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Open Thread 136.75

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1,064 Responses to Open Thread 136.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10157707147219228

    Eliezer posted: “I want to practice writing short stories. Tell me what you want to see. Name a price.”

    ” Price may be $0, $5, or something non-financial. I’m not in this for the money, but it tells me something about how much you care.”

  2. Well... says:

    Someone in a previous OT mentioned the 7 levels of jazz harmony video. I finally got around to watching it. I thought the song didn’t start sounding good until level 4 or 5, but I didn’t like level 7. I like selective use of semitones, but not in chords.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The part about nonfunctional harmony was particularly enlightening. I feel I have a better understanding now of why I hate so much jazz.

    • Malarious says:

      I’d be curious if there’s a correlation between, well, for lack of a better term, “music skill” and enjoyment of… that kind of music: my friends who actually play instruments tend to like or at least appreciate really horrible, discordant, or otherwise just unpleasant genres that I simply don’t find appealing at all. It’s like they stared too deeply into the abyss and now normie music doesn’t do anything for them. For me, the “7 levels of jazz harmony” video is just a descent from something that sounds totally fine into an increasingly displeasing cacophony that’s barely distinguishable from noise. I kind of assumed it sounding “bad” was the point, but if you know the theory/have some experience maybe you can appreciate it. But apparently something actually changes in your brain and it starts sounding pleasant, is that right? Or would you still not describe level 5 as “pleasant” but just “good” in a different dimension?

      • Paper Rat says:

        From anecdotal experience there’s somewhat of a correlation. Musicians tend to prefer complex music, or simple, but really well performed one, or something special/unusual.

        I noticed, that for people who don’t play any instruments and don’t listen to a lot of different music it’s often hard to even follow something slightly unorthodox, they describe it as just “noise”, whether it’s actual noise, prog rock or even a fairly vanilla jazz.

        Good thing is, the more you listen, the more you’ll be able to actually hear. Although it doesn’t guarantee that in the end you’ll like more complex stuff (cause tastes are subjective and variety is enormous), but you’ll be able to at least articulate why you don’t. It’ll also help with finding stuff that you do like and increase enjoyment you get from music, regardless of style.

        For me, that jazz harmony video started kinda bland, then became needlessly convoluted, then at level 7 it became a bit interesting. It has a very mathy approach to music, which is good if you want to explain music theory behind certain arrangement, but not so good if you want to determine whether you’ll like less traditional jazz, cause pretty much no jazz in fact sounds like the examples provided. What there is, is generic midi piano and drums, and vocals that very annoyingly stay the same, even though “color” and “texture” of the composition changes with each example.

        The best thing about jazz IMO is it’s liveliness, the way musicians channel emotions through the instruments and bounce of one another, the way rhythm pulses and shoots electricity through your body, the way live performance is a freaking journey into the unknown and unexpected, and that video just presents a dissected cadaver and shuffles it’s organs around a bit.

        I kind of assumed it sounding “bad” was the point, but if you know the theory/have some experience maybe you can appreciate it. But apparently something actually changes in your brain and it starts sounding pleasant, is that right?

        Yes a lot of complex or discordant music does start to sound pleasant, that’s often the whole point. For example, you might want to go listen to a certain performer specifically cause their sound is unique, even though their compositions are not that interesting/innovative. Again, that video is just a very poor example of what actual jazz sounds like.

  3. johan_larson says:

    Another magic question.

    Here is a URG Elementals deck I build from a box of Core Set 2020, and a few low-end purchases. I tried it out on Standard night at the local game store, and went 1-6. I could perhaps have gone 2-5 if I had used my sideboard more intelligently. I got the feeling that the deck handles well; I didn’t note any particular hangups during play. But I suspect the deck is a bit under-powered. How can I improve it, preferably without spending a mint?

    First, there is a smooth progression of Elementals from CMC 1 to 6, often with synergies:
    4 Scorch Spitter
    4 Creeping Trailblazer
    4 Overgrowth Elemental
    4 Lavakin Brawler
    4 Air Elemental
    4 Wakeroot Elemental

    Then there are three specials:
    4 Risen Reef
    4 Chandra, Novice Pyromancer
    4 Shock

    And finally the landbase:
    6 Island
    9 Mountain
    9 Forest

    Some possible improvements, including some expensive options.
    – shock lands (Breeding Pool, Steam Vents, Stomping Ground)
    – Icon of Ancestry
    – Nissa, Who Shakes the World
    – Chandra, Awakened Inferno
    – Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
    – Cavalier of Thorns
    – Omnath of the Roil
    – Chandra’s Regulator
    – Lightning Stormkin
    – Living Twister (That first ability could be one heck of a finisher.)

    What should I do here?

    • Kindly says:

      Disclaimer: haven’t played Magic since the first Zendikar set was Standard legal.

      Are the Risen Reefs (kinda neat) and Air Elementals (underwhelming) really worth going to three colors? Especially the Air Elementals worry me. It’s going to take drawing around 20 cards to get see two Islands, and about 2/3 of the time, you’ll have at least one Air Elemental sitting in your hand doing nothing before that happens. Even working with the constraints of “flying blue Elementals from the core set”, Boreal Elemental seems better here (only one U). But consider getting rid of blue entirely if you’re not going add something really cool like Omnath. (Alternatively: shock lands are expensive, but Evolving Wilds is cheap.)

      Other suggestions of M20 Elementals that are not expensive to buy: Chandra’s Embercat? (Helps you get literally everything else out faster.) Scampering Scorcher? (3 Elementals for the price of one: 3x the synergy with other Elementals.) Thicket Crasher? (Much like the flying blue Elemental, this helps you actually hit your opponent.)

      You might also mix in some instants or sorceries other than Shock to let you interact with your opponent in ways other than attacking or blocking. But I don’t know what’s good. Maybe see what you’ve got in the box of M20, and ask yourself during the next few games you play: what’s a card you really wish you had in your hand right now?

      • johan_larson says:

        Interesting ideas. The elementals that can produce mana are Chandra’s Embercat (1R) and Leafkin Druid(1G).

        An elementals deck in RG that emphasizes mana production? Intriguing.

        • Kindly says:

          I suppose Leafkin Druid is almost strictly better than Chandra’s Embercat if you’re choosing between the two. (It has 0 power, but you have Chandra and Creeping Trailblazer to change that, whereas none of these give the Embercat more toughness.)

          How do you feel about Sylvan Awakening?

          • johan_larson says:

            I think Sylvan Awakening has the same problem as Unclaimed Territory, another card that would be great in my deck: it’s rotating out of standard in a couple of weeks. Damn cool card, though.

      • Randy M says:

        Risen Reef is nuts in play. Worth going three colors. I think in the case of a three color deck at least, you need some dual lands, though. It’s okay to go with the cheap ones that gain life, and the scry lands (temple of’s) are pretty good.

        I built a funny elemental deck I play on Arena. It’s basically just Risen Reef, clones of various types, leafkin druid and Neoform to find Reef, and Jace the lab man.
        I make as many risen reefs as possible and drop Jace just before decking myself for the win.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think in the case of a three color deck at least, you need some dual lands, though. It’s okay to go with the cheap ones that gain life, and the scry lands (temple of’s) are pretty good.

          About that. I ran some experiments to test the life-lands vs shock-lands vs basics using an earlier version of my deck. Over 10 turns, here’s the average production per turn of usable mana from the mana base:

          2.19 – life-lands
          2.71 – shock-lands
          2.31 – basics

          So, judged solely by efficiency in producing usable mana, shock-lands are great. But basics are slightly better than life-lands.

          • Randy M says:

            How often do you end up with uncastable Air Elementals in hand? Double blue with only 6 islands and no fixing seems rough.

          • johan_larson says:

            Out of the seven games I played an air elemental was hung up waiting for blue mana once, maybe. I don’t quite remember. Yes, the air elementals are two pips of blue but there are also CMC 5 so they aren’t playable at all until the midgame. I seem to remember more frustration with Risen Reef, waiting for the first pip of blue.

            Maybe I should code up a simulation. Plot some graphs. Calculate some confidence intervals.

            God, I see a deep deep hole of MTG sabermetrics in front of me. And I kinda want to dive in.

    • Aftagley says:

      You need to pick a deck direction and commit. Look at Creeping Trailblazer – that guy wants to be in a deck with a bunch of other tiny elementals so him and all his friends can go upstairs. That guy is the beating heart of a grull elementals aggro deck.

      Now look at Risen Reef. He wants to be in a deck where you get to ramp up to 6+ mana on turn 4 and slam a Hydriod Krasus or a cavalier, or an Omnath or any one of the massive top-end threats. This guy is the beating heart of a ramp/value strategy.

      Crucially, however, they don’t belong in the same deck. Commit to a lane and stick to it.

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Checking a belief I’ve formed about modern Jews:
    Reform Judaism was an Ashkenazi invention that was inherently patriotic. They started calling the synagogue “Temple”, out of a sense of freedom/completeness/whatever the term. Prayers for the Jerusalem Temple were eliminated and “Jerusalem” shifted meaning to, e.g. Berlin.

    • brad says:

      I don’t know much about the origins of the movement in early 19th century Germany, but I’d argue that is not necessary and maybe counterproductive to understanding modern Jews unless “modern” is being used in sense of modernism (i.e. a particular historical era).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Er, yes. “Modernism” meaning something like “from George Washington and Napoleon until the contemporary period.”

        • Lambert says:

          The historical concept of modernity has become really overloaded.
          It can start in 476 or 1450 or 1750 or 1900.

          • Evan Þ says:

            That makes sense – each field’s sense of “modern” starts around the start of whatever trends most characterize the current era. Or, to be specific, at the start of whatever trends most characterize the c. 1900 era when this terminology started to be used; enough has changed by now that some fields say we’re in the “postmodern” era. I wonder what they’ll call the next one?

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat >

      “….Reform Judaism was an Ashkenazi invention that was inherently patriotic…”

       Make of this what you will:

      “This happy country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple. As our fathers defended with their lives that temple, that city and that land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city and this land”

       – Rabbi Gustav Poznanski, at the dedication of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, United States of America, on March 19, 1841

      And nearly 102 years later:

      The Four Chaplains, also referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains,” were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship U.S. Army Transport (USAT) Dorchester sank on Feb. 3, 1943, during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

      This event was the catalyst for Americans to embrace interfaith understanding. Until the Dorchester, there was no mention in print of Catholics, Protestants and Jews working together in this manner, especially in prayer. It was a transformational moment for America, the first time all three denominations were recognized by the mainstream population as serving together and with common purpose.

      The relatively new chaplains all held the rank of first lieutenant. They included a Methodist minister, Rev. George L. Fox; a Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, of the Reform movement; a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. John P. Washington; and Reformed Church in America minister, Rev. Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities, and faiths were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. They met at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they prepared for assignments in the European theater, sailing on board USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments.
      USAT Dorchester left New York on Jan. 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying the four chaplains and approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships.

      The ship’s captain, Hans J. Danielsen, had been alerted that Coast Guard sonar had detected a submarine. Because German U-boats were monitoring sea lanes and had attacked and sunk ships earlier during the war, Captain Danielsen had the ship’s crew on a state of high alert even before he received that information, ordering the men to sleep in their clothing and keep their life jackets on. Many soldiers sleeping deep in the ship’s hold disregarded the order because of the engine’s heat. Others ignored it because the life jackets were uncomfortable.

      During the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943, at 12:55 a.m., the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic torpedoed the vessel, which knocked out the Dorchester’s electrical system, leaving the ship dark. Panic set in among the men on board, many of them trapped below decks. The chaplains sought to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship, and helped guide wounded men to safety.

      One witness, Pvt. William B. Bednar, found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by dead bodies and debris. “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying,” Bednar recalls. “I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”

      Another sailor, Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, tried to reenter his cabin but Rabbi Goode stopped him. Mahoney, concerned about the cold Arctic air, explained he had forgotten his gloves, “Never mind,” Goode responded. “I have two pairs.” The rabbi then gave the petty officer his own gloves. In retrospect, Mahoney realized that Rabbi Goode was not conveniently carrying two pairs of gloves, and that the rabbi had decided not to leave the Dorchester.

      As life jackets were passed out, the supply ran out before each man had one. The chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats, and then linked arms and, saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship.

      According to some reports, survivors could hear different languages mixed in the prayers of the chaplains, including Jewish prayers in Hebrew and Catholic prayers in Latin.

  5. proyas says:

    If we want to envision life after an apocalyptic event, would Haiti’s present condition be an essentially accurate depiction? Why or why not?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Depends on what sort of apocalyptic event. In some, you’d do better to look at life in North Korea under a super-oppressive government; in others, life in Patuxet just before the Pilgrims showed up after the plague had killed virtually everyone.

    • John Schilling says:

      Well, it would be a pretty accurate representation of an apocalyptic event in Haiti. Or probably any other classic third-world nation.

      If I recall our host’s description of his own time spent helping Haiti recover from a quasi-apocalypse, one serious confounding issue was that the population was almost entirely uneducated, illiterate, and ignorant. Even when resources were available, accessing them was seriously complicated by the fact that e.g. the secretary in charge of the file cabinets cataloging resource availability could not be taught to file alphabetically or in any order at all and so had to look through every file any time anyone wanted any file.

      This is not said to make fun of people who spent a lifetime conspicuously not being taught anything better, but to describe a fundamental difference between real Haiti and hypothetical developed-world apocalypses. Even after an apocalypse, people in the developed world are going to have a much broader range of skills, particularly including the skill of reading books to learn new skills that they didn’t think they were going to need. And that’s probably going to persist for at least a couple of generations, which probably means the apocalypse isn’t going to last more than a couple of generations.

      I think a better model is the first “Mad Max” movie. And in case there’s any confusion, the first “Mad Max” movie did not feature the words “Road Warrior” or feature an elaborate chase scene with a tanker truck and a bunch of people in absurdly stylized vehicles.

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Has anyone changed their mind about the Fermi paradox? If so, in what way?

    I just realized I still have the same opinion (we’re the first in the visible region) that I came up with when I first heard of the paradox.

    • Brassfjord says:

      But that isn’t an answer to the paradox. The paradox just becomes “Why are we the first in the visible universe, when there’s so many planets?”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Okay, my answer to that version is it’s hard for species which are technologically capable to evolve. Only happened once on this planet, in spite of the obvious advantages to having technology.

        • Well... says:

          We’ve only been around a few hundred thousand years. Some scientists think chimps are entering their own stone age. Even if that’s not true, it seems plausible that such a thing could happen while humans are still around. Besides, we already know that many other animals use technology, so given enough time it doesn’t seem crazy to suppose they (especially animals like dolphins, who teach each other) could iterate more sophisticated versions of those technologies or discover new ones. If a freakishly intelligent individual is born in the right conditions, it might push its species quite far, the way Galileo or Einstein did for us.

          (I don’t mean to say Brassfjord’s phrasing of the paradox has an obvious resolution, BTW. I’m pretty agnostic-leaning-pessimistic on the Fermi thing.)

    • rahien.din says:

      Does the anglerfish know that the sequoia is alive? Does the sequoia know that the anglerfish is alive? Is it remotely possible that they could ever encounter each other as living beings?

      The Fermi paradox is just the typical-mind fallacy transmuted into exobiology.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That’s an interesting theory, but do you think it’s likely that there aren’t other species visible to us which are able to get out into space but don’t leave traces we can see?

        • rahien.din says:

          On what basis would we determine that likelihood?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            We couldn’t, but if our understanding of physics is as good as we think it is, there should be some way of thinking about undetectable aliens with major off-planet civilizations.

            I’m not sure how far we could get thinking about Niven’s Outsiders. They were low-gravity folks who lived in Oort Clouds. Maybe they wouldn’t have a heat signature we could notice.

          • rahien.din says:

            See that’s exactly the problem.

            The Fermi question presupposes we already know everything we need to know. It’s an ugly contraction of wonder.

          • Enkidum says:

            The Fermi question presupposes we already know everything we need to know. It’s an ugly contraction of wonder.

            Strongly disagree. It’s not that it supposes that there aren’t any weird esoteric forms of life that would be effectively undetectable to us even if they were sitting right in front of us. It’s that it supposes there could well be some forms of life that ARE detectable. And this is not an unreasonable supposition.

            Paradox reinstated.

          • rahien.din says:

            @Enkidum,

            The Fermi paradox is not stated as “there very well could be exospecies we could detect.”

            The Fermi paradox is stated, simply, “Where is everybody?” As in, it is unsettling and weird that we haven’t detected any exospecies. To the degree that it is even weird that there aren’t any alien artifacts on earth.

          • Enkidum says:

            Yes, and so given that there are fairly good reasons to think that life is pretty ubiquitous (it begins pretty much as soon as the Earth’s crust starts cooling, and there are probably billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone), and that we could recognize an awful lot of it – where is everybody?

            Is what you’re trying to say that advanced races will have technology that is indistinguishable from magic (i.e. that can hide heat)? That’s one solution to the Fermi paradox, but hardly an obvious truth.

          • rahien.din says:

            there are fairly good reasons…

            Evidently, there aren’t.

      • Rowan says:

        If the sequoia had as much ability to optimise the planet for its own way of life as a Kardashev 1 civilisation or better, none of the planet’s surface would be wasted on ocean, and the anglerfish would not exist. If the anglerfish had similar optimising power, the Sequoia would have no land to grow on, and would similarly not exist.

      • Neither the anglerfish or the sequoia are intelligent beings, so not sure how this analogy is supposed to work. If either became intelligent, they would indeed eventually find out about the other one.

      • John Schilling says:

        The anglerfish knows the sequoia is very different from a rock.

        We observe a universe that is very full of a few basic types of rock-like things with minor variations and reasonably well-understood reasons for existing in dead space, and not much in the way of complex wonders that don’t fit that pattern. We also have one example of a technological civilization, and across multiple observable parameters it is way outside the three-sigma range of rock-like things.

        • rahien.din says:

          You’re claiming that if an anglerfish encountered a sequoia, it would think “This hard inanimate object is definitely not a rock.”

          And not “I’m about to die”?

          • John Schilling says:

            If an anglerfish encountered a Sequoia in an environment not immediately inimical to anglerfish life (like say observing it while briefly poking its head above the coastal waters in a bit of daring anglerfishy exploration), I see no reason it would fear death.

            If we credit it with an anglerfish brain plus just enough anthropomorphization to make this simple, it would probably think “That’s really weird, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, certainly not like a rock”. If it had already discovered kelp in its explorations, maybe “Yeah, a bit like non-aqueous kelp”, but now we’ve got the anglerfish categorizing Sequoia with other plant life.

            If we dial the anthropomorphization way up while keeping the Anglerfish benthic knowledge base, then the fish looks out from its water-filled hardshell EOA suit and says “Fractal morphology vastly different than any natural object, extreme vertical extent, strong coloration typical of organic pigments, harder than any fish but softer than any non-fishy solid, fibrous and porous microstructure”, etc.

            From any remotely-plausibly anglerfishy perspective, a Sequoia is going to be really weird. And if there’s an anglerfish capable of hypothesizing extraoceanic life, it’s hard to see them not leaping to “maybe that explains those weird Sequoia things”.

            If the claim is merely that an anglerfish won’t recognize a Sequoia as “life” because anglerfish are to stupid to know the word “life”, meh, bored now.

          • rahien.din says:

            If we credit the anglerfish its brain plus enough anthropomorphization, we can imagine that it is able to recognize something as alien to it as a sequoia.

            If the anglerfish is too dumb to do that, well, that’s boring.

            Yeah. Exactly.

            In order for the Fermi problem to be a sexy, sexy paradox, we have to presume that the anglerfish is we are smart enough to recognize what might be extremely foreign life forms.

            But in reality it’s boring. We don’t see as much life as we expect, because we just aren’t smart enough to have correct expectations.

          • Lambert says:

            I thought we were supposed to be empiricists here.
            Are there any SSC readers from Sierra Nevada who have a saltwater aquarium?

            (doesn’t have to be hyperbaric, since water and deep-sea fish are both incompressible)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Lambert

            Not only must it be hyperbaric, but there are other requirements too: https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-05/new-way-keep-deep-sea-creatures-alive-surface/

            Specific to anglerfish: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-17720969

      • FLWAB says:

        The anglerfish doesn’t know the sequoia, and the sequoia doesn’t know the anglerfish, but we humans know both of them. We’re pretty good about knowing about things, even if they are extremely different from us. Or very far away. Or living in environments that would kill us quickly.

        • rahien.din says:

          Well, then we would expect that an exospecies with that degree of relative sophistication (IE, as advanced compared to is as we are to anglerfish) would be able to detect us.

      • DarkTigger says:

        Are you aware those two are alive?
        So what do you think hinderce you to think something else look like it is alive?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I don’t remember if I ever thought differently, but my current guess is that there’s no need for a civilized society to communicate in ways we can intercept. I mean, we’re talking about using neutrons for direct-line comm just to shave a few miliseconds from going around the earth. Once we have this tech I don’t see us using anything else.

      Plus there’s the matter of the existential risk that comes from broadcasting yourself. It may be real selection (something is culling those inclined to chat), it could be game theory we’re not aware of or it could just be we’re unusually optimistic, but once you don’t need to use radio waves, it’s a fair chance you won’t use them on purpose just to advertise your position. I’m not comfortable thinking about this, to be honest, but I don’t find obvious holes in the logic.

      So a universe that looks silent is pretty much what I’d expect to see.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Video I’m watching about the Fermi paradox — puts a lot of emphasis on Dyson swarms, while admitting that tech well beyond ours might make them unnecessary.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I’m grabbing a hummus and watching it because it looks fun, but megastructures and Dyson spheres… I always thought they’re extremely impractical. Just because you can do something doesn’t really mean you will. First example I can think of is the classic “military is always fighting the last war” – what kind of armor we could build right now if we really wanted? Walls? Cannons? Ships? Pretty damn big and fancy, but they’re now obsolete.

      • Lambert says:

        Any alien communications that (unintentionally) reach Earth are wasted energy.
        I expect that once we’re an interplanetary species, we’ll be using lasers or something similarly directional for the bulk of our long-range communications.

      • Brassfjord says:

        The Fermi paradox isn’t about why we don’t hear radio signals, but why we don’t see Dyson swarms, space beacons and von Neumann probes.

        • James Miller says:

          Yes, it’s about why the universe’s limited supply of resources and free energy have not been completely used up, or at least stored for use on a later date, by intelligent aliens.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          That sounds suspiciously like retreating a step and saying that was the question all along. I checked the wikipedia page, and it’s pretty much a generic “why aren’t aliens flying around”. I’ve known the phrase “Fermi Paradox” since I was a kind and that’s the first time I see it associated specifically with resource optimization.

      • John Schilling says:

        Just because you can do something doesn’t really mean you will.

        But both “you” and “something” are singular.

        Take away the singularity of “you”, and your objection “Just because almost everyone can do something doesn’t really mean anyone actually will”. And, yeah, they kind of will. Rule 34 doesn’t just apply to porn (but it does apply to porn and I can imagine aliens with a first-contact fetish, so…)

        And as others have already noted, it’s not the “something” of trying to send us messages by radio, but a huge range of things. Some of which are trivially easy, others of which are extremely versatile and maximize the doers ability to do a huge range of other things. And some of which will maximize their ability to prevail in conflicts with rivals. Speaking of which…

        First example I can think of is the classic “military is always fighting the last war” – what kind of armor we could build right now if we really wanted?

        The kind that would require really really big explosions to penetrate. Last war, next war, every war, that one is pretty much a universal constant of war. We try to do really clever things to Sun-Tzu our way into victory without bloodshed, but we know these don’t always work so we stay ready to deliver maximal brute force on demand.

        But apparently no other civilization anywhere in the light-cone of the universe has ever done that, or if they did they stopped not too far past our own level, every single time ever.

        The long list of things, very easy things, broadly useful things, incredibly powerful things that any advanced alien civilization could do, not one alien civilization out of the postulated multitude ever has done.

        This seems dubious.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Fair point. Not convinced, but updated. It could be – it probably is the case – that newer tech is less flashy. Laser/neutron streams instead of radio, better resource utilization instead of more energy, even simply environmentalism… like, do we _really_ see ourselves harvesting the matter from the solar system to build … what could have more meaning to us than the solar system already has? But yeah, point taken – enough civilizations and one should be less environmental.

          Which leaves my second point, unfortunately.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            like, do we _really_ see ourselves harvesting the matter from the solar system to build … what could have more meaning to us than the solar system already has?

            O’Neill cylinders. Move all the comets to Earth’s orbit and turn their water into water and oxygen and their cores into atmospheric nitrogen and organics. Forge nickel-iron asteroids with solar collectors… you need like a meter of radiation shielding for the humans inside, so if you only need a thin shell for structural strength, curved slabs of slag will have to make up the rest.
            Send a spaceship to Mercury with a space elevator to unspool and clanking replicators. Build orbital solar panels. Some day energy becomes cheap enough to start cracking moons apart for their water, carbon, nitrogen, and iron. (We can call the tool that does this “the superlaser.”)

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I just majorly updated on a futurism topic this very month. A bunch of stuff started clicking, an article or two (marginal revolution? here?), and I basically realized that The Future won’t bring a sparse society. The fact that remote working is possible (but not optimum) is far from compensating that physical agglomerations have advantages. The unexpected thing is that those advantages are many many independent multipliers. So you wouldn’t really guess is it advance, but it turns out that paying uber-premium prices to have a company in Bay Area is actually worth it.

            So given this recent update, I’m generally very skeptical when it comes to guessing what society 50-100 years from now will consider a good idea.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Any thoughts about whether remote work could be improved to the point where it’s comparable to being present in person?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            The factor that really clicked it for me was that in a bigger town the spouse also has a better chance of finding good work. Another independent multiplier.

            Or… good specialty coffee shops. Or foreign language classes. That’s two examples I stumbled on myself last week.in my quest of living more in a small town.

            So probably no, unlikely.

    • James Miller says:

      I now think it might be good news with respect to AI. If the universe is filled with intelligent life, and it was easy to unintentionally create a paperclip maximizer, then we wouldn’t exist at this period in the universe’s history.

    • Viliam says:

      Years ago, my first reaction to Fermi paradox was: “Well, some species had to be the first… and it happened to be us.”

      But that, although technically true, doesn’t explain why we came so late. (Now I see the problem not as “why are we the first?”, because someone had to, but rather “why are we the first, despite having arrived so late?”.) It took many billions of years, lots of wasted time, the whole era of dinosaurs that later got wiped out by an accident… Why some other planet, perhaps even one where life itself appeared much later than on Earth, didn’t develop a spacefaring intelligence sooner. (If the whole thing with dinosaurs was a random dead end, then given enough planets with life, somewhere the dinosaurs should have been exterminated much sooner, or perhaps have never evolved at all.)

      My current best guess is anthropic reasoning combined with multiverse. Given large amounts of universes with all kinds of laws of physics, the number of universes where life is barely possible vastly exceeds the number of universes friendly to life. (And the number of universes where life is impossible, exceeds them both. But, anthropically, we don’t care.) Even if the life-friendly universes can contain more intelligent species, a random intelligent species is more likely to exist in a universe where life is barely possible… such as our universe.

      We are here, because barely anything can live here. If this universe were a friendlier place for life, there would be zillions of universes similar to this one but slightly less life-friendly, and we would more likely find ourselves in one of those.

      • John Schilling says:

        We are here, because barely anything can live here. If this universe were a friendlier place for life, there would be zillions of universes similar to this one but slightly less life-friendly, and we would more likely find ourselves in one of those.

        Or, zillions of universes aren’t a thing, and thank God we were lucky enough to roll a natural 18 for “existence of life” when rolling up the only one ever, don’t jinx it by demanding the 18(00) of intelligent neighbors.

        But either way, eloquently said.

    • MissingNo says:

      I have put a *lot* of thought into that topic.

      That is my same conclusion. Humanity was the first in its light-cone, and possibly any nearby galaxies. The conditions for intelligent life that can evolve complex spacecraft is likely just *extremely* rare.

    • blipnickels says:

      Yes, this Scott post and the paper it discusses convinced me there’s a small chance that we’re alone in the universe, maybe 10%. I think Sandberg et al are totally right that we should think of the Fermi Paradox in Monte Carlo terms, not averages. I tried to replicate their math though, couldn’t, and think they’re doing something weird, which is why I post it at 10%. If I recall right, Sandberg et al estimate a 33% we’re alone in the universe, I just penalized them down to 10% in my head because they did some weird math stuff I didn’t understand and don’t trust. But I didn’t think there was any chance we were alone before and after reading their paper I think there’s a small but non-trivial chance.

      I have my own explanation for the Fermi Paradox, of course 🙂

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        We don’t need to be alone in the universe for the Fermi Paradox to hold– I’m not sure if we could see evidence of space civilizations in other galaxies, and I am sure that we couldn’t see evidence of life in the more distant galaxies.

        • Lambert says:

          There’s a question:
          From how far away could humanity detect another civilisation with the same level of technology as us?
          a) to just happen to stumble across its radio transmissions leaking out into space
          b) to be specifically scanning their solar system for signs of civilisation
          c) for them to be beaming a transmission directly at us from their equivalent of the Arecibo telescope at our Arecibo at exactly the right time

          • Radu Floricica says:

            “Our level of civilization” is just a blip. First TV transmission was last century, and there’s a fair chance we’ll start considering the lower part of the spectrum too slow within the next century. I’m not a physicist, but my understanding is that higher the frequency higher the information content, but lower the fitness for omnidirectional communication. AM goes through mountains, FM goes through walls, but we hear about visible spectrum and X-ray lasers or fibers. In the end there’ll probably be low powered room-sized wifi-style radio comm, with fiber or laser or neutron stream comm making the backbone. Not much point trying to saturate the air with city-wide or planet-wide radio when the band will be too slow to sell.

          • Lambert says:

            Sure, this would just be a snapshot of technology.
            I meant the question more as a yardstick of what kind of distances are reasonable to be detecting non-dyson-sphere civilisations over.

            I think the reason the frequencies we use has increased so much has been a matter of technology more than the waves themselves. Making a $10 2.4GHz wifi dongle is not something you can do with 1990s electronics and circuit fabrication. But I’m not an expert either.

        • soreff says:

          Well, we’ve been resolving some of the uncertainties in some of the factors in
          the Drake equation over the last few decades, and are likely to resolve a few more
          over the next few decades. The discoveries of thousands of exoplanets
          (albeit their orbits and masses were quite a surprise! Hot Jupiters…)
          certainly told us that planets are quite common, which we didn’t know…
          “Starshade” may let us get spectra of atmospheres and see if free oxygen
          exists on some of these. Closer to home, if we can drill into Europa’s ocean
          or some of the other moon’s oceans, perhaps we will find out if life is
          common or not, and whether eukaryotes are common or not…

    • soreff says:

      >Has anyone changed their mind about the Fermi paradox? If so, in what way?

      A little. I lean a bit more towards the “rare Earth” explanation than I used to for two reasons:

      a) While life originated early in Earth’s history, eukaryotes only became dominant much more recently,
      around 800 million years ago. Now, the sun has another ~5 billion years left on the main sequence,
      but it gradually brightens, and is expected to make the Earth uninhabitable much sooner, roughly ~1
      billion years. So if it had taken ~20% longer fro eukaryotes to dominate, we’d have missed the
      window of habitable time in the sun’s evolution. Maybe we got lucky and the _average_ time for
      eukaryotes to arise is much longer than the habitable period sun-like stars allow. Maybe there
      is a galaxy fully of earthlike planets filled with prokaryotes out there.

      b) We’ve been finding a lot of superearths in planet searches. Now, there is a _lot_ of speculation about
      composition, but one possibility is that many of these worlds are water-rich. That sound promising
      but… Only 0.05% of the Earth’s mass is water, yet 75% of its surface is ocean. If it were 1% water,
      it would probably have no dry land – and some of the guesses for the superearths’ composition is
      10% water or more. If oceans are needed for life to form but dry land is needed for technological
      civilizations, this may need a _very_ narrow window of planetary composition. Maybe, of those
      planets the do evolve eukaryotes, almost all are full of fish and kelp, but almost no one smelts iron.

    • JPNunez says:

      Not really; the main change is lowering the base rate of civilizations arising, but without good ways to communicate FTL, civilizations will be necessarily be isolated.

    • DarkTigger says:

      A thing I like to remind people about concerining Fermi is that it is not “Why don’t we see any aliens.”

      It’s “given that if a spicies is able to develop interstelar travel, and interstelar colonization, it would only take X* million years to colonize the whole galaxy**, and that the universe is billion of years old, why is nobody here?”.

      My answer is still somewhere between “We maybe not the first but still in the first bunch, and haven’t been reached yet” and “There is a great filter. It is probably interstelar travel.”

      * with X as a single digit number.
      ** note we don’t talk about a single civilization or polity, but about a species, or even a whole branch of different spicies.

  7. Atlas says:

    Apropos of this NYT article about the prospects for President Trump’s desired 6 six big foreign policy wins, how do we feel about the Trump administration’s handling of foreign policy so far? The president has, on paper and in practice, considerably more unilateral power to determine foreign policy than he does to shape various consequential domestic issues, so I think it’s fair to give a lot of individual responsibility to POTUS in this regard. (As opposed to an issue like the government’s role or lack thereof in health care/insurance, where congress can more easily place fatal constraints on a president’s preferred agenda.)

