I don’t think we’ll be talking past each other.

      As for my qualifications, I’m definitely nowhere near your expertise on the subject, but I am an undergraduate engineering student with an interest in the subject. (Decided to go with bio instead of aero for my major.) If you’re interested, reply here and I’ll send you an email to sort out the details.

  6. a reader says:

    I’m interested in collaborating with tailcalled and someone else about:

    “whether Blanchard’s transsexuality typology is true, i.e. whether trans women end up gender dysphoric in one of two ways, either as a result of autogynephilia (a sexual interest in being female), or through a more-complicated process related to attraction to men and femininity”

    The problem is that, like tailcalled, I think yes (mostly), so one more person, having the opposite opinion, is needed for an adversarial collaboration.

    (There was a team of 3 last time, so I suppose they are allowed this time too.)

  7. AVal says:

    I registered with a new nickname because I want to suggest a topic.

    I would argue that online porn may be the main cause of increase sexual disfunction amongst modern human population. I would also argue that, if this is true, porn should be considered similar to smoking, and thus the negative moral value associated with porn is justified. I am a not religious person, so I am not basing my argument on religious grounds.

    I am also a not native english speaker so the person challenging me would need to be patient about my spelling or strange expressions.

    • gkai says:

      Maybe that the health problem linked to porn are not comparable to the ones linked to smoking. On one hand you have sexual disfunction ( measured how? not a mechanical problem obviously, so it will be psychological…I guess it will be along more and more needed to feel excited – which can be interpreted by the competing team as higher standards!), on the other it’s reduced life expectancy from cancer and vascular issues….it even includes mechanical sexual problem, or looks issues (smell, skin, teeth,…)
      Frankly, while I’m not confident arguing porn is mostly harmless is a easy win, I would bet on the oppossing team if you try arguing that porn should as regulated as smoking. ss

      • souleater says:

        Having reread the original comment, I think I misread sexual dysfunction as sexual dissatisfaction.

    • “online porn may be the main cause of increase sexual disfunction amongst modern human population”

      How is it doing this?

    • gkai says:

      I may be interested in working on this, and other may be too (I not a native speaker either, so I may not be the optimal choice if you want to get outcome written in the best english possible for the outcome), but how do we contact you?

    • Dilatant says:

      Ubiquitous online pornography is a relatively new phenomenon (two decades), and was not available in most of human history.

      Do you see a substantial quantitative increase in sexual dysfunction in the last two decades, or are you arguing for a qualitative change? I’m asking because it seems to be the case that every generation has had problems with sexuality — one might argue that Freud’s Psychoanalysis emerged out of an analysis of 19th century sexual dysfunction (termed e.g. hysteria) — but clearly the introduction of reliable contraception has been a major influence on human sexuality, which one might imagine also changed sexual dysfunction.

      • AVal says:

        I will argue for a quantitative change.

        • Dilatant says:

          Given the well-known difficulties of getting people to speak truthfully about their sexuality, how will you get access to credible & robustly reproduced quantitative data about contemporary sexual dysfunction, not to mention causation?

          Could you give an example of the sexual dysfunction you have in mind, and the corresponding quantitative data?

          • AVal says:

            sexual dysfunction as difficult in obtaining and mantaining an erection.
            There is a lot of literature on the topic. Start at , section on ‘research’. I believe in the research, but not very strongly as I didn’t have the change to go to it *VERY* carefully as I wished. So this is gonna be a very good chance for me to do so.

        • Dilatant says:

          I’ve now looked at’s section on ‘research’. Lot’s of references to the DSM and to faux-neuro-profundity (e.g. fMRI studies). We do not currently (August 2019) understand that human brain well enough to be able to connect high-level social behaviour (e.g. porn) with blood flow in the brain (fMRI) in a meanigful way. Moreover, I found little / no replicated and trustworthy longitudinal studies that would be needed to verify or falsify the claim that there was an “increase” in ED.

    • Protagoras says:

      Your second point does not follow from your first. If, as some research indicates, online porn is a major cause of declines in sexual assault rates, then even if it were also, as you claim, a major cause of sexual dysfunction, many would consider that an acceptable (indeed more than acceptable) trade-off, and so say that porn is nonetheless of positive moral value. So you should probably decide whether you want to do a broader investigation of all the effects of porn, or stick to the sexual dysfunction issue and make your conclusion more modest.

