911 thoughts on “Open Thread 139.5

  1. Aftagley

    Do any observant Catholics (or anyone, really) have an opinion on Joe Biden being denied Communion? I’m lapsed pretty hard, but I found myself surprisingly pissed at the priest.

    1. EchoChaos

      Not a Catholic, but very red tribe and this barely rose to the level of attention to me.

      I had been under the impression that this was already Catholic policy.

      Still, any church that uses its social power to enforce social norms is good with me because I generally agree with the social norms they’re pushing.

      1. theredsheep

        Not Catholic, Orthodox, and my understanding was that the policy was intermittently enforced. I generally approve; there should be wiggle room on many things, but if you believe being “in communion” is a prerequisite for receiving communion, and Biden is promoting tolerance for (per doctrine) infanticide, it really doesn’t make sense to allow him access, except for realpolitik reasons.

      2. Aftagley

        my understanding was that the policy was intermittently enforced.

        But if you believe being “in communion” is a prerequisite for receiving communion, and Biden is promoting tolerance for (per doctrine) infanticide, it really doesn’t make sense to allow him access, except for realpolitik reasons.

        I could maybe see if a priest who has prayed and advised Joe made the decision to deny him communion. I’d be uncomfortable with it, but I wouldn’t be pissed. But denying communion to a Catholic you have never met or prayed with annoys me. You don’t know him, you don’t know the state of his soul.

        1. EchoChaos

          Interesting. To me, I’d say the opposite.

          If you are a priest who regularly takes confession with him and knows that being pro-abortion is something that Biden is repentant of and working to get away from, then you could give him communion.

          Otherwise, you should deny it, because he’s publicly sinning and you don’t have any signs of genuine repentance.

          1. Nick

            If you are a priest who regularly takes confession with him and knows that being pro-abortion is something that Biden is repentant of and working to get away from, then you could give him communion.

            Privately, yes. Private communion is really rare these days; it used to be more common when folks (nobles, for instance) would have private chapels for the family.

          2. EchoChaos

            @Nick

            Thanks for the clarification. As I said, I’m not Catholic, although my mother was raised Catholic (she left the church to marry my father, who was divorced).

        2. Nick

          You don’t know him, you don’t know the state of his soul.

          That doesn’t matter. Canon 915, which @rahien.din quotes below, applies here. Giving communion to Biden produces scandal, which harms all Catholics. This is true even if Biden has privately repented.

        3. theredsheep

          Well, in Orthodoxy, the general rule is that you can only receive if you are an Orthodox Christian in good standing who has confessed recently, because communion implies communion; that is, you have to be of one belief with the rest of the Church. This would not be about the state of Biden’s soul in the sense of the priest sensing he was hellbound, if he were Orthodox; we’re discouraged from speculating in that vein.

          But I think we’d cut him off too, for manifestly continuing to sin and enable sin, in a plain and public fashion. Abortion isn’t something like divorce where oikonomia (priestly discretion) might apply; he’s publicly sanctioning something tantamount to murder, therefore he is not in communion with the Orthodox faith which has opposed abortion rigorously from the beginning. Cut-and-dried, really.

          EDIT: It should be noted that we’re not nearly as bound by formal rules as the RCC is, and thus we don’t have established procedures for this sort of thing. But you can be excommunicated for less than this. Pro-choice Orthodox politicians do exist in America; I’m guessing it’s too low-profile to draw attention.

    2. J Mann

      I’m involved in the Eucharistic ministry at my church, and this makes me very uncomfortable. I’d have problems if we denied the Eucharist to, e.g., divorced and remarried parishioners, although I’m pretty sure that’s in line with Church teaching.

      Random factoid: According to Love and Louis XIV (a book I highly recommend), there was an ongoing struggle between Louis’ people and the Queen’s over whether he would get a strict confessor or a lax one because (a) the Court expected him to take communion at least once a year, on Easter, (b) he would be denied communion if not given the sacrament of repentance, and (c) the stricter confessors would not grant him absolution for his adultery, since the ongoing nature demonstrated a failure to repent.

      1. Nick

        I’m involved in the Eucharistic ministry at my church, and this makes me very uncomfortable. I’d have problems if we denied the Eucharist to, e.g., divorced and remarried parishioners, although I’m pretty sure that’s in line with Church teaching.

        Then why are you a Eucharistic minister?

        1. J Mann

          Are you asking from a liberal or conservative perspective (just so I can be sure I’m answering the right question):

          If liberal: There’s a lot to like about the Eucharist – it can (and should) be a transformative experience – and my Parish does not in fact have a policy of denying it to anyone.

          If conservative: As above, I haven’t been instructed to deny the Eucharist, so I don’t think my conscience is at odds with authority. If I was told to deny the Eucharist to someone, I’d have to pray on it, but unless I was convinced, I’m pretty sure I’d have to quit the ministry rather than just refusing to comply with instructions.

          ETA: I saw your other posts and understand your question better. It’s mostly personal conscience informed by Jesus ministering to sinners, but I’ll pray on it some more.

      2. albatross11

        I’m also a Eucharistic minister (though only subbing for the regularly scheduled ones these days). Both our training and my own judgement is that I personally would only refuse someone communion if I was *sure* they weren’t allowed–for example, someone I personally knew wasn’t a Catholic. For “state of their soul” type decisions (is this person truly in communion with the Catholic Church), it’s hard to imagine knowing enough to be *certain* I should deny them. If I had questions along those lines, I’d ask one of our parish priests for guidance.

    3. rahien.din

      According to Canon 915, those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin are to be denied Communion.

      – A grave sin is one that seriously disturbs the ecclesiastical or moral order. Abortion is a grave sin. It is also a grave sin to help others persist in their grave sins. Biden’s support of abortion clears this bar.
      – A sin is manifest if it is widely known to the community. (In comparison, if a person has committed a grave sin but this is not widely known, the priest can not deny them Communion even if he knows about the grave sin, unless he is so instructed by a superior or a tribunal.) Biden’s support of abortion clears this bar.
      – Biden’s support of abortion surely clears the bar of “obstinately persevering in,” as well.

      So, Biden’s support of abortion is obstinate perseverence in manifest grave sin. The priest was required to withhold Communion from him. The priest fulfilled his duties.

      1. Nick

        Exactly right. The priest did what he should have, and the many priests and bishops who were unwilling to are not only spineless but have been endangering Biden’s soul.

        ETA: To say nothing of producing scandal, which exists whether Biden has privately repented or not.

      2. Aftagley

        A grave sin is one that seriously disturbs the ecclesiastical or moral order. Abortion is a grave sin. It is also a grave sin to help others persist in their grave sins. Biden’s support of abortion clears this bar.

        Incorrect. A sin is only grave and manifest if it is so habitually that it constitutes an objectively sinful lifestyle or occupation. This clearly doesn’t cross that bar, so the test stops here.

        Furthermore, and I know i’m quoting him from talking about divorce, I’d refer back to Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”

        ETA: fixed an error

        1. Randy M

          I’d refer back to Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”

          I would be interested in seeing interpretations of this. Is it the imbibing of the sacred host itself that imparts aid, or the act of participating in the ritual and humbling oneself under the authority of the church that tends to point sinners towards repentance?

        2. rahien.din

          By the way : this discussion has little to do with personal convictions. It only pertains to exegesis of Canon law. If any of us believes that [such-and-such action] is not a mortal sin, that would be a separate discussion.

          There’s nothing in the definition of “grave” or the definition of “manifest” that refers to recurrence or habitualness. A sin is grave if it seriously disturbs ecclesiastical or moral order. A sin is manifest if it is widely known to the community.

          The criterion that may address recurrence or habitualness is the final one, that of obstinate perseverance. Biden makes it part of his profession to help others commit grave sin. This is definitely obstinate perseverance. It would also clear your bar of “so habitual that it constitutes an objectively sinful lifestyle or occupation.”

          The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak

          Francis’ words are well-taken, and the sacraments contain essential mystery… but let us not be confused. The wafer itself is not medicinal. If it was, conservative Catholics would be trying to slip Joe Biden a communion wafer without him noticing, so to heal his sinful nature.

          Or, better said : if the Eucharist wafer itself was medicine to the soul, priests would be admonished to give it to everyone, most importantly to those who obstinately persevere in manifest sin.

          The central focus of the Catholic church is the community, and the Eucharist is an essential pillar thereof. What heals and nourishes is supplication to Christ and joining with the community. You can not be in supplication to Christ if you are deliberately and openly committing grave offenses against God. You can not be a part of the community if your most salient actions are violations of its most important values.

          This is why Communion may be denied. Communion is not denied because someone isn’t good enough for Christ. Communion is denied because that person is actively and openly opposing Christ.

          IE, if you are obstinately persisting in grave sin… what could you possibly want the Eucharist for?

          ETA: better words, fewer snark

          1. Aftagley

            Quoting the reverend John Beal, the Stephan Kuttner Distinguished Professor of Canon Law at the American Catholic University

            For a sin to be manifest, it is not enough that it be public or even notorious; it must also be so habitual that it constitutes an objectively sinful lifestyle or occupation. The 1917 code, like the current Eastern code, spoke of excluding the “publicly unworthy” from holy Communion. Commentators suggested that these publicly unworthies included pimps, prostitutes, fortunetellers and magicians. While wags have long accused politicians of bearing uncanny resemblances to these miscreants, no one has seriously suggested that politicians constitute a comparable class of practitioners of an inherently disreputable occupation or cultivators of an intrinsically immoral lifestyle.

            Source.

            ETA – I realize I’m basically just appealing to authority here. My attempt is to point out that there are logical and ethical positions possible on both sides of this issue, and that a stance maximally rooted in compassion would be to grant communion.

          2. Nick

            Your choice of quote was ironic in the extreme. A week after Beal wrote that, Cardinal Ratzinger communicated guidelines to the US Church on worthiness to receive communion:

            5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

            6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

            So those who have seriously suggested that politicians constitute a comparable class of practitioners include the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later pope.

          3. Le Maistre Chat

            The wafer itself is not medicinal. If it was, conservative Catholics would be trying to slip Joe Biden a communion wafer without him noticing, so to heal his sinful nature.

            I feel like launching consecrated hosts at gravely sinful humans is something you’d see in a modern vampire movie.

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            Commentators suggested that these publicly unworthies included pimps, prostitutes, fortunetellers and magicians. While wags have long accused politicians of bearing uncanny resemblances to these miscreants, no one has seriously suggested that politicians constitute a comparable class of practitioners of an inherently disreputable occupation or cultivators of an intrinsically immoral lifestyle.

            That’s a glaring oversight.

          5. Nick

            @Aftagley

            ETA – I realize I’m basically just appealing to authority here. My attempt is to point out that there are logical and ethical positions possible on both sides of this issue, and that a stance maximally rooted in compassion would be to grant communion.

            You know how you were saying last week that the Church’s position on abortion was clear?

            If you poke around, you will find many, many, many Catholics who disagree with you. The abortion teaching isn’t irreformable, they’ll say. The Church could change her teaching tomorrow. Actually, she already has. It was never intended to extend to the first trimester, anyway. Most Catholics don’t agree, so things are bound to change. I hear arguments like this over, and over, and over, and over.

            This might sound implausible to you, but that is where we’re at. You may know perfectly well that the pope has been calling for an end to abortion every week of his pontificate, but that doesn’t matter. You may know perfectly well that every authoritative document in the world, every catechism, every encyclical, every Act of the Apostolic See contradicts this, but that doesn’t matter. It may
            be inconsistent with everything you have ever known about the Catholic faith, but that doesn’t matter. These folks, it’s like they’re living in a different world. A world where they can go on Twitter and find a hundred people with tenured academic positions or a red hat saying that of course things will change, have changed, were secretly changed, never meant that, anyway.

            This is roughly how I feel about this issue. Canon 915 is in itself unambiguous. That’s not to say it’s obvious what terms like “obstinate perseverance” mean, but you only have to learn what they mean. All the same, there is an incredible amount of confusion about it. About everything. Confusion that cannot be chalked up to honest mistakes, because some at least should know better. It is practically impossible to discern anymore what Catholic teaching even is without doing all the hard work yourself.

            This isn’t even an appeal to authority. It’s less than that, an appeal to personal experience. But you’ve admitted you can’t argue on the principle here, and I’ve already been trying to do with the rest of my posts here, and I felt this needed to be said to. So please understand, I mean no offense when I say this, but I completely disagree that there are both sides here. You’ve been misled by the massive amount of misinformation about this, the same way that scores of Catholics you have perhaps not met believe wholeheartedly that support for abortion is fine.

            The misinformation frustrates me to no end precisely because of what a gulf it creates. I would like to have a conversation with people about these things, but it’s like I can never cross the gulf. No matter how many arguments I present or critique, we reach some kind of impasse, where I’m relying, it feels like, on common sense interpretation of binding documents, and they no doubt feel the same. Instead of finding common ground and building agreement, it’s like we can only find more things to disagree about. I have no idea how to fix it. I know you want a compromise here, that you want me to believe there’s two sides on this particular issue. I’m begging you instead to please believe that sometimes, there’s only one side.

          6. The original Mr. X

            This might sound implausible to you, but that is where we’re at. You may know perfectly well that the pope has been calling for an end to abortion every week of his pontificate, but that doesn’t matter. You may know perfectly well that every authoritative document in the world, every catechism, every encyclical, every Act of the Apostolic See contradicts this, but that doesn’t matter. It may
            be inconsistent with everything you have ever known about the Catholic faith, but that doesn’t matter. These folks, it’s like they’re living in a different world. A world where they can go on Twitter and find a hundred people with tenured academic positions or a red hat saying that of course things will change, have changed, were secretly changed, never meant that, anyway.

            …And of course, this confusion isn’t helped when people like Biden go around presenting themselves as Catholics in good standing.

          7. rahien.din

            @Aftagley,

            “Habitual enough to constitute a sinful lifestyle or or occupation” sounds a lot like “obstinate perseverence.”

          8. J Mann

            I feel like launching consecrated hosts at gravely sinful humans is something you’d see in a modern vampire movie.

            Nice. Now I want a vampire story where the vampire borrows “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”

          9. Aftagley

            I would like to have a conversation with people about these things, but it’s like I can never cross the gulf. No matter how many arguments I present or critique, we reach some kind of impasse, where I’m relying, it feels like, on common sense interpretation of binding documents, and they no doubt feel the same. Instead of finding common ground and building agreement, it’s like we can only find more things to disagree about. I have no idea how to fix it. I know you want a compromise here, that you want me to believe there’s two sides on this particular issue. I’m begging you instead to please believe that sometimes, there’s only one side.

            Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement you linked above convinced me. Canon 915 likely applies here and, while I’m not thrilled about it I believe that priest was in his rights to do what he did.

            I’m still find myself peeved. Nothing was accomplished here; Joe will go back to Delaware and keep receiving communion. People on the left will notch up their distaste for the Catholic church by one increment for being mean to Joe.

            I don’t know, I guess I just echo Plumber’s point below – everything about this just makes me sad.

          10. J Mann

            Nick – you’ve educated me as well. Sorry that I wasn’t more clear, but I find your arguments completely convincing as to the Church’s teaching.

          11. Nick

            Nick – you’ve educated me as well. Sorry that I wasn’t more clear, but I find your arguments completely convincing as to the Church’s teaching.

            That’s good to hear! I’m sorry if my earlier post came across as harsh; it certainly was. If it wasn’t clear, the reason I asked wasn’t that we had a conflict, but that you seemed to have a conflict within yourself: pretty sure already what Church teaching was on the one hand, but pretty sure on the other you couldn’t do that. Definitely something to pray over, and I hope you resolve the conflict.

          12. J Mann

            No problem. I didn’t take any offense, and hopefully I answered your question.

            I didn’t raise my hand as having been educated by your other posts because I wasn’t part of the conversation, but in response to your post to Aftagley, I suspect there are a lot of people who are learning something from them.

        3. Nick

          Furthermore, and I know i’m quoting him from talking about divorce, I’d refer back to Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”

          Your interpretation is incorrect. As St. Thomas himself put it,

          Objection 2. Further, this sacrament, like the others, is a spiritual medicine. But medicine is given to the sick for their recovery, according to Matthew 9:12: “They that are in health need not a physician.” Now they that are spiritually sick or infirm are sinners. Therefore this sacrament can be received by them without sin. …

          Reply to Objection 2. Every medicine does not suit every stage of sickness; because the tonic given to those who are recovering from fever would be hurtful to them if given while yet in their feverish condition. So likewise Baptism and Penance are as purgative medicines, given to take away the fever of sin; whereas this sacrament is a medicine given to strengthen, and it ought not to be given except to them who are quit of sin.

          The ill need medicine, but the Eucharist is powerful medicine indeed. And powerful medicine can kill the gravely ill.

          If Francis’s intention in that passage were to abrogate canon 915, he could have. The content of canon law is at the discretion of the pope; he alone can change it. He did not. Therefore, that is not how to interpret that passage.

    4. Douglas Knight

      Catholics have an obligation not to venue shop.

      Do priests have a reciprocal obligation to defer to home diocese?

      1. Aftagley

        Yes. You can’t know if someone visiting your Parish is being obstinate in their sin without, you know, having approached them and counciled them on their actions and given them the time and space to repent, which this priest hadn’t done.

        He could, I guess, call Joe’s home diocese and have a conversation with his priest and draw conclusions from that, but this clearly didn’t happen in this case.

        1. Randy M

          Typically this is probably true. Biden, coming off of a months-long process of attempting to communicate all of his views to the entire country, seems like he may be an exception.

        2. Douglas Knight

          Both of you seem to be asserting that priests are interchangeable and only differ in their knowledge of the individual. But if that were so, there would be no problem with parish shopping.

      2. Nick

        Do priests have a reciprocal obligation to defer to home diocese?

        No. Canon 915 applies to every minister of communion. If you don’t believe me, ask canon lawyer Ed Peters:

        Cupich’s failure ‘to bishop’ in this regard, of course, effectively abandons his pastors and other ministers of holy Communion to face alone the anger of some Catholics in ‘same-sex marriages’ who (like persons in merely civil marriages following divorce) must nevertheless be refused holy Communion by pastors correctly recognizing that, no matter what their archbishop doesn’t say, they are still required by canon law not to admit to holy Communion those who ‘obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin’ (c. 915).

        ETA: typo

    5. broblawsky

      If the Church wants to accelerate its decline into irrelevance as a moral arbiter, we can’t really stop them. Nor, frankly, should we.

      1. theredsheep

        If it’s refusing to meaningfully impose its own most important rules on people who publicly defy them while claiming membership, it has effectively forfeited its stand as a moral arbiter in the first place.

        1. broblawsky

          To be frank: post sex abuse scandals, I don’t see how the Church can claim to have special moral authority from a divine source. If they want to make a moral claim, they have to start from reason and the Bible, the same as any other Christian.

          1. theredsheep

            The sex abuse scandals wouldn’t have much bearing. The Church of earlier periods was corrupt enough to cause the western world’s biggest religious conflict, and they kept on claiming moral authority after.

          2. albatross11

            IMO, the sex abuse scandals in the Church are especially painful because they strike at the thing about Catholicism that’s different from most other versions of Christianity–the Church hierarchy.

            If there had been a lot of misbehaving priests who were being promptly removed by the higher-ups in the Church, that would re-enforce the idea that the hierarchy which goes all the way up to the Pope and is answerable to him, is a mechanism for ensuring that the Church stays on the straight-and-narrow. Even if there had been a lot of abusive priests, and there was a lot of scandal, we could see this as a place where the bishops and the Pope were able to step in and steer us back toward the right path.

            Instead, a huge chunk of the sex scandal in the Church has to do with the church hierarchy, up to at least many of the bishops and perhaps up to the Pope, doing exactly the wrong thing–covering up the scandals and moving the offending priests around where they could abuse more adolescent boys[1]. Some of the bishops had a lot of sexual misconduct in their own past, which was probably a source of blackmail material against them by some of the misbehaving priests. A large chunk of the hierarchy, from priests up to bishops and cardinals, were closeted gay men who appear to have kept up gay sexual relationships despite vows of celibacy. The church hierarchy didn’t act like a set of shepherds keeping the flock from danger, they acted like a bunch of bureaucrats closing ranks to protect their organization from scandal, protecting their own and leaving the outsiders to their fate.

            To me, as an adult convert to Catholicism, this strikes at the heart of a lot of what makes the Church different from most Protestant churches. We have a hierarchy that goes all the way up to a man we hope and believe is supported by the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church to make the right decisions and teach its people the right way to live. And that hierarchy was *at best* behaving like a bunch of secular bureaucrats or policemen trying to hush up a scandal and protect their own, and at worst was utterly corrupt and lived lives that were the opposite of the values they preached.

            American Catholics aren’t all that great about listening to the teachings of the hierarchy–plenty of people support abortion or gay marriage or the death penalty, lots of married Catholic couples use birth control, etc. But the hierarchy has (and needs to have) some moral authority–they’re speaking for the Church established by Christ. It’s hard to see that moral authority right now. When the bishops tell us we should moderate our sexual behavior according to Church teaching, it kinda undermines the message when it turns out they’ve been doing the opposite.

            Some years ago, in my parish, we heard a message from the archbishop, directing us to oppose a proposed law in Maryland. You might imagine this would have been a law allowing assisted suicide, or gay marriage, or giving public funding for abortion, or increasing the range of offenses for which execution was permitted. No. This was a proposed law to extend the statute of limitations for civil claims w.r.t. sexual abuse.

            That’s how you spend your moral authority–how you burn it in a big bonfire. And when it’s gone, when you’ve spent it to protect yourself from this week’s crisis, who will listen to your pronouncements on moral issues?

            [1] The usual pattern was (presumably gay by preference) priests getting sexually involved with adolescent boys.

    6. Plumber

      @Aftagley,

      My first thought was to feel sorry for Joe Biden

      Your post was the first I heard about it but it’s often the case that I first learn of a news item, five minutes ago though I got an e-mail from America: The Jesuit Review that had an item about it When can someone be denied the Eucharist? which is a good survey on the subject.

      Jesuit priest James Martin, SJ has a Twitter thread on this that has a good diversity of opinions that I recommend looking at a bit (I’d be very interested in learning how true is it that support for the death penalty is equivalent).

      On political implications: One way Catholicism is unique among major denominations in that Catholic voters are almost exactly evenly divided between those that lean Democratic and those that lean Republican, and it was much like that in the ’90’s as well, but 50 years+ Catholics were far more likely to be Democrats, and my second thought was that if voting for a Democrat consistently and commonly meant that you’ll be denied communion they’ll be less Democratic voters and also less church attendance, both of which I wouldn’t wish for.

      As far as moral and theological implications I feel extremely underqualified to comment (this is probably the “hot button” issue I’d be most likely to not cast a vote on, and not because of indifference), though I do see how Biden’s relatively recent “evolving” away from his long support for the Hyde amendment led to this.

      On this I don’t feel either anger, joy, or indifference about this news, just sadness.

      1. Nick

        (I’d be very interested in learning how true is it that support for the death penalty is equivalent).

        It is absolutely false. Take it first in terms of the consequences: the death penalty killed 25 people last year in America, all of whom, so far as we can tell, deserved it. Abortion killed 600,000, not one of whom deserved it. One is a punitive measure reserved for the most heinous crimes; the other kills the most innocent. The death penalty is certainly subject to abuse, and I’m sympathetic to prudential judgments that it shouldn’t be used, especially when, for instance, there’s evidence of racial bias. But for God’s sake, look at the numbers.

        The two have also never been treated equivalently by the Church, not even remotely. Abortion is very definitely and categorically condemned; it is always wrong; Roman Catholics are even automatically excommunicated if they procure one (which, by the way, is a terrible idea; automatic excommunications ought to be eliminated from canon law). The death penalty, however, is and has always been permissible, and in the Ratzinger instruction to US bishops your America article quotes, and I quoted above, Ratzinger says as much:

        3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

        Cardinal Ratzinger at the time was the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Church’s chief doctrinal office. He was also Pope Benedict, one year later. Notably, both John Paul II and Benedict wanted use of the death penalty to stop on prudential grounds, but, as Ratzinger indicates, disagreement among Catholics about whether the death penalty is prudent in the here and now is fine.

        Father Martin should know better about this, and it’s an outrageous thing to say. Not least when there are better cudgels to hit Republican Catholics over the head with, like supporting family separation at the border as a deterrence mechanism.

        1. Plumber

          @Nick,
          I very much appreciate your detailed response, thank you.

          I recommended the Martin thread just as much for the disagreements with historical statement as for his statements (that is what I meant by “has a good diversity of opinions”.

          I did see the 2004 quote you highlighted before I posted, and it seemed clear to me, I asked “how true is it that support for the death penalty is equivalent?” because someone ‘Tweeted‘: “The Pope said the death penalty is, in fact, a mortal sin” which I had never heard before and my thought was “If new and true, that seems like a really big deal, and if true and not very recently new my never seeing this reported is also a big deal” (I hadn’t yet read the many responses refuting that statement).

          “..cudgel…”

          As far as I can tell (and I’m most definitely not an expert on this!) both major parties now fall far short of all Catholic teachings regarding politics.

          Now, as to whether abortion should remain legal in their the U.S.A.?

          I’m a coward and won’t argue what was the law should be on this, the closest I come is to say maybe local polities should decide instead of having every Senate and Presidential election be abou this, but that’s as much me passing the buck as well as my localist (small “d”) democratic leanings.

          Sorry.

          1. Nick

            I noticed all the folks disagreeing with Father Martin, yeah; for instance, Abby Johnson, the Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate, was dragging him. It’s nice to see folks calling him out, but Twitter is such a terrible platform for actual engagement. It looked like few were having a meaningful conversation, just sniping at each other.

            The tweet you quote is also wrong, but the confusion is more understandable. Last year, Pope Francis ordered the Catechism of the Catholic Church changed in a way that made it sound as if the death penalty were always wrong. The reason I’m qualifying there that is that the new wording is carefully ambiguous. The Catechism also doesn’t have any actual teaching authority; it’s supposed to be the first place a Catholic looks, but on its own it doesn’t bind anyone to anything. (A good summary of how the change is best interpreted is here. The author, John Joy, has written other stuff on the interpretation of Catholic documents.) So we’re in this bizarre place where the pope wants a common summary for learning about Catholic teaching to sound like Catholic teaching has changed, without actually changing it.

            The Usual Suspects, meanwhile, heralded this as definitely totally for sure changing Catholic teaching, saying that we are all now bound to never, ever use capital punishment. This is absurd for a multitude of reasons; if the pope wanted to declare a thing like that then there is a special form for it, for infallible statements, and he didn’t use it. And changing the Catechism, again, doesn’t bind us in any way. And, you know, he could have said that it was “malum in se” (wrong in itself) or “intrinsically evil” or any actual term used in Catholic moral theology, but he didn’t, he said it was “inadmissible,” a term that means nothing in particular. And most importantly, if the pope wanted to say that, he should tell the faithful how we’re supposed to reconcile that with the long, unbroken, authoritatively stated teaching of the Church that the death penalty is permissible.

            But given what the change appeared to say, anyway, and the crowds of confident and important-sounding people like Father Martin saying afterwards that it definitely for sure changed Catholic teaching, lots of people were confused. And are confused. The whole situation was extremely frustrating, Plumber; you have got no idea. So I don’t blame people on Father Martin’s threads for thinking it’s now intrinsically wrong.

            As far as I can tell (and I’m most definitely not an expert on this!) both major parties now fall far short of all Catholic teachings regarding politics.

            This is certainly true. It should be no wonder to you that I am not happy with the Republican party as it is! But I’m sympathetic to the “Reformocon” efforts because I think it would be a lot easier to shift the Republican Party into something representing people like me, than shifting the Democratic Party. Trump showed that there was a disconnect between the base and the representatives, and that working class voters in the Rust Belt were unhappy with Democrats. I mean, for God’s sake, Marco Rubio published an essay in the foremost conservative journal on religion and politics advocating Catholic social teaching. This is astounding coming from a pretty establishment Republican. Tell me how much this sounds like your regular Republican, Plumber:

            Economic stability for working-class families is not a feature of today’s economy, however. Business profits have become increasingly estranged from production and employment. This is mainly driven by large, transnational corporations. Many of these corporations are now using our country’s resources to speculate on financial assets, including their own share prices. Rather than engaging in real production and innovation with workers here at home—the production that delivers widely shared prosperity—they have sought to reduce their domestic labor costs. This strategy is damaging not only the American worker, but also the competitiveness of American industry. We are cutting off the branch on which we sit.

            There is great wisdom in the Church’s guidance. The Church’s tradition cuts across identitarian labels, insisting upon the inviolable right to private property and the dangers of Marxism, but also the essential role of labor unions. The Church emphasizes the moral duty of employers to respect workers not just as means to profit, but as human persons and productive members of their community and nation. The tradition sees past our stale partisan categories and roots our politics in something larger: the inviolable dignity of every human person, the work he or she does, and the family life that work supports.

            An establishment Republican, trashing transnational corporations and advocating the return of labor unions!

            On the other side of the aisle are folks like John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic governor of Louisiana. I respect his efforts, and I wish him luck, I just don’t see it going anywhere. If even Joe Biden, who supported the Hyde Amendment for 40 years, is caving to those to his left here, what hope does anyone have of making the Democrats a party of life?

          2. Plumber

            @Nick > “…Tell me how much this sounds like your regular Republican…”

            Not regular at all.

            If such words were matched by comparable enacted policies that would be a major change.

          3. Nick

            @Plumber

            If such words were matched by comparable enacted policies that would be a major change.

            Yeah, I’d love to see it happen. I wish I could say it’s likely, but I think it all depends whether someone like Rubio is a frontrunner in 2024.

      2. The original Mr. X

        Jesuit priest James Martin, SJ has a Twitter thread on this that has a good diversity of opinions that I recommend looking at a bit (I’d be very interested in learning how true is it that support for the death penalty is equivalent).

        As Nick says, not true at all.

        In fact, you can generally assume that James Martin, SJ, is spouting rubbish whenever he speaks about Catholic doctrine. Or anything else, really. If he told me the sky was blue, I’d still go to the window to check.

    7. SamChevre

      Observant Catholic (convert)–and I think the discussion is starting in a very unhelpful place.

      Here’s the big important question: what sort of thing is the Eucharist? The canon-law position starts with an assumption about that question: the Eucharist is the sort of thing that’s dangerous and harmful to receive unless one is “well-disposed”. (The analogy I use is from the world of drugs: if you think the Eucharist is like a puff on a joint, withholding it makes no sense: if you think it’s like a high dose of acid, it makes total sense.)

      Legally, the pastor was within his rights, but barely so. (A Eucharistic minister would not have that authority unless he was following the pastor’s instructions.) The question is, why would he have done that–and the answer is, because someone egregiously and openly unqualified receiving the Eucharist is like the guy who OD’d last week getting a prescription for opiates–it’s dangerous to him and it sets everyone else up to be harmed too.

      1. Nick

        Legally, the pastor was within his rights, but barely so. (A Eucharistic minister would not have that authority unless he was following the pastor’s instructions.)

        It’s worth noting that the diocese of Charleston is under an agreement according to which pro-abortion politicians are not to receive communion in their diocese.

        The question is, why would he have done that–and the answer is, because someone egregiously and openly unqualified receiving the Eucharist is like the guy who OD’d last week getting a prescription for opiates–it’s dangerous to him and it sets everyone else up to be harmed too.

        There are actually several reasons. This is one. Another is that to receive the Eucharist unworthily is sacrilegious. A third is that to receive communion publicly, when one is persevering obstinately in manifest grave sin, scandalizes the faithful. Ed Peters has written on this several times (canon 915 is one of his hobby horses), but I think his best post on it is probably Part One of this.

        1. The original Mr. X

          I think it was St. John Marie Vianney who said that sacrilegious communions are like throwing Christ into an open sewer?

        2. Douglas Knight

          It’s good to know that this is part of prior policy, unlike the press releases in prior election cycles. Regardless of what one thinks of the specific policy or the idea of policy, it’s good to know what’s going on.

          ———

          Those two links really undercut what you’ve said elsewhere on this thread. (1) In your response to me you linked to Peters seeming to condemn diocesan policy in general. Does that force him to condemn this specific policy? (2) You told Aftaglay that there’s only one side and you characterize the other side as misinformation. Do you agree with Peters’s characterization of Francis as “Orwellian”? (I guess he’s mainly talking about people interpreting Amoris, but he does directly blame document.)

          1. Nick

            Let’s untangle things, because there are actually two applications of canon 915 in play here: a) Ratzinger sent that document to the US bishops in 2004, and the USCCB then wrote a policy recognizing that it’s the responsibility of individual bishops and they can reasonably differ. That’s the case that we’ve been talking about up until now. b) About Peters’s post, Francis wrote Amoris in 2016, and various bishops conferences (which generally govern a whole country, like the US’s USCCB) have written policies based on an ambiguous footnote about divorced and civilly remarried people with contradictory interpretations of it. And the ones which allow communion fail to so much as mention canon 915.

            So re (1), Peters in that article has a problem with the Amoris policies differing from bishops conference to bishops conference (and so do I). But Peters isn’t discussing the politicians application. As I understand his views about that, the USCCB document was correct to say it’s the responsibility of the individual bishop/diocese, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right; sometimes they’ve made the wrong decision or are outright shirking their responsibility here. Peters believes Charleston made the right call here and Biden’s home diocese made the wrong one; I agree, especially given Ratzinger’s instructions.

            Re (2), I agree with Peters the Amoris footnote is ambiguous, and I agree it’s Orwellian the way everyone who interprets it the one way is ignoring canon 915.

          2. Nick

            Addendum: sorry, Douglas, I actually misunderstood your (1). If I understand you right, you mean that this article, which says canon 915 applies to every minister of communion, seems to condemn Charleston by implication for having a diocesan policy. I don’t think it does, but I don’t know for sure, so the following is a speculative answer. Take it with a grain of salt.

            It is the bishop’s responsibility to ensure their ministers are acting rightly. Peters says as much at the beginning, that Cupich has a responsibility here and he is failing. But ultimately ministers like anyone are bound to act according to their conscience. So if a minister understands 915 to require them to withhold, they must withhold, bishop be damned. In the contrary case—where Charleston requires the minister to withhold—if conscience dictates them to give communion anyway, they must give communion. They might lose the privilege, or they might actually be in the wrong, but conscience dictates.

            I don’t think that requires Peters to condemn Charleston’s policy. Like I said, it seems like Charleston has this one right. If Father Morey’s conscience had instead dictated that he give Biden communion anyway, he would have had to. He would have simply been wrong to. That’s why right formation of conscience is so important.

          3. Douglas Knight

            If every priest has to make a decision, then every bishop has to make a decision. And they ought to talk about their decision with their priests. Part of their job is to be mentors. But setting a policy is claiming that it’s not up to the individual priest. And the USCCB sure seems to be saying that. (Not to mention the specific dioceses with policies.)

            They might lose the privilege

            The privilege to give communion? Who are we talking about, pastors or lay ministers? It seems to me crazy to combine coercion with insisting that people act their conscience. Orwellian would be a good word here. Either have war or have a truce. I assume they are coercing the ministers, but that it’s not a big deal to replace them. Though I guess it’s a mess if the bishop is coercing the ministers to defy the priest.

          4. Nick

            It seems to me crazy to combine coercion with insisting that people act their conscience.

            I think your argument proves too much. People act their conscience everywhere and at all times; that’s not something special here, it’s completely general. And yet there are cases where one’s boss has authority and exercises discipline. So acting your conscience can put you on the wrong side of that.