    Overall, I think it’s been a lot more Cringe & Bluepilled than Based & Redpilled. True, there hasn’t been a disaster so far comparable to what happened in the first terms of Presidents Bush the Younger and Obama in Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan (the latter both under Bush and Obama). But I think that’s more persuasively the result of different circumstances than it is the result of massively more enlightened decision-making by the current administration, given the various foolishly belligerent, tension-increasing actions that it’s taken in response to lesser crises than the ones faced by the previous two administrations. Non-exhaustive lists:

    Positives: I think that ending aid to Syrian opposition forces was good, although I think that the Damascus government since circa 1970 has been/is extremely brutal, corrupt and repressive and provokes periodic Sunni uprisings through its own folly. The withdrawal of a lot of, if not all, US troops after defeating ISIS was good. At least attempting to negotiate with North Korea is good, and is not “cozying up to authoritarians.” The ongoing attempt to negotiate a withdrawal from Afghanistan is good.

    Negatives: The withdrawal from the JCPOA was a terrible, terrible decision, and has accomplished little if anything. Trump’s stated theory pre-election that the Iran deal was terrible because of the personal negotiating incompetence of Obama and Secretary Kerry and that he would be able to decisively improve the situation through his personal competence has been falsified. The US’ continued support of Saudi Arabia’s barbaric campaign in Yemen has been unconscionable, and now that the Senate has passed a bill to end US support for the campaign the responsibility for it is squarely on the shoulders of the executive branch. The US continues to enable—now completely unashamedly so–Israeli settler colonialism and rejectionism. The Obama administration’s laudable steps towards a long-overdue normalization of US-Cuba relations have been largely reversed. Constant or expanded US sanctions on Russia, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea have yielded meager substantive results while inflicting substantial economic pain on ordinary citizens, a predictable outcome given the dismal history of sanctions as a tool of statecraft. This is particularly egregious in the cases of Venezuela and Syria, where sanctions have worsened serious humanitarian crises while also allowing detestable governments to deflect blame for their own failings and crimes onto the US. The US continues, despite Trump’s vague campaign gesturing, to maintain expensive and unnecessary military presences and security commitments in Europe and East Asia.

    So, all in all, I reject contentions like “Trump has anti-interventionist instincts” or “despite being a buffoon, Trump’s unintentional avoidance of foreign wars has actually been great.” The US continues to fight a “war on terror” through use of special forces and drone strikes across several countries and multiple continents, military strikes have been launched against the Assad government in Syria and Trump was allegedly 10 minutes away from allowing a strike on Iranian targets to take place. The Trump administration has continued and/or expanded most of the deplorable aspects of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, while reversing some of its commendable achievements. The Trump administration’s actions with regards to Venezuela and Iran have demonstrated a disturbing willingness to ignite rather than defuse crises. I think it is quite possible that, if a major domestic or international event such as 9/11 or the Arab Spring occurs under the watch of the current administration, it will result in mistakes and crimes comparable to or greater than those of the Obama and Bush administrations.

    • Plumber says:

      @Atlas says:

      “…how do we feel about the Trump administration’s handling of foreign policy so far?…”

      The partisan Democrat in me wants to bellyache about this or that but honestly?

      There’s been no increase in Americans coming home in body bags, and there’s been no attacks on Americans by foreigners.

      Other than the large numbers of refugees trying to escape the mess in Central America, I really can’t quibble with the results of the last three years with foreign affairs, but frankly I tend not to pay as much attention to what goes on overseas (or much that’s more than 50 miles from home really).

      Truthfully what happens in Sacramento has been more influential than D.C. lately, during Bush we had “stop-loss” and limited war without end, during Obama the wars continued (at a bit lower level) but domestically Obama gave Pelosi the go ahead for the A.C.A., which I judge to be mostly a good thing, and under Trump?

      The last three years have seen no end to the increases in jobs here and nationwide that we’ve seen since 2011 (good), but still more “unsheltered” Californians (though less homelessness nationwide), so lots of hue and cry about Trump, but mostly things seem to be what they were trending to be in the last years under Obama as far as I can tell.

      I lot of ink and pixels have been spilled about Trump being “anti-immigrant” and most of my immediate co-workers are no longer immigrants (due to retirements), now my co-workers are more often the sons of immigrants, and when they’re not there the husband’s of immigrants, so that’s a change, but I don’t think Trump had anything to do with that.

      I really can’t guess what would be different if Clinton won in my life.

      • Atlas says:

        The partisan Democrat in me wants to bellyache about this or that but honestly?

        To be clear, I’m criticizing Trump less from partisan Democratic grounds—though one can certainly do that w.r.t. stuff like the Cuba opening—than from generally anti-interventionist/imperialist ones. (I’m not really sure what my political convictions are at this point, except that I’m pro-free speech and anti-war.) A lot of the stuff that I don’t like about US foreign policy has been continuous between Democratic and Republican administrations since, say, 1945—“politics stops at the water’s edge.” Although I do tend to think that Democrats are generally slightly better than Republicans in this regard.

        There’s been no increase in Americans coming home in body bags, and there’s been no attacks on Americans by foreigners.
        Other than the large numbers of refugees trying to escape the mess in Central America, I really can’t quibble with the results of the last three years with foreign affairs, but frankly I tend not to pay as much attention to what goes on overseas (or much that’s more than 50 miles from home really).

        True, but American foreign policy has very material consequences for non-Americans. I probably care somewhat less about e.g. Yemenis or Venezuelans than I do about Americans, but I do still have a non-zero valuation of their rights and interests. Furthermore, I would suggest that the Trump administration’s approach to Iran in particular has unnecessarily increased the chances that Americans will come home in body bags or be attacked by foreigners in the future.

        Truthfully what happens in Sacramento has been more influential than D.C. lately, during Bush we had “stop-loss” and limited war without end, during Obama the wars continued (at a bit lower level) but domestically Obama gave Pelosi the go ahead for the A.C.A., which I judge to be mostly a good thing, and under Trump?

        The last three years have seen no end to the increases in jobs here and nationwide that we’ve seen since 2011 (good), but still more “unsheltered” Californians (though less homelessness nationwide), so lots of hue and cry about Trump, but mostly things seem to be what they were trending to be in the last years under Obama as far as I can tell.

        I would largely agree. I think that, especially in an era of divided party control of branches of government and many veto points, presidents don’t have all that much discretionary influence on yearly unemployment and GDP numbers.

        I lot of ink and pixels have been spilled about Trump being “anti-immigrant” and most of my immediate co-workers are no longer immigrants (due to retirements), now my co-workers are more often the sons of immigrants, and when they’re not there the husband’s of immigrants, so that’s a change, but I don’t think Trump had anything to do with that.

        I really can’t guess what would be different if Clinton won in my life.

        Your agnosticism is no doubt well-founded. I’m not sure to what extent if any it directly impacts your personal life, but in terms of the tax and spending and labor issues you often discuss, the Trump administration has passed very large tax cuts mostly for the wealthy, taken some steps to undermine the ACA and has done little if anything to defend unions.

        • Plumber says:

          @Atlas >

          “…Trump administration has passed very large tax cuts mostly for the wealthy, taken some steps to undermine the ACA and has done little if anything to defend unions”

          I’ve little doubt that the Trump administration is actively anti-union, but so far that hasn’t seem to effect California’s self rule, though they are indications that Sacramento’s efforts to have “gig economy” workers (Lyft, Uber, et cetera) get the protections of employees instead of contractors may be hindered by the changes in the NLRB, so I’m not staying home November 2020!

          I do though sometimes have a fanciful notion of the Federal government turning itself irrelevant and each state governing themselves more, resulting in a libertarian “Free State of New Hampshire” next to a Nordic model “The People’s Commonwealth of Vermont”, but I don’t suppose anything like that will come.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      If trade is considered a part of foreign policy, pulling out of the TPP (a free trade agreement designed to economically isolate China) and instead fire off tariffs willy-nilly at China (and allies!) seems like a bad move.* With the exception of Cuba sanctions seem appropriate, at least compared to the alternatives.

      *Economically. Protectionism is always more popular than it is prudent.

      • Atlas says:

        If trade is considered a part of foreign policy, pulling out of the TPP (a free trade agreement designed to economically isolate China) and instead fire off tariffs willy-nilly at China (and allies!) seems like a bad move.*

        I’m (genuinely) not sure. As an econ major, I can give you chapter and verse on the case for free trade, but, looking at the past 20-40 years of US trade policy, it’s not obvious to me that it’s been a huge boon to most Americans, considering e.g. the Autor et. al. study about the impact of Chinese imports in some regions. Ha-Joon Chang made some interesting arguments in Bad Samaritans. That said, I’m not sure that serious protectionism, had it been practiced, would have drastically improved the lives of ordinary Americans on net either, so I remain conflicted. The TPP probably would have had a quite positive impact for fairly poor people in Vietnam and Malaysia, which is a valid consideration. I don’t think that the geopolitical rationale is all that convincing; I don’t think that isolating China is a good idea, and I don’t think that the TPP would be effective in that regard anyway.

        With the exception of Cuba sanctions seem appropriate, at least compared to the alternatives.

        See the discussions of sanctions in a thread from ~1 year ago.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m not sure that serious protectionism, had it been practiced, would have drastically improved the lives of ordinary Americans on net either

          It would have prevented importing of those shoddy products that are actually sometimes banned in China itself.

          Such as that Chinese spandex that yields a super-strong chemical odor the moment you wash it (making it both unwearable and unreturnable), but not before you wash it.

          Or the Chinese drywall that ruined an estimated 100,000 homes.

      • broblawsky says:

        Agreed. TPP was the best way to contain China, diplomatically and economically. Even if Trump succeeds in forcing concessions out of the PRC, he’s given them carte blanche to establish hegemony in the Pacific.

    • broblawsky says:

      Trump’s decision not to strike Iran is the only thing I’ll commend him for, and that’s only because any other Republican probably would’ve started a war with them by now. We wouldn’t even be in this position right now if he hadn’t decided to leave the 2015 agreement out of naked spite.

      • FLWAB says:

        We wouldn’t even be in this position right now if he hadn’t decided to leave the 2015 agreement out of naked spite.

        Naked spite is inaccurate. Trump campaigned against the Iran deal: he told people it was a bad deal, and that if he was elected he’d renegotiate it or get rid of it. Then he was elected, and as soon as he had the slightest plausible reason to end the deal he ended it. And he could do that because the Iran deal was not a treaty, was not approved by congress, and as such was not legally binding. It was a “presidential commitment” which “imposes no obligation under international law,” and where America “incurs no state responsibility for its violation,” and as such “a successor President is not bound by a previous President’s political commitment under either domestic or international law and can thus legally disregard it at will.”

        It was Obama’s deal, not America’s, and where you see naked spite, I see a politician keeping his campaign promise.

        • broblawsky says:

          As you said, he promised to renegotiate it or get rid of it. Can you honestly say that he put any real effort into renegotiating it? Instead, he simply canceled the deal, and now we’re in a situation where Iran is stepping up its support for local proxies in Yemen and Iraq and (indirectly) blowing up Saudi oil fields. Keeping a campaign promise in the laziest and most destructive way should be hard to justify, even for hardcore Trumpists.

          • FLWAB says:

            It seems really easy to justify, if you thought Iran would do all those things regardless. I think you’re underestimating how much of Trump’s base believe that the Iran deal was a terrible idea. You don’t have to be a hardcore Trumpist to think that getting rid of bad things is good.

          • broblawsky says:

            Getting rid of a “bad thing” in such a way that your enemies are even more free to act is counterproductive. Trump replaced the nuclear deal with sanctions that have done nothing to restrain Iran’s regional ambitions, while alienating the very international partners that he needed to get sanctions to stick. How is that defensible as anything other than self-destructive spite?

    • John Schilling says:

      He hasn’t started any new wars yet. I suppose that’s something.

      But I’ve literally (literally literally) lost track of how many times he’s torn up perfectly good deals negotiated with foreign powers by previous presidents, saying “#PreviousPresident made a crappy deal because #PreviousPresident sucked; I’m tearing up the deal so that I, Master of the Art of the Deal, can negotiate a better deal”. That’s pretty much the whole of his foreign policy, with a side order of cozying up to authoritarian dictators. Has he ever, even once, actually got anyone to sign on to a better deal? All I see are lots of failed deals and few patchwork replacement deals with no advantage over what we had before.

      • blipnickels says:

        He hasn’t started any new wars yet. I suppose that’s something.

        It’s probably the most important thing. In terms of both domestic and foreign welfare/utility war is pretty much the worst thing the US can do. And every president since…Carter maybe, has started a war and overthrown a foreign government. That’s really bad, both for the US and everybody else.

        There’s other things, but 80% of the value/damage of foreign policy is in war and Trump is beating every other president in my lifetime by just not starting a new war. I mean, the official cost of the Iraq War is $1.1 trillion for 7 years, I’m sure the China trade war is costly but I’m not seeing more than $10-20 billion/year in costs. We can afford a lot of Trump stupidity if he just…doesn’t declare war.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Your viewpoints are mostly 180 degrees from mine.

      Trump has been ineffective at building what we need to build to maintain viable. Our key foreign policy areas are in maintaining Western unity, preventing Chinese hegemony, and stopping nuclear proliferation. Western unity has taking a hit, but Europe is still not really stepping out on its own and is certainly not actively competing against US interests to benefit Russia or China. Chinese hegemony is still on its path, but I think common media underestimates how much damage the Trade War hurts China: that final chapter is not written yet and Xi may still end up going down. North Korea has effectively nuclearized but has not completed all the missile testing it would like to do, which is a failure: not necessarily a failure of Trump, but the inability to solve or mitigate the problem is a serious concern, and Trump’s not helping.

      Trump bungled into it seemingly without allies, but the clash with Iran is coming at some point, unless the Iranian government somehow collapses or Tulsi Gabbard becomes President. There’s not going to be a rapprochement unless the entire region starts singing Kumbaya. We have too many competing interests and everyone in the Middle East practices Kinetic Diplomacy.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      My opinion of Trump on China compares to a youtube street fight of an amateur vs a taekwondo expert I saw a few years back. The amateur was flailing around with wild punches protecting his face, the taekwondo fighter threw one kick at the amateur’s head and floored him.

      Trump is throwing wild tariffs everywhere, but when it comes to banning all trade with individual Chinese companies that are known to have stolen US IP, he’s a shrinking violet.

      On Iran I personally don’t understand why the US is so opposed to them having nukes. And I think the US should unilaterally, without anything in return, apologize for our overthrowing of their democratically elected primer minister, and support of their shah becoming an absolute monarch. There are things I really like about Eisenhower (especially his “military industrial complex” speech), but that action so antithetical to US founding principles was total shit. I understand (viscerally) why we didn’t apologize in the couple decades following the revolution, but it’s long since time we apologize now.

      North Korea doesn’t matter any way at all. We are to them what two prisoners in separate cells are to each other – just people yelling and fronting at each other, or propping and praising each other – totally irrelevant.

      Peace plans in the middle east are always short-term. The power differentials are too great among the various populaces and governments, and the governments all fear yielding any significant power to the hoi polloi (Saudi Arabia, etc…) or the genuine opposition (Israeli vs. Palestinians, Iraq vs Kurds, etc…) (they’ve learned that lesson from the violent fall of absolute monarchies of Europe and Asia). Any real peace would probably have to be imposed by a stronger power (a la the Ottomans), and the US has never been willing to muscle around Saudi Arabia or the other absolute monarchies there (unless they threaten our oil supply).

      • cassander says:

        On Iran I personally don’t understand why the US is so opposed to them having nukes. And I think the US should unilaterally, without anything in return, apologize for our overthrowing of their democratically elected primer minister, and support of their shah becoming an absolute monarch.

        That’s really not what happened. Mosadegh was ruling by emergency decree and outright seizing property to prop up his rule, but was still losing allies fast. The US and brits accelerated the effort, but it wouldn’t have been possible if there weren’t substantial anti-Mosadegh sentiments in Iran.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I have not investigated this much, so was unaware of specifics (I knew that some Iranians did support the coup). We still should not have intervened to create an absolute monarch (or to support monarchy in general), and should apologize for that.

  8. Tenacious D says:

    Has anyone heard Piketty’s new proposal? Among other measures for reducing inequality, he’d like to give all French citizens 120,000 euros when they turn 25 (source). The natural comparison, in my view, is to UBI proposals. This would be cheaper than a $1000 per month UBI to all adults. Receiving it as a lump sum also seems like it would open up more opportunities for social mobility–both up and down depending on whether recipients used it as seed money for a small business or a wild week in Vegas–compared to monthly payments that are more likely to be used to just maintain a certain lifestyle.
    Related to the discussion on age of consent below, this also seems like another data point on the age when adulthood really begins in the eyes of contemporary society. Personally I wouldn’t be in favour of raising the age of consent or the drinking age to 25 due to concerns about criminalizing large swathes of society. However, I’d be more open to discussions of raising the voting age to this point, especially if expectations that anyone younger be productively employed continue to diminish.

    • WashedOut says:

      Among other measures for reducing inequality, he’d like to give all French citizens 120,000 euros when they turn 25

      Heh, Piketty must’ve done really well off his last book, i’m sure the French government will be thrilled.

      Jokes aside, from a pure accounting practices point of view I can’t see how the argument can be made in favour of dolling out huge lump sums instead of a slow trickle of $1000/month. The granularity of the payouts really matter, not just the end-of-term totals.

      • Tenacious D says:

        While it is lump-sum to recipients, it would still be granular to the government if the payments were dispersed to 25-year-olds in their birth month.

        Eyeballing the age pyramid for France, there are around 50 million adults and around 800,000 people will turn 25 in a given year (67,000 per month on average).

        Scenario A: $1000 per month to all adults = $50 billion per month ($600B/yr, ~23% of French GDP)

        Scenario B: $120000 to each person turning 25 that month = $8 billion per month ($96B/yr, ~4% of French GDP)

        Nice joke, btw.

    • Juanita del Valle says:

      A similar option would be for the government to put aside 2,500 euros for you in a locked investment account on the day of your birth, and again every birthday thereafter.

      At a 5% real rate of return, that would get you just shy of 125,000 euros by the time you’re 25.

      One advantage of this is that the money could still be inherited by, say, a younger sibling if the recipient individual dies when they’re 24 and 9 months old. Also seems a slightly easier pitch politically – frames it as a saving effort rather than a lump sum hand-out; could be seen as a national dividend; could also be phased in gradually with increasing annual contributions over time.

      In reality either option is probably a political non-starter due to the non-trivial number of 25-year-olds who will spend the money on cars & cocaine.

      • sharper13 says:

        Unfortunately, in the U.S., it’s more likely the government would tax you $2,500/year while you grew up, then give you back a 1.23% real rate of return* when you’re 25.

        Anyway, as the 2,500 euros presumably comes from taxpayers or borrowing (i.e. later taxpayers), if it’s a good idea, wouldn’t it be simpler if people just started their own savings accounts for their kids and stuck some money in every year? I get that Piketty is pretty vague about where the money comes from (France can’t actually tax it’s “wealthy” much more before they compensate by hiding or relocating their wealth), but yeah, it seems like a bad idea to subsidize 25-year-old’s financial decisions over those of senior citizens (who tend to have much of the wealth to take).

        The track record of 25-year-olds in college with extra money from their parents, for example, doesn’t seem all that great in terms of wisdom…

        *Inflation-adjusted Social Security rate of return.

    • FLWAB says:

      In America, I think the main result would be a further increase in college tuition. After all, how much easier would it be to get a loan if you could put a lien on your future 100k payout? I mean it could also potentially make it easier to get a loan for house too, but even if tuition doesn’t increase I can image those payouts mostly going towards college debt. If I had been paid that much when I turned 25 that’s where pretty much all of my payout would have gone (my wife racked up just about 100k in debt getting her bachelors and graduate degree).

      Although now that I think about it, she would have gotten the payout too so I guess we would have been about 100k up on the whole deal: and debt free! Yeah, probably a better system than a regular UBI at this point.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      What’s the point of having that money at exactly the point where you’re supposed to be professionally productive? No matter if you go the college route or professional route, at around 25 you’re pretty much ready to do something productive and be paid reasonable money for it. That’s exactly when state support should end, not begin.

      It leaves you dry in the most unfavorable time in your life. Before 25 you earn the least, and need the most. Not to mention various unfortunate events, like poor parents, shitty parents, pregnancy, or (quite often, actually because they’re not independent variables) all three.

    • Erusian says:

      Wasn’t this already proposed by the Physiocrat types? The idea was that land was all wealth but property rights deprived everyone from using land as they pleased. The sum was compensation for the loss of these rights.

      Anyway, waiting until they’re 25 seems a bit off considering childhood is really more important than your twenties in setting up your life. I’d think that 14 would be a better age, with safeguards to prevent expropriation by parents etc.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      And then higher education costs go up by 110,000

  9. proyas says:

    About a year ago, I discovered that someone had pooled photos of thousands of people from around the world to create “the average face” for each country. You can see some of the results here: https://www.artfido.com/this-is-what-the-average-person-looks-like-in-each-country/

    While this is an interesting exercise, I think it obviously overlooks the possibility that, within countries and restricting ourselves to only looking at one race in each country, there could be bimodal or even tri-modal distributions of facial features. For example, in Country X, 50% of the people belong to Ethnic Group A and have blonde hair and 2 inch wide noses, while 50% of the people belong to Ethnic Group B and have black hair and 1 inch wide noses. If you use the same methodology as the website I linked to, then the “average face” of a citizen of Country X has a 1.5 inch wide nose and dirty blonde hair, and it actually resembles no one living there.

    Has the existence of phenotypic “clusters” of the sort I’ve described been scientifically studied? In my travels around the world, I’ve anecdotally come to believe that they exist within countries.

    • bullseye says:

      It looks like they accounted for this. Two of the male pictures are “African American” and “White American”.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      While your link correctly links to the tool that was used to create the composites, it fails to identify that the person who used the tool. I believe that he used 20-25 faces per country. He doesn’t seem to say how he chose the representatives.
      The first time I saw this done, it was with soccer team rosters, which is easily available (and structured) data, but biased towards young and fit. But maybe that bias is the same for every country. (Anyhow, I don’t think that’s the case here.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The faces aren’t all perfectly symmetrical, which suggests that some asymmetries tend more to one side or the other.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      This should be bimodal for balding vs non-balding men. And apparently the average Japanese girl has brown hair and Argentianian women are nightmare fuel. The more you know…

  10. matthewravery says:

    I’d like to continue this discussion from the previous thread. There was prelude, but the thing I find critical for further discussion spawned from this, from EchoChaos:

    My alternative is “until a legal separation is filed, all sexual encounters between husband and wife are legally consensual”

    Discussion followed:
    thisheavenlyconjugation says:

    Suppose one day your wife gets you very drunk and then violently sodomises you. Would this be “legally consensual” by your standard? If not, why not? If so, can you see why some people might believe it should not be?

    EC:

    Short answers to your question. It would be assault, not sexual assault and shouldn’t be sexual assault.

    THC:

    If she is not sentenced more heavily — please consider my example of sodomising you at gunpoint vs just pointing a gun at you, rather than substituting your own “wake up sex” scenario — then that seems like a major injustice to me and I don’t really understand how you could see it otherwise.

    EC:

    She should be sentenced less than she would be in another context, yes. The sexual aspect should absolutely be allowed. Again, pointing a gun is still a threat and assault.

    There are many reasons I disagree with EC here, but one I’d like to focus on is the apparent presumption that marriage, as it is thought of under US law, has anything to do with sex. Marriage isn’t about sex, it’s about money. Finances, taxes, inheritance, and child care expenses. All of that is tangential to sex. The only exception I can think of is conjugal visitation, and (1) IDK if that’s a real thing or just something TV made up, and (2) as I understand it, you get a right to privacy with your spouse, not the right to have sex with them.

    So if we start from the realization that marriage (legally) isn’t about sex, it seems entirely absurd to assume that you’d get carte blanche to stick whatever you want in wherever you want as a consequence of entering a legal arrangement for tax avoidance.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Contra, I would say marriage is all about sex – or rather a specific sex-related issue that is: children.

      We literally don’t need marriage for anything. However:
      – men and women are going to have sex,
      – occasionally children are conceived,
      – someone’s gonna need to take care of those children.

      Marriage is the institution we had to address this problem. Had, because we’ve since forgotten what it was for and dismantled the majority of legal and social safeguards that were to ensure it was fit for purpose.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Ah you beat me to it. Need to work on those typing fingers…

      • matthewravery says:

        as it is thought of under US law

        This is the distinction. Marriage doesn’t define these responsibilities under law. The discussion that prompted my post is related to legal issues, not other issues, so that’s the focus. The rest is irrelevant.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Correct. It used to define those responsibilities under law and liberals removed them.

          I think that removal was bad, which was the point I was arguing there (and now here).

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        Yes. The point of marriage is children. It winds up being about many other things, hopefully good things, but the reason friends and family come to see you commit to each other and give you lots of money and table settings isn’t to celebrate your soaring, once-in-a-milennium love, or to congratulate you on all the great, nasty sex you’re going to have, but to help set you up for the family you are going to have.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Yes, it’s to congratulate you on your family-making. But family-making does not require childbearing, no matter how loudly traditionalists insist that it does. It does require mutual commitments, including monetary commitments, and that’s the point of the institution in modern free and civilized societies, as opposed to tyrannical primitive traditionalist ones.

          I’ve been to plenty of weddings of friends who I knew did not want to have children. They were no less rich and emotionally meaningful because of that, either to the married couple or the friends and family in attendance. The notion that marriage somehow becomes empty or meaningless when freed from traditionalist strictures is flatly contradicted by the lived experience of non-traditionalists.

          • Randy M says:

            The notion that marriage somehow becomes empty or meaningless when freed from traditionalist strictures is flatly contradicted by the lived experience of non-traditionalists.

            A childless marriage is not meaningless.
            It does mean less.

            edit: This sounds like I want to provoke, but I don’t. Rather, compromise.

            I recognize that the usefulness of the commitment in living a life together. But the addition of an intention to jointly bear the burdens, risks, and joys of parenthood is profound.

          • EchoChaos says:

            And note that there are several Biblical miracles where a childless couple was given children late in life unexpectedly. This possibility is viewed as part of marriage by Christians. My mother (68 years old) has joked with my wife about the possibility.

          • matthewravery says:

            Randy-

            That’s an extremely condescending and myopic view.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @matthewravery

            Your comments have been substantially more myopic than Randy M’s in my view. Please do not attack commentators for stating their views on meaning.

          • matthewravery says:

            I didn’t mean to attack him, just the opinion he expressed. I thought it was condescending because saying someone’s marriage is less valuable than ones own (a guess based on the adorable avatar) is condescending. Saying any marriage that is childless is less meaningful than one with children shows a lack of imagination about how others might live or want to live.

            That view could be completely true for his own life. It was the statement as universal that got my response.

            Having seen his edit now, I don’t think that’s what Randy was going for. I’ll edit my post above… or at least I would’ve if i hadn’t missed the window somehow(?).

            Randy, I don’t doubt what you’ve said applies to you, and you’ve likely seen similar experiences in many of your friends and family. In retrospect, I think you were going for something narrower than what I initially thought, and that’s my fault for not reading more charitably.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s an extremely condescending and myopic view.

            To be fair, my unedited version you are responding to sounds condescending.
            But, even then, the alternative is to say that childbearing means nothing.

            Or, more charitably, that the bringing forth and raising of new humans is about as important as starting a business or traveling, whatever the opportunity cost is. It’s possible you can make a utilitarian case for this, but I’m going be a tough sell on it. Especially given I view the act of childbirth to have eternal consequences.

            @EchoChaos
            On the one hand, you are free to police whatever tone you prefer. On the other, I’m fine with the forthright disagreement, and as you can tell, thought better than my initial phrasing. Sometimes the temptation to be pithy is greater than my inclination towards overly cautious phrasing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Fair. Objection withdrawn.

          • salvorhardin says:

            To Randy’s original point: you are entitled to your opinion about which kinds of commitment or life-plan mean more or less. But one of the fundamental metarules of a liberal society is legal neutrality: that is, that people have many different sorts of life plans and values and types of meaning-making that follow from those values, and the police power should not be used to enforce legal judgments about which of those are better than others.

            The liberal reforms to the legal concept of marriage are about stripping it of those judgments, which it has historically encoded since traditional society was unashamedly (and viciously, and tyrannically) non-neutral in its use of the police power, and making it more fit to serve the practical purposes that it still does, and very importantly does, serve under a more neutralist meta-legal regime.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            The subtext here is traditionalists and non-traditonalists fighting over a cultural icon. What something “is for” is really a debate about what it “ought to be for”

            I don’t consider a couple that is raising one or more children [especially with their own resources] as equally valuable as a childless couple. *Moreso* now then at any point in the history just because of how taxing [physically and financially] and socially unrewarding the act of childbearing has become compared to people who are [at least voluntarily] childless. For our purposes parents who adopt can be put into the child-bearing category as well.

            *someone has to do it* and for that reason I want an institution to exist to lower the financial barriers and raise the social subsidy to parenting.

            But that philosophy rubs against the modern idea that all people should be treated the same regardless of their chosen lifestyle.

          • Randy M says:

            @salvorhardin
            I’m not looking for to have the law invalidate childless marriages, mind, but you in this subthread prior didn’t seem to be making a legal point, but more of an emotional and social one, which is what I was responding to.

            But one of the fundamental metarules of a liberal society is legal neutrality

            The ideal is equality under the law–for individuals.
            Does it really apply to institutions as well?
            We differentiate between a small business and a large, between a non-profit and a for-profit, between a marriage and a corporation.

            From a legal/societal point of view, a family with children (or the strong likelihood thereof) and a childless marriage seem as far removed as a non-profit organization and a for-profit organization.
            The former is being formed for the benefit of those outside the union, the latter for those within it.* Both, of course, are typically beneficial to society, but not in the same way.

            *(Not quite such a clean split, obviously, because there are emotional pay-offs to children).

          • Nick says:

            There’s nothing neutral about stripping marriage of such things. Traditionalists in our society can’t have traditional marriages any longer, it’s impossible thanks to such changes.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nick

            +1

            Remember, this discussion started because an old assumption about marriage was removed from law (consent).

            The right offered a version that gave everything that marriage had except the name so that we could keep traditional marriage and the left rejected that compromise.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Randy M

            But, even then, the alternative is to say that childbearing means nothing.

            That’s what I mean by how we use language to bullshit. Having a baby is having a baby, no more and no less. Trillions of living things have had babies for billions of years. It is meaningless in itself. It does not make you better in any way. If we were not opening our mouths trying to make something more than it is, most problems would go away. When you try to make claims that are not true, troubles begin.

          • sp1 says:

            There’s nothing neutral about stripping marriage of such things. Traditionalists in our society can’t have traditional marriages any longer, it’s impossible thanks to such changes.

            @Nick and @EchoChaos – whaaa? I’m legitimately curious about this perspective because EchoChaos agreed immediately and it seems very confusing to me. Sure, the technical definition of the law has changed to move away from traditional concepts, but so what? I’m interested in knowing how you perceive those changes removing traditional marriage from even the realm of possibility. Surely there’s nothing stopping all parties (and their families, etc.) from viewing the marriage in traditional terms and behaving accordingly? As an intentionally extreme counter: the law has rules around generating electricity. Does this mean traditionalists (the Amish, for example) in our society can’t make a decision not to use any?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @sp1

            Essentially courts will refuse to enforce contracts where two people pre-commit to various traditional aspects. For example (and obviously details vary state-to-state) if you get a pre-nup saying if one party cheats, they get massively disfavored in the divorce; the judge will tear it up and say “nope, no-fault only, cheatee has to pay up”

          • hls2003 says:

            @sp1:

            Sure, the technical definition of the law has changed to move away from traditional concepts, but so what? I’m interested in knowing how you perceive those changes removing traditional marriage from even the realm of possibility. Surely there’s nothing stopping all parties (and their families, etc.) from viewing the marriage in traditional terms and behaving accordingly?

            I’m also familiar with this perspective, so though I can’t speak exactly for the others, I can try to explain how I view it. The primary issue is usually no-fault divorce, but the panoply of other stuff (e.g. spousal privileges, marital rape laws, etc.) also factor in.

            Imagine that you are a person who really wants a secure job. You want to make sure that you will definitely be working Job A in Location B for, say, 10 years. You look for an employer who really wants to make sure its employees will stick around, and you find one. You and the employer enter a contract that says “I will work here for 10 years, and I can’t work anywhere else – I’m signing a non-compete agreement that says I cannot work for anyone else for at least 10 years. In exchange, the employer will pay me 50% higher than normal salary for my position, and absolutely cannot fire me for any reason except for stealing, literal sleeping on the job, or physically attacking a co-worker, for 10 years. Laziness, poor performance, etc. are not valid grounds.” Each side gets what it wants – the employee gets absolute job security, the employer gets employee stability.

            Now imagine that the state they are in passes a law that says “no non-compete agreement can be enforced for more than 1 year,” and another law that says “employers can always fire employees for any reason.”

            The original contract is now legally impossible. The parties can still say they want to do it, and they can still try their best, but previously each one had near-absolute security guaranteeing the other party would comply; now they don’t. The worker can’t be fully secure that he will not be fired for some reason; the employer can’t be fully secure that he will not change his mind.

            That’s the claim with marriage. Under the old conception, the parties traded some of their freedom in exchange for legally binding security. Now the law prohibits those legal bonds as against public policy. For a crude materialistic example, imagine a man who marries a woman in medical school. He plans to be a house-husband while she works as a surgeon. Under the old regime, if he was in a legal marriage, then as long as he doesn’t do X,Y,Z things (e.g. cheat, cruelty, withhold sex) then he is guaranteed the rights of a spouse indefinitely, including his claim to sex and his claim to his wife’s income once she’s a surgeon. The wife can’t get out of it unless he does X,Y, or Z. And the wife agrees to this arrangement because it’s the best way she can guarantee someone to work and help her through med school and care for her home. As long as they both consent, they both get the security they want.

