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Open Thread 142.75

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917 Responses to Open Thread 142.75

  1. jermo sapiens says:

    Climate Audit has released a report on Climate gate 10 years later. You can find it here. It’s quite long, but I found it a good read. Strongly recommended for anybody who has no idea what are some of the strongest skeptical arguments against global warming alarm, and more specifically what are some of the strongest criticism of the climate science establishment.

    • phi says:

      So, the main points of the report seem to be:
      1. The climate science community has a few very sketchy people in it.
      2. Tree rings are not a reliable temperature record.

      1 doesn’t really surprise me, considering the sheer number of people doing climate science. 2 isn’t surprising either: rate of tree growth is likely to have a very large number of confounding factors. Most of the graphs I’ve seen of historical temperatures and CO2 levels were derived from ice core data, not tree rings, so I can’t say the arguments presented here really shift my position much on the reality of AGW. There was surprisingly little discussion of the actual science. The report was mostly political (“climate scientists sketchy”) and not scientific (“climate works like this”). The main scientific point of the report was that tree rings are not a reliable temperature measure. While this is a very useful point to make, it does relatively little to attack the main thesis of the climate change position: that putting CO2 into the atmosphere causes the Earth to warm significantly. I’m honestly a bit surprised that you would consider this one of the “strongest skeptical arguments against global warming alarm”. Sure the tree rings and the political stuff are useful things to discuss, but they don’t really help decide the central issue.

      Here’s an example of what I would consider a much stronger skeptical argument: “Increased CO2 has a fertilization effect on plants, causing them to grow larger. This, in turn, increases the amount of CO2 they absorb. So when they die more CO2 is sequestered in the soil. The result is that ____ additional megatons of CO2 are sequestered per year compared to preindustrial times, a significant fraction annual global emissions. Existing climate models do not account for this negative feedback effect, but if they did, they would show much smaller projected warming (shows calculations)”

      • John Schilling says:

        So, the main points of the report seem to be:
        1. The climate science community has a few very sketchy people in it.

        A few very sketchy people in positions of at least moderately high influence, and getting almost no pushback from within the community at the time.

        That’s a long way from “global warming is a hoax”, but it’s also a long way from “meh, a few bad apples, who cares”. It’s pretty close to the original meaning of “a few bad apples”, though – if you found a few like these in a barrel of actual apples, you’d have to be pretty desperately hungry not to throw out the whole barrel and start over.

        • A few very sketchy people in positions of at least moderately high influence, and getting almost no pushback from within the community at the time.

          My reaction as well.

          Quite a long time ago, I put up a critique of the work of John Cook on which the 97% factoid is mostly based. I don’t think the critique demonstrates that warming is not largely anthropogenic, or even that it isn’t true that most climate researchers believe it is largely anthropogenic, only that the article doesn’t actually show that they do.

          What it does show is that a factoid widely quoted in the climate controversy was produced by someone who provably lied, in print, about his own work. The fact that someone would do that doesn’t tell us very much. But the fact that people on his side don’t call him on it and many of them cite the bogus factoid is a good reason not to take seriously what people on that side say.

          I haven’t looked through all of the linked piece, but if its claims are correct then another of the most cited factoids, the hockey stick graph, is also the product of fraud, of deliberately selecting the data that fits the pattern Mann wanted, ignoring equally good data that didn’t, changing what data source was used when new results showed that the one initially chosen didn’t actually fit that pattern, selectively reporting evidence in favor of the thesis and not evidence against, and refusing to let other people see the work that would have revealed all of that. It isn’t as bad as my Cook case, because it requires more careful attention to prove, but if true it implies that climate researchers who support the current orthodoxy cannot be trusted to police the work of those who agree with them. And the emails appear to show that some other people in the field knew at least some of what Mann was doing and kept quiet about it.

          Most people with opinions about climate are not competent to evaluate the arguments and evidence for themselves, even if they were willing to take the time and effort to do so. Their opinions are based on what others they trust tell them. If it turns out that the people they trust cannot be trusted to tell them the truth, that’s a reason to drop those opinions.

          • phi says:

            I think this points to an interesting meta level problem: Probably there are plenty of perfectly decent and trustworthy climate scientists who can effectively evaluate the evidence. But, once again, most people are not able to identify who is trustworthy and competent vs who is corrupt or incompetent. Being a good judge of other people’s honesty and skill seems like a very useful ability indeed. I wonder if anyone has studied whether or not it can be done reliably?

          • Two points:

            1. This is an issue that has long struck me in the context of evaluating information, especially online. One needs to train oneself in evaluating sources of information on internal evidence.

            2. I am sure there are honest and competent climate scientists. But any one climate scientist is only looking at one small part of the problem, taking as gospel the information he is getting from other scientists looking at other parts. If some of them are dishonest …

            And it doesn’t even require many people, if any, to be dishonest in a strong sense. Suppose you believe that climate change is a very serious problem which the public underestimates. Your particular piece of work yields a result that makes the problem look a little less serious. Combining that with everything else you know, it still looks to you like a serious problem, and you don’t want to weaken support for doing something about it, so you don’t publish that result, or you publish it with lots of qualifications, or you redo your work several times with varying models and data, and publish the one that makes climate change look worst.

            Now suppose that lots of people are doing that, along with a few who are deliberately dishonest. Each of them is basing his overall view on the work of the others, tweaking his results a little to support that view, and honestly believing that the conclusions he states are true.

            To prevent that, you need an environment where a reasonable number of people, preferably high status ones, are willing to point out bad or dishonest work by their own side. The evidence both of my case of John Cook and of the Mann Hockey Stick discussed in the linked piece suggests that the current climate profession is not such an environment.

      • @phi
        I think the main reason to be against global warming alarm, without being against global warming is that we’ve been making excellent progress even with some slight setbacks. Peak emissions have already been reached for a large portion of the world’s countries.

        The worry is that this still isn’t enough to avoid breaching the Paris Agreement to keep the temperature increase below 2 degrees celsius, but should we be concerned about this and continue making current efforts or should we be alarmed and go to efforts that drastically lower Western living standards (exhibit France for a demo of how this might go)? We might miss emissions peaking by 2020, but I think at current levels of progress we have a very good chance of reaching peak GHG at 2040, in line with RCP4.5. The more extreme scenarios require that emissions don’t peak until 2080 or even beyond into the 21st Century, even though a basic objection to the latter is that there aren’t enough easy fossil fuels to achieve that if we wanted to.

        If the effects of global warming are late (glaciers fully melting in 500 years), or weaker (a 2 meter sea rise by 2100), then that’s still a big problem enough (especially for low lying countries) to take action now, but given we are taking action based on the overall concept of CO2 warming the atmosphere, whether we should take more drastic action depends on more intricate models.

        Where the sketchy climate science comes in to it for me isn’t so much in these low level more well founded projections, but when we start talking about hypothetical feedback loops that could drastically accelerate global warming. This is used in tabloid media in the form “we are approaching a tipping point“. I don’t think we should bet our society on these very complicated models that are sensitive to a few obscure facts being wrong, even if there are only a few sketchy people in the climate science community, because if those few people are situated in the right way they can influence the community, and since we are talking about simulations, it can be widely replicated for decades before a real natural experiment proves one of the micro-facts the simulation is based on wrong. I’m not convinced by arguments that try to debunk warming on the same grounds either, and for the same reason. I would simply promote a norm that we don’t take drastic actions based on absolutely cutting edge science that depends on thousands of factors being just so in order to justify these feedback models, and if we see a tiny amount of corruption, we would be wise to treat it as if it were the tip of the iceberg.

        • phi says:

          I agree with most of this comment; I wasn’t speaking very precisely when I said “global warming alarm”.

        • Fair enough. Jermo sapiens used the phrase as well. Do you agree in particular that if we take the basic global warming hypothesis as true, our confidence in using the stronger accelerative feedback models to guide government policy should be shaken by the corruption?

          • if we take the basic global warming hypothesis as true

            What counts as the basic hypothesis? That global temperatures are trending up and human production of CO2 is a large part of the reason?

            I think that’s true, although I would hedge a little on “large part of,” since climate is a very complicated system and we might be missing other significant causes.

            But even without “tipping point” models, most of the claims about the effects are controversial. We don’t know that climate change leads to more droughts–the IPCC claimed it did in the 4th report, retracted that claim in the 5th. We don’t know it leads to worse hurricanes—Chris Landsea, who was the Atlantic hurricane expert for one of the IPCC reports and later resigned in protest, thought the relation was uncertain, but that warming probably made hurricanes a little stronger and a little less frequent. We don’t know that warming leads to lower crop yields. We do know that increasing CO2 concentration leads to higher crop yields–unlike most of the other effects, that depends only on the direct effect of increased CO2, not on the complicated linkage between that and weather.

            If you limit yourself to the basic hypothesis, it’s interesting, but it isn’t a cause for panic, or even worry. It’s only when you add in a lot of things that might be consequences or might not be that there is reason to expect warming to make us worse off.

          • What counts as the basic hypothesis? That global temperatures are trending up and human production of CO2 is a large part of the reason?

            Yes.

            But even without “tipping point” models, most of the claims about the effects are controversial. We don’t know that climate change leads to more droughts–the IPCC claimed it did in the 4th report, retracted that claim in the 5th. We don’t know it leads to worse hurricanes—Chris Landsea, who was the Atlantic hurricane expert for one of the IPCC reports and later resigned in protest, thought the relation was uncertain, but that warming probably made hurricanes a little stronger and a little less frequent. We don’t know that warming leads to lower crop yields. We do know that increasing CO2 concentration leads to higher crop yields–unlike most of the other effects, that depends only on the direct effect of increased CO2, not on the complicated linkage between that and weather.

            This is a good point. The former effects are not tipping point arguments like ones about methane clathrates creating a feedback loop that accelerates warming, but they are based on very indirect and complex models where it’s hard to factcheck the results. The arguments that climate change will lead to worse hurricanes or droughts face the same kind of simulation problems as the feedback loop arguments, where it is easy for a small group of people to obscure high level “facts” that act as inputs for the models. It took a long time for severe models of Nuclear Winter to take a hit when the natural experiment of the Kuwaiti oil fires finally showed that dependent facts about the behavior of atmospheric smoke were false. Of course, in that case, corrected models still show a Nuclear Autumn for exchanges with 100 nukes or more.

            If you limit yourself to the basic hypothesis, it’s interesting, but it isn’t a cause for panic, or even worry. It’s only when you add in a lot of things that might be consequences or might not be that there is reason to expect warming to make us worse off.

            However, if we avoid these more contentious claims and stick to the issue of higher temperatures, that is a concern for areas that are already hot and might get hotter, and it is a concern with regard to sea levels.

            The model is as simple as:
            1: CO2 is a greenhouse gas
            2: Higher levels of CO2 make the planet hotter
            3: A hotter planet causes ice sheets and glaciers to melt
            4: The sea level rises

            I’m much more inclined to put high trust in measurements of temperature and sea level rise, because they are harder to fake, and easier to replicate without simply replicating mistakes as in a computer simulation. You take direct measurements by a variety of corroborating methods and then project current trends.

            Of course, you also need to project counter-trends.

          • pqjk2 says:

            Chris Landsea,

            Uh oh

          • @Forward Synthesis:

            However, if we avoid these more contentious claims and stick to the issue of higher temperatures, that is a concern for areas that are already hot and might get hotter, and it is a concern with regard to sea levels.

            The sea level effects, on the IPCC projections, are pretty tiny as of the end of this century, with the high end of the range on the high emissions scenario as of the fifth report about a meter. That’s roughly half the distance between high tide and low tide. There are a few places where SLR that small is a significant problem, but not many. One of my favorite quotes from an IPCC report:

            Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP.

            Forward Synthesis writes:

            The model is as simple as:
            1: CO2 is a greenhouse gas
            2: Higher levels of CO2 make the planet hotter
            3: A hotter planet causes ice sheets and glaciers to melt
            4: The sea level rises

            That could happen, but I believe that most of the SLR so far is due to the expansion of ocean water when it warms, not to the melting of ice sheets over land.

            Clearly there are adverse effects, but there are also positive effects. What is your view of an intervention that reduces the world food supply by 25%? That is, roughly, the effect of preventing the doubling of CO2 on crop yields, via the direct and well established response to CO2 fertilization. Warming almost certainly increases the amount of habitable land in the world, since habitation at present is limited almost entirely by cold, not heat—the equator is populated, the polar regions are not.

          • A1987dM says:

            most of the claims about the effects are controversial.

            Uncertainty about the effects of X is a reason against doing X (unless your utility function is convex or something).

          • Uncertainty about the effects of X is a reason against doing X (unless your utility function is convex or something).

            If you are comparing a certain lottery with value X to an uncertain lottery with expected value X, that is correct.

            If you are considering a lottery with two terms, one of which is known to have a positive value X and one of which has an uncertain value which is distributed in a range between -X and a positive number, on the other hand, the expected value of the lottery is positive.

            Here the lottery consists of allowing AGW to continue, contrasted to expensive ways of slowing it.

            Given the uncertain linkages between AGW and various weather effects not yet observed—consider the fifth IPCC report’s retraction of its previous conclusion on drought—what reason do you have to believe that the expected value of the negative result of those uncertain effects on world crop yield is at least as large as the known positive effect of CO2 fertilization?

            I think that’s what your argument requires.

      • mitv150 says:

        considering the sheer number of people doing climate science

        There are actually relatively few people doing actual climate science of the foundational nature that McIntyre and McKitrick are addressing here. The vast majority of scientists involved in the climate science effort are doing it from the standpoint of: “Using the IPCC models as a basis, we predict X results.”

        The issue that McIntyre and McKitrick are addressing is that the work that they are skeptical of forms a basis of a great deal of other work – its foundational.

      • Clutzy says:

        The tree rings thing always seemed obvious once you dug into it.

      • 1. The climate science community has a few very sketchy people in it.

        It’s not just sketchy people, it’s sketchy people implicating their entire field. Compare the following:

        The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

        Or:

        It is inconceivable that policymakers will be willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability

        To this quote you’ve probably heard before:

        Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        1. The climate science community has a few very sketchy people in it.

        The climate science community is mostly unwilling to recognize the existence and get rid of these few very sketchy people even one decade after their malfeasance has been exposed, and instead bends over backwards to excuse their behavior. It is always easier to create publishable results by fraud rather than hard scientific work, therefore if fraud is not punished then people who commit fraud will publish more results, get more funding, advance their careers faster and eventually come to dominate the field.

        This is a very serious problem for the climate science community and therefore for the trust that the public should have in their findings, especially if public policies worth billions to trillions dollars should be based on them.

  2. johan_larson says:

    Obesity rates by country:
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2228rank.html

    US: 36%
    New Zealand: 31%
    Canada: 29%
    Australia: 29%
    UK: 28%

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to lower your country’s obesity rate to that of France (22%) within 20 years. How will you do this?

    • Purplehermann says:

      Do I get any governmental, economic, or social powers?

      • johan_larson says:

        Let’s assume you are firmly in control of the government. The legislators, jurists, and civil servants generally agree with your aims and are willing to take dramatic steps to accomplish them.

        • Purplehermann says:

          Put a massive tax on foods that are particularly unhealthy (for a given serving size) and are eaten in moderate quantities by the population as a whole, as well as any foods that meet those criteria with reversed qualifiers, or worse than that.

          Give people monthly stipends for eating healthier food (only useable in stores vetted by the goverment, which sell only healthy food).

          Ban companies who sell sugary foods or drinks from advertising (or at least put massive restrictions on them).

          Add a mandatory class once a week for an hour on health for every school, from pre-K till after highschool. (Eating mostly, the importance of exercise and sleep as well though). Healthy, tasty foods will be brought for the class as an example of healthy food, preferably a specific food they are learning about in adjunction to the general ideas about how to eat well.
          Obviously reading labels and using the internet for info along with the country’s dietary guidelines will be included, with real examples all the way through.

          In every highschool add an hour and a half of exercise every day (you can get permission from the PE teacher to miss if you learn what is necessary to work out after high school and college, and the teacher feels you are in good shape). The class will learn how to exercise in a few different ways, how to use weights, bodyweight, sprints, as well as stretching and mobility. All with an emphasis on simplicity, practicallity, long term health (and understanding why they are doing what they are doing where possible). Some theory, a lot of hands on.

          Florida supposedly had a lot of success in lowering smoking rates through ad campaigns, consult them for help.

          Send charismatic or respectable people door to door with mostly tasty, healthy food, there to explain how to choose healthy food and how to use the government’s stipend system so it won’t cost as much as eating unhealthily. These people will come back to each household between every month on average and once a year, depending on the household. They will be available for questions by phone (whatsapp) throughout the year.

          Build bar/street workout parks, hire trainers to hang out there and instruct anyone who wants help.

          Subsidize courses on nutrition and exercise heavily.

          • lejuletre says:

            This seems reasonable, but I always worry about the potential to cause eating disorder rates to spike unless the awareness campaigns are very clear to emphasize that the emphasis is health, not losing weight.

          • gbdub says:

            Honestly at the moment things have seemed to swung too far the other way, where “body positivity” means you’ll have a PR nightmare on your hands if you suggest any correlation between weight and health.

            Really we need a better way to differentiate between “don’t be obsessed and ashamed over a few extra pounds” and “no really you are actually eating yourself into an early grave”.

            The trouble is that “fat” is both a (socially created) aesthetic flaw and a (biologically real) health risk. So efforts to correct the health part are going to run headlong into opposition to being critical of a person because of their appearance (in practice, this seems to apply more to women, there is less pushback to “body shaming” men).

    • Statismagician says:

      Hack: exile the most obese 14% of the US population to… I don’t know, South Dakota, then set up the definitely-independent Democratic People’s Republic of South Dakota with a binding treaty of alliance and cooperative foreign policy.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      How much cocaine am I allowed to import?

      • johan_larson says:

        All of it.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Amphetamines would probably be more practical.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Didn’t Hermann Goering get really fat only after an injury (Beer Hall Putsch?) left him amphetamine dependent? Or were those opioids?

          • Eric Rall says:

            In Göring’s case it was opioids, specifically morphine. Hitler was the one taking amphetamines.

            It wasn’t just Hitler, though. Half the Wehrmacht was also on speed: the army handed out oral methamphetamine like candy (almost literally: soldiers referred to the pills as “panzer chocolate”) so soldiers (especially tank crews) could stay awake and alert continuously for multi-day battles.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Ban calorie dense or otherwise unsatiating food?
      Invest in research in satiation pills that turn off feelings of hunger?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Tax calorie-dense food and use the proceeds to subsidize the purchase of bicycles and other exercise equipment?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I don’t think the cost of exercise equipment affects people’s interest in exercise, the physical/time costs are vastly higher than the financial cost.

          • A1987dM says:

            There was a time when it took me longer to get from my apartment to my office by bus than by bike, hence the time cost of cycling was negative back then.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Some neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, and people are less likely to walk if they live in such places.

            More generally, you could support mixed use neighborhoods so that makes sense to walk for some errands.

          • Lambert says:

            Also the cycle infrastructure should be designed by Europeans.
            Wide pavements which are mixed use cycle/pedestrian almost by default.
            Exceptions to one-way sytems for bikes.
            Racks everywhere.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Lambert You’d have to redesign the homes and cities as well. Many areas in America don’t have sidewalks because there’s virtually nothing within walking distance. If i wanted to bike to work it would raise my commute time by three hours a day.

        • johan_larson says:

          If we tried to do this with cash incentives, I wonder how much we’d have to hand out.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            i imagine you would have to pay people to get them to exercise, and a lot of obesity is driven by eating habits that couldn’t realistically be ‘burned away’ with exercise.

          • johan_larson says:

            I was thinking more of giving out money for being non-obese. Have a note from a doctor certifying you as having a BMI below 30? Take $1000 off the top at tax time. Below 25? $3000. Or however much money it would take.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Subsidies for BMI changes are more justifiable, set point weight is heavily mediated by genetics.

            I’m not comfortable w/ the idea of handing out checks to people just because they won the genetic crapshoot but if someone goes from 30 to 25 without putting other health factors at risk then by all means.

          • Dacyn says:

            @johan_larson: I think there would be a problem with doctors writing fake notes. (Even if only a few of them do, people can flock to them.)

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t want people to make money from yoyo dieting. I’d rather have them making money off keeping their weights down consistently. Although, yes, this does mean handing out free money to people who for whatever reason just stay naturally thin.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Ban calorie dense or otherwise unsatiating food?

        Good idea. Hard to actually define, though. There is some recent research… though I’m sure the food industry can figure something out eventually, to avoid these.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31689013

        Invest in research in satiation pills that turn off feelings of hunger?

        I *would* definitely like a human RCT where the intervention group gets fed 40% of their calories as stearic acid; perhaps in the form of croissants?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There are foods (notably potato chips) which are pleasant but not satiating. Those are the foods which are especially easy to overeat.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Confiscate all privately owned cars.

      • Purplehermann says:

        didn’t think of this

      • DragonMilk says:

        The fattest people I know take taxis anyway…

        • Purplehermann says:

          So we confiscate all motor vehicles not used for transport (trucks) or emergencies (firetrucks, ambulances etc..)?

        • Clutzy says:

          The bus is also full of fatties. Buses stop like every 2 blocks (which is one reason they suck at actually moving people). In downtown I legit see people get on a bus, then get off 6 blocks later to get onto their train (to the burbs where they then take a car home probably).

          To remake metros to be truly walkable and incentivize walking would be a massive undertaking, and it would actually include eliminating a lot of public transit, shuffling it to the outskirts, etc.

          • Jiro says:

            In downtown I legit see people get on a bus, then get off 6 blocks later to get onto their train

            That’s done to save time and is no more absurd than driving the whole distance rather than parking 6 blocks away and walking an extra 6 blocks.

          • Clutzy says:

            Buses are no faster than walking in downtown. So it certainly is not faster. Because to get 6 blocks they will make 3 stops. On top of that, a bus doesn’t magically come when you get to the bus stop.

          • acymetric says:

            I seriously doubt walking 6 blocks is faster than taking the bus 6 stops, but it probably depends on what city we’re talking about and, if the city is crowded enough what time of day (possibly during maximum congestion on the roads in some places it could be true). What city’s downtown are you talking about?

          • Clutzy says:

            Chicago, downtown, rush hour.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Buses are generally(?) air-conditioned so if even if it’s the same time at least you don’t sweat all over your business pants

            ETA:

            Chicago, downtown, rush hour.

            Also generally heated! (Though in Chicago taking advantage of this when it’s not even below freezing kinda makes you a wuss)

          • Clutzy says:

            I’m just saying they are fat wussies who wait 5 minutes at a bus stop to take the bus 6 blocks.

    • bean says:

      Tapeworms. Alternatively, invade and conquer France, thus merging my stats with theirs.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Two week fasts annually for adults (age 18+) in January. Pitch it as remembrance of the dead, fallen, poor, needy, etc.

      Tax penalty for violating the fast. Each person needs to have a certificate of fast completion. In addition, no food may be bought or sold either in a grocery store for three weeks (includes week leading up to the fast), and restaurants for those two weeks.

      Will this hurt the economy? Maybe. Will this lower the obesity rate? Definitely.

      • Statismagician says:

        I don’t think this will be as effective as you want it to be – diet-type interventions tend to stop working pretty quickly as people slack off the stipulations, as I understand it, and that tendency will be even more pronounced here. Unless you have a different impression?

        • DragonMilk says:

          My impression is that the weight loss from 2 weeks straight of not eating is sufficient to make up for gorging the remainder of the year, and also recalibrates your mindset toward food.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Could just reinstate the old Catholic fasting days. I recall having calculated that if you were to observe all the old-timey fasts, you would effectively not have eaten for a month in a year, or something in that ballpark.

        • Nick says:

          Anonymous, who used to comment regularly here, was a big fan of this.

        • Religious fasts don’t generally involve not eating.

          The medieval fast day meant not having meat or milk or butter or cheese, but you could still have bread, fish, beer, … .

          The Islamic Ramadan fast means no food, drink, or sex in daylight, but people are free to indulge at night.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            Religious fasts don’t generally involve not eating.

            Here I’m just talking about the old Catholic (and often also Orthodox) stuff. Like going to church on Sunday without breakfast. That alone is skipping 52 meals a year.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Indeed, people eat more and gain weight during Ramadan, with stores having banner months

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The Islamic Ramadan fast means no food, drink, or sex in daylight, but people are free to indulge at night.

            Now imagining Muslim vampires who stay in their windowless houses from dawn to dusk during Ramadan (and all the other months).

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m fairly sure human blood isn’t halal, so the vampire can’t be a very good Muslim.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah… they can’t even use the animal blood hack that sympathetic vampires are given in romance novels, IIRC.

          • Lambert says:

            You mean vampires can get along just fine by eating black pud?
            Sign me up.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Heath Ledger knew the easiest way – “We kill the fat man.”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Run the trolley experiment a few million times.

        • albatross11 says:

          But beware–fat guys often push back!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Single elimination trolley tournament and “everyone has something to lose”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Utilitarian deathmatch sumo. Same rules, but you run it on trolley tracks.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Utilitarian deathmatch sumo.

            Huh. Does Shinto have an official position on utilitarianism? I’m sure Buddhism does.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Hmmm, there’s a trolley coming down the track toward those innocent people. With all the force this ethicist is using to try to push me onto the tracks, plus all the force I can add by giving him a really hard shove, he should be moving fast enough to stop the trolley and save those people.”

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      Ban all vegetable oils with a SFA/UFA ratio under 1.0. Ban their production, ban their use in livestock production, ban their sale, ban their import, and ban their consumption, especially.