            I’m in favor of upholding conscience, like in the medical profession, as I’ve posted about on SSC before. So on one level I’m inclined to say you’re right and a diocesan policy is a bad idea—but on another, I’m not sure there’s room here for it. Canon 912 is “Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.” Obviously 915 is just such a case of being prohibited by law, but the point is, ministers have an explicit, specific duty to admit to holy communion wherever it’s not prohibited. It’s just as if we had a state law that, like, any patient not prohibited by law can and must be administered an abortion*. And since, per the USCCB doc, it’s the bishop’s responsibility to govern administering the sacraments in his diocese, he has to uphold 912, too, not just 915. So I think a bishop has to have a policy, and a priest who is defying his policy on withholding communion is subject to the bishop’s authority here. Even if the priest is following his conscience, even if the priest is right.

            It’s worth repeating I am not an expert and this remains my speculative answer.

            *Of course I would call a law like that Orwellian.

            ETA: fixed word order

  2. AKL

    Wouldn’t it be better politically for Democrats to censure the president rather than impeaching? He’d probably have a meltdown anyways, and it’s not like the Senate will vote to convict under any circumstances.

    There’s at least a chance of some bipartisan support (and higher cost to purple-district Republicans otherwise), and bipartisan censure seems like (at the presidential electoral level) a bigger win than party-line impeachment / acquittal. Also better for purple / red district dems.

    Maybe it’s impossible to get there because members from blue districts would worry about being primaried? But if they could be strong armed, should that be Pelosi’s preferred approach?

    1. Aftagley

      I wrote out a fairly long pundit-esque response to this idea and then deleted it. The short answer to your question is, in my opinion, no. If a majority of democrats in congress legitimately believe that the President’s conduct constituted an abuse of power that rises to an impeachable level then their only ethical response to to begin impeachment proceedings. Politics be damned.

    2. John Schilling

      Censure means absolutely nothing, and it means that you considered doing something and decided to do absolutely nothing instead. Congress can try to do the right thing and maybe fail, or they can say “meh, not worth trying if we’re not going to win”.

      Plan B, we might as well just rename the office “King” and be done with it.

      1. albatross11

        You’ll get bipartisan support for renaming the office “King,” just offset across presidencies. Nobody seems to have any taste for actually pulling back on the imperial presidency–even when half the country is talking about Trump as the scariest SOB to put his hands on the levers of power since the Devil took over hell, there’s still no stomach for weakening the powers of the office, limiting the domestic surveillance, requiring actual congressional approval for wars, etc.

    3. broblawsky

      I’d argue that they’re morally obligated to prosecute Trump to the fullest extent of the law for his crimes. Moreover, mere censure creates a precedent for Trump’s actions not actually rising to the level of criminality, which they certainly do. Anyone who believes in limiting the imperial Presidency should know that this is the first step to doing so, and maybe the last possible opportunity.

    1. silver_swift

      I’m participating, but I’m setting my targets lower in order not to get demotivated, 50K words is just completely out of reach for me given my writing speed and amount of time I have. I tried to get 30K words last year and ended up with 10K, this year I’m going for 15K and hope to make it.

      I’m also continuing the same story from last year which strictly speaking I think you’re not allowed to do, but whatever.

      1. sclmlw

        I don’t think that’s against the rules. They’re pretty lax about how you do it. They even allow non-fiction, which isn’t technically in the spirit of a “novel”. 10k is a lot more words than 0 words.

        Last year I got to 70k, but when I went back through the story needed a lot of work. I’m hoping this year to finish but in a way that I still end up with something usable at the end of the month.

        1. silver_swift

          I just checked and I think it breaks rule 4: “Planning and extensive notes are permitted, but no material written before the November 1 start date can go into the body of the novel.”, but it’s probably still within the spirit of the rules.

          Last year I got to 70k, but when I went back through the story needed a lot of work.

          Oh, yeah my 10K words were (and still are to be honest) in serious need of polishing and rework, but I find that type of work to be easier and more fun than putting the words on paper the first time around.

          1. sclmlw

            My understanding of that rule is that you can’t include anything written before Nov. 1 in the word count, but that you can work on an existing novel.

    2. Randy M

      I have taken a more realistic appraisal of my abilities and decided to join the lesser known NaNoWriDec movement.

      This might be a good place to link the website I mentioned at the last meet-up, scribophile.com, for getting feedback on writing. I’ve liked it enough to subscribe for the last month, despite it being essentially free.

    3. ARabbiAndAFrog

      I always wanted to so maybe I will.

      Over the years I had many different ideas which in recent years grouped together into two, so now I need to decide whenever I’m going to write about people who travel to small town to solve a missing person case, but become depressed wizards who make things disappear or should I write about amnesiac supervillain, cowboy and wisecracking mutant squid travelling through post-apocalyptic world and fighting body-snatching aliens.

    4. TheContinentalOp

      I’m in. I am 13k words into a YA/Horror. If I can get 50k in for November, I’ll be pretty close to completion.

      1. sclmlw

        I’m also doing YA this time around! Need some new buddies since they rejiggered the site. Anyone want to add me as a buddy? My handle is the same as here: sclmlw

        1. sclmlw

          I heard somewhere the rule of thumb is the target audience = age of the protagonist – 3 yrs. Of course, you’ll want to match the concerns/relationships/abilities of your protagonist to their age.

          Some of the best advice I’ve ever read about connecting to the right age group is in the introduction to later editions of Ender’s Game. OSC talks about how lots of adults wrote him letters saying something like, “You’re dumb; kids don’t think like that.” But then he got many times more letters from actual kids saying something like, “Ender is me; I totally identify with this book and this character.”

          The difference between YA and adult isn’t that you write down to younger audiences, but that you match the character’s motivations with the kind of concerns a younger person can identify with. They don’t think differently from adults, they just have different objectives for their lives in the near-term.

          1. ARabbiAndAFrog

            Kids might be actually dumb, but fictional characters have to be smarter than real people they represent, as a general rule. They need to have enough mental power to move the plot forward and to be articulate and coherent enough to be understood by those who can’t ask them anything.

            We also have to accept that reality is real and anything that happens in it happens for a reason. Anything fictional happens because author wills it, and thus doesn’t have the same advantage.

  3. broblawsky

    So Bryan Caplan and Zack Weinersmith’s new book, Open Borders, just came out. I haven’t read it yet, and due to complicated reasons I won’t be able to for a couple more weeks. Has anyone gotten the chance to thumb through it yet? I’m really looking forward to it.

    1. thevoiceofthevoid

      I just flipped through the preview (first chapter? or so) on the amazon preview. In my opinion, one of the strongest objections to open borders is that (uncharitably) “all the immigrants would take our money through the welfare state”. I’m interested in how they respond to that argument, though not quite to the tune of $10.

      1. Ketil

        all the immigrants would take our money

        Alternatively, all the immigrants who would take our money will lead to severe throttling of welfare programs, which in turn leads to lower life quality for the poor, increased violence and crime, and generally bad outcomes.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          I think in order for open borders to work you need incredibly pro-full-employment politics. Central bank mandate that reads “if unemployment hits 3 percent the central bankers are fired” is about where I would start

          1. albatross11

            I’d assume it works the other direction. If there are few jobs for unskilled people who don’t speak much English, then the net inflow of unskilled immigrants will be pretty limited; if there are a lot of jobs for unskilled people, then lots of people will come to fill them.

            The hope is that having lots of workers available all the time will mean a faster-growing economy and thus a rising tide that lifts all boats. I think there’s some empirical evidence for this in the economics literature. On the other hand, the rising tide probably lifts the boats of high-skill, high-value citizens a lot more than it does the boats of low-skill, low-value citizens.

          2. ARabbiAndAFrog

            If there are few jobs for unskilled people who don’t speak much English, then the net inflow of unskilled immigrants will be pretty limited

            That’s assuming
            A) Unskilled migrants are sufficiently clairvoyant that they know they won’t have a job in the new country
            B) Locals have enough guts to not feed those who can’t feed themselves, thus avoiding creation of migrant flood seeking handouts.

          3. albatross11

            During the housing crash, IIRC, net migration from Mexico went negative. I knew people who went back to Honduras because they could no longer find work. Remember that these are people who mostly came here for jobs–everything is expensive and most people don’t speak their language and they’re worried about getting deported all the time and nothing is like it was back home, but at least they can get work. When the jobs go away, lots of immigrants return home. This same pattern existed historically during our huge immigration waves, too–lots of people came here for a few years, couldn’t hack it, and went home.

            ETA: Where this *won’t* work is with people who came here to flee likely genocide. There was some really ugly shit going on in Guatemala a couple decades ago, and El Salvador had a civil war that produced a lot of refugees. Those folks will stay here if they have to sleep in a dumpster, because going home means sleeping in a mass grave.

            But most illegal immigration is economic–people come here looking for work. Economic incentives matter there.

          4. Alexander Turok

            @thevoiceofthevoid,

            Somewhat, by creating more inflation which reduces real wages. But even this is limited, when expectations for inflation are high, it gets accounted for in wage negotiations,(sometimes by indexing future wages to inflation itself) which just brings you back to square one.

        2. thevoiceofthevoid

          They allude to this at the end of the preview (Imgur screenshot), and there’s a chapter later on titled “the golden goose on trial”. Unfortunately, can’t say how they respond to it since as mentioned I haven’t actually bought the book.

        3. broblawsky

          Correct me if I’m wrong: the assumption here is that immigrant workers will take more out of the welfare system than they put in, either through first-order effects (paying taxes directly) or second-order effects (promoting economic growth, which can also be taxed), right?

          1. hls2003

            I assume that’s the argument thevoiceofthevoid is referring to, but I perceive Ketil to be raising a more meta point that the influx of immigrants might not cost money in that way, but rather could lead (via public fear of those costs, whether accurate or misplaced, or via decreased societal trust, or public resentment, or some other reason whether good or bad) to the reduction of almost all welfare programs.

          2. J Mann

            I think that’s the argument, although I’d note that:

            – In many cases, critics are comparing full open borders to a skills and need based immigration system, not to closed borders, so it’s really a question about the additional immigrants over their preferred policy or the status quo.

            – There’s a perception that the more generous the welfare system, the more it will attract people who need its help.

          3. albatross11

            You could worry about this at a couple different levels, I think:

            a. A big inflow of immigrants overwhelms a bunch of local government services, and it takes several years for the tax base to grow enough to handle them. This is short-term pain and potentially long-term benefit, but the people who will be suffering the short-term pain may not think the long-term benefit is worth it.

            b. The average immigrant who comes to the US isn’t productive enough over his lifetime to cover the government services he will consume via police, roads, schools, public health, medicare, retirement benefits, etc. This is plausible, but I don’t know if it’s true. But if it *is* true, then it’s a big argument against open borders–if we end up where the average immigrant is ultimately consuming more from the government than he puts into the government, that’s an instant government budgeting problem; if he consumes more from the society overall than he puts in, it means the whole society gets poorer.

            In a pure market society, this won’t happen except by accident, because you can only consume what you earn in free trade with other people. But that implies that low-productivity people get to starve to death or live in shantytowns.

            At one extreme, the average immigrant is Elon Musk. At another, it’s some very sickly child with an expensive-to-treat lifelong medical condition that will keep him from ever working. It’s easy to see how the balance works out in those two cases; it’s not so obvious how it works if we get immigrants who work low-wage jobs their whole lives, have kids who go to the local public schools, occasionally show up at the ER with emergencies that get expensively treated, and eventually retire on Social Security and Medicare.

            ETA: Our (or at least my) moral intuitions here say that when some guy comes here at 19 and works hard physically demanding jobs till he’s 65, and then retires, he’s got to be putting more into our society than he’s taking out. And probably that’s true, but it’s not guaranteed to be true.

          4. Aapje

            @albatross11

            You are ignoring the scenario where a migrant comes in and out-competes a low skilled native, who ends up on welfare/opioids/etc.

            Then the migrant may earn the state a little more than he costs (or not), if looked at in isolation, but surely not at all if the broader effects are considered.

          5. johan_larson

            There is evidence that low-skill immigrants are a net loss for the larger society. That’s one of the findings of a 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. I don’t know the details, since I haven’t read the report. But this would be a place to start.

            On average, a nonelderly adult immigrant without a high school diploma entering the U.S. will create a net fiscal cost (benefits received will exceed taxes paid) in both the current generation and second generation. The average net present value of the fiscal cost of such an immigrant is estimated at $231,000, a cost that must be paid by U.S. taxpayers.

          6. Aapje

            Surely there is an immense difference between a Indian programmer and an illiterate African, so outcomes are going to depend primarily on the makeup of the migrant population (and the effects of policies are going to depend largely on their effect on that makeup).

      2. albatross11

        Isn’t the usual response to combine open borders with a rule saying that immigrants aren’t eligible for government benefits for N years after coming to the US? Or just say that most benefits are restricted to citizens or permanent residents, and have the open-borders-immigrants be under some third category that’s not eligible for benefits?

        1. EchoChaos

          Sure, but nobody actually believes that will happen.

          Look at the backlash against Prop 187, which was wildly popular at the time.

        2. Jiro

          A deal consisting of “we allow immigrants, in exchange for X” will almost always fail because if X takes place in the future, it is possible to renege on X but it is not possible to then kick out the immigrants.

          1. albatross11

            This is a general problem in politics–nobody can make binding commitments, so “we’ll ban assault rifles but never push for more restrictions than that” or “we’ll forbid abortions after 6 months of pregnancy but we’ll never push for more restrictions than that” doesn’t work, because there’s every incentive to renege as soon as today’s battle is won. Even if individual actors keep to their commitments, that doesn’t mean their whole movement will.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            One way to figure out if people plan to renege on their promises is to just listen to them. If they keep on talking about how this is the first step, believe them.

            Another reason why I despise “I’m just moving the Overton window.” No, idiot, you are making it impossible for anything to get incrementally done.

        3. johan_larson

          The problem with doing so is that many of the benefits of a generous high-sharing society are not government cheques, but rather shared institutions for everyone. And excluding people from those is going to seem incredibly heartless. Is anyone planning to keep immigrant kids out of public schools until they have been in the country N years? Or deny immigrants emergency room services? Or just not have the police come if they call 911? Probably not.

      3. EchoChaos

        I also flipped through the preview and it’s already making moral arguments I disagree with and some serious leaps of logic. I don’t suspect I will be persuaded.

    2. JayT

      I started reading it last night. If you follow Caplan regularly, then you’re probably already familiar with the parts I’ve read. Still though, I find his defence of open borders to be quite strong, and this is a more approachable way of reading his ideas compared to following his writings for the last 15 years. So, if you haven’t followed him for a long time, I can recommend it.

    3. Clutzy

      I’ve read some sections, but am 100% familiar with his work so it honestly just annoys me he decided that rehashing old blog posts was worth a book. His arguments are mostly the same as always.

      One tenet is, essentially: If open borders is bad for the welfare state, just get rid of the welfare state. No method for doing that second part prescribed.

      Another is: Immigrants commit less crime. Fail to breakdown demographics in any reasonable way.

      Maybe the book contains some good new insights but I haven’t seen them. Mostly more of his handwaving away practicality.

      1. JayT

        It was more “the book he was writing was fertile ground for blog posts”. Almost all of those blog posts came about because he was researching this book.

    4. Wrong Species

      Even if I was interested, I find the idea of trying to push political philosophy through a comic book creepy and manipulative. Don’t use pictures of smiling, innocent-looking immigrants to push for your ideas. If your arguments are good, then the words should stand on their own. Just write a regular damn book.

      1. The Nybbler

        I expect that a meta-rule of specifically political philosophy is that it’s always better to do what works rather than what’s right. If creepy and manipulative results in successful manipulation, then creepy and manipulative it will be.

  4. Enkidum

    What is the incentive to vote against or abstain over the Armenian genocide resolution?

    I guess I can understand congresspeople being in the pocket of Turkey, or at least frightened of them. Fair enough. But the justification given by Ilhan Omar for abstaining seems incomprehensible to me, and apparently similar complaints were made against Obama when he tried to push a similar resolution. And these are people (well, Omar, at least) who have absolutely no problem criticizing places like Saudi Arabia, so it’s not a Muslim solidarity thing.

    On the off chance that anyone wants to respond with LEFTISTS BLAH BLAH, please, save yourself the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

    1. Tatterdemalion

      I see 11 Republicans opposing, and one Republican and two Democrats – one of them one of the left-most Democrats in the house – voting present rather than supporting.

      That makes me think that there are at least two, and quite possibly more, reasons for not supporting it.

      FWIW, my guess is that Omar’s reasons are pretty much the ones she gave in her statement. She clearly has an extremely low opinion of the moral standing of the US government, and while she’s happy criticising at least some other governments herself, perhaps she doesn’t want to do so with her official hat on?

      1. Enkidum

        I just don’t get her statement. It’s what people on her (and mostly my) side of politics call “whataboutism” – yes, X is bad, but whataboutY? Just bizarre, she must have known she was going to get dragged for this.

        1. Aftagley

          I think your focusing too much on the second, and stupid, portion of her statement and not paying enough attention to the more relevant first half where she says,

          accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight

          My stance on her take is that she thinks that genocide recognition here is pretty obviously a response to what their doing to the Kurds now and will always be seen as such. It’s less of a historical recognition and more of a stick to beat them with now.

          That being said, it’s an argument I disagree with.

          1. The Nybbler

            She’s right about not using genocide recognition as a cudgel for a political fight, but she completely undermined that with the second part, where she uses genocide recognition as a cudgel for a political fight.

          2. Enkidum

            @Aftagley: I think your “doesn’t think” should be “thinks”, but yeah, that maybe makes sense. Agreed with @Nybbler (and I think you).

          3. J Mann

            My stance on her take is that she thinks that genocide recognition here is pretty obviously a response to what their doing to the Kurds now and will always be seen as such. It’s less of a historical recognition and more of a stick to beat them with now.

            Aftagley, I think I have 3 responses.

            1) Most importantly, granting for the moment that Omar sees the resolution as a stick used to beat the Turks for their treatment of the Kurds, why is she opposed to that? Shouldn’t people of good conscience be trying to deter Turkey and similar actors from this conduct. In what sense is protecting the Kurds from military occupation a “political fight?”

            2) Second, presumably the logical inference is that she believes both parts of her statement, both the “I don’t want to condemn the Turks for the Armenian Genocide if the intent of that resolution is to try to deter violence against the Kurds” and what you call the “stupid part” – that we shouldn’t condemn the Armenian Genocide unless we also condemn the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Given that, can’t we criticize either or both?

            3) Third, when she’s proposing multiple defenses and then moving the the arguably most secure one under criticism, I start to suspect that she may not be arguing in good faith. She might just be sympathetic to Turkey, and looking for a reason to justify it.

          4. Aftagley

            I’m in the position here of trying to support an argument I don’t fully agree with; I can try to provide you with responses, but note that I’m basically just simulating a position here that would result in the actions/votes/tweets she’s made.

            I could see an ethical position that says – the Armenians deserve real recognition and justice. Having the US decry the Turkish treatment of the Armenians ONLY when it becomes politically convenient for reasons that have nothing to do with the previous genocide cheapens this recognition.

            It also makes it easier for people who want to ignore it to do so, “The US doesn’t REALLY think it was a genocide, this is just them being angry that we out-maneuvered them in Syria.” This message is likely going to be effective and is literally being parroted by pro-Turkish talking heads right now.

            In different times, a concerted call in the US for justice for the Armenians could have maybe resulted in some kind of action on behalf of the Turkish government, but doing this now prevents that possibility. Also, this is the kind of political action we can only take once.

            That being said, is this Omar’s position? No clue.

          5. J Mann

            Understood.

            My counterargument to your hypothetical interpretation is that I find Omar describing “trying to prevent the violent Turkish occupation of the Kurds” as a “political argument” as offensive in its own right.

            (And also, I’m sceptical that’s her real motivation rather than just the nearest motte)

    2. Clutzy

      Probably the best reason I can think of right now is if you generally abstain from the meaningless votes.

      I don’t think any of the three “present” voters have a record that supports this proposition.

      The reasons to vote against would be: 1) Turkey-phile or 2) Being strongly anti-Turkey and objecting to this meaningless vote while we still allow them to be in NATO/etc

      1. Enkidum

        Yeah I can see a consistent refusal to take part in gesture-resolutions, though I’ve never heard of anyone who actually does that. But that’s not what’s happening here.

        Your other options make sense, but don’t seem to apply to the “present”-voters at least.

        1. Clutzy

          I’d say your evaluation of it is pretty correct. Omar’s statement-non-statement is baffling to me as well. Personally I think its another one of the issues she is not very educated on, but still feels a need to speak about.

          Less charitable people than me would search for a dog whistle, but I don’t generally think they are real for almost all cases. There’s no special set of phrases anti-semites and racists use that conveys secret information to each other but us normals can’t figure out just by reading.

    3. Alexander Turok

      I wouldn’t have voted for it because I don’t think it should be Congress’s job to be the referee for foreign ethnic conflicts. We’ll inevitably hear calls to recognize the Circassian genocide or the ethnic cleansing of Balkan Muslims, ect. Just leave that to the historians.

      1. Enkidum

        Fair, as I replied to @Clutzy I think that’s a consistent and comprehensible reason. I don’t think it’s the one that was the actual basis of the “present” and “no” votes in the present case though.

      2. Nancy Lebovitz

        That wasn’t what she said, though. She said there should be more thorough and general refereeing.

    4. JayT

      4 of the 11 “nay” votes came from Indiana representatives. Is there some reason for this? Are there a lot of Turkish people in Indiana or something?

    5. EchoChaos

      I don’t think that she’s doing this because she’s a leftist.

      I think she’s doing it because she’s a Muslim and doesn’t want to criticize her ingroup for doing stuff to the outgroup.

      Note that her criticism of Saudi Arabia is because they are attacking other members of her ingroup.

      If a white supremacist had criticized the Nazis for killing Poles but refused to vote for a resolution condemning the Holocaust with this justification nobody would be confused why he had done it.

      1. albatross11

        The minimum-effort, minimum-additional-assumptions model is that congresscritters who want to continue to be on good terms with Turkey and Erdogan are going to avoid putting their names on this, for the same reason so many courageous social-justice-inclined US companies somehow can’t manage to have an opinion (or allow their employees to express one) on the proper governance of Hong Kong or the treatment of the Uighurs.

        1. EchoChaos

          Sure, and I haven’t looked into the rest of the Congressmen/women who voted against or present on this to see if they have a history of avoiding criticizing our allies.

          Omar does not fit that model at all, and since she includes criticizing America in her statement, I don’t think that you can say that is her reason.

      2. Enkidum

        I think that’s a coherent, but wrong, explanation. She’s simply not a muslim supremacist, except insofar as anyone who chooses to be a member of any religion is a supremacist of that religion (which is to say, not very much).

        Also her subsequent elaboration of her choice makes more sense, not that I’m sure I agree with it.

        1. EchoChaos

          I won’t argue the Muslim supremacist, as that’s a bit of a distraction anyway, and using a white supremacist as my example probably isn’t perfect.

          But I do think that she considers all Muslims her ingroup and doesn’t want to weakman her own group.

          Which is strongly supported by “I won’t vote to condemn this specific genocide unless you condemn all genocides”.

        2. Faza (TCM)

          IDK, quoting:

          My issue was with the timing and context. I think we should demand accountability for human rights abuses consistently, not simply when it suits our political goals.

          So I’m not going to demand it in this particular instance, because it… doesn’t suit my political goals, apparently?

          1. Enkidum

            I think that’s exactly backwards. She’s saying it is being demanded because it suits a particular political goal (which is obviously true), and this is reason enough to refuse to support it.

            To be consistent, she’d have to vote against any other controversial genocide resolutions if they were being targeted against a particular group. But this isn’t something that comes up enough for us to be able to form a judgment.

          2. Faza (TCM)

            If it’s the right thing to do the right thing every time, you can’t do the right thing by not doing the right thing this time. It doesn’t matter that the right thing is being done for the wrong reasons, if it is the right thing to do.

            In other words, by all means condemn the politicization of the issue, but if you have no “issue with the substance of this resolution”, vote for it.

            My pattern matcher is on the “good sounding lie to obscure the real reason” bar.

            ETA:
            #DontExplainTheJoke: If “it is being demanded because it suits a particular political goal (which is obviously true), and this is reason enough to refuse to support it” then refusing to support it – despite agreeing with the substance – is being done to support a particular political goal (just not the one behind the resolution).

          3. John Schilling

            If you want to do the right thing, but you won’t do it when the opportunity arises because some of the people helping you will be doing the right thing for the wrong reason and because you’d rather the right thing have been done last Tuesday or sometime next month, you’re not going to get a whole lot of right things actually done. But you can speechify real good about it, I suppose.

          4. EchoChaos

            @John Schilling / Faza (TCM)

            +1 to both.

            With the addition that if the right thing that you keep putting off coincidentally happens to be condemning your ingroup while you find plenty of time to condemn your outgroup, it’s reasonable to suspect it’s because you don’t actually condemn your ingroup that much.

          5. Enkidum

            I think one can (and should) be principled about meta-issues in politics. For example, as I’m sure you all well know, in Obama’s last year as president, he rammed through several executive orders for things he could not get bipartisan cooperation on.

            Now, as it happens I agree with most of the things he chose to ram through. I also agree that his efforts to do some of these things through normal legislative channels were being unreasonably blocked by Republicans. (Please, let’s not argue whether I and Obama are right about those two points – let’s just accept that he and I are in agreement.)

            I further agree with most of his critics that he shouldn’t have done it (though at the time I probably wouldn’t have said that out loud). It was the right thing to do, and there were even strong reasons to do it in this unorthodox manner. Nevertheless, it was the wrong thing to do, because of the surrounding meta-issues, in particular the precedent it set.

            So…

            It doesn’t matter that the right thing is being done for the wrong reasons, if it is the right thing to do.

            Hard disagree, if the “wrong reasons” entail doing/supporting something else that is worse than the good which might be done through doing the right thing. And I think there are good reasons to believe that Omar believes this to be the case.

            Clearly, she’s also got biases to support muslims in general, and Erdogan in specific. Such is life.

          6. Faza (TCM)

            Hard disagree, if the “wrong reasons” entail doing/supporting something else that is worse than the good which might be done through doing the right thing.

            Agree, but in that case it is incumbent on you (general “you, ofc) to demonstrate that this is the case.

            And I think there are good reasons to believe that Omar believes this to be the case.

            Ditto for Omar.

            Personally, the only “wrong reason” I’m seeing here is that it allows Omar’s political opponents to make political hay. That’s just not a good enough reason.

            To see why that is the case, consider: if your sole reason to refuse to do what you feel is right is that it is also supported by people you oppose for unrelated reasons, you are prioritising victory in a political conflict over actual policy. Given that a politician’s role is to implement their preferred policies, it seems to me to be equivalent to cutting off your ears to spite your face.

            Saying “I am completely in favour of trains running on time, but I won’t support a government that also ensures that trains run on time to extermination camps” is a different story altogether.

          7. Enkidum

            Fair, also note that as @Clutzy pointed out, these votes are essentially meaningless anyways, at the best you get sensitivity points and/or piss off the right people. So you can afford to be “principled”.

            Anyways, I think we’ve beaten this particular horse well into the ground and know where she and we all stand.

    6. Enkidum

      For those who care, Omar has further explained her reasoning, which essentially amounts to objecting to the resolution being used as a cudgel for short-term political purposes (penalizing the Turks for taking the opportunity to invade northern Syria given to them by Trump). I don’t know if I agree with her reasoning, but it’s at least less mysterious to me than her original statement.

      1. J Mann

        I strongly object to characterizing attempting to save the Kurds from violent occupation as a “political goal,” and the more I think about it, I’m becoming convinced that Omar’s bloodless euphemism is at least as offensive as the rest of her statement.

        Is she against condemning broader Israeli crimes in the context of, say, attempting to deter Israeli settlements? If she has taken that position in the past (and I doubt she has), I would at least give her credit for consistency.

        My prediction is that a review of her statements will show that she has no objection to raising and condemning historical crimes in other contexts, even when her narrow goal is to shift current policy by the condemned.

        1. Enkidum

          The Kurds are going to be violently occupied. There’s nothing anyone in the US can do about it any longer. So this is simply hand-wringing. That being said, what do you think saving them would be if not a “political goal”? Not sure what’s particularly offensive about it, certainly it strikes me as much less offensive than the reality on the ground at the moment.

          I very much doubt she’s said anything much about “broader Israeli crimes” that is meaningfully distinguishable from specific Israeli actions. I’m not sure what that would even mean.

          I have no idea if she’s ever voted on a resolution about historical wrongs.

          1. cassander

            The US absolutely could prevent them from being violently occupied if it chose to. the question is to what end. Are we going to make syrian kurdistan the 51st state? Support them as an independent nation? Preserve a territorial enclave in syrian territory until the end of time? because unless we want to do one of those things, we will be leaving eventually, and if we’re going to leave, it’s better to leave sooner than later.

          2. Aftagley

            I think the Kurd’s realistic goal was to eventually rejoin the Syrian State as an autonomous, or relatively autonomous state. The only thing they needed for this to happen was for Assad (or his potential replacement) to get the rest of Syria back under control before Turkey invaded them.

            While Syria wasn’t fully under Assad’s (or the potential revolutionary government that replaced him) control, the area was ripe for ISIL to propagate, so it made sense for the US to be there.

      1. Protagoras

        I kind of wonder why Erdogan wants to continue the policy of genocide denial. The Young Turks disappeared with the Ottoman Empire, and the denial policy seems to have been implemented because Ataturk’s military service during the Young Turks era meant the issue was a bit embarrassing for Ataturk’s faction. But Erdogan is opposed to the remnants of Ataturk’s faction. So he’s looking bad to the international community in order to shield his enemies? I guess it’s probably an example of how doing anything that could possibly be perceived as caving to foreigners is absolutely to be avoided, no matter how harmless or beneficial it might be, because of how domestic enemies will always spin it.

        1. Machine Interface

          Erdogan continues the policy for the same reason his kemalist predecessors continued it: because Turkey officially reognizing the genocide would entail paying reparations to Armenia.

          Constructing Erdogan as “the negation of Atatürk’s heritage” is not really an accurate analysis. Erdogan might be a break with the previous Turkish leaders in that he is a (pretty weaksauce) Islamist, but on most other counts he is perfectly in line with them and his brand of authoritarian, nationalist, low-free-speech democracy is in continuity with what Turkey has been for most of the 20th century.

        2. Protagoras

          In what way would admitting that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide “entail” that the Republic of Turkey would have to pay reparations to Armenia? Was some sort of treaty to that effect signed at some point? Otherwise, I don’t see what could prevent them from conceding the reality of the situation and otherwise just ignoring it. And I didn’t say Erdogan was the negation of Ataturk’s heritage, only that he was opposed to the remnants of Ataturk’s faction. Obviously factions can be opposed without disagreeing about very much; all they really need to disagree about to be opposed is who exactly should be in charge.

          1. Aftagley

            I mean, Germany of today is pretty far from the horrors of their genocide, but it’s still something they have to grapple with as a nation and, talking with germans, it’s still a pretty big stain on their country’s honor. I could see Turkey not wanting to get him with a similar black mark.

          2. Machine Interface

            The issue of reperations is part of the discussion over the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey, and has already lead to lawsuits of various Turkish or Turkish-dealing individuals and companies around the world. If Turkey officially recognized the genocide, and thus a responsability in it as the successor state to the Ottoman Empire (the same way Montenegro shares some responsability in the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks during the Bosnian War of Independence, even though Montenegro wasn’t an independent state at the time), then it would open the door to international trials over reparation.

  5. PedroS

    If a pure U-235 sphere weighing 1kg were placed in the tip of a Rod from God, would the kinetic energy released when impacting the earth be enough to compress it to criticallity?

    What would the minimum mass need to be for the shock to be enough to increase its density to a critical state?

    1. John Schilling

      Plutonium moving at 8 km/s has a specific kinetic energy of 32 megajoules per kilogram, which comes to 6.35E12 ergs/per cubic centimeter at the alpha-phase density of 19.85 g/cc. Sorry about the bastard units but…

      A first-order calculation using figure 4.1.6.2.1-1 from the Nuclear Weapons FAQ (yes, of course there’s a nuclear weapons FAQ) suggests that if you were to couple 100% of this energy into shock compression, you could compress it to ~0.39 of its original volume. Critical mass scales inversely with the square of density, and critical mass for a bare sphere of Pu-239 is approximately 10 kg, so you’d need 1.5 kg for bare criticality.

      Bare criticality gets you the faintest whiff of nuclear energy, enough to kill a Louis Slotin if he’s fool enough to stand next to the thing but once you start reacting and ablating and thermally expanding your plutonium it goes very rapidly subcritical. In this scenario, you won’t even notice except that the crater will be radioactive. To get even a kiloton of nuclear yield, you’ll need roughly a 50% margin above criticality (exact figures requires detailed implementation-specific modeling; don’t ask). So that gets you to 2.25 kg of plutonium.

      Also, you don’t want it to be a sphere up front, but an ellipsoid that will collapse to a sphere after the shock passes through.

      Also also, you aren’t going to get 100% of the energy going into a single perfect planar shock wave, particularly if you’ve just got a mass of plutonium up front. Assume that with a very clever set of impedence-matching wave shapers you can get 50% efficiency, you’re at a compression level of .46, so about 3.2 kg of plutonium.

      Which is about what is needed for a proper fission bomb of ~10 kiloton yield if you use a good spherical implosion design rather than 1-D linear comprssion, so just do that instead. Particularly since you were never going to get even 50% efficiency out of this scheme, and at a more plausible 10% efficiency you’re going off the chart on the exponential region.

      The scheme you are proposing is similar to how the W48 and W79 nuclear artillery shells were believed to work; not with the impact energy of the shell, but with explosive lenses fore and aft to provide planar shocks from each direction hitting an ellipsoidal plutonium mass. Reason being, the 155mm shell diameter did not allow for any sort of spherical implosion assembly. These were notoriously the least efficient nuclear weapons ever built (in the US at least), with ~10 kg of plutonium required for a lousy 0.1 kiloton yield in the W48. And the explosives used had a detonation velocity of somewhat greater than 8 km/s, so that’s probably a good estimate of what you could get from an optimized “nuclear rod from god”.

      Just buy proper A-bombs, or H-bombs, and design a properly-shaped reentry vehicle for them, if you really want to go this route. Not only will it be more efficient, but the design problem will be simplified because you can (mostly) assume spherical symmetry.

  6. S_J

    A little more than a week ago, a crew of deep-sea explorers announced discovery of the wreckage of two Japanese aircraft carriers sunk at the battle of Midway.

    The challenge of locating a long-lost ship at a depth of about 18000 ft is interesting. Apparently, the late Paul Allen (who founded this research team), set forth a goal of locating all the ships sunk during the Battle of Midway.

    I wonder if any of these finds will improve our understanding of what happened in that battle?

    1. Protagoras

      Are there any huge mysteries about the battle? I thought the events were pretty well understood.

      1. bean

        I don’t know of any huge mysteries outstanding, but at least for something like this, the issues are more likely to be of the “things we think we know that aren’t so” variety. One of the best examples is the book Shattered Sword, which rewrote a lot of the Japanese side of Midway. There was a lot of stuff we’d assumed based on a couple of personal accounts from the Japanese side that didn’t stand up to detailed archival research.

        But I’m not sure how much the ships will help with any remaining questions. They’re most useful for answering things like “what sunk this ship and when”. That’s not always certain, even in WWII, but Midway was early enough in the war that the records from the Japanese side are good.

  7. AlexanderTheGrand

    If you’re a fellow keyboard warrior, I want to plug the gamechanging vimium browser extension for chrome/firefox. It’s got a lot of great features, but best by far is that lets you do super easy link-navigation without your mouse. You press “f”, and a two-letter hintbox appears next to every link, and you navigate to the one you type. It’s great for open threads where you want to show/hide toggle often.

    1. AlexOfUrals

      Thank you!
      This is exactly what I’ve been looking passively waiting to fall out of the sky on me for years!