            But now the state passes no-fault divorce. Under this new regime, even if he does everything right, the wife can still trade him in for a younger, newer model as soon as she starts making big surgeon money. But also, the med student can’t convince him to marry her in the first place – because she cannot credibly and irrevocably signal to him that under no circumstances will she dump him for a newer model when she starts making surgeon money.

            TL;DR: The ability to commit irrevocably to something is a power that does not exist when the law prohibits irrevocable commitments. That’s what has been lost.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Gobbobobble: Right; the Left judiciary took traditional marriage away from everyone.

          • sp1 says:

            Ah, I see. Thanks for explaining the perspective everyone.

          • hls2003 says:

            Interestingly, in some states there has been a move to back off from no-fault divorce in some cases. Kentucky, I think (and I believe several other states) has instituted a two-tier system of marriage. When you go to the courthouse for your marriage license, you can opt for either “marriage” or “covenant marriage.” For “marriage” the regular no-fault divorce rules apply; to dissolve a “covenant marriage” you have to jump through more hoops.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @hls2003,

            In theory anyway.

            As far as I know, it’s never been legally tested so it’s unclear whether being in a covenant marriage actually provides any benefits even within states which recognize them. And most states still don’t, so if the wife separates and moves in with her new boyfriend in New York before filing for divorce the husband is still SOL.

            Anyway this is standard liberal ideology at work. You can do anything you want… except commit to anything. Because any binding commitment reduces your ability to break the commitment, which means that it must be absolutely forbidden. So really the only thing that you can do is drift around as an atomic individual. Look at Scott’s archipelago for a perfect example: you can have a traditional society as long as you have a mandatory state-run liberal school system or never reproduce, because children must only ever be raised as atomic individuals.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Nabil:

            Family law isn’t my area, and I’m not in a two-tier jurisdiction anyway, so I’m not sure how it would work. You might be right about switching to an easier divorce jurisdiction – e.g. the old “Go to Reno” plan in the earlier 20th century. But just thinking out loud, I think that would work better for “divorced sufficiently to marry someone else” – I’m not sure it would be effective to completely circumvent the covenant marriage state’s laws. If the wife moves to New York California (oddly, New York is not a pure no-fault jurisdiction, I don’t think) and gets a no-fault divorce, her best-case scenario is getting a court order in California. If she wants to enforce that order against the husband in Kentucky – if the kids are there, if the house is there, if the assets and bank accounts are there – then at some point she will need to do that in a Kentucky court. You can’t seize a Kentucky asset or garnish a Kentucky wage or assign custody of a Kentucky child without a Kentucky court’s order, backed by the threat of Kentucky law enforcement. Normally you can “domesticate” an out-of-state order very easily to enforce it in your home state; but Kentucky could change its laws to forbid domestication of a divorce order that doesn’t comply with its divorce laws. Normally this would be a Full Faith and Credit issue, but states have traditionally had more leeway with their own marriage and divorce laws.

            One thing that has been suggested to me in conversation is the prospect of entering an arbitration agreement as a pre-nup that would remove primary jurisdiction of state courts for divorce decisions; the arbitrator would do all the decisions and then the court would enforce the resulting order. There is a federal policy in favor of enforcing arbitration agreements. I’ve seen something like this at least attempted in a reported case on orthodox Jews undergoing divorce. (Interestingly, I believe it’s also the nature of some of the decade-ago panic about “sharia courts”). I haven’t researched it to see how well it would go; my instinct is that courts would strike down the arbitration agreement as contrary to public policy, but I don’t know for sure.

            Thinking more about it, this site and the SSC community generally seems like it should understand this hard commitment aspect of traditional marriage, because it’s very similar to the concept of “pre-commitment” that I see thrown around pretty often by Scott and others discussing superintelligent AI containment / negotiation / alignment, as well as some of the various esoteric consequentialist arguments.

          • salvorhardin says:

            So I get that people may lose something by not having all forms of precommitment be legally enforceable, but the question of what forms *should* be enforceable and how is not simple. The classic extreme case that always comes up in that discussion is the right to sell yourself into chattel slavery. If you don’t think that contract should be enforceable, then you’re in favor of some limits and the question is whether traditional marriage is slavery-like enough to be similarly nonenforceable. A few reasons to think that it is:

            1. traditional marriage is a “contract for specific performance” (notably in the sexual realm, as people have brought up a lot in this thread) and in general contract law takes a dim view of specific performance requirements, because people’s minds change for all sorts of legitimate reasons and it is almost always better to let them buy their way out of contractual commitments than force them to actually go through with them.

            2. enforceability questions tend also to revolve around the likelihood of duress and abuse, and history tells us that the likelihood of duress and abuse in traditional marriage is very high.

            3. nonenforceability is also often about efficiency– the noncompete agreement example is a good one here; the main argument against enforcing noncompetes is that it hinders innovation by forcing people to stick with suboptimal employment matches. The happiness cost of forcing people to stick with suboptimal relationship matches is similarly high even though there may sometimes be similar benefits.

            Furthermore, traditional communities have, and indeed still often use, nonviolent social means like ostracism to enforce their marital commitment norms. So it’s not clear that they’re losing so much by not being able to have the police power at their disposal also.

          • Aapje says:

            @salvorhardin

            1. Many traditionalist here seem to be fine with people with a serious grievance buying out of the contract (or being let out by the government for free), but believe that the sum/threshold is kept far too low to be a meaningful deterrent to breaking the contract over minor grievances or after they have gotten many of the benefits of the contract, but before they pay the costs (of the quid-pro-quo).

            2. Is that true? It seems more likely to me that such situations are harder to escape in traditional marriages, rather than that they are more common. In fact, it seems plausible that the number of people who experience abuse goes up when divorce/separation is easier, as abusive partners will presumably lose their partners more often and thus seek new partners more often.

            Also, to what extent is one form of suffering traded for another, with the advocates treating some form of suffering as ‘unavoidable’, justified, less bad because it is not considered ‘abuse’ or ‘duress.’ For example, is “you can’t see your kids anymore” abuse? Many don’t seem to feel that way, at least, when it is said to men.

            If you define away suffering produced by the new model and merely recognize the suffering of the old model, isn’t that stacking the deck?

            3. This goes both ways, as noted. All kinds of efficient agreements become impossible to make when no penalty may be applied when an agreement is broken. For example, an employer that pays for an education for employees, rather than give a higher salary to well-educated employees, typically involves a period where the employee benefits far more than the employer from this investment and then a period where the employer benefits more. An inability to penalize the employee for leaving before the employer recoups enough of the investment, pretty much makes it impossible for employers to invest above a certain amount, since purely rational behavior by employees will result in the investment not being recouped.

            Apparently, a traditional pattern is for women to spend quite a bit of effort on domesticating men with a similar difference in time between incurring a cost and getting the benefit for one party. Also, having a child tends to incur a higher short-term cost to one party. A hard to break marriage seems to have been a way to provide reasonable guarantees to the one party that the other would not leave after getting most the benefits, but not repaying the one party.

            Interestingly, when jobs liberalized, liberals recognized the issue that employers could not be depended on for education as much anymore and introduced public schools. They recognized that the solution for one problem had problems of its own and sought to remedy it.

            Yet I don’t see realistic attempts to domesticate men, for example. The ‘solution’ for women who raise children is merely to leave some of the traditionalist solution in place, rather than finding a new solution that fits the new model better.

            In general, this is a complaint I have about the currently dominant type of liberal. They often seem to adopt the worst elements of both classical liberals and libertarians. Classical liberals seemed to have recognized the limits of liberalism and either used government or non-liberal solutions to attempt to fix the issues of increased liberalization, in a way that is consistent with the general model. Libertarians like Friedman want to go the other way and allow people to voluntarily bind themselves to very restrictive contracts, which can work, if people are smart and capable enough (spoiler alert: most aren’t).

            Currently, the ‘solution’ to the problems of modern liberalization seems to be a combination of vilifying some groups and arguing that their problems are inconsequential & burdens placed on them don’t require a quid-pro-quo, even if they feel quite differently (which is anything but liberal); as well as prescribing very strongly how people should live and vilifying those who have different preferences and ignoring their problems (again, anything but truly liberal).

            It’s really very much like traditionalism in that only a very limited number of choices are made possible, only traditionalism was actually more fair in very significant ways. For example, it didn’t involve as anywhere as much (unintentional) gaslighting, where people are told that they have all kinds of choices that they don’t actually have.

            Of course, I think that the latter is extremely unpersuasive to most modern liberals, whose narrative of the past is IMO revisionist, in that the burdens and restrictions of traditionalism on some groups is seen as oppressive and benefiting other groups, but not vice versa, based on what seems to me to be primarily confirmation bias.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Aapje,

            Just an anecdote for this old thread:

            I matched with a woman in her mid-twenties on Tinder a while back. She had a 4 year old daughter and was annoyed that it seemed like guys did not want to date a woman with a kid. She had been married to the father, but broke up with him because she was bored with the relationship, even though he was a nice guy and a hard worker etc. He wanted to stay together and to get back together. Now she was looking for something more exciting on Tinder.

            I couldn’t help feeling sad about the whole thing: the woman had broken up her family because her relationship wasn’t an exciting hollywood romance. Somehow our culture had failed her:
            -she was never going to be happy with the boring relationship because her expectations were too high
            -she didn’t know that finding a new husband when she already has a kid was going to be hard
            -she didn’t know that whatever she finds on Tinder is not likely to be any better than what she had with her husband anyway
            -I assume she doesn’t realize the damage this will do to her kid

            How could someone in her mid-twenties be so naive? Surely because she has been lied to her whole life?

        • matthewravery says:

          the reason friends and family come to see you commit to each other and give you lots of money and table settings isn’t to celebrate your soaring, once-in-a-milennium love, or to congratulate you on all the great, nasty sex you’re going to have, but to help set you up for the family you are going to have.

          The law doesn’t require any family or friends to witness anything. You’re talking about marriage as a social institution, not a legal institution. I’m only talking about latter.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m only talking about latter.

            Why?

          • Nick says:

            To spell out what I think Randy’s getting at: the social institution is what gave rise to the legal institution. If you think the social institution is irrelevant, you’re going to consistently misunderstand the legal institution.

          • matthewravery says:

            Randy-

            The premise of the conversation was the legal framework of marriage. That’s what EC’s original proposition was about. The conversation it came out of what specifically about the legal concept of consent and how it applied within marriage. Since “marriage” is an enormously wide topic, it seems reasonable to try to limit the scope of our conversation to something that can reasonably be covered in the space of an open thread with only four comment tiers.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Since “marriage” is an enormously wide topic, it seems reasonable to try to limit the scope of our conversation to something that can reasonably be covered in the space of an open thread with only four comment tiers.

            The problem is that you unfairly privilege your own position when you define the scope such that your opponents’ reasons are all out of bounds

          • beleester says:

            Even if there’s a social purpose that underpins a law, the law can’t guarantee that everyone will follow a social norm, it has to deal with the full range of human experience. You can say something like “The purpose of this law is to encourage couples to try to have kids even when they’re not really into it,” but if the law as written allows you to sodomize your spouse without their consent, then eventually some poor guy is going to get sodomized by someone who didn’t listen to the traditionalist discourse on marriage. And defending that situation by saying “you don’t understand the social institution of marriage” is sort of missing the point. If the law allows people who don’t want to have kids to get married, people who don’t want to have kids will get married.

            Law is like code – if you write a copy-protection program that’s also a rootkit, then you wrote a rootkit. It won’t make anyone happier if you argue that they’re focusing too much on the code instead of on the noble, pro-social purpose of preventing software piracy.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          With respect to children, legally recognized marriage is not about children, it’s about inheritable legitimacy of children.

          This is why Jamie Lee Curtis is a baroness, while her husband’s older half brother is just a commoner. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Haden-Guest#Family

          This is also why married parents have long been free to hand their children off to an orphanage (or boarding school, or asylum) to raise.

          Even without children, marriage also dictates general inheritance (sans will) between spouses and the spouses extended families, and has done so for centuries.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Marriage under US law is an incoherent mess that doesn’t map terribly well to the historical institution. Marriage has always been about sex to one degree or another since institution.

      In fact, even under US law it has been about sex until VERY recently, meaning within my lifetime (and I’m a relatively young man).

      This seems to be one of those things where liberals have changed the law and then say that anyone who still thinks that the old law was reasonable is “entirely absurd”.

      Finally, most Americans still have religious marriages, which put more restrictions and obligations on the participants than do secular.

      • matthewravery says:

        What laws on US books regarding marriage spoke to sex specifically? What does “VERY recently” mean? All of the conversation I’ve heard in my lifetime has been about going from “man and woman” to “two people”, which doesn’t require a discussion of sex. There were/are anti-sodomy laws on the books, but they didn’t say, “except in marriage” or something like that, AFAIK.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’ve given a link below that a marriage with an impotent partner is invalid and can be annulled, but also rape laws, adultery laws, etc.

          Very recently means the 90s, which is when most federal and state laws had marital rape exceptions removed, which was the change we were discussing.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you’re talking about the United States, the answer is as usual “it’s complicated, fifty times over”. But aggregating over the various states and trying to generalize, we have in living memory seen laws against seduction, against fornication, against adultery, but as EC notes, not against rape in marriage. If the law is saying that having sex with anyone you aren’t married to is always a felony crime, but that having sex with the person you are married to is legal even if you have to beat them up and tie them to the bed(*), then that looks an awful lot like marriage even as a legal institution is very much about sex.

          Also, at least some civil statutes did not recognize and/or allowed annulment (not just divorce) of any marriage that was not physically consummated by PiV sex, and recognizing a common-law marriage I think always required such.

          * Pedantically, I think abusive husbands could still get thrown in jail for assault over the “beat them up” part, if the wife wanted to press the issue and could prove it.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          What laws on US books regarding marriage spoke to sex specifically?

          From Wikipedia:
          “The traditional definition of rape in the United States is the forced sexual intercourse by a male with a “female not his wife”, making it clear that the statutes did not apply to married couples. The 1962 Model Penal Code repeated the marital rape exemption, stating:

          A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if: ….[1]”

          Also:

          “Although the general marriage age is 18 in most of the United States, 48 states allow marriage under the age of 18 with parental and/or court consent. Only Delaware and New Jersey have enacted legislation to ban all marriage for minors under the age of 18, without exceptions. Such exceptions can create conflicts between age of consent laws and the marriage age, with most statutory rape laws creating exceptions for minors engaged in a sexual relationship with their lawful spouse – although such minors would otherwise not be able to legally consent to sex. ”

          The latter passage does refer to laws that are still on the books.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Marriage isn’t about sex, it’s about money. Finances, taxes, inheritance, and child care expenses. All of that is tangential to sex.

      How exactly do you think most couples get children, with their expenses and ability to inherit, without sex? IVF postdates most of our laws on marriage, and adoption has never constituted more than a small fraction of families.

      That said, you’re half right. Marriage really isn’t about sex, it’s about procreation. Which is the real answer to the hypothetical question: anal sex, regardless of who is receiving, is inherently non-procreative. It’s not part of what you consent to as part of marriage, at least not unless you’re a Cathar in 13th century France.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        How exactly do you think most couples get children, with their expenses and ability to inherit, without sex? IVF postdates most of our laws on marriage, and adoption has never constituted more than a small fraction of families.

        You have a baby or three by some dashing rogue(s) and then marry a provider, silly.

      • matthewravery says:

        Marriage isn’t about procreation. You can be married and no procreate. You can procreate and not be married. You can procreate with people outside your marriage, and unless you’re in the armed services, there’s no legal repercussion. From the legal perspective, it’s not about sex, procreation, or any of that.

        And I think it’s just as irrelevant as your point about adoption, but there are tons of families that aren’t married, either due to divorce, out-of-wedlock conception, death, adoption, whatever. The institution of marriage doesn’t talk to any of that. At best, you could say that two-parent homes are give preference for things like adoption and custody, but once you start talking about that, you’re now clearly no longer talking about sex, which was my whole point.

        • EchoChaos says:

          From the legal perspective, it’s not about sex, procreation, or any of that.

          This is false. Impotence is a valid reason for annulment in most US states. New York link provided as representative.

          https://www.nycdivorcelawyers.com/can-marriage-annulled-never-consummated-2/

          If marriage had nothing legally to do with sex, the lack of it wouldn’t make a marriage invalid.

          • matthewravery says:

            By this logic, “marriage” is legally about anything that you can use a rationale for divorce, which according to this dumb listicle could include Presidential votes and Disney movie preferences.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @matthewravery

            Annulment, not divorce. Annulment means the marriage never occurred because it was legally invalid. Other common examples are bigamous marriages, underage marriages and marriages under threat.

            That sexual impotence makes a marriage invalid should tell you that it is as essential an element as exclusivity.

          • matthewravery says:

            @EC

            But “sexual impotence makes a marriage invalid” isn’t what that law says. It says it’s a reason you can choose to dissolve the marriage. That means that the law allows individuals to make it about procreation if they want, but the state doesn’t require it to be about that.

            This is a recognition about how some individuals treat the legal institution within their own social framework, not a statement about the legal institution itself.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @matthewravery

            That’s an impressive reach. Even deep blue New York views impotence as invalidating. Sex is therefore an element.

          • matthewravery says:

            EC-

            It’s a difference between “shall” and “may”. Those words mean very different things….

          • EchoChaos says:

            @matthewravery

            So now the specific fact that the legal institution DOES recognize sex as an essential element isn’t proof that it is an essential element?

            Earlier you stated it wasn’t an element at all. You’ve moved the goalposts now.

          • matthewravery says:

            I would say that you’ve shown that NY recognizes that for some folks, impotence matters for marriage. I’d say you haven’t shown that they view it as “essential”. I don’t think this effects my original proposition, which was that

            marriage, as it is thought of under US law, has anything to do with sex.

            You’ve shown that the law recognizes that

            some people

            care about it, not that the law itself does.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @matthewravery

            Because it allows for annulment, the complete voiding of the validity of a marriage.

            I am not sure how the law stating “this is such an important element that rather than just divorce we will state this marriage never existed in law” means the law doesn’t care. New York law privileges impotence to the same degree it does being compelled at gunpoint. That’s literally as high as it can privilege it.

            Your argument is the equivalent of saying “well, you don’t have to tell New York you were forced at gunpoint, so it’s not that essential”

          • “You’ve shown that the law recognizes that some people care about it, not that the law itself does.”

            This is a distinction without a difference and an example of goalpost-moving.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In partial defense of matthewravery’s point.

            New York law recognizes “Void marriages”, and “voidable marriages”.

            The only marriages that are inherently void under New York law are:
            1) Bigamist (as defined in Domestic Relations Law 6)
            2) Incestuous (as defined in Domestic Relations Law 5)

            Voidable marriages (as defined in Domestic Relations Law 7) are only “void from the time its nullity is declared by a court of competent jurisdiction” (therefore aren’t inherently void, and did validly exist prior to this point). One of these reasons is impotence.

            BUT PLEASE RECOGNIZE THAT, ESPECIALLY IN THIS ERA OF IVF, SEX =/= PROCREATION. SO THAT WHILE IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT matthewravery IS WRONG ABOUT SEX (IN THE CASE OF NEW YORK, AT LEAST), matthewravery IS NOT WRONG ABOUT PROCREATION (IN THE CASE OF NEW YORK, AT LEAST).

        • Randy M says:

          Marriage may be drifting this way, but if it is not about sex or children, it is a thing without any abouts at all.

          • matthewravery says:

            As I said, as the law sees it, it’s mostly about money and taxation. See DinoNerd’s post below.

          • John Schilling says:

            As the law sees it now, it’s mostly about money and taxation, and hospital visitation rights apparently.

            The reason the law cares about those things, is that it at least used to want to ensure that a steady and adequate supply of money is available to care for the children that will inevitably follow when the happy couple start having officially authorized sex. The farther we get from that (and the more we encourage everyone to override the legal money stuff with prenuptual agreements), the more people are going to wonder why we still give a tax break for all this. Then marriage will be just a big party and a hospital-visitation card.

            Or maybe some subcultures will preserve it as something more, outside the law. But I’m pretty sure most of the people doing that, will be doing so because they care about the sex and the children, and money only as it serves that end.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            (and the more we encourage everyone to override the legal money stuff with prenuptual agreements)

            Are we doing that more though? I was under the impression that the trend was toward courts finding them invalid or unfair or unenforceable or whatever the proper legal term for “nope, pay up” is

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Almost all of that law is recent, and was a deliberate attempt to reform (or subvert) traditional marriage.

          Until the reform of no-fault divorce, impotence and infertility were valid causes for divorce. Until seduction, adultery and sodomy laws were repealed, all sex outside of marriage was illegal and married couples were forbidden by law from engaging in non-procreative sex acts. Until the concept of marital rape was invented neither spouse could legally refuse to engage in procreative sex.

          The traditional view of marriage, and the law regarding it until very recently, viewed marriage as primarily concerned with children and childrearing. Everything else was secondary.

          • Randy M says:

            Conservatives seems to have reacted disproportionately to gay marriage compared to the changes you list (I don’t know for sure, wasn’t there). The phrase “changing the definition of marriage” applies perfectly to laws that tinkered around with the edges of the concept to the point someone can look at it now and be unable to discern its core purpose.

          • Nick says:

            As I argued before, the earlier changes were more fundamental, but same-sex marriage was the more visible departure. By the way, I’m just going to say I partially predicted this thread:

            With those conditions, it becomes harder and harder to see marriage as having anything in particular to do with having and raising a family

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Randy M,

            Well since you comment at Dalrock’s blog you should understand why that is.

            The rot of chivalry runs very deep in conservative Christianity. I would go further and say that the slave morality inherent in it made it especially vulnerable, which is why adherents of Indo-European paganism like the Hindus still have some vitality left despite being exposed to chivalry for centuries through British rule.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @ Nick

            With those conditions, it becomes harder and harder to see marriage as having anything in particular to do with having and raising a family

            Good. It’s about time that marriage reverted to it’s prehistoric traditional form of a personal bond between two people that let the rest of the tribe know to not interfere with their relationship, unless called on to do so. Also that said bond is inherently severable by either of the two parties involved in the bond, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
            (Since by definition no one knows what the prehistorical origins of marriage are, no one can dispute my claim.)

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Let’s get real on this “reason for marriage” thing. Imagine a world where there was sex but it had zero connection with having babies. Babies came some other way, but people still knew about sex and wanted it. Would there be an institution of marriage? No. Marriage is about the kids. When marriage arose people knew that if they had sex kids were inevitable. Given the inevitability of kids. there needed to be an institution to provide for them and to make sure that the providers were caring for their own.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            People seem to organize themselves into pairs a lot of the time for various reasons– children, property, companionship.

            Even in the absence of children, their property gets quite entangled and there are times (hospitals, nursing homes) when access to companionship matters. It seems reasonable to me for the government to get involved. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to try to establish what the most important reason is.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            +1 Nancy!

            @HowardHolmes

            Relationships have been externally defined for a variety of reasons throughout the existence of humankind. It appears that more than one kind of relationship was lumped into a superset called “marriage”, and we should not lose sight of this fact.

            On a tangent, but directly addressing your point: It’s striking to me how much people ignore that many throughout history have had children out of wedlock, and that no externally defined relationship was created (except infrequently, and tribally, or recently with DNA evidence) forcing the other parent of said child to take care of that child.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Platonic close friends very rarely get married, which suggests that the sex(ual attraction) part is very central to marriage.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje
            Chicken and egg problem. These days, and even in days of yore, it was uncommon for people to have sex, cohabitate, and never be married.

            If platonic friends can occasionally get married, and carnal pairs can refrain from getting married, the relationship between sex and marriage can only be partial.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I agree that marriage is, in the US today, primarily a contract about money. The main impacts of being married in the eyes of the law:
      – different tax rates
      – different inheritance taxes
      – automatic co-ownership of various kinds (depends on the state), e.g. community property, without needing a complex individual legal arrangement
      – stronger position when dealing with hospitals and other bureaucrats

      There are also some legal impacts on any children conceived by a married woman – basically presumptions about fatherhood.

      Being married means other things socially and religiously. But those vary depending on (sub)culture.

      Note that I don’t disagree that for some religious and cultural groups, marriage is about children. I’ve attended weddings of people in those groups. I just note that those customs don’t have much legal standing.

      I presume that for other groups it’s primarily about sex. But I actually have less evidence for that, except in the specific case of forbidding any sex outside of marriage, which is common.

      • matthewravery says:

        This is my point. When talking about what marriage means legally, you’re talking about the things you listed above. So if you want to talk about how marriage effects the criminality of certain acts, it helps to remember that legally, it’s not about sex.

        There are also some legal impacts on any children conceived by a married woman – basically presumptions about fatherhood.

        Presumption, sure, but a paternity test can nip that presumption in the bud pretty quickly. If you’re the bioparent, you have bioparent responsibilities, tax avoidance pact or no.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Presumption, sure, but a paternity test can nip that presumption in the bud pretty quickly. If you’re the bioparent, you have bioparent responsibilities, tax avoidance pact or no.

          I wish that was true but unfortunately the law doesn’t see it that way.

          If you’re married to a woman and she has a baby, legally you’re on the hook even if you have a paternity test proving that it isn’t yours. It goes back to Blackstone and English Common Law, when obviously there was no such thing as paternity testing.

          • matthewravery says:

            TIL.

            I’m not sure if this is a point in my favor or a point against, since in this case, it implies a child care responsibility even if you didn’t have sex at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you didn’t have sex at all, at least under the traditional rules, a quickie anullment means you were officially never married at all and so have no child care responsibilities.

          • Cliff says:

            If you’re married to a woman and she has a baby, legally you’re on the hook even if you have a paternity test proving that it isn’t yours

            This is not generally true.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Cliff

            You can deny paternity, but there’s a time limit for that. I think it’s like a couple of years; if you discover your child isn’t yours when they’re quite old, tough luck, you still have to pay child support, unless the biological parent is willing and able to adopt the child, or there’s another man willing to adopt the child.

          • ECD says:

            You can deny paternity, but there’s a time limit for that. I think it’s like a couple of years; if you discover your child isn’t yours when they’re quite old, tough luck, you still have to pay child support, unless the biological parent is willing and able to adopt the child, or there’s another man willing to adopt the child.

            I believe that’s usually a time limit from the time you know (or should have known) that the child was not yours. Alternatively, if you establish child support without disputing paternity, you may have a hard time coming back from that.

            None of the above is legal advice.

          • ana53294 says:

            IANAL either, but I’ve heard that if you act as a father beyond the infant/baby phase, and the children remember you, it’s pretty hard to deny parentage, and not pay child support. Even if DNA tests prove that you aren’t the father, once you have acted as a father for long enough, you are the father, in the best interest of the child.

            It seems to highly depend on the state/country. But usually the best interest of the child are still taken into account.

      • Nick says:

        Why are you privileging different tax rates over, say, spousal privilege? I’m sure tax rate comes up more often, but can you really say it’s more essential?

      • BBA says:

        AIUI even back in the mythical golden age some want to return to, marriage as a legal institution was mostly concerned with dowries and the like. There were other social and religious aspects, of course, but there was no need for the law to concern itself with them.

        In a monocultural society where everyone belongs to the same religion, what is or isn’t a legal aspect of marriage is much less relevant as a question. But good luck trying to bring that back.

    • Randy M says:

      This is like you showing a paper shaded in the outline of a face and asking why we say it’s a picture of a person, when there’s literally no marks on it that correspond to a face (except for those that have been erased).

      • EchoChaos says:

        Indeed. I don’t mean to strawman, but to me this is saying “liberals have removed all the traditional elements of marriage. Why do conservatives keep asking for them back?”

        • Randy M says:

          But even the marks that are there point to the purpose.
          It’s weird to look at even what is left and conclude that’s all it is without asking why we want to make legal incentives for two people to remain in an economic contract?

        • matthewravery says:

          I’ve never understood why conservatives took an absolutist stance in the 90s when they’ve could’ve just opted to remove the word “marriage” from the state’s lexicon entirely, leaving churches free to “marry” whomever they wanted and the courthouse free to “civil unionize” whomever they wanted.

          • JonathanD says:

            Because at the time, they were winning, decisively. In the Bush years, conservatives ran a series of state ballot initiatives about keeping or affirming marriage as straights only, and ran up a series of lopsided wins in states across the country (including a number of liberal states). It was widely believed that these initiatives drove turnout and contributed to Republican electoral victories as well.

            Immediately ceding ground in a fight you’re winning isn’t something that it often done. Conservatives would have had to be able to look ahead and predict the issue turning on them, and since they believed they had the better arguments, that would have been hard to predict.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Immediately ceding ground in a fight you’re winning isn’t something that it often done.

            They were winning but in the wrong forum. The real battle was decided in the courts, with the progressive investment in taking over institutions such as universities and media paying off in the long run to overturn the will of the people. Only now is Trump nominating lots of conservative judges, and time will tell if that pays off, but recent history suggests it will.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Probably not. Conservative courts are conservative, less willing to overturn established decisions even if they wouldn’t have made those decisions in the first place. As Chesterson put it, “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            +1 to the Chesterton quote.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Which by process of elimination would mean Chesterton’s politics was undoing the mistake, which is called reaction. Then paradoxically, there’s this.

            I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization.

            Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.

            What’s Wrong With the World

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Suppose one day your wife gets you very drunk and then violently sodomises you. Would this be “legally consensual” by your standard? If not, why not? If so, can you see why some people might believe it should not be?

      Traditionally this wouldn’t be an issue since sodomy was an offense by itself.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Were sodomy laws ever actually applied in this way (i.e. with female perpetrators and male victims)? My suspicion is no, but I could be wrong. Regardless, if you want to defend marital rape exceptions by making an argument that also relies on defending laws against sodomy, be my guest. If so, please note that you either have to defend sodomy laws that ban all forms of non-procreative sex including the sexy normal stuff in straight porn as well as the yucky putting things in men’s bottoms, or find some principled argument for distinguishing between those categories.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          A society which enforces sodomy laws probably also has laws against pornography, so I’m not sure that this is anywhere near as good of a gotcha as you think.

          That said, as a non-relgious traditionalist I’m of two minds about sodomy laws. On the one hand, banning foreplay between married couples is dumb even if it’s never actually going to be enforced. On the other hand, given that an epidemic disease transmitted in large part by anal sex has claimed 32 million lives worldwide and is still chugging along… maybe our ancestors knew what they were doing and we should bow to their wisdom here.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            On the other hand, given that an epidemic disease transmitted in large part by anal sex has claimed 32 million lives worldwide and is still chugging along… maybe our ancestors knew what they were doing and we should bow to their wisdom here.

            Eh, that’s more of a promiscuity problem and less a sodomy one. Syphilis, gonorrhea and their PIV ilk have done plenty too. I am neither a doctor nor a historian but I’d put money on anal in the pre-hygiene era having other health problems, though. Anti-promiscuity falls into the “maybe our ancestors were right” bucket too, but your specific attribution kinda muddies the waters here.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            It’s kind of hard to cleanly separate the two, because the bathhouse culture which cultivated HIV was both massively more promiscuous and much more prone to anal sex than the general population. Even today, men who have sex with men (MSM) report higher numbers of sexual partners than the male average.

            Either way, enforcing laws against sodomy would have prevented the formation of that culture and quite possibly saved tens of millions of lives in the process. As utilitarian calculus it’s an obvious choice.

          • Nornagest says:

            Most AIDS deaths have been in Africa, where, to my understanding, sodomy laws are still on the books in many countries and the disease is also much more commonly spread between heterosexual partners: indeed it’s more common there among women than men, while in the States it’s more like 4:1 male. Retaining (and actually enforcing, which is probably a taller order) those laws in the States might conceivably have done something to slow the spread of AIDS through the American gay community, but even in a best-case scenario that saves at most a few hundred thousand people, not tens of millions.

          • Lambert says:

            We’ve been around for 10 kyears and an STD predominantly spread by anal has appeared once, long after sodomy laws were established. It’s obvious that the people who put Wilde and Turing on trial were clairvoyant.

            It’d be like making handshakes illegal to pre-empt a terrible plague spread by palm-to-palm contact.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            A society which enforces sodomy laws probably also has laws against pornography, so I’m not sure that this is anywhere near as good of a gotcha as you think.

            The same point as in my comment above applies to this: if your argument for a marital rape exception is forced to blow up into an argument for “traditionalist” attitudes towards everything then that makes it much less compelling. Arguments are more interesting when they’re narrow.

            On the other hand, given that an epidemic disease transmitted in large part by anal sex has claimed 32 million lives worldwide and is still chugging along

            Weak shit dude. The vast majority of HIV/AIDS deaths are in Subsaharan Africa where it is primarily spread by heterosexual/PIV sex, no?

          • Nornagest says:

            We’ve been around for 10 kyears and an STD predominantly spread by anal has appeared once…

            I don’t have the data on hand for “primarily”, but transmission risk with anal sex is much higher for almost all STDs, not just for AIDS.

            On the other hand, it’s usually much lower for oral, which I believe was also covered by some sodomy laws.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation,

            Try making a “narrow argument” for why light switches are important without mentioning light bulbs or wiring. The circuit doesn’t properly perform its function unless all of the parts function properly. Likewise with a society.

            I was somewhat unclear in the parent comment but I was talking about how HIV initially spread and became the epidemic it is today. And given how it arose almost immediately after the sexual revolution and loosening of restrictions on gay sex in particular, I’m highly doubtful that this is the first or last time an epidemic disease came about like this. If you have a nigh-universal taboo which within a few decades of breaking it leads to tens of millions of people dying horribly as a result of the taboo behavior, that’s just about the strongest possible case that you could make in favor of the taboo.

          • Nornagest says:

            I was somewhat unclear in the parent comment but I was talking about how HIV initially spread and became the epidemic it is today.