      • AVal says:

        If, as some research indicates, online porn is a major cause of declines in sexual assault rates

        I briefly looked for papers about this, but couldn’t find any. I only found article supporting the opposite view. Could you point to at least one source I can start my research with?

        • Protagoras says:

          This link cites a couple of the Diamond papers that I was mostly thinking of, as well as citing some other work.

          • AVal says:

            Thanks! Will consider this if we go into the moral problem. For now the topic will be
            – online porn is the main cause of increase sexual disfunction amongst modern human population.

            GKay and I arranged an adversarial collaboration through email, and we have notified Scott 🙂

  8. JohnBuridan says:

    I would like to do an Adversarial Collaboration about the potential of Forecasting, Counterfactuals, Prediction, and the study of historical causation. My ideal partner has read Superforecasting, is knowledgeable about some era of history/political science, philosophy of history, or game theory. The core question is, is history predictable?

    I would like to do an Adversarial Collaboration on whether Classical Education is efficacious, or whether it is all smoke and mirrors and signaling. My ideal partner knows something about either Classical Education or Progressive Education.

    Last year, I did the Islamic World AdCollab. This year I want to write a much tighter and shorter piece.

    • JohnBuridan says:

      Find me on the SSC Discord or email littlejohnburidan at geemail dot com.

    • two-ox-heads says:

      Tentatively interested in your first question. Could you elaborate on your position about it?

      • JohnBuridan says:

        I am not very good at staking out positions, since most of what I think is tentative or exploratory. But I will try, anyway. Here are three positions.

        There are some, like Peter Turchin, who seem to think that history can be predictive even on large time scales e.g. 70 years and 300 years, I disagree with this. I think there is a large identifiable class of human events which are not predictable and whose impact is greater than the predictable events; I also think we can design some clever tests and thought experiments which demonstrate areas of prediction which can and can’t be mapped.

        Phil Tetlock is sanguine about short term forecasting, but posits three objections to the future of forecasting: Black Swans, the Social Function of Prediction, and the humanistic claim about the irreducibility of human motives (i.e. the inside view is just too complicated). Tetlock deals with these briefly at the end of his book, but I think these each pose immense problems for the study of history and the study of prediction and will reveal that prediction only beats chance in a narrow class of concerns/questions. I want to define this class.

        My last hypothesis and perhaps the one I am most interested in is that: Counterfactual claims are more complicated than predictions, and this means several things, among which are: that understanding history is more difficult than short term prediction, that choosing a course of action is more difficult than predicting a third party’s course of action, and that predictions most fruitfully should be considered as a narrow class of counterfactual.

        In the above I use a lot of imprecise terms but that is to save space and use normal prose style without too much jargon. If you or anyone else wants to AdCollab on this topic, I think an initial at length conversation will help us find points of disagreement upon which the AdCollab can focus. I believe the best way to start an AdCollab is start by spitballing all our stray thoughts on the topic, until we hit upon something that seems 1) interesting, 2) about which we both disagree, 3) about which we think we can make headway investigating and debating. For most topics, I don’t expect society to have already staked out clear contrary positions for us to assume.

        • two-ox-heads says:

          Okay, that’s great. I think I disagree broadly with all three of your assertions even though I recognise that we currently do not have a theory of sufficient predictive power to forecast historical events both major and minor.

          I suspect that, while historical forecasting may not evolve to the point that we can predict events to the level of particles and fields, there are broad mathematical invariants that we are yet to uncover. The current situation then is temporary, and I wanna see if this hypothesis will bear out in the end.

          Let’s move this to e-mail, shall we?

  9. Well... says:

    Just a datapoint, but if I wanted to propose a topic I could not be bothered to create a whole new username just to do it.

  10. Cartos says:

    I’m interested in collaborating on the following point:

    Does the high-tuition, high-financial-aid model of college costs do a good job of helping students/families with limited resources afford college?

    My opinion is no, that between students being scared of applying from the sticker price and the complexities of the financial aid system, this model hurts more than it helps. I’m mostly coming at this from the perspective of public universities, since I spent a long time in one for graduate school, but I’m interested in exploring how this model works for private universities as well. I’m not looking to argue that there should be increased public funding for education, but rather how the current pool of money is distributed and the effects this has on who goes to college.