    1. eyeballfrog

      Is the same team doing the TV shows as the movies? I enjoyed Rebels (Thrawn may have helped a lot there) and have heard good things about The Clone Wars, though Resistance looks kind of dumb. So perhaps optimism isn’t so unreasonable.

      1. johan_larson

        Is the same team doing the TV shows as the movies?

        Doesn’t look like it. The Mandalorian is written and produced by Jon Favreau, who doesn’t have a Star Wars background.

    2. ARabbiAndAFrog

      I don’t care enough about Star Wars to care about this. I’m sure production values will be high, but I’m not having high expectations of plot quality.

      It’ll take an pretty high endorsement for me to bother with it.

      1. John Schilling

        At this point, if you tell me that your story centers on either a bit of secondary mythology from the Star Wars universe or a bit of secondary mythology from the Marvel universe (comics or cinematic), that’s a point against my being interested. And really, it doesn’t change much if you use core mythology instead. Both of those have been mined out of the good stuff, and what is left is being predictably managed to appeal to a lowest common denominator audience of fourteen-year-old boys in China. It’s not impossible that the result could be nonetheless appealing to me, but it’s not the way to bet.

        If the trailer is 30% generic space-operatic swashbuckling and 60% iconography to remind me that this is part of the Star! Wars! Universe!, then I’m not going to be first in line and the reviews had better be extra good.

    3. AlesZiegler

      I don´t see why it shouldn´t be good. Rebels were pretty good, as well as Rogue One, and Solo was ok. Only Last Jedi was truly bad and I expect that Ep. IX will be also, but “not main movies Star Wars stuff” from Disney has consistently good quality.

    4. Nornagest

      Fight scenes suck, and it’s doing that thing (common in Star Trek, for example) where something that was a half-assed one-off hack in the first episode retroactively morphs into standard procedure by the tenth. Cool set design, though, and the cinematography’s not bad.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Fight scenes suck, and it’s doing that thing (common in Star Trek, for example) where something that was a half-assed one-off hack in the first episode retroactively morphs into standard procedure by the tenth.

        Heh. I watched the remastered Star Trek: TOS via Amazon Prime awhile back, and fight scenes have to be the worst aspect. The gloriously-high definition makes it clear every time they filmed a stunt double, for example.

    5. blipnickels

      Just remember Solo.

      I don’t know how they could screw up Boba Fett. That said, I didn’t know how they could screw up Han Solo and they’ve done it twice. I’ve learned not to underestimate them. Or, to be fair, overestimate them. Expect something profoundly mediocre.

      1. acymetric

        One other comment (too late to edit)…they didn’t really screw up Solo, they just badly botched the marketing and release date for Solo.

        They shouldn’t have released it so close to TLJ regardless, but they definitely should have found an excuse to move back the release date after the backlash from TLJ.

        1. John Schilling

          No, they really screwed up “Solo”. They included too much crap that only the hardcore fans will ever care about, at the expense of general storytelling. They forgot to include a proper villain for most of the movie. And they made it less fun than “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a fundamentally silly story with no foundation in pop culture. There is no release date or marketing campaign that would have made “Solo” more than a mediocrity, and there is no excuse for making a mediocre movie when you’re given Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the Millenium Falcon to play with.

  8. Plumber

    There’s been a lot of essays lately on how less religious Americans are now compared to the recent past, but something from Gallup polls that Douthat’s column linked to caught my attention: In U.S., Four in 10 Report Attending Church in Last Week
    Self-reported church attendance has varied between 37% and 49% since 1950
    , and that recent low of 37% is about the same as the church attendance rate in 1940.

    Besides the low church attendance, there now low birth and marriage rates in the U.S.A. compared to previous recent decades, but low birth and marriage rates were also true of the 1930’s.

    The peak church attendance years were the mid to late 1950’s (coincidentally years of a continuing birth and marriage boom, and a male labor force participation rate that’s never been equaled, as well as the highest ever private sector union density).

    1940 was eleven years after the stock market crash that preceded the Great Depression, and it’s now eleven years after the crash of 2008.

    Looks like history rhyming similar cultural/social results
    from a similar economic event to me.

    1. Alexander Turok

      I say the lower fertility rate of the 1930s was based on the income effect, while the lower fertility rate of the past few decades is based on the substitution effect. In the 1930s it was “I want to do this but I can’t afford to,” now it’s “I want to delay this* because there’s something better I want to do.”

      *The decline in marriage is almost wholly a matter of people getting married at later ages and their marriages not lasting. The number of never married men and women has not risen in the past two decades, see:

      https://dalrock.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/wnh_never_married_20_49_20171.jpg?w=640

        1. Alexander Turok

          The income effect is real and people are telling themselves “If I had a 5,000$ more in income I’d be able to afford kids,” but if you look at the actual statistics people with higher incomes have fewer kids.(There might be a reversal of this correlation at very high incomes.) They aren’t considering the substitution effect, that if they have kids and stop working they lose that extra 5,000$ in income.

          1. Aftagley

            That’s kind of my view on this. Kids are like drugs – if you want them you’ll find the money to get your fix.

          2. Tatterdemalion

            Depends if you mean “keeping kids alive” or “giving kids a standard of living you’d consider acceptable”.

            The former, while easy to reach, isn’t really a useful standard to think in terms of, because not many people want to have kids just to watch them suffer, and the latter is not something everyone can afford just by changing their priorities.

          3. albatross11

            Tatterdemalion:

            Anyone living anywhere close to a middle-class American lifestyle could add a child and still survive while raising the child with adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Maybe the kids wear hand-me-downs and share a bedroom, but that’s not unbearable hardship, just not having as much money as you’d like. Plenty of much poorer people raise kids in the US now, including illegal immigrants who don’t speak the local language and aren’t eligible for any kind of public assistance; their kids mostly do fine.

          4. Randy M

            Having a kid “just to watch them suffer” is different from having a kid who might at some point suffer.

            Though even that’s a matter of perspective. Sharing a room and sticking to home cooked meals goes a long way but it probably below some people’s acceptable standards. It’s not going to feel to the child like depravation though.

  9. viVI_IViv

    Related to the discussion of the genetics of race downthread and previous discussion on the development of cereal grain agriculture, are people without a predominant ancestry of agriculturalists more likely to become obese in a modern environment where cheap carbs are readily available?

    1. KieferO

      Are the Pacific Islands, which had taro as it’s agricultural staple close enough? I believe that obesity is a concern among those that switched to rice. Though arguably anything attributable this is just as well explained by microbiome.

    2. Randy M

      Weston Price observed that pre-modern people groups that switch to a modern diet with lots of processed grains and sugars had poor teeth and weight gain, iirc.

    3. Alexander Turok

      I don’t see why, it’s not like there has ever been selection against obesity in either agriculturalists or foragers. It’s more plausibly due to time orientation than any effect of the diet itself.

      1. viVI_IViv

        Most humans and other animals don’t get overweight even when they have access to excess food, unless it’s modern junk food. This is evidence for a mechanism that regulates body fat.

        Such mechanism should be particularly important for ceral grain agriculturalists, since their food availability peaks once a year during harvest season and it’s better to store all these calories in their granaries rather than on their own bodies.

        Hunter-gatherers, instead, might be better off storing excess calories in their bodies since their food availability has more variance and meat and fruits are hard to store. Still, in their natural environment they are unlikely to get overweight since you can only eat so much protein and fiber.

        Junk food is made of concentrated, easily digestible carbs and fats with little protein or fiber. It’s probably an obesity risk to many people in any population, depending on the genetics of the specific person, but I expect that populations with an history of ceral grain agriculture to be, on average, more resistant to excess carb availability.

        1. helloo

          … animals don’t get overweight even when they have access to excess food, unless it’s modern junk food.

          I’m doubtful on this.
          There’s plenty of fat pets and farming animals is built on the principal.
          Neither of which really feed on “junk food”.

          Of course, those have rather different lifestyles than wild animals, but so do humans and that is a rather large confounding variable.

        2. Enkidum

          Most humans and other animals don’t get overweight even when they have access to excess food, unless it’s modern junk food.

          Citation needed. I think you’ve swallowed the diet propagandists line here.

          Have you ever looked at paintings of nobility from pretty much any country after the nobles were no longer actively participating in hand-to-hand combat?

          Clearly, modern junk food makes you fat. So does a lifetime of inactivity and access to as much food as you want.

          1. quanta413

            Have you ever looked at paintings of nobility from pretty much any country after the nobles were no longer actively participating in hand-to-hand combat?

            But gout is a sign of sophistication!

          2. Another Throw

            IIRC, William the Conqueror was too fat to fit into his sarcophagus. And he spent most of his reign actively leading in battles against revolts.

        3. Statismagician

          @viVI_IViv – Yes and no. Distinctions need to be made between the merely fat and the morbidly obese, and between how either one comes about with premodern foods and with modern ones. It’s trivially proved that many premodern people were fat*, and some were quite obese, but it’s also very clearly true that rates were lower. Obviously this is mostly for the obvious reasons, but they’re also lower today in first-world countries with comparatively less junk food – compare French and American obesity rates, for example. Some of this is because [premodern urban planning], but lots of it is as I understand it because less-processed food fills you up faster, so you don’t eat as much in the first place as well as what you eat containing fewer fats and sugars.

          *Link to a Wikipedia page with the amazing title ‘List of people known as ‘the Fat.”

    4. Douglas Knight

      Like Alexander said, both hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists are evolved under conditions of caloric risk and if obesity were hoarding for the lean times, I don’t see why you’d predict it. (If anything, the opposite.) But if you think of obesity as part of metabolic disorder, not a cause of diabetes, but an early symptom, then it would be more plausible.

      But is it true? Hunter-gatherers have a lot of diversity. The Pima tribe of Indians have an 80% diabetes rate. But the fact that I know their name that suggests that other Indians don’t. (Are they more hunter-gatherer-ish?) American Indians do generally have a higher rate than whites, but so do South Asians.

  10. proyas

    I think every nuclear power plant site should have to be big enough to encompass two different stations, even if only one station were to be built immediately. This requirement would allow a second, newer station to be built on the site when the first station had reached the end of its life. On the same day that the first station shut down and started the multi-year decommissioning process, the second station built next to it would start up. As a result, there would be no interruption of electricity being produced at the site, broadly speaking.

    The first station would be slowly dismantled until nothing remained but a concrete foundation. Several decades later, when the second nuclear station started nearing the end of its life, a third nuclear station would be built where the first nuclear station was. Through this back-and-forth process of construction and demolition, one nuclear power site could operate indefinitely. This would also vastly simplify the permitting process for building new nuclear power plants since no new land would have to be purchased, and no communities would be affected. Everything would happen within the original boundaries of the nuclear power plant site, and those boundaries wouldn’t change.

    What, if anything, is wrong with my idea?

      1. proyas

        Getting approval to build a nuclear power plant is probably harder than getting it for any other type of power plant, which is why I think nuclear power plant sites need this for their own sake.

        1. The Nybbler

          Doesn’t work, because by the time it’s time to build the new plant, the regulators may well have changed their mind. The issue will certainly be re-litigated, regardless of any pre-approval. Darth Vader’s bit about altering the deal is practically a motto when it comes to regulatory approval.

          1. John Schilling

            Right, this. You make the first plant harder to build, because of the additional paperwork and oversight for the hypothetical second plant. You don’t make the second plant easier to build, because regulators in 2065 AD won’t give you any credit for paperwork completed to 2020 standards any more than 2020 regulators would care that you filled out 1975’s forms to perfection.

            And no, Congress can’t fix that by passing a law. No Congress can bind any future Congress, and somewhere between now and 2065 Future!Congress will decide it can easily score brownie points from its constituents by “protecting” them from the dire menace of nukyuler reactors built to the archaic safety standards of the 2020s.

          2. Aftagley

            I know I should be on your side here, but if someone said to me “Hey, I’m planning on building a nuclear facility next door to you. I can either build it to 1975 safety standards or 2020 safety standards”, I’d certainly pick 2020 standards and would likely devote a non-insignificant amount of time and resources trying to get that to happen.

            Mind you, I know nothing about nuclear safety standards, but this is balanced out by my intimate experience of dealing with dangerous tech/machinery that people in the mid-70s thought was fine.

            ETA: I don’t see the problem with not forcing the next generation to abide by our current safety protocols. Let them decide what they find to be acceptable risk.

          3. albatross11

            To be fair, I’m not sure I’d be 100% on board with someone building a chemical plant upwind of my house based on the regulatory approval they received in 1950, either. Pollution regulations got tighter for good reasons.

    1. Statismagician

      I’m thinking that it doesn’t solve a real problem. Land space is not the limiting factor on nuclear plant construction, that’s political nonsense and regulatory barriers. Requiring even more preplanning will just increase both of these, and I’m not at all sure that it’s easier to find one site large enough to handle simultaneous operation of one plant and construction/dismantling of another than it is to find two sites each large enough for one. Planning for predictable changes to the power supply is obviously a good idea, though.

      1. Randy M

        It’s probably easier to get an environmental impact report done for one 2 mile site than it is for two 1 mile sites, even adjacent.

        1. Statismagician

          In total time, yes – but nuclear plants last 50+ years, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d have to re-do the EIA anyway in order to account for regulatory/environmental changes before starting construction on the second plant, in which case why duplicate effort? I’m not an expert here, of course.

        2. acymetric

          Sure, but what is the incentive for people/companies to spring for the 2 mile property and impact report when most of the people involved will be retired or dead by the time the 2nd mile is needed? Easier just to just do the 1 mile for the single plant and leave sorting out a new site for a new plant for the next guy/generation.

    2. valleyofthekings

      Electric power can be sent across wires for a very long distance. Wikipedia tells me: “As of 1980, the longest cost-effective distance for direct-current transmission was determined to be 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles). For alternating current it was 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles), though all transmission lines in use today are substantially shorter than this.”

      So it’s not clear why anyone would care about an “interruption of electricity being produced at the site”.

      It sounds like the process of getting a permit to run a nuclear reactor is difficult, but I think we should solve that by improving the getting-a-permit process.

      Also, it’s not obvious to me that we’ll still be using nuclear power 50 years from now. Maybe we’ll have cold fusion, or really efficient wind and solar, or some other wacky thing.

      1. lvlln

        Electric power can be sent across wires for a very long distance. Wikipedia tells me: “As of 1980, the longest cost-effective distance for direct-current transmission was determined to be 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles). For alternating current it was 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles), though all transmission lines in use today are substantially shorter than this.”

        So it’s not clear why anyone would care about an “interruption of electricity being produced at the site”.

        There is also loss in electric power that gets sent over long distances, and the loss is greater the longer the line is. That’s one reason to care that the electricity keeps being produced at a certain site.

        But more relevant is that losing a power plant in a given location changes the flow of electricity in the power grid which can be difficult to predict and can lead to outages and damage. The power grid has a couple of limitations that make managing it pretty annoying: at any given moment, about the same amount of power needs to be being produced (or released from storage) as is being consumed; and electricity being produced (or released from storage) follows the laws of physics in flowing in the power grid and can’t be intentionally directed.

        So if, say, a nuclear plant were to go off-line, then the power that plant used to generate will have to be made up for by other plants in other locations. But those plants can’t just send extra power to the places that the nuke used to service; those plants just put extra power into the grid, and the power lines near those plants might not be equipped to handle the extra power and cause congestion and/or damage which could cause wild fluctuations in electricity prices in certain locations, which isn’t desirable.

        In practice, we have regulators who manage this sort of thing with lots of redundancies and such, so I think the ability to keep electricity being produced at a particular specific site isn’t all that valuable. But it’s not completely worthless either; it makes the math work easier, and it reduces the costs of building more lines or lines with more capacity.

    3. Thomas Jorgensen

      People do build nuclear power plants in clusters, but they do so in tight sequence for very good reason. The proper method is to get approval for four, and when the foundations on the first are poured, and any problems corrected the foundation team goes to town on plant two, then 3, then four, while the construction team responsible for the next stage goes to work on plant one (and get all the fuckups out of their system).
      This saves mucho money, because plants 2-4 tend to be on budget, and also you only have to build one set of supporting infrastructure / can reuse extremely specialized equipment by the expedient of hauling it a kilometer down a gravel road. None of that works if you space out construction by 50 years. And it is not like there is any chance whatsoever you will fail to find customers for the low carbon electricity.

  11. Aapje

    Florida sheriffs try to entrap lonely men by chatting them up under the guise of an adult, only to then reveal that they are supposedly underage. One of these lonely men worked at the sheriff’s office and refused all advances, steering the conversation back to innocent topics, until the entrapment attempt got too blatant, when he ghosted ‘her.’

    He was then fired…

    1. The Nybbler

      Headline is “Florida Cops Went to Absurd Lengths to Entrap Man Who Showed No Interest in Underage Sex”. Apparently Reason is now sharing writers with the Babylon Bee.

      Normally, the SCSO destroys the records of these stings, preventing the public from understanding the sordid process that produced the arrest of the supposed sex offender.

      This ought to be about twelve different kinds of illegal. They ought to be subject to discovery and made part of the court record.

      1. Aapje

        How so? The headline seems 100% correct (if subjective). It’s the behavior by the cops that is absurd.

        I hope that the railroaded person who worked at the Sheriff’s office sues them. Surely this is a slam dunk wrongful termination, at least?

        1. Randy M

          How so? The headline seems 100% correct (if subjective). It’s the behavior by the cops that is absurd.

          I think that’s the point. Absurd but accurate.

        2. JayT

          Babylon Bee is kind of like the Onion. I think he’s saying that the story is so crazy that you would expect it to be satire.

      2. ana53294

        They ought to be subject to discovery and made part of the court record.

        The article says they arrested a depressed old man (who ended up commiting suicide). They aggressively flirted with him, and then arrested him when he showed up.

        Coming to a place were dates usually happen is not a crime; since the minor is not real, you can’t take photos of the person with a minor; how could you prove that the person intended to have sex with a minor, if the only evidence is him showing up in a place? The worst thing you can get accused of for showing up somewhere is trespassing, and I assume they chose a public place for that.

        1. Radu Floricica

          That particular guy is actually quite guilty (depending on how the law is written, of course), in the sense that he willingly and knowingly went to have sex for money with a 14 year old.

          Problem is that I’m taking as a given that there exists a process that makes almost anybody do almost anything. I’m pretty sure there are contexts in which I’d be a murderer, or pedophile, or cannibal – the fact that I have trouble imagining them is a fault of my imagination, not a proof that I or any human is a saint.

          So, given that… legally they arrested somebody that attempted to have sex with a child. But taking just a slightly more wider view, they also created him in the first place. Unfortunately that’s not punishable by any laws right now, so they can keep on doing it – and the more they do it the better they get at it, and easier it gets to make pedophiles.

          It’s a pretty big hole in the legislation. It would be somewhat forgivable if they were private entities, but since they’re also the government… it’s dystopian territory already.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            So, given that… legally they arrested somebody that attempted to have sex with a child. But taking just a slightly more wider view, they also created him in the first place. Unfortunately that’s not punishable by any laws right now, so they can keep on doing it – and the more they do it the better they get at it, and easier it gets to make pedophiles.

            This reminds me of the observation/joke in another thread of this OT that Klansmen know which of their members are FBI informants because they’re the only ones who attend every meeting and pay dues on time.
            Of course there would be statutory rapists in the absence of undercover cops, just as the Klan flourished without undercover cops (esp. in the 1920s), but now we’ve reached the point where the cops are creating new men willing to have sex with a minor and keeping white supremacist organizations in existence, for purposes of entrapment.

          2. Unsaintly

            The legal standard, as I understand it, is overcoming resistance. Cops are allowed to ask you to do illegal stuff, even provide mild urging, but aren’t allowed to do anything that would overcome a normal person’s resistance. So if they pretend to be underaged and talk to you seeking sex, it’s illegal for them to keep going if you say no or refuse their advances, but they can keep playing along if you show interest

          3. Protagoras

            Is a cop (or a lawyer or a judge) anywhere close to being an expert on what will “overcome a normal person’s resistance?” They don’t seem to have a clue about what will overcome a normal person’s resistance to confessing to crimes they didn’t commit, for example. If this is also a case where they underestimate how much influence they are actually bringing to bear (as is clearly the direction of their error in interrogation cases), this is going to be a very bad standard in practice.

          4. acymetric

            @Protagoras

            Is a cop (or a lawyer or a judge) anywhere close to being an expert on what will “overcome a normal person’s resistance?”

            A less charitable but valid and important question is whether they care what that threshold is.

    2. Protagoras

      Well, it did happen in Florida, and anything happening in Florida is less surprising just for that reason. But police get up to some horrible stuff. And unfortunately the usual pattern is to only complain when they target your ingroup, instead cheering them on and celebrating their dedication when they are overzealous in going after your outgroup.

      1. acymetric

        I seriously doubt this only happens in Florida.

        I would wager various adult prostitute stings operate in much the same way (seducing people who otherwise probably never would have ended up looking for a prostitute into engaging with a cop acting like a prostitute).

        1. Lillian

          Stings in general operate like this. It’s much easier to create criminals where none existed than to go after the real ones, since doing that requires conducting an actual investigation. Worse habitual criminals may be armed, and are more likely to distrust police and know to shut the fuck up around them. Innocent people tend to be less aware of how police operate and make stupid mistakes like trying to talk to the cops in the hopes of clearing things up, or even believe them when they say confessing will make it easier on them.

          Back in the 2000s the FBI had a racket where they would find a group of disaffected young men, try to talk them up into starting a bomb plot, provide them with some non-functional materials, and then arrest them all and go to the press crowing about how they caught some terrorists. There was after all a lot of demand for catching terrorists, but actually damn few of them to catch, and those were actively hiding their intent. Far easier to just make some.

          This is why the legal definition of entrapment needs to be broadened even if you believe on being tough on crime: We’re wasting police resources on bullshit stings catching people who otherwise would have never done anything and letting the real criminals get away.

          1. acymetric

            Back in the 2000s the FBI had a racket where they would find a group of disaffected young men, try to talk them up into starting a bomb plot, provide them with some non-functional materials, and then arrest them all and go to the press crowing about how they caught some terrorists.

            This was the plot of a Law and Order episode, except some of the materials ended up being used.

          2. Ketil

            Back in the 2000s the FBI had a racket where they would find a group of disaffected young men, try to talk them up into starting a bomb plot,

            Maybe I’m overly cynical, but this is my default interpretation of any reports on the number of terrorist plots averted, and similar. I don’t think there are many bona fide terrorists (or padeophiles, for that matter) around, but probably some disillusioned and angry young men that enterprising cops with a quota to fill can hand enough rope to hang themselves.

          3. Aftagley

            Hypothetical – you have evidence that someone from an age/gender demographic known to commit a specific type of horrific crime is making public and credible threats to commit said horrific crime.

            The crime’s magnitude is such that no ethical person could sit back and let it happen. You have two options:
            1. Monitor this person indefinitely and hope that you can tell from their public statements/actions when they are seriously about to commit the crime or
            2. Get yourself some proof that they have a serious intent to commit said crime, then get them in a situation where they can’t hurt anybody. The potentially means you might have to act as a facilitator of said hypothetical crime.

            Note that if you pick 1 and you’re wrong, people die. Potentially lots of them.

            I’m not uniformly arguing for these kinds of sting operations, but there are definitely ethical systems of thought that can result in their use. Saying it’s just incompetent cops trying to fill quotas ignores a world of deeper nuance.

          4. acymetric

            credible threats to commit said horrific crime.

            My approval hinges almost entirely on whether this part is true prior to the sting/entrapment operation.

          5. albatross11

            Aftagley:

            My qualm here has to do with how much enticement is involved. I mean, if you’re a loaded gun lying around waiting to be picked up–if you’d happily blow up a truck bomb and kill a bunch of strangers if anyone offered you a truck bomb, you’re just too lazy to figure out how to get one yourself, then I’d like to see you sitting safely in a prison cell somewhere where you can’t blow anyone up. But if you’re basically minding your own business until a multi-year campaign of informants/provocateurs pulls you reluctantly into a conspiracy that you would otherwise never have joined, I’m not convinced that putting you in prison makes anyone safer. And the feds are incentivized to do this sort of thing in order to rack up numbers of people locked up for terrorism and to recruit more informants–it’s easy to see how this could go really badly, in ways that lock up a whole lot of harmless blowhards or wannabes without actually making anyone safer.

          6. acymetric

            @albatross11

            We’re also probably radicalizing people who would never otherwise have been radicalized. Regardless of the fact that we then throw them in jail, we still have more radicalized people than we did before. This is concerning because:

            1) They will eventually be out of jail

            2) They might radicalize other people they meet in jail who will also get out of jail

            3) We’re putting people in jail who probably wouldn’t have needed to be there if not for the operation pulling them in (as you noted).

          7. Le Maistre Chat

            @Ketil:

            I don’t think there are many bona fide terrorists (or padeophiles, for that matter) around, but probably some disillusioned and angry young men that enterprising cops with a quota to fill can hand enough rope to hang themselves.

            I’m going to be true, pedantic, and necessary here:
            While I don’t think there are very many true pedophiles around to arrest, I think it’s biologically normal for men to be attracted to pubescent girls. That so many men are unwilling to have sex with a girl before she turns 18 is culture overriding biology.
            (So for cops to pretend to be 17-year-old girls online in order to undo all of civil society’s hard work…)

          8. Plumber

            @Le Maistre Chat >

            “…normal…”

            FWIW my grandfather was in his 20’s and in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WW2 when he married my grandmother who was 16 at the time, though they were seperate for most of the war and she didn’t give birth to my mother until 1946 when the war was over (cue Billie Holiday and Vera Lynn songs).

            I’m not proud, but not particularly ashamed but when I was 20 in the late ’80’s I dated 16 year-olds (I also dated a women in her 20’s when I was 17 years old, and I am proud of that!).

            Probably not something to be encouraged (especially when the age gap is even greater), but at least in the 1940’s and ’80’s still in the range of “normal”, I can’t tell exactly why, but 14 with 20 seems more suspect than 15 and 21 though.

          9. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Plumber

            I can’t tell exactly why, but 14 with 20 seems more suspect than 15 and 21 though.

            Youngest age involved is younger, and percent gap is greater.

          10. Aapje

            Entrapment seems based on the false idea that people act autonomously, even though most people (and especially ‘normal’ people) tend to act in a way that gets approval from others.

            So arguably, a valid way to describe some of these operations is ‘grooming pedophiles/terrorists.’

          11. gbdub

            Crimes are said to have elements of means, motive, and opportunity. The concept of a sting is to hand someone the means and opportunity on a silver platter, and even nudge them a bit in the direction of motive, and then pounce on them if they take the bait.

            The assumption underlying this approach is that anyone so caught was a criminal waiting to happen, and thus it is good to lock ‘em up. But this seems very questionable, because I strongly suspect that motivation is highly context dependent.

            The person who would take something untoward that was handed to them is not exactly a paragon of moral virtue, but still seems very different from a person who would actively seek it out.

            People, even less than heroically moral ones, are lazy. And opportunities for zero effort criminality rarely fall from the sky. These are true facts – setting policing policy as if they were not true can veer dangerously close to punishing thought crime.

    3. eyeballfrog

      Florida sheriffs try to entrap lonely men by chatting them up under the guise of an adult, only to then reveal that they are supposedly underage.

      I don’t get it. There’s no crime that actually happened here. At least in a drug sting an actual exchange takes place. There may be intent here, but no criminal act. It was my understanding both are needed.

      1. lvlln

        I think “going somewhere to meet someone with the intent of having sex with someone below the age of consent” is a crime in itself, much like how “conspiracy to commit [x]” is a crime in itself for lots of [x]s, even if you never actually follow through in committing [x].

        1. eyeballfrog

          Right, but no minor was solicited. Only a cop pretending to be a minor. This is unlike a prostitution sting, where the female cop is a very real woman that the man paid cash (presumably) to have sex with.

    4. J Mann

      Steelmanning for a second, I don’t have a problem if people come to the conclusion that every: 14 year old girl interested in older men; hit man; and al qaida recruiter on the internet is actually a federal agent.

      I do agree that if this guy’s story is true, he should have been given a pat on the back for not being a pedophile, though.

      1. Aftagley

        Hard disagree. If someone they’ve matched with says “I’m 14” on a dating app and their immediate reaction isn’t to shudder, then delete that person as a match, then shudder again, I’m skeptical of them and their overall intentions.

        What possible innocuous reason could this dude have for continuing to chat with a teenager who has repeatedly attempting to direct the conversation towards sex/dating?

        1. EchoChaos

          Because he’s a nerdy guy who is desperate for human connection and this is the one person giving it to him?

          1. albatross11

            Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with a 50 year old man talking with a 14 year old girl, either. But if he’s meeting her to have sex, then there’s something pretty clearly wrong going on.

          2. Aftagley

            Sure, there are conceivable reasons why a 20 year old would be talking with a 14 year old… but, if you found out your 14 year old daughter was texting a 20 year old she met on Tinder, what would your immediate reaction be?

            Would it be to think of the possibly acceptable meat space alternatives, or collapse down the probabilities and conclude that something was probably in need of rectifying?

          3. eyeballfrog

            While there would definitely be some rectifying involved, I’m not sure it would include having the guy arrested. Not every bad behavior is a crime.

          4. Randy M

            if you found out your 14 year old daughter was texting a 20 year old she met on Tinder, what would your immediate reaction be?

            Computer + Window

          5. Aftagley

            He didn’t get arrested. He was suspended from work and ended up resigning, allegedly under pressure.

          6. acymetric

            @Randy M

            That was my first thought when I read that hypothetical.

            If your 14 year old daughter is on Tinder, then your immediate problem is that your daughter is actively seeking out adult men for…whatever. That problem isn’t going away by dealing with the specific guy you caught her talking to. It probably doesn’t even go away by finding a way to prevent her from going on Tinder.

        2. quanta413

          It sounded super weird to me too, but I’ve known people before who used Tinder to find friends rather than sex. Yes, they were weird, but not in that way.

          Also, one guy was 20 not 45 or something. I’m not surprised a bored 20 year old would rebuff a 14 year old and try to keep talking about ok things. A 14 year old could plausibly have 18 year old or older friends or relatives, and having more female friends is a good way to meet more females. It’s not good behavior, but it’s not terrible. It’s on the edge and depends exactly what he said; it’d definitely not be ok if he sought it out. But supposedly 18 talks for a while and then surprise “I’m 14!” Yeah, I’d have been way more suspicious at 20 (“It’s a cop! Oh god, I need to throw away this phone, buy a fake identity, and flee the U.S. my life is ruined”), but not everyone has the appropriate level of paranoia.

          The acceptability of that behavior definitely drops sharply with the age gap though. Add just a few years to the guys age, and it’s very skeezy. Add 10 years to his age, and something is really wrong.

          The other case mentioned was pretty obviously a pedophile though.

        3. ana53294

          There’s nothing wrong with a 20 year old discussing the weather, his job, and other interests with a 14 year old. A standard that strict would make it illegal for 14 year olds to join any adult society.

          At 14, many of my classmates participated in the town’s mountain climbing club, full of adults; went on skiing trips with other adults and teenagers; participated in the local chorus, band and theatre group. Why would that be wrong?

          The guy clearly just wanted to talk to somebody in a non-sexual way; when it became clear to him that the girl continued to be interested in sex, he deleted the match.

          1. Aftagley

            Out of curiosity – are you in the age/relationship demographic that uses Tinder or any of these other apps?

            I am/do so I guess I’m entering this scenario with a massive, almost-insurmountably prior, that practically no one is on those apps to actually talk about the weather, their job or their interests.

          2. Aapje

            According to Wikipedia: “Tinder is a location-based social search mobile app and Web application most often used as a dating service.”

            Badoo is a somewhat similar app that seems to market itself as an app with a broader use, including making friends, but perhaps Badoo has few users in the place where this person lives/worked.

            According to the story, the guy was quite explicit in his desire for friendship/chatting, not dating, in his profile. He also steered the conversation to innocent topics when the cop tried to entrap him.

            Note that I’ve seen people argue that Tinder is great for travelers who seek casual short-term (non-sex) friendships in the places they visit, where they don’t already know people. I’ve also seen a bunch of friendship-only profiles when using Tinder myself.

            Have you considered that your local Tinder-scene might be different from Tinder-scenes elsewhere. In particular, I expect that big (American*) cities will have a bunch of different apps with a strict focus, while in many other places, there are too few people for various more niche uses (compared to dating, which is the behemoth) to have their own targeted app. So people then piggy-back off Tinder, because that is where the people are.

            * Note that even for dating, the options in my country are much more restricted, with sites/apps like OKCupid never gaining critical mass.

          3. Aftagley

            According to the story, the guy was quite explicit in his desire for friendship/chatting, not dating, in his profile.

            I guess, but anything involving dating becomes a whole mess hidden subtext and countersigniling, especially because Tinder forces you to condense your profile down to one sentence. As a test, I just pulled up Tinder and, no joke, the first person that came up for me’s bio said “I just need someone to tell me when it’s time to leave the party.” I’d argue this person isn’t actually looking for a chaperone and that you can’t trust Tinder bios.

            Note that I’ve seen people argue that Tinder is great for travelers who seek casual short-term (non-sex) friendships in the places they visit,

            I’ve seen this argument also. Usually made by attractive women who always happen to find free local guides on this app, and sometimes find people willing to host them. My male and less-attractive female friends had different experiences.

            I had a girlfriend who used to do this; I found it kind of unethical.

            I’ve also seen a bunch of friendship-only profiles when using Tinder myself.

            Yeah, here’s the sticking point. I fundamentally don’t understand how this is supposed to work. Has this ever happened? Has anyone ever looked at a photo of someone else and said “I’d like to platonically hang out with this person?”

            My operating theory is that all the “just looking for friends” profiles on tinder are one of three groups: people who want the fun of tindering but have no intention of actually meeting whomever they match with, people who actually want a relationship but for whatever reason don’t feel comfortable publicly saying it, or people who are legitimately crazy.

            Have you considered that your local Tinder-scene might be different from Tinder-scenes elsewhere. In particular, I expect that big (American*) cities will have a bunch of different apps with a strict focus, while in many other places, there are too few people for various more niche uses (compared to dating, which is the behemoth) to have their own targeted app.

            Probably not. My Tindering career has been nigh-on globe-spanning. I’ve done the big american city tindering, small town tindering and international tindering. I found them to be similar experiences.

            All that being said, I’m open to having my priors adjusted. Does anyone know of any cases where Tinder was used just to create a friendship?

    5. Aftagley

      He was then fired…

      This doesn’t make sense. Click through the reason article back to the original source:

      The extensive chat log obtained by Florida politics from the may 2017 string was preserved because the 20-year old man targeted by detectives happened to be an scso civilian employee.

      Even thought ht man never suggested meet up… he was suspended by the sheriff’s office following the exchange. He said he was pressured to resign to keep the episode private.

      but later in that article

      The man stopped communicating with deputies shortly after that, never knowing – until contacted by a reporter – how close he was to being branded with the scarlet letter for the rest of his life.

      1. Aapje

        A potential explanation for that is that he might not have been told about the purpose of the sting operation, being pressured to resign for behaving inappropriately, without being told that the cops tried to get him for pedophilia.

        1. Aftagley

          I’m trying to decide if that passes the smell test.

          Would your boss saying “we have evidence of you engaging in inappropriate behavior” be enough to get you to resign without wanting to see the evidence?

          1. acymetric

            “Resign or we (the local Sheriff’s Office) are going to smear you as a child predator to the local community, maybe try to charge you with a crime, and possibly end up firing you anyway” seems plenty compelling to me. Even if he ultimately thought he would win…would you want to keep working at an office that was actively working to undermine you personally, professionally, and legally?

          2. Aftagley

            No, that makes sense and that’s the context under which I initially thought he resigned. But go back to that second quote from the original source:

            The man stopped communicating with deputies [posing as the girl] shortly after that, never knowing – until contacted by a reporter – how close he was to being branded with the scarlet letter for the rest of his life.