            It initially spread in the States through the gay community — also intravenous drug users and the unlucky recipients of contaminated blood transfusions, but mostly the gay community. That is not true worldwide, as I said above; the US played only a minor role in making it a global epidemic; and there haven’t been tens of millions of American deaths from it. (Incidentally, the developed country with the highest infection rates at the moment is Russia, which isn’t known for its progressive sexual attitudes.)

            You could turn this into a decent argument, but you’re overplaying your hand badly here.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            That is not true worldwide, as I said above; the US played only a minor role in making it a global epidemic; and there haven’t been tens of millions of American deaths from it.

            I’d bet that in Europe HIV was also primarily spread by MSM, at least until the heroin abuse epidemic of the 90s.

            Even today MSM in the US have some 30-50x higher risk of HIV infection compared to the general population.

            In various African countries HIV is now so common in the general population that most new infections are between heterosexuals just because there are many more heterosexuals than MSM, but who spread the disease initially is anybody’s guess. Probably unhygienic healthcare practices such as needle reuse at hospitals played a bigger role compared to first-world countries.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I’m not a fan of legislating what consenting adults do in their bedroom, I was just pointing out that traditional sexual morality and legislation had an internal consistency.

          Even where sodomy was not banned, or the ban was not enforced, it certainly didn’t count as “sex” for the purposes of marital rape exceptions.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Even where sodomy was not banned, or the ban was not enforced, it certainly didn’t count as “sex” for the purposes of marital rape exceptions.

            As per here, that’s not true in general.

            And in any case, even in cases where that was true, the example I gave has a female perpetrator and male victim. I believe the way “traditional sexual morality” dealt with those situations was by treating them as inconceivable. So even the “traditional” setup was internally consistent and is externally consistent with the views of a modern traditionalist who opposes sodomy, it’s not consistent with a modern traditionalist who opposes male-perpetrated sodomy and also rape of men by women.

    • ana53294 says:

      conjugal visitation, and (1) IDK if that’s a real thing or just something TV made up

      Conjugal visitation is very much a thing. So much a thing that prisoners manage to make babies while in prison. Although it seems to be limited to some states in the US, and it’s a privilege, not a right. It is a right in Spain, and some other countries.

      The Catholic church, which won’t marry you if you divorced, will grant annulments for not having PiV sex ever, or not consummating a marriage. Marriage is very much about sex.

    • ECD says:

      The more interesting question to me is do the folks who hold the position that marital rape should not be a crime also want to allow for easy (or any) divorce or not?

      There’s also the whole, rape is wrong thing.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I can’t speak for everyone, but no.

        Marriage shouldn’t be entered into lightly, for the same reason that you shouldn’t have a child lightly. It involves taking on a lot of responsibilities and you should need a damn good reason before dumping those responsibilities on other people. Having sex with your spouse is one of those responsibilities.

        There’s also the whole, rape is wrong thing.

        This is a question about the definition of rape.

        Much like pro-choice people are unconvinced by calling abortion murder, I am unconvinced by calling sex with your spouse rape.

        Marrying someone means literally getting up and swearing lifelong fidelity in your denomination’s church in front of your whole family and friends, then signing a license at a courthouse. That’s about as affirmative as consent can possibly get.

        • ECD says:

          So, no grounds for divorce, some grounds for divorce (abuse of self, abuse of children, infidelity, abandonment)?

          Marrying someone means literally getting up and swearing lifelong fidelity in your denomination’s church in front of your whole family and friends, then signing a license at a courthouse. That’s about as affirmative as consent can possibly get.

          Because people don’t change. Situations don’t change. And no one was ever forced into a marriage. Especially not if we’re playing under the old rules.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Because people don’t change. Situations don’t change. And no one was ever forced into a marriage. Especially not if we’re playing under the old rules.

            People and situations do change, and life gets hard, and your spouse is supposed to be there to support you, and that’s why it is a lifelong commitment you publicly swore to in front of your friends and family.

          • EchoChaos says:

            So, no grounds for divorce, some grounds for divorce (abuse of self, abuse of children, infidelity, abandonment)?

            In my view, some grounds for divorce. Adultery, etc. When we had “at fault” divorce, there still were divorces.

            Because people don’t change. Situations don’t change.

            I second A Definite Beta Guy here. Precommitment to stay together knowing that both will change is very important to people.

            And no one was ever forced into a marriage.

            This is grounds for not just divorce, but annulment in every state I know of. Being compelled into a contract makes that contract invalid.

          • ECD says:

            In my view, some grounds for divorce. Adultery, etc.

            But just to be clear, ‘he rapes me every night’ is not grounds for divorce?

            In my view, some grounds for divorce. Adultery, etc.

            Let’s unpack this a bit. Traditionally, the ones I’m aware of are: Adultery, abuse, neglect, impotence, abandonment, insanity and criminality (which may overlap) is that a reasonable list?

            Now, there’s a real narrow line you’re walking with abuse is grounds for divorce, but rape isn’t. If we’re talking no force (ETA: or improper threat, though what is improper may be a topic for discussion) at all may be used, then I think that I’m not sure what you think should be changed. It is not rape to ask your spouse to have sex with you, or attempt to initiate sex. The whole discussion in the last thread seemed confused on what was at issue with consent. Having sex with your partner because they want to, but you’re not particularly interested is no more rape than buying them dinner when you’re not hungry is theft. That whole line of argument was a non-sequitur.

            People and situations do change, and life gets hard, and your spouse is supposed to be there to support you, and that’s why it is a lifelong commitment you publicly swore to in front of your friends and family.

            Okay, that last part is not actually a requirement of marriage. But putting that aside, I’m reminded of a different quote from Lois McMaster Bujold:

            “The trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn.”

            I’ll also point out that those oaths do not contain an out for abuse, or adultery, or anything else (at least the ones I’m familiar with), so unless I’m confused, we’re all in agreement that they can be broken, the only question is when.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            But just to be clear, ‘he rapes me every night’ is not grounds for divorce?

            You can’t rape the willing. Once she’s given consent, it can’t be rape until that consent is withdrawn. Consent given publicly and signed has a specific way to be withdrawn, which is divorce. But yes, “he wants sex too much” is not a valid reason for divorce.

            The whole discussion in the last thread seemed confused on what was at issue with consent. Having sex with your partner because they want to, but you’re not particularly interested is no more rape than buying them dinner when you’re not hungry is theft. That whole line of argument was a non-sequitur.

            It wasn’t, because it was based on a code that stated that consent could not be given while sleeping or incapacitated (e.g. by drunkenness). If my wife chooses to get absolutely plastered before we have sex or wake me up with sex, that is sexual assault by law (not rape, because no violence). That is what brought it up. The correct standard should be the assumption of consent within marriage.

            The trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn

            Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline. – G.K. Chesterton

            I’ll also point out that those oaths do not contain an out for abuse, or adultery, or anything else (at least the ones I’m familiar with), so unless I’m confused, we’re all in agreement that they can be broken, the only question is when.

            Matthew 19:8 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

            Until the hearts are man are no longer hard, divorce will be allowable for the reasons Moses gave.

          • ECD says:

            You can’t rape the willing. Once she’s given consent, it can’t be rape until that consent is withdrawn. Consent given publicly and signed has a specific way to be withdrawn, which is divorce.

            Well, no, it can also be withdrawn by saying ‘no.’ Or by moving away, or by any number of other things.

            It wasn’t, because it was based on a code that stated that consent could not be given while sleeping or incapacitated (e.g. by drunkenness). If my wife chooses to get absolutely plastered before we have sex or wake me up with sex, that is sexual assault by law (not rape, because no violence). That is what brought it up. The correct standard should be the assumption of consent within marriage.

            I disagree. The correct standard should be ‘have a conversation with your spouse.’

            Now, in the UCMJ provision quoted (none of this is legal advice, seriously) there’s two bits that seem to be causing problems, where it says it’s just straight up sexual assault to:

            commit a sexual act on a person when the person knows or reasonably should know that the other person is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the sexual act is occurring;

            or

            commits a sexual act upon another person when the other person is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to—
            impairment by any drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance, and that condition is known or reasonably should be known by the person; or

            You give two examples. In the first, you and your spouse get drunk and have sex (or even just your spouse gets drunk and you have sex). In the second, your spouse wakes you up with sex.

            In the first case, “incapable of consenting” is a defined term:

            (A)incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct at issue; or
            (B)physically incapable of declining participation in, or communicating unwillingess to engage in, the sexual act at issue.

            Now, if your spouse is so drunk they have reached that level of incapacity and you know that, no, you should not be having sex. I’m comfortable with that remaining illegal. I don’t think we’re going to be able to convince each other.

            The second point, the wake-up sex, I’m more sympathetic to. I think a conversation in advance might be enough to get you over the lack of consent issue. But the straight language about knowing their asleep is not consent dependent. However, this is dependent on what happens while you’re asleep being a “sexual act” which is also a defined term.

            (A) the penetration, however slight, of the penis into the vulva or anus or mouth; (B) contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, scrotum, or anus; or (C) the penetration, however slight, of the vulva or penis or anus of another by any part of the body or any object, with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

            So there are (fun!) ways a spouse might wake you up without counting as sexual assault (depending on how “or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person” was interpreted).

            The language certainly isn’t perfect, but that’s why we’ve got prosecutorial discretion (and you know, privacy, so someone would have to report this). (ETA: And the ability to change the law. I think sticking in a consent exception might be sufficient for this, though I’m unsure how they’d interpret can’t consent if you’re asleep, whether your pre-existing consent (to the specific act in question) would be sufficient).

            In the end, I’m reminded of the period in law school after I first learned about battery and trespass and was terribly concerned that I was breaking the law every day. Writing better laws is hard, but worthwhile,

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            Well, no, it can also be withdrawn by saying ‘no.’ Or by moving away, or by any number of other things.

            Depends on how legally enforceable the consent was. You can certainly say “no” to supporting your wife and children financially, but the state will come in and make sure you honor your contracts or it will literally have men with guns imprison you for not honoring it.

            I disagree. The correct standard should be ‘have a conversation with your spouse.’

            Obviously. Every healthy marriage has conversations all the time. We’re talking legal standards here. And the legal standard should be “the law assumes that when you’ve given legal consent for something, it actually means legal consent”.

            Now, if your spouse is so drunk they have reached that level of incapacity and you know that, no, you should not be having sex. I’m comfortable with that remaining illegal. I don’t think we’re going to be able to convince each other.

            No, we’re clearly not. I will continue despite that because third parties reading this might be interested. It is not uncommon for women to have fantasies of being used while blackout drunk. I’ve known several such. Making that blanket illegal is bad, as with anything.

            The second point, the wake-up sex, I’m more sympathetic to. I think a conversation in advance might be enough to get you over the lack of consent issue. But the straight language about knowing their asleep is not consent dependent. However, this is dependent on what happens while you’re asleep being a “sexual act” which is also a defined term.

            I agree a conversation in advance is needed. Here it is: “Do you take this man to be your husband? Yes? Do you take this woman to be your wife? Yes?”

            That is the serious point I am making, despite the lightheartedness. The state should assume that the legally and aggressively public consent is valid unless it has compelling reason to believe otherwise (divorce or separation). Laws written assuming a lack of consent between husband and wife are inherently bad.

            The language certainly isn’t perfect, but that’s why we’ve got prosecutorial discretion (and you know, privacy, so someone would have to report this).

            This is a bad argument, in my opinion. Would you accept the banning of homosexual sex because sometimes it isn’t consensual and it’s basically never prosecuted and it would require one party to report that a private act occurred?

            If you won’t accept that, realize why making the sex that a husband and wife have illegal is also bad.

          • ECD says:

            @EchoChaos

            Which is why I proposed amendments to the relevant statute which would address consent being sufficient, so long as it was specific.

            Your scenario for blackout drunk involves knowledge and prior (to the intoxication) consent. I’m not so worried about that scenario. But, since you want to talk law, let’s play this out a little differently.

            Spouse’s father dies. Spouse gets blackout drunk mourning their dead parent. Other spouse has sex with their unconscious body. No crime?

            Spouse takes sleeping pills for insomnia. One night forgets to take them and wakes up to discover other spouse is raping their unconscious body and has been doing so for the last six months. No crime?

            I agree a conversation in advance is needed. Here it is: “Do you take this man to be your husband? Yes? Do you take this woman to be your wife? Yes?”

            That is the serious point I am making, despite the lightheartedness. The state should assume that the legally and aggressively public consent is valid unless it has compelling reason to believe otherwise (divorce or separation). Laws written assuming a lack of consent between husband and wife are inherently bad.

            But that’s the point, it’s not assuming a lack of consent, it’s requiring affirmative consent. Now, if you want to argue the UCMJ isn’t perfectly written, I’ll agree, but the solution to that is amendment to address that, not the removal of protections from marital rape.

            I’ll also say, I think you underestimate just how much abuse can be done and control can be gained without ever raising a hand to someone, especially a co-parent and especially a financial dependent. For all the talk about

            Depends on how legally enforceable the consent was. You can certainly say “no” to supporting your wife and children financially, but the state will come in and make sure you honor your contracts or it will literally have men with guns imprison you for not honoring it.

            The one study my quick search finds indicates that men tend to do significantly better (financially) after divorce than women (https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/files/iser_working_papers/2008-07.pdf note, this study is in the UK).

            I’ll also point out two things, (1) we’ve slid from spouses to spouse and child and the child certainly hasn’t consented to anything. (2) I’m having trouble finding statistics, but it’s my understanding that alimony is a lot less common. The number I’ve heard tossed around is 10%, but I can’t figure out the census site to check (at least not in the 10 minutes I played with their tables).

            Also, yes, we treat money and bodies differently. I’m glad about that, frankly. It’s why I can, if I want, contract to give you all my money (so long as there’s consideration) but I can’t contract to be your slave. Which is how it should be (though I’m sure there are those who disagree).

          • sfoil says:

            “The trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn.”

            Nice prose but the fact of the matter is that the specific sorts of oaths we’re discussing were legal and common until very, very recently and they didn’t actually have this effect.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Waking a spouse up with sex can be rape.

            Or at least I read an account by a woman who said that her husband kept doing it even after she said she didn’t want it. She eventually divorced him.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Great Bujold quote. I’d say it’s a general argument for moral standards that people can abide by.

          • rahien.din says:

            Third parties reading this might be interested in my belief that, because there are some people who sometimes fantasize about someone having sex with them while they are blackout drunk, any person should be permitted to have sex with any blackout drunk person at any time.

            This is a great example of why we shouldn’t make things illegal.

            By “third parties reading this,” do you mean “the cops”?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            Spouse’s father dies. Spouse gets blackout drunk mourning their dead parent. Other spouse has sex with their unconscious body. No crime?

            No crime.

            Spouse takes sleeping pills for insomnia. One night forgets to take them and wakes up to discover other spouse is raping their unconscious body and has been doing so for the last six months. No crime?

            Impossible. Rape can’t occur when there is consent. Please stop using language we haven’t agreed on. It would be like, as @Nabil ad Dajjal said if I kept saying murder when we were talking about abortion.

            But yes, no crime.

            (1) we’ve slid from spouses to spouse and child and the child certainly hasn’t consented to anything.

            Fair, alimony only. Still enforced by the law, although in a smaller minority of cases.

            Also, yes, we treat money and bodies differently. I’m glad about that, frankly. It’s why I can, if I want, contract to give you all my money (so long as there’s consideration) but I can’t contract to be your slave. Which is how it should be (though I’m sure there are those who disagree).

            And because you disagree, you’ve taken a well established Christian right away from me and my wife. You are in fact imposing your morality on us because your team happens to have the votes.

            I’m not expecting that to change, by the way. The United States will remain a feminist country for my whole life, likely. Just arguing against it.

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Or at least I read an account by a woman who said that her husband kept doing it even after she said she didn’t want it. She eventually divorced him.

            She formally withdrew her consent because she thought her husband was abusing it. Very reasonable.

            @rahien.din

            Heh. No, I meant I am not convincing @ECD, but I may convince someone else.

          • ana53294 says:

            If you truly believe that your husband is raping you, and thus greatly breaking your trust, there are three things that can be done: a) continue as is, try to tell him you don’t like that, who knows, he may stop; b) divorce; c) divorce and press criminal charges. Pressing charges without divorce is a fraught and risky proposition, since living with, or being otherwise dependant on, a man you are pressing charges against, is very risky.

            So, considering she divorced him over the non-consensual sleep sex, did she press charges? The vast majority of people have a view of morality that vastly differs from the law af the land. Many people would not want to see an ex in jail, even if they want their pound of flesh in assets.

            The number of people who would divorce and press charges over non-violent sleep/drunk/drugged sex is probably negligible, especially if the spouse was not the one providing the drug/drink. And if it’s not violent, it’s gonna be quite hard to prove lack of consent, and that the sex occurred at all. Getting a criminal conviction with such a sex act in a marriage is going to be almost impossible, so nobody even tries to report it.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve given you all the information I’ve got, except that she said he said his waking her up with sex was based on a Heinlein quote. I can’t find a Heinlein quote to that effect.

            My impression is that she simply divorced him without bringing charges, but I don’t really know.

            I thought part of this discussion was about whether marital rape makes sense as a concept, not just to what extent it can be illegal.

          • ECD says:

            And because you disagree, you’ve taken a well established Christian right away from me and my wife. You are in fact imposing your morality on us because your team happens to have the votes.

            Assuming without accepting your description of it as a “Christian right” is correct, of course I (in the sense of the majority of the country through action in all 50 states) am. I didn’t think that was in dispute.

            Of course, the flipside of that was that until the change, the Christian majority was forcing it’s morality on everyone else by denying them the protection of the law.

            Also, I’ll point out, the sodomy discussion above is simply historically incorrect at least in some areas:

            A married person cannot be convicted of forcible sodomizing his or her spouse in this state.

            Now, this is from the case overturning that fact in Alabama (https://web.archive.org/web/20131029202750/http://www.law.ua.edu/colquitt/crimmain/crimcase/wms.htm)

            The defendant, while living apart from his wife pursuant to a Family Court order, forcibly raped and sodomized her in the presence of their 2 1/2 year old son. Under the New York Penal Law a married man ordinarily cannot be prosecuted for raping or sodomizing his wife. The defendant, however, though married at the time of the incident, is treated as an unmarried man under the Penal Law because of the Family Court order. On this appeal, he contends that because of the exemption for married men, the statutes for rape in the first degree (Penal Law, § 130.35) and sodomy in the first degree (Penal Law, § 130.50), violate the equal protection clause of the Federal Constitution (U.S. Const., 14th Amdt.).

            Granting the equal protection challenge in the reverse direction the defendant had hoped for (https://h2o.law.harvard.edu/cases/1533).

            Again, I think you underestimate how bad the situation under the Christian right for everyone system was.

            ETA: For a different, but related example, which may be less fraught, consider the old Head & Master laws, until they were struck down, which certainly were not limited to Christian marriages, but affected the property rights of everyone who got married in the state.

          • Lambert says:

            @echochaos
            Can you really not concieve of a legal and ethical framework in which one can sensibly consent in advance to, say wake-up head but that does not very strongly encourage no-holds-barred carte-blanche lie-back-and-think-of-England blanket consent as the only correct institution in which to raise children?
            ‘Consent’ that can’t be retracted even when one barty is crying and screaming for the other to stop. That can only be undone by a lengthy legal process.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            Sure, but it’s the left that traditionally decries “legislating morality”. I am fine legislating my morality.

            And I note that it was other traditionalists who discussed sodomy. I accepted the hypothetical. But thanks for the information.

            @Lambert

            Of course I can understand it. But it is no business of the state getting involved in it. There are lots of things that are potentially exploitative that the state shouldn’t get involved in.

            The fact that some small percentage of bad actors exploit the marriage contract is no reason to get rid of it, and in my view the destruction of marriage (of which this discussion is a tiny subset) has had far worse effects than the occasional woman having to lie back and think of England.

            And again, actual violence to inflict the sexual act has always been illegal. We’re now talking about a very small subset who are only abusive in that they exploit consent and don’t actually do any other abuse. I am not particularly concerned about that epidemic.

          • ECD says:

            I am fine legislating my morality.

            As am I, basically, though I’m far less certain my morality is correct, so suffer from a fairly bad status-quo bias, except where it is obviously producing bad results.

            it’s the left that traditionally decries “legislating morality”.

            Meh, I’ve heard that, but I think it just hides a different set of morals. I tend to think of the debate about legislating morality a lot like I think of originalism, frankly.

            I may be overly cynical, but in the vast majority of cases the arguments for both seem like bullshit shifting of the argument. For the first it’s a shift from ‘is this right’ to ‘are you trying to legislate this because you want to force everyone else to live by your rules’? For the second it’s a shift from, ‘is this constitutional,’ to ‘what mind reading can I do of people dead for two centuries?’

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            And again, actual violence to inflict the sexual act has always been illegal. We’re now talking about a very small subset who are only abusive in that they exploit consent and don’t actually do any other abuse. I am not particularly concerned about that epidemic.

            As I said in the previous thread, if laws against non-sexual assault are sufficient to deal with marital rape then they should be sufficient to deal with non-marital rape too. So you either need to justify that or argue why there should be a distinction. I’m sure you can attempt the latter by making vague comments about the implicit consent given by marriage, but that isn’t good enough. You need to explain why a rapist who would be sentenced to several years in prison if their victim was not their spouse may not deserve any jail time (based on typical sentences for small assault charges) if they are married to the victim.

          • John Schilling says:

            The whole point is probably moot because of the difficulty of enforcement. With or without a “marital rape” exemption, or for that matter a marriage, once you shack up with someone under circumstances where outsiders expect you to be having regular consensual sex it is going to be intractably difficult for outsiders (e.g. juries) to disentangle the “He said, she said” of any claim that this time wasn’t consensual. If you shack up with someone, they’ll almost certainly be able to get away with raping you at least once and probably until you announce to the world that you’re officially not shacked up any more. If you don’t trust them enough to accept that risk, you know what to do.

            At the level of social enforcement, even cultures with marital-rape exemptions generally expect that a “real man” wouldn’t have to beat his wife up to get her to sleep with him, and even cultures without marital-rape exemptions generally expect that a wife shouldn’t go Full Lysistrata on her husband or vice versa. Or vice versa. So if you bring it to the community in obviously-extreme cases, appropriate shaming will probably happen regardless of the law. If you bring it up in marginal cases (e.g. the husband once thought it would be romantic to wake his wife with sex, stopped when she clearly wasn’t into it, but she’s upset it happened even once), then even your closest friends probably aren’t going to want to be part of that drama.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression is that people who believe there’s no such thing as marital rape aren’t necessary think in terms of a man beating up his wife in order to get sex, they’re thinking in terms of him overpowering her.

            I expect that a good many of them also think husbands are entitled to hit their wives and also that it doesn’t matter if wives hit their husbands, but I’m guessing.

            By the way, women also sexually abuse men and it does real damage.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/52kvpi/serious_men_who_have_been_raped_sexually/

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy: I had to read your last statement twice. The first time I parsed “physically abuse” – the old beat with a frying pan cliche et al.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            it’s the left that traditionally decries “legislating morality”.

            Meh, I’ve heard that, but I think it just hides a different set of morals. I tend to think of the debate about legislating morality a lot like I think of originalism, frankly.

            I believe the word both of you are looking for is “libertine”, a sometimes ally of liberals, when both are against the legislation of conservatives morality.
            When I think of liberals opposing legislation of morality, it’s generally “don’t impose your morality on me.” The “your” is important, it’s not a general “your”, it’s a specific “your”. And I hear the same thing from conservatives, though generally the word they use is “immorality”.

          • John Schilling says:

            My impression is that people who believe there’s no such thing as marital rape aren’t necessary think in terms of a man beating up his wife in order to get sex, they’re thinking in terms of him overpowering her.

            Right. If a man beats up his wife to get sex, for e.g. hospitalization-worthy levels of “beat up”, pretty much everyone in every culture is going to think he’s a loser for having to do that and there’s a good chance they’re going to punish him for the offense of “beating up his wife” even if they don’t punish him for rape.

            If a man “overpowers” his wife to get sex but without “beating her up”, pretty much everyone in every culture is going to either think of that as somewhere in (but maybe on the edge of) acceptable behavior in marriage, or think of it as drama they’d really rather not get involved in and if they are going to get involved in it they’d like the wife to simplify the drama by finding a reason to divorce the lout as step one. Or both.

            Even by the old rules, “abuse” was one of the classically acceptable reasons for divorce. Somewhere on the line that leads through “overpowering” to “beating up”, one reaches “abuse” and ends the marriage (and the lout’s ability to keep raping his wife).

      • viVI_IViv says:

        There’s also the whole, rape is wrong thing.

        You can have a legislation where marital sex is an obligation but marital rape is illegal: you aren’t allowed to rape your spouse on any specific occasion, but if they consistently refuse sex then it is ground for at fault divorce, or even for financial compensation. Essentially consistently refusing sex is considered a breach of contract.

        As per the link above, there are several Western countries which have such legislation.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I might as well throw in an example– this is a story a woman told me. I have no reason to think she was lying.

      She had a funny story. She wanted a child, her husband didn’t. So she got him drunk during a Superbowl, and then had unprotected sex with him.

      The funny part is that her son turned out to be a sports fan.

      I heard this story decades ago. I was horrified, but I didn’t have as many standardized opinions as I might now. Also, I don’t like telling people off.

      After a bit of thought, I asked her how her husband took it.

      She suddenly looked sad, and said it might have had something to do with the divorce.

      So, no violence. Presumably rape by the standards some people believe.

      • ana53294 says:

        Is there a difference between this and making a hole in the condom?

        The sex itself in this situation (if she used a condom and didn’t do it purposefully) would probably be OK. So the issue is getting pregnant without the other person’s consent, which is possible by damaging condoms, lying about taking the pill, and such means that don’t involve forceful sex.

        I know of some women who have “accidentally” gotten pregnant with a second child, when the husband was happy with just one. The men are quite happy with their second kids.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          My feeling is that unwanted sex with someone who’s been gotten drunk is more of a personal violation than sabotaging birth control, but that’s a guess.

          Interesting about men who were happy with an unchosen second child, though I want a larger data set.

          I also suspect that not wanting children at all is a stronger desire than wanting to stop at one child.

          • ECD says:

            Also, did the wife in that scenario admit it wasn’t an actual accident? If not, we’re just in a ‘well, he doesn’t know I’m cheating, so there’s no harm, right?’ situation.

            But more generally, yeah, I’m sure there are people who are fine (fake) and fine (for real) with violations of boundaries and agreements which would send me personally running for a lawyer who knew something about family law. The solution to that is to offer people outs when they want them, but not force them to take them.

            ETA: This was mostly a response to ana above you.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          ana53294, the way she told the story, she deliberately had unprotected sex with him after having gotten him drunk because she wanted a child.

          I *think* you’re just exploring a hypothetical, but you’re ignoring the actual situation.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, would it be as bad if she deliberately had protected sex with him, while he was drunk?

            The harm here comes in what feminists call “reproductive rape” – forcefully conceiving a child despite explicit desire not to have it.

            I consider the reproductive rape part of it as separate from the rape part, by pointing out that she could also have reproductivelly raped him by making a hole in a condom, or using the semen out of the discarded condom.

            As things go, having sex with your drunk husband while he can’t consent clearly is probably wrong, but wouldn’t be seen as a big deal by almost anyone (I wouldn’t think it’s a big deal, if there was no physical harm, as these are people who regularly have sex with each other anyways).

            The harm comes from the forceful reproduction, which is why I see having deliberate unprotective sex as not that different from other strategies some females use, that I indicated above.

            But from what I’ve heard of cases where a woman gave a blow job to a man, stored the semen and got pregnant, reproductive rape is not a crime you go to jail over, even though everybody sees it as wrong.

            My opinion is that the sex while drunk was not that bad, although sketchy; the really shitty part was getting pregnant by a man who doesn’t want a baby, and that’s wrong regardless of whether sex is involved or not.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think the situation I describe was amplified by her getting him drunk. On the one hand, he did the drinking but on the other, it was a betrayal of trust.

        • Viliam says:

          Is there a difference between this and making a hole in the condom?

          Psychologically, yes. People have different beliefs about the impact of alcohol on responsibility. So the drunk husband may feel co-responsible for the pregnancy, and therefore blame his wife less. With some good gaslighting skills, he could be made feel fully responsible.

          On the other hand, with the hole in condom, he can be made believe it was no one’s fault. No gaslighting would be necessary. He would blame bad luck. This option seems more reliable.

          • ana53294 says:

            with the hole in condom, he can be made believe it was no one’s fault

            Is it possible to have random holes in condoms? My understanding is that it has to be a pretty deliberate act, so the wife would be responsible, anyway.

            But yes, I guess that reproductively raping somebody and denying any responsibility makes it worse.

          • Viliam says:

            Condoms usually don’t have holes [citation needed], but the husband could assume it happened in the factory/shop.

            Though now I wonder: if a condom has a hole, how likely would actually the man notice it (a) before use, and (b) after use. The latter is relevant because the first hole in condom doesn’t necessarily lead to pregnancy, and the husband might become suspicious if previously okay condom brand would suddenly start leaking like a sieve.

            I suppose it depends on how specifically the hole is made (by a needle?) and probably also where (in the center?). Time to buy a box of condoms and run some experiments. 😀

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Arguably condoms do usually have exactly one hole, although any topologists in the audience will presumably disagree.

      • John Schilling says:

        By the old, old rules, that marriage was never adequately consummated and so didn’t exist in the first place. By the old rules, a woman can’t rape a man not no way not no how, but it’s amusing to imagine a judge hearing their testimony, annulling the marriage, and charging the wife with fornication. But we probably don’t really want that.

        By anything but the oldest and most traditional rules, I think there’s a general recognition that it is at least sometimes reasonable for a married couple to try and not have children right now, so the issue is going to come up. And I’m not entirely averse to marriages where the couple firmly wants to not have children ever. But having children soon-ish is still the default behavior for married couples, so if that’s not your plan then I think you really, really need to have both parties explicitly on board with whatever the plan is.

        If that’s not the case, the one who secretly defects and messes with the agreed-upon contraceptives (or lack thereof) is the scoundrel and probably at the “worth divorcing but not arresting them” level.

    • “as I understand it, you get a right to privacy with your spouse, not the right to have sex with them.”

      This is just dancing around the issue: we all know why it was created and maintained, even if we prefer to use euphemisms.

    • Plumber says:

      “….Marriage isn’t about sex, it’s about money…”

      Yeah, about that, from Wikipedia:

      “…In England, the ceremony usually began with a priest blessing the bed, after which the newlyweds prepared themselves for bed and drank sweet and spicy wine. The groomsmen and the bridesmaids then sat on the sides of the bed and threw the couple’s stockings at them; a hit was believed to indicate that the thrower would soon marry. Finally the curtains were drawn around the bed and the couple were left alone. Some newlyweds refused to take part in the bedding ceremony. King Charles I of England (r. 1625–1649) notably barred the door of his bedroom; however, despite his rejection, the custom remained prevalent for another century among all social classes, including the royal family.

      In the 16th century, in what is now Germany, the bedding ceremony was performed to the sound of pipes, drums and “obscene noises”, after which the couple were left alone and the guests continued celebrating loudly enough for the newlyweds not to be heard. In many places, the newlyweds were dressed for bed separately by their family or community and then led to the bedroom. In others, the couple were expected to rejoin the party afterwards. During the Reformation era, the bedding ceremony was associated with rituals that assigned socioeconomic rights and duties to the bride as housewife.

      In Scandinavia, it was the most distinguished wedding guest who led the bride to bed in a festive procession. After putting them in bed, the guests offered dishes to the couple and quickly ate with them before leaving them alone. Due to the ritual’s importance, specially decorated wedding beds were sometimes borrowed from friends, family or neighbours. The bedding eventually became merely symbolic, with the bride’s parents covering the newlyweds with a blanket and then uncovering them.

      The original purpose of the bedding ceremony was to establish the consummation of the marriage, without which the union could be annulled. The legally binding nature of the ritual was unclear to many, particularly to lower classes. One marriage in Britain was annulled on the pretext that the bride had run away within 15 minutes of the ritual, and in another case, a clandestine marriage was made public when the pregnant wife shared her husband’s deathbed. Public bedding in 18th-century Britain was widely believed to give additional legitimacy to the marriage. In Scotland, although marriage was formed by simple consent and required no formalities or consummation, the bedding rituals were widespread but unstructured; a couple simply wanted someone to see them in bed together. A couple could also be pressured into marriage in this way: a person stumbling upon an unmarried couple in bed could pronounce them man and wife on the spot.

      In medieval Scandinavia, the bedding ceremony was of great legal importance. Laws in many Swedish provinces regarded public bedding as essential to the completion of a marriage, but the legal importance later diminished due to new royal laws. In Iceland, a marriage was only valid if it included the bedding ritual witnessed by at least six men.

      In the case of royal marriages, the ceremony took on added significance…”

  11. Enkidum says:

    A promos of nothing at all, this song makes me want to take up crack. Also I think the 1-800-COCAINE number it advertises as giving advice is going to give you boring advice like “Love yourself and stop taking drugs”, not “Go down to 11th and Ross Ave, they got the good shit there.”

  12. Well... says:

    A lot of people with Jeep Wranglers, at least where I live, modify them to look more aggressive. The most unsubtle way they do this is by adding completely non-functional pieces that look like snarling, furrowed brows going across the top of the headlamps and grille. (Sort of the opposite of the big plastic eyelashes some people add to the headlamps of their VW Beetles.) Would you predict that the owners of these Jeeps, on average, have more or less aggressive personalities than other Jeep owners? Would you also predict that the owners of these Jeeps are, on average, more or less physically capable of acting on aggression than other Jeep owners?