      Heavily subsidize and encourage the consumption of butter, tallow and coconut oil.

    • GearRatio says:

      Pass a law that, after 2 years, it will be illegal to be obese AND not have video documentation of 45 minutes of hard cardio 250 days a year. Punishment is imprisonment with a prison-enforced low-calorie diet; cells are a bare mattress on the floor in a solitary cell; no text or video is allowed in the cells. Free time outside the cell and extra calories can be purchased minute-for-minute and expenditure-for-consumption with exercise.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        It would be more effective to strike that documentation loophole. Many people can exercise regularly and intensely, yet remain obese. Free parole if/when the inmate becomes non-obese?

        • Purplehermann says:

          I’ve heard of these mythical beings, but have not met them.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            I know one woman like this. She skis regularly as a hobby, and has far more endurance than I do, while being double my age. I’m pretty sure her waist to height ratio is over 1.

            People respond quite differently to exercise; I believe I heard it from Guyenet. Apparently there’s some that lose weight from exercise, some that don’t gain or lose, and some that get fatter the more their exercise. Probably an issue with satiety regulation – even with enormous TEE, if your intake is high enough, you can get fat. If exercise makes a person proportionally more hungry than it burns energy, exactly this will happen.

          • gbdub says:

            Part of it is that “fitness” and “obesity” are not, in my experience, all that well correlated until you get well into the “morbidly obese” category.

            I am borderline (on the wrong side) obese per BMI but my general aerobic fitness is much better than my girlfriend, who is on the normal/overweight BMI border. That is, I can easily hike / bike / jog much faster and for longer before I fatigue.

            There’s a guy at my office who, looking at him, you’d say was clearly fatter than me but he can absolutely dust me (and most people) on a road bike. He is heavy, and carries plenty of bad weight, but has excellent muscle and aerobic endurance.

          • Purplehermann says:

            Fair enough, with high enough calorie intake this should be possible

        • GearRatio says:

          If someone does hard cardio 45 minutes a day and stays obese, that’s fine. I’m not trying to eradicate obesity; I’m trying to beat France.

          And, yeah, I think instant parole (with a fat monitoring anklet, or something) is fine for people at their goal weight.

          • GearRatio says:

            More on this, now that I’m home and I can type:

            I don’t believe, really don’t believe, that the majority of people would/could remain obese and would/could exercise, hard, an hour a day. But put that aside: Let’s say people exist in enough numbers to ruin my plan that just adding the caloric burn and after-burn from 45 minutes of hard exercise wouldn’t take them from obese to thin in a reasonable amount of time. There’s still some other effects working for me here:

            1. It’s a horrific punishment if you don’t like exercising. 45 minutes of hard cardio is punishing even on people who enjoy cardio. These are big folks; it’s harder on them. This is an additional incentive to do better in other fat-relevant areas.

            2. Some people would end up liking it and do more by themselves. I know people who have found they like running, or riding bikes, or swimming. When positive changes start to come in, they get into and do it more. This won’t be everybody, or maybe not very many, but it will be some.

            3. Those who A. Don’t find they like it enough to do more of it and B. Eat enough extra to ensure what they are doing doesn’t help and C. Won’t make changes but D. Keep exercising 45 minutes a day forever seem like a potentially pretty small group to me. If they do A, B and C but fail at D, they’ve declared themselves hopeless and the state will take over.

            Real-life me could give a shit if people are fat. I wouldn’t send people to prison for it. But if my purpose in life is defattening people, this is what I’d do.

            I certainly wouldn’t waste a single cent on education – people know what makes people lose weight and ignore it because of incentives that outweigh their desire to be skinny.

            I wouldn’t waste a single cent on cooking lessons the internet is a thing, and available to pretty much everyone now.

            I wouldn’t waste a single cent on subsidizing food; healthy food is already cheaper unless you dishonestly compare it calorie-to-calorie-dollar-to-dollar (something healthy food invariably and unsurprisingly fails at, and is healthy in large part BECAUSE it fails at it).

            Everybody knows enough shit and has enough resources that everybody could be skinny in a year. I think focusing on anything but incentives and disincentives is hippy talk.

          • Skeptical Wolf says:

            It’s hard to fault, since the pitch here was a by-any-means-necessary scenario, but I think you’ve veered into some pretty uncharitable territory here.

            I wouldn’t waste a single cent on subsidizing food; healthy food is already cheaper unless you dishonestly compare it calorie-to-calorie-dollar-to-dollar (something healthy food invariably and unsurprisingly fails at, and is healthy in large part BECAUSE it fails at it).

            This claim does not mesh with my observations well. Healthiness is one desirable trait of food, which is factored into its price. Healthy food that tastes like shit (or, if you’re lucky, cardboard) is cheap. Ingredients that can be turned into healthy food with a substantial amount of skilled effort (youtube doesn’t cut it) in a well-equipped kitchen are cheap. Healthy food that is pleasant to consume and can be realistically prepared in 30-45 minutes is expensive.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t buy that. I could make a roast chicken with plenty of vegetables in about 45 minutes, 40 of which I’m not doing anything, for like $2.50 a person, and it would be very tasty. I could do fish, brown rice, and a vegetable for about $4 and maybe 20 minutes of actual work. A vegetable stir fry for maybe $3 a person, and a half hour of work. A pork loin with vegetables and beans for about $6.

            I came up with all of those prices by looking at what it would cost me to get the ingredients from Whole Foods , so you could probably get it for even cheaper if you went to a discount grocery store.

            There is no shortage of extremely cheap, healthy, and quick recipes.

    • Lambert says:

      For the US, you can probably get a long way by stopping all the stuff the corn loby is actively doing to make things worse.

      For the UK, U-Boats did a good enough job last time?

      • johan_larson says:

        Just reinstate the WWII ration system?

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        For the US, you can probably get a long way by stopping all the stuff the corn loby is actively doing to make things worse.

        This would go a hell of a long way. Would probably require Stalin-level purges.

        • Lambert says:

          I think just winding down the corn subsidies would go a long way.

          Spend the $5*10^9 per anum we now have lying around on fusion research

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fusion research won’t make any obese person thin!

          • Lambert says:

            Part II is sending all the fat people to mars using our shiny new fusion rockets.

          • johan_larson says:

            I think just winding down the corn subsidies would go a long way.

            Yes. I seem to recall that food in the US is particularly cheap compared to many other first-world countries. Food prices were a particular source of complaints during the Nixon administration, and Tricky Dick appointed a guy named Earl Butz to do something about it. But, as I understand it, change the price supports system for farming, shifting the goal from price stability to lower prices.

            Changing the system again to focus on high quality rather than low prices would probably mean higher prices for (better) food, which would probably put some downward pressure on obesity rates, although its hard to say by how much.

          • Yes. I seem to recall that food in the US is particularly cheap compared to many other first-world countries.

            I think that may be in spite of government intervention, not because of government intervention.

            Part of the reason corn is a major source of sugar is that the U.S. has tariffs against the import of sugar. And the biofuels program converts a large fraction, I think about a third, of the corn crop into alcohol, pushing up the price of corn — what I like to describe as the U.S. contribution to world hunger, the U.S. being the largest producer.

            Traditionally, other parts of the farm program were designed to raise the price of agricultural products, but it looks from a quick google as though that’s no longer the case, and their net effect may be to lower the price.

    • lvlln says:

      Coerce the AMA or whatever organization determines the BMI threshold of “obese” into redefining it to some impossibly high number. That would reduce both USA & French obesity rates to 0%.

      • Randy M says:

        That would reduce both USA & French obesity rates to 0%.

        I admire your optimistic skepticism, but I trust the USA, at least, will rise to challenge.
        Briefly, then we’ll sit back down, slightly out of breath from the effort, and lounge around to the challenge.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Define it to “fluent in French.”

    • b4mgh says:

      Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to lower your country’s obesity rate to that of France (22%) within 20 years.

      >Brazil: 22.10%
      >France: 21.60%

      Ideally I would start by finding the answers to the following questions and apply them to my ends: Why and how do people become obese? How can I disrupt that process? Why and how do obese people lose weight? How can I encourage that process to take place?

      Obesity is the accumulation of body fat to an unhealthy level, caused primarily by excess calorie consumption and lack of exercise. It is more common among the lower economic strata, because they lack the education to know the detrimental effects of certain lifestyles, because they can’t afford fresh produce and other healthy alternatives, and because they lack the time to exercise and to cook healthy meals.

      The first measure would be to introduce after-school programs in public schools during which the children and teens engage in sports and get various classes on practical topics, including not only healthy dieting, but also home repairs, personal financial management, and some artistic pursuits. The meals served in the schools would also be geared towards preventing obesity and other related conditions. The afterschool programs would also serve to make it harder for criminals to recruit minors and would preclude the need for childcare by the parents during those hours.

      Produce could be made more accessible in two main ways. First, allow individuals to deduct from their property taxes the area used for planting edible species. While there are many people renting among the lower classes, the landlords could offer the tenants benefits for doing this. There are also plenty of abandoned lots in the outskirts, which can be used for community gardens and multi-use game areas (MUGAs). The gardens could be tended by the residents and by criminals doing community service, which in turn would help alleviate the overcrowding of our prisons. People might be hesitant to use these MUGAs because of safety concerns, so municipal lighting and policing would have to be improved as well.

      An excess of frozen dinners isn’t much of a problem here (they’re not economical) but people could still benefit from more free time. The thing that takes up most of the free time is commuting, caused by the work-home distance and the poor transport infrastructure (both for private vehicles and for public transport. Decrease or end subsidies for the petroleum and the automobile industries, and use that revenue to invest in better public transportation. People don’t live far away from work because of zoning laws like in the US, they live far away because places close to downtown and business areas are expensive. If there could be some solution that involved getting people to live closer to work so that they could commute by foot or bicycle that would be swell, though nothing occurs right now.

      End subsidies for the meat industry, which would also help disincentivize deforestation for the raising of cattle.

      Allow private health insurance to somehow penalize individuals for gaining unhealthy amounts of weight, and reward those that lose weight.

      If all else fails, make smoking cool again.

      • First, allow individuals to deduct from their property taxes the area used for planting edible species.

        This would lead to hilarious unintended consequences.

        There are also plenty of abandoned lots in the outskirts, which can be used for community gardens and multi-use game areas (MUGAs). The gardens could be tended by the residents and by criminals doing community service, which in turn would help alleviate the overcrowding of our prisons.

        The problem is people eating too much, so let’s subsidize the production of more food? If the intention is to subsidize production of vegetables, it’d be easier to just do it directly by paying the farmers.

    • Another Throw says:

      Ban knives.

      Like, literally everything that can be used to cut food. The ability to cut up food before chewing it is one of the single largest factors that increases the calorie consumption rate. Without the mechanically arranged bite sized pieces, hours upon hours of chewing will be required. The last couple hundred years thousand years of morphology drift in the jaw is going to be a problem, though. We’re not really built for it anymore.

      • Nick says:

        Haven’t people been able to tear apart or crunch up their food longer than they’ve had knives?

        • Another Throw says:

          Sort of? There are some foodstuffs where this is practical, but not generally.

          As an example, “tenderness” of meat is overwhelmingly a question of the muscles fibers being cut into short enough pieces. (Or the animal being locked in a box and physically unable to move, and killed before the fibers actually start to develop.) Cutting your meat wrong ramps up the chewing effort required very, very rapidly.

          ETA: I didn’t come up with this idea from whole cloth. Consider this article. It isn’t in something I read regularly, but I feel like I read it or something similar at some point.

      • Lambert says:

        I don’t think knives are the problem so much as refined foods.
        Anglophone bread is basically aether.

        I propose all the bakers be replaced by Germans. (which is already my policy, outside of this hypothetical) While incredibly tasty, a rye/spelt loaf becomes a lethal weapon after a week or so in the bread bin.

        We won’t need wisdom teeth removals, either.

      • People are lazy. They’ll just eat bags of cheetos and pot noodles.

        • Another Throw says:

          And those Cheetos were made with flour. Which is very finely sliced wheat grains. Which you can’t do without something to slice with. True, a flour mill doesn’t look much like a chef’s knife, but we’re being totalitarian here.

    • Clutzy says:

      My thought is that any solution is likely to be extremely unpopular. Other people have posed totalitarian options, so I am going to propose an unpopular, but not really that evil of an option.

      #1. I implement medicare for all, with the caveat that you cannot be obese and get it. If obese, you have to buy your own health insurance. Which is taxed to partially pay for my medicare for all, thus double taxing it.

      #2. Hospitals don’t have to treat uninsured obese people. Those that do receive lower rates from my system.

      #3. I ratchet down allowed fat % over time. Also I conduct stings on doctors so they can’t help their patients game my system. Cheating doctors lose their license for a year, are fined heavily, and are subject to public humiliation of some sort, like stocks. Cheating patients are forced into an embarrassment + fitness regime where we broadcast them running 5ks until they pass some test of fitness.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Clutzy, in what sense is your proposal not evil? Should being fat carry an additional death sentence? Should it mean being left ill because fatness is the only important emergency?

        You’re actually describing the real world to some extent. Fat people have a problem getting decent medical care because a good many doctors ignore their actual symptoms on the assumption that if they lose weight, all their symptoms will go away. Note that this doesn’t seem to lead to a general reduction in obesity.

        • Clutzy says:

          Being fat is a death sentence. You just don’t know it yet. No reason to subsidize the fat life.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Being born is a death sentence. So far.

          • Eternaltraveler says:

            Being fat is a death sentence

            No it isnt. You have to have a bmi of over 44 before it is equivalent to smoking. Slightly overweight people have the lowest mortality. Underweight (even slightly) people have higher mortality than modestly overweight ones.

          • Clutzy says:

            I would not punish those healthy weights. So…

      • sharper13 says:

        I’ll take your solution and go the opposite way.

        Remove all government subsidies for being sick, poor, or obese. No welfare, no food stamps, no medical payments, etc…

        If that’s not enough, start taxing obesity.

        From a governmental perspective, you get more of what you subsidize and less of what you tax. You also get more of what you subsidize in the form of reducing the natural consequences to (i.e. medical care to deal with problems from being obese.)

    • Eric Rall says:

      My first thought is to allow unlimited immigration from East, Southeast, and South Asian countries (basically, everything from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan). Just about every country in this region has single-digit obesity rates, and these regions have a total population of about 3.8 billion people. If I can attract about 10% of them over the next 20 years (0.5% per year), that roughly doubles the US population and brings the average obesity rate down to right around 22%.

      The problem is that once the immigrants are here, I run the risk that they’ll start eating like Americans and wind up getting fat. I suppose I could probably mitigate that by trying to concentrate the big immigration wave into a few years. For example, I could announce the border-opening several years in advance, accept and process applications, and then schedule passage for the immigrants over the course of a year or two after the new immigration policy goes fully into effect.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        You already have a mitigation of different genetics. The various Asian nations generally tend to have low personal fat thresholds, compared to Caucasians. This is probably why they’re less obese, but more diabetic.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This reminds me– I have a least a hint that dietary intervention might not work very well. My local Asian supermarket has a huge amount and variety of refined grain products and sweets, but the customers aren’t especially fat.

    • Nornagest says:

      Bioengineer a pathogen with the following characteristics:

      – infects both humans and poultry
      – causes obesity in humans
      – poor transmission rates between humans
      – high transmission rates between poultry living in close association
      – has spores or cysts that survive cooking temperatures

      Then infect all the ducks in France with it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Why does beating another country on a domestic issue always come down to biological warfare or forced emigration?

    • The Nybbler says:

      My “Smoking is sexy” campaign should get most of it done. Fat-shaming is now a constitutional right, nay, DUTY. Accommodations for fat people are not required; they are largely forbidden. Eating in public (aside from restaurants) is illegal, and will be enforced with the zeal of the Washington D.C. Metro French Fry police. This also means stands with ready-to-eat foods are illegal, including snack vending machines and such. Carry-out and drive-throughs are still legal, but eating in a car will be treated like DWI even if you’re a passenger. Restaurants will be restricted to French-style hours, which means when you want to eat they’ll likely be closed. No food will be allowed a ‘light’ (referring to calories or fat) or ‘diet’ or similar claim, and the FDA is going to look upon overly small claimed “serving sizes” with a mean bureaucratic eye.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Please note that a fair number of fat people are handicapped, and rigging things so they have to walk more is just cruelty.

      Sometimes people are fat because they’re handicapped, sometimes they’re handicapped because they’re fat (and it makes sense for them to ramp up exercise slowly), and sometimes people just happen to be fat and handicapped.

      • Garrett says:

        From what I can tell, the most reliable way to reduce weight isn’t to increase physical activity but reduce calorie consumption. Even someone bed-bound can reduce caloric intake.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I don’t think those cases exceed 20% of the population though, so my fasting mandate should cover at least 80% hopefully!

    • fibio says:

      Logan’s Run it. Everyone gets a chip that measures their BMI, as you get closer to the limit it starts flashing. If you every go over the line to obese you’re taken off an killed.

      … I should probably stop answering these with the most sociopathic method I can think of.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Tanking the economy hard enough should do it. Three quarters of Venezuelans had lost an average of 8.7 kg by 2017; surely we can match that?

    • Garrett says:

      Add a significant tax to sugar and sugar-like things. Diet sodas will be unaffected, but sugar-sweetened anything will cost more. Same with candy. No weird exceptions for cappuccinos or something.

      Add a tax to any plant-like product which has any edible fiber removed as a “luxury” good. Whole wheat bread is fine, but white bread will correspondingly cost more. Orange juice will also cost more, though I suppose they can get a pro-rated discount based on how much pulp is left in. Fiber spreads out calorie absorption over time, reducing blood sugar highs and lows.

      Increase the fuel tax. This will encourage more people to take public transportation or something. More standing and walking will increase base metabolic rate.

      The additional revenue can be used to cover via medicaid gastric bypass surgery.

      I like the other commenters’ suggestion of making [extended release] amphetamines OTC.

      • Fiber spreads out calorie absorption over time, reducing blood sugar highs and lows.

        That reduces problems with diabetes. Does it also reduce weight?

        I ask in part because I am on a low glycemic index diet, and have lost a good deal of weight. My conjecture is that it’s because a constraint on what and when I can eat results in my eating less, but I could be mistaken.

        • Lambert says:

          Fibre makes the food less calorie-dense.
          The problem with white bread etc. is that it’s far less filling per calorie than unrefined alternatives, so people consume far more carbs from it than they would with wholemeal bread.

          The other thing is probably that bread made using modern aeration processes (e.g. Chorleywood) is a lot softer than bread baked by traditional methods, so you can eat much more in a given amount of time.

          Which reminds me, I have a sourdough starter to feed.

    • b_jonas says:

      Migrate to Western Europe. It is something that I’m considering to do anyway, and 20 years is long enough that by the end I can consider a different country as “my country”. There’s some element of risk because it’s hard to predict which country will have an obesity rate below France 20 years from now.

  3. Purplehermann says:

    In the child circumcision post’s comments, there was a lot of talk about ethics. How do your ethics take others ‘ ethics systems into account? (Bonus question: how do you take into account others’ ethics systems which they don’t yet hold?)

    • Dacyn says:

      Other people’s views on ethics affect what they do, why they do it, and what their preferences/desires are, all of which are things I find ethically relevant. I don’t think it makes sense for an ethical system to take into account ethical systems per se, since this would lead to infinite recursion. On the other hand, I think all of the common ethical systems can be used to generate intuitions about ethics, which are sometimes valid.

      • Purplehermann says:

        If you believe bodily autonomy to be very important ethically, but I don’t believe it’s an ethical issue (I reject it as a principal despite really not wanting someone to override my decisions about my body),

        would you believe it immoral for someone else to override my decisions about my body?

        Is there a difference between this and a case where I do hold bodily autonomy as a value/principal?

        • Dacyn says:

          Sure. I mean, for me an analogous thing would be free speech rights, I would defend them even if what someone wants to say is “There should be no free speech”. It seems like something’s not much of a universal law if it only applies to people who have sufficiently similar values to you.

          It’s possible that not having bodily autonomy as a fundamental value would mean that the person has a less strong preference for their own bodily autonomy. This seems like a legitimate reason for caring less about it in that case, but it’s hard for me to see what any other reasons could be.

    • aristides says:

      I completely ignore other people’s ethical systems as alien to my own and not applicable. If we share an ethical system, Christianity or Eastern Orthodoxy, I value their opinion on how to interpret ethical questions, but communicating with atheists and Buddhists involves having to figure out where our ethical systems overlap first, then generalizing.

      This is different than legal opinions, where other people’s ethical systems are extremely important. Ideally the laws should reflect the average of all the ethical systems in the community, as difficult as that is.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I think talking about other people’s ethics systems, as opposed to the people themselves, will be somewhat… misleading, in part because other people don’t necessarily act in accordance with their ethical system. (There’s another part, but I am having trouble putting it to words.)

      Basically, I think it is choices that matter; ethics systems are just frameworks for making choices. Thus the societal optimum is to permit people to make their own choices, as much as possible. Granted, once written down, it starts to look an awful lot like ethics, or perhaps meta-ethics; a utilitarianism whose utility is built out of choice. But it isn’t that, and pursuing it that way is missing the point. Having trouble articulating that as well; adding a new flavor of soda to the menu adds an additional choice, but that isn’t what I am talking about. And I am now wanting to start talking about entropy as a way of describing this, which means I should stop now.

      Perhaps some moral philosopher has written about whatever it is I’m trying to convey, because damned if I can do it.

      • Dacyn says:

        Thus the societal optimum is to permit people to make their own choices, as much as possible.

        Isn’t this libertarianism?

        a utilitarianism whose utility is built out of choice

        Not necessarily: “permit” != “maximize”. (From context it sounds like by “as much as possible” you really mean “where possible”.)

        …Anyway, I agree that people are different from ethical systems, in fact it’s perfectly possible to get by without thinking systematically about ethics at all. I think the OP is probably best reinterpreted either as “do you care ethically about the various ethical systems that exist such as consequentialism deontology etc” or as “do you care ethically about what other people care ethically about”. (I tried to address both of these in my response.)

        • Thegnskald says:

          It’s related to libertarianism, yeah, but I’d describe libertarianism as having to do with law, as opposed to a system dealing with ethics themselves.

          Like, suppose I had a button I could press that would make somebody do what I wanted them to do. I wouldn’t push that, even in their own best interests (as I perceive them), because that is taking the choice away from them.

          This as an ethical matter, as opposed to a legal matter, if the distinction makes sense. Likewise, my ethical system frowns on overly strong persuasion, so I generally try to stay well below maximum power on that front.

          And yeah, permit is a better word.

          • It’s related to libertarianism, yeah, but I’d describe libertarianism as having to do with law, as opposed to a system dealing with ethics themselves.

            In my experience, many, perhaps most, libertarians put their argument as an ethical one. Government shouldn’t violate people’s rights because violating rights is wrong, and it is still wrong when done by a private burglar or kidnapper rather than the IRS or the Selective Service System.

            I’m an exception, not because I don’t share those moral intuitions but because I think I have stronger consequentialist arguments than moral arguments for the same political conclusion. In my view, someone is still a libertarian if he doesn’t share those moral intuitions but does agree about what rights the government should respect, but I expect many libertarians would disagree with me on that question.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I regard law and ethics as separate magisteria, basically, and regard ethical arguments about government to be like…

            Well, arguing that an ethical choice shouldn’t be made because it is rude. Etiquette is the third magisteria there.

          • Garrett says:

            I’m vaguely aligned with this.
            The conclusions I come to in regards to “what should be the role of the government?” can be arrived at from several different approaches.
            But those same approaches might result in different answers to the question of “how should I live my life?”
            Personally, I’m very libertarian. But very anti-libertine. Like – there’s a good reason throughout history that various things have been labelled vices with attempts to ban them. I don’t think the government should be involved, but they should be presumed to be a bad idea.

  4. DragonMilk says:

    In brainstorming potentially nice places to move to, I settled upon….Utah.

    Just look at this house for instance. You get a lot more there than you would out here in the Northeast, and the taxes are about 1/7 of the amount. There’s a lot of houses around that price range with that sort of space.

    Plus, I hear the weather is better, people friendlier, and safe for families (Mormons and such). I also heard Utah passed a law stating that a child being seen on its own doesn’t automatically mean the parent is neglectful. And the population growth trends indicate I’m not the first one with this idea.

    What am I missing?

    • hls2003 says:

      While Mormons seem like perfectly nice folks, religiously we’re not on the same page. This would be an issue raising kids, because that’s who will be their peers growing up, and their potential mates. If that’s not a concern for you, then I’ve also heard good things about its secular statistics.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Same here, but given where I live now, I figure it’s trading one heresy for another, the latter being more devout in the heresy.

        • Evan Þ says:

          It’s also a lot easier to explain to kids. “God didn’t say X; He actually says Y” is simpler and leads to less arguments than “God exists, and so we need to go to church Sunday mornings, and read the Bible together, and all these other things none of your friends are doing.”

          • hls2003 says:

            I’m not sure I agree. I think it’s easier to draw a contrast between believers and irreligious non-believers than it is to define the precise doctrinal differences that constitute an unacceptable heresy. It seems simpler to say “Johnny’s family doesn’t believe in God or Lord Jesus” than to explain “Yes, they believe in God, and they say they worship Jesus, and yes they’re nice people and they go to church, but they don’t follow the Nicene Creed regarding Christ’s divinity, which is why you shouldn’t get too close to Suzy, even though she’s a nice-looking young woman who wants to settle down with a good man.”