            This seems to pretty obviously imply he DIDN’T know he was going to be smeared as a child predator.

          3. acymetric

            Ah, fair enough point. I can’t know for sure but I suspect the second quote about being contacted by the reporter is false or exaggerated for effect…if the Sheriff’s office destroyed the records how did the reporter get on this trail without getting the information from the guy who resigned (who they said kept the logs on his end)?

            If not, and he really didn’t know why he was being pressured to resign it still might be reasonable to resign rather than have the Sheriff’s office coming after you for whatever it is they claim to have on you (maybe he’s been known to smoke a joint or two and thought it was about that, for example).

            But my money is on one of those two excerpts being mis-reported, and I’d bet it is the latter.

          4. Aftagley

            This actually brings up another weird part of the story. Reason reports:

            Normally, the SCSO destroys the records of these stings, preventing the public from understanding the sordid process that produced the arrest of the supposed sex offender. But in the case highlighted above, the 20-year-old man was actually a civilian employee of the SCSO, and he preserved the chat log:

            But the original source says:

            SCSO has also made a habit of destroying records related to the stings before they can be obtained by the public, a likely violation of Florida’s public records laws. But the extensive chat log obtained by Florida Politics from the May 2017 sting was preserved because the 20-year-old man targeted by detectives happened to be an SCSO civilian employee.

            So reason is claiming that the individual maintained the chat log, but Florida Politics makes it sounds like the sheriff’s kept the logs because the target was an employee and that the Sheriff’s office, not the individual, was the source of the transcript.

            I’m pretty sure this is just Reason straight up getting the facts wrong – and that makes me slightly more confident this guy didn’t actually know about the sting operation until he was contacted by reporters.

            But, then that brings up my initial question again – if he didn’t know about this event, why resign?

          5. Aapje

            His boss might have said that they have evidence of him chatting with a young girl and that they would smear him with that if he doesn’t resign, without mentioning that the ‘young girl’ was actually a 50 year old male cop.

            He would be aware that he talked to the girl, so he would have no reason to question the evidence, perhaps assuming that the girl’s parents reported this. He might fear the consequences of ‘resisting the cops,’ for logical reasons.

            But then he wouldn’t have needed to be aware that he escaped this entrapment attempt.

      1. SkyBlu

        Schlock Mercenary also seems to be exploring the consequences of a lot of rationalist-adjacent ideas on uploading sentient minds these days.

        1. silver_swift

          Story talks about the societal consequences of mass immortality/brain uploading != author has interacted with the rationalsphere (especially given that Schlock Mercenary has a very optimistic view on the dangers of superintelligent AIs).

          It’s still definitely worth recommending to people here, but I don’t see any reason to assume Howard was inspired by what we do here.

        2. thevoiceofthevoid

          I should catch up on Schlock, I’ve been marking it as read in my RSS reader without actually reading it for the past…half a year?

          And I agree with both you and silver_swift, the strip gives a fairly well-thought-out treatment to some transhumanist issues, but I suspect Howard came to think about them independently from the rationalsphere.

  12. The Nybbler

    So you know how sometimes the idea comes up that it would be cheaper to house the homeless somewhere other than super-expensive cities. It seems New York has been taking that idea to heart, exporting the homeless to anywhere from Newark, NJ to Honolulu, HI.

    1. Plumber

      San Francisco (and other cities) do “relocation” (bus tickets) as well.

      The ‘relocated’ come back (there isn’t much housing were there sent either and often less social services, here they know where to beg).

  13. Tenacious D

    I just finished reading Erebus by Michael Palin. It’s a thoroughly-documented yet highly-readable account of the James Clark Ross Antarctic expedition and the John Franklin Arctic expedition. I think a lot of you would enjoy it.

    1. Forward Synthesis

      By a weird coincidence, so have I. It gets my recommendation too. What I was especially surprised by is how comfy and jolly life was aboard a 19th Century ship, at least if nature permitted (during the final voyage of the Erebus and Terror she did not). Before reading this book, I had an image in my head of gruelling pockmarked sailors miserably suppressing constant thoughts of mutiny while eating worm infested biscuits and shivering. It was a tough life but the level of amenities they had available to deal with it seemed pretty reasonable. At one point we learn that the Navy has supplied them with warm weather gear, and although earlier there was some concern with maintaining friction when handling the ropes, they are even supplied with mittens. They also got a surprising amount of downtime in which they had to be kept busy with various activities by the officers.

      Another thing I’d never really considered was how letters made their way home. They had enough pitstops at colonies to allow journeys that otherwise took years to have relatively reasonable communication breaks. Very interesting book. If your knowledge of 19th Century seamanship is cobbled together from pirate movies, you will benefit greatly from a read.

      1. Tenacious D

        There was also a part that made me think about cost disease: the (peacetime!) Royal Navy retrofitted the two ships with steam propulsion in like 3 months.

        1. tossrock

          Fun fact, the RAF modified their Tornado ADV squadrons with new ALE-40 chaff/flare dispensers prior to their Gulf War deployment in under a week. Maybe Her Majesty’s military forces are just immune?

      2. bullseye

        Further weird coincidence: I am at this moment listening to a song that mentions the Franklin expedition.

          1. bullseye

            Yes. Not surprised you guessed the song, but I’m surprised you guessed the band. There are a lot of versions out there.

      3. spkaca

        “gruelling pockmarked sailors miserably suppressing constant thoughts of mutiny while eating worm infested biscuits and shivering”
        Very broadly speaking, this was true for the 16th-17th centuries, not so much in the 18th-19th.

  14. Forward Synthesis

    What do you think of the idea that X-risk democratization will necessitate a global totalitarian panopticon state in order to prevent ceaseless megadeath terrorism? Nick Bostrum has discussed this. The late Stephen Hawking tentatively suggested that a world government might be needed to tackle the danger of AI. Ultimately I think that whether it’s human terrorists or dangerously smart AI what matters is what improvement physics allows in the various means of causing harm. If it’s possible to turn the Earth into exotic matter goo with a tabletop particle accelerator then all bets are off, but there’s a Russell’s Teapot type quality to this argument.

    I think it’s unreasonable to speculate new physics as a means to worry about something*, so the limits of things like bombs are the limits of chemical bonds for conventional weapons and the limits of atomic bonds for nuclear weapons. Chemical explosives are already about as easy to create as they ever will be, and have not created 24/7 bombings requiring a nightmare police state, so recreational nukes has to be the real deal. However, I don’t understand enough of the physics involved to speculate on whether it will be possible to create homemade nuclear weapons in the future. Are there fundamental physics limits to the scale of the equipment needed to enrich uranium? Work on pure fusion devices was undertaken by the USA with little seeming success. It seems like without a fission primer, very large machines are needed to produce the power level required to set off a city destroying fusion bomb. Perhaps the fundamental laws of physics make the scale unreachable to the average citizen bomber, but what if in the process of achieving over-unity for nuclear fusion power we set the stage for discovering the pure fusion bomb?

    There’s also chemical warfare. As it stands, chemical terror attacks have been launched by groups like Aum Shinrikyo, but even with the resources they had at their disposal they kind of flubbed it in terms of how much damage they actually did compared with how bad a sarin attack could have been. It’s trickier than what the apparent lethal doses of dangerous chemicals imply. It seems like a city level chemical attack is still beyond the level of the lone wolf terrorist. Possibly some sort of chemistry set 3D printer could make this kind of attack easier to accomplish by individuals. An automated mixing process should still require specially prepared ingredients which governments seem to be able to list as controlled substances without requiring nightmarish restrictions on personal freedom.

    Biological warfare might be scarier. Could a terrorist crispr up the next smallpox? The fundamental trade off of mortality rate vs infection rate probably prevents anyone from making a disease that can exterminate humankind entirely, but the next Spanish Flu could kill hundreds of millions. It depends on how easy it would be to do, because the more indiscriminate it is, the more nihilistic the ideology of the terrorist would have to be. If it’s within the realms of the physically possible to create a racially targeted megadeath sickness with the ease of a children’s chemistry set experiment, then at the very least government would have to have to strictly crack down on all home genetics.

    One thing I haven’t considered comes from this article, with this quote:

    Stuart Russell has vividly described how a small group of malicious agents might engage in omniviolence: “A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one-or two-gram shaped charge,” he says. “You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: ‘Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.’ A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.” Manufacturers will be producing millions of these drones, available for purchase just as with guns now, Russell points out, “except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch.” In this scenario, the K/K ratio could be perhaps 3/1,000,000, assuming a 10-percent accuracy and only a single one-gram shaped charge per drone.

    I now recall a few years ago coming across the project of nazi troll Weev Auernheimer to create algorithms that would recognize black people for use by drones. I didn’t think it was much more than genocidal edgelordism at the time, but this is worrying.

    How difficult would it be to stop this? Instead of creating a totalitarian world government perhaps there could be some kind of radio interference web across urban areas. Would this itself be infeasible because of the need to have official drones and the need to have WiFi and so on? If the drones are using inbuilt algorithms it won’t even matter anyway. Would there be good guy police drones constantly flying about in the sky on the lookout for bad guy terrorist drones?

    If 3D printers become good enough to create all the parts of a drone from structural to electronic components, then perhaps the government would monitor all files used in 3D printers. Considering the government is absolutely rubbish at copyright enforcement which costs the capitalist system great sums of money, I’d imagine it would have to get more totalitarian in other ways too, and it wouldn’t be able to simply spot target 3D printers. That creates the perfect environment for further encroachment.

    *It could be even worse than I’m making out here, because I’m deliberately leaving the bootstrapping singularity AI possibility aside because I find it to be dodging the physics question, but a lot of extremely smart people take that issue deadly seriously. If you really think that any company could make a bootstrapping singleton by accident in the next 100 years and it could turn the world into an Nth dimensional steak and kidney pie, then shouldn’t you be cheering for global governance, and since we don’t just get to pick any particular favored global governance from the ether, shouldn’t you be cheering for the fall of the United States with its liberal heritage, and for the rise of China with its collectivist heritage, much more fit to bear the mantle of a global overseer? Arguably, people who consider AI bootstrapping to be the greatest risk of technological decentralization, should be people who support Chinese imperialism.

    1. AliceToBob

      @ Forward Synthesis

      A couple questions about logistics:

      1. What is the cost per quadcopter?

      2. If they come with explosives pre-installed, how will one import them into the US? Else, how will one install 10 million charges?

      1. Forward Synthesis

        I think it’s more of illustrative of the potential of drones in general. A hypothetical could be an Islamic extremist with a rich Saudi backer, or some Aum Shinrikyo type organization that actually has financial resources. Potentially, you only need to have one psycho with enough money, an intermediary or two, and then a few other guys to actually do it. I don’t think a realistic attack would ever involve 10 million drones, though it’s worth considering that one day the cost of a drone will equal the electricity to run a 3D printer and the cost of the different feed materials for the structural, electronic, and motive components. That could be radically cheaper than it is to buy a drone today, especially when the feed material production is itself dependant on automated labor in mines and lights out factories.

        Millions of drones is actually ridiculously excessive because you don’t need a million drones to shoot a million people. You could have 1000s of drones (or some other robots) dispersing and each individually killing as many people as the worst spree killers before they are taken out. The drones should probably use guns and not a single explosive charge.

        This is a quite generalizable thing. What if a Big Dog like robot (only more advanced) costs $100 to make in 2125, and you have 100 of them disperse from a truck to crowded areas and kill hundreds each? It allows terrorists to kill effectively without sacrificing members.

        1. LesHapablap

          A large drone could drop hundreds of guided flechettes from enough height to kill lots of people. WW1 versions were 20g each, add on an extra 10g for guidance and a 3kg payload drone can carry 100 of the things. They could be made even lighter if they had biowaste smeared on the tips.

        2. bean

          I think it’s more of illustrative of the potential of drones in general.

          But it isn’t. Governments keep a pretty close eye on dangerous stuff. There are some quasi-exceptions, most notably personal firearms, but even those are hard to scale up to omniviolence levels. You can go to Wal-mart and get enough weapons for a spree killing, but getting thousands of weapons without ending up on some list is pretty hard, to say nothing of buying 10 million shaped charges without attracting the attention of the ATF. Not to mention the practical difficulties, which include things like “my autonomous navigation code wasn’t good enough and half of the drones ended up stranded in chain-link fences, and half of the rest attacked various billboards and store mannequins.”

        3. Civilis

          Millions of drones is actually ridiculously excessive because you don’t need a million drones to shoot a million people. You could have 1000s of drones (or some other robots) dispersing and each individually killing as many people as the worst spree killers before they are taken out. The drones should probably use guns and not a single explosive charge.

          The problem with this is that modern communication responds nearly instantaneously to changes in behavioral patterns. Within hours if not minutes of the second drone mass killing spree, there won’t be another mass target grouping for your drones to hit until such time as countermeasures are deployed. You can try to spread your drones out at once and activate them en masse, which greatly raises the chances of discovery before you strike, or you can throw them all at one huge target (presidential inauguration or New Years Eve Times Square) where there already be defenses against smaller-scale attacks which will limit their effectiveness.

          This is a quite generalizable thing. What if a Big Dog like robot (only more advanced) costs $100 to make in 2125, and you have 100 of them disperse from a truck to crowded areas and kill hundreds each? It allows terrorists to kill effectively without sacrificing members.

          The problem is that the cheaper your drones are, the cheaper the countermeasures are, and the people buying countermeasures are likely to be buying proven technologies in bulk. Any terrorist group planning a mass drone strike is going to do so in an environment where single drone crimes are relatively common and countermeasures exist (and, furthermore, an environment where governments are going to expect and prepare to counter mass drone strikes from rival governments).

    2. INH5

      If each microdrone has a gram of explosive, then that totals out to 10 metric tons of explosives. I don’t know about you, but if I had access to 10 tons of explosives and 3 semi trucks, and I knew that I could bring those things into New York City without being detected, then I could think of plenty of ways to kill a lot of people without needing any drones or programming skills at all. See here for an example of what can be done with just 2 tons of explosives in an area far less densely populated than Manhattan. So worrying about killer drones seems kind of redundant at that point.

      1. Forward Synthesis

        I think the idea is that you can take that same amount of explosives and instead of killing 1000 or so people, it’s individually targeted enough that you can kill millions of people, as if soldiers came in and individually shot them all. Explosives waste a lot of their energy.

        Also, at some point, drones/robots probably won’t require any programming skills at all.

    3. The Nybbler

      Your 1-inch quadcopter has a battery life of a few minutes at best. Flying them outside in anything but dead calm = forget about it. Loading it with a processor powerful enough to do that image recognition = less battery life. I also have my doubts about a 1g shaped charge. I assume that’s the explosive weight, the inert component is going to increase that by a large factor and weight down this 11.5g drone. And with such a small explosive you’re going to have to hit dead-on.

      At present, micro quadcopters are not an effective weapon. Larger quads are a different story, but you can’t carry millions of them in a truck.

    4. broblawsky

      This quadcopter scheme seems needlessly complex and expensive. If you really want to sow terror with drones, just give one a sniper rifle, put it hovering over an urban area, and set it to self-destruct when it runs out of ammo.

      1. Garrett

        Self-destruct seems needlessly complicated. Dropping a free rifle in a random location provides even more chaos. For even more fun, you can occasionally have them drop to the ground with one cartridge left. And have it discharge when someone tries to pick it up. This means that every attempt at collection/retrieval will require a lot of disruption to evacuate the area, etc.

        1. broblawsky

          Self-destruction makes it so that collecting evidence and tracing the drone back to you is much harder, though. The goal is to get away with this, I assume, or you’d just skip the drone and use the rifle yourself.

      2. bean

        I’m not so sure this will be easy. Sniping from helicopters is possible, but a helicopter is larger and more stable than a quadcopter. You might be able to get a nice gyrostabilized mount for the rifle, but keep in mind that it’s at least 6-8 pounds and rather larger than a typical camera, so you need a big drone. (Also, recoil is likely to be nontrivial in a small hovering platform.) You’ll also need custom AI capable of identifying and classifying targets, pointing the gun accurately, and applying necessary ballistic corrections. Yes, there are likely to be modules available for a lot of this stuff, but you’re going to have to chain them together, and the chances of it all working the first time out are pretty slim. You could solve this with sufficient testing, but that kind of testing is hard to do, particularly if you’re trying to stay out of sight of the police/FBI/ATF. “Another sniper drone? What went wrong this time?” “Rifle went out of alignment, so it wasted all its ammo.” “Huh. The last one was funnier. Spent all of its ammo shooting at statues. We analyzed the code and saw that they’d done serious testing on dummies.”

    5. John Schilling

      Cities are impossible because like one guy with a few friends and a bunch of torches can burn one to the ground overnight. This has been true since cities were invented. Therefore I am a hunter-gatherer having a very imaginative dream after eating the wrong mushrooms, and you are all figments of my imagination.

      Or, possibly, handwaving away all the intractable logistical complexities of solitary megamurder as “mere details” so that we can get on with fantasizing about solitary megamurder, tells us more about the fantasist than about anything involving the real world.

    6. proyas

      Addressing your scenario about demented “lone wolves” using small drones for future terrorist attacks, I think the threat is real, it will never be fully mitigated, and it will not get so bad that people will embrace totalitarianism to protect themselves from it. More comprehensive mass surveillance and more advanced law enforcement forensics will arise to combat the problem. Eventually, we will start using drones to fight other drones.

    7. Don P.

      The Black Mirror episode “Hated in the Nation” (really a TV movie, at 90 minutes) had some of these elements (the quadcopter thing, except not quite.)

    8. MrApophenia

      This is something that is already happening with existing tech – I can’t find a link offhand but I do recall reading that ISIS was able to make fairly extensive use of very cheap drones, costing about the equivalent of $20 grand each. Which sounds like a lot until you realize they were able to use them to attack air fields and military bases and one or two of these things could destroy billions of dollars of hardware.

      They’re only going to get cheaper and easier to buy or make.

      1. DarkTigger

        Last article I read on that (I thing it was linked from War is Boring, or War on the Rocks) talked about them being able to jury-rig, bomber-drones, and some desingns reaching almost mass-production levels.
        But the drones alone where a lot more expensive than $20. And than they used hand granades, or 40mm launcher granades, they looted from army stocks. Some of them were modified with little finns or parts of cloth to give them more accuracy, but they still were pretty bad at hitting anything 40 meters below them.

        And I doubt they were completely automated.

          1. DarkTigger

            Oh, uhm, I blame my reduced coffee consum at the moment.

            But the point that those drones are rather inacurate, and are not autonomous stand. Their main adavantage over a mortar team seem to be that the operator don’t need to expose themself, when the enemy has air reconnaissance.

  15. theredsheep

    Longtime friend of mine has been in a romantic rut for six years. He’s thirty-four, heterosexual, steadily employed (some position related to NASA somehow), and independent. He was very depressed for a long time, but has been feeling a lot better lately; however, the romantic dry spell more or less coincides with his getting better. His professional and emotional lives have been doing better than ever before, he’s just lonely.

    He has previously maintained at least one functional, long-term relationship which broke up because she wanted kids and he didn’t. He’s interested in a long-term steady relationship that sounds pretty well indistinguishable from marriage to me, but he doesn’t want to get married per se. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now (we’re good internet friends), and he’s not hiding anything terrible. Mostly, he’s very quiet and introverted, in addition to being among the most decent and reasonable men I’ve ever known.

    He’s tried Tinder and every other dating app and service he could find, with fairly lackluster results. He does game and write, where outside-of-work interests are concerned, but he has had no luck meeting women through either, nor at work, etc. He’s not at all religious, reliably liberal, but is not intolerant about either. He’s not rationalist, but leans that direction (attempts to get him on here have met with unexplained reticence). He lives in the D.C. area, if that matters.

    What advice would you give him, beyond “just keep trying”?

    1. eyeballfrog

      Maybe change his position on the “have kids” thing? People who want to have kids tend to be more interested in steady long-term relationships with reliable income earners.

      1. Well...

        [Women] who want to have kids tend to be more interested in steady long-term relationships with reliable income earners.

        And when those women are about the same age as theredsheep’s friend, i.e. the clock is ticking loudly, a reliable income earner who also wants kids looks better than one who doesn’t.

    2. Plumber

      @theredsheep >

      “Longtime friend of mine has been in a romantic rut for six years….”

      “…What advice would you give him, beyond “just keep trying”?

      Sure, my dating advice for American men goes:
      1) Be tall
      2) Be grey haired
      3) Otherwise look young
      4) Be able to culturalry pass yourself off as around 50 years old
      5) Seek women around 45 to 60 years old
      7) Profit!

      At 34 years old and not wanting kids the odds are too long for your friend if he’s seeking women near his age (that’s “last chance at motherhood” age), and way too long even if he does want kids if he’s seeking women in their 20’s.

      In ten years he’ll be a prime catch for women his age, and he’ll stay one for about ten to fifteen years after that (if he can stay slim).

    3. Erusian

      DC has a terrible dating scene, especially for people who aren’t socially savvy. DC is full of extremely socially savvy politically engaged individuals most of whom don’t expect to reside their permanently.

      Anyway, my general dating advice:
      -Get in good shape and dress better. If you’re in decent shape, start getting in better shape. If you’re overweight, diet. Also, learn how to dress well. If you have close female friends who are fashion-conscious, the sort you feel comfortable sharing intimate (but non-romantic) issues with, ask them. (Fashion conscious male friends are rarer but work too).

      -Get a few status symbols. People sometimes say they don’t care about this sort of thing. Almost all of them are lying. They don’t have to be opulent but pick a couple of things you value and get the absolute top of the line to the point it would be obvious you spent a fair bit of money to the average person. This doesn’t have to be a fancy suit: you can get a really impressive computer instead (even if it just looks fancy).

      -Get better at conversation. Some of this can be talking to friends. If you want this on super-easy mode, talk to salespeople. They’re going to feign interest in you even if you’re the most awkward man on the planet. Watch how they talk to you, how they try and keep the conversation going, what they do to get you to reply and take notes. Watch how they listen, what they reply to, where they cut you off, how they make gentle otherwise harsh actions (“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea…”). If you’re a bit more advanced than that, try striking up the odd random conversation when you’re in line or just out and about. Don’t expect anything of it: just shoot the breeze. The point is to get an intuitive feel for conversations such that you feel comfortable talking for long periods of time and can hold some basic interest.

      -Now that you’ve got some basics down, find an activity (or activities) you enjoy that involves some degree of social interaction. They also need a reasonably large membership of women in the right age group. Don’t use this as a meat market: make sure it’s an activity you like and just get to know people there. And take the activity seriously.

      -You will like some of these people. Not even romantically, you’ll just enjoy being around some of these people and you won’t other ones. Begin to forge connections with these people outside of the joint activity. Text them, bother them, invite them out to coffee, just have some social interaction.

      -You now have friends and a social group. Since you put it together and are probably fueling it to some degree, you might even have some social status within it.

      -You’ll now be experiencing regular interactions with a variety of people, some of whom will be your friends, some of whom you’ll just know, some of whom will be new. When you find someone attractive or want to get to know them more, ask them out on a date. Something simple, low commitment, and in a public place. Coffee is classic though in DC bars are also very common. It’s best if you mention somewhat explicitly this is an attempt to get to know them romantically. Most people will say no. Accept this and move on quickly and with minimal awkwardness.

      -Some will say yes. Go out with them and basically escalate doing more intimate things over time. (Coffee to lunch to dinner to a hike to coming over… etc.) If either you or the other party aren’t into it, be kind but frank about it and exit with minimal awkwardness.

      Other than that, as unromantic as it is, it’s a numbers game. Most men get rejected a lot and go on a lot of bad dates before getting to a relationship. And then most have multiple relationships that end before finding a lifelong partner. So it goes.

      As for dating apps, that’s really really a number’s game. You don’t need them and many men don’t do well on them. But if he wants to do that, get some really good photos (from a professional if possible), craft a perfect profile, and then accept he’s going to have to message hundreds of people per in person interaction. (The good news: there’s millions of women on there.) If he’s absolutely set on something like that or the convenience of it, a real in person matchmaker often provides a better (but more expensive) service.

      1. Paul Brinkley

        Good shape – seconded. Good shape isn’t a huge dealbreaker in DC. If you can walk several blocks, you’re probably okay. If you can’t, get to where you can.

        Dress better – seconded, though, again, it’s not a dealbreaker. Assuming he’s middle class SES, he should have at least one suit for that nice Valentine’s dinner, but button-downs from Target for the week plus tee shirts for the evening might be okay. Side note: something period for Maryland RennFaire might unlock some achievements. Then he just has to be jolly all day at the White Hart or other taverns there.

        Status symbols – doesn’t have to be a car, and what’s cool can depend a lot on the audience. If he’s a writer, a set of short stories or poems is pretty damn cool. If he’s a boardgamer, flair from various games might draw the eye.

        Get better at conversation – again, for introverts, I expect this to be the challenge. And a worthy one. The salesperson idea is clever. (Just be careful about wasting a retailer’s time. Maybe browse and watch them sell to other people.)

        The rest of this is in line with my recommendation to get out and do activities he enjoys, while widening his stream, so, +1 to that too.

    4. zenojjones

      Try doing something different. I met my partner when I broke out of my shell and started picking up shifts at a neighborhood brewery- something I thought I’d enjoy but knew nothing about. I immediately expanded my friend group, came out of my shell just a little bit, and met someone I never would have otherwise.
      And when you branch out and join a new group you bring a little bit of novelty with you. While your jokes, opinions or interests might be a dime a dozen in your old group, they’re new and different with the new group.

    5. LesHapablap

      Would he consider a relationship with a single mother?

      Assuming you are being charitable with your description, there are some real negatives there. Nobody ever gets honest feedback so I’m going to be extra harsh here because he probably needs it:

      he’s very quiet and introverted, in addition to being among the most decent and reasonable men I’ve ever known.

      faint-hearted

      He’s interested in a long-term steady relationship that sounds pretty well indistinguishable from marriage to me, but he doesn’t want to get married per se

      fussy about commitment, possibly selfish

      He does game and write, where outside-of-work interests are concerned

      probably boring and out of shape

      tried Tinder and every other dating app and service he could find, with fairly lackluster results

      low curb appeal

      He’s got his work cut out for him if he is looking for a long term relationship with a woman who doesn’t want kids and doesn’t mind never getting married. Unless he’s happy dating a single mom. My advice is to follow Erusion’s advice, with the addition that the activity should do at least 2 of the following: get him in shape, build his character, be a good first or second date activity. Running, sailing, rock climbing, flying, paragliding, that sort of thing.

    6. Urstoff

      Learn to like kids. Having kids is great, and most potential partners will probably want them or already have them.

    7. Paul Brinkley

      Obviously, your friend should revisit how badly he wants to not have children, since changing his mind might be the easiest and most straightforward way to increase his potential market. But let’s assume he already did that and still feels solid there.

      His surface features don’t look like dealbreakers to me, especially in DC. Not that religious, reliably liberal, not interested in kids sounds like a lot of the people I meet around here.

      Encourage him to join a special interest group. DC is full of such things. I was in meetups for software development, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, craft beer, dancing, theater, boardgaming, ultimate, swordfighting, and of course, SSC. Meetup.com is an easy way to get into such groups. He could go to a dance at Glen Echo and never run out of women to meet.

      If he takes that route, he should stay willing to take others. Honestly, the introversion will be the biggest challenge. Basically, be wide open to meeting new people. Even people who aren’t dating prospects will know people who are. He shouldn’t look like he’s just there to get dates, obviously. In fact, he should talk himself into it being a win if he meets multiple people who look like good friend prospects. Using interest groups reduces the anxiety – he’s doing something in his comfort zone while doing something outside of it (making lots of friends).

      The strategy I’m suggesting works best if he’s friendly enough to come off like that guy everyone likes to have over for a party. Otherwise, it’s like insisting on fishing only in that tiny brook you really like. If he keeps widening that stream, it’s a matter of time before one of those friends he made tells a lady they know about this guy they know…

        1. Aftagley

          Just for my information, what is in Glen Echo park that makes going all the way out to Bethesda seem like anything other than a terrible idea?

          1. Statismagician

            Social dancing, the thing tailor-made for introverted people wanting to meet somebody. There are rules that you can just learn, the music isn’t too loud to hear yourself think, etc.

      1. Paul Brinkley

        He shouldn’t look like he’s just there to get dates, obviously.

        Just in case it’s not clear: he should indicate that he’s single and looking. When introducing oneself, it’s normal to ask the usual things – where are you from, how long have you lived in DC, what else are you into, talk about common interests, and somewhere in there slip in that he’s single, as if to say “I’m here to do something fun, and who knows, maybe meet someone special”.

        It’d be dumb to never mention being single and lose an opportunity due to that

    8. chrisminor0008

      I concur with everybody else’s advice about improving himself. Sounds like there’s a lot of mileage to be gotten out of that strategy for this guy.

      But for God’s sake, if he doesn’t want kids or to get married, don’t do it. My fellow commenters are giving bad advice on this point and probably don’t appreciate the amount of misery he would be in trying to force himself into a role he doesn’t want. Others seem to be tacitly assuming he date people his own age, but he should be dating women in their mid-twenties at the oldest. Most all single women in their thirties either have kids or are actively planning how to get kids. The few that haven’t and don’t almost certainly got happily hitched before. Date women in their late-twenties max, and know that the relationship has a shelf-life unless he can find someone of like mind. He can probably have a handful of long and meaningful relationships before he hits his late 40s and ages out of being able to date that demographic, though being in shape will help with prolonging this. And afterwards, he can re-evaluate his stance on kids and marriage, or start hiring professionals, which while being less intimate and fulfilling has the advantage of being cheaper.

      1. Enkidum

        But for God’s sake, if he doesn’t want kids or to get married, don’t do it.

        +1

        Others seem to be tacitly assuming he date people his own age, but he should be dating women in their mid-twenties at the oldest.

        Disagree. He should be open and explicit about his preferences and if that’s a deal-breaker, the mid-30s women will mostly self-select away from him

        1. Aftagley

          Yeah, @chrisminor0008’s post was kind of a roller coaster there.

          I started hard agreeing with him vis-a-vie not let your desire for a relationship fundamentally change your life in ways you don’t want… but then it turned into advocating him turning into that 40 years old guy hitting on 20-somethings and then hiring prostitutes. A real emotional journey.

          1. chrisminor0008

            @Aftagley, Thanks, I aim to be entertaining, at least.

            Really, I think at 45 he’ll be in a much different head space than he is now. He might change his minds on kids and marriage, but I think with declining testosterone it’s just as likely he’ll change his mind on being in relationships at all, if he hasn’t already gotten hitched by then.

        2. acymetric

          I think some reasonable advice with respect to kids is to seriously consider why he doesn’t want kids, and whether he really doesn’t want them. It is fine to not want kids (and I agree that if you don’t want kids you should not have them!) but some people seem to somewhat casually say “I don’t really want kids” at some point along the way and never bother to evaluate whether that snap judgement on the matter is actually true (or, if it was true originally, whether it is still true). So taking the time to consider why they don’t want kids and whether they really don’t want them is worthwhile, even if it leads to the ultimate conclusion that “yeah, I don’t want kids”.

          I do agree that the “target mid-twenties women” strategy is not a great one. It can be fine, although depending on the circumstances it can be distasteful. The big things there are:

          1) This guy does not sound (based on the description) like someone who would thrive in the “dating much younger women” dating market unless he was functioning almost explicitly as a sugar daddy which may not be what he wants out of a relationship.

          2) My feeling/observations lead me to believe that infidelity is much more likely from a partner who is significantly younger. Age gaps can be fine, but you need to be the kind of person who can handle the problems or you will end up being taken advantage of (emotionally, financially, etc.) and it isn’t obvious to me that this guy is the kind of guy to walk that line, avoid the pitfalls, and handle things well when it inevitably falls apart (partially based on the depression history).

          Dating within his age group is fine, with the understanding that relationships will most likely have a shelf-life unless he strikes gold and finds someone who also wants a long-term partner without marriage or kids.

          1. Paul Brinkley

            Yeah, this is pretty much where I’m coming from when it comes to kids. 100% this:

            [S]ome people seem to somewhat casually say “I don’t really want kids” at some point along the way and never bother to evaluate whether that snap judgement on the matter is actually true (or, if it was true originally, whether it is still true).

            The key here is to rationally ask himself if he’d rather avoid kids and risk staying single, or spin up that relationship with that cute divorcee with a 3YO, or that other cutie in the nice dress who says she’d really like to raise a family. As long as he’s thinking about it, the answer will be better, no matter which answer it is.

            And this means all the implications, too. Consider the case for a kid – as I like to say, kids are nascent adults who I find fascinating to watch, as they learn how the world works. If I’m their parent, I get to offer them advice, and live vicariously through them. OTOH, they demand resources, and I might drop a notch in material possessions, and I will drop a lot in free time for myself. No more going to the theater, no more going out. It’s not for everyone.

            If he finds a girl that he likes enough, it may also be worth asking just how badly she wants kids. Maybe she hasn’t thought it all through yet, either. It’s okay to ask, so long as he does it out of kindness, and it’s even a good way to get to know someone (and himself) better.

            [Y]ou need to be the kind of person who can handle the problems [of potential infidelity] or you will end up being taken advantage of (emotionally, financially, etc.)

            +1. I consider myself rational – stoic, even – and this almost got me, coming out of a bad business failure. Luckily, I only lost about $1000 before calling it off.

            Speaking of which – since his target pool includes 20-somethings, many of whom are grad students – they’re usually under huge stress to get their thesis done. A friend of mine manages a lab, and tells of many students who put their SOs through the wringer. He should prepare to support them, which may mean getting treated like their stress toy.

          2. thevoiceofthevoid

            theredsheep did say that this guy’s previous, long-term relationship ended specifically because he didn’t want kids; “maybe you should consider whether you actually want kids” doesn’t seem like the best advice.

          3. acymetric

            I doubt the information is out there, at least in a readily accessible form, but I would be interested in % of relationships without children by length of relationship (probably need some cut-off for age the relationship started so as not to get noise from high school sweethearts who dated from 15 to 25 and whatnot). My suspicion is that (statistically, not universally, as there are obviously counterexamples) most relationships that don’t eventually end up including children will end up ending (a relationship where someone brings the children they already have with them into the relationship would still include having children for these purposes).

            Long term relationships (talking measured in decades, not like 1-2 years) without kids involved do happen, but I would guess are extremely rare.

            The reason to reconsider kids is that “long-term” relationship (the OP suggested what the guy wants seems indistinguishable from marriage so I’m guessing “long-term” means fairly long) and “no kids” may be mostly incompatible goals. If he is ok with pre-existing kids who are still going to be around just so long as they aren’t his kids that may open the door a bit for single mothers.

          4. HowardHolmes

            “I think some reasonable advice with respect to kids is to seriously consider why he doesn’t want kids”

            Assuming one should not have kids simply because he cannot think of reasons for not having kids, I would like some to address the question of “why have kids?”

          5. John Schilling

            I would like some to address the question of “why have kids?”

            Among other things, kids come with mothers, who tend to be healthy young-ish women, and the OP’s friend seems to want to have one of those hanging around for a while. If he is merely indifferent to children, this would seem like a reason to step it up a notch to maybe wanting children after all.

          6. thevoiceofthevoid

            Assuming one should not have kids simply because he cannot think of reasons for not having kids, I would like some to address the question of “why have kids?”

            Well, for one, if you like children and anticipate that raising kids of your own would be incredibly fulfilling. (True for some people, not for others.) But I agree: you should only create a new person and take responsibility and power over the first 18 years of their life, if you have a strong affirmative reason to do so.

          7. HowardHolmes

            thevoiceofthevoid said: “if you like children and anticipate that raising kids of your own would be incredibly fulfilling.”

            How would raising kids be fulfilling? What desire would it fulfill?

          8. HowardHolmes

            John Schilling said “Among other things, kids come with mothers, who tend to be healthy young-ish women”

            That’s what I always thought. Kids happen because of sex.