    I’m personally agnostic about this question. Instinctively I want to say that people who put a lot of effort into signalling their aggressiveness are probably both more aggressive themselves and for whatever reason less confident in their ability to act on their aggression when needed (e.g. people with “Napoleon syndrome”), but I distrust my intuition here. There are probably a lot of other factors in the “who mods their cars” equation, such as fashion (to some extent related to peer group), amount of expendable income, etc.

    • Lambert says:

      Related:
      Being too large to use conveniently as a tool, archaeologists have long speculated as to the purpose of the Olduvai Handaxe.
      The official line is that it was a ceremonial object. However, this paper proposes an alternative explanation: that the owner had a 3 inch dick. In this essay I will…

  13. Machine Interface says:

    How did war become a game?, a video about the early development of wargaming.

    • I initially expected the focus of the video to be elsewhere (the psychological and societal causes for why we have wargames), but this is actually so much more interesting. To spare someone else the misconception: This is basically a video on gaming history, going incrementally from chess to later strategy games focussed more on actual wargaming. Check it out!

      (And thanks for sharing, Machine Interface!)

    • John Schilling says:

      And for contrast, A Farewell to Hexes, or how war stopped being a game. At least, how it stopped being a hobbyist game; professionals still need and have their kriegesspiels.

  14. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Random thought: how can local credit unions ever risk offering auto loans? What recourse do they have if the loanee disappears from that locality and just stop making payments? Fly an employee out to where the license plate turns up with the authority to hire a repo man who knows different state and local laws?
    Like what if one of those douches from On the Road took out the biggest auto loan he qualified for and then vroom, man?

    • MissingNo says:

      So, it’s a an equation where you see what traits of the person you are dealing with has, what their risk level is.

      Almost every loan has interest you pay per month. You can assume one out if 50 won’t pay half of it. A 5% average interest level with everyone else paying covers that and more.

      It’s the same thought process the big banks use….just spread out over more time due to lower frequency per unit of time.

    • MissingNo says:

      So basically. For every person who pays a 100 dollar loan the bank earns 110.

      When a person stops making payments, assume they paid a third of it and bugged out.

      Assume one out of 1,000 just takes the money and runs.

      You sum up over time the variability of a person with average traits ABC (gender,age, education,credit score) and try teasing out the most important variables.

      You can then calculate the average profit.

      In the 1800/early 1900 banks were really bad at this and went bust alot.

      Now? A big bank more or less has everything figured out and is just running the program.

    • sharper13 says:

      There is no flying people around involved. A “local credit union” does the exact same thing a “big bank” does. Neither is actually in the credit collection business, they’re (as alluded to above), in the credit risk business. They make a couple of mailed attempts, then hire a professional.

      So they hire a repo man. If the guy with the car has skipped town, the repo man charges a couple hundred bucks more and does a skip trace. Once located, he then uses the Internet or the phone to get someone local to go pick the car up for him and either sell it or ship it, depending on the details.

      Nowadays, the worst credit risks can still get car loans because they just tack on the cost of a GPS tracker/disabler where the financier can remotely disable the vehicle if it’s not paid for.

  15. MissingNo says:

    Well here is an interesting trend in porn consumption.

    I would say 10 year ago (and don’t bullshit. Hold up your sticky hands if you’re a male since around 95%+ of guys watch it. 99%+ on internet sites like this) the advertisements and most watched videos were about busty blondes and teenage threesomes.

    Now, the most watched videos on pornhub are all basically “How to blackmail and fuck your stepsister” and the advertisement is “Are you alone? Play your Oculus Rift VR family sex simulator”

    Should one be worried about these trends? What do they indicate?

    Is that going to go mainstream? When are people besides lunatics like myself going to talk about it?

    • Nornagest says:

      I blame Game of Thrones.

      • What’s the causal mechanism here? The show never endorses incest, and in the early seasons at least, it’s something only evil people are doing. Is it just mere exposure?

        • Nornagest says:

          It never endorses it, but it never goes out of its way to condemn it either. Cersei’s an unambiguous villain from at least the mid-1st season, but Jaime grows out of that role sometime in season 2 or 3, and their relationship at most points is presented as a redeeming factor if anything: these aren’t good people, but they do share a loving if unconventional bond. That’s more than any other fictional depiction of incest I can think of, aside from the odd bit of deeply weird golden age sci-fi.

          Later on, of course, there’s spoilers.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Can you do a study to see if the men consuming this stuff had siblings (biological or otherwise) between the ages of 0-5?
      It may be falling birthrates -> more only children -> people with no Westermarck Effect.

      • ana53294 says:

        You’d have to see if Chinese people are more likely to watch incest porn.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, we’d absolutely look at Chinese porn consumption if the Great Firewall allows.

        • AG says:

          Cultural differences, though. Incest and pseudo-incest (falling in love with a step-sibling) are quite popular in mainstream East Asian dramas. At some point, manga/anime started propagating a variant of Tanabata where the lovers reincarnate as twins (but, apparently the earliest source of this variant is a book from the 80s).

          But storytelling in Asia doesn’t necessarily have the kind of “representation” bent to it as western media does. It’s an escape valve for taboo desires, the way that the prevalence of yaoi/yuri wasn’t an indication of accepting homosexuality. Hell, we still see this in western media, with some fairly notable incest ships in modern fandom where there was no intention of incest in the text.
          Similarly, the prevalence of incest in Chinese media (or the little-sister fetish in anime) wouldn’t indicate an actual desire for it.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Maybe men who grow up in broken families had step sisters older than 0-5 and they ended up having sexual fantasies about them.

      • Protagoras says:

        This was also my theory.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The explosive growth of incest porn baffles me. It went from essentially invisible to completely dominant in maybe 2-3 years.

      It’s gotten to the point where even interracial scenes have a step-whatever theme. Unless Woody Allen cloned himself a few million times without anyone telling me I can’t imagine that there’s that big a market for “white guys who want to fuck their Asian stepdaughters.” Sometimes you’ll even see a video that you recognize and know for a fact isn’t incest-related but it will have a title about fucking your sister.

      Something is going on and it’s very unclear to me what that is.

      • MissingNo says:

        I don’t think its actually *quite* as popular as the titles suggest.

        Whoever said that the major companies were not lying about the most viewed videos and just filled the front-page to acquire blackmail on politicians like Ted-Cruz? *Everyone* on the planet with a computer has a shadow profile of themselves owned on multiple computers throughout the world, predicting their behavior and seeing what they can financially extract.

        Now the oculus-rift VR family sex videos being the most common AD on pornhub feels…like some weird experiment someone or something is doing.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Porn has an “accumulated work” problem.
        Every sex scene you can think of has been done before. A lot of scenes you, personally will never, ever think of, has also been done before. hundreds of times badly, and very well at least a handful of times. Since porn mostly has no plot, and minimal dialogue, you cant really sell it on “We have a new story”.

        HD video was a godsend to porn producers because it meant they could mostly reset the clock, but now everything exists in HD, too.
        So every time someone thinks up some new twist that can be a tag on pornhub, people produce it. Even if bloody well next to nobody wants it. Because an audience of one in 53 is better than trying to make “3 some with a redhead and a blonde Variant: Both focus on the redhead” number 200. And getting a porn actor or actress to call their scene partner sis does not even carry a premium. The year where everyone seemed to be pushing golden showers was so, so much worse than this.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Finally, I’m in the 1%

      Anyway, I’m blaming Game of Thrones. I’m a bit surprised this didn’t start earlier, with Lost’s (step)incestual dominance relationship between Useless Girl and Boone. Not enough Internet porn then?

      Eventually people will find something else to wank about.

    • Aftagley says:

      I wouldn’t be worried, it’s just the porn equivalent of finding a $5 bill on the ground.

      Think about porn like a pizza – plain cheese is vanilla porn: up plumber knocks on door, shenanigans ensue via the missionary position. It’s no one’s favorite, but it doesn’t send anyone away. With each topping (fetish) you add to your pizza (porn) it gets harder to make and risks alienating people. Eventually you end up with a pizza that’s either prohibitively expensive to make, like gold-leafed pizza ( porn aimed at people with a rollercoaster fetish) or that is offputting to a majority of people, like an anchovy-pineapple pizza ( dwarf bdsm). Fetish porn exists, but only by catering hard to it’s market at the expense of widespread appeal.

      Enter incest porn. There’s no cost to establishing the incest narrative, it’s just one or two lines of text. It’s also a really easy story to write. Normal people apparently aren’t put off by it, it’s just a cheese pizza with a kinda weird, but obviously fake premise. For Incest fans, however, this is now their favorite pizza! You keep the vanilla audience and still get to court a prominent subsection of the porn consuming market.

      In short, adding this theme costs nothing and potentially gains you a motivated audience. If any other fetishes like this (no/limited cost to establish) I predict they will become equally ubiquitous.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Think about porn like a pizza – plain cheese is vanilla porn: up plumber knocks on door,

        He must be here for my Dungeons & Dragons game.

        shenanigans ensue via the missionary position.

        🙁

      • gbdub says:

        I think you’re right about slipping some light, not too offputting (or easy to ignore) fetish stuff into otherwise vanilla material. But that doesn’t answer why this fetish in particular is so wildly popular.

        I suppose it hits on the “taboo” and “risk of getting caught” themes that might be of pretty general interest, but there have to be other ways to hit those buttons without step-incest.

        Step-mom stuff I really don’t get. Who wants what their dad is having? That’s like, really offputting.

        • Aftagley says:

          See, that’s the thing – the fetish doesn’t have to be widely popular for this to be a sound decision.

          Think about it this way: imagine a website that contains only two porn videos. In all aspects they are the same except one mentions that the pair in question are pretending to be brother and sister. Among standard porn viewers, you’ll get an even split in viewership, but 100% of people into incest flicks will watch the fetish one.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know. How many horny men go to porn sites, see a wide variety of titles about step-sister and step-dad and whatever, and get the mood killed thinking of their own family?
            May be projection, but it’s got to be non-zero.

          • gbdub says:

            But that still doesn’t explain why “step-family” scenarios are what dominates. There are probably a lot of fetishes that could get pasted into vanilla scenes. Why is “step-family” in particular, so popular that as noted, 50% plus of the most watched videos on one of the top sites feature it?

          • ECD says:

            My guess is that it’s just a matter of follow the leader. Someone did it and it sold well, so everyone else copied them, then everyone did it because everyone was doing it.

      • cassander says:

        this is my theory as well.

      • Viliam says:

        This seems the most likely explanation. Changing normal porn into incest porn:

        1) costs you nothing, you could just change the title on an already existing video, especially with “step-siblings” who don’t even have to be the same race;

        2) the title is just as simple to ignore for anyone who does not share this fetish;

        3) but it can make a few people extra happy.

        • The Nybbler says:

          A big reason for the “step-” is apparently the payment processors absolutely won’t deal with real incest porn. What this says about Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX executives is left as an exercise.

          • Randy M says:

            Say what you will about step-Dwarven-BDSM-orgy-porn, at least it’s an ethos.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M: … now you’re raising the question of whether Dwarven Nationalism with integral BDSM is Socialist, or objectively capitalist.

          • Nick says:

            Politically, at least, it’s probably authoritarian. They like to discipline and punish.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat says: … now you’re raising the question of whether Dwarven Nationalism with integral BDSM is Socialist, or objectively capitalist.

            Well since I made some stuff up just now about have for many years extensively researched Dwarven culture I may confidently state that by and large the Dwarvish clans mostly deal with other clans and non-Dwarves on a capitalist basis when it comes to craftworks, goods inside the clans are distributed by clan elders as they see fit, ascension to “elder” status is mostly age based, but significantly well made “masterworks” must be submitted as well, usually the younger the Dwarf the better made a work must be to get on the council of masters, with more allowance for less well made works to suffice for entry from older Dwarves (“What is it, the 50th year Gimli has tried? Oh, if it’s not completely crap this time let’s just give him a seat”).

            The Clan Masters/Alderdwarf councils (different clans use different names) select an UnderKing each year to settle intra-clan matters, who are usually re-elected till their deaths, the UnderKings are in charge of the Kingdoms main brewery, military, mines and mushroom farms (many Dwarves also have a private garden and still “for the hard stuff” as well) which are run more on a socialized basis, with usually younger Dwarves as the soldiers and workforce, the mushroom farm work is seldom as esteemed as craftworks among the Dwarves (consequently food must often be imported), but a large batch of “bad beer” is one of the few causes for UnderKings to lose their crowns, so the brewery is the main focus of Kingship.

      • hls2003 says:

        I think this is correct, but sort of leaves the question of “why this, why now?” And the answer to that seems like it’s probably that it’s not that easy to find taboos anymore in society, and this is one well-suited to the porn consumers. This supposes that the taboo-breaking, rather than the actual scenario, then, would be the relevant attraction. It used to be other stuff, but once that gets normalized, you need something new. Step-incest stuff is, one hopes, still taboo. So that’s why you get a taboo, and in particular this one seems like a good fit for many non-fetishists. It’s taboo but not too taboo – as someone noted below, payment processors wouldn’t deal with actual blood incest. It’s not necessarily illegal; IIRC, the movie Clueless had a step-sibling romance as its main relationship. Add in that it usually features younger or younger-looking actresses, and that’s probably palatable enough for most viewers.

        It may also involve child porn laws – anything that has such a contrived scenario is presumably produced by professional porn studios who are definitely not risking jail by using underage models. So consumers seeking teenage models may actually prefer something with a modicum of setup to signal “yes, this is a professional studio full of people who don’t like jail.”

    • Most comments seem to be about online video porn. It might be more interesting to look at online text porn, ASSTR and the like, since it gives a more detailed picture of the emotions involved. I’m not sure incest is as prominent there, but incest and sex with prepubertal or barely pubertal partners seem to be a surprisingly large part of what people want to write and/or read.

      • Lambert says:

        Given the rather grey area between text porn and romance, isn’t most text porn ‘the raunchy bit of a story on AO3’ or suchlike?

      • Corey says:

        I think ASSTR is a special case because of its Usenet roots; Usenet is pretty much uncensorable, so people can post stuff banned at other places, so it’s going to skew that way.

        Literotica doesn’t truck with underage stuff, which manifests as “first time” stories where the couple is 18 or 19, but other than that the ban doesn’t seem to detract from quality.

        There, I think the skew is to consensual cuckoldry porn (the “Loving Wives” category for example).

        (so I heard)
        (who needs a GUI for porn? command line is where it’s at)

      • aristides says:

        I blame Harry Potter for that. People that read and write text porn are at minimum big readers, and Harry Potter was the biggest book series at the time those internet sites got big. I also suspect many of the writers of online erotica started when they themselves were underage, so there was nothing weird about it. Once the community norms are set with being ok with underage characters, they rarely shift, to the point that fanfiction dot net killed itself by trying to ban it, allowing AO3 to rise up.

    • Atlas says:

      Freud’s revenge?

      It definitely seems very weird to me because I would have thought that incest fetishism would be extremely strongly selected against. Although I guess there’s nothing new under the sun, because incest between both gods and mortals appears a few times in classical mythology, which I find similarly puzzling.

      • soreff says:

        > Although I guess there’s nothing new under the sun

        _Mostly_ agreed, but not entirely.
        For all physically feasible sex acts with no special equipment and a modest number
        of participants, I’d guess that all of the possibilities had been explored before humans
        were even fully human.

        For more exotic possibilities, we could at least computer generate scenarios which
        aren’t possible in the real world. E.g. consider an orgy in space with negative
        curvature (hyperbolic space), so more participants are within limbs’ reach than
        are possible in a flat euclidean space.
        And this would be something new under the sun.

    • John Schilling says:

      Now, the most watched videos on pornhub are all basically “How to blackmail and fuck your stepsister” and the advertisement is “Are you alone? Play your Oculus Rift VR family sex simulator”

      I’ll take your word for it but, how to put this delicately, isn’t pretty much all internet advertising targeted?

      • Ketil says:

        Hehe. On the other hand, we all know how bad the targeting algorithms are, so MissingNo has at least plausible deniability…

        Oh, horrid thought! What if that’s just what they want you to think? They are intentionally producing poorly targeted ads on Facebook and Netflix to get everybody off the guard, while quietly honing their AIs to perfection, with the nefarious goal of….precisely targeting ads on pornhub?

        PS: Seriously, though, were are the statistics?

        • Aftagley says:

          Going down this rabbithole, porn has historically driven technology. The industry pioneered home video, online video, online payments, streaming services….

          It wouldn’t be that far out of normal history if porn led in ai targeted fetish ads.

      • MissingNo says:

        *coughs *

        Warning, NSFW links.

        But you can just look at the most watched pornhub videos.

        It’s not the same on every site.

        Half to two/thirds of the vids on the first two pages are incest. Occasionally, *every* most watched on that site is incest(with the other sites also not having nearly the same frequency)

        It actually seems unnaturally high compared to other sites. Is it some weird experiment? Some politician blackmail grab?

        Considering the theory that reality is simply some weird introduction to post singularity life what does this mean?

        Asking the big questions here.

    • throwaway of a regular commenter says:

      This is a weird one.

      No explanation, but I will only throw into the debate the datum that in the niche of femdom porn there has been a noticeable uptick in ‘bitchy stepmother’ scenarios, whose beginnings I would date to a little earlier than others here are mentioning, maybe 5 years ago or a little longer. Aftagley mentions that ‘normal people apparently aren’t put off by’ incest storylines in regular porn because the incest storylines are so unobtrusive; I don’t know whether that is really the case for vanilla incest porn (christ, that’s a weird phrase to type) but it certainly isn’t for this stuff, as that aspect of the scenario are pretty front-and-center.

      But it’s still a niche thing within the niche thing of femdom.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m comfortable with blaming anime as the thin end of the wedge here.

      • lvlln says:

        This is definitely a thread I’m curious about. Incest, specifically big brother-little sister, was a semi-common trope in anime at least as far back as the 90s, and I perceived it as steadily increasing in popularity throughout the 00s, exploding in the 10s. My very avatar on this site is fanart of the protagonist of an anime porn game from the early 00s where romancing your little (step-)sister is a story choice. I always thought that the prevalence (relatively speaking – it’s not like they’re that common even in anime) of incest in anime was just random dumb luck and/or had to do with idiosyncracies of Japanese culture, but the recent alleged explosion of incest porn in the mainstream has me wondering if there’s something deeper there.

        One thing that occurs to me is that the anime works that tend to feature incest also tend to be “late-night” anime, which air past midnight and are specifically targeted at adults, and which I perceive as being rather trashy and primarily based on wish fulfillment (I mean this in the best way possible as someone who is generally a fan of this subsection of anime). Of course, porn is also primarily about wish fulfillment. So maybe there’s something late-night anime was channeling with its use of incest for wish fulfillment fantasies that was always there but was effectively suppressed by the many tools we have for discouraging people away from exploring this specific fantasies. And porn is catching up to this now, thanks to the continuing growth of the internet allowing people to encounter more things that they discover that they’re into and also to communicate and coordinate with other people who have discovered that they have this kink.

        I really hope that this topic is of enough interest to future scientists to do more research on, because it’s legitimately fascinating to me. Maybe it will turn out to be just a random fad, like the comings and goings of hula hoops and 80s hair styles.

        • AG says:

          Increased atomization and social alienation might be an explanation here, then.
          The appeal of the imouto trope is the childhood friend trope on steroids: someone who’s been with you their entire lives, has seen you at your worst, won’t leave you because you’re behaving badly, has to live in close quarters with you. It’s a low-effort relationship in a world when it’s harder than ever to make relationships happen.

          • Nick says:

            With the Japan case I thought maybe it was evidence for LMC’s hypothesis (Japan has had famously low birthrates for a while now, has it not?). But this is a really interesting idea, too.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I blame an extreme case of sturgeon’s law: if 90% of everything is trash, in porn’s case, 99,9% of everything is garbage. Nobody watch porn for the story, for the photography or the camera work, but rather suffer them for the sake of the “old in-out in-out”.

      Which means, in turns, that if someone produces porn with a less-aweful lighting, with actors that don’t seems dead inside or picked on the outside of a decrepit motel, people will watch them, because it’s less terrible.

      The label on the video, or the 2 lines of dialogues before we get at the meat of the matter at hand, don’t really matter, and get ignored/forgotten . What matters is that I know that these sick fucks who produce “something-something in-law” make (barely) better stuff than the competition. It’s just that it happened to be them.

    • Incurian says:

      Power dynamics. It’s the same with “casting” and “blackmail” stuff which seems to have become more popular recently.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Power dynamic thing is / was one thing in casting, especially in some productions, but I would wager a narrative analysis that there are several other elements at play:

        The old pre-internet era porn is infamous about its unbelievably non-sensical storylines about pizza delivery and such; casting genre comes with a storyline about making a porn flick, which at least has remarkable amount of coherence with on what happens on the screen, and there is even a ring of a reality show (how many a PornHub user knows anything about how the porn productions really work, unlike pizza deliveries, so suspension of disbelief is dramatically easier). At the same time, the narrative provides a justification for the presence of not-crappy camera and lightning and yet a model who is supposed to be an amateur.

    • aphyer says:

      I have no evidence of this, but an obvious hypothesis: the pool of people with access to online pornography has changed. Over the last few decades several groups of people have become more likely to have such access:

      1. Teenagers
      2. Old people
      3. Low-income people
      4. People not in First World countries

      If one or more of these groups is more likely to watch a certain kind of pornography, that kind of pornography will have become more popular online.

      (Speculation as to levels of pornography consumption and type of pornography preferred for each of these groups is left as an exercise to the reader).

    • mustacheion says:

      Here is my theory: incest fantasies are gaining popularity because dating is so damn hard. Of course, the rise of internet dating sites has made certain types of dating much easier, like casual hookups. But if you are going for substance, internet dating is, at least in my opinion, extremely difficult. It is so difficult to communicate who you are through your profile, and it is so difficult to glean meaningful information from other people’s profile. But most importantly, it is very easy to lie about who you are on your profile. Thus it is very difficult to trust whoever you meet on the internet. And this trend is amplified further by much broader modern cultural shifts that reduce societal trust even more. So it is very difficult to really feel comfortable that you know who you are with early in the dating process.

      And I would also say that culture is shifting toward making the choice of romantic partner more specific, and thus difficult. In olden times, marriage was more an economic and labor management relationship. Both of these traits are fairly legible, and so I feel like it must have been easier to choose a partner. But modern people are much more selective about their partners, have much higher (often unattainably high) standards, and are looking for different kinds of things; modern people want their partner to be their best friend, not just their breadwinner or maid. And so the process of dating in modern times is more difficult.

      So the appeal of incest, then, is that you can just skip this whole dating shenanigan and start a relationship with somebody that you know really, really well. Somebody who you can trust. And more importantly, somebody who knows the real you really really well. They know all your flaws, and yet they still want to be with you. That is a pretty powerful thing in a world where most people go to such great lengths to hide their true selves behind social status raising false personas.

      Not that I am in any way endorsing incest. It goes without saying that it is an extremely dangerous and manipulative way to destroy your most important interpersonal relationships. But I can see the fantasy appeal.

    • WashedOut says:

      Wasn’t the upsurge in incest-porn just the next taboo that had to fall in order to keep people running on the titillation treadmill? Given the basic mechanism of people needing progressively hotter, weirder, nastier stuff in order to keep their sexual interests piqued, seems totally straightforward that this would be the next thing.

      Mother fantasies will probably be next, taking the momentum from both milf and incest genres.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Is there a similar trend in gay porn?

  16. ana53294 says:

    My mom had a low blood pressure all her life, and she was fine. Now her blood pressure occasionally goes up, to what is considered a clinically “normal” blood pressure (something like 80/120), and she feels terrible with it. She’s tried our GP, and several private GPs, but none of them are willing to give her blood pressure lowering medication, and she doesn’t have the money or desire to doctor shop that much, unless she can be reasonably sure that a doctor will listen to her. So far, all the doctors she’s seen show very in-the-box thinking.

    My mom lives in Spain. Is there any way to get her blood pressure lowering medicine? I’ve heard that you can buy pretty much any medicine online in the EU without prescription, as long as it’s over the counter somewhere. Are blood pressure lowering drugs OTC somewhere?

  17. sty_silver says:

    Is there anyone alive today who has done (as in actually achieved) more to combat climate change than Elon Musk? There were a couple of times where I’ve been tempted to give him that title, but I’m not sure it’s really deserved.

    • cassander says:

      The fun answer, Charles Koch.

      You can probably find someone someone more important in its history to pick, but fracking is a huge part of why US CO2 emissions are declining. Musk has made 1/5 of 1% of the cars in the US, and his cars would ultimately be largely powered by coal power plants were it not for frackers.

      • Eric Rall says:

        In a similar vein: Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer, Walter Zinn, and Hyman Rickover. A little under 20% of US electricity generation is nuclear.

        In the long run, Musk has a nontrivial chance of overtaking them, and more because of SpaceX than Tesla. If BFR/Starship winds up working close to as well as advertised, the economics of orbital solar power become a lot more favorable.

        • Ttar says:

          Really? My impression of SBSP is that the most intractable problems it has aren’t the launch costs, but rather more mundane ones like maintenance, transmission, receiver facilities, space junk, etc

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power

          • Eric Rall says:

            From your link:

            The large cost of launching a satellite into space. For 6.5 kg/kW, the cost to place a power satellite in GEO cannot exceed $200/kg if the power cost is to be competitive.

            That’s been a really big stumbling block, given that launch prices to LEO have conventionally run in the $10k/kg range, while prices to GEO (or even GTO) run several times higher.

            Maintenance is a much, much easier problem with cheaper launch costs. So is space debris, since debris is concentrated in LEO and cheaper launches make higher orbits more affordable. There are still substantial engineering challenges in transmission and receiver facilities, but I haven’t heard anything that make those sound more prohibitive if the launch cost problem were solved.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            So is space debris, since debris is concentrated in LEO and cheaper launches make higher orbits more affordable.

            And start filling them with debris? 🙂

          • Eric Rall says:

            And start filling them with debris? 🙂

            Good point. Although there’s two mitigating factors: 1) a bigger menu of practical orbits spreads out debris over more space, and 2) higher orbits are bigger and slower, so it takes more debris per orbit to present the same risk of collision. And one bit aggravating factor, that higher orbits aren’t self-cleaning the way LEO is (orbital decay drags LEO debris into the atmosphere over a period of years or decades, while higher orbit debris just decays into slightly-lower orbits).

          • John Schilling says:

            The large cost of launching a satellite into space. For 6.5 kg/kW, the cost to place a power satellite in GEO cannot exceed $200/kg if the power cost is to be competitive.

            That’s been a really big stumbling block, given that launch prices to LEO have conventionally run in the $10k/kg range

            Right, but LEO is way out in the middle of nowhere; why would anyone building a solar power satellite worry about the cost of shipping stuff there? The shipping route that matters is the one that runs from Luna to LLO to L5 to GEO, a nice easy 4.2 km/s and never more than 1.9 km/s in a single leg, not that ridiculous 9+ km/s all in one go climb into LEO. And 4.2 km/s broken up into convenient legs, if you can’t manage that for $200/kg you’re not really trying.

            LEO launch costs aren’t completely irrelevant, because you’ll have to ship the equipment you need to boostrap transport, mining, and manufacturing infrastructure in cislunar space through there. But it has been understood from the earliest days that solar power satellites are truly extraterrestrial things, to be made beyond the Earth from resources form beyond the Earth. Probably you’ll build a few proof-of-concept prototypes or very specialized niche systems via direct launch from Earth, but those don’t have to be economically competitive in the bulk power market.

            The obstacle isn’t so much launch costs, as economies of scale. It’s not worth doing, unless you’re pretty sure you’re going to do enough of it to justify all that up-front infrastructure cost.

        • Ketil says:

          the economics of orbital solar power become a lot more favorable.

          I have serious doubts about this. Solar is already a dubious way to address climate change, with high energy demands upfront for manufacture of PV (in addition to other pollution). We can argue the details, but I think solar so far has caused more emissions than it has saved, and that this will be true for a long time if solar is going to produce any substantial fraction of electricity.

          What is the energy ROI when you add launch costs (rockets count as fossil, right?) and maintenance/infrastructure? What is the economics of this?

          • Nornagest says:

            rockets count as fossil, right?

            Sort of, depending on the fuel. SpaceX’s current rockets use RP-1 (kerosene); their upcoming rockets will use liquid methane. Both of these are basically fossil fuels. But hydrogen, like the Space Shuttle main engines used, reacts to water, not to carbon dioxide (indeed there’s no carbon involved at all). It’s typically produced by cracking the hydrogen out of natural gas, with carbon monoxide (not itself a greenhouse gas, but oxidizes to CO2) as a byproduct, but it doesn’t have to be.

            Solid propellants, as well as storable liquid propellants, come in all shapes and sizes and may or may not produce carbon emissions. But they’re rarely used for the main engines of commercial space launchers, either because they’re not efficient enough or because they’re too difficult or dangerous to handle. A few hypergolic propellants do see use for the main engines of some military and Russian commercial rockets, though.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          “In a similar vein” is underselling your point a lot, or at least would be if any of those people were still alive. It seems very clear that pioneers of nuclear power are hugely responsible for a reduction in climate change (relative to counterfactuals). 15% of the world’s electricity is nuclear and that’s been true for quite a while. Considerably less than 15% of the world’s electricity comes from fracked hydrocarbons from the US; that was even more true in the past; and the counterfactual without fracking is less different than the one without nuclear.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Who invented the water-wheel (precursor to hydroelectric dams, and itself an important source of power historically)?

      • broblawsky says:

        US CO2 emissions might be declining, but fracking puts a lot of methane in the atmosphere. We still don’t know how much, because it isn’t well tracked, but it wouldn’t surprise me if fracking wasn’t responsible for a net increase in warming.

      • sty_silver says:

        You really can’t just count the number of cars though. He’s a big figure and Tesla is setting an example. I don’t know how large the cumulative effects of Tesla will ultimately be, but I’m pretty sure they’re substantial.

        Interesting answer, anyway.

    • MissingNo says:

      What has he done to combat climate change?

      This feels like giving someone credit for the work of a massive system. Its like praising the president for “changing” the economy, when ze is just a minor force in it.

      It looks like his company has some solar powered stuff in it. But so do multiple companies.

      • sty_silver says:

        Accelerating the transition towards EVs (which afaik produce less co2 than gasoline cars even if the electricity comes 100% from fossil fuel, which it doesn’t). I think the effect is much greater than just the direct impact of the cars Tesla has sold (although those are good, too). Musk has also said explicitly that this is why he founded Tesla.

        And I don’t know much about the SpaceX side of things, I was just thinking of Tesla.

        • Plumber says:

          @sty_silver,
          This was about ten years ago but I distinctly remember reading that while an all-electric car that charged up from “the grid” emitted less Co2 per mile when the power plant producing the electricity used natural gas, if the electricity came from a coal-burning power plant instead a high mpg gasoline car would emit less Co2 per mile.

          • sty_silver says:

            So I had this Wait-but-why post in mind which I think my brain marked as trustworthy. There’s some explicit discussion about CO2 comparison. CRTL-F to “The Union of Concerned Scientists” for the most relevant part.

    • Ketil says:

      If somebody convinces Merkel to stop decomissioning the remaining nuclear reactors, that’s 85TWh of essentially free green energy, equivalent to an investment of $50-100 billion in climate friendly energy. On the downside, the obvious benefits to the German economy would probably mean increased growth and associated GHG emissions.

    • teneditica says:

      I’m not sure whether there’s a single person, but it could be a politician who protected nuclear energy, or an investor or scientist who advanced it.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The Guardian is now criticizing New Agers because Lemurian crystals come from poor laborers in Madagascar.

    • Viliam says:

      I guess Guardian still remains the old left.

      The new left would instead be outraged about appropriating Lemurian culture. Or lemur culture. Or not enough trans people working in the crystal mines…

  19. Dgalaxy43 says:

    What do you all make of those UFO- I’m sorry, UAP videos the navy just confirmed were real? Obviously saying it’s definitely aliens is jumping the gun, but considering everything we know, for once it feels okay to say it might be aliens. The probability of aliens to not aliens is great enough that it is worth it to look into the idea, in my opinion. I could be wrong though. What do you think?

    • Nornagest says:

      There was some discussion of this in the 6/19 links post. Has anything important happened since then?

      • Aftagley says:

        New videos came out, including some new F-18 cockpit senors that appeared to show a contact. Nothing so far is conclusive enough to dissuade me from my current belief of “sensor error.”

      • Dgalaxy43 says:

        Apologies, I’m kinda new. But yes. In particular, the Navy spokesperson confirmed that some specific UFO videos from about a year ago are real. Along with that, he confirmed that the US Military has absolutely no idea what they are, and claimed they changed the procedures because since 2014 there have been more sightings, multiple a month even, and they want to learn what they are. There are articles that say it better than me, sorry. Not sure what a good source for the news would be.

        • Dgalaxy43 says:

          I should really be more sparing in my use of “confirmed”. It’s always good to have a healthy dose of skepticism. The theory that these “confirmations” are themselves lies could be true as well. Whatever it is though, we’re being told nobody knows what they are. Very interesting stuff.

    • tossrock says:

      Tine to repeat my pet theory: they’re not aliens, and they didn’t come here to visit us, but they might still have an ultimately extrasolar origin – as Von Neumann probes that have been present in our solar system for eons, and are becoming more active now that there appears to be a technological civilization on the planet. This solves the problem of fast interstellar travel just to visit us / rather small volume our radio broadcasts have reached (because they were already here), and the lack of observed probes/Fermi paradox in one neat package. Still low probability, of course, but fun speculation.

    • Protagoras says:

      Like gods and ghosts, I tend to see aliens as a symptom of the human tendency to jump to agency as an explanation for everything. On closer examination, it’s almost never agency, and the few exceptions are cases where it’s human agency from unsuspected humans. I haven’t heard anything about this case which comes close to overcoming that prior; I won’t say it’s definitely sensor error, though some experts on military stuff have suggested that’s likely, but if it’s not that, it is some other misunderstanding, or (considerably less likely) something previously unknown but not agenty.