    I have a background in environmental science and statistics, so I’m familiar with research and digging through the academic literature, but I have no professional experience working in the social sciences. I’m happy to work with anyone.

    Email: pslyndon[at]gmail[dot]com.

    [reposted with slight edits from the original adversarial collaboration thread]

  11. robirahman says:

    niko and I have agreed to proceed with our adversarial collaboration proposals in the previous thread. Our topic is “What is the Healthiest Diet?”

    My stance is that most people overeat carbohydrates, and that protein is good for you. Niko takes the anti-meat, pro-carbohydrate stance.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m looking forward to this one! I’ve seen the anti-fat, anti-carbs, anti-only some carbs (gluten, simple/sugar) and anti-some-meat (red, processed) positions, never anti-all-meat as a matter of personal health.

  12. Johnny4 says:

    I’m interested in a collaboration on the question:

    Does (our current understanding/the fact of) cosmic-fine tuning provide significant (Bayesian) evidence for the existence of a designer?

    I think the answer is yes, for basically the reasons that are presented here:

    I’m not one of the authors of that paper, nor someone who has published on fine-tuning, but I am a philosophy professor with a fairly decent understanding of that literature, including Bayesianism.

    My email address is: johncakeller [at] gmail [dot] com

    • Lignisse says:

      I’m interested in being your adversary for this collaboration. I have a bachelors in Mathematics and Statistics, and a strong amateur interest in both physics and (mostly analytic) philosophy. I’d like to focus my argument that the answer to this question is “no” on what the linked paper lists as objections 3 and 5 – I think that both can be improved and sharpened from the way those authors present them (I also happen to agree with objection 4, but I don’t think that impinges on the more limited scope of the question as you’ve stated it here). I will send you an email.

    • Jameson Quinn says:

      You’ll have to address multiple versions of the anthropic argument. Some of those versions will drive you straight into the weeds of string theory, spontaneous symmetry breaking, and self-sustaining inflation. Those are some deep weeds and I’d say you need someone with graduate-level physics study. (I’m finishing a PhD in a math-heavy field that’s not physics, and both my parents have PhDs in physics, and that stuff is above my pay grade.)

      • Johnny4 says:

        Can you say a bit more about this Jameson? I’m fairly skeptical that there is a true and interesting anthropic principle,* but even if there was, how would that bear on fine-tuning? If the claim was that our existence was evidence for a designer, that might be undermined by an anthropic principle. But the observation that the universe is fine-tuned isn’t the observation that we exist, so it’s not immediately obvious why an anthropic principle would even be relevant. (I mean, I know that it’s common to give anthropic objections to fine-tuning arguments; what I’m saying is that we can see the those objections are misguided without getting into the weeds of physics.) Am I missing something?

        * An anthropic principle looks like it would entail that Bayesian updating works on all propositions except that we exist, which seems about as plausible as saying that deductive logic applies to all propositions except that we exist.

        • Dan L says:

          Going a little object-level to continue the argument here, but I’m interested in the topic and some of the objections could be pretty clear show-stoppers to a probabilistic discussion. To gesture in the direction of the objection Jameson raises, some QM interpretations have strong implications for the evaluation of subjective probabilities. Quantum suicide is maybe the most famous thought experiment in that field, and if you’re expanding the ‘subject’ to be the entire universe I don’t think it’s a dismissable objection.

          For the anthropic case I personally find most persuasive, I’m perfectly content to bite the bullet and agree that deductive logic does not in fact apply to the proposition that we (or I, at least) exist. Paradoxes of self-reference aside, do you think that it’s even logically contingent?

          • Johnny4 says:

            Is what you’re saying supposed to be different than the “multiple universes” objection? I agree that that’s an important objection, and that it blunts the force of the fine-tuning argument. (If we knew there was just a single universe, I think the argument would be overwhelmingly strong.) So one important question is: how much does the possibility of multiple universes blunt the force of the argument? Even there the answer is pretty clear in a vague sense: a lot. But the argument can take quite a hit and remain very, very, strong, so the precise details matter.

            On the anthropic stuff, the most important point is that the evidence of fine-tuning isn’t that we exist–we’ve known that for thousands of years, but the evidence for fine-tuning was only recently discovered.