          9. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HowardHolmes

            How would raising kids be fulfilling? What desire would it fulfill?

            I’m not sure what exactly to call it, but I vividly remember seeing the joy my parents felt when my (then) baby sister learned to walk for the first time. Ditto the numerous more mundane experiences; my dad’s always loved trying to socratically teach us about math or engineering or economics. I’ve felt similar watching my sister grow up, though I imagine the feeling’s a lot stronger for our parents.

            (I’m not particularly interested in getting into another “does anything ever truly make anyone happy” debate if that’s what you’re getting at; I don’t feel like our previous ones were terribly productive. My premise here is that some things make some people happy.)

          10. HowardHolmes

            Thevoiceofthevoid

            I’m not interested in a rehash either. You are suggesting that people have kids to be happy. If you said someone had a strawberry sundae to be happy, I would not need to ask “what is it about strawberry sundaes that make one happy?” But with kids, my only guess is that we have them to enhance our status. I was just wondering if you could think of any other reason to have them or that they make us happy

          11. J Mann

            @HowardHolmes: a couple related possibilities:

            1) Like pets, kids stroke some natural responses in many people, but are more fulfilling in some ways, because they have more potential.

            2) The relationship of parent and child can be rewarding just as other relationships (friends, lovers, consulting detective and arch-nemesis) can be fulfilling. The association makes some parents experience happiness when their kids are happy, and ideally produces a relationship akin to friendship, but potentially stronger.

            3) Some people enjoy any task well done, and many people enjoy a task that leaves some tangible result, whether creating a painting, planting a forest, or helping to develop a new person.

            (I’m not really doing justice, but that’s a first stab at why some people might enjoy being parents.)

          12. Edward Scizorhands

            This is a pattern so common it is practically a trope. I have seen it myself several times in relationships (both professional and romantic).

            * Person in relationship holds position X
            * Position X becomes strain on relationship
            * Person holds to it anyway, because they think it’s more important, and the other party doesn’t care / is being unreasonable / will see my side / ought to love me for who I am / is just bluffing / whatever.
            * Relationship fractures and ends
            * Person, finally, re-evaluates their position on X and changes it

            It doesn’t seem rational. Surely, you think, Person should have changed their position on X earlier, in time to save the relationship. And, yes, with a time machine they could have. But part of working things out in the world is figuring out where borders are, and because people lie (both to themselves and to others) it can be hard to just figure out the borders based on simple questioning and first principles. Sometimes you have to test, and sometimes when you test you lose.

            Sticking to X after it costs the relationship can happen through a sunk-cost fallacy or a stupid sense of pride.

            I am not saying that position X is necessarily worth giving up. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe the fight over position X in the original relationship really was going to be completely irreconcilable, because both sides were right for sticking to their guns. Or maybe both sides were wrong.

            But reconsidering position X should be on the table.

          13. Paul Brinkley

            But part of working things out in the world is figuring out where borders are, and because people lie (both to themselves and to others) it can be hard to just figure out the borders based on simple questioning and first principles. Sometimes you have to test, and sometimes when you test you lose.

            The downside of some revealed preferences is that they have to be revealed.

      2. Statismagician

        This is a subspecies of ecological fallacy, it seems to me. ‘Is a good long-term partner for a particular person’ is a sufficiently non-normally-distributed quality that trying to find one using subpopulation stereotypes* isn’t going to be particularly helpful, even if it were true that the rate of available thirty-something women for whom a man who doesn’t want kids is a dealbreaker were higher than the rate of available twenty-something women for whom a man who doesn’t want kids isn’t a dealbreaker and for whom a man in his thirties isn’t a dealbreaker, which is, at the very least, non-obvious.

        *Unless you’ve got data on child desirability by age and relationship status? I’d be interested in having a look at that, if so.

      3. Plumber

        @chrisminor0008 says:

        “…for God’s sake, if he doesn’t want kids or to get married, don’t do it…

        I agree with this as someone who didn’t want kids is less likely to be a good parent.

        “…he should be dating women in their mid-twenties at the oldest…”

        I disagree, while the further they are from about the age of 35 the less likely they are to want kids, having a long-term relationship with women younger than their late twenties is very unlikely, they just don’t ‘settle’ (they may in retrospect decide that they should’ve ‘kept that guy’, but they’ll be in the 30’s or later by then), and judging by the OP’s description of the guy he’ll be prone to heartache by the likely breakups, though I suppose a series of brief romances will hurt less then a break up of a longer romance, but at 37 he should have already had short ones.

        If he does get a long-term romance with a woman in her 20’s the older she gets the more she’ll likely want to have kids even if she didn’t want them at first. 

        Really persuing women in their mid 40’s and up is a better strategy if he doesn’t want kids, besides there being less if a male-to-female ratio at older ages the risk of natural pregnancy is much less and there’s a greater chance that those who haven’t already had kids won’t change their minds.

        Being the boyfriend of an ’empty nest’ woman who has adult children could work as well if being a ‘step’ grandpa is more acceptable to him than being a Dad, and if she’s only had one child then there probably won’t be many grandkids anyway.

        1. John Schilling

          If he does get a long-term romance with a woman in her 20’s the older she gets the more she’ll likely want to have kids even if she didn’t want them at first.

          Flip side is, the older the two of them get the more he’ll likely want to have kids even if he doesn’t want them now. So that could wind up working quite well.

          But risky, compared with the plans where both parties have made their final do/don’t want kids decision before embarking on a long-term relationship.

  16. rahien.din

    Asking for help on a probability question.

    Using Bayes’ theorem for a single trial is straightforward. But how is it calculated for repeated trials? For instance :

    Suppose you start out 85% confident the one remaining enemy soldier is not a sniper, leaving only 15% credence to the hypothesis that he is a sniper. But then, a bullet glances off your helmet — an event far more likely if the enemy soldier is a sniper than if he is not. So now you’re only 40% confident he’s not a sniper, and 60% confident he is. Another bullet glances off your helmet, and you update again. Now you’re only 2% confident he’s not a sniper, and 98% confident he is a sniper.

    One explanation seems to be “use the posterior from trial 1 as the prior in trial 2.” However, this does not yield the same numbers as in Yudkowsky’s example (assuming they are legit). Moreover, they don’t behave like probabilities – a probability ought to be bound asymptotically by 1, but this method yields an exponentially-increasing value that rapidly escapes the bounds of probabilities. (This is to be expected, given that this is basically just multiplying by a scalar – P(B|A)/P(B) – over and over.)

    I even tried making odds ratios, as though these were odds – P(sniper|hit)/P(regular|hit) – and then converting the result to a probability. That at least resembles a probability :

    sniper|hit1 0.60000
    sniper|hit2 0.92727
    sniper|hit3 0.99086
    sniper|hit4 0.99892
    sniper|hit5 0.99987
    sniper|hit6 0.99998

    …but this can’t be right, either.

    How is this calculation actually performed?

    1. LesHapablap

      Like you say, the old posterior becomes the new prior.

      I believe the second link there has the wrong numbers in the denominator in round 2, it is only updating the numerator to .04348

      first round denominator:
      (0.99×0.2)+(0.01×0.9)

      second round denominator:
      (0.956×0.2)+(0.044×0.9)

      1. rahien.din

        How are you updating the denominators?

        And, can you show me what values of P(sniper|hit) you get for rounds 4, 5, and 6?

        Edit : I understand now – thanks!

    2. Witness

      I don’t think you should assume Yudkowsy actually did the math in that example. Doing the math properly will not escape the probability bounds of 0..1

      The weirdness you’re seeing here is partially because you should be updating your prior on P(hit) to reflect your updated prior of P(sniper).

    3. Kindly

      The example with the sniper doesn’t seem to actually tell us *how much* more likely a sniper is to hit you. Or maybe I just can’t find the place where that happens.

      Let’s suppose conservatively that a sniper is twice as likely to hit. Then with odds, the calculation is simple: you multiply the current odds (x : y, whatever they are) by how much more likely they make the new observation (2 : 1).

      Starting with 85% confidence of no sniper, we go from 15 : 85 to 30: 85 (or about 74% safe versus 26% sniper). Then to 60 : 85 (or about 59% safe versus 41% sniper). Then to 120 : 85 (or about 41% safe versus 59% sniper). And so on.

      1. Vitor

        So, I was thinking through how this trick generalizes to more than 2 states, and suddenly I grokked Bayesian updating much more tangibly than before.

        Let’s say that a small fraction of non-snipers are left handed, but none of the snipers are. A sniper is still twice as likely to hit than a non-sniper, with the latter group being evenly skilled independent of handedness.

        Now the prior is 15 : 5 : 80 (I know this is nonsense notation as it’s not a ratio anymore, but you get what I mean). How do I get the posterior? Well, I just multiply by 2 : 1 : 1.

        Why? Let’s imagine the same scenario is happening 100M times. So we have an initial population of 100M shooters, split up as 15M, 5M, 80M (our prior). The snipers hit 20% of the time, while the non-snipers hit 10% of the time. So the amount of snipers that survive the “test” of being consistent with the reality I observe are 3M, 500K, 8M. I throw away the other 88.5M cases where the shooter missed, by postselection (which is similar to the anthropic principle: I’m allowed to assume that I’m actually in the world that I observe, because I observe it).

        Now, if the shot was much harder and the success chances were 0.2%, 0.1% and 0.1%, then the final population would be 30K, 5K, 80K, which is exactly the same proportion. Absolute success doesn’t matter, only relative success matters.

        When we chain multiple observations, we are now asking our shooters to not just pass a single test, but a whole gauntlet of tests chained together. This lowers the absolute success chance by a lot, but it doesn’t matter! We can just look at it like one huge test, track the population at intermediate stages of the gauntlet or not, or even swap the order of the tests (need to assume that individual tests are independent, the shooters don’t get tired etc). No matter how we calculate it, we must get the same final number of test passers in each category.

        This is probably old news to many people around here, but I guess I’m a frequentist at heart and the formula of Bayes’ theorem never made intuitive sense and I always struggled to remember the exact terms. Leaving this here hoping it helps somebody else.

    4. rahien.din

      Thanks to everyone – all extremely helpful in understanding this problem. It seems like there are two ways to get to the the same answer here.

      1. As LesHapablap and Witness say : not only do you use the posterior from round n as the prior in round n+1, you also use that posterior to update the evidence in the denominator (P(hit)).

      2. Calculate both P(sniper|hit) and also P(regular|hit), using the posterior from round n as the prior in round n+1, but not updating the denominator. This will give numbers that aren’t probabilities as they are greater than 1. However, they will be in proper proportion. So, once you’ve reached the final round, you normalize them. Another way to do this is to calculate the ratio between them, then translate this ratio into a probability, just like you would for converting odds to probability : P = O / (O + 1)

      So, essentially this means that if you don’t renormalize your denominator in each step, you are actually calculating odds?

    5. rahien.din

      Even better : you can use the binomial theorem to calculate the probability of k hits in n trials. Then you can plug this version of P(H|E) into Bayes Theorem and turn it iterative.

      A : state A
      B : state B
      P(A) : probability of state A being true
      P(B) : probability of state B being true
      n : number of trials
      k : number of hits
      H.A : probability of a hit in a trial if state A is true
      H.B : probability of a hit in a trial if state B is tru
      C(n,k) : the binomial coefficient, or, “n choose k”
      P(A|n,k) : the conditional probability of state A being true given k hits out of n trials

      P(A|n,k) = C(n,k) • H.A^k • H.B^(n-k) • P(A) / ( C(n,k) • H.A^k • H.B^(n-k) • P(A) + C(n,k) • H.A^(n-k) • H.B^n • P(B) )
      All the binomial coefficients cancel out. Divide by H.A^k, by H.B^k, by H.B^(n-2•k) to simplify and collect terms.

      P(A|n,k) = P(A) / ( P(A) + (H.A / H.B)^(n-2•k) • P(B) )

      This returns the same set of probabilities we had gotten before.

      1. LesHapablap

        Well done!

        Here’s an assignment for you:

        What’s the probability the guy is a sniper if:
        -he makes at least 6 shots out of 15?
        -me makes one shot on the first try, and is taller than the guy standing next to him, who is a soldier. Snipers height is normally distributed (165cm, 25cm), soldiers height is normally distributed (180cm, 30cm)
        hint: svaq gur qvfgevohgvba bs k zvahf l jura K naq L ner obgu abeznyyl qvfgevohgrq
        hint 2: Jung vf gur cebonovyvgl gung K zvahf L vf terngre guna mreb?

        1. rahien.din

          1.
          If he makes exactly 6 shots out of 15, the probability he is a sniper is a 0.00029.

          If he makes at least 6 shots out of 15, the probability he is a sniper (from the cumulative distribution function) is 0.000038. I think…

          2.
          Sn = distribution of the snipers’ heights, (180, 30)
          So = distribution of the soldiers’ heights, (165, 25)
          D = distribution of the differences = So – Sn.

          D would be normally distributed (15, 5).

          When the sniper is taller than the soldier, D is < 0. The zero point lies three standard deviations below the mean, so (68 95 99) that probability corresponds to a probability of 0.01. So, if he is taller than the soldier beside him (<0.01) and he makes his first shot (0.60) the probability that he is a sniper is <0.01•0.60, meaning, less than 0.0060.

          (Thank you for making it unnecessary to calculate a Z-score.)

          1. LesHapablap

            1. I haven’t worked it out, but intuitively I would think that he should be more likely to be a sniper if he gets at least 6/15 vs. if he gets exactly 6/15

            2. Does your answer make sense? What if the std deviation was the same for both soldiers and snipers? (180, 30) and (165, 30)?

          2. rahien.din

            You’re right. Those answers don’t make sense. This is something I’m really out of practice with – and I’ve even mislabeled some of my functions.

            I don’t know how to solve these. It’s possible to figure out how, but, right now it’s more important that I not nerd-snipe myself. May return to it at some point.

          3. LesHapablap

            I’ll be a bit more helpful:

            For 1: you want to think of collection of 15 trials as one ’round’ for bayes theorem. So you need the priors, which is just the base rate in the population, and you need the probability that a soldier gets at least 6/15 and the probability that a sniper gets at least 6/15, and that’s it. The probability that a soldier gets at least 6/15 is just 1 – P(1/15) – P(2/15) – P(3/15) – P(4/15) – P(5/15), or the chance that he does NOT get 1/15 to 5/15.

            For 2: standard deviation of the difference between two normal distributions is not SD(X)-SD(Y), otherwise if they had the same SD you’d end up with an SD of zero (just like you ended up with 5). That doesn’t make sense because if you think about a dataset that consisted of grabbing a random soldier, a random sniper, and subtracting their heights, a bunch of times, the result would obviously have some variance.

            It turns out the SD(X-Y) = sqrt(SD(X)^2 +SD(Y)^2). It’s like the hypotenuse of a right* triangle, or it is like adding two orthogonal* vectors, whatever you’re familiar with. You would have needed to google that to figure it out.

            From there you have to figure out the probability that the shooter is taller given that he’s a sniper, and the probability that the shooter is taller given that he’s a soldier, using Z-scores.

            So round one of your bayes theorem will have the base population rate priors and the probabilities of shooter getting a hit given he’s a solder and given he’s a sniper. That gives you the priors for round two of bayes’ theorem, and you use the probability that the shooter is taller given that he’s a sniper, and the probability that the shooter is taller given that he’s a soldier, which you just worked out above.

            *orthogonal/right because the two variables are independent, otherwise they’d have some component in common and it would not be a right triangle. If you think of variance of two random variables as a couple of vectors, if they have nothing to do with each other they’ll be pointing at right angles. If they are perfectly correlated, like say if you measured height in inches (X) and height in meters (Y) for each individual, the SD(X-Y) would just be SD(X)-SD(Y) because your vectors would be pointing in the same direction.

          4. rahien.din

            Thank you! These numbers make more sense.

            1. P(sniper|at least 6 hits) = 0.9837

            2. P(sniper|one hit, taller) = 0.3499

            D = So – Sn = normal(15, 39.05)
            Z-score for D(0) = (0-15)/39.05 = -0.38
            P(taller|sniper) = 0.3520

  17. metacelsus

    So, the leader of the Islamic State (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) has been killed in a raid by US forces. In contrast to the killing of Osama bin Laden (which Scott blogged about at the time on his old LiveJournal. Is it OK to link it?), I’ve seen relatively little public celebration. Is this because of:

    A) Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 and therefore much more notorious
    B) Different willingness to celebrate perceived accomplishments of Obama vs. Trump
    C) Other stuff in the news overshadowing it

    (I suspect it’s a combination of all 3).

    Anyway, I don’t expect this will change much, given that the Islamic State already was pretty decentralized.

    1. Statismagician

      I agree that all three of these are at play to at least some degree, but I think A is by far the most important. My impression of the last few years is that ISIS hasn’t been taken anything like a seriously as Al-Qaeda was and that approximately no significant number of people cared particularly about their leader.

      1. albatross11

        Well, Al Qaida had carried out a successful attack on us that killed 3000 or so Americans, whereas ISIS had attempted a couple attacks with no casualties in the US and had maybe influenced a couple nutcases to go on mass-shootings, so it’s not totally shocking to me that killing Bin Laden was a bigger deal in the US. But I also suspect all three of your points come into it somewhere.

    2. Aftagley

      A is so much so the answer that everything else, no matter how true, is overshadowed.

      9/11 was a visceral wound on our country’s spirit. We launched two wars ostensibly because of it. People still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when it happened. People remember watching those horrific images of Americans on American soil dying, jumping out of buildings. People still tell stories of the heroism shown by some people during and after 9/11. Heck, a non-insubstantial percentage of military members and nat sec folks still cite 9/11 as the formative reason they joined up. Catching Bin Laden, after so long and after our nation had sacrificed so much was a moment of national catharsis.

      Catching Baghdadi, while arguably important, wasn’t nearly on the same level.

      1. Aftagley

        Slight tangent off the main topic: It’s also transparent how badly Trump wanted this to be his “Obama catching Bin Laden moment.”

        Everything, down to the staging, the releasing of comparable photographs and his attempt at a serious-sounding speech was like a fun-house mirror reflection of Obama’s announcement. Seeing just how desperately he wanted to be an Obama-like figure in this moment and watching how incapable he is of doing so was the first time I’ve ever actually had pity for Trump.

    3. ARabbiAndAFrog

      I’m not American, but this is the first time I heard name of any ISIS leader.

      I spend a lot of time on the anglophone Internet so someone would’ve noticed. He doesn’t have a cool look or any media presence, so I don’t think anyone cares. And even if he’s not as obscure as I think, people probably grew more cynical about killing terrorists over the years. It doesn’t seem to do any good.

      1. Plumber

        @ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        “I’m not American, but this is the first time I heard name of any ISIS leader…”

        +1

        I’m American and I”ve also never heard of Abu-whomever until yesterday.

        1. albatross11

          In terms of actual human suffering and misery and horror caused by them, al-Baghdadi is a few orders of magnitude bigger as a villain than Bin Laden. ISIS actually controlled territory, and carried out godawful crimes against humanity (including systematic rape, torture, and genocide).

    4. broblawsky

      Mostly A. Al Qaeda did far less on a global scale than Da’esh, and yet accomplished far more in terms of spreading fear in the hearts of Americans. Da’esh – and Abu Bakr – were always going to be second stringers by comparison.

    5. John Schilling

      +1 on Mostly A, and most Americans not even recognizing the name al-Baghdadi until yesterday. It might have made a difference if his death was concurrent with e.g. the fall of Raqqah, the whole thing being wrapped up into “The Final Defeat of ISIS”, but it wasn’t. Instead we get a postscript to the defeat of ISIS, and Americans never cared about ISIS as much as they did Al Qaeda because ISIS never killed 3,000 Americans.

      Which raises the question – to what extent is the death of al-Baghdadi being celebrated among the various peoples who did lose 3,000+ of their own to ISIS? I’m not seeing much in my usual sources.

      And, yeah, there’s an element of B amplified by Trump’s absurdly Trumpian manner of promoting “his” great victory.

      1. Aftagley

        Which raises the question – to what extent is the death of al-Baghdadi being celebrated among the various peoples who did lose 3,000+ of their own to ISIS?

        From what I understand, it’s been pretty muted. As far as I understand it, Al-Baghdadi wasn’t really a public figure over there, to the extent that it’s a fairly well-believed consipracy theory that he never actually existed, wasn’t really in charge of ISIS, was a secret US plant, etc.

    6. DarkTigger

      The fact, that it is something like the forth time his death is reported might have to do something with it as well. He was already reported to be killed by American, Russian and Syrian forces.

  18. Statismagician

    Congratulations! In a rare spirit of bi-partisan cooperation, Congress has agreed to have an impartial-ish body review the US Federal code and correct any obvious problems that they find, and you’ve been appointed to run it. These have to be legitimate mistakes – laws which contradict other laws, regulations which don’t apply to anyone, permits that are impossible to successfully apply for, that sort of thing.

    What are your recommendations going to be?

    1. EchoChaos

      Number one that seems to fit this is enlarge the Federal Judiciary. There are a substantial number of judiciable claims that fail every year out of simply not having enough judges to properly handle them.

      Best choice would be creating two more Federal Circuits and enlarging the Supreme Court to fifteen seats so that every Circuit has its own Justice.

      I would prefer splitting the Ninth and creating the second new circuit entirely to adjudicate immigration/international law, but that’s just personal preference.

      1. Statismagician

        Do the justices do any managing of the lower courts now? If not, do you want them to after expanding the Supreme Court, or is it just for aesthetic reasons? I’m realizing I don’t actually know a lot about how the Federal courts work on a practical level.

    2. Paul Brinkley

      Slay the problem once and for all.

      Begin the audacious undertaking of phrasing the entire body of laws in formal logic. Starting with an initial effort to establish a framework for doing so – CLIF syntax, followed by a sound semantic model and software for manipulating and expanding it.

    3. Plumber

      @Statismagician,
      A one year period in which all U.S. states decide by plebiscite who’s set of laws and regulations they may adopt, they may choose between those of:
      1) British Columbia,
      2) Costa Rica,
      3) Massachusetts,
      4) Norway,
      5) Switzerland, or
      6) Utah
      (with all laws and regulations translated into English, plus Spanish as well for California and Texas).

      The Federal government becomes vestigial, with little beyond the Coast Guard, the Post Office, and Social Security Insurance for those who have already paid into it, most other Federal laws and regulations are dissolved. Individual States may implement seperate border controls.

      Modifications to the new laws and regulations may be made in a state with a 3/4 winning vote for a ten year period, after the ten years the individual states are free to modify their laws and regulations with majority votes (unless they decide after a majority vote to limit themselves on specific items to super majority votes again).

      See how it all shakes out.

      1. KieferO

        This is fascinating. It raises the question whether Massachusetts would adopt it’s own laws. I think it would depend on the voting scheme if we had Cambridge voting, I think Massachusetts’ would just squeak by in Massachusetts. If it’s FPTP, I think Norway’s would have the edge.

      2. Eigengrau

        The problem with this is… well, one of the problems with this is there is a difference between state/provincial and federal law. If some state adopted British Columbia’s provincial laws while removing all federal laws, there’d be enormous gaps in the law there. Like I’m pretty sure you’d be decriminalizing murder, for example.

      1. blipnickels

        I had the exact opposite reaction. I started to read it thinking it was real and got scared.

        Any “non-partisan” effort to “correct obvious problems”, especially if it “clarifies confusing language or terms” should be purged with fire, especially if they promise the changes will be “non-substantive”. At this point I’m semi-convinced bills like this are obvious decoys while the special interests try to slip their goals in through other bills, since every bill like this I’ve encountered has inevitably involved attempts to redefine key legal terms.

        1. eyeballfrog

          Also there’s plain old incompetence. NH tried to make a non-functional clarification to their murder statute which briefly gave pregnant women blanket immunity to murder charges before being fixed. If something as simple as that can go horribly wrong, I have little confidence in trying to refactor the entire code.

          1. acymetric

            briefly gave pregnant women blanket immunity to murder charges before being fixed

            As husbands shivered in fear everywhere…

    4. Eric Rall

      Amend the Constitution to specifically grant Congress the power to provide and maintain an Air Force. Or at least to clarify whether the Air Force is authorized under the Armies clause (which places a two-year limit on appropriations bills) or the Navy clause (which has no such limit).

      1. Eric Rall

        Also, fix the impeachment procedures so the Vice President doesn’t get to preside over his own trial. Currently, the Chief Justice presides over Presidential impeachment trials (because having the Vice President preside would be a conflict of interest), while the Vice President (in his “President of the Senate” role) presides over all other impeachment trials. Including his own.

        Presumably, if anyone had thought of it in time, it would have been specified that the Chief Justice would preside over Vice Presidential impeachments as well.

      2. cassander

        We’d probably be better off amending the constitution to say that there CAN’T be an air force, then fold it back into the army.

          1. cassander

            also not a good idea. A space command along the lines of special operations command is needed, but an independent space force? definitely not. Space assets are still support assets.

          2. Statismagician

            It somehow only just now occurred to me that, technically, Venus is a ship if the Red Book of Westmarch is to be believed. So, arguably, space forces should be navies for consistency alone, not just because all the titles sound cooler.

    5. Garrett

      Known problem of “Yellowstone Zone of Death” where due to technicalities in the US Constitution it may be impossible to prosecute someone for Federal crimes in certain parts of Yellowstone National Park.

      Fix those cases where rights exist, but can be exercised due to the mechanisms to use them being defunded. For example, Federal Law allows for someone to apply to the ATF for restoration of firearms rights from convicted Felons under certain circumstances. However, the ATF appropriations since 1992 have prohibited using funds to process those applications. And in the case of Bean v. BATF, the court held that since the application wasn’t technically *denied*, Bean couldn’t appeal through the Court system.

      1. whale

        First time I’ve heard of the Zone of Death. In the wiki article it says:

        a criminal could theoretically get away with any crime, up to and including murder.

        What does this mean? Is there a list of crimes “above” murder? Also, why would they not fall under the loophole?

        1. Aftagley

          I think the implication of this quote is that murder is the worst crime possible. Crimes go up in severity until they reach murder. This sentence says that all crimes could be un-punishable.

        2. acymetric

          I’m pretty sure it is implying that murder is the worst crime, and emphasizing that it would still fall under the loophole.

          Edit: Ninja’d by Aftagley

        3. Eric Rall

          Is there a list of crimes “above” murder?

          The various forms of treason. In the US, federal treason is defined in the Constitution (levying war against the United States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort), and most (all?) states have parallel language for treason against the state government.

          Treasons were historically a much longer list in the UK, including such crimes as:
          – Killing the King or his heir
          – Planning or conspiring to kill the King
          – Thinking too hard about the King dying
          – Conspiring to deny the rightful King or his heir of their throne
          – Killing certain specified high Royal officials
          – Cuckolding the King or his heir
          – Forging the King’s official seal
          – Counterfeiting the King’s coins

          And that’s just High Treason, covering offenses against the Crown. There was also Petty Treason, covering similar (more narrowly defined) offenses against the perpetrator’s master, husband, or prelate. But Petty Treason is long-since abolished in the UK (the non-murder forms of it were abolished in the 1300s, while the remaining forms were rolled into ordinary murder in the early 1800s), and I’m not sure it ever existed in the US.

          Also, why would they not fall under the loophole?

          I’m pretty sure that treason is still covered by the “zone of death” loophole. The sixth amendment attaches to “all criminal prosecutions”, which presumably includes treason.

        4. Garrett

          I’d add that in a lot of cases, being exempt from Federal law wouldn’t do all that much. Most people are covered by State criminal law in addition to Federal law, and most elements of Federal law have similar duplicate statutes at the State level. So in an arbitrary State, if Federal law went away the immediate impacts would be minimal – maybe you’d be able to hire someone for $5/hour instead of the current Federal minimum wage. Finding out that in one swath of Yellowstone park “man hires teenager to sweep sidewalk for less than Federal minimum wage!” is a possible story might be interesting, but it’s not important.

          It’s because this is a Federal Park that *only* Federal law applies that this is even possible. Because there’s no State law to fall back on, you only have Federal murder statutes to fall back on. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem.

          What’s more annoying is that this issue has been repeatedly brought to the attention of Congress and they’ve declined to address it. There are approximately 0 people who would be opposed to the technical changes required to fix the issue. Yet they haven’t managed to do so.

    6. Plumber

      @Statismagician,
      I changed my mind, there is only one top legislative priority: the total elimination of ‘Daylight Saving crime, all else is paltry.

      I want my hour back permanently!

      Also, any attempt by employers/supervisors/lackeys/whomever, to move start times forward “to get back afternoon light” shall be fiercely punished by being pelted with rotting eggs and vegetables.

      Further: All hours worked before 9AM and after 5PM shall now be at triple rate, attempts to circumvent this will be met with jail time without books, magazines, and television.

      Also, 90% of all workers shall now have an hour and a half lunch that includes a full pint of good ale, those who don’t consume alcohol shall be given a substitute fancy meal valued at no less than $100.

      Registering to vote now comes with a free drink and a brass playing and a dozen people shouting “Huzzah!”

      Every thousand residents in an area must be provided a post office, at least a small public library, hardware store, a place to get a good corned beef sandwich, a milkshake, and a tasty beer in their midst, except maybe where most of those residents are Mormon, Muslim, and/or 7th Day Adventists, they get something else (ideas are welcome).

      More Chuck Berry on the radio NOW!

      Doctor Who and Star Trek shall be on broadcast television again.

      College graduates are forbidden from moving to the San Francisco bay area if they aren’t really good looking plus married to and have a child with someone from here.

      Police uniforms shall not include basball hats and cargo paints, really any uniform that would be strange 50+ years ago is not allowed.

      Anyone who wears a hat backwards that isn’t a cameraman, sniper, or welder shall be dope slapped.

      The main thing is the total elimination of Daylight Savings though.

      1. Statismagician

        I’m 100% with you on DST being deeply stupid and deeply stupidly implemented. Incentives for voter registration is a solid plan, and in retrospect probably should have been provided for once we started expanding the franchise.

        I live in St. Louis, so lack of Chuck Berry on the radio is not a problem I have, plus I’m not sure it really falls under the ‘legislative mistakes’ category.

      2. JayT

        I don’t really care much about time switches, except that if we get rid of it, I want to keep standard time, not DST. I hate waking up in the dark.

        1. Silverlock

          But I hate getting home for work and it being too dark outside to be able to do anything. The only thing morning light helps me with is my commute.

          1. Evan Þ

            And it makes me feel better when I wake up if the sun’s out.
            But yes, light when I get home from work is even nicer IMO.

      3. Evan Þ

        Please, please, don’t incentivize banks and grocery stores and such to close at 5 PM. Those of us who actually work normal 9-5 hours need to get over there afterwards.

        Instead, say perhaps “all hours over 50 hours/week required to be worked at specific times are at triple rate, as are all hours required to be worked between 9 PM and 6 AM, without regards to exempt status.” The “required to be worked at specific times” is so they don’t need to track hours for actually-exempt people.

        1. Plumber

          @Evan Þ,
          Nope, I worked too many 6AM start time jobs, and now that Daylight saving crime is the majority of the year most months I have to go to my car with a flashlight with the 7AM start time.

          I want the iron fist loving embrace of the state to force encourage my current boss and subsequent bosses to have a later start work time.

          I’m more amenable to others working later though, but I draw the line at the constant requests for “four tens instead of five eights”, my body is pretty wore out at the seventh hour at work already!

          1. Evan Þ

            OK; I’ve never had to start work that early myself, so I’ll defer to you! (Except for the time when I got an urgent call at 4:30 AM, when… well, my boss gives good comp time, but I’d still love triple rate.)

            Some of my friends work “four tens” as nurses and like having every weekend be a long weekend. There are weeks I’d go for that too. Maybe your work’s more physical than theirs? Or at least more steadily physical, because I hear a lot of stories from them about talking with patients as well as physically lifting them?

      4. Eigengrau

        I think we should just keep turning the clocks back 1 hour every year, then after 24 years we skip a day. Preferably a Monday.

        1. Eric Rall

          My DST reform proposal goes the other direction. Every day at 2pm, we should “spring forward” to 3pm, giving us an extra hour of sunlight after work. And every night at 2am, we “fall back” to 1am, giving us an extra hour of sleep.

    7. The Nybbler

      OK, you asked for it. It is currently illegal to fly a model aircraft in the United States without a Remote Pilot Certificate. While Congress has passed a recreational exception, two of the conditions required to take advantage of this exception are unable to be fulfilled (one is a knowledge test which has not been written, the other is a set of rules developed in combination with a Community Based Organization, none of which have been recognized). I would recommend restoring the status quo ante as of 2011, which was “no restrictions”.

      1. Aftagley

        Phh, why stop there?

        I change it so that model aircraft hobbyists are legally allowed to keep any major airliners they can bring down. Bring big-game hunting into the 21st century!

          1. Statismagician

            Excellent. Combined with that guy who hit a drone flying over a medieval re-enactment with a spear, we can set up a full system of aerial prize-taking regulations.

        1. The Nybbler

          Airliners make lousy trophies. No matter how well you clean the hide, you can never get the odor of jet fuel out of them.

          1. Statismagician

            You just need to find a mature airliner. Once the adult propellers come in the jet fuel odor becomes much less problematic.

          2. bean

            If you want the really mature airliners, you need to go to Alaska, where the largest propeller-driven airliners are. The problem is that getting the scent of avgas out is harder than jet fuel, and they’re really tough. Some have even survived collisions with caribou with minimal damage.

          3. Statismagician

            By analogy with observed behavior of certain reindeer subpopulations, perhaps both? I know NORAD tracks Santa’s location, but what about his altitude?

          4. bean

            The airplane (DC-6) was on final when caribou ran onto the runway. They took out two engines and three props. The operator flew out replacements, and ferried the airplane back to base. The worst part of the job was hosing ground caribou out of the gear bays.

  19. AlesZiegler

    Since we have various discussions about Indian economic history, subject I know almost nothing about, and merits of British imperialism inevitably came up, I set out to find out how poor India really was when it gained independence (1947).

    Wikipedia cites Angus Maddison, Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD, and according to him, Indian GDP in 1950 was 222 222 millions of 1990 international dollars, which, with a population of 361 million according to 1951 census gives us a figure of 616 of 1990 international dollars per capita.

    This however tells us little without something to compare it to. Well, it tells us that India in 1950 was indeed desperately poor compared to modern West, but everyone already knows that.

    More interesting comparison is with Imperial Russia. Maddison, in above linked Wikipedia article, gives GDP of “former USSR” in 1913 (USSR inherited territories of Imperial Russia except for Finland and most of what is now Poland), as 232 351 millions of 1990 international dollars. Population of Imperial Russia was counted for the first and last time in census in 1897 (next census would be in 1915, but was cancelled for obvious reasons), gives Russian population at 126 million. There was a rapid growth in Russian population until 1914, and various estimates of Russian population pre WW1 range around 170 million, give or take 10 million. So that would put Russian GDP per capita in 1913 at around 1366 in 1990 international dollars per capita.

    So, India, when it gained independence on Britain, had about half of GDP per capita of Imperial Russia before it broke down in WW1. My takeaway from this, if those numbers are remotely accurate, is that British rule over India was an abysmal failure as an economic development project, which is the way Western imperialism in that era had been legitimized (“we are going to civilize the barbarians!”), although it would of course be naive to take those justifications completely at face value.

    Imperial Russia was one of the few countries that weren’t put under Western direct rule or at least indirect overlordship in the 19th century, and it was also considered by Westerners of that time to be a byword for backwardness and tyranny, and for good reasons. But those were things from which civilizing mission of colonialists was supposed to free natives.

    1. EchoChaos

      Note that one thing that would be important there is to also know what India’s per capita GDP was before the British took over.

      If they took a country with a per capita GDP of $60 in 1858 and increased it to $600, that’s actually decently impressive to do to a country of that size.