      • John Schilling says:

        This. And note that the Navy is being carefully and correctly precise in their terminology: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. What the Navy has direct evidence of is photons. Strictly, only the photons between the flat-panel display and the observer’s eyeball. In a case like this, every link in the chain of inference to “and thus a material object is flying through the air several miles away” is suspect. Start with what you know, and work back one step at a time.

        • Corey says:

          Good catch, it’s more precise than UFO because, though we could not identify it, there may or may not have been a flying object.

          • Garrett says:

            And even if it’s real, “flying object” might not be the best term. Consider ball lightning. Does that qualify as as flying? Does it qualify as an object? And that’s before you get into wacky sensor glitches, etc.

  20. Aftagley says:

    Anyone want to register any predictions about this whole Whistleblower thing that’s currently matriculating in the press? It looks like it will be this week/month’s go-to anti-Trump story.

    Here are mine
    – this will be a medium deal, on the level of sharpie gate (takes up around 2 weeks of media attention, quickly forgotten thereafter). – 60% confidence
    – Full details of the situation will eventually leak out – 75% confidence
    – It involves Russia in some way – 30% confidence

    • broblawsky says:

      My confidence level on it involving Russia is ~50%.

    • Clutzy says:

      Just based on statistics,, I guess the underlying details of the complaint are a nothing. Less than 10% chance it’s a something.

      However that doesn’t mean it can’t be made whole cloth. The whistleblower made the complaint knowing the President could never actually release it. 90% chance of that being known to the employee.

      Full details leaking I’d put at less than 25%, as I would guess the complaint is the story, and leaking full details likely eliminates the story (like when BuzzFeed went yolo with the whole Steele dossier).

      Chance it involves Russia 51%. I assume this because its meta to make sinister insinuations about Russia, which the complainant knows.

    • Dan L says:

      My priors aren’t well-enough defined here to register predictions, but far and away the most noteworthy element is the disagreement between the ICIG and the aDNI. The former’s most recent letter to the SCI is here (PDF) – I highly recommend anyone interested in the matter reads it, less than three pages of text for a decent overview of the issue. Additionally: both men are Trump appointees and the nature of the disagreement implies this isn’t an issue of policy. aDNI claims to be acting on instructions from above, and there’s not a lot of people that could refer to.

      • Matthew S. says:

        I believe the DNI is technically a cabinet-level position, so strictly speaking Barr is giving him orders laterally, not from above.

        • Dan L says:

          That’s if it’s coming from Barr or elsewhere in DoJ, sure, but reporting is already pointing at the White House. I thought I saw a citation that the “higher authority” language was original to aDNI w.r.t. today’s proceedings, but attempting to find it again now seems like that might have come from Schiff.

          (I originally had another paragraph going on about how my current takeaway is that if nothing else this is demonstrating why staffing the Cabinet with acting officers is a terrible strategy long-term, but I deleted it as a digression towards the axe I have to grind.)

    • BBA says:

      It’ll be a big deal for a few weeks, then we’ll find out Richard Armitage was the leaker and everyone will quickly forget it ever happened.

    • Matthew S. says:

      If “big deal” means there is substantively something everyone should be troubled about there, then 85%. If “big deal” means “will actually stick, unlike all the other things that should already have ended this presidency,” then maybe 20% at most.

      Everything comes out – 80%

      Changing the framework a bit, I would put the probability that a given country is involved at – Russia – 70%; Saudi Arabia – 25%; all others – 5%

    • J Mann says:

      The funny part is, as I understand it:

      1) Biden has openly bragged that while he was VP, he threatened Ukraine that unless they fired Ukranian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, he would cancel $1 billion in foreign aid.

      I said, “You’re not getting the billion” I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: “I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money”

      “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time…”

      The wrinkle is that at that time, the company that Hunter Biden was a board member of, Burisma Holdings, was under investigation by Shokin’s office. Ukraine has since said that although Biden did threaten them with cancelling $1 billion in foreign aid, and although the ultimately decided not to prosecute his son’s company, those events are unrelated.

      2) Back in May, the NYT reported that Rudy Giuliani was lobbying Ukraine on Trump’s behalf to take a closer look at the connection between the Bidens and the Burisma decision.

      3) From what I understand, it’s widely believed that the “whistleblower allegation” is that while on a phone call with a Ukranian official, President Trump pressed Ukraine to look into this issue, and may or may not have made some kind of Biden-esque threat or offer.

      If true, it’s going to be a mess, because Trump is pushing for an investigation of some conduct that looks very similar to the conduct he’s accused of.

      The anti-Trump folks are going to have to explain why it’s OK for Biden to make a quid pro quo offer to Ukraine (fire your general prosecutor, and I’ll let you have $1 billion), but not OK for Trump to make an alleged quid pro quo offer to investigate the first offer.

      One obvious decision is that the State Department was apparently in support of the first one and not the second, but it’s not ultimately the State Department who determines foreign policy, it’s the President.

      • sharper13 says:

        Decent summary of the facts, but you’re missing one, probably because it’s been conveniently missing from the stories in certain papers:

        One obvious decision is that the State Department was apparently in support of the first one and not the second, but it’s not ultimately the State Department who determines foreign policy, it’s the President.

        From thehill.com (Also elsewhere):

        Giuliani’s contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department.

        Giuliani didn’t initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him.

        Then, Giuliani met in early August with Yermak on neutral ground — in Spain — before reporting back to State everything that occurred at the meeting.

        That debriefing occurred Aug. 11 by phone with two senior U.S. diplomats, one with responsibility for Ukraine and the other with responsibility for the European Union, according to electronic communications records I reviewed and interviews I conducted.

        When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.

  21. proyas says:

    As a flooring material, does linoleum hold any advantages over vinyl?

    • Well... says:

      It’s cheaper, I think? And AFAIK linoleum can be rolled out in giant sheets whereas vinyl tiles are, well, tiles, and need to be installed individually and then grouted.

    • Zephalinda says:

      My understanding is that vinyl is made flexible with plasticizers and offgasses them over time. This smells unpleasant at first, is bad for indoor air quality (to what degree, I dunno– there was certainly a fair amount of hysteria about it a few years back) and means that it will eventually shrink, curl and crack. (There have been various attempts to create branded-less-toxic versions by substituting newer plasticizers that have less of a body of evidence demonstrating health issues. I have not looked into it, but my expectation based on priors is that these will turn out to be just as bad for you as the first-gen ones were.) Vinyl is also generally colored at the surface, so once it’s stained or scratched, there’s no way to repair without removing the pattern.

      Linoleum is made with natural materials, seems to be more durable and lower-VOC (at least, it’s billed that way). It’s also patterned all the way through, so you can sand down without losing the pattern if anything ugly happens to the surface of it.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      means that it will eventually shrink, curl and crack

      Decades ago, when cleaning something off the floor (near an edge) my mother got a huge linoleum splinter through her hand.

      I don’t know if vinyl splinters the same, and if so whether the splinters are as bad.

  22. Atlas says:

    There’s been some discussion, I think including a thread here in a previous OT, about the apparent discrediting of a neuroscience study cited to illustrate the reasons for disbelief in free will. However, there’s another area of scientific inquiry that seems to me to better demonstrate the reasons for skepticism about free will and seems to be on pretty solid, replicable ground: behavioral genetics. (At least, what I understand about it from e.g. Professor Robert Plomin’s book Blueprint.)

    Professor Steven Pinker writes in The Blank Slate:

    Identical twins think and feel in such similar ways that they sometimes suspect they are linked by telepathy. When separated at birth and reunited as adults, they say they feel they have known each other all their lives. Testing confirms that identical twins, whether separated at birth or not, are eerily alike (though far from identical) in just about any trait one can measure. They are similar in verbal, mathematical, and general intelligence, in their degree of life satisfaction, and in personality traits such as introversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. They have similar attitudes toward controversial issues such as the death penalty, religion, and modern music. They resemble each other not just in paper-and-pencil tests but in consequential behavior such as gambling, divorcing, committing crimes, getting into accidents, and watching television. And they boast dozens of shared idiosyncrasies such as giggling incessantly, giving interminable answers to simple questions, dipping buttered toast in coffee, and—in the case of Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers—writing indistinguishable syndicated advice columns. The crags and valleys of their electroencephalograms (brainwaves) are as alike as those of a single person recorded on two occasions, and the wrinkles of their brains and distribution of gray matter across cortical areas are also similar.

    Suppose you had not merely 1 identical twin, but 10,000 genetic clones of yourself raised in fairly similar circumstances. It seems—and I’m happy to consider the possibility that either the research of my understanding of it is wrong—that they’d be very similar to you in lots of consequential ways, and would make fairly similar choices. How, if at all, does this impact your thoughts/intuitions about free will?

    For me, at least, it provides some very serious grounds to doubt the validity of free will, at least as I understand people like Stefan Molyneux to use the term. I’m very glad that I’ve never felt the slightest desire to inject heroin or smoke nicotine cigarettes, but it would be very hard for me to describe that as a profoundly “free willed” choice if genetically identical clones of me would have made the same choice. Conversely, it would be hard for me to look at the problem of, say, violent crime as somehow fundamentally different from the problems of reducing the harm caused by natural disasters, predatory/pest animals, poorly programmed computers and the like if I knew that genetically identical clones of violent criminals would also be highly likely to commit violent crimes.

    (Note: I’m in a bit of hurry and so won’t try to fully explicate this, but at least as I understand it the case against free will made by people like Galen Strawson and Sam Harris isn’t that free will is an empirically testable proposition that has shown to be false, but rather something that is an a priori contradiction. Thus I think that, from their point of view, evidence from the natural sciences illustrates, rather than proves, their arguments.)

    • Randy M says:

      You know what keeps me up at night?
      Right, the mosquitoes.
      But other than that, it’s neuroscience case studies, like the infamous Phineas Gage and others I’ve read but don’t recall at the moment (feel free to recount you favorite here) that demonstrate how changes to the structure of the brain can lead to changes in, not just perception, but cognition, desire, goals, and of course emotions.
      Like, we’re going to hold people accountable for their behavior when a bump on the head will alter the fundamental tendencies they have? We’re lucky people can function at all!
      Legally, of course, we need to continue to provide disincentives for unwanted behavior. But morality? Eternal judgement? God had better be omniscient enough to take this nonsense into consideration, or it’s all a farce.

      Sorry, that turned into a rant. Hopefully an entertaining, CW free rant.

      • rahien.din says:

        We can respond to a person as a locus of action, even if those actions are not considered the action of their free will.

        Drunk drivers, for example. No one would say “He was drunk therefore he is not responsible for his actions.” In fact, many would feel that such a person is more culpable.

        • Randy M says:

          And we must!

          But the worry isn’t that I’m not responsible for my actions when drunk.
          The worry is that there is no I.

          • quanta413 says:

            There isn’t! Embrace the indivisibility of nature.

          • rahien.din says:

            Certainly there is a you!

            Think about all the things that make you you – your preferences, your unconscious reactions, your bright lines, all the things you find compelling. For instance, let’s say, arguendo, that you hate pistachio ice cream, and therefore never eat it. If your will was more “free,” then sometimes you would. But this freeing of your will would be at the expense of a small thing that makes you you. Likewise with everything else. Every characteristic of your person or psyche is a restriction of your free will.

            Moreover, even the smallest decision is a restriction of free will. You’re rejecting some other course(s) of action, and thus your will becomes less free. And that’s good. When we examine the most important moments of our lives, the claim “I could have done otherwise” is a rejection of meaning and agency. It’s also just plan false. Could you really have done otherwise as you proposed to your future spouse?

            Agency is just being a locus of action, and personality is just having reasons that restrict or compel your actions. “Freedom” of will is not necessary for agency or personality, and might not even be desirable.

          • mendax says:

            @rahien.din

            Moreover, even the smallest decision is a restriction of free will. You’re rejecting some other course(s) of action, and thus your will becomes less free.

            Are there not some actions that might result in more actions becoming possible?

            And that’s good.

            I don’t follow. Is it because, as you define personality, it gives you more personality?

            the claim “I could have done otherwise” is a rejection of meaning and agency.

            How so? By your definition of agency, “being a locus of action”, if one could have done otherwise how is one less of a locus of action?

            As for “meaningful”, when I hear people talk about “meaningful choices”, they’re usually talking about situations where they found it difficult to decide between options worth taking. Seldom have I heard: “I couldn’t do anything else, it was a very meaningful choice.”
            Is it because it is a stronger expression of one’s personality, as you define it?

          • FLWAB says:

            Moreover, even the smallest decision is a restriction of free will…“I could have done otherwise” is a rejection of meaning and agency. It’s also just plan false.

            If you couldn’t have done otherwise then you didn’t make a decision. If free will doesn’t exist than choices and decisions are nonsense words describing illusions. You can’t reject free will and then go around talking about decisions as if the word still meant something.

          • rahien.din says:

            @mendax, @FLWAB,

            if one could have done otherwise how is one less of a locus of action?

            The degree to which I could have done otherwise is exactly the degree to which my decision was arbitrary.

            When I hear people talk about “meaningful choices”, they’re usually talking about situations where they found it difficult to decide between options worth taking

            When decisions are difficult, we resolve them by discovering reasons. Reasons are just restrictions on free will.

            If you couldn’t have done otherwise then you didn’t make a decision.

            False. If you have made a decision, then you are doing only one action. If you rejected other potential actions, some reason compelled you to so reject them. Thus, the action you are doing is the only action you actually could have done.

            If you are still in the state of “could have done otherwise,” that’s the state in which you haven’t made a decision yet.

            Seldom have I heard: “I couldn’t do anything else, it was a very meaningful choice.”

            Seems that you have had unusual experiences. We hear all the time from people who perform selfless, heroic, or visionary actions : something came over them that compelled them to action and left no room for choice.

            Or here’s one : I didn’t choose or decide to fall in love with my spouse. I had absolutely no control over that, and it is the most meaningful thing that ever happened to me.

            You can’t reject free will and then go around talking about decisions as if the word still meant something.

            Of course it means something. It identifies a locus of action and the reasons driving action.

          • FLWAB says:

            False. If you have made a decision, then you are doing only one action. If you rejected other potential actions, some reason compelled you to so reject them. Thus, the action you are doing is the only action you actually could have done.

            C does not follow from A and B. Yes, if you make a decision then you are only doing one action. But you also only do once action if you are not actively making a decision. A decision is a choice between more than one course of action. If free will does not exist then there was never a choice to make: a decision is just an illusion, a hallucination experienced while waiting for the neurons to reach an end state they were always going to reach. In other words, if you could not have chosen differently than it wasn’t a decision, in a similar way that we would say a man who is thrown bodily into a car did not decide to enter the vehicle.

          • rahien.din says:

            @FLWAB,

            A decision is the same thing, whatever system of agency or will that you believe.

            Before the decision, there are multiple potential actions. To decide – to be in the deciding phase – is to gather the reasons to allow you to reject potential actions. A decision point occurs when accumulated reasons allow for the rejection of a potential action. Eventually, all actions are rejected except for one (which itself may be, “take no action”) and this is your ultimate decision.

            The phrase “could have done otherwise” applies only to that deciding phase, wherein there are multiple potential courses of action and you are gathering reasons. In this phase, there remains uncertainty about what action will be taken. The phrase applies even if the process of deciding is dependent upon neuronal mechanisms. Even though the brain’s mechanisms are deterministic, and even though it is inevitable that a decision point will be reached via those mechanisms, the content of that decision is not determined prior to the decision. After all, the content of the decision stems from reasons, which must be gathered – and that gathering of reasons is itself an action. That action is simply occurring via the operations of the brain.

            The phrase “could have done otherwise” no longer applies once a decision has been made. If a decision has been made, then all courses of action except for one have been rejected. Meaning, they have been categorized as “actions not able to be taken.” So, the act or process of deciding is synonymous with “finding the single action that can be taken.” This is true even if we have the type of free will that you espouse. It makes no sense to say “I could have done otherwise.” One can only say “But for the reasons that determined my action, I could have done otherwise.”

            This is true even if one outsources the decision, for instance to the random chance of a coin flip. “Outsource the larger decision” is itself the single action that was taken.

            Probably, the feeling or perception of choice is a reliable guide that some deciding phase has concluded. It is not clear, however, that the feeling is precise or accurate about which decision has been made at what time. If part of your mind decides it wants to kiss your spouse, but hasn’t decided when to kiss them, you may not perceive that desire until the timing decision has been made. You may perceive the timing decision and the kiss-them decision simultaneously as “I want to kiss my spouse” even though important parts of the decision occurred subconsciously.

          • FLWAB says:

            @rahien.din

            The phrase “could have done otherwise” applies only to that deciding phase, wherein there are multiple potential courses of action and you are gathering reasons…Even though the brain’s mechanisms are deterministic, and even though it is inevitable that a decision point will be reached via those mechanisms, the content of that decision is not determined prior to the decision.

            That doesn’t seem to follow. If the brain’s mechanisms are deterministic, and if the “decision” will be reached via those mechanisms, then there was never “multiple potential courses of action.” There was only one possible course of action. When you knock over a line of dominoes there are not multiple potential courses they could take: there is only one, determined by the laws of physics. If you had enough information about the composition of the row of dominoes and the amount of force applied on the first one then you could predict exactly where all the dominoes will fall. Similarly, if the mechanisms of the brain are deterministic than anyone with enough information the total system could predict your every action. There was never multiple possible courses of action you could take, just one. It’s logically incoherent to say that a system is both deterministic and that multiple potential outcomes are possible. A clock is a deterministic system: when one hear moves forward a tick, all the other gears must move as well. There are not multiple potential movements they could make, but just one.

            So if we are to preserve choice and decisions as concepts we have to either decide that somehow the mind is not deterministic, nor can it be reduced to deterministic mechanisms, or that the our conception of deterministic causality is itself flawed.

          • rahien.din says:

            @FLWAB,

            Again : even if we have the type of free will that you espouse, it makes no sense to say “I could have done otherwise.” One can only say “But for the reasons that determined my action, I could have done otherwise.”

          • HowardHolmes says:

            If I may interject, imagine the issue of whether or not you will get out of bed. It seems that you can remain or get up, but if that is the case how is it possible that you already know (before going to bed the night before) what the choice will be? You know the reasons that will be pulling you to stay in bed, and the reasons that will be pulling you to get up and you know which will win out. Of course, something might happen during the night such as you suddenly become violently sick, but that merely changes what choice is made by adding more reasons to stay it bed. Getting sick does not increase your freedom, but it might change the choice.

            Not only can you pretty much always exactly predict your behavior, but so can those who know you well. If you are married your wife can accurately predict whether you will get up. In fact, I hardly know anything about you, but if you tell me you are feeling fine and that tomorrow is a workday, I can predict your action with accuracy as well. This is only possible because your actions are determined by reasons, controlled by these reasons, not free.

            It is these reasons that are forcing you to make the choice you think you freely make. Without these reasons, no choice would be made because there is no way to decide.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Must we? As an utilitarian point, yes – we have to precommit to punishing drunk drivers. But a person might chose to drink, not wanting to drive after – and then drink enough that he will change himself to somebody that can’t make this decision. That’s actually one example in which we have a society approved way of lowering free will (drinking) to the point where we make very anti-social decisions.

          So alas, yes, we must. It saves many more lives than it ruins.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s pretty much what “social lubricant” means. It helps you get over your inhibitions. Which–basically we have levels of will, fighting against each other.

            I want to make friends.
            But I’ll probably say something stupid and don’t want to embarrass myself so I won’t say anything.
            Let’s just drink try to drink away the fear of stupidity and see what happens.
            Whoops, we also drank away the fear of drinking away the fear of smashing our car into pedestrians.

          • Aftagley says:

            I consider it more of a Jekyll and Hyde type scenario:

            We’re punishing Hyde for the crime of being drunk and diving a car and we’re punishing Jekyll from the crime of unleashing Hyde upon society.

            In this case, Jekyll can’t be innocent; his crime will always be giving Hyde free reign.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Yeah, but that’s the thing: letting Hyde out is socially acceptable. Getting drunk is at most slightly frowned upon if that, in many contexts.

            Of course, Jekyll has an influence on Hyde. If you know that you have a tendency to drive when you drink, you can set bright lines on your behavior that can vary from “no driving the same day alcohol has touched my lips” to “no drinking with a car nearby”. So yes, from an utilitarian and game theory PoV we have to punish, and very severely, because some influence is a lot better than none. But from a justice PoV things are more nuanced.

          • Aftagley says:

            I sort of disagree. Other people drank and nothing bad happened. This person drank and out came Hyde who proceeded to drive drunk.

            I’m saying that I don’t see a problem with a justice system that says “Regardless of who you are now, there is a person inside you who drove drunk. We want to punish that person, and we are OK that the only way to do so involves ALSO punishing you.”

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Oh, I meant “justice” in an abstract sense. In practice, smash the offender to bits. It’s a necessary sacrifice.

            Or you also think that in an abstract sense he’s always equally deserving of his punishment? If he’s a first time offender he could have done absolutely everything by the rules, gotten drunk in perfectly socially acceptable ways and realize his mistake only too late.

            The “Hyde” you say we need to punish suffers exactly the kind of insanity that law takes notice of: drunk him couldn’t distinguish right from wrong. If you want to punish Hyde specifically… legally you can at most send him to rehab. Jekyill has to take all the blame – and not because he’s the guilty one, but because we need to precommit to punish the Jeckylls.

          • rahien.din says:

            It’s worth acknowledging that Dr. Jekyll is not normal. He’s taking some very unusual and reckless actions that are the proximate cause of Hyde’s rampages. Punishing Jekyll is about making him hew more towards normalcy.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Nonono. Potentially, Jekyll is you and me. Sober, you have no idea there’s a Hyde in there.

            How would you tell there is a Hyde lurking without getting him out? The actions of Jekyll are not (always) reckless – potentially, he can just drink a few beer socially.

            There are plenty of things one can do once one gets to know him/herself better. But at 21-25 you can’t really know yourself that well. You know drinking itself is ok, you know not to drive drunk… so you drink, and you kill a family of 5.

          • rahien.din says:

            @Radu

            Oh of course. Furthermore, regardless of the past, one couldn’t know if they are ever harboring a Hyde even on any specific night.

            (I wrote half of what I thought – my fault.)

            We could think of Jekyll and Hyde not as states, but as components of a system. For instance, we could say that within a society, Hyde is all the recurrent instances of drunk driving, and Jekyll is all the instances of sober driving. We could then think about how to disconnect those components by acting upon society as a whole, rather than saying “We have to precommit to punishing innocent Jekyll.”

            The individual, similarly, is a “society” of component drives and behaviors. It seems like we could approach law/justice/punishment vis a vis the individual with the same goal of disconnecting components.

      • GearRatio says:

        I’m not sure how rhetorical your wonderings about God taking into account differing motives/circumstances is, but for what it’s worth it’s been thought about. I think it’s in Mere Christianity that CS Lewis muses on the idea that a street thug surrounded by people who reward cruelty providing a small mercy or sympathy to someone is probably worth a lot more to God than someone in a situation or with people that reward virtue doing the same thing; the context changes the value of the action in the same way a poor woman’s penny is worth more than a rich man’s, because it represents a larger proportional sacrifice.

        On the lay protestant level, it’s not a foreign concept at all that different people have different struggles; some have anger problems, while some have difficulties with honesty, pride, etc. The idea of the body being it’s own entity with it’s own desires/motives/tendencies that have to be fought against is present in the literal plainly read text of the Bible.

        • Randy M says:

          True! It’s not so much me having different struggles from you that concerns me; it’s just hard to find the ‘me’ in there once we start looking closely.

          • GearRatio says:

            Yeah, I was just addressing the religious part of it from the Protestant point of view; our answer to that is “there is part of you that is a soul, it has free will, and it’s fighting with the deterministic negative tendencies of the body”. For what it’s worth my belief in the existence of a soul that’s “magic” in that sense is why I believe in free will; I wouldn’t believe in it without a pre-existing belief in the supernatural.

          • Randy M says:

            Right. And as someone who believes similarly–despite no personal experience with the supernatural–my faith is much more tested by these things than by the existence of evil or suffering.
            And yet, the subject also fascinates me. My terms papers in college were all about the cellular basis of memory; I think I wanted to understand the interplay between the mind and the material.

          • GearRatio says:

            So say I’m walking down the road tomorrow and I get bonked on the head and find I now have destructive urges I didn’t have before; for the sake of argument let’s say I now trend towards pedophilia. At the same time, my pre-existing problems with anger and aggression are much lessened. In my mental free will model, my situation is this:

            My body used to have problems with anger and aggression, and I was tasked with resisting them and being gentle anyway; now that’s not a problem, but I need to not act on destructive sexual urges. I find my situation hasn’t changed that much; I still have a choice to do good or not.

            All those bolded I’s are possible because my model of myself is based around this “magic” non-deterministic half of my duality. The actual things I struggle against might vary with my body (and have, as I’ve aged) but the important bit is the half that struggles, and in my model that struggling half is “me”.

            So the part where twins are similar to each other or a railroad spike through my head might change me are secondary, because they are happening to my circumstances(my body) and not to me(my soul). It’s basically exactly equivilent in my model to if the country went into famine – yes, I now have to make hard decisions against killing people for food, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a choice. There might be a situation where my body can’t be resisted (I.E. mind control, T.V.-style hypnosis) but that’s a situation outside of choice or my control, so it doesn’t factor in much.

            It seems like your model differs somehow from this, but I’m not sure how. Could you explain more?

          • Randy M says:

            So the part where twins are similar to each other

            Nit-pick–Personally I’m not bothered by twins or clones. I don’t need to be unique to be me, and I do suspect there’d be some variation in choices even in ethical dilemmas, remarkably identical separated twin stories not withstanding.

            It seems like your model differs somehow from this, but I’m not sure how.

            Model is being generous.
            Maybe the problem is not being able to see other people’s struggles. All I see of you is what you do–presumably what you choose to do is an indication of who you are. If you have a sudden reversal of personality, that indicates that who you are has changed, and therefore who I am can change, by something so trivial as matter.

            I dunno. Maybe it shouldn’t matter. To use phraseology likely to turn off the modal poster of this site, we are supposed to die to ourselves, aren’t we? So attempting to retain me is not the goal anyway.

      • Atlas says:

        But other than that, it’s neuroscience case studies, like the infamous Phineas Gage and others I’ve read but don’t recall at the moment (feel free to recount you favorite here) that demonstrate how changes to the structure of the brain can lead to changes in, not just perception, but cognition, desire, goals, and of course emotions.

        Yeah, that’s also a very good example. (Although Wikipedia seems to suggest that there’s some controversy about the Gage case in particular.) The effects of lobotomies might also be of interest here.

        Legally, of course, we need to continue to provide disincentives for unwanted behavior. But morality? Eternal judgement? God had better be omniscient enough to take this nonsense into consideration, or it’s all a farce.

        Sorry, that turned into a rant. Hopefully an entertaining, CW free rant.

        Indeed. At the risk of using your entertaining, non-CW rant as a jumping point for the precise opposite, I’ve never really understood why at least some lay monotheists describe God as judging their actions as if He was an external, outside observer of them. As the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the Universe, the uncaused cause, didn’t God plan and instigate all men’s choices when He created the (actual, existing) universe? In which case I don’t really understand how God can be said to “judge” men’s actions after they occur, because that would seem to imply less than absolute power or knowledge on God’s part. The Calvinist belief that, as I understand it, God predetermined who would be damned and who would be saved seems more internally consistent to me.

        • Randy M says:

          The effects of lobotomies might also be of interest here.

          Or the horrifying implications of the results of a Corpus callosotomy.

          As the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the Universe, the uncaused cause, didn’t God plan and instigate all men’s choices when He created the (actual, existing) universe?

          I do not believe a God with some bounds to his knowledge is outside of theological and biblical necessity. Even if God had that ability to know all, He could, for some ineffable reason, restrict foreknowledge of human actions in order to be surprised. Perhaps it’s not possible to feel love from beings one has precisely determined every action and thought of. Is God’s judgement fair if our actions are determined but unknown? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t make it less accurate. This is also compatible with both a Calvinist predeterminism (vis a preset causal chain) and the view that the end times are unknown and your soul is still contested, because God’s actions may be in response to events he is not anticipating.

          I don’t know how much of that is compatible with a God “outside time” or “existing in all time”, but I don’t have any instincts as to what those textual strings mean or the implications for causality.

          • Enkidum says:

            I’ve never understood the horror about corpus callostomies. Well… I suppose I do in some kind of abstract sense, but bear with me:

            The people who went through the procedure have universally, so far as I’m aware, had their lives greatly improved, most with very few side effects that manifest outside carefully-controlled laboratory conditions. So there’s nothing bad about the procedure (though my understanding is they don’t do it any longer because there are better alternatives now, I’m not sure of the details).

            So in terms of the procedure itself, there is no horror (this is unlike, say, a lobotomy).

            What’s “horrifying” is, I suppose, that it makes nonsense of folk psychology in something like the way the double-slit experiment makes nonsense of folk physics. So it’s horrifying if you believe that stuff. But as a well-educated 21st-century person, why would you want to? It’s obviously, trivially false.

            Anecdote: I met a man in the late 90’s while I was backpacking through Guatemala, who was old enough to have dodged the Vietnam draft by running to Vancouver. His head was crushed by a skid of frozen peas in his mid-30’s, which apparently drastically altered his personality (led to his marriage falling apart, among other things), and he was still intelligent and coherent enough to remember the before and after. THAT was horrifying.

          • Nick says:

            The view that God allows himself to be surprised is what’s sometimes called open theism. It gets a lot of interest today, though it was unusual historically. My impression is that, back in the time of Calvin, the real debate was between single and double predestination.

            I don’t know how much of that is compatible with a God “outside time” or “existing in all time”, but I don’t have any instincts as to what those textual strings mean or the implications for causality.

            If God is outside time—and that seems to me to be required by divine simplicity—then it doesn’t make any sense to say God did not know then and knows now, so I’d say the real question is whether being outside time is coherent at all.

          • Atlas says:

            I do not believe a God with some bounds to his knowledge is outside of theological and biblical necessity.

            What about the famous Matthew 10:29 verse about how sparrows don’t fall to the ground “without your Father?” I often hear this colloquially cited as demonstrating at least God’s omniscience.

          • Randy M says:

            @Enkidum

            The people who went through the procedure have universally, so far as I’m aware, had their lives greatly improved, most with very few side effects that manifest outside carefully-controlled laboratory conditions.

            I’m not against the procedure even if my possibly flawed understanding is correct; I don’t think it’s done lightly, and it’s probably almost always an improvement.

            But aren’t some of those side-effects things like a guy buttoning a shirt with one hand and then unbuttoning it with the other? Writing a sentence with one hand and speaking a different, perhaps contradictory thing? Or is that a misrepresentation? I’ll look myself if you don’t have something handy.

            The implications of these things (not necessarily demonstrably true, but suggested) is that there are now two personalities fighting for control of the same body–or at least imperfectly struggling to cooperate for it.

            And if you can turn one person into two persons… that has a lot of implications for the reality of personhood–in the philosophical, not legal sense–that none of me is able to grasp well.

            @Nick

            If God is outside time—and that seems to me to be required by divine simplicity—then it doesn’t make any sense to say God did not know then and knows now, so I’d say the real question is whether being outside time is coherent at all.

            Exactly. If God is outside time, then probably that means he can’t ‘wall off’ knowledge of events that we He would later come to know, because there isn’t later. But how does one posit an agency that exists outside causality? He can’t be said to observe, consider, decide, and then act–because there’s no ‘then’. Outside sequentiality you can’t converse, or learn, or plan. Only a simultaneous instantiation of all actions one would ‘ever’ do.
            It may be so, but I won’t claim to comprehend it.

            @Atlus

            What about the famous Matthew 10:29 verse about how sparrows don’t fall to the ground “without your Father?”

            Seems consistent with a God that knows everything that there is to know about what is happening now, without ‘consciously’ calculating the implications for what that must imply for a moment from now. Or that could just be poetic. But don’t take this for a well informed or fully developed –or even consistent–theology.

          • rahien.din says:

            the horrifying implications of the results of a Corpus callosotomy : there are now two personalities fighting for control of the same body–or at least imperfectly struggling to cooperate for it.

            First of all, YIKES. As a neurologist let me say that this is not how the brain works. As someone who recommends corpus callosotomies, let me say that this interpretation of a corpus callosotomy is flatly incorrect.

            An illustration : alexia without agraphia. If a patient has a stroke of the posterior cerebral artery on their dominant side, the posterior portion of the corpus callosum may be damaged. This disrupts the connection between the occipital cortex and the dominant angular gyrus. The dominant angular gyrus is heavily involved in language, both reading and writing. Because the flow of visual information into the dominant angular gyrus has been disrupted, the patient cannot read. But, because their dominant angular gyrus itself is intact, they are still able to write. So they can write words but not read them. Alexia without agraphia, however, does not split you into two persons.

            Enkidum is correct that most people who undergo a corpus callosotomy will never notice that the corpus callosum is gone. In fact, there are people who are simply born without one, and never find out.

            Second of all : You believe that the mind is not beholden to the brain. You also believe that modifying the brain will not only modify the mind, but may actually segment it into two persons? These beliefs are incompatible.

          • Randy M says:

            I appreciate the correction of an expert. But from wikipedia:

            Another complication [of Corpus callosotomy] is alien hand syndrome, in which the afflicted person’s hand appears to take on a mind of its own.

            The afflicted person may sometimes reach for objects and manipulate them without wanting to do so, even to the point of having to use the controllable hand to restrain the alien hand

            Perhaps I heard this explained in the past in a more sensationalist way, or added the horror gloss myself, but you can see where the impression comes from, right?