            I could see it your way too, but overall I think the greater the distinction, the less likely the compromise.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @hls, Per my response later down, I think it’s fairly straight-forward to explain why Mormons are heretical.

            There’s a huge difference between a God in three persons from the before time creating everything to share the love and God being a physical being of flesh and bones

          • hls2003 says:

            @DragonMilk

            Sure, I’m not saying they can’t be distinguished. But I’m not sure it’s a question of intellectual argument, but rather availability. If you’ve got, say, a 15-year-old boy surrounded 90% by peers of a certain sect, then he’ll have a lot of incentive to gloss over intellectual distinctions when that cute Mormon girl wants to go out with him. If virtually all the cute girls are Mormons, it becomes awfully tempting for him to fudge it.

            I recognize what you’re saying, that the same is true with “that cute agnostic girl” in NYC, and that’s probably right. But I think it requires even more self-deception because the differences are starker. Leaving God behind vs. “just going to a different church” feels like a bigger step. But if they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna do it, I guess.

            Anyway, for better or worse that’s one of the reasons my wife and I don’t have Utah high on our list of possible places to move.

          • DragonMilk says:

            if you don’t mind my asking, what is your religious background?

          • I take it that both hls2003 and Dragonmilk view the prospect of their son marrying either an unbeliever or a believer with a very different faith, specifically a Mormon, as a very undesirable outcome.

            I’m curious about the reasons. For context, I’m an atheist, my wife is a Christian, and it’s never been a problem. Our children have been free to make their own religious decisions.

          • Wency says:

            @David:

            The moral reasons for a Christian to want to pass the faith on to his children should be obvious from a straightforward read of Scripture (even if your wife has an alternative interpretation), but I could also extend this further and say that the psychological desire to impress one’s values and traditions upon one’s children is near-universal, to make them one of the tribe.

            I would speculate that a marker of your family’s “tribe”, as it were, is holding idiosyncratic beliefs about the world as a result of a self-directed process of inquiry, and therefore it’s not of much consequence to the tribe if this process of inquiry leads a child to be a Neoplatonist or Buddhist. It would be much more alarming if the child demonstrated no curiosity about the world and ethics.

            However, this isn’t how most people think.

          • GearRatio says:

            David, I’m not them, but I’ll give it a shot (Important note: This explanation necessarily makes assumptions and uses language that implies I disapprove of your wife; I don’t know her, I’m sure she’s lovely, and I’m guessing her beliefs are different than mine in some way that makes sense for your situation):

            Your position makes sense to me – You are an atheist who clearly doesn’t dislike Christians enough to keep you from marrying one. The worst case scenario for you is that your kids believe some charming nonsense and have a little quaint outdated moral code that probably isn’t going to do them any or much harm.

            Your wife’s position makes a lot less sense to me. For context, my belief system is such that if my children reject the gospel, they go to hell (or, if you are more liberal, are at least denied eternity in the presence of God, which is about as bad to us).

            So for me, it would be a lot like marrying someone who thought, like, mainlining heroin was cool and was going to tell the kids, their entire lives, that mainlining heroin was cool and that they should feel very free to do that. Except that, because of how it works, the person telling them to mainline heroin is still someone who is respectable/likable/good, all that.

            You seem to be doing “our moral codes aren’t that incompatible, I’m a good guy, we get along” type math, and I actually agree with you there – I’m sure there are a ton of non-christian women with which I could build a loving home. You are mysteriously discounting the whole “A Christian believes there are real consequences to not being a Christian” bit from the entire equation, and I don’t understand why you would pretend not to know this. I REAAAALLLY don’t understand why your wife does.

            I am strongly inclined to believe your wife has very different theological beliefs than I do, mainly because if she had the same ones I do her choice to marry you amounts to something like “I’ve vastly increased the chances of my kids having the ultimate bad outcome, and I did it knowingly, and I’m fine with this”.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @ David

            I’m going to focus on practical considerations.

            Practically, I’d want to present a united front in everything including religion when kids are younger than let’s say, 9. Since I believe “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Notice the singular “fruit”), I appreciate that my wife and I are on the same page here and strive to pass that along to any kids that come along too.

            I fully anticipate that after, let’s say 9, the kids start listening to me less and have their own ideas. This is actually incorrect. They will start having ideas formed more and more by peers and media than family (I’m rather cynical regarding the originality of individual world views).

            At that point, I can only hope that we still present an appealing world view, and that again comes from the united front. And since one purpose of marriage is to produce more kids, I’d hope my kids would elect to also choose that united front to pass on the good word and such.

            Out of curiosity, what do you consider the main tenets of Christianity to be? Obviously not asking whether you think them true since you mentioned you’re an atheist.

          • hls2003 says:

            I’m a Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition.

            @DavidFriedman:

            In addition to the cogent points raised by others above, which mostly make sense to me, I consider there to be two primary reasons: one religious and one secular. On the religious front, I believe that the Bible tells Christian believers not to deliberately seek out and marry unbelievers. There are several specific “proof texts” trotted out for that position (e.g. not to be “yoked with unbelievers”) but I also view it as more broadly supported by a fair holistic reading of Scripture. So I want to try to raise my children to honor that command. On the secular side, there are likely to be significant worldview and/or cultural differences between a committed Christian and a non-believer, and I think such things are likely to cause extra conflict in a marriage. It is by no means true that such conflict would necessarily suffice break up a marriage, and in your case I congratulate you that it seems not to have caused much conflict in your marriage, but I would prefer to see my children have fewer potential conflict sources rather than more in their choice of mate.

            In addition, as a blend of the two, I care about the way my eventual grandchildren might be raised (including transmission of the faith) and a mixed-religion marriage could generate extra conflict about how to raise any such grandchildren.

          • @GearRatio:

            The worst case scenario for you is that your kids believe some charming nonsense and have a little quaint outdated moral code that probably isn’t going to do them any or much harm.

            Not even that bad, since I don’t view religion as nonsense, just mistaken. Two of my favorite authors (Chesterton and Tolkien) were seriously believing Catholics, I have a high opinion of Maimonides and a good deal of sympathy with the world view of medieval Muslims (my two favorite caliphs, very different from each other, are Umar and al Ma’mun). So far as the moral code is concerned, I wouldn’t expect the moral code of a Christian to differ from mine any more than that of a fellow atheist.

            For context, my belief system is such that if my children reject the gospel, they go to hell (or, if you are more liberal, are at least denied eternity in the presence of God, which is about as bad to us).

            That may be part of the difference. I can’t speak for my wife, but one of my colleagues, a Jesuit, was of the opinion that my unbelief did not guarantee that I wouldn’t make it to heaven. Possibly an updated version of the Harrowing of Hell.

            @DragonMilk:

            Practically, I’d want to present a united front in everything including religion when kids are younger than let’s say, 9.

            Whereas I encouraged my children to argue with me a good deal younger than that. I suppose I am in favor of a united front on basic moral issues, roughly what Lewis described as the Tao; I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who disagreed with me at that level. But I think children ought to grow up realizing that there are many questions on which reasonable people can disagree.

            They will start having ideas formed more and more by peers and media than family (I’m rather cynical regarding the originality of individual world views).

            I can’t speak to your kids, but I was about nine or ten when I reached the conclusion that it was more likely than not that God did not exist. When I mentioned that to my father, he responded that that was his opinion as well. We had never discussed the question, and the surrounding culture pretty much took the existence of God for granted—on the other hand, we were obviously not a religious family, since we didn’t go to church, didn’t celebrate Jewish holidays.

            I should probably add that I later concluded that the proof I had come up with, based on Ockham’s razor, was mistaken.

            For a later case, my younger son, much older than ten, has come to the conclusion that the well documented history of Joan of Arc is pretty strong evidence for a supernatural view of the world. Anyone who has attended one of our meetups may have heard his lecture on the subject.

            Out of curiosity, what do you consider the main tenets of Christianity to be?

            That Jesus Christ existed, was an incarnate part of the divinity, and died in order to redeem mankind.

            @hls2003:

            On the secular side, there are likely to be significant worldview and/or cultural differences between a committed Christian and a non-believer, and I think such things are likely to cause extra conflict in a marriage.

            I think my worldview is far enough out of the ordinary so that those problems are as likely with a non-Christian as with a Christian, and much more likely with a random non-Christian than with the Christian I am married to. She was not selected at random.

            Let me turn the question around. Imagine you have the choice of either being married to a Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition, of suitable age but otherwise selected at random, or to a wife of your choosing, selected from a large number of people who are not Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition.

            Which is more likely to raise “significant worldview and/or cultural differences”?

          • hls2003 says:

            Imagine you have the choice of either being married to a Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition, of suitable age but otherwise selected at random, or to a wife of your choosing, selected from a large number of people who are not Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition.

            I’m afraid I don’t see how this is a useful question. In neither case will it be “random.” In neither case do I have dictatorial control over whom my children marry. Ceteris paribus, purely on secular grounds, I prefer the co-religionist. Why would you presume one would be random and the other hand-picked? (On religious grounds, even in your scenario I would feel obligated to pick my co-religionist, but I think we’re limiting the discussion solely to my second secular ground).

            If you are suggesting that there is more cultural / personal variation within the genus of a religion than between there is between the average of religious and non-religious, that may be true (or it may not – I don’t know that’s a given) but it also doesn’t answer the issue. It’s like saying that there’s more variation in strength between women than between the average woman and the average man. Happens to be true; women run the gamut from bedridden to world class powerlifter bench-pressing 600 pounds, while the average man and the average woman show much less variation. That doesn’t mean I would consider the category irrelevant for strength purposes. In addition, even if one postulates that there are few relevant differences between the population of religious vs. non-religious, all that suggests is that there should be, on average, about the same rate of attitudes or issues potentially provoking conflict in each population. Call the number of potential issues X. If religion is itself such an issue, then by that same postulate, cross-marriages will on average have X+1 such issues (or co-religionists have X-1, whichever way you prefer it). So even if religion doesn’t lead to different attitudes, which would surprise me, even so it would help on the margin to avoid conflict to avoid mixed marriages. One less thing to fight about.

          • GearRatio says:

            David:

            Oddly, it doesn’t matter to me what you or your Jesuit friend believe for the purposes of the scenario (I don’t mean that in a bad way). The relevant thing is what the Christian member of the scenario relationship believes.

            If the Christian spouse believes that everybody has a fair shot of getting into heaven just by being generally nice/good/decent, then there’s no conflict. Note, though, that this is an atypical view of Christianity; most people think faith in Jesus/God is pretty necessary, and for good reason; it takes a pretty tortured read of the text to get around the “no way to the father but through the ocean of “no way to the father except through me” type of references and come out on the opposite shore with universalism in one’s mouth.

            If the Christian spouse believes in salvation by grace through faith, and believes this genuinely, then they are increasing their chances of the child not having that necessary faith by a huge amount.

            To re-pose your question, this is more how the second kind of Christian would think about it:

            Do you A. Restrict your choice of spouse somewhat (In america, not much) or do you B. Greatly increase the chances of your children not receiving salvation to increase the pool of potential spouses?

            If Christianity is just sort of a nice philosophy to hold, none of this matters; I would have, for instance, married the right left-leaning lady if she had popped up. But if it and faith in Jesus is a necessary part of it, then marrying outside of the faith is would have been a monstrous thing for me to do, worse for my children in practical terms than marrying a pedophile.

          • Ceteris paribus, purely on secular grounds, I prefer the co-religionist. Why would you presume one would be random and the other hand-picked?

            I was trying to get at the strength of one particular concern about marriage with someone not a co-religionist.

            I have no problem with your believing that, ceteris paribus, you would rather marry a co-religionist. But a good deal of the discussion, by you and others, seemed based on the idea that marrying someone who did not share your religious views was not just mildly risky but a near guarantee of serious problems of a particular sort. If that were the case, then a random co-religionist would be quite likely to be an improvement in that regard.

            You didn’t quote my final sentence, which is relevant here:

            Which is more likely to raise “significant worldview and/or cultural differences”?

            It might well be that the random co-religionist would be worse than the alternative in lots of other respects, but that was not the question I was asking.

            I don’t think you actually answered the question, so I will try it again. Between my two alternatives, “Which is more likely to raise “significant worldview and/or cultural differences”?”

            Not which would you rather marry.

          • @GearRatio :

            I offered my colleagues views as evidence of the range of views among Christians. My guess is that my wife shares it, but I haven’t asked her.

            Do you A. Restrict your choice of spouse somewhat (In america, not much)

            How serious a problem that is depends on how common people well fitted to be your spouse are. When I met the woman I am now married to, she was a graduate student who had never had any romantic involvement of any sort, not because she was unpleasant or unattractive but because she was, and is, a fairly unusual person. Her comment, years later, about meeting me was that she had finally met someone interesting in this place (VPI). Going in the other direction, my back of the envelope calculation suggested that she was something like a one in ten thousand catch, given my somewhat unusual requirements.

            If either of us had eliminated ninety percent of potential mates on the sorts of grounds we are discussing, the odds are pretty high that she would never have married, and not all that low that I never would have.

            Obviously also relevant is how narrow the relevant category is. People who self-describe as Christians in the U.S. would be well over fifty percent. People who are serious believing Christians in the academic world, where I was most likely to find a wife, would be a lot fewer.

            That raises a related question. At least some of those posting here are not merely Christians, but Christians of a particular sort, biblical literalists. From their standpoint, how large a fraction of the U.S. population consists of people close enough to their view to avoid the sort of problems being discussed? Does my Jesuit colleague (actually ex-colleague–both of us are now retired) qualify? My wife as you conjecturally interpret her view?

            I think of the issue in terms of Orwell’s question: How many people believe in Heaven the way they believe in Australia? My guess is that a sizable majority of people who identify as Christians, at least among college educated Americans, don’t. Would such a person be safe for your children to marry?

          • GearRatio says:

            This is going to get a little gish gallopey, but there’s a lot of questions here and I’m interested in the conversation; if you feel like responding, definitely feel free to pick-and-choose what you respond to.

            How serious a problem that is depends on how common people well fitted to be your spouse are. … Going in the other direction, my back of the envelope calculation suggested that she was something like a one in ten thousand catch, given my somewhat unusual requirements….If either of us had eliminated ninety percent of potential mates on the sorts of grounds we are discussing, the odds are pretty high that she would never have married, and not all that low that I never would have.

            This is getting into the secular, but I don’t believe this for most people. Probably 7/8 of the (happy) married people I know will make a similar “there was nobody I had ever met that I could have married!” statement, and yet they all end up married at some point. There’s an exception to every rule, but if this generalized you’d expect to see higher rates of divorce in rural areas, and this just isn’t so.

            People who are serious believing Christians in the academic world, where I was most likely to find a wife, would be a lot fewer.

            I’m not sure why this is relevant; you ostensibly didn’t particularly care that she was believing. If it was relevant to her to find a believer to marry, there are, I hear, places they gather. A Christian professor, while still rare, is much easier to find in a group of Christians than a group of academics; simply an educated Christian easier still.

            That raises a related question. At least some of those posting here are not merely Christians, but Christians of a particular sort, biblical literalists. From their standpoint, how large a fraction of the U.S. population consists of people close enough to their view to avoid the sort of problems being discussed? Does my Jesuit colleague (actually ex-colleague–both of us are now retired) qualify? My wife as you conjecturally interpret her view?

            First: no idea what your wife believes, not even a guess; my only datapoint on her is she’s married to an atheist who seems to be a pretty nice guy.

            Second: It’s hard to say how many “I think it’s real” Christians there are, and I’m not sure there’s even anybody trying to do a count. This would be more relevant to me overall if I bought the implied “most people need more than thousands of prospects to find an acceptable mate” premise, which I don’t.

            I think of the issue in terms of Orwell’s question: How many people believe in Heaven the way they believe in Australia? My guess is that a sizable majority of people who identify as Christians, at least among college educated Americans, don’t. Would such a person be safe for your children to marry?

            This is why I keep using the phrase “thinks that it’s real”. If you believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, blood atonement, and the existence of a deity, heaven is no stretch. On the obverse, if heaven is such a fairy-tale stretch that you can’t swallow it, I don’t believe it’s likely you actually believe in the other stuff, either. Having a soul that goes somewhere when you die is a MUCH more universal view than Jesus being God-and-savior.

            I’m guessing there’s basically nobody, statistically, sitting around fully confident that an all-powerful deity exists who sent his son to die for our sins who then sits around just stuck and unable to get past the concept of a literal afterlife.

            So although I wouldn’t know until I talked to them, I would guess such a person would not be someone I would choose for my sons or encourage them to marry; it’s likely they aren’t Christians in any sense less superficial than Jefferson was.

            To an atheist It’s all fake, so to him it’s something like “Why are you so hung up on matters of faith?? Your silly lies shouldn’t keep you from love; be practical!”. I’m making assumptions, but this is how your tone strikes me; somewhat bewildered about the whole thing. Don’t they know that serious academics have abandoned the idea of a soul?.

            From the atheist’s point of view, this is correct; marrying based entirely on even a small statistical edge of finding someone even slightly better for them makes sense, be they Rastafarians or whatever.

            But many people do think that God exists, that Heaven exists, and that Hell exists. They think when the bible says something like “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” that there’s an actual deity who wants it that way, a deity that they love and believes loves them.

            So ignoring the risk to their own faith (a whole other thing), this brings up a much different scenario, one with actual consequences. It’s hard to imagine a child growing up in a house with one parent telling them their religion is true and another telling them it’s false is more likely to result in a strong faith than one where both parents believe. To the person who believes this is real, this matters.

            I might be jumping to conclusions, but I get the strong impression from how you are asking these questions that your impulse is to simplify this down into a kind of cultural xenophobia, something like not wanting your child to marry someone of a separate race. And I’m sure those people exist! There’s people who just want “someone of our kind” in every group. But there’s also people who believe different things than you do genuinely, and genuine belief in a certain reality requires certain actions and behaviors.

            If I had to summarize all this quickly, I’d do it like this:

            There’s only one reason to be confused about why a Christian who thinks Christianity is actually real would want a like-minded spouse: You don’t or can’t bring yourself believe they actually believe the things they say.

            If you believe a Christian actually believes in God, in heaven and hell, and in salvation through faith in the God of the bible, then there isn’t any room for confusion. You know all the reasons why he or she would want a Christian spouse; in that context, to not want one and to take those kinds of risks with their children would be a horrifying act.

            A postscript:

            My mother is a literalist believer (thinks it’s all real). One of my brothers has abandoned the faith. It’s anguishing for her. She doesn’t dislike him; she loves him more than anything. She doesn’t treat him badly or make him guilty. Mostly, when she talks about it, she just talks about things she could have done differently or ways she could have protected him more. It eats her up, because she believes it’s all more than nice words and some fairy tale stuff that didn’t really happen. It’s not bigotry – it’s grief.

          • @GearRatio:

            (about my difficulty in finding a suitable spouse)

            This is getting into the secular, but I don’t believe this for most people.

            Neither do I. But since we have been discussing the particular case of my marriage, it’s relevant if it’s true for me. I could go into more detail if you are curious, but it probably isn’t necessary.

            (quoting me)

            People who are serious believing Christians in the academic world, where I was most likely to find a wife, would be a lot fewer.

            to which GearRatio replies

            I’m not sure why this is relevant; you ostensibly didn’t particularly care that she was believing.

            Correct. But people here are suggesting that she should have cared if I was believing, and she was in that world as well until she left graduate school. I probably put it the way I did because I was imagining the situation reversed.

            If it was relevant to her to find a believer to marry, there are, I hear, places they gather.

            Yes. But if, as I conjecture from her history, men she would be happy marrying (and would be happy marrying her) were rare, finding a believer who fit her requirements would have been harder. “A Christian professor” wouldn’t be sufficient—it might take a search through a population of a hundred of them.

            That raises the issue of the tradeoff between a better fit in characteristics other than religion and a better religious fit, which is part of what I was trying to get at with my earlier comment about a selected non-believer vs a random believer.

            To an atheist It’s all fake, so to him it’s something like “Why are you so hung up on matters of faith?? Your silly lies shouldn’t keep you from love; be practical!”.

            I tried to make it clear in an earlier comment that I don’t view religion as silly lies. Two members of my immediate family are Christians, although probably not to your degree of certainty, and the third thinks there is sufficient historical evidence for Christianity to make it a hypothesis worth serious consideration. I think you are projecting on me a stereotype obtained elsewhere.

            Don’t they know that serious academics have abandoned the idea of a soul?.

            I can’t speak for other academics, but I haven’t “abandoned the idea of a soul.” It isn’t my working hypothesis, but consciousness is clearly a puzzle, and something outside our understanding of the material universe is one possible solution.

            They think when the bible says something like “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” that there’s an actual deity who wants it that way, a deity that they love and believes loves them.

            As I think we have already seen here, even if you limit yourself to biblical literalists, there is room for quite a lot variant interpretation. Does the bible require you to keep kosher? That seems to be a question on which the biblical literalists in this group disagree.

            I get the strong impression from how you are asking these questions that your impulse is to simplify this down into a kind of cultural xenophobia, something like not wanting your child to marry someone of a separate race.

            You are mistaken. I am curious as to how the beliefs of intelligent people with a very different world view work, and SSC is one of the few people where I can indulge that curiosity through civil conversation.

            I may well be more culturally xenophobic than you are, having grown up in a smaller bubble than you did. But my version includes GKC (and my wife) in my in-group.

            There’s only one reason to be confused about why a Christian who thinks Christianity is actually real would want a like-minded spouse

            “Want” is easy. It’s “insist on” that is less clear.

          • Evan Þ says:

            (Disclaimer: I’m single and not dating.)

            @DavidFriedman, re your question about whether I’d rather marry a random Christian or a hand-picked non-Christian: It would be a really emotionally tough decision. I’m sure there’s at least one non-Christian out there who’d seem really well-suited to me. But I’d need to keep in mind three points:

            1) People should marry not just for who we are now, but for who we’ll become in the future – and who we’ll help each other become. By hypothesis, Jane Nonchristian has priorities in line with mine as to who she’s trying to be. But I believe as a point of doctrine that God is working in us Christians over and above what we do ourselves. Without miracles, non-Christians might not grow in the same way.

            2) The Bible says not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and that pretty clearly includes marriage. I believe that God Who caused this to be written understands things much better than I do. Even if my point (1) turns out to be incomplete, there’s presumably some other point out there.

            3) Nonetheless, there’s a simple way for Jane Nonchristian to become a Christian. This ties into your very cogent point, @DavidFriedman, about how few people “believe in Heaven the way they believe in Australia.” When my parents first met, Dad was a nominal Christian who most likely didn’t meet that criterion, but Mom pulled him to start taking his faith more seriously – and by the time I was old enough to pay attention, Dad did believe in Heaven that firmly.

          • GearRatio says:

            There’s only one reason to be confused about why a Christian who thinks Christianity is actually real would want a like-minded spouse

            “Want” is easy. It’s “insist on” that is less clear.

            This is where/why I’m projecting a kind of dishonesty on to you. I don’t think that this particular confusion makes sense in an intelligent person who thinks a Christian has genuine belief in the theology of heaven/hell/God/salvation that’s being described here. Assume these things:

            1. A person exists who thinks hell is very bad, heaven is very good and that both of these are eternal consequences. This person also thinks that specific faith in the Christian God and reliance on the blood sacrifice of Jesus is required to get a good outcome here. This combination of beliefs is common among both protestants and catholics, even if it isn’t universal, so this should be a given unless you think they are lying.

            2. Assume an average atheist stance of “Everything in 1. is false. There isn’t even a god, much less a specific one who has specific methods”. Unless things are really weird, this is true of all atheists; I don’t know of any who go “by definition I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe in the eternal consequences a specific non-existent god implies, and that the only way to get a good outcome is to genuinely worship and have faith in a specific god that exists.

            3. Assume an average other-religion stance of either A. Worshiping another god is what you need to do B. Worshiping ANY god is what you need to do or C. Being a pretty good dude is what you need to do. Something other than “Just this one way, just this one deity”.

            4. Assume both parents have, usually, a profound effect on their children.

            That means that a hypothetical Christian who believes the “this is all real” version of Christianity would have to, if he or she was thinking through their choices, make this statement to marry a person of non-similar beliefs:

            I know that heaven and hell are real, and that a specific God is real and set a specific method to get to heaven. The bad option is very bad, and lasts forever; even if it wasn’t, the good option is very good and lasts forever. These are ultimate consequences.

            Marrying an unbeliever means that my children would grow up under the parentage of at least one parent who would reliably tell them that all this is untrue, and reliably tell them that these consequences aren’t real. To the extent a parent has any effect on their child, this would decrease their chance of believing.

            With that being said, I am comfortable marrying an atheist; these consequences are eternal and ultimate, but I don’t care about them; the difference in my guesses of how happy I’d be if I select a spouse from a large pool of candidates and how happy I’d be if I selected my spouse from a larger group of candidates is enough that I’m not concerned about my children’s eternal welfare.

            I am aware that the bible makes new testament prohibitions against an already-saved person marrying an unbeliever. I also find these uncompelling against the difference in my guess of how happy I’d be in the two scenarios.

            I wasn’t using hyperbole when I said this is a horrifying position to take. To the “thinks it’s real” Christian, the consequences here are worse and infinitely more lasting than a molestation; this is, for them, a decision with worse practical consequences than marrying a practicing pedophile and just hoping the kids don’t end up being hurt by them. (I am not comparing atheists to pedophiles or saying they are similarly bad or even bad; I’m talking only of the practical implications in this scenario).