      My understanding is that this is a very disputed question, with some arguing a per capita GDP value between $500 and $550 (the British grew the economy very little) and some arguing a per capita value less than $100 (the British helped growth a lot).

      1. AlesZiegler

        I kind of not like this line of reasoning, since it gets governments off the hook too easily.

        Measurement issues notwithstanding, Soviet Union in 1990 surely had higher GDP than in 1922, when it was founded. Does it mean that Soviet government was great for economic development? Stalin apologist (who coincidentally appeared in the very discussion under Indian post) would certainly argue so, but I think that is nonsense. We should consider whether there were plausible alternative policies that would lead to better outcomes.

        1. EchoChaos

          It speaks to if the British were actually following their justification to build up India or just looting the place.

          If they sextupled the per capita GDP in a century, that’s still not fantastic due to that being a very high growth century, but they were at least trying to do what they said.

          If instead they grew it less than 10% in a whole century, that’s just looting.

          Whether their government was moral is a separate question entirely. Genghis Khan grew the wealth of the Mongol Empire tremendously by the simple expedient of how when two men have X wealth each and one kills the other and takes it he now has 2X wealth. He’s doubled his wealth!

      2. Forward Synthesis

        The Soviet Union at least did industrialize rapidly (partly by exporting confiscated grain and using slave labor to be sure), so the question is the repugnant question of whether extremely rapid industrialization was worth a few million lives. Possibly, the answer was yes given it allowed them to later defeat the Nazis who had plans for Slavic genocide on an absolutely absurd scale (General Plan Ost), meaning that over 50 millions lives may have been saved through rapid highly exploitative industrialization that exacerbated famine conditions that killed several millions, along with those kulaks deliberately liquidated, and all of the officials shot in the Great Purge. That’s the best argument I’ve seen for Stalinism. I’ve seen to the contrary plenty of arguments to the effect that Russia could’ve industrialized in the time they had using other methods and still ended up on more or less the same footing, of course. It seems intuitive that greater levels of exploitation allow for faster industrialization though. Compressing an industrial revolution into a decade probably requires a great deal of suffering either way.

        Would we still measure alternatives in terms of GDP? As far as I’m aware, no part of C+I+G+(X-M) tells you anything about the quality of the thing, only that there is a large amount of monetary value being generated. In theory, if you melted down a load of steel into slag, you could still generate high GDP if you mined and transported enough ore to do so. The last time I saw a graph of Chinese GDP PPP per capita, the Great Leap Forward was a noticeable blip, but a blip none the less, and the effect of the high death rate on population is corrected by the 70s. It seems as though absolutely horrible things can happen with millions of people dying, and the effect is that GDP dips a little and the next decade your population is more or less where it would have been had it never happened.

        Surprisingly it seems like you can ask all sorts of questions about economic value and get middling to even positive answers while the equivalent of a genocide is occuring. You can blow up most of Europe and then the next decade it’s more or less fine. Figuring out what is lasting ruin and true rot is very very very difficult. Possibly beyond mortal ken.

        1. cassander

          The Soviet Union at least did industrialize rapidly (partly by exporting confiscated grain and using slave labor to be sure), so the question is the repugnant question of whether extremely rapid industrialization was worth a few million lives.

          Less rapidly than is generally thought. Probably less rapidly than russia was industrializing prior to ww1, certainly less rapidly if you count the massive de-industrialization that took place between 1918 and 1928. And even then, a lot of what they did was only possible because the great depression destroyed the global market for capital goods, so the soviets were able to scoop up factories and machinery at bargain basement prices.

          It seems intuitive that greater levels of exploitation allow for faster industrialization though.

          You’re assuming that exploitation is efficient, it usually isn’t. Yes, stalin or Mao could decree that steel be made, but unless you’re turning the steel into useful goods, you don’t have actual industrializations, just a bizarre sort of cargo cult. Communist industry often produced products that were less valuable than the raw materials that went into them, even before you try to account for the massive amount of lying in the production figures.

          1. Eric Rall

            certainly less rapidly if you count the massive de-industrialization that took place between 1918 and 1928

            Could you elaborate a bit about that? I don’t think I’ve heard about that before. Was the period of deindustrialization driven by the civil war (either directly through looting and razing, or indirectly as a consequence of war-driven deurbanization), or was it a case of “eating the seed corn”, or something else?

          2. cassander

            @eric rall

            All of the above, really. the revolution, purges, civil war, and war communism destroyed russia’s industrial base. urban populations collapsed, skilled workers died or fled, and when replaced at all they were replaced with people who had no idea what they were doing and wrecked the equipment. the NEP allowed a little recovery, but the soviet regime used 1913 production figures as the baseline for comparison, and many were not surpassed until the late 20s or early 30s, some not until after ww2, despite a large boom in industrial production during ww1. And, of course, those are all the official figures, while lying was rife at every level.

          3. Forward Synthesis

            but the soviet regime used 1913 production figures as the baseline for comparison, and many were not surpassed until the late 20s or early 30s, some not until after ww2, despite a large boom in industrial production during ww1. And, of course, those are all the official figures, while lying was rife at every level.

            Where can I read about this stuff? I’d previously seen graphs of Soviet steel production soaring way above over countries (I’ll admit tankies provided these) and taken the claim that Soviet industrialization was highly successful at face value. When I google “Soviet GDP”, I can see this big dip from the revolution in the relevant time period, but it seems like growth is all positive after the early 20s for most of what you’ll see. I wonder how much of the dip is due to the experiment with very extreme communism during the war, or the conditions of the civil war itself and the collapse of the previous system. There’s another enormous dip at the very end of the Soviet Union. We could make the same charge but against capitalism, but it seems more likely that the rapid collapse of the previous system caused chaos that was hard to recover from in both cases.

          4. cassander

            Where can I read about this stuff? I’d previously seen graphs of Soviet steel production soaring way above over countries (I’ll admit tankies provided these) and taken the claim that Soviet industrialization was highly successful at face value.

            the soviet union made a lot of steel. So did Mao’s china. they both made a lot of steel for the same reason, steel making was an explicit and extremely important goal of the regime, because steel was seen as intrinsically modern, If developed nations made a lot of steel then if we made enough steel we’d be modern too. The USSR was not nearly as cargo culty about this as Mao was but they had similar motives and issues. a lot of the steel made was not very good and it was often bought extremely inefficiently.

            When you look at the production of goods, the story gets much worse, even before you account for quality. Chevrolet (not all of GM, just chevy) made about as many cars in 1962 as the entire soviet union made in the entire decade of the 60s.

            The soviet union did eventually manage develop enough high technology to compete militarily with the west in a few key areas, but only by devoting a truly enormous share of national income to the production of weapons. The technology gap only widened over time. Even today, russia almost totally lacks a semiconductor industry.

          5. Forward Synthesis

            If developed nations made a lot of steel then if we made enough steel we’d be modern too. The USSR was not nearly as cargo culty about this as Mao was but they had similar motives and issues. a lot of the steel made was not very good and it was often bought extremely inefficiently.

            I was definitely aware of this with Mao, who famously had peasants melt good steel down into slag in backyard furnaces. I was not aware of this with Stalin. I’ve always had the impression that Stalin = evil but competent (if occasionally paranoid enough to overcome his natural competence and start killing his own officers), and Mao = evil and moronic.

            When you look at the production of goods, the story gets much worse, even before you account for quality. Chevrolet (not all of GM, just chevy) made about as many cars in 1962 as the entire soviet union made in the entire decade of the 60s.

            That’s a damning statistic. Perhaps that speaks to what I was alluding to before; GDP not being the greatest of measures.

            Going from that statistic, you’d naively expect Soviet GDP to be many times less than that of the USA, but if you look it up, it seems like Soviet inflation adjusted GDP was just a bit less than half the USA. Sounds bad, but nowhere near as clear a picture as to quality of life when considering something as transformative as the automobile.

            “Yet its economy produced less than half of the real GDP of the US, despite a population of similar size, spread across a much larger territory.”

            The only bothersome issue that remains for me is that modern capitalist Russia still lags the USA this badly. Yes, it no longer has the Soviet territories, but the bulk of the population and territory was within Russia anyway. Why with all these natural advantages unlocked by the switch to capitalism does Russia perform so relatively poorly even now? We can give it the decade of disaster in the 90s, but even now? If US sanctions are a further excuse wouldn’t that only be equal to the USSR being part of a separate economic bloc back then?

          6. Clutzy

            The only bothersome issue that remains for me is that modern capitalist Russia still lags the USA this badly. Yes, it no longer has the Soviet territories, but the bulk of the population and territory was within Russia anyway. Why with all these natural advantages unlocked by the switch to capitalism does Russia perform so relatively poorly even now? We can give it the decade of disaster in the 90s, but even now? If US sanctions are a further excuse wouldn’t that only be equal to the USSR being part of a separate economic bloc back then?

            Because they haven’t really hit the switch. A lot of the big things despite being nominally privately held are really state (Putin) owned and could be seized at any time on a whim. There is no place for a private information economy because that would pose serious threats to his control as well.

          7. Forward Synthesis

            @Clutzy

            Isn’t that even more true for China, which has its state champion corporations? Unless we think China is coasting on earlier liberalization and will also slow down drastically.

          8. ana53294

            A lot of the big things despite being nominally privately held are really state (Putin) owned and could be seized at any time on a whim.

            It’s not just the big things. It’s small things too.

            If the Russian government wants to get something, they can get it. Russia is not that far off from Venezuela in that sense.

            There is the case of the prosecutor general’s links to the mafia who stole some businesses. Then there is the issue of the Renovation project in Moscow. When homes where privatized in Moscow, it was done without the land. So there is a plan to “renovate” all the “old and dysfunctional” buildings, tear them down, and put people in high rise apartments. On a huge scale. And they may extend it to every other city in Russia. If people’s homes are not safe, what is?

            Private property is not a thing in Russia. Ordinary Russians have no good way of saving. Rubles may be worth nothing; bank accounts held abroad may become inaccessible due to sanctions; the Russian state may ban you from leaving the country by denying you a passport; who can trust Russian banks and Russian share exchanges? Most Russians I know who live in Russia saved by buying property, because most of them are distrustful of other means of saving. And now even property is hit and miss.

          9. AlesZiegler

            @Forward Synthesis

            The only bothersome issue that remains for me is that modern capitalist Russia still lags the USA this badly. Yes, it no longer has the Soviet territories, but the bulk of the population and territory was within Russia anyway. Why with all these natural advantages unlocked by the switch to capitalism does Russia perform so relatively poorly even now?

            “Capitalism” imho isn’t useful concept. Current Russian regime isn’t communist, but it also isn’t liberal democracy. It is however unfair to compare its performance to US, better question would be why they lag behind e.g. Poland or Romania, and an answer is that, actually, they don´t.

            Current Russian GDP per capita (with purchasing power parity adjustment) is slightly higher than Romanian, and only slightly lower than Polish or Hungarian. Average Russian is however still noticeably worse than citizens of those countries in terms of income, since Russia is an extremely unequal country.

          10. DarkTigger

            @cassander
            Production figures after WW2 might not be the best comparsion, you know after having fought one of the biggest wars in human history in the mid of your industrial core areas.

          11. cassander

            @forward synthesis

            I was definitely aware of this with Mao, who famously had peasants melt good steel down into slag in backyard furnaces. I was not aware of this with Stalin. I’ve always had the impression that Stalin = evil but competent (if occasionally paranoid enough to overcome his natural competence and start killing his own officers), and Mao = evil and moronic.

            Mao certainly took the cargo cultishness to new heights, but those sorts of issues are inevitable in a centrally planned economy.

            That’s a damning statistic. Perhaps that speaks to what I was alluding to before; GDP not being the greatest of measures.

            GDP isn’t bad, but garbage in, garbage out. everyone in the USSR lied at every level of production, and even if people were being honest, without prices there was no way to evaluate what was being produced. See the story of soviet shoes, for example. Every one of those shoes was getting booked on the official GDP figures as the equivalent of a western shoe, even though no one wanted them and they were probably worth less than the raw materials that went into them.

            The only bothersome issue that remains for me is that modern capitalist Russia still lags the USA this badly.

            clutzy and ana53294 are right, russia suffers badly for not having gone through with shock therapy. they started to, but reversed course after about 6 months which has left them with one of the most statist economies in the world

            @DarkTigger

            That was 20 years after the war, and the germans and japanese, who got it at least as bad, did just fine economically post-war. Heck, the germans did better than the british by a wide margin.

          12. DarkTigger

            @cassander
            Sure but the improvement in production happened in both parts of Germany. And in the early 60ties it even looked like GDR would surparse the FGR, on a per Person basis.
            So the bad Russian numbers could just be a sign for the effectiveness of the German extermination campaign.
            Nobody seriously questions that the UsSR was lacking behind the West in a couple of key industries.
            Your claim was, that there was a “massive deindustrialization” between 1918 and 1928? Could you please quote numbers for that.

          13. ana53294

            The GDR bordered free economies, had access to a sea that didn’t freeze the whole year, a well educated populace, and had German culture. They were also Catholics and Protestants instead of Orthodox*.

            *In Europe, Protestant countries in general do better than Catholic ones, and Catholic ones do better than Orthodox ones.

          14. cassander

            @DarkTigger says:

            Sure but the improvement in production happened in both parts of Germany. And in the early 60ties it even looked like GDR would surparse the FGR, on a per Person basis.

            I don’t have east vs. west german production figures handy, but east germany was making trabants, a car famously terrible that wikipedia claims “the 1980s model had no tachometer, no indicator for either the headlights or turn signals, no fuel gauge, no rear seat belts, and no external fuel door, and drivers had to pour a mix of gasoline and oil directly under the bonnet/hood.” Meanwhile, west germany was the land of Mercedes and BMW and was cranking out a truly staggering number of beetles. More of those were made in 1966 and 67 than the entire history of the trabant

            Nobody seriously questions that the UsSR was lacking behind the West in a couple of key industries.

            They were behind in virtually every industry, and every category of consumer good.

            our claim was, that there was a “massive deindustrialization” between 1918 and 1928? Could you please quote numbers for that.

            There had been some recovery by 1928. Sadly, I lack the JSTOR access to find the best articles on the subject, but some of the decline can be seen here. Note, this is not Ezra Klein’s Vox.

            If you want more detailed figures you can look in here. Production of pig iron, steel, and copper were down in 1928 compared to 1913. Coal was up about 15% from 1913, but level with 1916. Fabric was flat. The USSR produced 671 cars in 1928, the US more than 3 million. National income figures in 1928 were, at best, about even with 1913 levels. That’s 15 years with zero net economic growth.

          15. AlesZiegler

            I have to back up cassander here.

            Availability of cars in the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries was way lower than in the West until the 90s, and 60s, far from being an era where USSR still hasn’t recovered from the war, was probably when living standards were highest. They declined in Breznev era. And Eastern block cars were shit.., um, low quality compared to Western ones. I still remember from the 90s ubiquitous legacy Trabant cars made from plastic (videoreview). This general low quality applies to pretty much all consumer goods and even more to consumer services, which according to all sources were abysmal. Source: I was born in 80s Czechoslovakia, and although I don’t personally remember much of it, over here, past isn’t dead.

            Regarding deindustrialization in Russia from 1914 to 20s, I don’t have numbers, but it is evident that Bolshevik takeover and actions in that era massively retarded contemporary and potential future economic development.

          16. bean

            Another place to look for evidence of deindustrialization is in naval construction. The Russians had an active industry under the Tsars, but when they attempted to build battleships again starting in the mid-30s, they had a tremendous amount of trouble, and not just in the areas that had obviously atrophied (heavy armor production, for instance). My primary source on the subject specifically called this out as an example of fraud in Soviet economic figures.

          17. Clutzy

            Isn’t that even more true for China, which has its state champion corporations? Unless we think China is coasting on earlier liberalization and will also slow down drastically.

            @Forward Synthesis

            Yes, I would expect China to slow down dramatically without further economic reforms. Their growth has largely been the result of cheap labor and scale with some IP theft thrown in. There is scant evidence of non-spillover growth in China.

          18. albatross11

            Clutzy:

            China is also still doing catchup growth–basically following in the footsteps of other economies that have already gotten up to the current state-of-the-art in technology. When you’re doing that, you can have fast growth, because you don’t have to spend resources figuring out how to build plastic factories or refineries or chip fabs, because that stuff has already been worked out. At some point, China will basically be caught up to the first-world nations, the way Japan is. At that point, further growth will be a lot slower, and will be further slowed by the need to maintain the capital and arrangements they’ve already built up.

          19. Clutzy

            albatross

            Yes, that’s what I referred to as “spillover growth.” Its basically growth that you actively have to work to not capture.

          20. DarkTigger

            @cassander
            Yes the Trabant was a joke in the 70ties already. But you have to remember in the 60ties the east Germans, used the Trabants (called Trabbies), but in West Germany people where driving VW Beetle, and Citroën 2CV (called Duck).

            Thanks for showing some acutal numbers, for your claim. It’s not that I really doubted it. But you know, asking for evidence and all that jazz.

          21. eric23

            Current Russian GDP per capita (with purchasing power parity adjustment) is slightly higher than Romanian, and only slightly lower than Polish or Hungarian.

            That’s because they’re flush with fossil fuel wealth. The same effect is seen in other fossil fuel producers like Iraq, Egypt, and Venezuela, which all have respectable GDP (PPP) per capita despite their population being desperately impoverished.

        2. AlesZiegler

          If we are going to tackle its morality, Soviet industrialization should be viewed in proper context. Which is that Russia was indeed industrializing before revolution, and Bolsheviks destroyed conditions for its successful economic development by, you know, liquidating the bourgeoisie as a class and by closing the country to most of foreign trade and investment.

          Then Stalin realised that he needs to industrialize country rapidly in order to win wars (and he expected those wars to be way less defensive than they turned out in reality), so he went with his soviet way of industrialization, which ensured first huge death toll and then continuing misery even in postwar USSR.

        3. AlesZiegler

          @eric23

          On one hand, yes, but on the other hand, Hungary, Poland and Romania are EU members, which means that they have an access on the Single Market and also that they receive substantial development aid. And they are not under any sanctions, of course. Those things should imho more or less compensate for Russian advantages in natural resources.

    2. Paul Brinkley

      I am glad that table at least specifies PPP instead of raw GDP.

      Otherwise, +1 to what EchoChaos said.

    3. Tenacious D

      Interesting topic, and one I wish I knew more about.

      It seems to me that development of India’s railway network should be part of the picture (and perhaps another basis of comparison to Imperial Russia). I also wonder what comparing the princely states with directly governed provinces would show?

    4. Wency

      Czarist Russia seems a strange comparison. Russia was a European country that was industrializing and modernizing rapidly in the years leading to WW1. Indeed, that war was started largely out of German fears of Russia’s growing might — the China of its day.

      If India escaped British rule, I imagine its development would fall somewhere closer to Qing China, Persia (prior to oil discovery), or Ethiopia. Except there might well be more independent “Indian” countries than in our own world, with some perhaps more closely resembling one of these or another.

      While EchoChaos points out we don’t know exactly how poor British India started, we at least know it was not a rousing success. If it was a big success, if it had industrialized, we would know that fact. But I don’t know if the native elites would have done better. The dramatic 19th century Asian success story was Japan, but there is nothing about India to make us it would have performed as Japan did.

      1. AlesZiegler

        I mostly agree with that, except that Qing China was largely under European de facto dominion in the second half of 19th century and I know honestly nothing about Persia in that time.

        But it is also hard to see in the data that British rule helped India, which I think would be an argument that colonial official would gave as a justification for the British Empire.

        EDIT: Just to clarify, based on that comparison, quite frankly I think that British government was probably awful, compared to policies that British could plausibly adopt to improve situation of Indians. Tsars were not exactly shining examples of good governance, yet they did in some sense better, or at least not measurably worse. Whether natively ruled India without European overlordship would be better or worse than what actually happened is counterfactual that is very difficult to evaluate.

        1. quanta413

          I mostly agree with that, except that Qing China was largely under European de facto dominion in the second half of 19th century and I know honestly nothing about Persia in that time.

          Reading about the history of the Qing, the enormous internal rebellions seemed more significant to me than the wars with various European nations even given that the Europeans furnished support to some rebellions. The Taiping Rebellion, the Nian rebellion, and multiple muslim revolts were almost 30 years of revolts across China some of them occurring simultaneously.

          The number of deaths during these rebellions is estimated in the tens of millions. Hundreds of towns were wiped off the map. The armies involved were in the hundreds of thousands to millions range.

          It’s incredible that the Qing held together despite having so many large revolts while simultaneously being periodically humiliated by Europeans attacking from the coast.

          1. Protagoras

            Between the Yuan and the Qing, China spent more than a third of the second millenium under the rule of foreign conquerors. There’s all sorts of evidence of this having been extremely bad for them; I don’t think there would have been so many of the revolts you mention, or that they would have been so bad, without Han resentment of the Manchu. It remains my theory that this was the most important factor in China falling behind the West. Notably, the first millenium did not include such periods of rule by foreigners, and was a period when China was consistently ahead of the West. Admittedly, there were also substantial periods of disunity in the first millenium, so the contrast also fits with some theories on which unity was part of the problem, but I still think the foreign overlords were more important.

    5. Plumber

      @AlesZiegler,
      Of the two nations with a billion people, China and India, I think I’d rather go with the world’s largest democratic republic than the giant fascist state Marxist people’s republic with Confucian characteristics.

      There’s exceptions (hello Zimbabwe!), but among nations “formerly British ruled” looks like a good start overall.

    6. Auric Ulvin

      Russia was still a great European power in WW1. They had a large industrial base, it just wasn’t large enough. Calling them backwards is like calling Alabama or Mississippi backward: they’re still a US state and are in the First World. Russia would’ve been on the edge of the 1st world in 1914, along with Austria-Hungary but in it nonetheless.

      I’d prefer to compare to Afghanistan, Nepal or Bhutan. Yes, these kingdoms were more mountainous, smaller and landlocked, so they ought to have lower growth. However, they all seemed to be as or less developed than India by Independence. Sadly I can’t find figures to support this. They are fairly obscure countries after all.

      I’d cautiously say that British rule in India wasn’t worse than baseline for a South Asian state.

      1. AlesZiegler

        I find this line of reasoning quite strange. Fact that India unlike Russia didn’t have an industrial base seems to me to be an indictment of British policies, that evidently failed to kickstart its economic development. “They should be glad that they aren´t Afghanistan” is holding colonial government to ridiculously low standard.

        1. quanta413

          Low by modern standards, but perhaps high compared to the standards of what governments came before them and even ok compared to some that were next to them.

          But yeah, the bottom in how bad things can get is really far down.

        2. Auric Ulvin

          What sort of standard of development could’ve been expected? The British administration in India wasn’t very direct and they had a lot of other countries to rule.

          There were hundreds of Indian princely states incorporated within the Raj. A subcontinent of nearly 400 million was never going to be directly ruled from London. The Indian civil service was outnumbered around a 100,000: 1 after all.

          How can you develop such a big country with such a small bureaucracy?

          Besides, how do countries develop anyway? I think we generally agree that the best thing to do as a poor country is embrace free trade, set up low-cost manufacturing and export to rich countries. Gradually you start making higher tech goods and creating an internal market. This is the Taiwanese, South Korean and Chinese model.

          But in the 19th and early 20th centuries I think this was a lot harder. The rich countries had extensive market barriers and systems of protection. They had huge workforces doing the very same low-cost textiles and heavy industry. There was no super-affluent US consumer to sell too: they were still working in the factories themselves.

          A subcontinent like India was too big and too diverse for a top-down Japanese-style modernisation program. The British weren’t powerful enough to just reshape every aspect of society at the drop of a hat. They had to work through local elites. Developing a country is very hard to do, especially when all you’re ruling is a slightly-more-centralised version of the HRE with a united foreign policy and all you have are a few thousand administrators.

          Doing about the same as Siam, Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan is about as much as could be expected.

          1. AlesZiegler

            It all comes down to framing, I guess. You are focusing on the bit where developing a country is very hard to do, with which I am in complete agreement, while my focus is on that British government of India failed in that difficult task.

            However I think that my framing is more consistent with how other cases are generally evaluated in this space. Especially Soviet Union, but also independent India.

  20. Peffern

    I know some friends who were rationalist adjacent but when I tried to introduce them to the capital R community they got weirdes out by the focus on AI and x-risk and kinda just left. This is how I feel about the enlightwnment stuff. My prior on any of this being useful is so ridiculously low (like, Hillary Clinton is a lizard low) that I continue to be vaguely shocked and upset by how much discussion it seems to be getting. Not that there’s anything wrong with discussion, but it just annoys me.

    1. Creutzer

      That sounds like a problem with you more than with the discussion. It’s an underexplored topic that a lot of people find interesting, evidently not sharing your priors. Enlightenment is generally presented as something desirable, so questioning whether it in fact is makes sense unless you think there is no such thing anyway. But given that meditation is known to produce quite extraordinary effects, the prior on there being some such thing shouldn’t be that low, either.

      1. Viliam

        given that meditation is known to produce quite extraordinary effects

        To me it seems that the most frequent effect is people saying: “I have these awesome insights that are impossible to communicate to anyone who doesn’t already have them. They have a deep impact on everything I do, but you wouldn’t see any difference from outside.”

        Then there are minor but seemingly real effects, such as people saying they can relax better, focus better, keep calm better, etc. Now these are all awesome things if true, I am not trying to suggest otherwise. (Question is whether they are worth the time one must daily spend meditating to achieve them. This must everyone decide for themselves.)

        So we have a combination of moderate effects with good evidence, and extraordinary effects with barely any evidence. I wouldn’t summarize this as “known to produce extraordinary effects”.

    2. DinoNerd

      I’m not weirded out, and I’m used to ignoring topics I don’t care about. But I’m otherwise with you. I’m especially amused at the idea of self-descrbed “rationalists” with a big focus on a religious experience/credential – though honestly, I don’t see the focus, just a pair of posts from Scptt, who exp[lores a lot of things.

      1. thevoiceofthevoid

        I don’t think professing to be a “rationalist” precludes you from investigating the potential benefits of anything billed as “religious”. The tone of Scott’s posts doesn’t seem to be “woah what if meditation really does allow you see the truths of the universe laid bare”, but rather, “Hmm, there’s some evidence for small, tangible benefits of this activity that makes people claim to have seem the truths of the universe laid bare while unable to actually explain them. I wonder what the heck’s going on here?”

  21. zenojjones

    New post about digesting information via headlines, highlights and anecdotes.

    Getting our news from headlines allows us to understand what happened, but leaves the other journalistic questions- Who, When, Where, Why, How- sometimes unanswered, and offers no context or greater meaning. The illusion that we’re well informed (myself included) as a result of headlining leads to many other issues that were unable to deal with.

    There is room for improvement here, though I might be too close to see a path forward, so I’m very open to comments for or arguments against.

    1. thevoiceofthevoid

      As much as I love debating politics, I suspect that trying to stay informed on politics (or “news” in general) is not a very good use of time and energy for most people, especially if you’re not in a swing state (or competitive congressional district).

      You use the Muller report as an example in your “Eating your vegetables” article:

      Deciding on this information is a public duty- we have to understand it at some level and give feedback.

      Now, I’ve read virtually nothing about the entire Muller saga, so I may be massively underestimating the layperson’s ability to have an impact. But, if I read the entire report and a good deal of the surrounding coverage from high-quality sources, and I came to the conclusion that [Trump is literally taking bribes from Putin / Trump is completely innocent of any and all wrongdoing], what action would I be able to take based on that information? I am neither a federal judge, congressman, DOJ official, nor person who any of the above would take time to listen to. I probably will be too busy with classwork to mail in an absentee ballot in 2020 (and if I do, it’ll be for a state so solidly blue that my vote for president has astronomically low odds of swinging anything).

      1. Well...

        I suspect that trying to stay informed on politics (or “news” in general) is not a very good use of time and energy for most people

        More than suspect, I am very confident of this.

        The OP is about being informed on the basis of reading headlines, and implies that one is more informed if one actually reads the articles. I would say instead that one decreases one’s useful informedness by reading either headlines or articles. Journalism is gossip that wears a bowtie.

        1. zenojjones

          Journalism is gossip that wears a bowtie.

          Love that. It absolutely can be, and most of the time is. But in rare moments it sheds light on events that end up important. I suppose like music, movies, scientific discoveries or anything else, we have to wade through the crap. Looking back 30 years we’ll only remember the stuff that was important and consider it history, while the rest falls away.

          1. Well...

            Journalism does occasionally shed light on things, in the same way that one of the many bullets fired blindly from a Minigun might trim a piece of hair from the head of a man who needs a haircut. Still a pretty dumb way to get a haircut.

            Journalism is communication, and all communication has the potential to shed light. But shedding light isn’t journalism’s aim; it isn’t what it’s designed for. It’s designed as a vehicle for English majors to pretend to be authoritative about whatever they are not authorities on — i.e. most things besides how to write compelling little stories on a deadline.

        2. Aftagley

          I would say instead that one decreases one’s useful informedness by reading either headlines or articles. Journalism is gossip that wears a bowtie.

          I find this argument facile, but lets test your hypothesis anyway:

          I just opened up one of my newspapers of choice – the top three articles were as follows:
          1. Democrats in the House are going to call for a floor vote on impeachment.
          2. A summary of some of the intelligence recovered during the al-baghdadi raid.
          3. An update on the kincade fire and the most recent evacuations.

          How specifically have I decreased my useful informedness by reading these articles?

          1. Well...

            The idea is that if you are one of the few people who has a good reason to know about any of this stuff, or who has some pet interest in these topics (as opposed to you’re reading about them so you’ll be in the know about what everyone’s talking about at the water cooler — i.e. gossip), then you’re better served learning about it from other more direct, more expert sources. It’s more effort than just reading the newspaper’s website, but if you’re one of those few people with a real good reason to get that information, then it’s worth it.

            Instead, if you’re not one of those few people and you’re just reading the news to be in the know at the water cooler, then you’ve wasted your time reading something you have no good reason to know about, written at a 3rd grade level by an English major who has an ax to grind, a ridiculous deadline to meet, is being pressured to impart a certain quality to the narrative by his or her superiors for some foul reason, or some combination of these. In that time you could have been making yourself more informed about something likely to be of impact to you or the people you interact with.

          2. Aftagley

            Nope, still don’t like this argument.

            First, you claim is that I should only care about what’s going on in the world if I need to know about it or if what’s going on happens to meet some pet interest I have. I disagree, I generally care about what’s going on in the world. I find geopolitics fascinating and think that it’s a citizens duty to his country to be informed. I think that the more you know generally about what’s going on, the more context you can apply to your ongoing decision-making process.

            Second, you seem to dislike the idea of discussing current events with people. Just because you don’t care about world events doesn’t mean that it’s gossip – if I go to the water cooler with a topic, or post about it here, it’s because I find a topic fascinating and would appreciate other people’s perspectives on it, not because I just want to gossip.

            Third, yes – for every topic I read about, I know I conceivably have the option to keep digging, but lets go back to the three articles I previously mentioned:

            a. Dems calling for floor vote on impeachment – I guess I could get on a bus, go to Washington and schedule an appointment with my congressperson and personally ask them what the democrats plan is. But, I’ve got very little leverage and they probably wouldn’t tell me much. Also, this would be a bunch of work . Instead, I could just read this article, hear from people who have much better access than I do and get the information that way.

            b. Intel summary from al-baghdadi raid – outside of changing careers and going to get a job in the intelligence community, I have no way of learning anything about this topic other than the media.

            c. Kincade fire updates – Ok, i went to the websites of the counties and fire departments affected by the kincade fire. I found the same information as is being reported by the media, only it was presented less well and in around 8 different places. In the media, this information is streamlined and collated. Why again is doing my own research here better than just trusting a reputable outlet?

            Overall, this argument sounds like someone doesn’t personally find the news interesting. That’s fine, but there’s no need to denigrate other people’s interests, to say nothing of the credibility/capability of the entirety of the media.

          3. Paul Brinkley

            I feel like both sides are a bit off here.

            A lot of news is just gossip (celebrity divorces, political scandals), and a lot of it isn’t (stock reports, legal reform, upcoming town festivals).

            The fact that someone likes discussing current events doesn’t make it not gossip. Are you discussing what your budget is going to look like in light of the new tax bill, or are you discussing whether Trump should have called Erdogan a nice guy or Katie Hill should get flak for being in a throuple or how cool it was that Seal Team 6 got in and out of that raid with those hot new NVG models? If you’re doing the latter, that’s still as fine as any other hobby, but some people use it to hunt for Twitter mob targets. Which, honestly, is their bad, but I can understand getting salty about journalism that facilitates that behavior, just like we do about, I dunno, movies that cater to sexist bros.

            Most news isn’t actionable. Some of it is, and some gets rather abused.

          4. Well...

            I find geopolitics fascinating and think that it’s a citizens duty to his country to be informed.

            These are two different things. One tends to fall into the “pet interest” category you dismissed. The other is a pretty strong claim but also needs unpacking:

            Let’s say it’s true that a citizen’s duty is to be “informed”. Obviously no citizen can be informed about everything, so what exactly should a citizen be informed about? Should journalists be the ones who make this determination? If so, why? If journalists are both the ones who determine what citizens should be informed about and the ones who determine what constitutes being informed (since you imply that “being informed” is something only attainable by consuming journalism), doesn’t that raise any red flags?

            Is it a citizen’s duty to be informed about the three things you listed? If so, why?

            I think that the more you know generally about what’s going on, the more context you can apply to your ongoing decision-making process.

            As someone who used to read the news all the time, my experience is this is not true. The information and contextual understanding that goes into my decision-making process now is much higher quality and more intelligently focused than it was when it was guided by journalists.

            Just because you don’t care about world events doesn’t mean that it’s gossip

            True. I don’t care much about color theory but that isn’t gossip either. The fact that I’m not terribly interested in world events isn’t why I call journalism gossip. Merriam Webster defines gossip as (1) n. a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others and (2) rumor or report of an intimate nature. These perfectly describe journalists and journalism, though journalism isn’t always just about “others”, just as gossip is sometimes about things that happened and not particular people.

            if I go to the water cooler with a topic, or post about it here, it’s because I find a topic fascinating and would appreciate other people’s perspectives on it

            Sounds like a pet interest then. I maintain you’d be better served going to the water cooler with information you got from other places instead of from journalism. And then you’ll wish the others there at the water cooler with you had done the same, because you’ll realize how little they understand about those topics from their junk diet of journalism.

            For the three topics you listed, an easy way to get more information about them without getting it from journalists is to find experts in those topics online. There are sites like Reddit and Quora where such experts are readily accessible. You can also email professors who study those topics. Or you might know people who know people who are experts on or otherwise have personal knowledge of those topics — networks expand surprisingly quickly once you’re past the 1st degree of connection.

            Overall, this argument sounds like someone doesn’t personally find the news interesting

            Are you saying I don’t find the topics covered by journalists interesting, or are you saying I am not interested in consuming these topics as mediated by journalists? One of those statements is accurate, the other is not.

      2. zenojjones

        While the post should probably be toned down on its idealism, I think the take of “we can’t change it so we shouldn’t commit time to it” is a bit of an over correction. Direct influence shouldn’t be the only thing that determines if we’re educated on a topic.
        And maybe the point got away from me, but the idea isn’t for everyone to be an expert on everything. It’s to bring yourself up to a basic level of competence/understanding before you claim to have an opinion on a certain topic.
        Haven’t read the report or anything about it? Absolutely fine. Live your life. But if you have an opinion on it without reading a thing beyond the headlines? Then there’s an issue.

        1. thevoiceofthevoid

          I definitely agree with your weaker point that if you haven’t read in detail about a topic, you shouldn’t act like you’re informed about it. And you’re right, “we can’t change it so we shouldn’t worry about it” is probably too far in the other direction. But in a world where we have limited time and attention, I think that trying to learn about topics that haven’t turned into cesspits of culture war may be a better use of one’s time.