            You believe that the mind is not beholden to the brain. You also believe that modifying the brain will not only modify the mind, but may actually segment it into two persons? These beliefs are incompatible.

            Hence being kept up at night, attempting to reconcile. (Sometimes, mind. I usually sleep like a baby. But the expression conveys the unsettled feeling of the dissonance.)

          • rahien.din says:

            @Randy M,

            That’s fair.

            It’s genuinely a weird procedure. And people without callosums can do some rather astonishing things. My favorite is the guy who simultaneously draws a circle with one hand and a square with the other.

            Also, it is right to bring up alien hand syndrome! Which is just exactly what the name says, and can be extremely disruptive. It can appear like your hand has gained a malevolent mind of its own. We’re not sure how that syndrome works – and it can occur with other lesions or even nonlesional brain disorders. We would be remiss to gloss over this syndrome, but blessedly, it is extremely rare.

            Can I take a stab at the God-is-external-to-causality idea? I believe something like that.

            Imagine the book The Great Gatsby. Gatsby obsesses over Daisy – but why? Is it because of the various events in his life? Is it because that is the way F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote him? It is equally true to say both.

            In the same way, God is the author of all things, down to the very concepts of time, space, and matter – this is the radical nature of His ex nihilo creative act. But the entire sequence of things is created en masse and holistically, such that each thing is the real causes of its actions.

          • Enkidum says:

            If I may wax philosophical…

            I think the correct implication of the weird findings from corpus callosotomies (I legitimately have no idea how to spell that word, I could scroll down to @rahien.din’s reply but that seems like a lot of work) is something like this:

            Agency is unitary and coherent only when you’re squinting from a distance. The truth is that we are messy composites of lots of mechanisms, drives, etc. And under particularly weird circumstances (say, cutting the communication between the two halves of your cortex and showing information to one cortex only faster than REM), you can show that the single, unified self is not actually fully single or unified, and get what looks like the action of little selves competing with each other. But really it’s just that we’re not nicely unified soul atoms, and so of course under weird circumstances you might be able to show that. Hence the analogy with the double slit experiment. Yes, this poses problems for the traditional Christian (though not Biblical, so far as I’m aware) interpretation of the soul. Tough.

            Michael Gazzaniga is the go-to guy here (he became the most influential neuroscientist of his generation I think largely on the back of his work with these patients), although I think his philosophical interpretations are a little off.

          • Atlas says:

            @Randy M

            Seems consistent with a God that knows everything that there is to know about what is happening now, without ‘consciously’ calculating the implications for what that must imply for a moment from now. Or that could just be poetic. But don’t take this for a well informed or fully developed –or even consistent–theology.

            I guess I don’t totally see how that would work, because I think most people agree that actions have causes (indeed that would seem to be integral to the oft-cited cosmological argument), and if you know all there is to know about the world at one moment, it seems like you’d know all or at least a lot of what you’d need to know to predict what it would be like in the next moment (and so on). Like, humans can predict stuff like sparrows falling in advance, so presumably God would also be able to predict things based on His (infinite) knowledge? So I don’t really see how God could “blindfold” Himself into not knowing the future anymore than we could prevent ourselves from realizing that an apple we see falling from a tree will hit the ground or that 2+2=4.

            Also, for the record my own philosophy is certainly not fully informed, developed or consistent either.

          • Randy M says:

            Like, humans can predict stuff like sparrows falling in advance, so presumably God would also be able to predict things based on His (infinite) knowledge?

            I can choose to call things to mind, or to focus my consciousness on other topics. I can direct my gaze.

            I have no definitive clue if these actions have any analogs in the God I believe in! Perhaps anything less than full moment to moment and future omniscience is a contradiction in nature. But… I’m not sure it is. So I can resolve my the dissonance by saying to myself, maybe the future is undetermined. Or maybe it is as rahien.din says and all things at once unfold from God’s perspective, with multiple seemingly but not exclusive forms of causation. I don’t see anyway of definitively resolving it, and don’t blame anyone for finding it difficult to buy into anything beyond mechanistic determinism.

        • FLWAB says:

          As the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the Universe, the uncaused cause, didn’t God plan and instigate all men’s choices when He created the (actual, existing) universe?

          Only if people are clockwork. In one sense yes, He would have “caused” all our actions by creating us in the first place (as in, we wouldn’t have done anything if we didn’t exist). But the whole point of the theological concept of free will is that he does not cause all our choices. We choose. Does God know what we will choose? Likely yes, if the theologians are right and he exists outside of time. But if that is the case just because he knows what choice we will make doesn’t mean it wasn’t ours to make freely. To put it more simply: I know George Washington chose to step down after two terms, but just because I know he did that doesn’t mean he was fated to do that, or that was the only choice he could make. It just means that was the choice he did make. If God is outside of time then He knows all the choices we are going to make before we make them, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a choice. It’s just a reflection of the fact that as beings living in time once we make a choice we can’t go back and choose something else.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I don’t really see the problem. What’s your bread made of? I bet you didn’t think “atoms”.

      There are levels of abstraction that are fit for every conversation. Of course free will breaks down as a concept when we get to the mechanics of the brain. You can’t really prove that we have free will in the Stephen Molineux sense (whatever that is) by looking at brainwaves any more than you can talk about the taste of the bread by discussing quarks. It’s the wrong level for that. The whole discussion is redundant.

      Oh, you _can_ talk about behavioral genetics, of course. How people are similar, how behaviors are inherited, how there are tendencies and such – good stuff. But it helps a lot to remember that what psychology is to physics, behavioral genetics is to psychology. An effect size of 30% is Big in psychology. You want to know what generates the same level of enthusiasm in behavioral genetics? 1%.

      • aho bata says:

        There are levels of abstraction that are fit for every conversation. Of course free will breaks down as a concept when we get to the mechanics of the brain. You can’t really prove that we have free will in the Stephen Molineux sense (whatever that is) by looking at brainwaves any more than you can talk about the taste of the bread by discussing quarks.

        I don’t think that analogy is quite apt. Talking about the taste of bread by discussing quarks isn’t going to get you anywhere, but it’s at least conceivable that our subjective experience is tied to material reality/computation/whatever in some way, even if it doesn’t provide an elegant explanation in itself. Whereas there’s no formulation of free will that can’t be shown to be literally untrue by physics: “We live in a universe where everything moves randomly or according to deterministic physical laws, and there’s no room for a third lever.”

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Look at the conversation above on drunk driving. Try saying to the nice policeman that everything was predetermined from the beginning and he should take it with the starting conditions of the universe.

          Of course free will, from physics point of view, doesn’t exist. Unfortunately laws, consequences, fines, jail time, death and grief are also not of physics any more than free will is. When you say “you should not have gone to the bar with your car if you didn’t have a designated driver or a tax money” you’re at the level of abstraction where “free will”, “stupidity”, “accidental death” and “jail time” all work equally well. You _could_ have taken a bus or walked, you were _free_ to do so. Whatever the words underlined mean, that’s where free will is.

          Trying to find it by looking at neurons… nah. Not gonna happen. By definition, reallly – even if you find a beautifully constructed incredibly complex perfectly tuned mechanism that allows you to make choices, you’re going to say FOUND YOU, There is No Free Will!!! So why look, really? What answer could you find in neurology other than “hey, so that’s how it’s done!” ? A little receiver that gets instructions from another dimension? Quantum computing, a la Roger Penrose? And even if you find something as science fiction like that, that only moves the problem somewhere else. At the very end you’ll still find a reductionist answer, so you know, with certainty, that at the end there will be no mystical Free Wiil. Which doesn’t make your day to day responsibilities and actions even an iota less relevant.

          • aho bata says:

            What answer could you find in neurology other than “hey, so that’s how it’s done!” ? A little receiver that gets instructions from another dimension? Quantum computing, a la Roger Penrose? And even if you find something as science fiction like that, that only moves the problem somewhere else. At the very end you’ll still find a reductionist answer, so you know, with certainty, that at the end there will be no mystical Free Wiil.

            Right, we agree on that. I just don’t know how to conceive of making a choice as anything other than causing something to happen that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, and I don’t see how taking things to a higher level of abstraction gets away from that, except illusorily. For example, a way of defining freedom that seems to work across levels is whether two people in a given situation might act differently from each other. If you specify the “situation” loosely enough, then you can get the appearance of freedom. Let’s say you have two working class white male college aspirants living in the same city. X studies hard for the SAT, does well, and gets into a good college. Y slacks off and gets rejected. We might want to give X credit for his better outcome, but maybe their social situation is relevantly different: perhaps Y’s parents were going through a traumatic divorce. OK, so take the counterfactual where they were not. Do they still perform differently? If so, maybe there’s an environmental pollutant, gene, etc. to blame. And even if you can’t find any such gross difference, the different outcomes are still down to subtle factors ultimately outside of their control. It doesn’t strike me as relevant to moral responsibility that in many cases the reason for the difference will be hard to describe in concise terms.

            The more narrowly a situation is described, the more of an explanation you have as to why someone made one choice and not the other — otherwise it just appears random. But that approaches a limit where the situation is described in full physical detail, at which it becomes apparent that nobody in that situation could have done anything differently, because they would have been the same person.

            This isn’t just abstract philosophizing (for me). Whether somebody who has committed a wrongful act was doomed to do so by a man holding a gun, by his own genes, or just the matter making up his body, he never had a chance to step away from his situation and alter the flow of events from the outside. I’m no police officer, but a friend of mine once had to face the consequences of someone else’s drunk driving, and my anger at the perpetrator was tempered by this realization.

            Intellectually (if not so much in practice), this understanding has shifted the basis of my morality away from personal responsibility and towards something like virtue ethics. “It’s not your fault that you made the decision to drink and drive; nothing is your fault. However that doesn’t prevent me from recognizing that a person of your character is likely to cause more harm than good.”

    • Enkidum says:

      I think you are largely correct, when we restrict ourself to what philosophers call “counter-causal” free will – i.e. a capacity to make decisions that are completely unaffected by physical reality (including the physical structure of our brains). This is not real, and for what it’s worth virtually no one in academic philosophy subscribes to it.

      But one of the books recommended in that conversation was Dennett’s Elbow Room, which I think is one of the best things ever written on the subject. The book’s subtitle is, if I remember right, The varieties of free will worth wanting, and if not it’s very close to that. His point is that counter-causal free will, which he later calls “a free will that levitates” is not interesting for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that it doesn’t exist.

      I think it’s in a later work (probably Consciousness Explained that he says that he thinks it’s crazy to want a free will which allows us to do whatever we might want. He says he does not think it’s possible for him to randomly murder someone (as in Camus’ L’étranger), and this is literally physically impossible for him – his brain is not structured such that this is an option he could choose. This is the converse of the kind of worries you have about brain structure causing violent crimes, here we have it preventing them.

      There’s a lot more to say about this, obviously, but I’ll leave it at that.

      (Epistemic status: have a degree in philosophy, was supervised by one of Dennett’s graduate students, have read a hell of a lot of the relevant literature, though I’m over a decade behind at this point.)

      • rahien.din says:

        +1!

        It’s worth asking, what do you want your will to be free from?

      • Dan L says:

        His point is that counter-causal free will, which he later calls “a free will that levitates” is not interesting for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that it doesn’t exist.

        Heh, captures my feelings pretty well. If you’ve carefully defined your version of free will such that it cannot produce experimental evidence, you’ve not coincidentally removed any incentive I have to care.

        I have the occasional point of disagreement with Dennett, but have yet to find anyone who is approaching the subject with half as much clarity. SecondThirding the recommendation.

        • Enkidum says:

          I have the occasional point of disagreement with Dennett, but have yet to find anyone who is approaching the subject with half as much clarity

          Yup. I actually have a lot of disagreement with his thoughts on consciousness, as opposed to free will, and his thoughts on cognition/thought more generally (briefly: I don’t think you can get away with saying “language” for everything). But he’s miles ahead of virtually any philosopher of mind from his era, with the notable exception of the Churchlands (who I probably love even more, and who put their money where their mouth is – both of their kids are now leading neurophysiologists, and if you ask a modern neuroscientist about the Churchlands, they think you are talking about the kids, not the parents).

          • rahien.din says:

            What by the Churchlands would you recommend?

          • Enkidum says:

            I’m not at my house so can’t check the bookshelf… if you happen to have been reading Phil of mind from roughly any time between 1985-2000, then their collection On the Contrary is great, a set of responses to other contemporary philosophers. But probably not that interesting unless you know the literature a bit (their whole thing was basically saying that phil of mind was largely masturbatory, so you could just not read it and be better off, frankly).

            The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul by Paul C. is pretty good too. Patricia C has a more intro-type book called Brain-Wise which I liked a lot. I haven’t read much they’ve written in the past decade, I remember not being a fan of her book on morality.

            I’m not sure where it is, but there’s an essay they wrote about Locke’s thought experiment of the inverted colour spectrum which is one of the better pieces of neurophilosophy I’ve read (the basic point being, if you actually know something about how colour works, it’s not a great thought experiment). It might be in On The Contrary but I would have to check.

            Sorry that is very rambling and unspecific, I’m extraordinarily tired right now.

      • Atlas says:

        But one of the books recommended in that conversation was Dennett’s Elbow Room, which I think is one of the best things ever written on the subject. The book’s subtitle is, if I remember right, The varieties of free will worth wanting, and if not it’s very close to that. His point is that counter-causal free will, which he later calls “a free will that levitates” is not interesting for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that it doesn’t exist.

        Interesting, thanks for the recommendation. I very much enjoyed Dennett’s discussion of free will with Sam Harris, so I’ll check out the book. (Although I found Harris’ defense of his views on the matter more persuasive than Dennett’s.)

        I think it’s in a later work (probably Consciousness Explained that he says that he thinks it’s crazy to want a free will which allows us to do whatever we might want. He says he does not think it’s possible for him to randomly murder someone (as in Camus’ L’étranger), and this is literally physically impossible for him – his brain is not structured such that this is an option he could choose. This is the converse of the kind of worries you have about brain structure causing violent crimes, here we have it preventing them.

        I’m inclined to agree. Some people talk about how great and awesome it is that humans allegedly have the “free will” to struggle between vice and virtue, and how much better it is to choose virtue when you’ve been tempted by vice, but I find that unconvincing. I’m perfectly happy that there are many varieties of vice that I’ve never been at all tempted by, and I don’t really see how the sinful temptations that I’ve actually had have improved my existence on net, whether or not I’ve successfully overcome them. I think that the more virtue and the less vice that humans have, the better, and that humans of pure virtue and no vice would have as much (or as little) “free will” as humans with a mixture of the two.

        • Enkidum says:

          I’m perfectly happy that there are many varieties of vice that I’ve never been at all tempted by, and I don’t really see how the sinful temptations that I’ve actually had have improved my existence on net, whether or not I’ve successfully overcome them.

          In Rousseau’s Confessions, there’s something of a throwaway line about how the best way to be good is to avoid placing yourself in situations where you’re likely to be sinful, not to struggle nobly against sin. Which is literally centuries ahead of his time, it’s really not until I think maybe 100 years ago that people start articulating this precisely about, e.g., alcoholism.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t think it is that it is so great to be tempted, but that those who know temptation and avoid it are so great.
          Whether there are any such…

      • James says:

        Yeah, Dennett’s the best person I came across back when I was reading up on this stuff. As well as the early Elbow Room, I would also recommend the more recent Freedom Evolves, which as well as recapping his earlier philosophical stance on free will, discusses evolution and how (Dennett-style, folk-psychological, non-magical) ‘free will’ evolved from those that didn’t.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Thanks for the reference.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      You know what completely free will does? Nothing. Because it has no motivations to move from.

      That’s not a definition of “free will” to me, it’s a lack of will. We need the individual impulses, and the actions of the uncontrollable environment (our ‘formative experiences’) to create our will. Then we need to actively consider the world in order to, as freely as possible, act out our will within the limits of our abilities and the world’s boundary conditions.

  23. Tenacious D says:

    In a previous open thread I gave a summary of the Canadian election campaign (on mobile right now, so if someone else can find and link the previous thread please feel free). Well, last night there was a dramatic development (initially from TIME magazine rather than any Canadian media outlet): photos of the incumbent PM Justin Trudeau in black/brown face. What impact will this have? On its own, my best guess is that it will shift some voters who are on the fence between Trudeau’s Liberals and Singh’s NDP toward the latter. It also increases the risk of Trudeau making some slip-ups in debates and press conferences as he is most comfortable when things are staying on-script (the initial press conference he held to address the situation was on a plane, so a very controlled environment where he can set the framing). At this point, I still think he’ll get reelected, but I see the race as more competitive now.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      Trudeau was set to win a second term based on the collapse of the NDP vote, and I doubt this will have much impact on the race. Everybody knows Trudeau is not a racist, and people who are willing to vote for him are likely to ignore this as they ignored the SNC Lavalin scandal which was much worse.

      If this was Andrew Scheer, the CBC would not stop talking about this until he resigned, but this is Trudeau so different rules apply.

      There’s also the fact that the Liberal vote is more efficiently distributed, so that even with a slight lead, the Conservatives are not favourite to win (Canadian spelling because this is a Canadian topic). If the conservatives win the popular vote but lose the election, I expect to see many columns extolling the virtues of the FPTP system from people who are currently demonizing the electoral college.

      There is non-zero chance Trudeau really messes up the debates, and these past photos may haunt him specially if Jaghmeet Singh can manage to cry during the debates as he recently did when discussing those photos, but I wouldnt bet on it.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        It surprises me that the liberal vote is more efficiently distributed, as I would expect them to concentrate into cities which tends to create vote inefficiencies. Or does Canada use a different sort of election system that changes that?

        • Enkidum says:

          I could be entirely wrong about this, because I am embarrassingly ignorant about my own country’s political system, so someone please correct me if I’m mistaken. At any rate, my understanding is (a) the rural/urban divide between conservatives/liberals exists in Canada, but is less pronounced than the States, and (b) the distribution of ridings is more closely tied to population than the States, rendering the divide less powerful.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The rural/urban divide does exist, but some rural areas will vote NDP, which is the far-left, typically associated to unions, political party, and some semi-rural areas (mostly Atlantic Canada) will vote Liberal because they depend on many government programs for their economy.

            The main difference is that instead of each state having X electoral college votes, every province is divided into ridings, each having about 100k-200k people, and each riding counts for 1 seat in the house.

          • Tenacious D says:

            Atlantic Canada is very swing-y. In most elections the majority of the seats here go to the winning party as far as I can recall. Whether this is because the demographics are a microcosm of the country as a whole or because staying in Ottawa’s good books is important for the regional economy is left as an exercise to the reader.

            Another thing to note is that the largest visible minority groups in Canada are East Asians and South Asians. They tend to vote for the Conservatives/Liberals/NDP in proportions that aren’t terribly different from the overall population. Because no one party has their votes locked down and because there are some key ridings where they are concentrated (example) some candidates will see a chance to use this as a localized wedge issue.

    • BBA says:

      This is the third Trudeau scandal that would’ve ended the career of a lesser politician. Before this, there was SNC-Lavalin and a story that he groped a woman reporter, and that’s just the ones I’ve heard of south of the border. If he wins reelection, I think that makes him the Canadian Trump.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        He does have a certain teflon quality to him, at least for now.

      • EchoChaos says:

        It really does. Not knowing how many times you’ve worn blackface has sort of a magical quality to it.

        • Tenacious D says:

          It seemed like this was going to be a very boring election campaign. Until this news came out, I wasn’t planning to watch the leaders’ debate as I didn’t expect there would be much to it that couldn’t be learned from the party platforms. Not anymore.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Nah, Trudeau is even less popular than Trump right now. Which I’m more than fine with, I also approve of Trump more than I approve of Trudeau.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I checked the polls and you’re absolutely right. Looks like they expect a very evenly divided vote in Canada between Conservatives and Liberals, which gives the Liberals an advantage in seats.

          Fun fact: Donald Trump is the G7 leader with the highest approval rating in his/her own country.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          yeah but in Canada you need about 35-40% of the vote to win an election so he has a good chance to be re-elected.

          his popularity should be served as an example of a frequent failure mode of democracy. he has accomplished nothing in his life besides partying alot, being good looking, mouthing progressive cliches, and most importantly, being the son of a popular prime minister. that’s all you need apparently to get the vote of millions of Canadians.

    • dodrian says:

      This post is the one that I think I would most miss reading Deiseach’s comments on.

      Well, this one or a comment about the whole Union seminary plants thing.

  24. Aftagley says:

    Do most people have a strong, psyche-level connection to their gender?

    For example, if your consciousness was floating around in a void with no prior memory of your physical existence, would some of you “know” you were male/female? I ask because I realized that when heard or read comments from trans people talking about “knowing” their sex didn’t match their gender, I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about. If this is normal sense people have, I possess it in quantities minute enough to have thus far never noticed it.

    Is this a sense that people have in differing quantities, or this some kind of phenomena that is only perceptible when there’s a gender/sex mismatch?

    • Urstoff says:

      The disembodied consciousness scenario doesn’t seem to be entailed by the claims of transgendered individuals; a “woman in a man’s body” seems to be a mismatch about biological and social feedback, rather than an intuitive a priori knowledge of one’s gender. And such mismatch would probably be something you only notice if there is a mismatch; people in the appropriately gendered body never notice it (because why would you?).

    • viVI_IViv says:

      For example, if your consciousness was floating around in a void with no prior memory of your physical existence, would some of you “know” you were male/female?

      Would you know whether you were a human or a dog? “consciousness floating around in a void with no prior memory of your physical existence” isn’t a very relatable scenario.

      Is this a sense that people have in differing quantities, or this some kind of phenomena that is only perceptible when there’s a gender/sex mismatch?

      Supposedly the latter.

    • Randy M says:

      For example, if your consciousness was floating around in a void with no prior memory of your physical existence, would some of you “know” you were male/female?

      I feel like this is too disconnected from real life to have an opinion of.

      What I am feels male, striving to be even more of the positive aspects of masculinity. Whether or not a female actually feels pretty much the same but calls it female because that’s just how a human feels, I couldn’t ever say.

    • Aftagley says:

      For example, if your consciousness was floating around in a void with no prior memory of your physical existence, would some of you “know” you were male/female?

      Roger, it looks like this was a bad way to phrase the question.

      I’m trying to figure out if most people have an innate knowledge of their gender that they experience separately than their physical form, but it looks like I got too cute with my writing.

      • Randy M says:

        if most people have an innate knowledge of their gender that they experience separately than their physical form

        Can’t speak for people with traces of psychadelics in their system, but I don’t think people tend to experience anything separately from their physical form.

        • Aftagley says:

          Really?

          My conception of self is almost entirely removed from my body. You could upload my consciousness into a computer tomorrow and I literally wouldn’t care what happened to the pile of meat that used to house me.

          I mean, I understand that I’m only currently “running” as a result of the biological processes that enable conscious thought, but that doesn’t imply that I am only that biology.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I am enjoying reading this thread because I am literally the exact opposite.

            My body IS me. I can’t conceive of a consciousness without a body as a real thing. I couldn’t imagine not being me, and obviously being me is strongly connected with being male. I feel male in the sense of absolute truth.

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, I understand that I’m only currently “running” as a result of the biological processes that enable conscious thought, but that doesn’t imply that I am only that biology.

            Likewise, but I think the biology is constantly informing you, even if subconsciously. I don’t mean to say that I am consciously aware of the particular form of my gonads 24/7, but that my thinking is influenced by hormones, sensations, capabilities, whatever from my body. Maybe my level of confidence (such as it is…) comes in part from my perception of my height, or testosterone level, or amount of muscle mass I have compared to my set point, or how people respond to me, etc.

            You could upload my consciousness into a computer tomorrow and I literally wouldn’t care what happened to the pile of meat that used to house me.

            I’m not sure if this is a hyperbole or what, but I don’t empathize*. As much as I voluntarily plug in for an embarrassing large fraction of time to some extent or another, losing the shell my consciousness rests in would be enormously impactful.

            I am not only my biology, but I am not me without it.

            *Personally, I mean. I can understand it.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t think I’d experience my “maleness” in the same way as a disembodied consciousness, but if we go back to your question of psyche, I think there’d still be a difference, and one I could presumably discover for myself. My mind, like most males’, is pretty thing-oriented, so in our glorious future of mind-wiped uploads, I think I’d still be able to tell myself and the thing-orienteds apart from the people-orienteds over there.

            ETA: @Randy M
            +1

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yes… I think. But it’s not as much a sense of being aware of – actually, it’s very much not that, unless in contexts when it matters, such as social interactions. It’s more in sets of priors and unconscious actions. Being male is part of me – not because I hold a “male had” all the time, but because some of my responses will always be male.

        There was a moment in a Mark Twain book when Tom Sawyer was disguised as a girl when visiting an old lady, and he gives himself away by a dozen hints. When she throws something in his lap he pulls his legs together to catch it – a girl used to wear skirts would have spread them. He throws a rock at a rat and nearly flattens it.

        I think that’s the same with me – both some of my instincts and my competencies are male. Plus quite a lot of my preferences.

        I don’t know if it helps you or not – and I really have no idea to what degree the experience of trans people is different.

        • March says:

          That Mark Twain thing speaks to me AGAINST gender. If Tom had grown up wearing skirts (as men in so many cultures do), he’d have learned the trick of catching with his skirt. And I, a woman who mostly wears trousers of some sort, have the legs together thing.

          Your instincts and competencies are shaped by your life experiences, even if what you feel like on the inside may be different from others in ‘your’ category.

          Then again, I consider myself cis-only-barely-by-default (and not because my gender fits me so well – I struggled mightily with it and social dysphoria until I was about 22 or so, I think, though never physical dysphoria, only generic body hate). Used to want to be a boy, but probably just because people were constantly telling me I was a failure as a girl and later woman. I was not so much a butterface but a buttermind. 😉

          Since then, I’ve learned to mostly function as a woman so now I’d be pissed off to suddenly wake up as a man (even if that meant finally trading my Christina Hendricks-esque physique for something more Thin White Duke-era Bowie), because I FINALLY mastered this set of random instincts and competencies and I don’t have the desire or patience to suddenly have to learn an entirely new one.

          Becoming a parent was an interesting experience, too. Nothing like being visibly pregnant to suddenly be invited into a bunch of new inner circles. On the other hand, anyone who now complains about my lack of genderconformity now gets a raised eyebrow and a ‘this body built a human. I think I stamped my woman card once and for all. Please get lost now.’

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Yes, I agree. Man and Woman are concepts that depend a lot on the society that defines them. The skirt thing is a good example. There are probably commonalities across cultures (for starters, women make babies) but I don’t think it makes sense to try to restrain the meaning to only the commonalities. Better to just accept that part of the definition is cultural.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          That was Huck Finn, in the eponymous novel.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Data point: I can identify separate aspects of my personality/ thought-processes as characteristic either of my own gender or the opposite. In any case, it all feels “me” in a comfortable way. My body likewise feels “me,” mildly aligned in identity with its biological sex, not really a big deal either way. I think I would be fascinated to wake up inside an opposite-sex body.

        I will say that given (a) how distorted our immediate perceptions of reality are by various biases, (b) how many of those biases apply particularly strongly in matters pertaining to our egos, and (c) how unmoored our interior narratives are from any objective material fact or data, it’s odd to me that our subjective impressions of our identity get elevated to the status of self-evident gospel truth about some objective metaphysical reality of the self. Maybe nobody else understands me better, but my assumption in any case is that 90% of the stories I tell myself about myself are self-serving rationalizations or narcissistic fantasies. I certainly wouldn’t use them as a basis for other people’s policy or science.

      • rho says:

        woah. I’m trans and i’m having a really hard time addressing this question actually. Most of my feelings about the mismatch between my sex and gender has to with how people treat me and interact with me, and what I felt like I was “allowed” to like and do growing up.

        If I’m playing a video game, I gravitate towards playing the female characters. Or if i’m watching a movie and there’s a beautiful actress, what i feel is more jealousy than attraction.

        But these things all involve a body more or less, and what i think you’re trying to ask is if thought is gendered, correct? Part of me really wants to say no, but at the same time patterns of speech are clearly gendered and thought is mostly internal dialogue, right?

        And omg the emotional side of things after starting hrt: if the right song came on sometimes i would start crying. Maybe what’s the most accurate is that a lot of times when thinking gender doesn’t come into play, but a lot of low level processing, such as emotional responses, are informed by your hormones and that’s a gendered thing.

        I really think the answer, “this is to far removed from reality” is boring, but maybe it is. We wouldn’t have a gender binary without a body… idk if i would develop a desire for hrt without a body…

        • soreff says:

          @rho

          Many Thanks!

          (as a cis-by-default male – I don’t _think_ I feel my gender strongly, but I honestly can’t tell.)

        • WashedOut says:

          Thanks for the honest and insightful comment. FWIW: i’m as cis-male as it gets, usually roll female video game characters and K.D. Lang’s music makes me cry.

          Most of my feelings about the mismatch between my sex and gender has to with how people treat me and interact with me, and what I felt like I was “allowed” to like and do growing up.

          I was raised by a couple of very progressive lesbians (with a Dad on the side, slightly out of frame) and given EVERY opportunity to explore interests and hobbies that were not strictly coded male. As it turned out, almost none of the female ones stuck, and the archetypal male story resonated very strongly, to the exclusion of much else.

          Therefore I wonder if gender dysphoria sits on a foundation of rebellion against the things you were not “allowed” (i’d say “expected”) to like as a kid on the basis of gender.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I ask because I realized that when heard or read comments from trans people talking about “knowing” their sex didn’t match their gender, I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about.

      Based on personal experience, I think “trans” is under-defined.
      Is there a birth defect that causes chemical signals to the brain that the mind associated with it reads as “I’m a girl/I’m a boy” to be the reverse of gross physiology? Sure, and hopefully this sucky situation has much lower frequency than total gender-bending (I’ve met a small number of people online and one IRL who looked like they were switching for fun more than anything else. All female.)
      I’ve experienced gender dysphoria, and I’d say that if I became disembodied consciousness with no memory of this life, I wouldn’t “know” my sex.
      It’s possible that literally intersex people don’t have rigidly strong connection to a gender. St. Augustine discusses in The City of God that some people are born hermaphrodites, and we politely call them “he” because society honors men more. Unfortunately we don’t have any Greek or Latin text where a person with this rare condition explains how they felt about that.

      • James says:

        I’ve experienced gender dysphoria

        Do you care to say any more about this? Without wishing to pry, I would be interested in hearing any expansion on it, if you care to.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It doesn’t bother me to expand.
          So, OK, beginning of high school. I’ve always been youngest in class, and I was an un-diagnosed Aspie. Girls don’t like me and I’m into nerd things, I’ve had a scant few guy friends since middle school. They say things like “you’re one of the guys”, are skeptical of my Woman Card, whatever.
          Also periods suck. I’m just starting to see a psychiatrist for OCD, and having my mood altered by SSRIs (which eventually becomes super helpful as we settle on Celexa). Hey, hormonal birth control could help me feel more comfortable in my body. My high-strung fundamentalist mother is against it, but my lapsed Catholic, very Red tribe father quietly helps me out.
          I start thinking of myself as a guy. I visit some internet friends dressed/groomed as one and apparently pass.
          After [unit of time] I get over all this…

          • James says:

            Thanks.

            Now, I know I claimed I wasn’t going to pry, but… you didn’t really believe that, did you? I am curious about one more thing. Do you have a sense of what led you to ‘get over it’? Or did it just happen?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @James:

            Now, I know I claimed I wasn’t going to pry, but… you didn’t really believe that, did you?

            I don’t know how to respond to that. We’re getting into the epistemology of qualia here. I don’t know how to compare my experience of believing X to someone who’s so hardcore about a similar belief that they get surgery, and it’s a Culture War minefield too.
            Oh yes I have a sense of what led me to ‘get over it’. It was a combination of years of getting used to my young adult body (see: psychiatrist, drugs) and refusing to trust the administrators’/professors’ ideology during my first year of university. If they believed demonstrably false things and I could be punished for demonstrating it, how could I trust them that gender dysphoria was always and everywhere (whether pre-modern women living as men or the recent MtF trend) the same thing and cured by surgery, which ought to be at taxpayer expense and only bigots/Republicans disagreed? I didn’t believe in Christianity when I enter university, but I did believe in Plato, and Hypatia’s attitude to not liking her body was based on Platonic rationalism, which made her worthier of belief than 21st century universities.

          • James says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            Uh-oh. I think my joke, such as it was, got lost in translation there. I meant ‘you didn’t really believe I wasn’t going to pry any further, did you?’. But thankyou for the rest—that just about satisfies my curiosity.

    • AG says:

      My impression is that most people are cis by default. Subjective evidence for this: the prevalence of stories/media about bodyswapping that don’t include in the kinds of intense dysphoria feelings that mark out the trans/rejection-of-trans experience, and the acceptance by the majority of the audience that such stories wouldn’t include such feelings.

      I myself used to tend towards an agender attitude, but have since had more of a cis-by-default self-perception.

      • Eponymous says:

        My impression is that most people are cis by default.

        Strong disagree. Doesn’t coincide with my experience, experiences of others I’ve observed/heard about, and basic evolutionary logic. When puberty hit I immediately found the female form specifically very attractive; I strongly doubt this was socially moderated to any significant degree, and I understand others have similar experiences.

        Incidentally, my 4 year old is *very* interested in understanding our society’s gender roles right now, to the extent that I’m starting to wonder if this interest is hardwired into human development at this stage.

        • AG says:

          Sexuality and personal gender identity aren’t the same. I don’t think het-by-default is nearly as much of a thing as cis-by-default, though it does somewhat exist.

          Gender roles are separate from innate identity. Gender roles provide incentives. There are probably a whole lot of people who may go more towards the cis-by-default attitude if gender roles were lessened.