            If Bayesianism or deductive logic didn’t apply to certain claims, that would be pretty revolutionary news. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘logical contingency’, but ‘I exist’, ‘We exist’, and ‘Humans exist’ aren’t logical truths/tautologies/provable from no premises. But I might be misunderstanding your point here. (And I might have misunderstood the quantum suicide remark too!)

  13. Prussian says:

    Reposting this:

    I’m looking for a collaborator on the subject: Is large scale Islamic immigration compatible with maintenance of liberal democracies?. Subsidiary questions under this involve:

    1. What measures define liberal democracies? I am thinking of measures such as freedom of speech, equality of the sexes etc.
    2. What defines ‘compatible’? For example, if women’s equality goes from an 8 to a 7, that’s bad, but not necessarily incompatible. If it goes from 8 to a 2, that’s another matter
    3. To what extent does Islamic immigration import illiberal ideas?
    4. To what extend does Islamic immigration empower native illiberal ideas? (here I’m thinking of the political changes throughout Europe at the moment).

    In the last A. C. this was tackled only in Islamic countries. However, what concerns people mostly is whether or not islam is compatible with liberalism _in the West_. So, this is worth revisiting. I’m particularly interested in collaborating with someone who thinks Islamic immigration IS compatible with liberal democracy, and who can add the necessary rigour to keep my writing in check.

    Scott, please feel free to shoot me down if this is taboo.

    • JohnBuridan says:

      I have some useful resources I can share. So hit me up if you and a partner get started on the topic. 🙂

    • panoptical says:

      I’d be interested in doing this, if you haven’t found someone yet.

      I think that Islamic immigration is compatible with liberal democracy.

      I have a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Islam/the Middle East was one of my areas of concentration, and I currently teach Global Politics in the IB Diploma Programme.

      My gmail address is neal.zupancic. Shoot me an email if interested.

  14. abuelbanat says:

    I’d be interested in a collaboration on the question:

    Should early childhood education/child care programs (i.e. caregiving programs for children ages birth-to-five) be considered a common good and publicly funded a la primary and secondary education?

    (Or some variation thereof, I’m not wedded to that specific wording, more to the idea of exploring the value of early childhood programs)

    I would take the affirmative, and am looking for someone to argue the negative.

    By way of background, I have a Master’s in Education Policy and have worked for many years in both early childhood and K-12 education policy; so, I’m very familiar with the research base here in both directions.

    If you’re interested, drop me a line at AbuElBanat12 [at] gmail [dot] com.

  15. grendelkhan says:

    Reposting from the last thread.

    Hi, all! I’m seeking a partner for collaboration on whether the construction of new market-rate housing is better for low-income affordability than constructing no new housing, in a supply-constrained market. (Say, the Bay Area, or Seattle, or New York City.) I’m an engineer in my day job, and have no particular qualifications here apart from writing a lot of posts about housing on the subreddits, and doing a lot of reading. I’d like to work with someone who supports moratoria on market-rate construction, or believes that affordable-only construction is a better alternative. (Example here.) Email me at grendelkhan at gmail dot com, or follow up here.

  16. MaimedUbermensch says:

    I would like to do an adversarial collaboration on the following claim.

    If everyone has a limited number of “child-raising slots” that they can fill, and for each one, they can choose to, have a biological child, adopt, or just don’t fill the slot. Then the utilitarian calculus comes out completely in favor of adoption, making the biological option completely unjustifiable, especially if you have sympathy for the effective altruism movement.

    some of the specific points I would like to explore in the essay are:

    – How easy/expensive is it to adopt? How many children are there to adopt?
    – How different does it feel for a parent to adopt? Are parents with biological children happier than ones with adopted ones?
    – Is it harder for non-biological parents to form an emotional connection with their adopted children?
    – What are the average life outcomes of adopted children?

    I should clarify that I’m not completely convinced by my own claim, I wonder if the same moral unjustifiability argument also applies for donating 11% of your income over 10%, but I still feel that if we just set an arbitrary line at adoption > biological, like the effective altruism movement does with it’s 10%, that would would do a lot of good, in that more people, at least in this community, would consider adoption.

    I’m a 21 year old computer science student whose only expertise on this kind of thing is being a very avid reader on everything rational sphere related, I’ve never done a research project of the “much more than you wanted to know” scale or close to it.