          Of course, I say this as I engage in a meta-political argument myself, and I spent a good two hours yesterday “debating” creationists in a youtube comment section (I was in a dark place, don’t judge me), so it’s possible I could use a bit less preach and a good deal more practice.

    2. LesHapablap

      Here’s a Scientific American article that came across my facebook feed this morning:
      warming-will-cost-rich-and-poor-countries-alike

      The gist of it is that in 2100 GDP per person will be ~7-15% lower in all countries, even cold ones, if we don’t follow the Paris climate agreement. It’s graphs show the GDP % change if we follow the paris agreement, vs. if we merely do moderate climate mitigation. However, it ignores any cost to GDP of following the paris agreement. It also doesn’t really mention what a 10% worse GDP per person actually means by 2100. If GDP per capita grows at 1.5% per year, it’ll have gone up by 200% by 2100.

      None of the 100 odd comments on the facebook post ask these questions even though there are lots of negative comments. So what good has this article done? Has it reduced the level of ignorance in the world at all?

      1. zenojjones

        I mean a misleading article is only as helpful as it is accurate. I don’t think anything will change that. Accuracy of what we read is a whole other thing, but it is informed by deeper-than-headline understanding. If you didn’t have the appropriate background knowledge to understand what was left out of that article, how would you know when you’re being led astray or when facts are being left out?

      2. Auric Ulvin

        The article seems very silly. What they seem to be saying is that they looked into how people fared in incidences of higher temperature and extrapolated the trend. But a heatwave isn’t a hotter year. You can’t plant crops in accordance with a heatwave or use the North Sea Passage consistently.

        They have a point saying that regions which have built cities and houses designed for cold will need to adapt and that this will be expensive. But throwing out the benefits entirely is a perverse thing to do.

        1. Paul Brinkley

          They have a point saying that regions which have built cities and houses designed for cold will need to adapt and that this will be expensive.

          Even this is somewhat specious, due to the timescale involved. By the year 2100, most buildings existing today will be gone, replaced by new construction, possibly two waves of it. All city buildings will likewise have been remodeled inside multiple times. The expense of rebuilding and remodeling all those buildings is already going to exist; the only new expense is factoring in management of about 1-2 degrees C. CatCube could give an expert opinion on how big an expense that is, but I suspect it’s almost unnoticeable, esp. on top of all the other research no doubt going into improvements of construction methods.

          1. JayT

            most buildings existing today will be gone, replaced by new construction,

            Is that actually true? I live in a 100+ year old house, and I have a hard time imagining it being torn down for new construction in the next 80 years. The same goes for my whole town, area, and state. Every house I’ve ever lived in is still standing, and almost all of them are 50+ years old.

            That said, I don’t really see what would be expensive about making houses that are good for the cold be good for the heat too. The biggest expense I can think of would be that you’d have to add AC, but honestly I don’t really see that as a huge issue. Some people will add it, some won’t. I lived in a town that regularly got to the mid 90s in the summer, and the house I was in was really old and didn’t have AC.

          2. Paul Brinkley

            Is [most buildings being replaced] actually true? I live in a 100+ year old house, and I have a hard time imagining it being torn down for new construction in the next 80 years. The same goes for my whole town, area, and state. Every house I’ve ever lived in is still standing, and almost all of them are 50+ years old.

            I started by saying “homes” instead of “buildings”, and may have copypastaed a bit overzealously. But yeah. Most homes I see seem to be gone in 50 years, due to cheaper materials, rezoning, or just plain looking outdated. For the rest, that’s why I said “remodeled”. That 200YO stone structure I see in historic Maryland often has a 10YO HVAC unit inside, not to mention modern plumbing, cable TV, etc. If they’re really that old, chances are high that someone doled out the cash to properly insulate it, and will just do that again every few decades.

          3. JayT

            Where do you live that houses only have a 50 year life span? In California it seems the only time a house is torn down is if there was a fire. From what I’m seeing online, the average age of a house in the US is around 40 years. Considering they are constantly building new houses that would mean there are a whole bunch of really old houses out there.

          4. Paul Brinkley

            Where do you live that houses only have a 50 year life span? In California it seems the only time a house is torn down is if there was a fire. From what I’m seeing online, the average age of a house in the US is around 40 years. Considering they are constantly building new houses that would mean there are a whole bunch of really old houses out there.

            It could depend on how your source counts them. New houses are likely rated at some estimated span – possibly 40 years – and if that’s what your source uses, then there wouldn’t need to be many older homes to pull up the average.

            I live in an older apartment complex, going on 50. It could stand to be replaced, but in reality, it’s constantly getting new siding and roofing, while in the inside gets an overhaul whenever a tenant moves out. This is evident whenever I visit the rental office and see the ads for new units continually updated.

            Overall, here in Maryland, I see townhomes springing up like weeds. The way they go up, I’m not inclined to expect them to still be there in 2070. This is a market under obvious churn. Everyone’s clearly not concerned with avoiding rebuilding and remodeling expenses.

          5. JayT

            Here’s once source:
            https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2018/08/13/median-age-of-maturing-us-housing-stock-is-37
            they are just talking about the median age of homes in the US, as far as I can tell. Here’s one relevant quote:

            More than half of the owner-occupied homes were built prior to 1980, and 38 percent before 1970.

            I agree that the houses will be remodeled, and that it probably won’t matter if they were originally made for a cooler climate, but I still don’t think “most” currently standing houses will be gone by 2100. When they are building all those townhomes are they tearing down existing housing, or is it new development? I suspect if they’ve torn anything down that it would be out of date industrial buildings. My experience is that it’s very, very hard to tear down housing in the US.

          6. Paul Brinkley

            So that quote suggests “current age”, as opposed to “estimated age”. So they’re likely to be either remodeled or torn down. And we’ll likely see a lot of new construction as well. (How many homes were built before 1940? 2100 is still 80 years away.)

            When they are building all those townhomes are they tearing down existing housing, or is it new development?

            I expect it will be some of both. Older townhomes will either be remodeled by the landlord to stay modern, and be priced accordingly, or will get progressively more budgeted treatment. Consider older tenements in NYC or Detroit. Any cooling problems in them will likely be treated about seriously as such problems are treated today.

          7. JayT

            This site says 13.5% of the current houses were built before 1940:
            https://www.governing.com/gov-data/transportation-infrastructure/age-year-built-for-homes-in-cities.html

            Considering how many more houses have been built in recent years compared to the pre-1940 era, I would guess that well over half the houses built in 1940 are still standing. I’d have to dig more into the data though to be sure.

            Again, I agree that they will be remodeled, I just don’t agree with your original assessment that they would be “gone”.

          8. JayT

            One other interesting thing about that link is that if you look at the older, more established cities like New York, Chicago, or even San Francisco, 80 year old houses are almost the majority. When you look at a place like Phoenix though, there’s hardly any houses that old. I think that supports my suggestion that old houses don’t get torn down, they just build in new areas.

      3. AliceToBob

        I’m generally skeptical of claims that, for some metric, the impact of a complex event will between X% and (roughly) 2X%. More so if the event is “bad” and/or politically contentious. There might be exceptions, but I just can’t think of any off the top of my head…

      4. Thomas Jorgensen

        Following the Paris agreement should make you money if you do it right.
        Currently most countries are powered by coal and gas. Coal has horrific externalities even disregarding co2, so is far, far more expensive than it pretends to be, gas is fracking, which is obviously not long term economic – look up the production curve for a fracked gas well. That boom as a stop date and it is not that far into the future.

        So. Messmer. Pick a standard reactor design. Mass produce it. Keep doing that until your grid has no more carbon in it. Keep building reactors for industrial heat until that is decarbonized too. This should get you a cheaper energy base. This does assume that producing reactors by the hundred or thousand count brings down costs, but.. well, it would be extremely odd if it did not.

        1. Aapje

          Pick a standard reactor design.

          …that satisfies the regulations, which differ per country.

          Mass produce it.

          Except you can’t.

          1. Thomas Jorgensen

            Messmer was not a random Word it was the name of the French politician resposible for the French reactor fleet. The US is plenty big enough for a recaputilation of that approach to work. Hell, Russia is having a good deal of succes selling the VVER to everybody right now. So. Refutation by existence proof

    3. DinoNerd

      It’s worse than that, because these days some significant proportion of headlines are misleading to the point of contradicting the story, doubtless to encourage people to click/view the ads. Most likely that was always true of “yellow journalism”/newspapers my housemate refers to as “fishwrap” etc. But these days, it appears to be the norm even for “respectable” news sources.

  22. ana53294

    Why does anybody pay any attention to the Westboro Baptist Church, and see them as an indictment of anything but the WBC?

    When I first saw how many times they get mentioned in the media, I assumed they were some kind of cult like Scientology. But after looking them up, it seems to me that it’s just one wacko and his family (big progeny, somehow manage to keep in-law children in the same wackiness). In most countries, they wouldn’t even be able to call themselves a church; Scientology is not allowed to be a church, even though they have a lot more followers than WBC.

    So why pay any attention to what a family of nutjobs does or says? Sure, saying gay people are to blame for 9/11 is hurtful, wrong and ridiculous, but it’s not like they represent any significant amount of people. That a country the size of the US has a big extended family of nutjobs who happen to like lawsuits and saying outrageous things is not an indictment on the US, or Christianity, or anything. The only reason other countries don’t have their own WBC is because both religious freedom and freedom of speech is more limited in other countries, but I don’t see how that is good.

    1. jermo sapiens

      Why does anybody pay any attention to the Westboro Baptist Church, and see them as an indictment of anything but the WBC?

      The progressive narrative requires the existence of very bad people. Another example of this is how often the NY Times mentions Emmett Till lately. Steve Sailer has been excellent on this.

      1. albatross11

        Not just the progressive narrative. Almost any simple narrative will involve members of the outgroup acting badly, and amplifying the worst of the outgroup as though they were the average. Further, the WBC’s whole strategy was (is? I guess they’re still around?) focused on getting publicity by doing very rage-inducing things like picketing peoples’ funerals with offensive slogans on signs. This is the sort of thing gets attention from just about every media source–it’s candy for them.

    2. EchoChaos

      Not much, really. The biggest reason anyone knows about them is so that atheists have someone on the extreme Christian side to yell about.

      One of the funniest things for me is that Fred Phelps was very active in fighting for civil rights for blacks and that he held those beliefs to the end. He was an odd duck in terms of what he believed.

    3. Aapje

      So why pay any attention to what a family of nutjobs does or says?

      The media lives on outrage/outliers, so…

    4. zenojjones

      They were a bigger topic a few years back, and they pissed off everyone. They were religious fanatics AND they were insulting to veterans. They hit the left and the right, a true bipartisan outrage machine.
      Now they’re less relevant because they scaled back the dead soldier protests and they are really only a talking point for atheists and the very liberal. I feel most other people just dismiss them as insane.
      Also their ability to market themselves as a ”church” and not a family probably convinced a lot of people that it was a bigger group than they were. If you aren’t outraged about it, you’re probably not going to read into it and discover it’s just one family.

      1. ana53294

        It says they are a family in the wikipedia page, so it doesn’t take much looking up. If the media had been more honest, everybody who knows about them would know that. Of course, “Family of religious extremists commits outrage of the week” is not as good as implying there’s a bigger church. And linking them to the general Baptist churches (AFAIK, Westboro has nothing to do with the baptist churches other than their name).

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Of course, “Family of religious extremists commits outrage of the week” is not as good as implying there’s a bigger church. And linking them to the general Baptist churches (AFAIK, Westboro has nothing to do with the baptist churches other than their name).

          That’s correct. Baptists have congregational rather than episcopal polity, which in the absence of a state church (e.g. the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian) can lead to splinter congregations in communion with no one. Generally Baptists congregations organize themselves into conventions, with the Southern Baptist being the largest.

        2. zenojjones

          the world would be unrecognizably improved if all of us did even basic Wikipedia-level research before having something to say. Unfortunately, like I go into on my post above, very few of us take the time.

          1. EchoChaos

            But “family of anti-gay Democrats protest offensively” is much less punchy to literally everyone.

          2. Statismagician

            @EchoChaos

            Why, it’s almost as though the media were incentivized to do everything in the most sensational way possible, or something.

      2. Aftagley

        Also their ability to market themselves as a ”church” and not a family probably convinced a lot of people that it was a bigger group than they were. If you aren’t outraged about it, you’re probably not going to read into it and discover it’s just one family.

        Wikipedia says their membership is somewhere between 40-70 people. That’s larger than I would argue the term “family” covers. Even if they are all related, it’s still a moderately sizable group of people who are all motivated around a specific church.

        1. acymetric

          I think there was also a sense (whether rightly or wrongly, I don’t know) that other conservative Christians or Christian groups, while not openly joining in with or enthusiastically endorsing Westboro were kind of…quietly nodding along with agreement with their message.

          This kind of gets into the never ending “you must disavow the extreme/bad members of your group” that everyone makes of each other but rarely of themselves, but I do think it was probably an additional factor.

          1. EchoChaos

            whether rightly or wrongly, I don’t know

            The answer is wrongly, incidentally. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest and most conservative convention of their faith, has explicitly rejected them.

            Note also that Phelps doesn’t fit neatly into either conservative or liberal. He was to the end of his life an ardently anti-racist Democrat activist. He also vehemently hated gays. He endorsed Gore in the 90s when Gore was anti-gay and rescinded it when Gore became pro-gay.

            He was a complicated and interesting man.

          2. albatross11

            acymetric:

            As I recall, essentially everyone was aghast at the antics of the WBC. They were representative of evangelical Christians in the US in exactly the same way that antifas bashing heads in a street protest are representative of progressives in the US.

          3. acymetric

            @albatross11

            Agreed, but that’s kind of my point. People bring up Antifa as somehow representative of the left with some regularity. This isn’t unique to WBC, people do this all the time with their outgroups.

          4. jermo sapiens

            They were representative of evangelical Christians in the US in exactly the same way that antifas bashing heads in a street protest are representative of progressives in the US.

            I take your point that many progressives reject antifa. Then again, it’s not nearly enough. So many blue checkmarks go with the line “antifa means antifacist, if you oppose fascism you are antifa” BS (reactions to the recent attack on Andy Ngo for examples), and antifa rarely seems to be prosecuted. Meanwhile proud boys are in jail for defending themselves against antifa violence.

            So antifa is a lot more closely related to the general progressive movement than the WBC is to Christianity.

          5. Le Maistre Chat

            @EchoChaos:

            Note also that Phelps doesn’t fit neatly into either conservative or liberal. He was to the end of his life an ardently anti-racist Democrat activist. He also vehemently hated gays.

            I remember reading an investigative article about Phelps a long time ago that talked about how he beat his children for getting bad grades growing up, because he expected them to all get into law school and become lawyers. One of the children was mentioned as responding to the beatings by killing small wild animals.
            Now I wonder if he was a civil rights attorney back in the day.

          6. EchoChaos

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Now I wonder if he was a civil rights attorney back in the day.

            Yes, he was. And a very successful one.

        2. The Nybbler

          Wikipedia says their membership is somewhere between 40-70 people. That’s larger than I would argue the term “family” covers.

          All the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of my paternal grandparents, and their spouses, total up to somewhere in that range. Every one of them is my family.

          1. Aftagley

            Right, but if someone says “the Gooblatz family did so and so today” how many people does your mind immediately jump to? I’m guessing your like me (and the survey of my office mates I just conducted) and you think it’s somewhere between 3 and 7. The word family, at least as it’s commonly used, denotes the nuclear core, maybe with the grandparents included.

            In the same way that “church” possibly causes people to over-estimates how many people are part of this organization, I’d argue that the term “family” would cause them to underestimate. Maybe the terms “clan” or “greater Phelpian network” would be better. Our society just isn’t used to dealing with kinship networks acting towards unified goals anymore.

    5. Garrett

      FWIW, Fred Phelps also engaged in lawsuits over his activities and frequently won. Basically, he goaded governments (typically) into acting improperly and then sued them under civil rights laws. So in addition to the offensive stuff he did which got news coverage, he managed to get news coverage for the lawsuits he filed and won, subsequently costing taxpayers money, generating even more outrage.

      The nice thing about religious freedom laws is that you can be as eclectic as you want. The down-side of religious freedom laws is that people will be as eclectic as they want.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        There was a positive[sic] feedback cycle where people would attack Phelps and get positive feelings from their in-group, while also feeding Phelps position within his own ingroup. The people who would commit something actionable that ended up financing Phelps were part of the first group.

        1. Evan Þ

          Who was Phelps’ ingroup? I was in a Southern Baptist church at the height of Phelps’ press coverage, and it definitely wasn’t us.

    6. Well...

      So why pay any attention to what a family of nutjobs does or says?

      Journalists. It sells newspapers, so to speak. And because people give undue authority to journalists as conversation-setters, journalists have an outsided level of influence on what people talk about or consider important.

  23. Wrong Species

    Imagine a movie that had a compelling plot, superb acting, masterful cinematography, etc. However, the characters are off. You don’t understand their motivations or why they do the things that they do. Could you enjoy this movie?

    1. acymetric

      It is a little hard for me to imagine a movie where I don’t understand the motivations or actions of the characters but the plot is still compelling, but maybe I’m thinking about it the wrong way. I guess it depends on how I’m not understanding them…does it appear that they are just acting essentially at random, or are they acting on a different plane of values than I am used to but with some effort I could at least come to understand that they are acting in a coherent way even if it is alien to me.

      I think I could probably enjoy the movie, but a lot of my discussion about the movie afterwards would center around how I didn’t understand why the characters did what they did.

      1. Wrong Species

        I think there is two general kinds of stories with weak characters but still be good: idea-heavy movies and ones where the plot moves at a breakneck pace. I can enjoy the movies even though the characters arent really doing much. To answer your question I would say something more like the characters have weird motivations that you can’t intuitively understand than them acting at random. But not something you can really predict. Imagine trying to explain human motivations to an alien. It’s not random but there is no list of rules you can really write down for them to get it. They would be constantly baffled by our movies.

    2. Statismagician

      For me, if the character motivations make that little sense, the plot is by definition not compelling and the cinematography is by definition inadequate. So no, but also I’m not sure that’s a thing that really happens? Maybe I’m weird about this.

    3. lvlln

      compelling plot, superb acting, masterful cinematography, etc. However, the characters are off. You don’t understand their motivations or why they do the things that they do. Could you enjoy this movie?

      This sounds a lot like season 8 of Game of Thrones, which I didn’t enjoy, so I’d guess that I wouldn’t enjoy such a film.

      But then again, I’m not sure that season had a compelling plot. But I’m also not sure how a film has a compelling plot while having characters with incomprehensible motivations. The overall framework of the GOT S8 plot was compelling enough, but the characters being off were what made the plot very uncompelling.

    4. Well...

      Yeah I could totally enjoy it. A lot of the weirder European movies are like this. Like that one by Michael Haneke about the family who kill themselves (can’t remember what it’s called).

    5. rubberduck

      Are we talking, like, you can’t understand the chain of logic that drove Character to commit Action? (e.g.: “In order to stop my house from burning down, I must kill the President”, “I will kill the President, just because”, etc.?) Or do you mean an absence of deeper motivation, like what is driving the character throughout the overarching plot?

      If it is the latter, I have enjoyed media where characters are not very developed and the setting/aesthetics/plot minutae were enough to keep me invested, but I have never experienced the former. In fact it is hard to imagine a “compelling plot” where immediate motivation for characters’ actions is unclear.

    6. episcience

      Yes — thrillers/horror films and some action movies are enjoyable even where the characters do things that, on reflection, don’t make much sense.

    1. Statismagician

      I really hope it does get made – the criticism should be fascinating. Foundation is… really not like modern sci-fi, at all, and I really want to see what happens when the executives try to make it more commercially viable. Plus I predict much wringing of hands over the potential application of psychohistorical principles to the obvious subjects, on both sides.

  24. jermo sapiens

    Theories explaining Jesus’s life and resurrection, that do not rely on any supernatural elements.

    For example, Jesus was brought to India as a child to learn about Buddhism, returned to Israel to preach, got crucified, fell into a coma (or was drugged), was presumed dead, and came back to see his followers, before returning to India where he is buried in a tomb with a carving of his feet with showing the scars of the crucifixion.

    Arguments for/against this particular theory or any other theory like this would be most welcome.

    1. EchoChaos

      The primary argument against it is that crucifixion is a really nasty way to die that would leave permanent harm and the idea that the Romans didn’t know how to identify a dead man is pretty implausible. Taking the Biblical account of the crucifixion as accurate, he lapsed into unconsciousness or death at about 3PM, but he was not removed from the cross until just before sunset, at which time his side was pierced in order to ensure his death.

      For this to be plausible, an unconscious man has to survive the asphyxiation created by crucifixion for three hours, survive a spear wound through the side and show no signs of life to a soldier used to what death actually looks like.

      Honestly, supernatural intervention is more likely.

      1. jermo sapiens

        but he was not removed from the cross until just before sunset

        I didnt know about that. Thanks.

        the idea that the Romans didn’t know how to identify a dead man is pretty implausible

        Granted, but mistakes happen and there are cases which are more difficult than others. Also, to flip it around, I could say that the idea that no Roman soldier ever misidentified a dead man to be pretty implausible. To which you could answer, “yeah but if this is a rare occurrence, you would have to be pretty lucky for it to happen to the messiah”. And to that I could answer “maybe he wasnt the messiah when it happened to him, maybe he became the messiah because it happened to him”.

        Anyways, for me it’s really the carving of the feet in the tomb in India that prevent me from discarding this theory. That’s pretty messed up.

        1. EchoChaos

          Granted, but mistakes happen and there are cases which are more difficult than others. Also, to flip it around, I could say that the idea that no Roman soldier ever misidentified a dead man to be pretty implausible.

          Never misidentified a dead man from an execution is a decently plausible claim, in my opinion.

          Surviving an execution and ALSO having the executioner think you’ve died is a really tight needle to thread, and I can be pretty confident that a good executioner isn’t going to miss that one.

          1. Nick

            Never misidentified a dead man from an execution is a decently plausible claim, in my opinion.

            We don’t have to suppose the soldier never misidentified a dead man, we just have to consider what the probability he does is. If the probability for a given crucifixion is low, say one in ten or one in twenty, that’s already going to have a big impact.

            ETA: clarity

          2. jermo sapiens

            Surviving an execution and ALSO having the executioner think you’ve died is a really tight needle to thread, and I can be pretty confident that a good executioner isn’t going to miss that one.

            It is a tight needle to thread. I’m not suggesting that it was likely or common. I’m suggesting that it’s possible. Even you cant help suggest that it’s possible, as evidenced by the qualifiers “pretty confident” and “good executioner”.

            Also, maybe the Roman soldier was paid off. I’m not saying he was. I’m just exploring possibilities.

            Obviously something extraordinary happened in Jesus’ life. It’s not every 1st century preacher that ends up spawning a religion followed by billions 2000 years after his life.

          3. EchoChaos

            @jermo sapiens

            Leaving out my supernatural certainty that he did in fact die due to my religious experiences, as requested, obviously nobody can make a 100% statement about an event 2000 years ago.

            But to make it plausible, the crucifixion could not have happened as described by the Bible. The Biblical account is not survivable.

            At that point you’re just writing hypothetical fanfiction, since as far as I know there is no other detailed account of Jesus’s crucifixion to take into account.

            However, I’ll make this challenge. As far as I know there is no case of a crucified prisoner who survived that crucifixion unbeknownst to the executioners.

            If you can provide historical evidence of one, that would make me change my priors, but right now my priors are “if the executioner says a prisoner is dead from crucifixion, he is 100% dead.” Just as it would be if an executioner says a prisoner is dead from lethal injection.

          4. jermo sapiens

            Leaving out my supernatural certainty that he did in fact die due to my religious experiences, as requested, obviously nobody can make a 100% statement about an event 2000 years ago.

            This whole thread is not about proving or disproving anything, supernatural or not. I’m very open minded about supernatural things being real, but I prefer natural causes for obvious reasons.

            As a quick aside, my view is that if your faith requires you to be certain about anything, it may shatter upon finding contradictory evidence, and this makes it fragile. I’m generally agnostic but I lean towards believing in a God who wrote his commandments on the human heart. This helps me deal with my most basic disagreement I have about organized religion, which I can best relate by recounting this conversation I had with my father as a teenager:

            Me: So did we win the religion lottery, by being born in the “correct religion”?

            My dad: yes

            Me: So if we were born something else we would be condemned to hell for eternity?

            My dad: yes, unless you used your conscience to guide you towards the correct religion

            Me: (forever cynical about what my dad says about religion)

            You say the Bibilical account is not survivable. Fair enough. Maybe the Biblical account is not 100% accurate.

            Also, this is not a Roman soldier making a mistake about someone being dead, but 3 doctors, in Spain, in 2018.

          5. EchoChaos

            @jermo sapiens

            Faith requires certainty of some things, obviously. That doesn’t trouble me. I believe in Christ because he is the Truth. I wouldn’t want to believe in a lie. If I discovered I was following a lie, then my faith would in fact BE worthless.

            1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

            I want to believe what is true.

            Also, this is not a Roman soldier making a mistake about someone being dead, but 3 doctors, in Spain, in 2018.

            Absolutely. He was not, in fact executed and checked by people whose job is to kill people and make sure they stay dead.

            That kind of mistake makes sense. Crucifixion less so.

          6. EchoChaos

            @Aapje

            This is a bit different subthread, but the ones I looked over there were pretty weak and I knew the reasons for every one I checked.

            I don’t have time to check every single one, nor the patience.

            The idea that believing Biblical scholars for thousands of years have somehow missed all of these is frustratingly myopic as well. Christians know the Bible well, we study it as a matter of practice.

          7. jermo sapiens

            Faith requires certainty of some things, obviously. That doesn’t trouble me. I believe in Christ because he is the Truth. I wouldn’t want to believe in a lie. If I discovered I was following a lie, then my faith would in fact BE worthless.

            I disagree. Jesus’ teachings contain important moral truths. Turning the other cheek, and treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated are good teachings regardless of whether the resurrection was supernatural or not.

          8. EchoChaos

            @jermo sapiens

            I think the only disagreement we have is over the meaning of faith.

            In a hypothetical world where I lost mine, following those teachings might still be good, but I would no longer have any faith.

            Either Jesus is the Incarnate Word or he is just some dude. If the latter, he might still be right about moral matters, but you would no more have faith in him than you would in Confucius.

          9. DragonMilk

            As CS Lewis suggests, if you think Jesus is just a moral teacher, you are not really reading into his claims. Moral teachings are incidental to his claim of divinity. So he’s either a lunatic or who he claims to be.

            So you have to decide whether you’re nodding at the ramblings of a lunatic who also happened to make moral points, or start considering his claims of divinity, which is inherently a supernatural thing.

          10. jermo sapiens

            I think the only disagreement we have is over the meaning of faith.

            Probably. I have low religiosity and spirituality in general. I’ve never been anything other than extremely bored in church, but I dislike atheism to the extent it makes claims about knowing the unknowable, and I cant rationally convince myself with certainty that either God doesnt exist or even that Christianity is false.

          11. DragonMilk

            @ jermo, generally church won’t be making arguments for belief as most sermons assume you’ve already bought in. Instead, they come in the form of, “if you believe what you say you do, you should do this”

            And so, I give you the following for consideration to see if you find it boring.

          12. Nick

            Probably. I have low religiosity and spirituality in general. I’ve never been anything other than extremely bored in church, but I dislike atheism to the extent it makes claims about knowing the unknowable, and I cant rationally convince myself with certainty that either God doesnt exist or even that Christianity is false.

            Why don’t you start with things like proofs of God’s existence, then? I have low “spirituality,” too, but that hasn’t stopped me from grasping the faith in an intellectual way.

          13. jermo sapiens

            And so, I give you the following for consideration to see if you find it boring.

            Thanks. No time to watch it today but I’ll save it. As an aside, I did find Jordan Peterson’s lectures on Genesis to be very interesting, and thinking sermons should be more like that. But that would probably just change the set of people who find sermons boring from one to another.

          14. jermo sapiens

            Why don’t you start with things like proofs of God’s existence

            I would love to see one.

          15. albatross11

            A few years ago, we had a Mexican priest in Spanish mass at my church (I was mostly attending Spanish mass then) who was in the US doing some kind of advanced study in theology. His homilies were almost exactly like classroom lectures. I loved them–they had a structure I was familiar with that helped me get a lot of information even in my second language. But I had the sense that most of the people in the church found them kinda boring and long….

          16. Nick

            I’ve heard a lot of pretty terrible homilies. Some of them were nothing but a disconnected series of stories from the priest’s life (or the deacon’s, if the priest is lazy) with a tenuous relation to the week’s readings. Others were trying to make a theological point but incoherently. Others were trying desperately to be cool every third or fifth sentence with a joke or a reference to pop culture. One priest I’ve had several times, I just can’t understand a word he says—he doesn’t have an accent or anything, but he mumbles the entire thing.

            What bothers me is that it’s mostly down to amateur speaking and writing, and this should be a solved problem. Millions of sermons have been delivered throughout the history of Christendom. All the best ones have been written down. For God’s sake, just use something written by a guy who can make a coherent point. And you do this several times a week your entire vocation, you can get good at it.

          17. EchoChaos

            @Nick

            or the deacon’s, if the priest is lazy

            Hey, some of us deacons are pretty good at public speaking.

            But yes, it is frustrating when you are paying someone to preach as their entire job and they phone it in.

            My sermons tend to be very data driven and very technical, although they do tend to assume worldviews.

            I have quoted SSC in sermons, though.

          18. Nick

            @jermo sapiens

            I would love to see one.

            I think for most the place to start is with cosmological arguments like Aquinas’ first three ways. Unmoved Mover and all. I could present one, but not until I get home today.

          19. jermo sapiens

            Unmoved Mover and all.

            As in God set off the Big Bang? I generally agree with that.

            Other arguments I find very very hard to dismiss:
            -consciousness is not (yet?) explainable by any physics theory
            -the parameters are the universe seem uniquely tuned to create life (ie there’s no reason for an atheist that the Big Bang wasnt followed by billions of years of elementary particles just dispersing through space without doing anything interesting. Even the creation of atoms is remarkable and tiny changes to the charge/mass of electrons by a little bit would f*ck everything up, but not only that we have stars that create heavy atoms, we have water and its remarkable life-enabling properties, we have complex molecules like protein and DNA, the existence of which is just mind boggling, etc…)

          20. Nick

            @jermo sapiens

            As in God set off the Big Bang? I generally agree with that.

            Nah, that would be a kalam argument. Aquinas didn’t believe it could be proved philosophically that the universe has not always existed. One problem with causation through time is that downstream effects often don’t need the continued existence of upstream causes; your grandparents are partly causes of you, but once your parents were around, grandma wasn’t necessary to your eventually being caused. So with causation across time it’s difficult if not impossible to rebut the suggestion that such causation has always happened, back in time forever.

            Aquinas by contrast relies on the existence of per se causal series, which are simultaneous in time. My desk holds up my coffee cup; the floor holds up my desk; the earth holds up the floor; something is responsible for the cup’s, desk’s, floor’s, and earth’s having mass and there being gravity, and so on. And the desk doesn’t have on its own the power to hold up the coffee cup; remove the earth or the floor and you’ll soon find the desk was intermediate, relying on something else being steady beneath it throughout. Given these things are happening, and given that the later effects still depend in this way on the earliest cause, whatever that is, we can’t just posit more and more things under the earth holding it up, or more and more mechanical laws underlying mass and gravity, the way we can posit more and more grandparents further back in time. We end up having to posit something that can cause them all without itself being caused. This is the Unmoved Mover.

            This is just a sketch, of course.

          21. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Nick

            Given these things are happening, and given that the later effects still depend in this way on the earliest cause, whatever that is, we can’t just posit more and more things under the earth holding it up, or more and more mechanical laws underlying mass and gravity, the way we can posit more and more grandparents further back in time. We end up having to posit something that can cause them all without itself being caused. This is the Unmoved Mover.

            I think this argument (Aquinas’ first or second way? not sure which, the original language is somewhat antiquated) holds up a lot better than the third through fifth ways. However, it only proves the existence of some Unmoved Mover, not necessarily the Catholic God, nor necessarily an entity remotely similar to that conception of God. A much more plausible Unmoved Mover, given what scientific inquiry since Aquinas has discovered, would be eternal and fundamental mathematical laws of physics.

            The Wikipedia summary says that Aquinas proceeds to present arguments for why his first mover / first efficient cause / maximal perfection has the attributes of the Christian God, so I’ll go ahead and read those to see if any seem plausible.

          22. thevoiceofthevoid

            @jermo sapiens

            Probably. I have low religiosity and spirituality in general. I’ve never been anything other than extremely bored in church, but I dislike atheism to the extent it makes claims about knowing the unknowable, and I cant rationally convince myself with certainty that either God doesnt exist or even that Christianity is false.

            Many atheists don’t claim that they know for certain that God does not exist; only that they believe the existence of God is incredibly unlikely. I think it’s fair to round off “It is incredibly unlikely that God exists, to the point where I don’t even consider the possibility of His existence when making important decisions” to “God does not exist”, in the same way that it’s fair to round off “It’s incredibly unlikely that dragons exist [etc]” to “Dragons do not exist.” Some atheists go even further, eschewing the idea of absolute certainty altogether. (See EY’s 0 and 1 are not probabilities and How to convince me that 2+2=3.)

            I don’t agree that the existence/lack thereof of God is “unknowable”, either. I’m with Aquinas on this one:

            Yet from every effect the existence of the cause can be clearly demonstrated, and so we can demonstrate the existence of God from His effects; though from them we cannot perfectly know God as He is in His essence.

            The God described in (choose your favorite version of) the Christian bible clearly has effects on the observable world. If we see effects that are more likely in a world with a God, that’s evidence of God; if we don’t see such effects, or make observations contradictory to His existence, that’s evidence against.

          23. jermo sapiens

            I don’t agree that the existence/lack thereof of God is “unknowable”, either. I’m with Aquinas on this one:

            Well that depends what you mean by God. If God is just a “first cause”, sure. If God is an omnipotent, omniscient eternal entity that cares about us and the moral choices we make, then we need more to establish his existence.

            That said, I think Pascal’s wager is reasonable, not because I fear eternity in Hell (the notion that God would cause you unspeakable pain for eternity as revenge for not following his rules is not one I’m comfortable with), but because following your conscience and living morally will give you a better life. For example, I’m tempted by the idea of having sex with tons of different women, but I know that’s not where happiness is found. Happiness is found in a loving family with children.

            So, the existence of a biblical God is unknowable, even if the existence of a first cause isnt. But we dont need to know for certain whether God exists, we need only try to live a good life as our conscience tells us.

            As an aside, I’ve always disliked the emphasis religious people put on “faith”. Basically, the idea is that God is happy if you *really really* believe what the priest says. It sounds like a cheap trick to make you feel guilty about having doubts. Yet if you turn that around to say have faith that behaving morally will lead to better outcomes in the long run, you can see where faith can be a useful quality.

          24. Nick

            Well that depends what you mean by God. If God is just a “first cause”, sure. If God is an omnipotent, omniscient eternal entity that cares about us and the moral choices we make, then we need more to establish his existence.

            True. Per what thevoiceofthevoid says above, the argument I’ve alluded to doesn’t on its own even establish the divine attributes. You can get them all pretty easily, because notions like Aristotle’s act–potency distinction go really far, but it’s a distinct question.

            Whether this is the God of the Bible (or to flip it around, whether the Bible is a real source of revelation) is another distinct question, and a bigger one than the attributes. Notice all the discussion below about whether the Bible contradicts itself, which is all relevant to this. The old scholastic manuals used to treat the two in separate parts; one would be all the natural theology starting with something like the Unmoved Mover and then doing all the attributes, the other would show that the Bible and tradition are the two sources of revelation, sometimes going on to show how all sorts of doctrine can be traced to one or both.