            This isn’t a particularly hard position to understand. I don’t see a way a reasonable person who thinks that this type of Christian has genuinely held beliefs not getting why someone would “insist” on not putting their children in danger this way.

            I think it’s time for me to ask a question so I can start to understand how you aren’t getting to this conclusion:

            Assuming that these Christians believe these things, how specifically is the decision to not put their children in more risk of hell for an increased possibility of marital happiness not logical to them?

            If you believed that by marrying your spouse, you would put your eventual children at risk of either missing out on an eternity of happiness beyond what is possible on earth or an eternity of suffering, would this have affected your decisions?

            These questions are assuming, to some extent, that your implied posit that “marrying outside your faith increases your chances of marital happiness” is true in the first place; the data I’ve seen shows that seriously practicing (I.E. weekly churchgoers and similar activities implying commitment to the faith) people of religion divorce significantly less (biased source).

          • DragonMilk says:

            @GearRatio

            I think you’re coming off a bit judgmental and associating all atheists with the hostile Dawkins type. It’s not particularly productive to judge David’s wife who you’ve not met; just emphasize your own views and be done with it.

            While of course it is advised not yoke with unbelievers, I’d admonish you to read Paul’s advice from 1 Corinthians 7:12 on. From what David says, he’s letting his kids choose, and since it appears that none of them share his exact viewpoint regarding spiritual matters, I take him at his word that he’s not unduly enforcing his own world view.

            Let God be the judge, but equating the marriage to that of a pedophile for whatever reason is thoroughly unhelpful.

          • Randy M says:

            Imagine you have the choice of either being married to a Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition, of suitable age but otherwise selected at random, or to a wife of your choosing, selected from a large number of people who are not Christian Protestant, Reformed tradition.

            I wouldn’t say I married at random by any stretch, but I did marry the first Christian girl I dated. Obviously there was an element of attraction and compatibility present, but I think the shared values and commitment was the deciding factor in the marriage enduring. So given the choice, I might well pick the random, even apart from the valid concerns about children’s salvation.

          • GearRatio says:

            DragonMilk:

            I have not said a word about David’s wife, and have made clear I don’t know her or her beliefs, or how they would import to this argument multiple times.

            Comparing what would be a terrible thing (one’s children suffering for eternity) to another terrible thing (one’s children suffering terribly but temporarily) is necessary here. It is needed to illustrate, clearly, that if it was reasonable for a parent to want to avoid harm to their children to do one, it was doubly do for the other. The fact that I was not comparing pedophiles to atheists in any other way was not only stated, but put in boldface.

            Please stop skipping stuff I’ve already clearly addressed to paint me in a bad light.

          • hls2003 says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            a good deal of the discussion, by you and others, seemed based on the idea that marrying someone who did not share your religious views was not just mildly risky but a near guarantee of serious problems of a particular sort. If that were the case, then a random co-religionist would be quite likely to be an improvement in that regard.

            I think this is misstating what I said. I said that, from a secular viewpoint, mismatched religions are an additional factor for friction, which I don’t see you disputing, and I don’t see your hypothetical addressing. I did not say they would be a “near guarantee of serious problems of a particular sort.”

            But to answer your question, from a religious perspective, I would choose the co-religionist or nobody (the null is always available, after all), because I consider it a Biblical command not to marry an unbeliever. From a purely secular perspective, it would be a closer call. Since my secular reasoning postulates an additional risk of conflict, but not necessarily an overwhelming one, it would probably depend on the compositions of the respective populations. If I had no other reason than the added risk of religious conflict – that is, operating only on the secular reasoning – then I would probably take the selected rather than the random person. But I do think that there are substantial differences in mental and emotional tendencies and habits between the religious and the non-religious. The same could be said for differences between political parties, for example – different “moral foundations” and ways of thinking, to borrow Haidt’s formulation. That doesn’t mean that politically mixed marriages are impossible or even very rare; there are famous politically mixed power couples in Washington and the media, for example. But on the other hand, purely from a distance (and realizing we don’t know the internal states of either one) does it appear to you that George and KellyAnne Conway’s marriage is going well?

            I’ll ask you a question. Which elements of “compatibility” as you define it do you think occur entirely independently of one’s habits of mind and emotion which, in turn, influence one’s religiosity? Or to put it a different way, do you consider religiosity to be non-predictive as to, or at least uncorrelated with, some non-religious mental and emotional attributes important for marriage, and if so which attributes do you consider thus unaffected?

          • DragonMilk says:

            @Gear

            Whatever qualifiers you put around it, this is what you’ve stated:

            I am strongly inclined to believe your wife has very different theological beliefs than I do, mainly because if she had the same ones I do her choice to marry you amounts to something like “I’ve vastly increased the chances of my kids having the ultimate bad outcome, and I did it knowingly, and I’m fine with this”.

            If Christianity is just sort of a nice philosophy to hold, none of this matters; I would have, for instance, married the right left-leaning lady if she had popped up. But if it and faith in Jesus is a necessary part of it, then marrying outside of the faith is would have been a monstrous thing for me to do, worse for my children in practical terms than marrying a pedophile.

            If I had to summarize all this quickly, I’d do it like this:

            There’s only one reason to be confused about why a Christian who thinks Christianity is actually real would want a like-minded spouse: You don’t or can’t bring yourself believe they actually believe the things they say.

            This is where/why I’m projecting a kind of dishonesty on to you. I don’t think that this particular confusion makes sense in an intelligent person who thinks a Christian has genuine belief in the theology of heaven/hell/God/salvation that’s being described here.

            I wasn’t using hyperbole when I said this is a horrifying position to take. To the “thinks it’s real” Christian, the consequences here are worse and infinitely more lasting than a molestation; this is, for them, a decision with worse practical consequences than marrying a practicing pedophile and just hoping the kids don’t end up being hurt by them. (I am not comparing atheists to pedophiles or saying they are similarly bad or even bad; I’m talking only of the practical implications in this scenario).

            Can you see how one might find these statements to be “a bit judgmental”? It’s one thing to discuss these things within the sphere of the church, and people you personally know, but I for one don’t think it’s productive to make your points in this manner in the comment section of a rationalist blog.

          • GearRatio says:

            Dragonmilk:

            Two things:

            1. See the section where I suppose David’s wife believes differently than I do? That’s me assuming she’s a nice person. Someone who doesn’t have the same belief system as me is making an entirely different internal decision when marrying an atheist. Me going “She probably doesn’t believe the same things I do” is me going “I’m assuming she’s not bad”.

            2. David asked, specifically, about why a Christian would refuse to marry an atheist be concerned about their kids doing so. These are the answers to that question as I see them. The Christian did not drag this discussion in and foist it on the atheist – the atheist asked for the discussion and got it.

            You are being unfair and dishonest.

          • @GearRatio:

            Marrying an unbeliever means that my children would grow up under the parentage of at least one parent who would reliably tell them that all this is untrue, and reliably tell them that these consequences aren’t real.

            I don’t believe I have ever told any of my children any of that. I have told them that I do not believe in those things but could be mistaken, and the decision of what they believe in is up to them.

            It’s true that there was one notable occasion when our daughter, then small, informed by her mother that her mother didn’t know everything (and therefor couldn’t answer some question), responded with “but Daddy knows everything.”

            But I think she modified that opinion later.

            Furthermore, they will hear lots of things from people other than their parents. They can be expected to encounter lots of people who are not seriously believing Christians, and so be exposed to those ideas whether or not they hear them from a parent.

            I expect that whether the parental influence pushes children towards or away from the beliefs largely depends on characteristics of the parents other than their religion; there seem to be quite a lot of atheists who grew up in religious households, although I am not one of them. A spouse who shares your religion but is not a sufficiently good fit to produce a happy and well functioning household for the children to grow up in may make the children less likely to share your religion than a spouse who does not share your religion but is otherwise better suited to you.

            These questions are assuming, to some extent, that your implied posit that “marrying outside your faith increases your chances of marital happiness” is true in the first place

            I’m not making that claim. My claim is rather that restricting your alternatives to people who share your faith reduces your ability to find a spouse with whom you will be happy. So would restricting your alternatives to people who don’t share your religion.

            @hls2003:

            I agree that, ceteris paribus, marrying someone of a different faith produces “an additional factor for friction.” But there are lots of other things that can produce such friction and, at least in my case, I think enough so that the gain from choosing from a much larger pool of potential partners outweighs the loss if the preferred choice is of a different religion.

            The answer some of you give that the bible commands you not to marry an unbeliever is a legitimate one, given that interpretation of the bible. It wasn’t a passage I was familiar with, and I’m not competent to judge how unambiguous the interpretation is.

            The argument about keeping your children from Hell has some interesting elements that haven’t been considered. Is the important issue keeping your children (or from the parents’ perspective your grandchildren) from Hell, or keeping people from Hell?

            To see the difference, suppose we have two Christians, one male and one female, and two unbelievers, ditto. Further suppose that children of a CC marriage have a 90% chance of ending up as Christians and going to Heaven, children of a UU marriage a 10% chance, and children of a CU marriage a 60% chance. That doesn’t seem wildly unreasonable if, as you believe, the C partner is arguing for truth and the U for untruth, and children have some, if limited, ability to detect the difference. Assume, for simplicity, two children from each marriage.

            If the pairing is CC, UU, on average two children go to Heaven. If it is CU, UC, 2.4 children on average go to Heaven. On those numbers, this particular line of argument seems to imply a preference for marrying unbelievers.

            To save their children.

            Or to put it a different way, do you consider religiosity to be non-predictive as to, or at least uncorrelated with, some non-religious mental and emotional attributes important for marriage, and if so which attributes do you consider thus unaffected?

            I think religiosity is less predictive of the relevant mental and emotional attributes, such as rationality and honesty, than direct observation of those attributes. It’s the same argument that shows up on the race/IQ issue. Even if blacks are on average a little less smart than whites, and East Asians on average a little smarter, it makes more sense to choose your employees by observing how smart they are than by observing their race.

            Similarly here. There are Christians, such as GKC and my wife, who are much more my kind of people than most atheists are. So it makes more sense to look for someone with the mental and emotional characteristics I want than to select someone who shares my religious belief in the hope that such a person will have them.

            Dragonmilk to Gear:

            Can you see how one might find these statements to be “a bit judgmental”?

            For what it’s worth, I am not bothered nor insulted by Gear’s arguments. Part of the reason I spend so much time here is that it is a place where I can have civil conversations with people very different from me.

            And so far as my wife’s views are concerned, she is a mainline Protestant, currently attending an Episcopal church.

          • GearRatio says:

            @David: Unrelated to the argument at all, that daughter story is dad heroin.

            I don’t believe I have ever told any of my children any of that. I have told them that I do not believe in those things but could be mistaken, and the decision of what they believe in is up to them.

            Making clear for the gallery that I don’t think you are making any decisions here that are against your personal morality.

            I’m comparing “both my parents believe this, and tell me this is true” to “One of my parents believes this, but the other one, a person I respect, tells me he doesn’t believe it”. I’m not saying your are a horrific version of this – I expect you are a nice, kind and wise version of this. But I can’t see any way around “Both my parents tell me this is true” > “One of my parents says it’s true, and one doesn’t”, all other things being equal (except in the case of shitty parents, see below).

            Furthermore, they will hear lots of things from people other than their parents. They can be expected to encounter lots of people who are not seriously believing Christians, and so be exposed to those ideas whether or not they hear them from a parent.

            I don’t contest this as stated, but certainly parents have a profound effect on what their children believe. Take political leanings. Ditto religion – there’s an observable and very significant drop of ~20%.

            Going from 4/5 to 3/5 chances doesn’t seem at a glance like that terrible, but remember the stakes. I’m aware there are a ton of other influences, but that’s part of why I don’t want to add another huge one probably bigger than the others combined into the mix. With both parents Christian, I’ve PROBABLY got them. With one spouse unaffiliated, it’s getting pretty damn close to a coinflip.

            I expect that whether the parental influence pushes children towards or away from the beliefs largely depends on characteristics of the parents other than their religion;

            Similar to above in that the stats on this seem to say it matters less than you’d think (83% retention isn’t nothing). I think this might be an artifact of a bubble – from what you’ve said, you seem like you run in circles where you run into far more non-christians than practicing believers; it seems at least plausible you’re local environment might imply more “leaving the faith cause my dad is a dick” than is the case in the greater world.

            I do have a partial falsifiability standard for this, though: If there’s good evidence that finding your spouse within your faith produces significantly, measurably worse marriages than finding your spouse from everybody, then this becomes a plausible effect.

            Put another way: Show me that a person restricting their possibilities to people in their own religion causes this bad effect, and I’ll have to take it into account. I’m a hard sell on this for several reasons – first, as you know, I don’t think most people’s “numbers of potential partners I have to have to find a workable one” are nearly as big as your and your wife’s projections. Second, it’s a pretty big effect this has to overcome. Third, I suspect “we come from similar cultural backgrounds” helps matches be suitable more than it hurts it; I couldn’t put a number on this and it’s certainly not going to make water put out an oil fire, but it’s in the math somewhere.

            These questions are assuming, to some extent, that your implied posit that “marrying outside your faith increases your chances of marital happiness” is true in the first place

            I’m not making that claim. My claim is rather that restricting your alternatives to people who share your faith reduces your ability to find a spouse with whom you will be happy. So would restricting your alternatives to people who don’t share your religion.

            My bad on this; I meant something very close to what you just explained but phrased it wrong. As you already know I don’t feel the same way as you on the size and scope of this effect, but I’m not trying to strawman you to “Marry outside the faith or you will die!” positions either.

            One stolen thing from your discussion from HLS:

            So it makes more sense to look for someone with the mental and emotional characteristics I want than to select someone who shares my religious belief in the hope that such a person will have them.

            This phrasing seems to imply that a person marrying within their religion makes no demands of character and personality other than “be religious” and that just isn’t so. I think it holds that someone who needs an insanely specific personality match has a better chance of finding it if they optimize for that one thing, but as stated too much by me I’m not sure we agree on how many people a person needs to have in the pool to find that.

          • Dacyn says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I should probably add that I later concluded that the proof I had come up with, based on Ockham’s razor, was mistaken.

            I would be interested to hear your reasoning here, both what was your original argument and why you decided it was a mistake.

          • If there’s good evidence that finding your spouse within your faith produces significantly, measurably worse marriages than finding your spouse from everybody, then this becomes a plausible effect.

            Put another way: Show me that a person restricting their possibilities to people in their own religion causes this bad effect, and I’ll have to take it into account.

            Your second version is closer to my position. But I don’t think the experiment is practical, since we don’t know whether someone who marries a fellow believer did so because of a limited search or because, among those that person encountered—likely to be weighted towards people with similar beliefs—that fellow believer was the best candidate.

            And I am not claiming that it would have that effect for everyone. As I already suggested, I think I was facing a harder than average problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many people for whom your view would be correct, people who could come almost as close to the ideal with the restricted search as without, and, given limited resources to spend searching, would find searching the space of co-religionists a sensible strategy.

            But the arguments I am responding to seem to be much stronger than that, that all or almost all believing Christians would be very unwise to consider non-members of their faith as possible partners.

            This phrasing seems to imply that a person marrying within their religion makes no demands of character and personality other than “be religious” and that just isn’t so.

            That would only apply to my random allocation scenario.

            My point was that the fact that someone is a co-religionist doesn’t add much to the fact that the person appears to have the personality characteristics you want. From that standpoint, putting aside Biblical bans and concerns with the salvation of offspring, I think restricting the search would be a clear mistake.

            A couple more points:

            1. I’m not sure how large a fraction of self-identified Christians any of you would count as co-religionists. Do they have to be Biblical literalists, or does a mainline Protestant qualify?

            2. A related point. My Christian womenfolk inform me that the bit quoted about not marrying an unbeliever is from Paul, not from anything Christ is recorded as saying. Does being a believing Christian, from your standpoint, require one to believe that everything Paul wrote was divinely inspired, and so has the same truth status as what Jesus said?

            And while on that subject … . The gospels themselves were not written by Jesus. Does being a believing Christian require one to believe that everything in the gospels is true, or is it sufficient to believe that Jesus lived, was the Christ, died for our sins, and other central doctrine? Can one view the gospels as a true story filtered through imperfect humans?

          • GearRatio says:

            Your second version is closer to my position. But I don’t think the experiment is practical, since we don’t know whether someone who marries a fellow believer did so because of a limited search or because, among those that person encountered—likely to be weighted towards people with similar beliefs—that fellow believer was the best candidate.

            And I am not claiming that it would have that effect for everyone. As I already suggested, I think I was facing a harder than average problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many people for whom your view would be correct, people who could come almost as close to the ideal with the restricted search as without, and, given limited resources to spend searching, would find searching the space of co-religionists a sensible strategy.

            But the arguments I am responding to seem to be much stronger than that, that all or almost all believing Christians would be very unwise to consider non-members of their faith as possible partners.

            This is something I’ve been struggling to articulate – to you, a biblical literalist seems to be a rare concept – this might not be true, but if I was a betting man, I’d lay down money you haven’t ever really been close to one, or at least not in a long time.

            So I think to some extent we’ve been having the two different conversations you mention above – you are asking questions I would expect you’d ask of somebody who doesn’t feel bound at all, or that bound, by what the Bible says. Thus the weird path the discussion has taken to get to “no, this is more serious than having a happy marriage, even though many people can attain both goals”.

            From that standpoint, putting aside Biblical bans and concerns with the salvation of offspring, I think restricting the search would be a clear mistake.

            Sure, granted. All things the same, a bigger net catches more fish.

            1. I’m not sure how large a fraction of self-identified Christians any of you would count as co-religionists. Do they have to be Biblical literalists, or does a mainline Protestant qualify?

            I’m not at all sure that a mainline protestant isn’t a biblical literalist, generally. The estimates I can easily find suggest that something like 30% of Americans in general think the bible is literally true.. The least forgiving number here is 27%.

            Looking here, the biggest, most forgiving number that could potentially describe Christians is 50% for people who are willing to say that “God is very important in their lives”. Taking the worst case of 27% as compared to 50%, that’s still over half of the “mainline”.

            I think this gets worse for literalists being rare the closer you look. Here in Arizona, I’ve been to dozens of churches over the years and nearly all have been literalists in what would seem to be to you a strict sense. The few that weren’t were less then literal on less crucial like LGBT issues or female clergy, not on things like deity of Christ or path to salvation stuff.

            As to your actual question, it gets tricky. The teaching I’ve generally accepted is that if someone accepts the deity of Christ and his oneness with God, blood sacrifice/atonement/forgiveness and has a workable framework for things like salvation through grace, that they are Christians. This seems simple enough.

            A problem that sometimes arises is that someone will say this, but in talking to them you will find out that their concept of God is so flexible that it’s hard to pin down whether you are worshipping the same guy. More on this in a moment.

            2. A related point. My Christian womenfolk inform me that the bit quoted about not marrying an unbeliever is from Paul, not from anything Christ is recorded as saying. Does being a believing Christian, from your standpoint, require one to believe that everything Paul wrote was divinely inspired, and so has the same truth status as what Jesus said?

            And while on that subject … . The gospels themselves were not written by Jesus. Does being a believing Christian require one to believe that everything in the gospels is true, or is it sufficient to believe that Jesus lived, was the Christ, died for our sins, and other central doctrine? Can one view the gospels as a true story filtered through imperfect humans?

            I just spent two hours writing a much longer thing that I think explains how I feel, but it’s not really appropriate for here. I can email it to you if you want, otherwise see the very condensed version below.

            I have some simple “can’t lose these” hard-line things that I believe are necessary to be a Christian in any meaningful way: Deity of Christ who is one with God, redemption through his blood, salvation available through the pathway of faith in Christ/God and the sacrifice he made.

            The question of where flexibility of interpretation of the text gets iffy for me is answerable in two parts:

            A. Where it attacks the previously mentioned things.

            B. When one’s flexibility is driven by outside pressures, and not a legitimate search for what God wants, in belief that what he wants is correct.

            B is important because at some point, you are selling bits of what you think God wants to the world so the world will accept you; you’ve declared that the world is more important than God, and you are making your choices for it, not him.

            The overall danger with a “well, I can ignore these parts, it’s a flawed book” stance is that if it’s not done with perfect, pure motivations you are going to end up cutting all the parts that are inconvenient for you and leaving all the parts you like.

            The way this ends up looking in a practical sense is that people who don’t like the biblical gender roles immediately ditch Paul. People who want to be viewed as intellectual immediately begin to believe in the entire old testament as a giant metaphor. People who don’t want to be viewed as judgmental throw away the “no way to the father but through me” bits.

            Obviously I’m a literalist; I think it’s all true and what’s in the book was put there, and that I should follow what it says. There’s some nuance and I don’t pretend to understand everything perfectly, but I don’t think that’s the book’s failing. This isn’t because it’s easy – if I were to write the rules, I’d write them much differently; but I don’t have to like them to think they are true, and once I think they are true, it doesn’t matter much if I like them.

            Putting that aside, though, I want to approach your question a little closer to how it was written.

            You basically asked: Can somebody believe the book is untrue in part or in whole and still be a Christian? Can we ignore everything not said by Jesus? Can we ignore everything we suspect wasn’t actually said by Jesus?

            I can only answer by saying this: If I wasn’t a literalist, I wouldn’t be a Christian at all. Once you’ve decided it’s flawed book distorted by man, there’s no way to know what parts of it are true or aren’t. You are now writing your own religion from the parts of the old religion you like, removing the parts you don’t; your faith is now a Jefferson Bible.

            For me this has no value; I follow the religion because I think it’s true. If its untrue to the point where I can change it around to fit my tastes, I might as well just drop the whole thing and do what I want; it has no more value or obligation attached to it than Mills.

            Were I still a dating man, my rule of thumb would be something like this: Disagreements are possible in terms of interpretation of the text; I can’t be right on everything. But if someone goes the “well, this is a flawed, distorted book”, my assumption about them is going to be that there’s no part of it they wouldn’t cut if it were sufficiently troublesome to them. It’s either all true and what God wants, or it’s completely modular; since there’s no way to establish a reasonable standard to determine what parts are true or false at that point, what remains is only what the reader is comfortable with. That’s not a religion of any sort anymore.

          • a biblical literalist seems to be a rare concept – this might not be true, but if I was a betting man, I’d lay down money you haven’t ever really been close to one, or at least not in a long time.

            Probably correct. One of my SCA friends long ago was a fundamentalist, I presume biblical literalist. And one of the people I know at my wife’s church, a West Indian, may well be. But probably nobody I’ve been closer to than that, at least so far as I know.

            On the other hand, a number of my friends are seriously believing Christians, as are some of my favorite authors. There is a considerable range of Christian beliefs outside of literalism which are consistent with believing in Heaven the way you believe in Australia, as well as others that are not.

            The estimates I can easily find suggest that something like 30% of Americans in general think the bible is literally true.

            That presumably includes a lot of Mormons and Orthodox Jews, as well as some other groups you would not count as co-religionists.

            I think there is a problem with your argument for literalism—you are implicitly assuming that you know, in some detail, God’s plan. It’s true that your approach avoids the risk of accepting false views because doing so is convenient. But it also rejects the opportunity to use the mind God gave you to feel your way to truth in a context where doing so is not easy. How sure can you be that the experience of figuring out which things to believe, while resisting the temptation to believe whatever is convenient, isn’t part of God’s plan for you, a part you are rejecting?

            I’m thinking in part of what I know about Jewish law. According to Torah, if your son is disobedient you are to take him to the authorities to be stoned to death. According to, as best I can tell, most of the leading authorities, on other evidence deeply religious believers, the implicit requirements for that to happen are so severe that they have never been fulfilled.

            This raises the obvious puzzle of why God would make a rule to which all real world cases were exceptions. The answer, as best I can tell, is that it was a way of teaching us things, although I can’t give a clear explanation beyond that. At one point, when I raised on my blog the question of Jewish law apparently violating, in many ways, the plain language of the Torah, the response I got from one reader was “The most perfect one who made the laws also made the loopholes.”

            To put the point differently, are you not yourself guilty of choosing an interpretation of the Bible because it is convenient? It’s convenient not in letting you conform to secular values that are contradicted by the bible but in giving you an easy way of avoiding the temptation to do so—the reason you just offered for your literalism.

          • GearRatio says:

            Note for the gallery: I’m pretty deep in the weeds with David here, and I trust him to be forgiving to a certain extent. I’m betting a lot of this will look monstrous to someone who’s just stumbling on it now, so my apologies are in order.

            I think there is a problem with your argument for literalism—you are implicitly assuming that you know, in some detail, God’s plan.

            Well, yeah. This honestly shouldn’t be surprising to you, especially in the context of this conversation. A non-literalist does this too; so does a person who believes all paths lead to heaven. They have an image of God, it behaves in a certain way (even if that way is “all ways”).

            A person who believes in a really flexible God can be asked the same question – what if he’s a distinct thing? How could you know? Isn’t telling people he’s really flexible leading people to hell if he isn’t?

            Barring God coming down and tapping me on the shoulder and carefully explaining in a way that eliminates the possibility of faith, this implicit problem would keep me from believing anything at all – after all, there’s no way to be sure.

            It’s true that your approach avoids the risk of accepting false views because doing so is convenient. But it also rejects the opportunity to use the mind God gave you to feel your way to truth in a context where doing so is not easy.

            There’s several things that need to be addressed to talk about this:

            1. Biblical literalism isn’t without internal flexibility. There is a concept of freedom throughout the new testament; it’s freedom within guidelines, but it has a certain utilitarian flexibility on many points. Take Jesus saying “love your neighbor as yourself” or Paul saying “everything is permissable, but not everything is profitable”. Those are verses that encourage a certain amount of improvisation – feeling your way to a right thing, as it were.