    If interested, email me at

    • Nornagest says:

      If everyone has a limited number of “child-raising slots” that they can fill, and for each one, they can choose to, have a biological child, adopt, or just don’t fill the slot. Then the utilitarian calculus comes out completely in favor of adoption, making the biological option completely unjustifiable, especially if you have sympathy for the effective altruism movement.

      This might be the most Evil Robot thing I’ve ever heard.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Evil Robot Adoption Services.
        “GO TO SLEEP, LITTLE ONE! I HAVE REPLACED YOUR BIOLOGICAL PARENTS! extends a bottle from its jaws

    • “How easy/expensive is it to adopt?”

      Very expensive. You might think it should be cheap, since our ancestors managed to do it for cheap, but it’s not, and there will be industry experts to explain that to you.

      “How many children are there to adopt?”

      None? Not in the literal sense, but none in the sense that the demand far exceeds the supply even in the case of international adoption.

      “What are the average life outcomes of adopted children?”

      Not good, though that’s due to genetic factors rather than the adoption itself.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Not good, though that’s due to genetic factors rather than the adoption itself.

        … but people still need to do it even if they turn out unequal to their biological children, because being parentless is surely a much worse outcome.
        Altruism toward children who don’t share our genes is weird but virtuous.

      • Jameson Quinn says:

        “Not good, though that’s due to genetic factors rather than the adoption itself.”

        This smacks of a statement that reflects the prior more than the likelihood. That is to say, direct evidence on this specific question, in either direction, is weak; and so are chains of logic from indirect evidence to this question.

    • Aapje says:


      Demand for non-handicapped children is so large that ‘orphans’ are/were being produced in several countries for Western consumption.

      There should be less adoption than there is, not more.

  17. MP92 says:

    Hello there!

    I would like to make an adversarial collaboration related to climate change. I hold the position that:

    Global warming exists, is mostly or entirely due to humans, and is a major threat to human societies. To protect ourselves, we must take action and redesign the global economy, in a way that keeps the fossil fuels in the ground.

    I am open to an AC about either all or part of the statement above, depending on what you may find controversial. Alternatively, the AC could focus an a specific person’s claims – I hold the position that:

    Greta Thunberg’s public positions are essentially correct.

    See her speech before the british parliament.

    I am a PhD student in statistics with no qualifications in climate science. Most of what I have read about climate science so far was in non-scientific media, although I have also skimmed through climate science publications. English is not my native language.

    • fargomath says:

      I would be interested in doing a collaboration with you. My position basically is:

      Global warming exists. It is mostly or entirely due to humans. It will cause some harm, but the media and the IPCC and others exaggerate the likely effects. Government efforts to prevent fossil fuel use by force will likely fail. Instead, government should fund research to make renewable energy sources more cost-effective and should support nuclear power.

      However, I feel that there’s no way to cover the entire topic in one paper. (I am taking the length of the papers from last year’s adversarial collaboration contest as a guideline.) I would prefer to tackle a much more specific question. Here are some suggestions:

      1. Are the IPCC’s predictions of temperature increases to 2050 reliable? (My position: no, temperature increase will be less than they predict.)

      2. Is runaway permafrost melting and release of huge quantities of methane likely before 2050 (or 2075, or 2100)? (My position: no evidence that it is.)

      3. Will sea level rise force the evacuation of huge numbers of people before 2100?. (My position: no, at most a few people.)

      4. Have government efforts in wealthy countries to reduce CO2 emissions been successful up to now? (My position: they’ve been very inefficient. Other tactics would have achieved more at lower cost.)

      I am open to other suggestions if you have any. Feel free to post here or contact me at fargomath[at]gmail[dot]com

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I’d like to float “Are First World countries a patriarchy?”
    I’d be arguing “No, contemporary rich countries are perhaps the first literate societies where it’s advantageous to be a woman.”

    • panoptical says:

      Patriarchy does not mean “a society in which it is advantageous to be a man”, so proving your argument (to the extent such a thing could even be done) would not answer the question you’ve posed.

      • Aapje says:

        In the common feminist definition of the term, which is historically rather incorrect, patriarchy does seem to be equated to men being advantaged and/or being in power.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Men are still more than 50% of individuals in power in the contemporary First World, but I think the evidence points to that happening despite male privilege being absolutely illegal and privilege for women being a thing.
          After all, what is “power”? I suppose that, in the United States, it’s what the President and Supreme Court have, what CEOs of large-cap corporations have, to a lesser extent lower judges and Cabinet members and Congresspeople and CEOs of small corporations… this takes extreme ruthless ambition, and the male sex seems to produce more extreme outliers on that half of the bell curve.