          25. jermo sapiens

            Whether this is the God of the Bible

            It has to be. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, and he created the universe for us to lead our mortal lives, and then we start to worship a God, but it’s the wrong God, that’s on God, not on us! And given his omnipotence and omniscience, we have to assume he didnt make such a dumb mistake after doing a pretty good job of creating the universe.

          26. thevoiceofthevoid

            It has to be. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, and he created the universe for us to lead our mortal lives, and then we start to worship a God, but it’s the wrong God, that’s on God, not on us!

            So, does it have to be the God of the Bible? Or does it have to be the God of the Bhagavad Gita? Or of the Quran? Or the Torah? Or the Buddhavacana? Or the Book of Mormon? Or the Tao Te Ching?

          27. jermo sapiens

            So, does it have to be the God of the Bible? Or does it have to be the God of the Bhagavad Gita? Or of the Quran? Or the Torah? Or the Buddhavacana? Or the Book of Mormon? Or the Tao Te Ching?

            Right, this is where it gets complicated.

          28. DragonMilk

            As an aside, I’ve always disliked the emphasis religious people put on “faith”.

            Everyone puts their faith in something, it’s a matter of whether that something can actually sustain the burden. Your own reasoning, wealth, reputation, beauty, family, etc.

            For many today it’s self/own reasoning. Each person wants to be in control and not subject to anyone else. Individualized self-determination ultimately means you want it your way. And when it comes to God, that is hell in the end. He lets you go your own way.

          29. thevoiceofthevoid

            @jermo sapiens

            That said, I think Pascal’s wager is reasonable, not because I fear eternity in Hell (the notion that God would cause you unspeakable pain for eternity as revenge for not following his rules is not one I’m comfortable with), but because following your conscience and living morally will give you a better life. For example, I’m tempted by the idea of having sex with tons of different women, but I know that’s not where happiness is found. Happiness is found in a loving family with children.

            Please don’t let anything I’m saying dissuade you from following your conscience and living morally! The conclusion of my brand of atheism is not that we should cast off our morals and ethics and live a life of maximal hedonism, but rather that we don’t need “God” to tell us how to follow our consciences and try to live the best life we can.

            And I wouldn’t call doing what you think will lead to long-term happiness a “Pascal’s wager”, I’d say it’s more of an “uncontroversially good idea.”

          30. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Nick

            Per what thevoiceofthevoid says above, the argument I’ve alluded to doesn’t on its own even establish the divine attributes. You can get them all pretty easily, because notions like Aristotle’s act–potency distinction go really far, but it’s a distinct question.

            Would you be able to summarize these arguments? About an hour of googling has found me only arguments from scripture, ontological arguments which can just as easily prove the existence of the Omni-flavorful Hotdog, and references to Aquinas. Reading Aquinas himself gives me the distinct impression that I’m being Eulered:

            Now God is the first principle, not material, but in the order of efficient cause, which must be most perfect. For just as matter, as such, is merely potential, an agent, as such, is in the state of actuality. Hence, the first active principle must needs be most actual, and therefore most perfect; for a thing is perfect in proportion to its state of actuality, because we call that perfect which lacks nothing of the mode of its perfection.

            The closest he comes to actually defining “perfect” here is something that “lacks nothing of the mode of its perfection [???],” which seems rather circular. He then goes on to prove that literally everything that exists is perfect, using an argument that sounds to me more like Yoda’s “fear leads to anger” quote than an airtight proof:

            Now it is clear that a thing is desirable only in so far as it is perfect; for all desire their own perfection. But everything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual, as is clear from the foregoing (Q. 3, A. 4; Q. 4, A. 1).

            Why does simply existing/being actual make something perfect? Does this not strip the word “perfect” of any kind of distinct meaning?

          31. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Jaskologist

            Tell me more about this “God of the Tao Te Ching.”

            “God” may be a bit misleading, it’s more of a natural order of the universe whose character one’s human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. (I know very little about Taoism, and the main discussion is on Christianity, so the best I can do here is quote Wikipedia.) A nebulous “natural order” satisfies the common cosmological arguments just about as well as a personal Creator God, though.

          32. Nick

            @thevoiceofthevoid
            Why do these questions always come when I’m at work? 🙁

            If you want a thorough introduction to the proof I’m advocating here, just listen to Ed Feser’s lecture here, starting like 2 minutes in. He’s giving a draft of the chapter that eventually was his Aristotelian proof in his book Five Proofs. It’s not the whole chapter (which ran like 70 pages), but it’s most of it.

            I could try to give a quick summary of it, but I think I’d be more confident doing it at home where I have the book. The key thing, I’m going to say right now, is to analyze change in terms of Aristotle’s act–potency distinction. When you have that, you can characterize the Unmoved Mover as pure act, and from that all the divine attributes follow easily. For example, matter is to form as potency is to act, so the Unmoved Mover as pure act has no matter. So he’s immaterial, and incorporeal to boot.

            Of course, you can already see this starts to introduce more specifically Aristotelian metaphysical assumptions. It’s why someone like Feser always starts with the background metaphysics before the argument: it’s more honest as to what all the argument is assuming.

          33. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Nick
            Thanks for the lecture link, I found it quite interesting. (Protip: set your device to play stereo as mono in Accessibility if you’d like your left ear to enjoy it as well.)

            Dr. Feser makes a reasonably sound argument, but I don’t think it’s actually an argument for the Catholic conception of God. The immutability and incorporeality he proves seem to me to contradict the incarnation of Jesus Christ, unless I’m misunderstanding something.

            Furthermore, he does a bit of a bait-and-switch by defining a “good” thing as “realizing the potentials as the kind of thing it is.” He then gives the example of a good painter realizing their potential to paint good art, while a bad one fails to realize that potential. But under this definition, a mass-murderer is more “good” than a pacifist–the murderer realizes their potential to kill indiscriminately! (Maybe this is entirely consistent with the Old Testament.) Alternatively, I could argue that actualizing something’s potential for X necessarily precludes actualization of its potential for not-X, and therefore everything is morally neutral by his definition. Except perhaps God, since the First Cause is completely actualized. In any case, this clearly isn’t what most of us mean by the word “good”, and proving it to be a property of his First Cause, doesn’t make it “good” in the sense that I care about.

            In general, it sounds to me like he’s describing an entity which is completely static, emotionless, and amoral. Based on empirical evidence, it seems like whatever the First Cause is, it’s more interested in making subatomic particles complex amplitude distributions obey mathematical laws than it is about the welfare of humanity. The question of what exactly causes the laws of physics to…y’know, actually exist, is an interesting one, but I don’t think that the God portrayed in the Bible is an answer to it.

            BTW, sorry about dragging you into theological debates while you’re at work. Feel free to keep my waiting for your replies if you need to, it’d probably be best if I had some time to focus on my homework for a few hours.

          34. Nick

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Dr. Feser makes a reasonably sound argument, but I don’t think it’s actually an argument for the Catholic conception of God. The immutability and incorporeality he proves seem to me to contradict the incarnation of Jesus Christ, unless I’m misunderstanding something.

            Right, he doesn’t discuss Trinitarianism or Christology. It’s a bit afield of his proof (which should work fine for any Jew or Muslim or non-Catholic Christian), but for a Christian the objection is still an important one. The short answer is that Jesus has two natures, human and divine, and corporeality and mutability and all can be predicated of Jesus as human but not Jesus as divine. I know that’s supremely unsatisfying, but I’m not confident about getting into the weeds on this one, and I’d be happy with just showing God exists. 🙂

            Furthermore, he does a bit of a bait-and-switch by defining a “good” thing as “realizing the potentials as the kind of thing it is.” He then gives the example of a good painter realizing their potential to paint good art, while a bad one fails to realize that potential. But under this definition, a mass-murderer is more “good” than a pacifist–the murderer realizes their potential to kill indiscriminately! (Maybe this is entirely consistent with the Old Testament.) Alternatively, I could argue that actualizing something’s potential for X necessarily precludes actualization of its potential for not-X, and therefore everything is morally neutral by his definition.

            It’s not a bait and switch, really; that really is how we use the word good! Good as an adjective is unlike most adjectives in that it doesn’t mean much on its own apart from what it’s modifying; I know what red means, and I don’t need to know whether you’re describing a firetruck or a stop sign first, but when you say something is good, that tells me a lot less. I do know what you’re talking about, though, if you say it’s a good knife or a good doggo, because these things have forms, and forms have normative qualities against which the things can be measured. So a sharp knife is a good knife and a dull knife is a bad knife. The goodest boy fetches every stick, and the bad dog bites passersby. The good human respects other lives, and the bad human kills indiscriminately.

            “Murderer” in a sense has a form, too, so we can talk about what makes a good and bad murderer. Like maybe the good murderer is very stealthy and cleans up all the evidence. This is well enough, but being a murderer is a very bad way of being human.

            What this has to do with God is the real question, though. Which I will have to get to a little later; I’m out of time at the moment, sorry.

        2. viVI_IViv

          And to that I could answer “maybe he wasnt the messiah when it happened to him, maybe he became the messiah because it happened to
          him”.

          This would imply that all the accounts of Jesus having a large following were made up after the fact, and if you are going to doubt the accuracy of these accounts, I don’t see why you would take the crucifixion story as accurate.

          There are only two realistic ways that the crucifixion story could have happened without involving any supernatural events: 1) Jesus was never crucified and some other dude died in his place. 2) Jesus was crucified, died and stayed dead.

          1) seems unlikely as Jesus was a well known public figure and one of the key accuser, Judas, was very close to him, but it’s not completely impossible since they didn’t have photos back then. Maybe there was a Jesus follower who looked sufficiently like him who was willing to die in his place and Judas was on board with the plan.

          2) is more plausible. Note that in the Gospels nobody really sees Jesus after the resurrection. Some women went to the tomb and found it empty, with one or two men (supposedly angels) telling them that its occupant had risen. After this point the Gospels diverge: Mark ends with the empty tomb, the other Gospels report different appearances. A general theme of these post-resurrection appearances is that even people who were close associates of Jesus initially fail to recognize him. For instance in the Road To Emmaus appearance, two disciples meet a stranger who they invite to dinner and who they eventually infer to be Jesus. A similar theme is present in the doubting Thomas episode. The resurrected Jesus never appears to crowds, Roman or Judean officials, or Jewish religious authorities. He only appears to his close followers and even then he doesn’t spend considerable time with them.

          Obviously, both 1) and 2) are heretical positions for a Christian to hold.

          1. jermo sapiens

            This would imply that all the accounts of Jesus having a large following were made up after the fact, and if you are going to doubt the accuracy of these accounts, I don’t see why you would take the crucifixion story as accurate.

            Sorry if that was unclear. I’m not disputing his followings or suggesting he was a normal guy. Under this theory, he was a popular preacher, but assumed to be otherwise normal. Then by chance he survives the crucifixion, and bingo, we have Christianity.

          2. Aapje

            Apparently, there were a ton of messiases at the time. Jesus might simply have been the one with the best story.

          3. Byrel Mitchell

            2) is more plausible. Note that in the Gospels nobody really sees Jesus after the resurrection. Some women went to the tomb and found it empty, with one or two men (supposedly angels) telling them that its occupant had risen. After this point the Gospels diverge: Mark ends with the empty tomb, the other Gospels report different appearances. A general theme of these post-resurrection appearances is that even people who were close associates of Jesus initially fail to recognize him. For instance in the Road To Emmaus appearance, two disciples meet a stranger who they invite to dinner and who they eventually infer to be Jesus. A similar theme is present in the doubting Thomas episode. The resurrected Jesus never appears to crowds, Roman or Judean officials, or Jewish religious authorities. He only appears to his close followers and even then he doesn’t spend considerable time with them.

            This isn’t quite true. The apostle Paul cites an appearance to “more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15). That’s listed prior to the ascension in chronological order there, and fits with the Mark account where the apostles are instructed “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. There you shall see him, as he told you” (Mark 16:7). The central Christian interpretation is that the apostles brought out hundreds of people in Galilee to meet him. Galilee had been a hotspot of Jesus’s ministry, so it makes sense that you could easily find hundreds of believers to witness a possible resurrection. This would definitely count as appearing to a crowd.

          4. viVI_IViv

            This isn’t quite true. The apostle Paul cites an appearance to “more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15).

            You’re right, I missed this one, but AFAIK this is the only mention of an appearance to a crowd, and even there Paul only relates third party information.

      2. Aapje

        @EchoChaos

        People are still regularly mistaken for dead, even by modern doctors (and there is no evidence that the Romans brought in doctors).

        Slowly torturing someone to death, as was the goal of crucifixion, seems like a method more likely to result in falsely being declared dead than when a person is hurt in such a way to expedite their death.

        A spear wound can be extremely survivable.

        Jesus was crucified just before passover, so the soldiers might have been less thorough, as they wanted to parteeeey.

        1. EchoChaos

          People are still regularly mistaken for dead, even by modern doctors (and there is no evidence that the Romans brought in doctors).

          That Romans generally could make that mistake is plausible. That Romans post execution could’ve, substantially less so.

          A spear wound can be extremely survivable.

          Sure, but the “blood and water” shows a breakdown of respiration indicative of death.

          Jesus was crucified just before passover, so the soldiers might have been less thorough, as they wanted to parteeeey.

          Romans wouldn’t be partying on Passover, which is a Jewish holiday.

          1. Aapje

            That Romans generally could make that mistake is plausible. That Romans post execution could’ve, substantially less so.

            This is an assertion, without an argument to give it weight.

            Sure, but the “blood and water” shows a breakdown of respiration indicative of death.

            That depends on where the spear pierced and what happened. Jesus could have suffered from edema or ascites.

            Note that Jesus may have been treated abnormally, as the other two men got their legs broken to kill them. Jesus seems to have been impacted by the crucifixion far more than normal, so the soldiers may have been improvising a bit or at least, using atypical methods.

            This can plausibly mean that the Romans used a method with a relatively high chance of failure, but that this method was used so rarely, that they never saw it fail.

            Romans wouldn’t be partying on Passover, which is a Jewish holiday.

            Jews served in the Roman army (they recruited soldiers and administrators from everywhere they ruled).

          2. DarkTigger

            Romans wouldn’t be partying on Passover, which is a Jewish holiday.

            Two thoughts:
            A) the population of the Roman client kingdom Judea where known to be extremly voatile (This might be a reason why Pilatus was so ready to take in Jesus, although he did not break any Roman law. Kill one known troublemaker to send a message to the rest.) The Soldiers might have prefered to stay in their garrison, to avoid causing a riot.
            B) it was a public holiday. Public holiday means some amount of party. Who cares why there is wine, and music on the streets, as long there is wine and music. Espacialy since the poulation of Judea are such a bunch of bores the rest of the year.

            Yes those are mutual exclusive but one of them might be true.

        2. DragonMilk

          So are you dismissing the part where Gentile soldiers failed in their duty as armed guards to the tomb?

          1. Aapje

            That part is most likely a post-facto way to rebut certain criticisms.

            It’s all part of the narrative where Jesus supposedly predicted his resurrection, Jewish leaders were worried his followers wanted to fake a resurrection by stealing the body and Pilatus considered this credible enough to post armed guards.

            If the narrative is true that Jesus happened to survive the crucifixion for a while, which got spun into a resurrection story, then everything before he was found alive would be part of the post-facto narrative.

          2. DragonMilk

            This then gets into a separate debate then. Which is to take the all of the bible’s claims as true or do a Thomas Jefferson and pick and choose.

          3. EchoChaos

            @Aapje/DragonMilk

            Pretty much. If we abandon the Biblical narrative, we have no evidence for anything about the crucifixion except that it probably happened.

            At which point you can hypothesize anything about it.

          4. Aapje

            @DragonMilk

            It seems pretty clear to me that the Bible is full of second hand stories and ‘narratives.’ Taking it all as true seems rather absurd to me, given the many contradictions and other inconsistencies.

            So then, IMO, the only reasonable question is the extent to which the claims are or could reasonably be true, like a detective might weigh evidence, knowing that many witnesses won’t describe their experience, but their interpretations of their experiences.

          5. DragonMilk

            @Aapje, what you cited before as inconsistencies are fairly easily addressed and have been if you look. It’s a case against literalism, not the bible itself.

            For instance, it starts with comparisons of Genesis 1 vs 2, poem vs origin story. Do you really think that not only the author is so dumb as to contradict himself in the next chapter, and the Jews so dumb as to accept said author even through today?

            If you’ve already concluded that you’re going to dismiss it, there’s ample material for it to be dismissed.

          6. Aapje

            @DragonMilk

            My point is that once you allow for poetic license, you can’t then turn around and argue that no license could have been taken for the resurrection story.

          7. DragonMilk

            I’m not sure I made it clear. Genesis 1 is *literally* a poem. The gospels are written as eye-witness accounts, often citing people whose evidence would be dismissed by the culture at the time (women’s testimony was inadmissable in court, shepherds were very disreputable, don’t even have to get into “tax collectors and sinners”).

            If you’re starting from the premise that what you’re reading is a fairy tale, you probably won’t bother to do any work in considering the context and dismiss it as soon as something doesn’t seem to fit strikes you.

          8. thevoiceofthevoid

            The gospels are written as eye-witness accounts, often citing people whose evidence would be dismissed by the culture at the time

            Eyewitness testimony in modern courts, from people alive today, is fairly unreliable. I’m not going to be convinced by the “eyewitness testimony” of people 2000 years ago that wasn’t even written down until about 30-40 years after the events in question.

          9. Aapje

            What thevoiceofthevoid said, with the additional comment that the testimony as written down is inconsistent.

        3. Jaskologist

          Note that Jesus doesn’t merely survive his wounds, he is in good enough shape a few days later that his followers want to get them some of that. Clinging to life and delirious from fever won’t do the trick.

        4. The original Mr. X

          I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the whole being left in a tomb for three days thing.

          Whilst there are cases of people surviving attempted executions after being mistaken for dead, these cases generally involve the victim being whisked off to receive intensive medical treatment soon after the event, not being laid in a tomb and left for three days without food, water, medicine, or proper clothing.

          I’m also left wondering how Jesus was supposed to (a) roll away the big rock from the tomb, and (b) walk around Jerusalem and its environs unaided, despite having huge nail-wounds in his hands and feet.

          1. John Schilling

            If we’re assuming a hoax, there’s no reason for the hoaxers not to have removed Jesus from the tomb the first night (perhaps assuming they were just relocating the body to a more secure burial site), nurse him back to enough health for a public appearance, and only then tell everyone else “Hey, look what just happened! Also, there were Angels!”. If they’re willing to lie about him being dead and getting better, they can lie about the timing.

            And if it was really three weeks or three months, there’s still at least thirty years for the details to get confused before anybody starts writing them down. So while there may be weaknesses in this theory, I don’t see this one as being a dealbreaker.

          2. The original Mr. X

            If we’re assuming a hoax, we’re still left wondering what actually happened to Jesus in the end, as well as why the disciples were all willing to undergo a gruesome death for something they knew well was a hoax, and why, if they were shamelessly lying anyway, they didn’t portray themselves in a better light in the Gospel accounts.

            And if it was really three weeks or three months, there’s still at least thirty years for the details to get confused before anybody starts writing them down. So while there may be weaknesses in this theory, I don’t see this one as being a dealbreaker.

            Paul, IIRC, writes that Jesus rose on the third day, and he was writing within thirty years of the event.

          3. John Schilling

            as well as why the disciples were all willing to undergo a gruesome death for something they knew well was a hoax

            Says who?

            I’m going to guess that any disciples who were actually martyred, by the time that happened were beyond “willing” being a factor – they were going to be brutally killed no matter what they said or did. And I’m also going to guess that by the time martyrdom stories started circulating, they were based on beliefs about how the disciples ought to have acted rather than any evidence as to how they did act. For the resurrection we have something that at least claims to be eyewitness testimony, but there’s nothing canonical about the martyrdom of the apostles save a bit of vague hearsay about James.

            Regardless of the true circumstances of Jesus’s maybe-temporary death, the true circumstances of the apostles’ deaths is that they mostly faded away as the church grew beyond them, died unnoticed, and people made up cool stories about them afterwards.

            Paul, IIRC, writes that Jesus rose on the third day, and he was writing within thirty years of the event.

            First Corinthians, right, good catch. But that’s still twenty years before we get a hard “third day” reference, and even then it’s resurrection on day 3, public appearance some unspecified time thereafter.

          4. The original Mr. X

            Says who?

            As Jaskologist pointed out below, if you dismiss the evidence for the martyrdoms of the apostles, you either have to abandon the idea that we can know anything about history, or embrace a big conspiracy theory to explain why all these people (including non-Christians like Josephus) would lie about what happened. (Or just make an isolated demand for rigour, I suppose, but that’s not a very good option, either.)

            I’m going to guess that any disciples who were actually martyred, by the time that happened were beyond “willing” being a factor – they were going to be brutally killed no matter what they said or did. And I’m also going to guess that by the time martyrdom stories started circulating, they were based on beliefs about how the disciples ought to have acted rather than any evidence as to how they did act. For the resurrection we have something that at least claims to be eyewitness testimony, but there’s nothing canonical about the martyrdom of the apostles save a bit of vague hearsay about James.
            Regardless of the true circumstances of Jesus’s maybe-temporary death, the true circumstances of the apostles’ deaths is that they mostly faded away as the church grew beyond them, died unnoticed, and people made up cool stories about them afterwards.

            Now you’re being inconsistent. If we don’t have enough evidence to say that the apostles were killed, we certainly don’t have enough evidence to say that the accounts are just “cool stories” based on “beliefs about how the disciples ought to have acted”.

            Also, if this was the case, why did all those stories in which the apostles miss the point of Jesus’ teaching, bicker amongst themselves, and all run away at the crucifixion, end up getting spread around? Those aren’t exactly examples of things the apostles ought to have done, either.

          5. Dan L

            if you dismiss the evidence for the martyrdoms of the apostles, you either have to abandon the idea that we can know anything about history, or embrace a big conspiracy theory to explain why all these people (including non-Christians like Josephus) would lie about what happened.

            I think there’s a level of comfortable rigor between categorical dismissal of history and accepting the martyrdom of Judas. (Or John, natch.) It would not be the first time inconvenient elements were massaged out of the narrative to make a point.

      3. thevoiceofthevoid

        Taking the Biblical account of the crucifixion as accurate…supernatural intervention is more likely.

        One person’s modus ponens…

      1. Jaskologist

        That his followers stole the body and lied about it is definitely the most plausible non-miraculous explanation. The standard response is that a dozen people letting themselves be tortured to death to defend what they know to be a lie, with no defections, is implausible from a human nature standpoint.

        1. acymetric

          The martyrdom of the apostles is part of Christian tradition but I don’t think there is really any support for that (even in the Bible), somewhat similar to tradition holding that the gospels were written by their respective apostles.

          So the response might be that the people who were in on it (doesn’t even need to be all 12) didn’t get tortured to death to defend what they know to be a lie because they either didn’t know it to be a lie (weren’t in on the conspiracy) when they were tortured or killed, or they knew it to be a lie but were never faced with torture/death.

          1. acymetric

            Well, pretty much the same answer. Which apostles were “in” on the hoax (or was it possibly some outside person/group)? How persecuted were those specific apostles? What would have been the repercussions from their Christian community had they renounced (out of the frying pan, into the fryer, perhaps)? If we’re limiting to persecution and not outright torture/death, is the status gain from promoting a religion they are at the heart of worth the inconveniences (admitted understatement, couldn’t think of a better word) of being persecuted? Also worth noting that (at least per the Wikipedia article) while there was sporadic persecution during the apostles lifetime the empire-wide persecution started after the natural lives of the original apostles would have ended.

            It is also possible that, despite knowing the resurrection was some kind of hoax, those that knew legitimately believed that the religion was otherwise true and worth fighting/dying for and that somehow the perpetuating the false resurrection was worth it to further the spread of the religion.

            And just to be clear, in case anyone is feeling offended or attacked, I’m not saying “this is the obvious true explanation for what happened”. I’m just following the original prompt to explain things without any supernatural elements. Obviously this is all speculation and conjecture.

          2. DragonMilk

            It is also possible that, despite knowing the resurrection was some kind of hoax, those that knew legitimately believed that the religion was otherwise true and worth fighting/dying for and that somehow the perpetuating the false resurrection was worth it to further the spread of the religion.

            As mentioned elsewhere, “1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” The arguments against resurrection were contemporaneous already – nowhere in the Greco-Roman or Jewish tradition was such a thing a thing. So what you’re hypothesizing contradicts a core tenant of the religion.

            The resurrection has always been obviously a thing that never could have happened except so many people say it did and now we have to deal with these people who insist this obviously impossible/supernatural thing happened.

          3. acymetric

            Well, that’s what the person who wrote Corinthians believed. Doesn’t mean it is what whoever committed the hoax believed. The fact that it was a core tenet of the faith is a reason in favor of perpetuation the hoax for anyone who might have been in on it, not against.

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            The martyrdom of the apostles is part of Christian tradition but I don’t think there is really any support for that (even in the Bible), somewhat similar to tradition holding that the gospels were written by their respective apostles.

            This is true, but leaves out a lot of necessary details. The Pauline letters universally agreed to be authentic and written circa 60 AD by secular criticism mention Simon Kephas (St. Peter, the Rock), James the Lord’s Brother, etc. still being alive. You need to work out a timeline where Nero’s persecution doesn’t enter the law books outside the city of Rome, none of the founders of the Jesus cult who are in on the stolen body secret go there, and all predecease persecution by Roman officials in the provinces.

            This gets you into serious epistemology of history territory, as Jaskologist points out.

          5. Jaskologist

            The martyrdoms of the apostles are testified to with varying degrees of reliability (Josephus relates the stoning of “James, brother of Jesus,” some are mentioned off-hand by church fathers as just a bit of history everybody knows). I guess you could toss them all out as well, but after a certain point you’re just claiming complete inability to know any history, or have a need to come up with some conspiracy theory for who made up all these accounts and spread them out to so many people.

    2. Concavenator

      If we’re going to link Jesus’ teachings and Buddhism at all, it might be better to bring Buddhism west. Apparently after Alexander’s conquest there were Buddhists and Hindus in Egypt and Greece for centuries, and one church father mentions Buddha and Brahmins by name.

    3. DragonMilk

      Do you believe people back then were so much more gullible to the point that they would die as martyrs rather than recant the faith? Early Christianity spread through persecution rather than the sword. Supposing you make up a conspiracy regarding resurrection, what do you gain if you die for it?

      1. viVI_IViv

        I dunno, why did al-Baghdadi not recant his faith instead of blowing himself up with his children? Is it evidence that the Archangel Gabriel really spoke to Muhammad?

        1. The original Mr. X

          It’s evidence that al-Baghdadi believed that the Archangel Gabriel really spoke to Muhammad, and that he didn’t start ISIS as a hoax.

      2. EchoChaos

        This has never been a particularly strong argument to me. We know that people are willing to martyr themselves for things they absolutely know to be false like Jonestown.

        1. DragonMilk

          My point is that persecution typically has its intended effect of reducing the practice of whatever religion you were persecuting.

          Where else has persecution to the point of martyrdom been the primary means of spreading a faith?

          1. jermo sapiens

            Reminder that Christianity got a pretty big boost from Constantine.

            The period between Constantine and Jesus was marked by alot of martyrdom though, and this allowed Christianity to grow to whatever level was required to be on Constantine’s radar. So it’s still an interesting question, if not the “primary means of spreading the faith”.

          2. EchoChaos

            Well, no religion has ever been as successful as Christianity, so we are pretty much guaranteed to be an outlier on all sorts of axes.

            But my recollection is that most of the spread of Christianity wasn’t due to their willingness to die for their faith, but the combination of the fact that Christians had notably better lives than their unbelieving friends as Augustine comments.

            Combining a notably better ethical system with people dedicated enough to that system to die for it is incredibly and uniquely powerful.

          3. DragonMilk

            @Echo, I’m certainly not suggesting that death itself is what drew people to the religion. It’s going to have to be the underlying elements that make people ok with the persecution and dying bit, so much so that the rate of spread has to outpace the rate of quashing.

          4. DragonMilk

            @jermo, By the time of Constantine, so much of the empire was Christian that it was actually practical to convert and fight the deciding battle donning a Christian emblem.

            The larger point is that Christianity has always spread among the poor and marginalized and cools in prosperous areas. If you had to trace a “center,” it started in Palestine, traveled to Greek/Turkey/North Africa from eastern Mediterranean to become the Mediterranean religion. Carolingian era missionaries expanded the UK presence and introduced it to modern-day Germans and Norsemen while the Kievan Rus got it from the Greeks.

            Fast forward to the 1500s, and the Protestant Reformation centered in Northern Europe, in the Viking strongholds. Persecuted folk found their way to the US and other places.

            Today, the growth is again in poor nations in Latin America and Africa.

            While you can cite crusades, state sponsorship, etc. as contributing factors, the most successful growth has been organic via through missionaries bringing it to the lower class.

          5. EchoChaos

            @DragonMilk

            A large part of Christianity’s draw, now as then, is that all men are equal before God. Competing against religions with explicit or implicit caste systems, we are substantially advantaged when trying to convert the lower class.

    4. Well...

      My reading of Jesus is this:

      He was a proto-Karaite; he polemically identified the Pharisees as the propagators of man-made rules that not only crowded over those of the Torah but often contradicted them and were wrongly treated as authoritative. The Pharisees disagreed, got angry with his belligerence, and had him executed as a heretic.

      This much remained clear in the accounts of those who wrote about Jesus a century or three after his death, but those people also idolized him and sought to form a movement out of him, and to grow it quickly. Thus they were willing to integrate myths and customs from surrounding pagan cultures into the retelling of his life and the celebration of his message, including tales of immaculate conception, miracles worked, and resurrection.

      By then the Romans were going around trying to expel or eradicate the Jews from their empire, so the followers of this long-dead Jew had a strong incentive to proclaim themselves a new, non-Jewish religion.

    5. Murphy

      Mundane?

      A faith healer/ cult leader was executed.

      He’s dead. He stays dead.

      Some follower later stole the body.

      Some stories were made up about seeing visions of him afterwards or perhaps some of his faithful truly believed they saw him again like how some people seem to honestly believe themselves to be speaking in tongues or seeing visions.

      A few decades later various accounts were written down by the followers of the surviving followers.

    6. Protagoras

      As others have indicated, for this or most of the alternate stories to work, you have to distrust the sources. Which is perfectly reasonable; there’s no reason to think the sources are reliable (sources of the time generally weren’t, and the particular sources in this case contradict themselves a lot). But there really isn’t any good procedure for figuring out what really went on if you don’t trust such sources as we have. There’s no reason why, if they made things up or made mistakes, the errors or inventions should be distortions of what actually happened as opposed to, say, distortions of completely different stories that our sources got mixed up with the life of Jesus, or even whole-cloth fictions. Even if they are distortions of what actually happened, there are too few reliable rules about how stories are likely to get distorted (yes, some kinds of exaggeration are common, but that’s not much and that’s about all we have), not nearly enought to figure out which bits need to be un-distorted or how. As a result, absent some better sources or independent evidence, any theory beyond “what happened was something other than what our sources say” is going to be complete guesswork.

  25. Enkidum

    A post by several researchers on Race, Genetics, and Pseudoscience that I think is worth reading. I’m not a biologist, nor do I know any of these people, so I can’t judge their credentials or expertise, but they seem to have real research positions related to the topics they discuss, and their discussion seems careful and precise.

    Basically they are arguing against one of the positions that should not be named here, and to my eyes seem to be doing so rather well.

    1. jermo sapiens

      Honestly tried reading, became uninterested rather quickly as I realized it was a rehash of the same old progressive talking points, so I jumped to the conclusion hoping there would be some substantive info there that I could read quickly, and was disappointed but not surprised to see that the conclusion was something like “It is incumbent upon scientists to…” (my paraphrase) ensure progressive orthodoxy is never threatened by genetic research.

      These things like “race is only a social construct” are such obvious nonsense I cant take seriously anyone who actually says it. I wish it were true, we could do away with affirmative action, disparate impact, and stop talking about white privilege for ever.

      But if you believe the bengal tiger and the sumatran tiger are different species, why is it so offensive to recognize that humans have been subject to natural selection in their respective environments also?

      I understand the need to counter racist talking points, but because of the importance of this topic, more honesty is needed, not less.

      There are indeed clusters of genetic variations corresponding to different populations which correspond roughly with what we view as race. Obviously it’s not perfect. Still, everybody here could tell you if somebody’s ancestors came from subsaharan africa or east asia by looking at them for about 0.01 seconds.

      1. albatross11

        I haven’t read the article yet, but I’ll point out that the “race is just a social construct” claim is one of those things that has some truth to it but is pretty misleading.

        Race is a fuzzy category, and a lot of the traditional notions of race are very coarse divisions. There is a hell of a lot of diversity among people of sub-Saharan African descent, or Native American descent, or European descent. Racial categories in the US are at least as much political/social as biological. And as with all racial issues in the US, black/white is really different from all the others for some mostly pretty grim historical reasons.

        And yet, race correlates with genes enough that DNA tests generally tell you what race someone is, and that matches the fuzzy American social category they’re in. Forensic anthropologists can generally tell what race someone is by their bones. Mainstream medical sources advise taking race into account in the practice of medicine in some cases–some genetic diseases are much more common in some races than others; some drugs tend to work differently in some races than others. Some sporting events are really dominated by people from one particular region–sprinting and distance running are dominated by people of African descent, but from two very different regions.

        In US racial categories, we also get a kind of boost when talking about American/Carribbean blacks, since their ancestors were mostly brought over from one part of Africa–a little like if almost all the European-descended people you ever saw came from Germany. On the other hand, the “Asian” category is insanely broad, matching to people from India to China to Japan to Malaysia[1]. And “hispanic” is considered an ethnic group rather than a race–it includes people of substantial American Indian descent (from very different regions–Bolivians and Mexicans are pretty distinct!), European descent, and African descent.

        The question is, is race a useful biological category? I think so. Medical research done in the US ought to take note of participant race and make sure they have some black participants so they can see whether the drug they’re looking at works out differently for them, for example. Telling those scientists to stop noticing race because race is just a social construct with no biological meaning will not make the world a better place.

        [1] Asians in the US are largely immigrants and the children of immigrants who came here to do some intellectually demanding thing. We also have an older population of Chinese and Japanese whose ancestors came here several generations back, and refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.

        1. Randy M

          Race is like color. Where exactly green stops and yellow starts is hard to pin down. That doesn’t mean there’s no difference between red and green.

          1. Atlas

            Also, there’s no exact way to differentiate “hills” and “mountains,” but we can still find it useful to refer to some things as hills and and some things as mountains.

          2. Forward Synthesis

            @Atlas
            Some would argue that the usefulness of race is more than outweighed by the downsides, and point towards race abolitionism as a means to end racism. This would mean actively getting rid of all references to race in officialdom of all kinds and no longer keeping any records that refer to race as a category. Instead of using race as a proxy when we have incomplete information, we put in the extra work to gain that information. We refuse to be satisfied with saying that “black people are overwhelmingly at greater risk of sickle cell disease”, and put in the extra work to screen everyone for things that race would approximate to, thereby enabling the elimination of race as a necessary proxy.

          3. The Nybbler

            @Forward Synthesis

            Aside from being silly when it comes to things like sickle cell and melanoma, that strategy also means no affirmative action and no disparate impact rules. I’d be willing to accept that (though I’d really want an exemption for medical things), but I don’t think too many non-witches would.

          4. Forward Synthesis

            @The Nybbler

            I know “color blindness” is now seen as a kind of racism itself as it means that measures to correct historical injustice cannot be taken, and these measures are especially useful for coalition building in democratic politics, so there are few people interested in giving race abolitionism a fair shot to begin with.

            However, I also know that measuring things by race makes racism inevitable. If we liv