            With that being said, there are also limitations in this freedom; it’s not as simple as “jump in the pool and figure it out”. There are still things that are bad that you shouldn’t do. But it’s not as simple as “open the book and mindlessly follow it’s instructions”.

            How sure can you be that the experience of figuring out which things to believe, while resisting the temptation to believe whatever is convenient, isn’t part of God’s plan for you, a part you are rejecting?

            This is an odd phrasing that, read a certain way actually encompasses what I’ve been describing that I actually do.

            But reading it the way I think you meant it, it still runs into the same problem that I mentioned that would make me just stop being a Christian. It sets up a system with no controls at all; the Bible is inaccurate, and there’s no part of it that can be proven true with video evidence or anything like that.

            To do what you said, I have to make this statement:

            “The Bible is wrong and inaccurate. Only the parts I decide are right are the ones that are right; things I decide should be removed should be, and things I decide should be added should be”.

            Which is functionally identical to:

            “I write my own religion”

            If I can decide what’s good and bad about the religion, I’m declaring myself greater than it. God doesn’t decide who he is; I do. Truth and virtue and sin don’t exist except as I define them. The religion of Christianity is at this point extraneous; it’s serving no purpose except as a time-saver.

            Of course one could set arbitrary stopping points on this path; they could go “well, all the words of Jesus are accurate.”. But why? The same rationale that rendered other parts of the Bible inaccurate surely work here as well; if God is powerless to determine what ends up in the Bible, why would he be powerful enough to keep intervening centuries from distorting the words in red?

            This isn’t an argument where I’m trying to get you to accept literalism as truth, although I admit the distinctions are hard to see. But I am trying to get at a distinct point, something like this:

            I might be wrong on the Bible, and it might be meant to be taken however I want. But if I am wrong, there’s no value to the Bible at all in the first place; It’s either true and holds the power to demand changes, or it’s untrue and does what I say. If it does what I say, I don’t need it in the first place – I can do whatever I want or believe whatever I want all by myself.

            I’m thinking in part of what I know about Jewish law. According to Torah, if your son is disobedient you are to take him to the authorities to be stoned to death. According to, as best I can tell, most of the leading authorities, on other evidence deeply religious believers, the implicit requirements for that to happen are so severe that they have never been fulfilled.

            This raises the obvious puzzle of why God would make a rule to which all real world cases were exceptions. The answer, as best I can tell, is that it was a way of teaching us things, although I can’t give a clear explanation beyond that. At one point, when I raised on my blog the question of Jewish law apparently violating, in many ways, the plain language of the Torah, the response I got from one reader was “The most perfect one who made the laws also made the loopholes.”

            Rabbinical law of this “we need 23 guys to make the stoning decision” type is extra-biblical; it’s also is somewhat invalidated for the new testament believer. It’s not that this isn’t an interesting point or something to consider, but it’s not part of my religion so I’m not comfortable pretending I can comment intelligently on it.

            To put the point differently, are you not yourself guilty of choosing an interpretation of the Bible because it is convenient? It’s convenient not in letting you conform to secular values that are contradicted by the bible but in giving you an easy way of avoiding the temptation to do so—the reason you just offered for your literalism.

            Here I’d disagree with you – I chose this because I think it’s true. It would be MUCH easier for me to be woke on the parts of the Bible that aren’t convenient right now.

            As an example, I worked in specialty retail with a gay dude we will refer to as C. I was spending 20-40 hours a week with the guy for 3 years. He’s a nice guy. We get along. Very occasionally a conversation would appear, usually prompted by him, that would involve the idea that a literal read of the Bible involves homosexuality being sinful. I’m a literalist. C, my friend, would then decide I was a hateful bigot for a period between a week and a month. This would hurt our relationship, which I valued/value.

            If I was in a more flexible theology, there’s no problem here for me; I can just dump those parts as artifacts of a social environment that no longer exists, and Paul in general as a guy who had some good advice but shouldn’t be listened to where he makes your life difficult.

            I want to do this! I do! You don’t think I want to be liked? You think a guy who spends damn near 100% of his potential on conversation so he can make people feel comfortable and at ease wants to have a part where he thinks big parts of people’s lives and persons that don’t affect him in any direct way are sinful, so they can then decide he’s just harboring hatred for the other in his heart?

            This would be far, far easier for me and far more in line with my in-person personality. But once I decide Paul can be ignored, I can then ignore half the New Testament just by ignoring him; once God wasn’t strong enough to put the stuff in the Bible he wanted there, he then isn’t strong enough to have kept the words of Jesus accurate. And then I’m left with a nice book that has absolutely no power or objective truth to offer, and this is valueless; I could just read Tolkien.

            I’m sorry it’s taking me so many words to say these things; they aren’t something I articulate very often.

            Ultra-compressed version:

            Any power or authority the Bible offers is only offered if it’s true; once it’s not true, any value/command/guidance/truth in the Bible is fungible, either one-at-a-time or all-at-once. Once there’s not truth to be found in the book, there’s no reason to go to it for anything at all – I might as well save time and cut it out of the process altogether.

          • Which is functionally identical to:

            “I write my own religion”

            To see why that’s mistaken, try applying it in a context other than the Bible. I am interested in the issue of climate change. I could take the position “I believe whatever authority X (the IPCC, the NYT) tells me.” That would sharply reduce the degree to which I was free to believe what I wanted.

            Instead, I try to use my own knowledge and reasoning ability to evaluate the evidence, concluding that much of what the IPCC says is correct but there is evidence of bias (they pretty consistently predict high), that large parts of what reputable sources claim are not true, that climate is warming, that the cause is probably humans, but that there is little reason to predict large net negative effects. I am free to evaluate the evidence but I am not free to reject convincing evidence or make arguments that depend on two plus two equaling three.

            I expect there are lots of non-religious contexts where you do the same. There has been some discussion of diet here recently. I would like to believe that I can eat all the ice cream, home made bread (there is a cut loaf sitting in the kitchen at this very moment), English toffee, and lots of other things that I want without gaining weight or having other adverse consequences. Presumably you would too, with a suitably adjusted list. But it’s clear that it isn’t true, so I use my reason to determine, as best I can, who and what to believe and hence what to do.

            You are assuming that somehow, in the case of trying to understand what the Bible teaches, there is nothing between your literalism and believing whatever is convenient to believe. The equivalent isn’t the case anywhere else in our lives, so why should it be there? Obviously there is some temptation, in both the religious and secular contexts, to believe what it is convenient to believe, but that isn’t all that there is. There is, as I like to say in other contexts, a real world out there, and believing whatever you want to believe frequently comes in conflict with it.

            At a considerable tangent, based on one of the things you said … . As you read the Bible, is homosexuality sinful in the same way as non-marital sexuality in general, or is it a different, special, and much more serious offense?

            Also, and related to that, how does the Old Testament play into your literalism? If one of your sons is disobedient, …

          • GearRatio says:

            “I write my own religion”

            To see why that’s mistaken, try applying it in a context other than the Bible. I am interested in the issue of climate change. I could take the position “I believe whatever authority X (the IPCC, the NYT) tells me.” That would sharply reduce the degree to which I was free to believe what I wanted.

            Instead, I try to use my own knowledge and reasoning ability to evaluate the evidence, concluding that much of what the IPCC says is correct but there is evidence of bias (they pretty consistently predict high), that large parts of what reputable sources claim are not true, that climate is warming, that the cause is probably humans, but that there is little reason to predict large net negative effects. I am free to evaluate the evidence but I am not free to reject convincing evidence or make arguments that depend on two plus two equaling three.

            I expect there are lots of non-religious contexts where you do the same. There has been some discussion of diet here recently. I would like to believe that I can eat all the ice cream, home made bread (there is a cut loaf sitting in the kitchen at this very moment), English toffee, and lots of other things that I want without gaining weight or having other adverse consequences. Presumably you would too, with a suitably adjusted list. But it’s clear that it isn’t true, so I use my reason to determine, as best I can, who and what to believe and hence what to do.

            You are assuming that somehow, in the case of trying to understand what the Bible teaches, there is nothing between your literalism and believing whatever is convenient to believe. The equivalent isn’t the case anywhere else in our lives, so why should it be there? Obviously there is some temptation, in both the religious and secular contexts, to believe what it is convenient to believe, but that isn’t all that there is. There is, as I like to say in other contexts, a real world out there, and believing whatever you want to believe frequently comes in conflict with it.

            There’s a big difference here that I think you are missing. The NYT isn’t treated as omniscient, all-powerful and the rightful owner of the universe. Neither is the IPCC or diet experts; they are considered to be fallible.

            Because of this inherent fallibility, we assess them as we assess fallible sources – we take little bits and pieces we like (or think are truer, or make more sense, or tickle our bias); if we think they are especially good sources of information we take big chunks, or cede our opinions to them whole-cloth until they prove themselves unreliable.

            Let’s say you found the NYT to be supreme among newspapers; you found you agreed with nearly everything it said. That’s fine, but I doubt if they showed up at your house and simply commanded you to stop eating your favorite food forever that you’d simply accept it without question and never touch that food again (or at least feel you were committing a sin or crime when you did touch it).

            This is some of the effect we touch on when climate-change hostile people accuse the climate change movement of being a religion; they are saying there’s a group of people who accept the teachings of the movement wholecloth, without question and without skepticism.

            I consider God to be what I mentioned above – all-powerful, omniscient, the creator and the rightful owner of all. Thus I cede my will to him (not perfectly, I suck). I don’t do this because I’ve carefully assessed the scriptures and found they didn’t disagree with me to a point where I find them unreliable – I do it because I think there’s a God and he’s better/faster/smarter than me, and has rights over me. He’s my religion, and he has power over me.

            So I say something like this, believing God to be a higher source of information than things like a good newspaper:

            I believe there’s a God, and he’s omnipotent, omniscient and honest. Respective to those characteristics, I’d expect his book to be what he wants it to be, for it to be as correct as he wants it to be, and for him to want it to be correct. He commands certain behaviors and asserts various things are true; given the quality of the source, I accept these.

            Contrast this to if I thought God didn’t exist in a real sense:

            God does not exist in any substantial way. This is a nice book, but there’s no reason why it should have authority any greater on me than, say, a good philosopher might.

            Or if God isn’t omniscient at a “always right when I’m wrong” level:

            God is fallible. If he holds a view that I’m pretty dead sure is wrong, he’s wrong and I’m right. I can be convinced by a sufficient level of outside pressure to abandon certain views.

            Or if God isn’t omnipotent enough to control his book:

            This might be what God wanted to say, or it might be what a corrupt dude wanted to say to make people give him more grain or something. There’s no way to know if any part of the book has been distorted or not, so there’s no way to know if God is even who the book says he is and worth following, much less to know if he’s commanded me to do anything.

            When I talk about the “parts I like”, I’m clumbsily referring to scenarios like the above. Only the first actually can make demands of me; the rest I’m following at my convenience, based on how much I like it, how easy it is to follow, or my assessment of the relative strength of the claims of people who oppose it.

            That’s fine if it’s the NYT, but it’s a little wanting in a religion; at that point, as I’ve said, I might as well just ditch Christianity so I can draw my beliefs and shape my behavior from a greater amount of sources.

            This is me saying why I think reliability is important. I think the whole thing falls apart without it, not just because of the beliefs the person ends up selecting but because of why they selected them.

            I am incapable of steelmanning a non-literalist well. I’m being as polite as I can here when I’m talking about them and failing; I don’t have much respect for the belief, and I my personal experiences with non-literalists reinforce my general opinion of them as wishy-washy good feels guys. Because of this, I’d feel a lot better if you found a good non-literalist mind and used it to balance me here; ask them how they set their standards for what parts of the Bible to believe and what parts are safe to ignore, how they can know Paul is distorted/unimportant but John isn’t, etc.

            At a considerable tangent, based on one of the things you said … . As you read the Bible, is homosexuality sinful in the same way as non-marital sexuality in general, or is it a different, special, and much more serious offense?

            It’s about the same as lying or any other offense. The practical worldly effects of the two vary, obviously (I’d be more likely to hurt someone with lying than with lying with a consenting man). It’s not my main area of interest, but it’s not especially bad in any way that I can tell.

            Also, and related to that, how does the Old Testament play into your literalism? If one of your sons is disobedient, …

            This is an old/new covenant thing. The old covenant was between God and the Jewish people; it expired and was replaced by the new covenant. There’s some minor disagreement about this, but not a ton; it’s a different set of rules for post-crucifixion Christians than the Jewish people had to follow before that. It’s also why I can eat pork or get my skin branded with a hot-iron if I want.

          • I consider God to be what I mentioned above – all-powerful, omniscient, the creator and the rightful owner of all. Thus I cede my will to him (not perfectly, I suck).

            That requires you to know what His will is.

            There are lots of things you observe that don’t fit the assumption that God is a benevolent actor acting in ways that all make sense to you–that’s the problem of evil. Yet you assume that, in the case of the Bible, he is not merely benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, he is choosing that one out of the possible approaches to spreading salvation that happens to make it easy for you to figure out what you believe.

            God wants everyone to be saved. The obvious approach would be to provide lots of easily observed miracles to persuade people. He doesn’t do that, presumably for less obvious reasons.

            So how do you know that his approach involved divine control over everything written down about Jesus and his teachings that made it into the gospels, in order to make sure there were no mistakes, rather than sending down his son to do what needed doing and letting human beings observe, listen, attempt to understand, in the imperfect ways in which humans do those things?

            Rather as he seems to act at present.

          • GearRatio says:

            I consider God to be what I mentioned above – all-powerful, omniscient, the creator and the rightful owner of all. Thus I cede my will to him (not perfectly, I suck).

            That requires you to know what His will is.

            Well, yes. This is part of my overall argument – that some assumption of biblical reliability is necessary for his will to be knowable at all; otherwise, I’m trying to determine what’s true and false in a book where no part has any substantially greater proofs of reliability than any other part. Once that happens, I’m manufacturing his will based on my own wisdom instead of following a distinct will that exists independent of me. Since I can do that myself without the religion or the book at all, there’s no value added from the Bible at that point.

            There are lots of things you observe that don’t fit the assumption that God is a benevolent actor acting in ways that all make sense to you–that’s the problem of evil.

            God wants everyone to be saved. The obvious approach would be to provide lots of easily observed miracles to persuade people. He doesn’t do that, presumably for less obvious reasons.

            I lumped these two together because, in part, they both make arguments traditionally used for “Your God or God in general doesn’t exist, he doesn’t make sense” arguments. For instance, on the first we’d likely rabbit-trail off on to free will defense vs. problem of evil, and on the second we would go into having faith as opposed to having had something proved to you being the mechanism of salvation in this religion.

            Those are both arguments that can be had, but they are distinctly “This version of God we are both for the sake of this argument taking as a given makes sense/doesn’t make sense” arguments, which is a much longer argument that doesn’t do much to solve what we are talking about.

            Yet you assume that, in the case of the Bible, he is not merely benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, he is choosing that one out of the possible approaches to spreading salvation that happens to make it easy for you to figure out what you believe.

            Not “easy to figure out what I believe” but instead “possible, at all, to figure out what he wants me to believe”.

            As above, the argument we’ve been having isn’t “Is this version of God correct, and should David believe it?”. I’m not trying to convert you here.

            So how do you know that his approach involved divine control over everything written down about Jesus and his teachings that made it into the gospels, in order to make sure there were no mistakes, rather than sending down his son to do what needed doing and letting human beings observe, listen, attempt to understand, in the imperfect ways in which humans do those things?

            This neatly skips over my entire argument. If I don’t believe the first (that the book is reliable) then I necessarily don’t know the second (that Jesus came at all, or that he came as deity, or that he died for sins, or that “what needed doing” actually needed it).

            The third is something like “well, taking as a given that the bible is unreliable, it’s possible that God just wants you to figure out your own morality and muddle through”. Sure, why not? But in the absence of a reliable text, it’s equally likely he wants me to find salvation through flyfish-tying, or buying shoes.

            The arguable proof of this is you inventing an entire theological concept on the fly and saying “in the absence of a reliable text, this is as probable as anything else”. This is true, but it’s also a restatement of my entire argument: In the absence of a reliable text, we are all writing our own religion on the fly. Christianity is at that point literally anything that literally anyone wants it to be.

          • PedroS says:

            @GearRatio The Catholic Church solves your conundrum ( “if I don’t take the whole text as flawless, how do I pick any of it as correct? “) through appeal to tradition: the Bible was not (like the Qu’ran purportedly was) given by God, but selected from among a great number of texts due to its agreement with the contents of the faith, as determined by the divinely assisted successors of the apostles. The content of the faith is prior to the text. Of course this brings up a whole new can of worms…

          • GearRatio says:

            @GearRatio The Catholic Church solves your conundrum ( “if I don’t take the whole text as flawless, how do I pick any of it as correct? “) through appeal to tradition: the Bible was not (like the Qu’ran purportedly was) given by God, but selected from among a great number of texts due to its agreement with the contents of the faith, as determined by the divinely assisted successors of the apostles. The content of the faith is prior to the text. Of course this brings up a whole new can of worms…

            I’m not sure if my conundrum is affected by this, but I might be misunderstanding things. I’m not at all expert on this, but it looks like at least until recently Catholics considered the books to be inerrant for nearly the same reasons I do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @GearRatio:

            FWIW, I think, doctrinally speaking, you have the right of it from the perspective of the logical implications of accepting that God allows infinite punishment for those who he has brought into existence. If God does that, he better have a clear roadmap to preventing it. Your interlocutor is simply refuses to acknowledge the point you are making in favor of arguing against something different.

            However, I think you are probably engaging in a huge amount of rationalization if you think that you can know which of the multitude of Bibles proffered is the one you should regard as the inerrant word of God. I think the Catholic position on this may best be summed up in the Eucharistic Acclamation Mysterium Fidei or “Mystery of Faith”. There isn’t logical justification for your faith, but nonetheless you have faith.

            Although, interestingly the words Mysterium Fidei were actually added to the Bible by the church around 500 CE.

          • I wrote:

            Yet you assume that, in the case of the Bible, he is not merely benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, he is choosing that one out of the possible approaches to spreading salvation that happens to make it easy for you to figure out what you believe.

            Gear replied:

            Not “easy to figure out what I believe” but instead “possible, at all, to figure out what he wants me to believe”.

            Is it similarly impossible for you to figure out whether a diet of candy and ice cream is good for you without having some single source of information that you know to be perfectly reliable? You seem to be ignoring that line of argument from my comment.

            Given the starting point of belief in Jesus, why does it make more sense to assume that everything written that made it into the accepted set of gospels is true than to assume that everything Jesus said is true and everything he is reported as saying by multiple sources is sufficiently likely to be true so that you should accept it as truth?

            My point about the problem of evil was not that it shows God doesn’t exist (or isn’t benevolent and omnipotent) but that it shows that if he does exist and is benevolent and omnipotent, we can’t be expected to know with confidence what he is doing and why. Yet you are basing your position on your certainty that he conveyed his message in one particular way, by controlling what got into the standard compilation of the gospels to make sure that every word spoken by any of the authors was true.

          • @PedroS:

            At only a slight tangent …

            From the Muslim point of view, the Christian gospels are hadith, accounts of the acts and words of Jesus and his followers. Muslims face the same problem in verifying their hadith, accounts of the acts and words of Mohammed and his followers, that Christians face in deciding what in the gospels to believe.

            The standard Muslim solution is that a hadith is known to be true if reported separately through three lines of reliable transmitters. Roughly what I have just suggested a Christian could do for deciding what reports of the words and acts of Jesus he can be confident are true.

          • GearRatio says:

            Edit: Unreadable due to formatting. Will fix.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            I think the Catholic position on this may best be summed up in the Eucharistic Acclamation Mysterium Fidei or “Mystery of Faith”. There isn’t logical justification for your faith, but nonetheless you have faith.

            (a) That’s not what “mysterium fidei” actually means.
            (b) Fideism was anathematised by the First Vatican Council, so I think we can be pretty confident that your interpretation of the phrase doesn’t actually represent the Catholic position.

            @ David Friedman:

            Given the starting point of belief in Jesus, why does it make more sense to assume that everything written that made it into the accepted set of gospels is true than to assume that everything Jesus said is true and everything he is reported as saying by multiple sources is sufficiently likely to be true so that you should accept it as truth?

            Given the starting point of belief in Jesus (assuming that by that you mean “belief that Jesus is the Son of God like Christianity claims”), I think it makes sense to assume that he could ensure that no falsehoods got included in the Gospels. God is pretty powerful, or so I hear.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            a) Given that my birth postdates Vatican 2, let alone Vatican 1, and I attended Catholic church most Sundays growing up and heard the Priest sing, at every single mass, “And now we proclaim, the mystery of faith … Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”, I’m going to guess that it doesn’t matter whether or not they anathematized it.

            b) Given that I linked to an article published by the Oregon Catholic Press written in 2018, which says in part:

            And so, based on a number of ancient prayer forms, the Church now allows for a large number of Eucharistic Prayers.

            [The words] remind us of the central truth that at its heart, the Mass is a great mystery of faith

            Another quote that usually appears somewhere in the Eucharist as I remember it is:

            … faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

            I’m thinking you might be completely incorrect.

          • Given the starting point of belief in Jesus (assuming that by that you mean “belief that Jesus is the Son of God like Christianity claims”), I think it makes sense to assume that he could ensure that no falsehoods got included in the Gospels. God is pretty powerful, or so I hear.

            Of course He could. Similarly God could ensure that bad things never happened to good people and that the wicked never flourished.

            But He doesn’t, and believers have found explanation they consider plausible for why he doesn’t. Similarly here.

          • GearRatio says:

            Gear replied:

            Not “easy to figure out what I believe” but instead “possible, at all, to figure out what he wants me to believe”.

            Is it similarly impossible for you to figure out whether a diet of candy and ice cream is good for you without having some single source of information that you know to be perfectly reliable? You seem to be ignoring that line of argument from my comment.

            Let me address it clearly: what you describe is apples and oranges from what we are discussing.
            Issues of diet are knowable and are available to experiment on. If we take a guy and feed him entirely on candy and ice cream, we can observe that he gets fatter. We can test multiple guys. We can test multiple guys in multiple ways. Most importantly, if we don’t trust one source on the subject of the study (say the original authority on the “sugar makes you fat” bit is later heavily discredited) we can do the study again. We can do it at ten universities. We aren’t limited to a single source of information, and if a single source of information is discredited we can just go find another better source.

            Now imagine if we were, by some magic, only able to do the study once. We had to pick a single test subject and a single researcher. If that researcher was later shown to have lax methods that produced unreliable results, the issue of whether sugar made you fat or not would then be forever unknowable. We could make guesses and have opinions on the subject, but that’s all it would be once our sole source of information was discredited.

            The Bible is in the second category. I can’t make trips to heaven to make sure it’s there and report back; I can’t see God through a telescope. I can’t go back in time and double-check to see if Jesus really said this or that. If we consider the bible reliable, we know a lot about God, Jesus and what they want. We have an objective standard we measure ourselves against to see if we need adjustment. If we believe it’s unreliable, we simply don’t; we guess based on what makes sense to us. If what makes sense to us changes, God changes; what God wants changes. We have a subjective standard we measure against other things to see if it fits, and if it doesn’t, we may feel free to change it.

            Given the starting point of belief in Jesus

            Full stop. If the text is unreliable, we don’t have this starting point – the stuff we know about Jesus is exactly as vulnerable to distortion as the rest of it, and I can decide anything about him is exactly as untrue or appropriate to disregard as Paul’s advice.

            Let’s use an example: You mentioned non-literalist Christians who believed that heaven wasn’t a real place in the way Australia was. Jesus, while being crucified, says this to the man on the cross next to him: “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”. So the people you’ve referenced are either of the opinion that this quote is not real, that Jesus was lying, or that Jesus was using a thickly-veiled metaphor.

            If the quote isn’t real, then no quote from Jesus is reliable – they all have about the same verifiability; nobody living was there, there’s no video evidence. All we have are these accounts.

            If the quote is a lie, so then can be everything Jesus said; if he’s a liar, we are picking and choosing the things he said that we believe are the truth, if any.

            If something “I’m telling you honestly, you are going to heaven” said to a man who was going to die in agony within the next few hours is a thickly veiled metaphor, so then could be anything he said; it’s all up to interpretation.

            If the text is unreliable, any concept we might have of Jesus is no more safe or objective a standard than any other part.

            why does it make more sense to assume that everything written that made it into the accepted set of gospels is true than to assume that everything Jesus said is true and everything he is reported as saying by multiple sources is sufficiently likely to be true so that you should accept it as truth?

            There’s a concept some biblical researchers believe in called “Q source”. The Q source is a text that is proposed to exist to explain how sometimes gospels have the same stories, the idea being that there is a now-lost book of Jesus quotes that multiple gospels are drawn from that contains those stories. Gospels containing both stories would simply have been written by guys who had read Q and restated them. Proponents of Q do not consider the possibility that both guys were there and were witnesses to the same thing likely.

            So take Bob, a hypothetical non-literalist. bob was convinced that the bible is unreliable, written by unreliable men, is now subject to the distortion of twenty centuries and that God did not inspire or control it’s contents. However, Bob has settled on the position that if two of the gospels agree on the words of Jesus, that he probably said them and he can rely on those. He can reject everything else, but those are solid.

            One day Bob meets and explains his theology to a person who is aware of Q Source. The person says “Well, multiple gospels saying the same thing is no defense – after all, they might have simply read a single source and duplicated it’s words”.