          • panoptical says:

            I don’t want to end up just having this debate in the comments section. However,

            I think the evidence points to that happening despite male privilege being absolutely illegal

            Here is a list of privileges that accrue to men in the US, compiled by a man. Many of them are not even the type of thing that could conceivably be made illegal (like, “12. If I have children and pursue a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.”).

            I imagine that what you are referring to as illegal is “discrimination against women,” which is not the same thing as male privilege. It might interest you to know that discrimination against women is not “absolutely” illegal: the issue is complicated, the laws are complicated, but basically, the US Constitution doesn’t actually guarantee equal rights for women so it is actually legal to discriminate against women in more situations than it is legal to discriminate against racial minorities, because of the different legal standards that courts use when evaluating racial vs. gender discrimination claims. That is to say, courts use intermediate scrutiny for gender discrimination claims, but strict scrutiny for racial discrimination claims.

            If you want to study this issue with any rigor, you should look into the case law involving gender discrimination (not just the statutes, but how they are actually enforced in practice) and the levels of scrutiny used by the courts in deciding discrimination cases. And also, you should make sure you are careful with terminology – not confusing power with advantage, or privilege with discrimination, for example.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            If you look at contemporary very ‘patriarchal’ societies, then a great deal of power is exerted informally and quite often by women. For example, female circumcision seems to be both demanded and performed primarily by women.

            Interventions that educate women in these societies about the downsides of female circumcision seems really quite effective at driving down the rates, suggesting that women do have the power to stop it.

            In a patriarchal society, the patriarchs and matriarchs seem to have most power and seem to wield to force younger men and women into the mold, who are usually fairly powerless.

            The narrative of ‘patriarchy = men oppressing women’ excludes both female power and male powerlessness, which are major factors.

            The feminist definition of power excludes or downplays, like pretty much all of their definitions, anything that doesn’t fit a simplistic narrative.

            The feminist narrative also fails to properly distinguish between acting and choosing. Someone can act with zero ability to choose and someone can have immense control without ever using overt means of control.

            In relationships, it’s quite common for men to be expected to lead, but to often do what the woman wants, who will get the man to do her will by more passive (aggressive) means. In that case, the woman has a lot of power and definitely way more than is obvious if you look at who calls the restaurant to book a table, who orders flowers, who gets out of bed in the night to investigate a noise, etc, etc.

            Similarly, men in positions of power don’t and have never acted to merely benefit men at the expense of women, or we wouldn’t have (had) very many laws that benefit women exclusively and/or at the expense of men, created by majority-men law makers.

        • panoptical says:

          In the common feminist definition of the term, which is historically rather incorrect, patriarchy does seem to be equated to men being advantaged and/or being in power.

          I don’t doubt that occasionally in casual usage there may be an elision of the distinction between patriarchy and its outcomes, but it would be useful, especially in the context of a serious scholarly investigation, for participants to maintain that distinction clearly. The question of whether society is organized such that the primary power-holders and decision-makers are mostly men is different than the question of whether the resulting society results in more benefits accrued to men.

          A clear demonstration of this is war involving the US. The US has always had a male commander-in-chief and a majority-male Congress and a majority-male command structure in its armed forces. And yet, the vast majority of American casualties in war have been men. Everyone who has ever been drafted into war to fight for the US has been a man. Clearly, here is a situation in which men are making the decisions, men are in command, and yet women have an advantage (if, like me, you view dying in war as an unalloyed bad thing, rather than a Heroic Sacrifice) in that they are not being asked or forced to participate.

          The question of whether being excluded from combat is a true advantage hints at the true difficulty of this issue. Whether we regard something as an advantage, and to what extent, depends a great deal on subjective value judgments. There are women who have fought for the right to join the US military and be deployed in combat. They would not necessarily agree that being excluded from the military or from combat was an advantage. They would view it as an unjust restriction.

          Men on average work in more dangerous professions, but also have higher salaries and wages. Who has the advantage there? Feminists point to the wage gap and claim men have the advantage. Anti-feminists point to the danger gap and claim women have the advantage. How could we even hope to weigh these claims against each other and decide which group is really “advantaged”? I’ll tell you what a feminist would say: you can tell which group is really advantaged because they’re the ones fighting for the status quo.