          • Eponymous says:

            Sexuality and personal gender identity aren’t the same.

            Yes, you’re right, my mistake.

            Gender roles provide incentives. There are probably a whole lot of people who may go more towards the cis-by-default attitude if gender roles were lessened.

            My view is that societies tend to define gender roles in ways that roughly coincide with biological gender differences, and people are hardwired to try to figure out what social role their gender entails (what ‘being a man’ means in the particular culture they’re in). I’m not sure how this squares with what you’re saying.

      • Aftagley says:

        My impression is that most people are cis by default.

        Wow, I had never read that post before and it’s exactly what I was talking about. Thanks AG! (any Ozy for writing it!)

        I don’t know enough to guess the prevalence of how many people are cis by default, but I would definitely count myself among them.

        • Aftagley says:

          Drilling further down, it looks like this question was asked in the 2014 LessWrong Survey:

          Gender Default
          I only identify with my birth gender by default: 681, 45.3%
          I strongly identify with my birth gender: 586, 39.0%

          Which shows that a large % of LW members are Cis by Default.

      • EchoChaos says:

        That is an interesting article, but I agree with @Eponymous it doesn’t conflate with my experience or what I observe in my children. I note that it is because it is possible that I am the abnormal one and that I carry that genetic fact to give to my children.

        For example, the statement “Very, very few people would put up with everything from gatekeeping to violence for the sake of their boner.” seems odd for anyone who has observed that yeah, humans do that all the time. In fact “doing stuff for the sake of their boner” explains a frighteningly large percentage of male behavior.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        My impression is that most people are cis by default.

        Counter-evidence: David Reimer.

        More generally, it would be strange if a small fraction of people had an innate sense of gender identity which could occasionally go haywire in an even smaller fraction of people, causing gender dysphoria, while the majority of humans had no such innate sense.

        It’s not technically impossible, maybe innate gender identity is an uncommon vestigial trait, like the muscles for wiggling the ears, but this hypothesis is unparsimonious.

        • Cliff says:

          Fair enough, but it is rather different having a natural girl’s body versus a boy’s body that doctors have tried to shoe-horn into a girl’s body. I could see someone being satisfied with the former and dissatisfied by the latter.

        • Protagoras says:

          I don’t know that I agree with AG’s “most;” the survey seems to suggest that a lot of cis people have a sense of gender identity and a lot don’t, and SSC readers are probably atypical enough that it’s unsafe to try to speculate about the general population in any more detail beyond that. David Reimer’s story is obviously easy to reconcile with that state of affairs. It may be unparsimonious to hypothesize that gender identity is distributed in such a way, but is it much more parsimonious to hypothesize that introspective access to gender identity is distributed in such a way (as would have to be the case on the hypothesis that the people who claim to be cis-by-default are all suffering a failure of introspection)?

          • AG says:

            If genuine cis is the majority group, then why are there so many stories about body-swapping and crossdressing with little fanfare about gender feelings? Look at the shenanigans of As You Like It, for example.

            It makes sense that a cis-by-default majority would be more concerned with gender roles. Since they don’t have an innate sense of identity connected to the body, they use actions as a proxy. And so gender expression becomes the thing, instead of inner feeling.

            For that matter, the opposition to the trans identity therefore makes more sense in a cis-by-default situation, wherein people question just why trans people are so insistent on being identified a certain way. (With a side of rejection based on sexuality. If casual bodyswapping/crossdressing storytelling indicates gender-by-default feelings, then trap tropes indicate that sexuality-by-default is much less of a thing.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            If genuine cis is the majority group, then why are there so many stories about body-swapping and crossdressing with little fanfare about gender feelings?

            Cross-dressing and body-swapping are not the same thing. The examples of cross-gender body swapping I can think of off the top of my head were generally played for laughs (as indeed were Shakespeare’s cross-dressing characters). The exception is _Altered Carbon_, but it was only briefly mentioned as a problem.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is e.g. Norah Vincent to be considered as cis-by-default?

            “It would be fun/funny/enlightening to experience being a man for a time”, is not at all the same thing as “I am a man trapped in a woman’s body”.

            If we had the technological ability to transform a man into a woman, or vice versa, easily and reversibly and with high fidelity, I’m pretty certain you’d see a lot of very non-default-cis people giving it a try. I’d probably do it. And I might want to very strongly encourage everyone to do it, in roughly the same way I’d want to encourage people to travel to foreign countries.

            I’d expect most of them to return to the status quo fairly soon, just as most foreign travelers do. And the number who don’t, would give us much better insight than we presently have regarding how many people are cis-by-default. But we lack that technology, and what we do have is almost always more trouble than it’s worth.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @John Schilling

            At risk of the no-true-scotsman fallacy, temporarily taking on a body no more allows a person to experience being a gender than traveling to Madagascar allows a foreigner to experience being a Madagascaran.

            Moving to Madagascar is a far more involved proposition, just as moving to another-sex body is a far more involved proposition than temporarily inhabiting it (unless you’re literally switching with your opposite-sex spouse or roommate, and neither of you have in-person jobs).

          • AG says:

            @The Nybbler
            More trans-aligned storytelling in the modern day have reinterpreted cross-dressing stories in a trans lens. That they were originally just played for laughs is evidence for how most people didn’t find contradictions in someone suddenly expressing themselves as the opposite gender, because their innate gender identity wasn’t that strong. It was the sexuality that mattered, comedy from the audience’s knowledge of if their bits did or didn’t match.

            @John Schilling
            Consider an analogy to someone with an insensitive food palate. That’s cis-by-default, and it’s not the same thing as having no food preferences, which is influenced by memory and nostalgia and such. Someone who grows up eating traditional American food in one life might grow up eating Chinese food in another. So in each life, they might have a preference for their childhood food. However, this doesn’t mean they have an innate identity associated with their preference.

            Similarly, in the hypothetical world with effortless body-swapping powers, someone who has grown up in a single body will likely return to that body because it’s their comfort zone. However, a full cis or full trans person will experience strong dysphoria when they bodyswap against their identity. These are different reasons.

          • The Nybbler says:

            More trans-aligned storytelling in the modern day have reinterpreted cross-dressing stories in a trans lens.

            Modern reinterpretations don’t serve as examples of past stories. Playing a role is not changing bodies.

            That they were originally just played for laughs is evidence for how most people didn’t find contradictions in someone suddenly expressing themselves as the opposite gender, because their innate gender identity wasn’t that strong.

            There are many cross-dressing comedies that play on the difficulties and awkwardness of expressing oneself as the opposite gender. It’s practically a genre element of such comedies. But of course they don’t speak to an innate sense of gender identity, because cross-dressing doesn’t get at that. A woman in man’s clothing is still a woman, and vice-versa.

            Body swapping stories are less common; I don’t know of many where it wasn’t at least somewhat awkward to do a cross-gender swap. To be fair, I also don’t know of any that went deeply into the issue. The two I can think of with no problem are quite modern, and weren’t exactly swaps — the Culture stories, where one can transition from one sex to the other and is expected to. And the Vorkosigan universe, where we’re given one example who may be atypical, and not much depth; it’s mostly done to let the reader laugh at designated comic-relief Ivan some more.

          • soreff says:

            re gender changes in science fiction:
            also John Varley’s Eight Worlds stories and novels
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Worlds
            and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness

      • aristides says:

        I consider myself in the cis by default group, though I might be non-binary if my conservative beliefs didn’t make that concept too weird and uncomfortable to me. The definitions get confusing. I definitely don’t have any strong gender feelings, I just have a vague sense that I want to do certain behaviors that are more associated with one gender, and other behaviors associated with the other gender. Honestly if is was socially acceptable for men to wear flowery dresses, I could comfortably identify as male without changing anything else.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Based on seeing a bunch of conversations like this in the past, I think it’s very common for cis people to attest to feeling no particular, visceral, or primal attachment to their sex/gender, and to believe that if they were in the body of the other sex/gender, they would not feel dysphoria.

      I guess the counter-argument is that this is like fish & water, and that if someone were dropped into another body through some magical means, they would suddenly discover that it grated in ways they can’t really perceive while in the “correct” body.

      It’s super unfalsifiable, in both directions.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I do not feel my gender is innate to my personality. Yes, I’ve been male my whole life, so I act like a male to get along in society. And presumably my hormones make me feel somewhat different than I would if I was female. But if I suddenly woke up as a female, I am 95% sure I’d get used to that too.

      Niven had a novel some years ago about a society on the moon had perfected body type changes, including changes in gender. The main character went back and forth between man and woman a couple times in (his) life. I remember thinking at the time that I would do the same if I had the opportunity. I’d love to try out being a woman for a while, but of course only if it was essentially transaction-free as in Niven’s novel. I suppose I would probably decide I preferred being one gender or the other, but I don’t know which one.

      I do have a hard time understanding trans-gender people. What is it about being the other gender that is so important? Especially since transitioning is so imperfect in our society.

    • Matthew S. says:

      This question has been addressed before as “If someone zapped you with the body-switching ray, then (assuming a society without strict social roles tiled to gender, sexism, or other social costs) would you be distressed merely by having a body of the opposite sex?”

      I’m very much cis-NOT-by-default. I expect this would make me suicidal.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I certainly do. I know I’m male as much as (or as little as) I know I’m human. If we were to have some sort of cyberpunk body-swapping and I swapped to a female body, I suspect I would experience something akin to dysphoria.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Wait, do you have a sense of innate humanity? If you do, does that suggest that you believe that otherkin-ness might be a… genuine condition? That is, that there really is some kind of actual brain machinery that causes people to innately “feel human,” and that if it is in some way damaged you might innately feel “not-human,” in an analogous way to how trans people attest to feel “not-male” (or not-female or whatever)?

        (I have no particular sense that I can isolate which would make it seem like it would be innately unbearable to be a woman, or to be a wolf or something.)

    • DinoNerd says:

      It seems to be variable. I can’t find anything to point to in my consciousness or psychological makeup and say “that’s my gender”, but other people insist that they have a very clear sense of theirs. Some, apparantly introspecting, insist that all people have a strong gender consciousness/identifcation, just as they do; the number who go the other way (insist that no one has a sense of gender) seems smaller.

      Or to put it another way, if I woke up one morning with a perfectly normal body, except for being the other gender, my concerns would involve the reactions of other people – would I behave in inappropriate ways for a person of my gender (in our particular (sub)culture), and draw flak for it, and would people treat me differently because of my (new) gender in ways I found to be more costly than those I currently experience. Well, that and wondering WTF had happened and what else was likely to happen next – maybe tomorrow I’d wake up as a perfectly normal zebra, and that would be a definite problem.

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I could regret this, but discussion about this article— briefly that a high proportion of Christian churches generally are not teaching antisemitism and are rather pro-Jews– got lively on Facebook, and I’m wondering how it will go here. The political tilt here is somewhat different from my Facebook page.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I haven’t made it through the entire article yet, but I will tell you that my immediate reaction to the title was: “Yes, my life experience so far suggests that is exactly the right way to phrase it.”

    • EchoChaos says:

      As a conservative Christian who goes to a very philo-Semitic church, yeah, this is basically spot-on.

    • Enkidum says:

      From my understanding a lot of Jews find some of the more aggressively interested Christians rather annoying/condescending, much the same way that a lot of black people find naive white allies. (I found it kind of funny that I just wanted to add a caveat saying “I have Jewish friends! And black ones!”)

      But reading the article, the title is overstated. It’s more like “Only a minority of Christians support Jews because of insane rapture-related reasons” – those people do exist, he names some in the article, and I suspect they do have real influence over political decisions (then again, based on responses to Scott’s almond article, maybe not).

      At any rate, it’s a good article, and I think the basic point is probably true – the large majority of Christians who are super friendly to Jews and Israel are not doing so because they want to hasten the end times, etc.

      • edmundgennings says:

        Also the end times motivated philo semitic protestants have lost prominence now compared to 20 years ago. That strand also tends to be more pro-isreal rather than philosemitic but those things are linked.

      • Atlas says:

        From my understanding a lot of Jews find some of the more aggressively interested Christians rather annoying/condescending, much the same way that a lot of black people find naive white allies. (I found it kind of funny that I just wanted to add a caveat saying “I have Jewish friends! And black ones!”)

        I think this is a very useful analogy, but for me it cuts the opposite way: the frequent criticism of well-intentioned white liberals by Woker-Than-Thou leftists like Robin DiAngelo gradually made me less and less sympathetic to the Woke Left. It’s really, really annoying to have your good-faith attempts to help/praise/respect someone be reciprocated by scathing criticism. Eventually, you might start to think: if I’m going to be attacked for being insensitive either way, why should I even bother to trying be sensitive in the first place?

        • Secretly French says:

          It’s really, really annoying to have your good-faith attempts to help/praise/respect someone be reciprocated by scathing criticism. Eventually, you might start to think: if I’m going to be attacked for being insensitive either way, why should I even bother to trying be sensitive in the first place?

          This I think is the intended effect; the demand for racial and ethnic disharmony is much greater than the natural supply (self segregation sees to that), and so the market corrects itself…

      • jermo sapiens says:

        My experience does support this view. I come from a very catholic family, and my father in particular is over-the-top catholic. He respects Jews very much, and sincerely considers them to have been chosen by God.

        I suspect he is pleased that the Christian holy sites are in Jewish hands instead of Muslim hands.

    • aristides says:

      Wait a minute, there are some Jews that believe Christians only support them because of the rapture? I’m a Christian that has attended at least 7 different denominations, and none of them said anything like that. It was always that they were our brothers in faith, and we would be blessed if we helped God’s chosen people. For that matter in college a good third of my friends were Jewish, including my long term girlfriend at the time, and this never came up. All they wanted was to not be evangelized to, which made sense. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the south, but I never heard of this conspiracy before today.

      • sentientbeings says:

        I’ve never heard it from personal (Jewish) friends or acquaintancess, but I grew up in a politically diverse environment. I think I first heard the idea 15 years ago from a fellow high school student who was disparaging Christian conservatives and (probably as a direct result) I’ve always perceived it to be a Democrat talking point to malign Christian conservative-values types. My guess is that substantially more people buy into it in Democrat-stronghold locales.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I have heard it the same context as you: always from somebody attempting to recast conservative Evangelicals’ love of Israel as something sinister. I think the article’s title is spot-on.

          American Evangelicals love the Jews because they believe God loves the Jews. It’s as simple as that.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Yup, with a side of, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”

          • brad says:

            Curious to your answer to the question in the edit here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/18/open-thread-136-75/#comment-800668

          • Jaskologist says:

            @brad

            Assuming “people like you” are “Jews who aren’t observant beyond doing Hanukkah instead of Christmas,” I’d say that’s probably the central example of the kind of Jew your typical Evangelical would have any experience of (it certainly is for me). Hasidic Jews may as well be Jewish Amish for all their relevance. “Children of Israel” literally refers to the descendants of Israel, so anyone with Jewish blood counts.

            Israel the country is of interest for two reasons:
            1) So much of the Bible is about how God has promised that land to the Jews. Evangelicals are going to defer to God in these matters.
            2) The return of the Jews to Israel is a major fulfilled prophecy that happened within living memory, with the bonus of being a prediction that looked patently absurd for some 1,500 years.

      • Corey says:

        Did any of them believe in the Rapture itself? Depending on who you ask, it isn’t mainstream.

        I think people who aren’t Christian equate “Christian” with stereotypical homeschools-to-avoid-the-kids-getting-taught-evolution fundamentalist evangelicals, because those are the most politically active and visible Christians in the US. And, to the best of my knowledge, those folks *are* likely to both believe in the Rapture and support Israel because of its prophesied role in the End Times.

        TL;DR it’s probably outgroup homogeneity bias.

        • GearRatio says:

          I think you’d even be surprised to find the extent that homeschoolers have been weakmanned to you by people feeding you the very craziest examples. I was homeschooled, the wife was homeschooled; we are more or less reasonable. Our kids are homeschooled and normal/popular. We take them to a homeschool drama club my wife has been involved with; the kids are personable and liked, the parents are more or less normal, maybe just a shade or two more spectrum and conservative than most mainstream christians.

          When we watch depictions of homeschoolers in the news/fiction it’s probably really similar to if you were watching the news and they had somebody going “I’m going to burn down houses to stop people from eating meat!” and then they played it off like that was how every democrat was.

      • brad says:

        That’s not my suspicion as to Christians that are Fans of the Jews ™ in a general sense but it is when I come across a religious Protestant that is a maximalist Zionist.

        The whole subject is confounded by the fact that in my experience non-Jews talking about Jews in almost any context makes us a little nervous and uncomfortable. Especially in my generation (late 30s) and older.

        • EchoChaos says:

          but it is when I come across a religious Protestant that is a maximalist Zionist.

          What does maximalist Zionist mean in this respect? I’m suspecting it’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this statement. I know a lot of REALLY Zionist Protestants and none of them are secretly anti-Semitic. They really like Jews and really like Israel.

          • brad says:

            I originally wrote Likudnik but a) I was worried that was too obscure and b) shockingly enough Likud is now the mid right wing party in Israel.

            Edit: curious when you say they really like Jews, do they include people like me? Or is it only orthodox or only Israelis or only the concept of Jews?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            I do know Likudniks (and what that means), but I am not sure how that would translate to anti-Semitism in any way.

            I’m a deacon at my church and have had to take a few people aside who were praying aloud for the most recent election in Israel to gently remind them that praying for what is best for the Jewish people doesn’t mean praying for Bibi Netanyahu to win.

          • brad says:

            Oh sorry, I didn’t address that part. I don’t consider “I’m a big supporter of an aggressive Israeli foreign policy because I think it will hasten the end times” to be antisemitic. I also don’t consider it pro Semitic. For that matter I consider Zionism in general as orthogonal from pro/anti semitism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            Yes, they include secular Jews, although obviously as religious Christians they prefer Jews be religious because they believe you need to be religious to be saved. But they prefer the same thing about white Americans, black Americans, etc.

    • John Schilling says:

      This one baffles me. I used to be in the habit of attending Christmas and Easter services at a different church and usually a different denomination each year, pretty much the ideal time to hear Christians talk about their main man’s often unpleasant personal interactions with the Jews, and I don’t think I ever heard a version of Christian-Jewish relations that was far from e.g. my own relations with my YEC-Christian cousins. Yeah, it’s silly that they haven’t updated their priors to incorporate the latest knowledge, but they’re decent people, closer kin than any of those other billions of strangers out there, and the silly theology almost never matters in mundane life so this isn’t the time to push it. And, anybody messing with them, is messing with family.

      I haven’t had much interaction with the imminent-Rapture crowd – that really is a minority belief – but from what I’ve read they don’t expect Jesus to return to Jerusalem to kill all the Jews. I think the consensus there is that once He comes back as something more than a carpenter-turned-street-preacher, most of the Jews will get with the program and we’ll all live happily ever after.

      Christian anti-Semitism is clearly a thing, at least in history and presumably not entirely dead. But Christian anti-Semitism “works” best in an environment where basically everyone is a Christian of some sort and Jews are as out-groupy as it gets. That doesn’t describe much of the modern world.

      So, yeah, the article is right. If there are Jews out there who believe Christianity is divided between an openly antisemitic fringe and a covertly antisemitic majority, I’m kind of interested in your take on where they’re getting that. From what I can see, and apparently the author and everyone else here, modern American-style Christianity has an openly antisemitic fringe, and a sincerely philosemitic majority.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        From what I can see, and apparently the author and everyone else here, modern American-style Christianity has an openly antisemitic fringe, and a sincerely philosemitic majority.

        Count another poster agreeing with you.
        Post-1945, almost all Protestants are philosemites. It’s remarkable when you consider the vast number of denominations that aren’t in communion with each other.
        If Catholic clergy were teaching anything antisemitic in 1945, it got changed from the top down by Vatican II.
        Note that there’s a huge overlap between practicing Christians in the US and the Red tribe, and Red people, especially men, tend to like Israel for being badass.

        I’ve never heard of conflict between Orthodox Christians and Jews in recent times. If fundamentalist Protestants are waiting for Christ to appear in Jerusalem Real Soon Now so the Jews will update their beliefs, the amillennialist Orthodox just seem to be shrugging and expecting to wait way longer.

    • Atlas says:

      (I’m a Zoomer, anti-Zionist, ethnic Jew.)

      It sounds about right to me. Pew’s survey of religious favorability ratings finds that American Christians have, on the whole, very positive feelings about Jews. The belief that contemporary American Christians are irrationally prejudiced against Jews is itself an irrational prejudice.

      I feel like there’s a good addition to Scott’s great, still vindicated “You Are Still Crying Wolf” essay about crying wolf in regard to anti-Semitism specifically. Call me crazy, but I actually don’t think that Christians who are upfront about their love and support of the Jewish people and the state of Israel are dangerous enemies of the Jews. Indeed, one might even go so far as to perhaps suggest that proclamations and gestures of extreme affections are signs of friendship rather than cleverly disguised enmity.

      Modern anti-Semitism is something that I find extremely concerning, but I suspect that most readers of the Forward and discussants on your Facebook page know and understand very little about it. The most popular anti-Semites make their arguments primarily on secular grounds, and indeed often express intense hatred of mainstream Christians for their neutral/positive feelings about Jews and the state of Israel. There are some Christian anti-Semites like E. Michael Jones and Owen Benjamin, but they’re a lot more popular with anti-Semites than they are with Christians generally. In fact, they may have been ostracized to some extent from Christian communities/churches as a result of their beliefs about Jews.

      Also, regarding the connection to Zionism, I think most avowed anti-Semites are either anti-Zionist or at least extremely critical of America’s relationship to Israel. (From my point of view, the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is a reason to criticize Zionism, not a reason to criticize anti-Zionism, something that dumb idiots like Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss don’t understand.)

      • Garrett says:

        What I find worrisome is that Jews joining/being used in the culture war in unrelated ways which I fear might cause problems down the road.

        Not too long ago, there was a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh with many murdered. My understanding from speaking with a few members of the local Jewish community is that there is a very large spectrum of political viewpoints to be found within. However, the only voice which is being amplified is that which wants to enact further gun restrictions. If this gets turned into pro-Jew = anti-gun, this has the potential to push a large swath of the pro-gun population into the anti-Jew position.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          If this gets turned into pro-Jew = anti-gun, this has the potential to push a large swath of the pro-gun population into the anti-Jew position.

          Agreed. Similiar things are happening with respect to the immigration question, with many liberal jews associating their jewishness to their views on immigration. I think this is a bad idea, specially considering the case of Israel, whether that’s fair or not. Many jews are opposed to immigration, and liberal jews shouldnt be assumed to be in agreement with Israel’s policies, but if you’re a crazy nutcase with a propensity to blame jews for stuff, stuff like this doesnt help.

          • brad says:

            This always annoys me regardless of issue. I always think “who died and made you king?” That’s (another) reason I dislike Bibi, he often purports to speak on behalf of the Jewish people.

        • Atlas says:

          Not too long ago, there was a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh with many murdered. My understanding from speaking with a few members of the local Jewish community is that there is a very large spectrum of political viewpoints to be found within. However, the only voice which is being amplified is that which wants to enact further gun restrictions. If this gets turned into pro-Jew = anti-gun, this has the potential to push a large swath of the pro-gun population into the anti-Jew position.

          Indeed. I think Scott had a good paragraph on this in “You Are Still Crying Wolf:”

          Stop responding to everyone who worries about Wall Street or globalism or the elite with “I THINK YOU MEAN JEWS. BECAUSE JEWS ARE THE ELITES. ALL ELITES AND GLOBALISTS ARE JEWS. IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT THE ELITE, IT’S DEFINITELY JEWS YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT. IF YOU FEEL SCREWED BY WALL STREET, THEN THE PEOPLE WHO SCREWED YOU WERE THE JEWS. IT’S THE JEWS WHO ARE DOING ALL THIS, MAKE SURE TO REMEMBER THAT. DEFINITELY TRANSLATE YOUR HATRED TOWARDS A VAGUE ESTABLISHMENT INTO HATRED OF JEWS, BECAUSE THEY’RE TOTALLY THE ONES YOU’RE THINKING OF.” This means you, Vox. Someday those three or four people who still believe the media are going to read this stuff and immediately join the Nazi Party, and nobody will be able to blame them.

          Although on the merits I think it’s highly worth considering that many countries with negligible Jewish populations like Japan, India and Denmark have much stricter gun control laws and much lower rates of civilian gun ownership than the US does.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Although on the merits I think it’s highly worth considering that many countries with negligible Jewish populations like Japan, India and Denmark have much stricter gun control laws and much lower rates of civilian gun ownership than the US does.

            I think Jews (only Diaspora Jews?) tend to associate Current Year leftism with the Enlightenment -> Jewish emancipation. American Jews breaking Left is about a 2:1 trend, as has been discussed here before.
            Leftism is bigger than one ethnic group rubbing their hands at how well their high-IQ keikaku is going, and the antisemites are objectively wrong here.

          • Atlas says:

            I think Jews tend to associate Current Year leftism with the Enlightenment -> Jewish emancipation. Leftism is bigger than one ethnic group rubbing their hands at how well their high-IQ keikaku is going, and the antisemites are objectively wrong here.

            Yeah, exactly. It sort of reminds me of how a certain segment of the #Resistance (e.g. Eric Garland) blames every advance of right-wing populism on The Russians.

    • broblawsky says:

      Outside of the South, I’ve never met anyone who professed the “Israel-as-apocalypse-ingredient” version of Christianity. Within the South, I’ve met a few people who thought that way, but only one of them was genuinely anti-Semitic; the rest were positive-to-neutral about Jews outside of Rapture theology, as a rule.

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s a significant, and relevant, plot element in Harry Turtledove’s recent Alpha and Omega. When the no-shit Ark of the Covenant shows up in modern Jerusalem, there’s a joint effort by Very Orthodox Israeli Jews and Very Fundamentalist Southern American Christians to get a ritually pure red heifer on-site ASAP. This is sincere cooperation in pursuit of a common goal. Not all Protestants are on board with this; many who were expecting Christ rather than the Ark to be heralding a new age, think the whole thing is a trick. But at the “I hope not too many Israelis are fooled by this obvious trick” level, not the “Awesome, now they’re all going to die!” level.

        Turtledove, as usual, has done his homework.

    • Aftagley says:

      A couple of things from this article stick out to me and make me question the basic premises of this article:

      Point 1:
      He cites this study with the following quote:

      A 2017 survey of evangelicals who support Israel found that the primary reasons for their support were their beliefs that God gave the land of Israel to Jews and that was that Israel is the historic Jewish homeland. Only 12% of evangelicals cited fulfillment of prophecy as the most important reason to support Israel.

      Based on this quote, you’d walk away thinking the study proves that most Christians only support Israel because if it’s historical pact with God.

      When you actually read the study, however, it presents a far more murky picture. For example, in the study when asked the question: “When you think of the modern rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and the regathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel, which of the following statements best represents your personal views?” 80% of people who responded said that: “These events were fulfillment of Bible prophecy that show we are getting closer to the return of Jesus Christ”

      Even his use of the 12% statistic above was IMO misleading. Yes, only 12% said that the prophecy was the most important reason to support Israel… but 52% said that it contributed to their support for Israel.

      Based on only this study, I would conclude that somewhere between 50%-80% of Evangelical Christian’s who support Israel do so to varying degrees of intensity as a result of their beliefs in Israel’s role in fulfilling prophecy. Of that larger subset, 12% consider this the most pressing reason as to why they should support Israel.

      Point 2: This quote:

      He explained that, in his view, Christians supported Israel because they wanted Jews to leave America. Once all the Jews are in Israel, he said, Christians believe that Jesus will return and kill them all.

      is a straw man. He brings up this point “people on the left think people on the right think Jesus wants to kill all the jews” 6 times throughout this piece, and it’s not true. People on the left think people on the right want to bring about the rapture. Most people on the left don’t care what happens after the rapture, because we don’t believe in the rapture. We don’t think Christians want Jesus to kill the Jews.

      Point 3:This quote:

      Among American Protestant pastors, only a third believe in a rapture.

      This was provided without sourcing, but a quick google returned some results that seemed similar enough for me to assume this is what he’s talking about. These articles link back to this survey of 1000 prominent American pastors on their views of end times. Yes, that survey did find that only 36% of pastors believe in a preatribulation rapture… but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the rapture entirely.

      Preatribulation rapture is like that described in that famous book series, where the end times are kicked off be all Christians getting beamed up to heaven. It turns out that pastors are unsure of when exactly Christians will get whisked up, some think way before, others during others after. Some even think the rapture already happened. When you add up the number of pastors that DO believe in rapture, the number is around 70%.

      Mind you, this was only a poll of the 1000 most prominent pastors, and isn’t reflective of the overall beliefs of Protestants in America (and ignores the large non-rapture denominations like Catholics and Lutherans), but it’s still a far cry from the author of this articles 1/3 estimate.

      TLDR:
      The person who wrote this article cherry picked data to support his claims while ignoring, misunderstanding or outright lying about data that didn’t support him. I don’t make any claims on what Christians actually think about Jews, but I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from anything in the linked article.

      • albatross11 says:

        Aftagley:

        If you read the Christian scriptures (old and new testament) literally, then you more-or-less have to end up believing that God personally promised Israel to the Jews. This seems like a fairly convincing reason to support Zionism.

        • acymetric says:

          Is there anything in the scripture (OT/NT/Torah) that indicates whether a rejection of the Messiah (which, theoretically, would be the same as rejecting God himself I guess?) might invalidate that promise? The promise being conditional or unconditional both seem plausible to me, but I’m not sure which would be correct. OT God certainly seems like the type who might say “you have blasphemed/adopted heresies and are now kicked out of the promised land” but I don’t know if there is any strong indicator that he did or would, it just seems in character.

          • Randy M says:

            Given the the Israelites collectively rejected God over and over for such as Ashur and Baal, I’d be hesitant to assume so. Seems like a rather one sided covenant, all in all.
            Plus, Hosea.

        • Aftagley says:

          If you read the Christian scriptures (old and new testament) literally, then you more-or-less have to end up believing that God personally promised Israel to the Jews. This seems like a fairly convincing reason to support Zionism.

          Agreed, but if you read it literally, the scripture says a bunch of things that don’t motivate action or engender sympathy in Protestant America (insert tired argument about shellfish here).

          But that doesn’t matter, I’m not talking about my opinion here, I’m talking about the data in a study cited by the person who wrote the article linked by @Nancy Lebovitz above. If you believe that study, 80% of polled Christians say they believe that the state of Israel is a step in the rebirth of Jesus and 50% say their support for Israel is influenced by prophecy.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If you believe that study, 80% of polled Christians say they believe that the state of Israel is a step in the rebirth of Jesus

            In that case, I definitely don’t believe that study.

          • broblawsky says:

            The study actually refers to polled Evangelicals, not Christians, and yeah, I can believe it. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Evangelical in the South who wasn’t at least conversant with Left Behind and similar Rapture fiction.

          • Aftagley says:

            The study actually refers to polled Evangelicals, not Christians, and yeah, I can believe it. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Evangelical in the South who wasn’t at least conversant with Left Behind and similar Rapture fiction.

            My mistake.

            I kind of also don’t believe the study is completely representative; I doubt it was done with appropriate controls and I’m sure the data isn’t perfect.

            That being said, I do think it reveals that the beliefs surrounding rapture are way more widespread than the article Nancy linked make it seem.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pedantically speaking, Christians definitively believe that Jesus plans to come back someday, and almost all will believe that the universe unfolds according to His omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, ineffable plan. So if a thing happens, it’s part of the plan that ends with Christ’s return, and the formation of Israel is now a thing that has happened, so QED.

            Among evangelicals who are specifically asked, sure, I can believe that no more than 20% would answer “No”, “I have no opinion”, or “why are you wasting my time with a trivial tautology?”. I’m not sure this tells us anything useful, though, because it doesn’t distinguish between “I believe, halleluja!” and “Meh, yeah, that’s probably part of it”.

            An open-ended question of “Do you believe Christ will return in your lifetime? If so, what events/signs/portents lead you to this belief?” would be useful, and would I suspect lead to a significant but <80% level of evanelicals saying "formation of the state of Israel".

            Pre-1948, "Do you believe the state/kingdom of Israel will be reestablished prior to the return of Christ?" would be a very useful question, but opinion polling wasn't nearly as well developed in that era.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I, meanwhile, was pedantically pointing out that belief in the rebirth of Jesus would be a heresy – such an unusual one that it has no name.

          • Randy M says:

            almost all will believe that the universe unfolds according to His omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, ineffable plan.

            Or at least a few relevant portions of it now and then.
            To make a theologically important, but tangential point.

            I suspect lead to a significant but <80% level of evanelicals saying "formation of the state of Israel".

            And this belief, what does it imply? As an evangelical, I’ve only ever heard one prophecy that is also basically a commandment. That every language and people group should hear about the gospel prior to the Second Coming.
            There’s no other prophecy that I’ve seen as justification (in modern American Christian culture) for specific behaviors. Oh, wait, one other exception, I’ve heard people pray for peace in the middle East/Israel (partially) because that would be a sign of the end times. Perhaps hoping for an end to worldly suffering is an underhanded reason to pray for the good of a foreign people but it’s not a sign of secret animosity towards Jews. Otherwise, prophecy is not taken (again, ime) as an invitation to attempt to fulfill it yourself through personal actions or politics.

          • Aftagley says:

            @ John Schilling

            Yes, I agree that 80% is probably a soft ceiling for this topic, but in that same study when asked ““Which of the following reasons, if any, contribute to your support for the modern State of Israel?” 52% said “Israel is important for fulfilling biblical prophecy” and 12% said this reason was the most important reason they supported Israel.

            @Le Maistre Chat
            Oh darn… He’s not going to get born this time? How’s he going to come back then?