            Bob has only this single standard of reliability left. Once it’s gone – and the concept of Q defeats it neatly, since Q is an unfalsifiable plausible explanation for the agreement between gospels – he has nothing left as a standard besides either believing in none of it, or picking and choosing as he likes from what he likes.

            My point about the problem of evil was not that it shows God doesn’t exist (or isn’t benevolent and omnipotent) but that it shows that if he does exist and is benevolent and omnipotent, we can’t be expected to know with confidence what he is doing and why.

            This makes the assumption that the problem of evil has defeated all philosophical defenses of it, that it’s a settled issue that renders God an irrational concept. That’s simply not so; it’s about as “settled” as the trolley problem.

            But let’s ignore that and go to the second part: that we can’t be expected to know with confidence what he’s doing and why. This is absolutely true in the absence of a reliable text, and untrue in the presence of a reliable text.

            If the text is reliable, I have a pretty clear idea of what he’s doing as it relates to me and why he’s doing it – those are both in the text! If the text is unreliable, you are completely right that I have no idea what he’s up to or why. This is my entire argument in the first place!

            I’ve been fielding questions under the premise of the question you asked, essentially “Do non-literalists think similarly enough to you to be considered believers by your standards?”.

            The answer to those questions is naturally observing the differences between the two – I.E. that people who think that the Bible is objectively true have an objective standard by which to measure themselves and guide themselves, and that people who do not believe it’s not objectively true have a subjective standard, one which can be changed.

            Bringing in the problem of evil here and saying something equivalent to “well, since this philosophical thought problem if taken as true and a given renders the concept of your God irrational from the get-go, isn’t any concept of your now-by-default internally inconsistent God silly to hang your hat on?” changes the discussion considerably.

            I’m not going to accept a goalpost change that moves me from “Explain why you don’t consider non-literalist Christians to have equivalent beliefs” to “Defeat all philosophical arguments that are meant to show that God can’t exist in the first place, and then I’ll allow you to argue that a a belief that the bible is an objective book taken as true creates functionally different beliefs than a belief that the Bible is an unreliable, subjective book that can be edited based on parameters set by the reader”.

            This is functionally equivalent you trying to convince me of a need for global-warming preventative action, and me saying “Well, I’m a dream skepticist; your whole argument that we need to sequester carbon is pretty silly considering you, the world, and global warming itself are all illusions. Disprove my dream skepticism first or any point you make is null”.

            If you tire of the conversation you don’t have to answer these, but if we are going to continue I’d like you to take a stab at these questions:

            1. If the Bible is written by unreliable people and filtered through 20 centuries of distorted history and not preserved in the form God wants by divine intervention, in what way are the words of Jesus, his deity, resurrection or any part of it at all especially protected in a way other parts we abandon as distorted or written by unreliable authors aren’t?

            2. If a person doesn’t believe that the words of the Bible are objectively true, but instead intended to be subjectively understood due to inaccuracies and unreliability as above, what is to keep sufficient outside pressure from changing their beliefs to exclude anything the outside pressure doesn’t like?

            These are important questions to me; if there’s a coherent standard that says “Well, there is a black line I don’t cross somewhere on what can and can’t be reliable, and I’ve drawn it for logical reason X”, then that’s good. Depending on what that standard is, it might convince me their faith in the vital points of who God is/what salvation is/how you get it/what God wants is solid in a way their faith in the parts of the bible they’ve already abandoned isn’t.

            But if there isn’t some hard stop somewhere, then I’m dealing with a person who, even if they include the death/resurrection/deity stuff, does so only as long as those views don’t become as unacceptable to them because of changing tastes or outside pressure as Paul (or whatever part) did.

          • This makes the assumption that the problem of evil has defeated all philosophical defenses of it, that it’s a settled issue that renders God an irrational concept

            That’s not my point. It is that God’s actions are not fully and simply explicable by humans. You, if I correctly understand you, are arguing that you can figure out, with confidence, what God would have done to bring his word to man–arranged to produce a scripture every word of which was true, including Paul’s letters and lots of other things not coming directly from Jesus. I don’t see how that argument is more persuasive than, or even as persuasive as, the argument saying that God would arrange for things to go right for the virtuous and wrong for the sinful–except for the fact that we know that conclusion is false, at least in this world.

            For the rest of your argument, I think you are failing to distinguish between “we cannot know things with certainty” and “we cannot have reasonable grounds for belief.”

            I agree that someone following my suggested tactic for determining Jesus’ words would not know them with certainty. We know few things, perhaps nothing, with certainty. But he could look at the evidence, textual and historical, and might conclude that the gospels provide a reasonably accurate account of what Jesus said, without concluding that everything Paul or one of the disciples said was divinely inspired.

            Going back to the question of diet … . Ordinary people don’t run controlled experiments with large sample sizes to form their opinions, and they cannot easily determine with certainty what purported experts to trust. But they can conclude, with reasonable confidence, that a diet of candy and ice cream isn’t good for them.

            Taking it to religion … . You can’t read God’s mind, but you can observe the world and see if it fits what your reading of the religion implies. As I have mentioned here before, my younger son, who has historical interests, argues that the very well documented life of Joan of Arc is difficult or impossible to explain on a non-supernatural basis. Religious people may find that what they read in the Bible or are told by clergy fits their experience of life. It would be surprising if a world where Christianity was true and one where it was false looked identical at the material level.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            a) Given that my birth postdates Vatican 2, let alone Vatican 1, and I attended Catholic church most Sundays growing up and heard the Priest sing, at every single mass, “And now we proclaim, the mystery of faith … Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”, I’m going to guess that it doesn’t matter whether or not they anathematized it.

            Red herring. I never said that the phrase “Mysterium fidei” was never used, just that it didn’t mean what you said it means (i.e., that “there isn’t logical justification for your faith, but nonetheless you have faith”).

            I’m thinking you might be completely incorrect.

            First Vatican Council, Session 3, Canon 2: “If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”

            Cf. idem, Chapter 3: “Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God’s will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all. Hence Moses and the prophets, and especially Christ our lord himself, worked many absolutely clear miracles and delivered prophecies; while of the apostles we read: And they went forth and preached every, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Again it is written: We have the prophetic word made more sure; you will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s not my point. It is that God’s actions are not fully and simply explicable by humans. You, if I correctly understand you, are arguing that you can figure out, with confidence, what God would have done to bring his word to man–arranged to produce a scripture every word of which was true, including Paul’s letters and lots of other things not coming directly from Jesus. I don’t see how that argument is more persuasive than, or even as persuasive as, the argument saying that God would arrange for things to go right for the virtuous and wrong for the sinful–except for the fact that we know that conclusion is false, at least in this world.

            Well for one thing, God is on the record as explicitly denying the latter (Luke 13.1-15): “At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            Red herring. I never said that the phrase “Mysterium fidei” was never used, just that it didn’t mean what you said it means

            If that was all you meant, you wouldn’t have brought up anathematization.

            If you simply want to take issue with the my expression that faith can’t be logically justified, then throw the word “completely” in there. Logical argument can only take you so far, the rest you have to take on faith.

            @GearRatio:
            Which Bible, though?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If that was all you meant, you wouldn’t have brought up anathematization.

            I’m surprised I have to point this out, but if you make a claim about the meaning of a set of words in the Catholic liturgy (“Mysterium fidei”), it is certainly relevant to point out that the position you take them as expressing was explicitly rejected by the Catholic Church one and a half centuries ago.

            On the other hand, “heard the Priest sing, at every single mass, “And now we proclaim, the mystery of faith … Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”” is irrelevant, because the dispute isn’t over whether or not these words are said, but over what meaning they express.

            If you simply want to take issue with the my expression that faith can’t be logically justified, then throw the word “completely” in there. Logical argument can only take you so far, the rest you have to take on faith.

            Read the documents I quoted again. The whole point is that “logically justified” vs. “taken on faith” is a false dichotomy, because we are logically justified in taking certain things on faith.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            Look, I’m not a believer anymore, so … whatever.

            But, much like the Trinity, I think you are missing the idea that it can be both:

            Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to “yield by faith the full submission of. . . intellect and will to God who reveals”,and to share in an interior communion with him.

          • GearRatio says:

            This makes the assumption that the problem of evil has defeated all philosophical defenses of it, that it’s a settled issue that renders God an irrational concept

            That’s not my point. It is that God’s actions are not fully and simply explicable by humans. You, if I correctly understand you, are arguing that you can figure out, with confidence, what God would have done to bring his word to man–arranged to produce a scripture every word of which was true, including Paul’s letters and lots of other things not coming directly from Jesus. I don’t see how that argument is more persuasive than, or even as persuasive as, the argument saying that God would arrange for things to go right for the virtuous and wrong for the sinful–except for the fact that we know that conclusion is false, at least in this world.

            There’s a nuance to what I’m trying to say that either I’m not communicating or you aren’t hearing (probably true if you reverse our positions as well, sorry bout that). So let’s take your example: A. That God would have divinely inspired his word or that B. God would have just set up a perfect world are equally likely.
            I’m not arguing that A. or B. is correct (although I obviously have beliefs on the subject).
            What I’m saying is that if we believe A. is true, then we know a lot about about God, including why he didn’t do B. But if A. isn’t true (I.E. God controlled the contents of the book which comprises the legible non-human form of his messaging) then we need another standard.

            In the case of this argument, you suggested that some parts of the Bible are perhaps reasonable to ignore because of the effects of history; the book is old and has passed through many hands, and is perhaps distorted. Some parts of it are unnecessarily untrue under that model.

            It is then necessary, if we are to say the book isn’t just dancing to the whims of whoever reads it, to establish a standard besides “all of it” for how we determine what parts of the book are true. You have suggested this:

            But he could look at the evidence, textual and historical, and might conclude that the gospels provide a reasonably accurate account of what Jesus said, without concluding that everything Paul or one of the disciples said was divinely inspired.

            A Unreliable-bible believer might do this. Many have! But if he does, it raises two large differences between him and the objective believer:

            1. The subjective believer’s standard for rejecting other sections of the Bible can be reasonably stated as “other truths they found more credible than those sections of the Bible”. Without a reasonable rationale as to why the “Who Jesus is and what salvation is” parts are different, the vitals are similarly susceptible to other, more credible truths. You suggested “well, what if he said it in two gospels?” as a standard here; I find that unconvincing for reasons I already stated.
            To the reliable-Bible believer, the Bible is the controlling truth by which other truths are judged; It is the word of an absolute God who intended it to be as so; it is “true” in an absolute sense. If society disagrees with it, society is in the wrong; if the evident world appears to contradict it, they assume the evident world is being misinterpreted, not the book.

            Understand: I’m not telling you to pick one as right. I’m explaining that they are different forms of belief.

            2. From a practical perspective, it’s now much more possible and probable for me to disagree with a subjective believer on a much wider variety of things, and without remedy. If I and another literal-bible believer disagree on some matter of faith, a clear remedy exists: we go to the text and argue within it’s context. I have been easily and handily forced to change my perspective by someone pointing out that it is inconsistent with the book, that I was misunderstanding something, or that my knowledge of the text is incomplete. This isn’t 100% effective, but it’s not <85% either; the gray area is relatively small, as you would expect it to be when the context of the argument occurs in a space where “God has stated you are wrong, and I can show you” is a meaningful statement.

            This solution carries significantly less power to someone who believes the book is unreliable. The trope is that if you bring up an issue of scriptural disagreement to a subjective-bible believer, they can say “Well, that part just isn’t true, then”. This is uncharitable to them; you are free to believe they don’t do this. But in the absence of a standard with similar power to “God said this; our disagreement is solved by analyzing the things he said”, they are much more free to.

            You may not see these differences as small, but I suggest that is because your perspective as an atheist is sufficiently far from the issue as to introduce a philosophical parallax that minimizes them. An example of how this difference has played out was brought up by you: I think heaven is a real, true place, while friends you have spoken to think believing in something as spiritual as a place a soul goes to after death is a primitive, superstitious thing curable perhaps by sufficient college. This may seem a minimal thing from some perspectives, but understand that since my beliefs on heaven are closer to those of a devout Norseman’s than your friends that these differences are not minor.

            For the rest of your argument, I think you are failing to distinguish between “we cannot know things with certainty” and “we cannot have reasonable grounds for belief.”

            I agree that someone following my suggested tactic for determining Jesus’ words would not know them with certainty. We know few things, perhaps nothing, with certainty.

            Thus the use of “believe” instead of “know” in these conversations, often (maybe not with this one as much as would be helpful here; I’m not the most precise in my control of language). I certainly believe those things with as much certainty as I can muster in my imperfection. In the literalist model of the Bible (and some subjective models) “I have reasoned these things out pretty well, so I’m prepared to accept them for now, barring the unforeseen introduction of more evidence” wouldn’t actually result in a salvation – faith is necessary.

            As an aside: part of what has made this conversation difficult for me is the necessary difference in our perspectives to the extent that in some ways trying to convince you God was real would be an easier argument to have.

            Going back to the question of diet … . Ordinary people don’t run controlled experiments with large sample sizes to form their opinions, and they cannot easily determine with certainty what purported experts to trust. But they can conclude, with reasonable confidence, that a diet of candy and ice cream isn’t good for them.

            I still hold this doesn’t address my counterargument. They can know this because they can experiment and see the effects; they can try the diet and see if it’s true. If they couldn’t see real proof of the effect of the diet, they couldn’t know with reasonable confidence. The reason a person can conclude this is because they can see real, tangible evidence of it. If their single experiment on themselves doesn’t suffice, they can examine the diets and resulting sizes/health of their friends. This is how they conclude.

            To reverse the atheist’s argument, show me similar evidence available to someone trying to prove the existence of the Christian God. Can you see him? Can you touch him? Can you experiment on him and with him? The ice-cream guy can do these things; to the extent you can’t do them with God or Heaven, we are talking about a different situation in fundamentally important ways.

            If I told you “Read this book; it says there’s a man in China who is undetectable; you cannot search for him and find him. The book says when you eat ice cream, he is pleased; when a day passes you do not, he becomes displeased. If he becomes sufficiently upset, he will destroy you and all you love.”

            Your belief in that man would be dependent on the book. If you believed the book true, you would believe him real; if you believed him real, the realities implied by your failure to eat what he wanted would compel you to eat more ice cream. If you were very confident the book was false, it wouldn’t effect your ice cream eating. If you were a little worried it might be true, you might eat some more ice cream, but certainly not more than if you were confident in it’s truth and perhaps much less.

            There’s a fundamental difference between having a wealth of physical evidence and the ability to get more at any time until you are satisfied and having a single source of information that makes assertions not otherwise provable.

            Taking it to religion …. You can’t read God’s mind, but you can observe the world and see if it fits what your reading of the religion implies.

            Which is what the subjective believer has freedom to do. But when he alters his faith to fit the world, he shows that his perception of the world controls his understanding of his faith, not the reverse. You can decide the extent this is significant to you, but I don’t think you can ignore it as a distinction if you are honestly assessing the two positions.

            As I have mentioned here before, my younger son, who has historical interests, argues that the very well documented life of Joan of Arc is difficult or impossible to explain on a non-supernatural basis.

            And yet you don’t believe it in the same way he does, because your understanding of Joan of Arc is different than his – if you believed yourself it proved a Christian God, you would be a Christian. If you believed it merely proved a god of some kind, you wouldn’t describe yourself as an atheist. Perhaps you find the accounts less convincing or their implication different; I don’t know how your perception of the Maid D’Orleans differs, but I can be sure it does, because if it did not you would be different than you represent yourself to be.

            You imply that your son’s understanding of Joan enables his faith to some extent; the amount of his faith that is reliant on it, then, is vulnerable to the extent that his understanding of the story can be changed. If, say, he reads a convincing text that disproves or seems to disprove his understanding of her history, or meets a historian who has come to opposite conclusions and can argue them effectively, his understanding of her might change to allow that her life was possible without the influence of the divine. Certainly my understanding of manifest destiny has changed as I age, as likely has yours.

            To the extent your son’s faith is built on the evidence of Joan of Arc, it is vulnerable – as one fails, so does the other.

            Religious people may find that what they read in the Bible or are told by clergy fits their experience of life. It would be surprising if a world where Christianity was true and one where it was false looked identical at the material level.

            At the same time, things would be almost certain not to pan out the way implied here. Look at climate change: it’s a complex enough system that even people who believe in the fundamentals (carbon makes warm) don’t agree on the extent to which it affects things, or how; the IPCC perhaps overestimates; the rationalist often decides it is real to some extent, but may not dangerous enough to merit much sacrifice to fix; the oil companies might deny completely.

            If there’s a necessary minimum to fix the problem or a much-more-costly than necessary solution, choosing the wrong person’s or group’s interpretation might lead you to peg it, undercut the minimum or overshoot the maximum. That’s how complex systems are, even if everyone’s focus is pure and intent on the accurate analysis of the data.

            Dave, this has been a lot of fun for me and I appreciate you sticking with this as long as you have. I’ve been neglecting wife-and-family-and-schooling-and-everything to do this, however, and it’s caught up to me. I’m more than willing for you to have the last word here, but I do have to bow out. I apologize if I talked in circles quite a bit, but I do hope you enjoyed it too. I look forward to the next time we speak.

          • I think heaven is a real, true place, while friends you have spoken to think believing in something as spiritual as a place a soul goes to after death is a primitive, superstitious thing curable perhaps by sufficient college.

            I don’t think I have described such friends. I’m not sure if you mean “you may have spoken to friends who …” or if you are misreading something I said.

            To reverse the atheist’s argument, show me similar evidence available to someone trying to prove the existence of the Christian God.

            I’ve mentioned one example — my son’s reading of the evidence on Joan of Arc. If he is correct — I have not examined the evidence for myself, and he has not yet learned enough French to check the documents in the original — then there are well supported historical facts inconsistent with the usual atheist/materialist view of the universe. Given that the central figure in that story offered an explanation and (if he is correct) her explanation fit what happened, that’s a pretty strong reason to believe in the Christian god. It isn’t a proof, but it’s evidence.

            There are other sorts of evidence more directly accessible. Christianity makes various claims about how people should live their lives. The more nearly those claims fit what you observe, the better the reason to suspect that Christianity is true. It will be better evidence in cases where the Christian rules diverge sharply from what people deduce from other sources.

            One obvious example is sexual behavior. Christianity strongly condemns non-marital sex. Current non-religious norms mostly regard it as perfectly reasonable behavior. The more you observe the current system working badly for people, the better the evidence for Christianity.

            That one isn’t very strong evidence, since one can think of non-religious, or religious non-Christian, arguments for the same conclusion—it’s better evidence against a particular alternative to Christianity. But it’s some evidence.

            If I told you “Read this book; it says there’s a man in China who is undetectable; you cannot search for him and find him. The book says when you eat ice cream, he is pleased; when a day passes you do not, he becomes displeased. If he becomes sufficiently upset, he will destroy you and all you love.”

            But Christianity, as I understand it, says quite a lot more than that about God. Different variants on Christianity differ in exactly what it implies about God’s behavior, but since He is acting on the world you are living in, you get evidence that one account or another is or is not consistent with your observations.

            But when he alters his faith to fit the world, he shows that his perception of the world controls his understanding of his faith, not the reverse.

            Surely yours does too. The Bible you read is a physical object. If someone persuaded you that someone had inserted or removed texts in the copy you had read, you would alter your faith. You would still believe that the Bible was the word of God but not that the book you had been reading was the Bible.

            At a slight tangent … do you believe that God makes sure that all translations of the Bible are accurate? That seems impossible, given that there have been different translations not entirely consistent with each other. So if someone offers evidence that the English text you are reading contains mistakes in translation, or if you have been reading the original text and discover that you were wrong about the meaning of a word, you would alter your faith to fit the world.

            I may be mistaken, but it feels to me as though you are confusing two different senses in which one can alter one’s faith to fit the world. One is the problem you have pointed out, of altering one’s faith in order to more comfortably get along with the views of the surrounding society, or in other ways to make your life easier. I agree that that is a problem—my impression, as an outsider, is that there are substantial parts of the Christian church whose members hold the views they do not because they follow from Christianity but because they are the views accepted in the circles they move in.

            But the other is altering one’s faith to fit the evidence. If my son becomes a Catholic on the evidence of Joan of Arc, he will be altering his faith to fit the world—not to make himself more comfortable in the world, but to make his beliefs better fit what he observes of the world. Do you disapprove of that?

            I will make this my last post as well. I also have enjoyed the conversation. You are obviously an intelligent person who cares deeply about his faith.

            And you could be correct, but I am not yet convinced that you are.

          • GearRatio says:

            One of these sections deserves answering because I agree I didn’t explain it well. I do in actual fact have to stop after that so my wife doesn’t stab me, though.

            But the other is altering one’s faith to fit the evidence. If my son becomes a Catholic on the evidence of Joan of Arc, he will be altering his faith to fit the world—not to make himself more comfortable in the world, but to make his beliefs better fit what he observes of the world. Do you disapprove of that?

            I don’t think I’m… allowed, I guess? To disapprove of somebody getting Christian-ier. But what I was talking about here was mostly just to illustrate that if your son hinges his faith on something that can change, then it’s only as strong as that thing is unlikely to change. The Q Source was a better example of this – if I only allow myself to believe Jesus said things on the basis that being in two gospels makes them true-er, then introducing the perfectly logical concept of Q has a good chance to destroy my evidence-reliant quasi-faith.

            Before that you seem to ask “but, putting aside the motive of social pressure, isn’t adjusting one’s faith to fit one’s observations of the world better?”. My very short version of this is one is saying “I find what people think of me more important that what God thinks of me” while the other is saying “I trust other things to be more true than the bible is true”. To me they both declaring that something besides God is master of them and are similarly dangerous but I’m a fairly harsh-minded literalist Christian; I doubt that translates over well to many other positions.

            Thanks for the kind words.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @Gear, David

            I will post my own thoughts in the next hidden thread given how nested this is. In general, I agree with Gear but may be more contextual than literal, and have a larger emphasis on shrugging for lack of understanding mind of God/nature of reality when it comes to apparent contradictions (e.g., Jesus fully man and fully God, not a hybrid man-god, or fatalism vs. free will)

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      In and around Salt Lake City be prepared for smog. People think of Utah as a natural paradise but the mountains make a bowl and with the right inversion it can get groaty for months.

      Traffic, like everywhere, can get bad.

      Also the Salt Lake itself is vile and smelly. Mountains and deserts more than make up for it.

      Pick up a winter sport and you’ll be infinitely happier.

      Mormons can be… quirky. That comes down to taste though.

      • DragonMilk says:

        At risk of Book of Mormon jokes, what do you mean by quirky?

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          Be prepared to see children’s names spelled in strange ways you never thought possible.

          I can only describe it as almost a parody of WASP suburban culture. Mormons are big on multi-level marketing, and get rich schemes in general. Part of this I guess is because there’s lots of stay at home moms but not the requisite number of jobs for husbands capable of supporting them.

          There’s an emphasis on appearing happy and healthy and wealthy that can get heartbreaking when people clearly aren’t. Both men and women in mormonism have a lot of pressure on them (like, all of normal societies + the church). This is where the whole community support system helps but shocker the strict purity code society can get anxiety-inducing.

          In Idaho where I was growing up at least, Mormons were at the cutting edge of the anti-vax movement, which made pretty big inroads over my lifetime. But a quick check suggests Utah’s pretty good about that sort of thing so probably more Idaho than Mormon in that. But my advice for moving to the Mountain West in general is be ready to encounter people with some weird strongly held beliefs.

          Don’t offer mormon guests hot drinks except some of them are fine with it – so far as I can tell there’s no logic to who is okay with caffeine but not okay with hot drinks, and who’s okay with hot drinks but not caffeine.

          The pressure to join in Mormon events (and many otherwise innocuous events which will be tinged with Mormonism) will be pretty widespread. I doubt this will be overwhelming, and obviously hugely contingent on where exactly you live and who you associate with. These events are probably fun for kids but I’ve never been to one as an adult that wasn’t a cringefest. I think I’m making Mormons sound like pod people, but as an outsider that’s sorta what it can feel like. I think it’s because the culture is so similar to elsewhere in America that, unlike say an expat living abroad, you’re in an uncanny valley sometimes in social interactions. Mormons are pretty good at passive aggression and mild social pressure so your sensitivity to that may also affect your experience. I have a friend who still lives in Utah as an absolute libertine and so thrives off the dissonance but less extreme people will experience less extreme versions of this.

          If you’re Christian, and have children, be prepared to explain to them exactly why the ersatz Christians who live all around you are wrong enough not to join. I will say that growing up in an area that had a sizeable mormon minority but was not mormon-dominated, I heard a lot of reasons why mormons were not real Christians from the evangelical side. Many of those arguments were pretty damaging to my faith generally just fyi, so tread carefully. Mormons will be insisting that they’re just Christians but moreso and you’ll need to have a counter to that.

          And then there really is a Ned Flander-y-ness that can get grating if you expect some more cynicism and sarcasm in your day to day. As well as a feeling of isolation if you’re in an area that’s really church dominated and you don’t join the church.

          All of this is considerably more prevalent in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, where the towns are more mormon and more church centered. Within the city itself it’s much more diverse and watered down. Mormons are just natural suburbanites I think.

          You can always trust them to have canned beans and flour though.

          And of course, like everyone everywhere in America, people are basically nice and good. Hence this is all quirkiness.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          Be prepared to see children’s names spelled in strange ways you never thought possible.