          If you look at the history of discrimination law, you’ll find lots of cases where men claimed that women had to be “protected” from dangerous or difficult jobs. In 1948 the US Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law that banned women from bartending in order to protect them from the immorality that might occur in bars (Goesaert v. Cleary). Weeks vs. Southern Bell is also worth looking at – in the 1960’s, a woman sued (and eventually won in federal appeals court) because her company wouldn’t allow her to do a job that required her to lift more than 30lbs.

          In the 1940’s, or 1960’s, you could point to advantages that women had – they often didn’t have to work outside the home at all, but could be provided for by their husband, and there were laws in place to protect them from lewd tavern patrons and ensure that men *literally* had to do all the heavy lifting at work. Contemporary feminists wrote about these situations using terms like “gilded cage”, and Simone de Beauvoir in particular wrote about how women were often complicit in their own oppression because of a fear of losing the advantages given to them by the patriarchy.

          So the question of patriarchy has always been separate from – if complicated by – the question of advantage. There’s a wealth of scholarship on this topic going back decades. It’s a pity that feminist scholarship is so often ignored and derided in these types of discussions because it often illuminates the relevant issues and frames the problems with great clarity and lucidity.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ll tell you what a feminist would say: you can tell which group is really advantaged because they’re the ones fighting for the status quo.

            Many progressive and conservative women fought against the Equal Rights Amendment, because it would mean the end to female privileges.

            There are and were a lot of women who fight and fought against feminism. Men who fight for feminism also exist, although the misandry of the movement seems to push many to the fringes or out of the movement.

            Simone de Beauvoir in particular wrote about how women were often complicit in their own oppression because of a fear of losing the advantages given to them by the patriarchy.

            Which seems to be a lack of empathy on her part, where she can’t imagine that many people prefer the gilded cage.

            To me, the proper response to discovering that many people prefer what I see as oppression/abuse/etc; is to:
            – question my definition of abuse
            – question whether the ‘oppressor’ truly has a better life

            Not asking these questions and instead offering up explanations like indoctrination is the typical feminist response. To me, it comes across as ideologues that are unwilling to question their core assumptions and merely rationalize away every discordant fact.

            There’s a wealth of scholarship on this topic going back decades. It’s a pity that feminist scholarship is so often ignored and derided in these types of discussions because it often illuminates the relevant issues and frames the problems with great clarity and lucidity.

            I nearly always find enormous blind spots in feminist literature that I examine. So I rarely find it illuminating, but mostly deceptive, biased and begging the question.

            Even the most basic levels of fairness, like taking a definition of oppression and examining to what extent men can be called oppressed by that definition is almost never done.

  19. Loweren says:

    Hi. I’m a biology PhD student, and I’d like to find someone who disagrees with my belief: “Telomere theory of aging is overrated in the general public, telomere shortening plays a minimal role in the typical human aging process.”

    I formed this opinion as a result of reading peer-reviewed scientific articles, so I’m open to changing it if there’s compelling evidence I didn’t consider. Defeating aging for me is more important than defending a specific theory of aging.

    Please, email me at biokozlov{at}, if you are a PhD student or PhD graduate in any STEM discipline or medicine, and English is your first language (mine isn’t, so I’ll need your help correcting the text).

  20. Stupid Idea says:

    Given I’ve spent my entire life being near the end of the queue due to having both first and last names beginning with S (and the associated research highlighting that this adversely effects people in this situation) your blatant bias towards people with names beginning A (to M) is disappointing and offensive, and indeed merely perpetuates an unfairness prevalent in society.

    Consider yourself rebuked.

  21. My current impression is that the Leave campaign for the Brexit referendum did not act illegally, or even particularly unethically in comparison to a typical political campaign. This is a far cry from what is often claimed, that it is one of the most dishonest campaigns in UK history, so much so that a second referendum is warranted. If anyone has this view and is interested in doing an adversarial collaboration, please let me know.

    Some disclosures:
    1. I am not British and have somewhat of a detached view of all this.
    2. I’ve already started investigating and writing about this, with the intention of putting it on my personal blog. However, I have a pro-Cummings bias and my conclusions are suspiciously siding with him repeatedly, so I figure doing this adversarial style might be better.
    3. I would still like to put this up on my personal blog.