          I can only describe it as almost a parody of WASP suburban culture. Mormons are big on multi-level marketing, and get rich schemes in general. Part of this I guess is because there’s lots of stay at home moms but not the requisite number of jobs for husbands capable of supporting them.

          There’s an emphasis on appearing happy and healthy and wealthy that can get heartbreaking when people clearly aren’t. Both men and women in mormonism have a lot of pressure on them (like, all of normal societies + the church). This is where the whole community support system helps but shocker the strict purity code society can get anxiety-inducing.

          In Idaho where I was growing up at least, Mormons were at the cutting edge of the anti vaccination movement, which made pretty big inroads over my lifetime. But a quick check suggests Utah’s pretty good about that sort of thing so probably more Idaho than Mormon in that. But my advice for moving to the Mountain West in general is be ready to encounter people with some really weird and strongly held beliefs.

          Don’t offer mormon guests hot drinks except some of them are fine with it – so far as I can tell there’s no logic to who is okay with caffeine but not okay with hot drinks, and who’s okay with hot drinks but not caffeine.

          The pressure to join in Mormon events (and many otherwise innocuous events which will be tinged with Mormonism) will be pretty widespread. I doubt this will be overwhelming, and obviously hugely contingent on where exactly you live and who you associate with. These events are probably fun for kids but I’ve never been to one as an adult that wasn’t a cringefest. I think I’m making Mormons sound like pod people, but as an outsider that’s sorta what it can feel like. I think it’s because the culture is so similar to elsewhere in America that, unlike say an expat living abroad, you’re in an uncanny valley sometimes in social interactions. Mormons are pretty good at passive aggression and mild social pressure so your sensitivity to that may also affect your experience. I have a friend who still lives in Utah as an absolute libertine and so thrives off the dissonance but less extreme people will experience less extreme versions of this.

          If you’re Christian, and have children, be prepared to explain to them exactly why the ersatz Christians who live all around you are wrong enough not to join. I will say that growing up in an area that had a sizeable mormon minority but was not mormon-dominated, I heard a lot of reasons why mormons were not real Christians from the evangelical side. Many of those arguments were pretty damaging to my faith generally just fyi, so tread carefully. Mormons will be insisting that they’re just Christians but moreso and you’ll need to have a counter to that.

          And then there really is a Ned Flander-y-ness that can get grating if you expect some more cynicism and sarcasm in your day to day. As well as a feeling of isolation if you’re in an area that’s really church dominated and you don’t join the church.

          All of this is considerably more prevalent in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, where the towns are more mormon and more church centered. Within the city itself it’s much more diverse and watered down. Mormons are just natural suburbanites I think.

          You can always trust them to have canned beans and flour though.

          And of course, like everyone everywhere in America, people are basically nice and good. Hence this all comes down to quirkiness.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Ah, so I’d say I’m an observant Christian who thinks it’s fairly obvious that Mormonism is heretical, as a friend in college pointed out (now about 13 years ago) that Galatians 1:6-9 clearly repudiates such a thing as the Book of Mormon:

            “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you [emphasis mine], let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

            So ya…if in fact an angel from heaven actually did appear to Joseph Smith, then the former part. And if not, then the latter part…pretty easy to cite why it’s a heresy. Context was there was a mormon dude who eventually lost his faith, and had initially taken the position of, “I’m also a Christian, I just have an extra book.” Nope.

            Anyway, so long as I’m not judgmental about it (I figure interacting with non-Christians all the time in NYC is good practice), do you foresee a big issue?

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            @DragonMilk

            “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” is already peak Mormonism, the very thing about which Mormons have some lovely literature they’d love to share with you sometime. You also conspicuously didn’t bold “we” right before the spot you specified, which rather unravels the whole thing. It’s no longer “angels do not give gospels” it’s “if anyone, man, angel, demon, or whatever Paul is gives bad gospels then a curse on them.”

            And so now you have to battle out the gospels on different territory to prove which good news is bad. (Also, this is Mormonism -an obvious fabrication- so it’s not hard, just extra steps when you’re on their turf).

            You’re not going to get into theological arguments with strangers, natch, but it will come up if you have kids (and indeed would come up anywhere in the US what with religious puralism and the rise of atheism – the risk in Utah is that the children may have an exclusively mormon friend group and social life dominated by an unusually proselytizing sect they aren’t a part of). I actually don’t know any devout non-mormons in Utah, only mormons, ex-mormons atheists, and please-don’t-talk-to-me-about-religionists. Also quite a few “why not” mormons who joined the church for social reasons but don’t really believe. All nice people.

          • DragonMilk says:

            The bolding was meant to contend that even if Joseph Smith *did* receive all that stuff from an angel, it’s not to be trusted.

            The we part is more obvious and I felt no need to bold it, as it’s more of a direct attack potentially.

            Shifts from, “hey, I don’t trust that angel of yours” to, “hey, I don’t trust YOU”.

            Anyway, which group do (did) you belong to and for how long?

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            @DragonMilk

            I was an atheist by the time I was in Utah and stayed for about 2.5 years.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @DragonMilk
            The Mormons will simply say that they preach the exact same Gospel as preached by Paul so that’s not an issue. And to every quotation from the Bible you’ll show them they’ll say that maybe the Bible has a mistake in exactly this place.

            I’ve found that the only thing that makes Mormons run away is textual analysis of BoM showing that it depends on KJV. My favourite example: 2 Nephi 27:27 is obviously derived from Isa 29:16 as it is in KJV, but KJV’s translation is wrong and nonsensical to begin with.

            It takes Mormons significant mental efforts to comprehend the argument that since the BoM includes material from KJV it must be fake. Dumber ones won’t see the point no matter what.

            Don’t let them use the term “God” to denote both your God and their gods (by which they mean superhumans). Don’t let them silently assume that their gods are trustworthy.

          • The bolding was meant to contend that even if Joseph Smith *did* receive all that stuff from an angel, it’s not to be trusted.

            As you may know, essentially the same point is made by the story of the Oven of Akhnai in the Talmudic tradition. In that case, divine intervention is entirely obvious, in the form of three successive miracles, produced on demand, followed by a voice from Heaven saying that Eliezer is right.

            The rabbis tell God to butt out.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @eginmoon, to clarify, I’d not try to convince a Mormon in that way, just my kids would be raised on Bible being inerrant, which Mormons do not believe.

            To me, once you deem something errant, then you are taking a Jeffersonian approach that elevates your own (or some other person’s) reasoning to authoritative.

          • Soy Lecithin says:

            @DragonMilk

            Ah, that’s an easy one. Latter-day Saints don’t believe Joseph Smith received a new gospel. The premise of their belief is that some time after the death of Jesus’ 12 apostles the Christian church fell into apostasy from which it could not recover. God restored Christianity again in its true form via miraculous revelations and visitations to Joseph Smith and others.

            As far as explanations to kids go, saying “They believe in the Bible and other books. We just believe in the Bible” is fairly straightforward and avoids proof-texting.

            I agree with other commenters it’s hard for kids to “break in” socially if they aren’t LDS. If the other kids at school all see each other on Sundays and Wednesdays, and, starting in high school, every day, you’re just at a disadvantage. They’re as friendly as anyone, so if you reach out they’ll reciprocate, but expecting friends to “just happen” like most kids do isn’t such a sure bet.

            Full disclosure, I’m a Latter-day Saint and lived in Utah for about 5 years.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @ Soy,
            This is helpful, as I have some questions regarding Mormon belief:

            1. Is the view that only fool would say the Bible is sufficient and other scripture not needed emphasized (2 Nephi 29:6)?
            2. How does the belief that Joseph Smith’s gospel not being “new” (mind you, the passage specifies other, not new*) fit in with the doctrine of continual revelation?
            3. Why is the Bible flawed, but the Book of Mormon and additional Doctrines and Covenants not?
            4. Do you subscribe to Mormon cosmology, including that God the Father are separate entities from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so much so that Jesus and Satan are both children of God, with Satan and his faction of 1/3 of the angels dissenting from the decision to have Earth be a place to test people and become the testers themselves?
            5. What do you make of the lack of archaeological, genetic, and linguistic evidence for the history laid out in the Book of Mormon?

            Thanks in advance.

            *From KJV, emphasis mine:

            “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

          • Eric Rall says:

            3. Why is the Bible flawed, but the Book of Mormon and additional Doctrines and Covenants not?

            Not a Mormon, but I talked to LDS missionaries several times in college. I think the answer to this point in particular is that the Book of Mormon has a shorter and more secure chain-of-custody than older revelations. The Gospels, for example, were second-hand and third-hand accounts of Jesus’s life and teachings, which passed through a period of oral tradition before being recorded in their Canonical forms, and then were translated from Greek to Latin and then to English and other vernacular languages. And all of these steps were done by fallible humans who could have introduced errors accidentally or deliberately.

            The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, was (Mormons believe) given directly to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni (who had written the original Golden Tablets manuscript personally). Smith then used divine artifacts (the Seer Stones) to translate the manuscript perfectly into English, which he dictated to Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery. Smith then started having it published well within his own lifetime. Assuming this all happened as Smith reported, and assuming Moroni and the Seer Stones were divinely infallible, the only places for errors to creep in would be if Harris or Cowdery mis-transcribed Smith’s dictation and Smith missed it, or if the printers mis-transcribed Harris’s translated manuscript and neither Smith nor Harris nor Cowdery ever noticed the error.

          • smocc says:

            @DragonMilk

            Another Latter-day Saint here.

            1. I’m not quite sure I parse your sentence but yes, the Church believes that it is foolish to reject additional scripture just because “we have got a Bible.” It doesn’t get talked about much in church meetings because everyone there already agrees with it, but it’s fairly common for missionaries to encounter people that ask “why would I need something more than the Bible?” Your quote is a part of series of verses that give one answer to that question.

            2. Some of the gospel preached by Joseph Smith was old, some of it was new (I think I have seen it claimed that all current Church doctrine was known before the Great Apostasy, but I don’t think that’s a widely agreed-upon belief). Joseph Smith needed continual revelation to restore the old gospel because simply reading the Bible alone is pretty clearly insufficient for determining which of all the competing interpretations is correct. He also needed continual revelation to learn some new things, like details about the afterlife. And we continue to need revelation as new issues and new questions arise in the world.

            3. Eric Rall’s answer is pretty much correct. Though to be precise it is not our doctrine that the Book of Mormon is perfectly inerrant. The ancient writers themselves make that pretty clear. See the references quoted here.

            4. Yes. Except for maybe the part at the end, depending on what you mean. Satan rebelled against God because he wanted to replace Christ as the Messiah and wanted the Father’s glory in exchange. See here.

            As for God and Christ and the Spirit being separate entities, some with flesh and blood, I would say the general consensus among Church members is that it makes far more sense and is more consistent with scripture than the Nicene conception of trinity.

            5. About the same as I think of the lack of archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence for the history laid out in the Bible. Which is to say: not a lot and when I do it doesn’t really disrupt the key elements of my faith. Archaeological findings may inform my interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

            For example, at first reading the Book of Mormon authors present a large civilization of devout pre-Christians which is hard to square with archaeology. But reading the Nephites instead as a small but stubborn subculture that graft themselves on to a larger pre-existing civilization with an influence that waxes and wanes actually answers some textual questions and is easier to square archaeologically. I don’t view this as very different with how other Christians may react to learning that e.g. the extent of Solomon’s empire was not as large as claimed in the Bible.

            Add to that the fact that the archaeology changes with time (my understanding is that the original archaeological criticisms of the Book of Mormon were that there were no large American civilizations at all) and I am not usually bothered by archaeological questions. Probably most members of the Church don’t think about it at all. (Nor do most Christians think about Biblical archaeology)

          • DragonMilk says:

            Thanks for the responses so far, I think I may continue questions on the particulars of Mormonism in the next hidden thread, as my initial question centered around general considerations of moving to Utah.

          • Soy Lecithin says:

            @DragonMilk

            Smocc already answered, but I wanted to add a couple things.

            2. Continuous revelation means things like Peter receiving the vision to spread the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 10), or John receiving the vision recorded as Revelations, etc. To Latter-day Saints, part of Christ being the Head of the Church is that he is guiding it through revelation.

            3. All scripture as we have it is flawed in the sense that at some point it comes to us via humans. God condescends to speak to us in human language that we can understand and that is appropriate to our circumstances. He also condescends to let us as imperfect people participate in his work, including the work of receiving revelation/writing scripture. Scripture is able to transcend these limitations in the end because its true source is God.

        • SamChevre says:

          For capturing the weirdness of Mormon practice and theology, this piece by Teresa Nielsen Hayden is awesome. God and I

          It’s awesome–even if you are ex-Mennonite (like me) vs ex-Mormon (like her).

      • albatross11 says:

        +1 on the smog in the valley–I have a close friend who lives in SLC and has major breathing problems caused by the winter smog.

    • albatross11 says:

      Talk to “gentiles[1]” who have lived in Utah. It’s a nice place to live in many ways–the culture is nicer than most of the US, the population is younger and more dynamic, it’s very family-friendly (my family of five is a somewhat small family there). But if you’re not part of the LDS church, you’ll always be something of an outsider in most neighborhoods. In my experience (as a visitor, not a resident, though I have a lot of family there), the Mormons are generally quite polite and friendly, but there’s definitely a distance there. I’ve heard that it’s harder for kids–the only Gentile kid in a neighborhood where everyone else is Mormon is likely to be excluded.

      [1] Yes, even if your name is Moishe Cohen and you’re a rabbi, in Utah, you are a Gentile.

    • proyas says:

      Just look at this house for instance. You get a lot more there than you would out here in the Northeast, and the taxes are about 1/7 of the amount. There’s a lot of houses around that price range with that sort of space.

      My Lord, unless you’ve got at least six people in your family, why would you buy something like that?

      • Anatoly says:

        Wife and three kids, looking at this house with real envy. It’s a bit cheaper than my 4-bedroom apartment in central Israel. I’ll probably never be able to live in a house like this here. Maybe if I was willing to become a settler…

      • DragonMilk says:

        For illustrative purposes and for contrast!

        The NYC one was a 2015 price. A Manhattan studio has much more in taxes and maintenance as well!

        And let’s just say my wife wants a big house…I say sure, once we have three kids and your parents as well as my personal office and a turtle jungle room 😀

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Because I want 4 kids and the option for either my in-laws or my parents to move in if they need to, plus my wife wants a separate craft room, and we’d like to have an at-home office.

        However, kitchen is not optimal. There are double ovens, but the range should really be in the island if I am paying THAT much for a house, and the island should be a two-level island. It’s also a pretty small range and counter space is pretty limited compared to the number of countertop appliances I would like to have.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Hmm, how much work or $ does it take to redo the kitchen? Home depot route vs. hiring a contractor?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Not a ton of money(for a house this expensive and the adjustments I would want), depending on what finishes you put on the island and what exactly is underneath your floor there.

            I would hire a contractor, because:
            1. You need to move a gas line to move the range.
            2. You probably want to install an oven hood of some sort as well
            3. It’s the kitchen, so you want it done quite nicely for resale value, and I am not detail oriented

          • JayT says:

            I live in the Bay Area, so it’s probably more here than it would be in Utah, but from what I’ve seen, a new kitchen costs about $30,000-$50,000.

        • Is there room to put in an island?

          When we lived in Chicago, in a fairly large house that was about a century old at the time, we had an oven problem. The house had a Chambers gas cooktop, what I think of as an antique Cadillac, which worked fine. It had a small Chambers built-in gas oven with a safety device that required you to hold down a button until the sensor detected that the flame had lit. The sensor was old and feeble, and you had to hold down the button for four or five minutes to keep the burner from turning off when you released the button.

          Also, I like gas and my wife likes electric.

          We thought of adding a new built-in oven, but found that such an oven cost more than an electric range and was smaller than the oven in an electric range. So we bought an electric range and built an island around it. That gave us eight burners, one and a half ovens, and lots of counter space. Useful when we did our medieval cooking workshops.

          So if the kitchen is large, or can be expanded by removing a wall, …

    • SamChevre says:

      You could get the same house prices in Western Massachusetts. This is within walking distance of my house, and you can take a day trip to New York City easily.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Ah yes, but you can see the taxes are higher on this $300k house than that $750k house!

        That said, definitely something to consider, though nearly 3hr to NYC and 2 to Boston is a bit farther to a major airport than what I mentioned.

        • SamChevre says:

          Not sure how you are defining “major”, but it’s less than a half-hour to Bradley, which has most major carriers, Southwest, and a few international flights. (And cheap parking and very quick and nice TSA lines.)

    • TracingWoodgrains says:

      I grew up in Utah, but left Mormonism since. While I don’t expect I could go back to Utah to live as an exmo, I compare everywhere else to it as a standard and find few places measure up.

      Pros:
      – Probably the healthiest environment for families in the country other than the obvious with religion. Lots of large families, tight-knit neighborhoods, very stereotypical-1950s feel.
      – Beautiful mountains, tons of amazing nature within a close drive.
      – Consistently good economy, generally sane policy choices. Prosocial conservatism is the standard.

      Cons:
      – As a non-Mormon, you’re cut off from lots of that social structure. No malice, just reality. My neighborhood was 98% Mormon, and we knew and always saw all the Mormons but the non-Mormons were essentially invisible to us.
      – Not much happening besides outdoorsy stuff. The whole state feels like suburbs, very distant from US cultural hubs. Everyone’s very nice, everything’s safe, everything feels the same.
      – Outside the mountains and national parks, it’s pretty much all desert. Not as beautiful as, say, Washington.

      It’s also getting a bit more expensive overall. Nothing like East or West Coast, but much more so than, say, the Midwest.

      If it looks appealing to you, you’d probably like it. Ultimately, it was a fantastic place to grow up and I felt like I lived a charmed life for the most part, but it felt a bit sterile and cookie-cutter, and once I experienced a more diverse area I had no interest in staying.

      • DragonMilk says:

        On the non-Mormons being essentially invisible, is it an active avoidance that the LDS church encourages?

        Hypothetically, supposing a protestant Christian moved in and they seem friendly, I’d imagine a Mormon family would be ok with having dinner once or twice just for the prospect of prosletyizing?

        And supposing the protestants remain decidedly protestant, but the Mormon family discovered a mutual interest in say, board games, would that be sufficient to still hang out on a regular (say monthly) basis?

        • TracingWoodgrains says:

          Oh, absolutely, there’s no animosity. It’s simply the reality that Mormonism takes up a lot of time and socialization between church on Sunday, activities other days, and volunteer callings, so it’s easy for non-Mormons to just slip through the cracks a bit. Everyone would be beyond thrilled to proselyte to you, and anyone with mutual interests would be happy to hang out and pursue those interests together.

          Being proactive about it is probably important. We always felt a bit bad that we never got to know many of the non-Mormons around us better, but there’s always the worry about offending them by pushing faith at them or of intruding. People are absolutely encouraged to maintain friendships outside the church, though, and there’s no messaging at all directed towards active avoidance.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Got it, wasn’t sure if I was missing something like relations between Mormons and “Bible is inerrant and sufficient” Christians were for some reason as frosty as Catholics vs. Protestants on the eve of the Thirty Years War.

    • broblawsky says:

      Do you already have family or friends in Utah? Because if not, you’re losing out on a lot by moving somewhere to start over. Social networks don’t come easy, and I’m guessing you’re already past peak friend-making age (no offense intended).

      • DragonMilk says:

        Totally get it, no offense taken – and the answer is no.

        Maybe I’m too optimistic regarding friend-making, but I think my personality easy-going enough to attract enough of a social life, even if it’s on the acquaintance rather than close friend level, which seems sufficient for a married person?

        As a hedge though, the proximity to a major airport was also a consideration

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Just look at this house for instance. You get a lot more there than you would out here in the Northeast, and the taxes are about 1/7 of the amount.

      Let’s do a comparison with Lexington, KY, where I just moved.
      5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, hardwoods in kitchen and baths, 2 car garage, apartment above the garage, on half an acre, south of University of Kentucky (so a more desirable/lower crime neighborhood than an equally convenient neighborhood north). Property taxes look to be $6k/annum: I didn’t check what your Utah example was.
      This house has also been sitting cold on the market for 9 months at 725k, so you’d actually get it for less.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Taxes a bit higher (4.7k for my example), one less bedroom, and looks more cramped (compare kitchens) despite having larger square footage.

        That said, southern states are also on the radar, just not sure where to start!

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          You might want to consider Knoxville. I found homes quite similar to the one you had above, some with lower taxes. The Salaires are good, and the BEA report I looked at has services costing about 10% less. The sales tax is higher but your capital taxes are lower.

          • hls2003 says:

            In addition, Tennessee has one of the best-funded public pension systems in the country. Nashville and Knoxville are both on my “Illinois toilet bowl escape” list.

  5. Anatoly says:

    Here’s a math puzzle. Please rot13 correct answers, and in addition write out digits in words (one two three), because rot13 does nothing to them.

    The number 2^29, two to the power twenty-nine, has in it all the digits from 0 to 9 save one. What digit is missing?
    [the point is to solve the problem without calculating the value of 2^29 yourself or looking it up].

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      Vaghvgvba gryyf zr gur nafjre fubhyq yvr va univat bar gubhfnaq gjragl-sbhe phorq naq qvivqrq va unys, ohg V qba’g xabj ubj gb cebprrq jvgubhg npghnyyl pnyphyngvat nalguvat.

    • Kindly says:

      Fvapr gjb gb gur gragu vf nobhg n gubhfnaq, gjb gb gur gjragl-avagu vf nobhg unys n ovyyvba, fb vg’f avar qvtvgf ybat, naq rirel qvtvg nccrnef bapr. Jr pna pbzchgr gjb gb gur gjragl-avagu zbq avar naq trg svir (orpnhfr gjb phorq vf artngvir bar zbq avar, fb gjb gb gur gjragl-friragu vf nyfb artngvir bar). Fb gur fhz bs gur qvtvgf bs gjb gb gur gjragl-avagu vf svir zbq avar, naq nyy gra qvtvgf nqq hc gb mreb zbq avar; gurersber sbhe vf gur zvffvat qvtvg.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        V nz univat uneq gvzr ivfhnyvmvat gur guvat jvgu zbq avar. Pna lbh jevgr n sbezhyn be fbzrguvat. Creuncf V’z whfg fghcvq.

        • Kindly says:

          Fb, svefg bs nyy, gur ernfba jr gnxr gur ahzore zbq avar vf orpnhfr gur qvivfvovyvgl ehyr sbe avar vf gb whfg nqq hc gur qvtvgf.

          Nf sbe pbzchgvat gjb gb gur gjragl avagu zbq avar, nabgure jnl gb chg vf: jr erjevgr vg nf rvtug gb gur avagu gvzrf gjb fdhnerq. Gura rvtug gb gur avagu vf gur fnzr nf artngvir bar gb gur avagu, juvpu vf artngvir bar. Fb jr trg artngvir sbhe, be svir.

      • Anatoly says:

        Jryy qbar! Xhqbf ba znxvat fher gur qvtvgf ner qvfgvapg onfrq ba gur ahzore’f nccebkvzngr fvmr – V ernyyl zrnag gb fgngr gurl jrer qvfgvapg ohg sbetbg.

    • Anatoly says:

      I left out inadvertently the fact that 2^29 has *distinct* digits: that is, nine among the ten digits from 0 to 9 appear in it, without repetitions. The fact that the digits are distinct can be worked out from the original formulation without calculating the number, but it makes the problem slightly more difficult.

  6. EchoChaos says:

    One of the requests last thread from @acymetric was a discussion on “the markets have decided that people shouldn’t openly carry guns”

    So here it is!

    The right to guns and to bear them is in the US Constitution in the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court and lower Courts have agreed that this right includes both owning guns (which cannot be banned) AND bearing guns.

    So while it is allowed to require permits for concealed carry, one of concealed or open carry MUST be legal in any city, and the only exception governments may put in place are those clearly required (the level of scrutiny is still being debated). Universities and other state funded places may not ban guns.

    Now, private business is where it gets more interesting! The government can and does ban private businesses from ejecting people based on all sorts of criteria. Gun ownership is currently one of them in SOME states. No Federal law exists which allows “gun free zones”, but some state laws do allow it (some do not).

    For example, in Virginia, the law states:

    The granting of a concealed handgun permit pursuant to this article shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property.

    Interestingly, more Red states than Blue have specific rules and criteria for how to demark a “Gun Free Zone”. Blue states (e.g. New York) tend to require specifically asking them to leave, which usually means that concealed carry holders have no issue if carrying properly.

    All legal statements taken from:

    https://www.irem.org/File%20Library/Public%20Policy/ConcealedCarryLaw.pdf

    On to the more general moral/ethical issue:

    Should private businesses be allowed to prevent someone from practicing a specific Constitutional Right? Note that the Courts agree that “bear” is an important part of the right and actually carrying the arms is required to exercise it.

    This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims). This is somewhat mitigated by their disruption on your business, but clearly someone carrying a concealed gun is not having any effect if he or she is doing it properly. An open carry gun might be more disruptive in a very Blue area, but when I visit rural family, seeing someone with an openly holstered gun is hardly unusual.

    Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve, I believe that people practicing their Second Amendment rights should also have such protection, but I look forward to the discussion.

    • Clutzy says:

      For me, this is an obvious issue of liability. A gun free zone should have a much higher duty to its patrons than one that merely enables their own right of self defense.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve

      I tend to view this as a prima facie abrogation of the First Amendment*, so ex falso quodlibet.

      *It is AFAIK generally accepted that (1) 1A includes the right to abstain from the protected activity (e.g., compelled speech violates the freedom of speech), and (2) “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” can WLOG be described as “freedom of association”. Put 1 & 2 together and the freedom to not associate should be protected, but is not.

    • Jaskologist says:

      There are other ways for the Court to tell the market what to decide without exactly telling it.

      Consider two possible changes to liability laws:
      1. If a business denies people the right to defend themselves on the premises, they become responsible for the safety of those people, being fully liable for any victims of violence.
      2. If a business allows firearms on the premises, they are liable for any injuries that result.

      “The market” will likely make opposite decisions in response; the invisible hand in this case is still in the government.

    • Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve

      Since I believe that decision was mistaken, I also believe that private companies should be free to forbid firearm carry on their property.

      From my fairly odd perspective as an economist, I took the question to be:

      If we observe that most businesses choose to forbid firearms on their property, should we take that as market evidence that the negative externalities from firearm carry outweigh the benefits, private or external, hence that a general ban would an economic improvement.

      • Garrett says:

        How much of this involves lawyers catastrophizing? My limited experience with lawyers professionally find them to be very good at enumerating all of the things which can go wrong with very little regard to how likely they may be.

        For example, an employer’s lawyer might figure that there’s a risk that if they don’t ban their employees from carrying firearms they could be at risk of unsafe-workplace lawsuits or seen as “more liable” in the event of a workplace shooting. And “not prohibiting” might be seen as “approval” and therefore get the company on the hook in the event of any firearms-related negligence on the part of the carrying employee.

        But absent any case law showing the opposite, there won’t be any push-back. It always seems to me to be a legal version of Pascal’s mugging. When I’ve asked various employers of mine why they’ve banned firearms they always talk about creating a safe workplace. But they’ve never been able to provide any credible information that such workplaces are made more (or less) safe. Even at self-described data-driven companies.

        [I’m discussing in the case of white-collar office work. I understand that in other types of work it’s fundamentally unsafe or impractical to have firearms present, such as working around MRI machines]

      • DarkTigger says:

        I’m not a libatarian, and I’m pro gun restrictions, but do “most businesses choose to forbid firearms” or do most big chains, with the money to hire professional guards, prefer to forbid weapons?

        • Garrett says:

          I’ve not done a systematic study, but what I’ve noticed is that:
          * Most employers prohibit their employees from carrying weapons while at work or at company events. I’ve yet to see a white-collar employer provide secure lockers for employees to secure firearms after arriving at work but before beginning work. The few places that I know of at all which have done that have extensive interactions with police such as prisons or my old ambulance service which had at least one police officer as a regular volunteer.
          * Most such employers also prohibit storing firearms in your vehicle if parked on company property (this prohibition is against the law in at least 1 State), making it difficult to carry/transport if you will be going to work. Consider eg. a plan to go to the range after work.
          * Notwithstanding areas required to by law, the main places which I recall explicitly seeing useful signs banning firearms on premises are Costco and (now) Whole Foods. Also, the “Terms of Use” for a few local shopping malls prohibit carrying firearms, but that’s in the fine print you have to go inside to read. I’ve encountered very few small-time stores who’ve had such prohibitions.

    • On to the more general moral/ethical issue:

      Should private businesses be allowed to prevent someone from practicing a specific Constitutional Right? Note that the Courts agree that “bear” is an important part of the right and actually carrying the arms is required to exercise it.

      This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims). This is somewhat mitigated by their disruption on your business, but clearly someone carrying a concealed gun is not having any effect if he or she is doing it properly. An open carry gun might be more disruptive in a very Blue area, but when I visit rural family, seeing someone with an openly holstered gun is hardly unusual.

      As a moral issue, if I was His Royal Majesty, The Unquestioned Emperor Of The North American Superstate And Lord Protector Of The Greater Anglo Superunity, I would desire that freedom of association with respect to private spaces to be generally increased, and that civil rights laws should operate not on the basis of public facing business, but on the basis of the business falling into a national category system of necessity, such that businesses that provide for products in a continuous fashion would be separated from those that work on commission, and then businesses that provide for things like food, water, health, and housing among others would be placed at the highest tier in terms of the requirement to serve, with lower tiers having more freedom of association/discrimination.

      Returning from the clouds back to the cold practical ground, I’d say that the constitution is underwritten with respect to this issue. Theoretically, you only need the right to keep arms in order to fight tyranny should it come (“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of our democracy and it is our job to ensure that is stays there.” ~ George Orwell). This doesn’t cover day to day self-defense, but people carrying handguns means (theoretically; considering the 21 foot rule knives shouldn’t be discounted in close quarters) that others have to carry handguns, and then add a violent culture to that and you have Chicago.

      If the constitution was written properly, it would regard the right to keep arms as not to be infringed, and the right to bear arms as something much more context dependent. Similarly, with the first amendment it makes sense to say that the government should not make laws abridging freedom of speech, since it is context and not the combinations of words themselves that define the narrow exception of threats (“I am going to bomb JFK Airport in 5 minutes” – Do you take this seriously? Even if you do, you don’t arrest people for the words, but send agents to assess whether the person is making a credible threat; whether the words predict a future state of reality), but you have to jump through more hoops to say that the government should pass NO laws abridging the right of people to peacefully assemble (typically considered a corollary to freedom speech in a similar fashion to bearing and keeping arms) when even peaceful protestors can block streets and restrict other people in a way that no speech directly does. The constitution is full of ways in which it’s underwritten, then requiring partisan justices to sort it all out.

      So from a practical standpoint “bearing arms” CAN’T be left as uninfringed as “keeping arms”. Therefore I have no problem in principle with laws that restrict people carrying from entering certain places. This isn’t necessarily respecting how the constitution was written, but it is respecting how it should have been written in my view. There could be further data driven arguments that in certain spaces, like “gun free zones”, shooters are able to wrack up higher kill counts, but I haven’t seen any evidence this is true so far. In any case, it wouldn’t change the overall picture, just how much we tweak the level of infringement in particular settings.

      • Clutzy says:

        Returning from the clouds back to the cold practical ground, I’d say that the constitution is underwritten with respect to this issue. Theoretically, you only need the right to keep arms in order to fight tyranny should it come (“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of our democracy and it is our job to ensure that is stays there.” ~ George Orwell). This doesn’t cover day to day self-defense, but people carrying handguns means (theoretically; considering the 21 foot rule knives shouldn’t be discounted in close quarters) that others have to carry handguns, and then add a violent culture to that and you have Chicago.

        That is very much not Chicago. The default in Chicago is a bunch of people walking around without guns. In fact, if you go back and look at our old stop and frisk stats, even known criminals in known areas of high criminality are infrequently armed. Instead, persons temporarily (usually illegally) carry arms for specific purposes and then engage in crime using the deadly weapon. There is also a problematic set of situations where people (again usually illegally) arm themselves without the thought of a crime, but only for short periods when they are generally menacing, and don’t expect police presence. Even the criminal elements that bother people in the areas of commerce are generally perpetrated by unarmed criminals who rely on confusion, numbers, and the inability of police to respond quickly.

        Now, is there a counterfactual where there are problems caused because carrying is the norm? Possibly, but it would look very different. The problems would be more likely caused by some sort of chivalry and assault-on-honor thing where people start stabbing and shooting each other like Burr and Hamilton.

      • @Clutzy

        Instead, persons temporarily (usually illegally) carry arms for specific purposes and then engage in crime using the deadly weapon. There is also a problematic set of situations where people (again usually illegally) arm themselves without the thought of a crime, but only for short periods when they are generally menacing, and don’t expect police presence.

        I assumed most gang members carried a “piece”, but maybe that’s just Hollywood. In 2011, 83% of murders in Chicago were committed with firearms, so this means most of the people committing murder at all are carrying illegal weapons temporarily to commit very deliberate murders, rather than spontaneous ones.

        I agree that “getting guns off the streets” won’t solve murders in that sort of case, because the problem isn’t people getting angry and a gun escalating the situation, but gang members very deliberately doing hits on each other in a premeditated fashion of going to a place to kill someone, so if you took away the guns you’d just have them knifing each other, as in London. Chicago was dubbed the “mass shooting capital” but I assume that’s down to some statistical manipulation, and multiple murders represents the minority case anyway, so a knife would be just as effective, meaning similar rates would occur.

        In any case like that it really does come down to the culture factor and all you can do is get people off the street. I would like to see data on what the typical case is as regards criminals carrying weapons for protection versus temporarily acquiring them. If it’s generally the first case I see no reason why stop and search wouldn’t work, but it’s generally taken to have been ineffective or barely arguably effective in all the places its been tried. I don’t see why stop and search can’t work in principle, but possibly the trade-off required for a reasonable interception rate would mean turning a city into an open air prison with wardens on every corner.

        • Clutzy says:

          I assumed most gang members carried a “piece”, but maybe that’s just Hollywood. In 2011, 83% of murders in Chicago were committed with firearms, so this means most of the people committing murder at all are carrying illegal weapons temporarily to commit very deliberate murders, rather than spontaneous ones.

          Yes, this is kind of what stop and frisk’s low weapon finding rates would imply. Maybe they aren’t totally going out to commit a particular homicide, but even the dumbest gangbanger only carries with the intent to commit a felony in next 12 or so hours.

          And, the problem with stop-and-frisk lies with the first problem (people don’t carry much) plus the problem that police end up having “magic fingers” where everything feels like a felony, and they end up popping kids with weed, coke, etc. So, if you had responsible police, it could probably work if they were well trained in identifying suspicious behavior and were trained to limit frisking to weapons.

    • John Schilling says:

      From a freedom-of-association perspective, and for strictly private businesses, “their roof, their rules”.

      If we’re going to force private businesses to serve customers they’d rather not, I’d rather the very first in line for that forced association be people who are privately exercising an explicit constitutional right in a manner that directly impacts no other person.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        However the very notion of a ‘protected class’ belies the fact that much of the insistence on rights isn’t really about ‘who’ rather than ‘what’ The general ambivalent to negative towards firearm owners would engender the same reaction to such a policy as the ambivalent to negative attitude towards certain lifestyles endendered for other people.

        I’d prefer the decision over whether or not and to what degree businesses are permitted to discriminate be decided by the nature and size of the business rather than the discriminatory act, because certain institutions practicing favoratism are far more supressing than others. (payment processors vs. candy shops) A homeowner is 100% sovereign, a corporation who controls a key bottleneck in the economy… not so much.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims).

      On the contrary, you’re free to discriminate against people in any way you want except if it involves one of a small set of protected characteristics. If you want to claim that carrying a gun should be added to that small set, you need to actually argue for it.

      • EchoChaos says:

        If you want to claim that carrying a gun should be added to that small set, you need to actually argue for it.

        I did. I noted that unlike those other set, carrying a gun (specifically carrying) is actually in the Constitution.

        So if we are resolved as a government to infringe on the rights of business owners, that should be one of the reasons.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Freedom of speech is also in the Constitution, yet there are plenty of perfectly legal things you can say which might get you thrown out of a private business. Do you want to restrict the business’s associational choice in that case too?

          The usual rationale for antidiscrimination laws is that they protect people from being excluded from society because of attributes of themselves that they can’t change. Race, sex, sexual orientation, and disability are all good examples of this. Religion fits the pattern less well (and indeed I think the case for freedom of association wrt religion is stronger than for the other attributes for this reason), but it is still viewed as fundamental enough to people’s identity that it’s not just a choice like other choices. But carrying arms is an ordinarily-voluntary choice, as is expressing your political views, and so not in the set of protected characteristics even though protected from government disfavor by the Constitution.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I can’t refuse entry to my business for being straight, or gay, or born again, or (hypothetically) a gun owner.

            I can refuse you having sex, or proselytizing, or carrying a firearm. Is the line between “being a protected class” and “engaging in non protected behavior” fuzzy? Most definitely. But that cuts both ways. Once you admit that some behavior intrinsically linked with being a member of a class is bannable, even while not permitting banning the class itself, you start having to make nuanced arguments about what is and is not permissible. You can’t lean on a simplistic, brittle formulation of unassailable rights.

          • John Schilling says:

            The usual rationale for antidiscrimination laws is that they protect people from being excluded from society because of attributes of themselves that they can’t change. Race, sex, sexual orientation, and disability are all good examples of this.

            The “sexual orientation” that people usually discriminate against is usually the “who are you actually screwing” kind, not the “who do you privately wish you were screwing” kind, so maybe not the greatest example. And we’re now dealing with the claim that sex or at least gender is something that can be arbitrarily changed, so this rationale is hard to stretch to cover both “you can’t discriminate against people wearing dresses” and “you can’t discriminate against people with vaginas”. And even race gets kind of fuzzy at the borders.

            So it seems to me that the “usual rationale” is at best a Motte, and the Bailey is that the guardians of antidiscrimination have decided that some life choices are sacred and others are not.

          • Dacyn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I can’t refuse entry to my business for being straight, or gay, or born again, or (hypothetically) a gun owner.

            What? Gun owner is not a protected class.

            @John Schilling:

            And we’re now dealing with the claim that sex or at least gender is something that can be arbitrarily changed

            Actually, trans advocates usually claim that gender identity is an innate property that sometimes differs from sex, but can’t necessarily be voluntarily changed. (Whether this makes sense or not is a different question.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Actually, trans advocates usually claim that gender identity is an innate property that sometimes differs from sex, but can’t necessarily be voluntarily changed.

            Even if that is the claim, gender expression can surely be changed, and that’s most of what is actually discriminated against.

          • Garrett says:

            Under California case law, anyways, you can’t be thrown out of shopping center for your speech and related activities on their premises.

            So Freedom of Speech isn’t always the best counter-example.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            But California’s Constitution is not the US’s.

          • Dacyn says:

            @John Schilling: It seems that even conservatives agree that it’s possible for a woman to dress up like a man, act more like a man, and in general present herself more as a man. In other words, to “arbitrarily change” her gender expression. So why did you make it sound as though the claim was controversial?

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          But evidently “being in the Constitution” has nothing to do with existing anti-discrimination laws, because — as you say — the characteristics they involve are not mentioned in the constitution. You need to either argue why being in the constitution makes carrying a gun similar to existing protected characteristics, or argue why it should be protected regardless (even if there were no existing anti-discrimination laws).

          • EchoChaos says:

            But evidently “being in the Constitution” has nothing to do with existing anti-discrimination laws, because — as you say — the characteristics they involve are not mentioned in the constitution.

            Indeed, which is why I view existing anti-discrimination laws as a bad thing.

            You need to either argue why being in the constitution makes carrying a gun similar to existing protected characteristics, or argue why it should be protected regardless (even if there were no existing anti-discrimination laws).

            I said that. If the government is determined to infringe on the right of free association for its citizens, then the infringement should primarily uphold Constitutional rights and secondarily other things (like those not mentioned in the Constitution).

            As @John Schilling said neatly:

            If we’re going to force private businesses to serve customers they’d rather not, I’d rather the very first in line for that forced association be people who are privately exercising an explicit constitutional right in a manner that directly impacts no other person.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I said that. If the government is determined to infringe on the right of free association for its citizens, then the infringement should primarily uphold Constitutional rights and secondarily other things (like those not mentioned in the Constitution).

            Which option are you claiming to have taken?

    • Garrett says:

      No Federal law exists which allows “gun free zones”

      No, but Federal Law requires it of some areas. Most are guarded by metal detectors/guards. But that isn’t guaranteed of hospitals.

      Funny story you’re getting about 2nd hand (which I heard from 2 people involved). Patient taken by ambulance to ER for whatever. Was wanded/searched by security 3 times. While being transferred to the CT scanner a handgun fell out of their clothes. “Don’t worry, I have a permit”. The biggest concern wasn’t the handgun itself – it was that obvious security procedures designed to detect this exact case didn’t detect it.

      • John Schilling says:

        No Federal law exists which allows “gun free zones”

        No, but Federal Law requires it of some areas. Most are guarded by metal detectors/guards. But that isn’t guaranteed of hospitals.

        Right. The correct statement is that no Federal law exists which enforces any non-Federal entity’s declaration of a gun-free zone. Which is kind of irrelevant, because Federalism mostly (and IMO correctly) puts that in the domain of State law.

        Many State laws have declared their own gun-free zones, and some go so far as to enforce privately-declared gun-free zones within their jurisdiction.

    • acymetric says:

      One of the requests last thread from @acymetric was a discussion on “the markets have decided that people shouldn’t openly carry guns”

      I just want to clarify that while I did (sarcastically!!) ask for this discussion, it was not my idea but someone else’s (though they used different words). Nice discussion so far though 🙂

  7. gbdub says:

    So I’m planning to be in Paris next week (arriving Tuesday). Given the ongoing transport strikes, how frakked am I? Relatively minor inconvenience, or bad enough that I should cancel my trip (or reroute it to, say, London, with the last minute costs that go along with that)?

    I’ll be staying in St-Germain, so there seems to be plenty to do within walking or rental bike distance if the Metro is still closed.

    My main concern for Paris proper is getting from CDG to downtown on the 17th (taxis appear to be running if the trains aren’t, but I’d guess they are oversubscribed and traffic will suck?).

    Also, I need to take a TGV to Strasbourg on the 22nd. Seems less likely the strike would still be on in force then, but fewer alternatives (I guess I could rent a car one way?).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      On the Paris-Strasbourg route you have the option of a German ICE train rather than a French TGV. That might be more likely to run (if signalling/station staff aren’t on strike) and takes the same amount of time.

      Another travel option if you’re comfortable with it is Blablacar which is an online carpooling marketplace.

      • gbdub says:

        Thanks for the ICE suggestion, unfortunately they appear impacted as well. The good news is that even today it looks like SNCF is running a partial schedule on the Paris to Strasbourg route (basically the TGV and OUIGO trains departing from noon to five) and focusing the cancellations on off hours and lower speed TER trains. And I already have a seat on a midday TGV on my planned travel date. Since it seems like these strikes tend to peter out rather than ramp up, hopefully I should be in good shape.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Disclaimer: not living in Paris.

      It depends on a lot of things. Maybe the strike will be over next week (I’d give it 20% chances). If you’re in St-Germain-des-prés, you’ll be fine without metro if you don’t mind walking (or bike, but it may be cold). If it’s St-Germain-en-Laye, you’re (probably) entering a world of pain.

      Going from CDG to Paris proper is, however, a problem (if the strike stays at the same level). For today, RATP website gives me 1/3rd of the trains running. There seems to be private buses, but they also seems quite pricey (up to 15-20 bucks to get to Paris).

      As for going to Strasbourg, you can take your chance with a TGV, but quite a few of them get cancelled, so if you take a ticket, make sure yo have a reimbursable one. You can probably find someone to hop a ride on (try blablacar), especially at this period.

      • gbdub says:

        Ah yes, I meant St.Germain des Pres. FWIW I would not call 15-20 bucks terribly expensive, was actually probably going to take a cab anyway, which I understand to be about 50 Euro flat price.There are two of us, so the per-person cost is competitive with the buses, plus we have large suitcases and will be jet lagged, so the convenience is worth something.

        The TGV ticket is purchased already (from before the strikes started) but SNCF is refunding for any trips that get cancelled. Thanks for the bablacar suggestion, will look into that.

    • JayT says:

      Why not just rent a car? I do that every time I travel to Europe and it’s lead to more enjoyable vacations because you end up finding more hidden gems, and it isn’t really that much more expensive.

      • gbdub says:

        While I would at some point love to take a driving tour of the French countryside , that’s not this trip. I’m staying in the Paris and Strasbourg city centers, where keeping a car around is unnecessary and inconvenient.

        Had I suspected the metro would be down for the majority of my Paris time, I probably would have leaned toward the “country tour”. But now the hotels are booked and mostly non refundable.

  8. Apropos of nothing — but this is an open thread …

    I’m trying to locate a book I remember reading. I thought the title was something like “Little Wars in the post-war period,” but that can’t be very close, since googling didn’t find it.

    It was about a bunch of wars after WWII, including the decolonization conflicts in Indonesia and Malaya and various African civil wars. One point I remember, with regard to the Dutch attempt to maintain control of Indonesia, was that Dutch casualties were tiny relative to Indonesian casualties, but it was the Dutch who gave up because they were unwilling to accept the cost.

    That struck me as an argument against an interventionist foreign policy. The locals who you are trying to control have a much larger stake in the outcome than you do, so will be willing to accept much larger costs than you are. In Vietnam, the obvious American case, the U.S. pulled out after taking casualties much smaller than those that had been endured by both the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese, despite the U.S. having a much larger population than either.

    Does anyone recognize the book?

    • Ouroborobot says:

      “Small Wars, Faraway Places”, maybe? It’s not that old, so maybe not.

    • Aapje says:

      @DavidFriedman

      One point I remember, with regard to the Dutch attempt to maintain control of Indonesia, was that Dutch casualties were tiny relative to Indonesian casualties, but it was the Dutch who gave up because they were unwilling to accept the cost.

      If this is the quality of argument of the book, you might be better off not reading it again.

      The ‘police actions’ happened after the Dutch government already agreed with decolonization. The conflict was much more over how it would happen:
      – Who got control over (central) Indonesia. Sukarno was not acceptable to the Dutch due to his collaboration with the Japanese during WW II. The Netherlands felt strongly about collaboration not being rewarded.
      – The status of the outer areas. The Moluccans and Papuans wanted independence, while many other regions wanted more localized power. Indonesia wanted to control these areas under a strong central government. The Netherlands wanted them to form a federation (which itself formed part of a Commonwealth with The Netherlands).
      – The timeline. The Netherlands wanted independence after 10 years.

      So the actual conflict was not about whether decolonization would happen, but rather, whether the conditions would be closer to what the Republik Indonesia/Sukarno wanted or closer to what The Netherlands wanted. There was a bit of a stalemate, as both sides refused to budge enough to come to an agreement.

      The first military intervention (‘Product’) happened when The Netherlands had built up a large military force, which was subject to guerrilla attacks and which was very expensive to maintain, while The Netherlands was nearly bankrupt. The goal of the intervention was to break the stalemate in negotiations, conquer ‘rich’ areas to bring in funds and to beat down the guerrilla.

      The economic goals were successfully achieved by the time the UN demanded an end to hostilities, although the political stalemate persisted, as well as the guerrilla warfare.

      The second intervention (‘Crow’) was more ambitious, with the goal to eliminate Sukarno’s government, to see it replaced with a more moderate government, that was willing to accept a independence agreement closer to what the Dutch desired. The idea was to create ‘facts on the ground’ that the UN had to accept.

      The military managed to conquer the capital of the Republik Indonesia and arrest the leaders Sukarno and Hatta, but the Republik failed to collapse, forming an emergency government and pulling forces back to very defensible positions from which they could engage in guerrilla warfare. The international community and in particular the US was furious, adopting a resolution to stop hostilities and to liberate Sukarno and Hatta. The Netherlands did the first. The guerrilla warfare by the Republik caused increasing casualties among the soldiers and the executions of Indonesian people that worked with the Dutch caused big governance problems. Finally, the international community threatened sanctions and the US threatened an end to the Marshall aid.

      This situation caused the Dutch government to agree to a cease fire that included the return of the capital to the Republik, the liberation of Sukarno and Hatta, as well as an end to the guerrilla.

      In the subsequent negotiations, the Republik Indonesia was willing to compromise much more, resulting in an independence agreement that was very close to one that the Republik turned down three years earlier. This agreement included a federal structure and a Commonwealth with The Netherlands. After the transfer of power, the Republik gradually abolished the federal structure and refused to invest in the Commonwealth, resulting in its demise. The promise that Papua New Guinea would get a fair referendum for independence was not kept, by holding a rigged referendum.

      Note that the US interest in Indonesia was greatly influenced by the cold war, where Sukarno was seen as an ally against communism. The CIA assisted in the anti-communist mass killings by Sukarno, that killed 0.5 to 3 million, despite the CIA themselves seeing those killings as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s.

      —-

      So portraying the Dutch withdrawal as a simple matter of a Dutch unwillingness to accept relatively few casualties to maintain control is wrong both because the Dutch didn’t want to keep control and because there were many more reasons to withdraw with a lesser agreement than desired, than merely the number of casualties. Furthermore, the deal that eventually was signed was better than any that the Republik had ever been willing to accept.

      The status quo was not good for The Netherlands, which is exactly why the military interventions happened in the first place. When they failed, no future intervention could be expected to succeed (and it was not politically feasible to do that anyway) and the international community increasingly took sides against The Netherlands, there was little rational reason to stay.

      The idea that a lopsided kill ratio means that you are winning or otherwise achieving your goal(s) was an American delusion during the Vietnamese war. It is silly. War, just like politics, is about achieving goals. What helps you achieve your goals is winning, not ‘military victories’.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Interesting post, thanks.

        But:

        The promise that Papua New Guinea would get a fair referendum for independence was not kept, by holding a rigged referendum.

        Surely you mean former Netherlands New Guinea? Papua New Guinea is the former Australian territory (before that parts were British and parts German) on the eastern half of the island.

        Of course, the names are confusing, given that:
        The island is known as either Papua or New Guinea.
        Papua can also mean the Indonesian part of the island, which is divided into the two provinces of Papua and West Papua.
        West Papua is also used to refer to the whole Indonesian part of the island…

        • Aapje says:

          Yes, you are correct. It’s a bit like Macedonia, the country, recently renamed to North Macedonia versus Macedonia the Greek region.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why do you want to find the book?
      If the facts make the argument, maybe you should find a different book about the same facts, in part to check if they are actually the facts.

    • nkurz says:

      I have no personal knowledge, but a search comes up with the book “Small Nations:
      Crisis and Confrontation in the 20th Century” which has a slightly similar title and appears to include a chapter on the Dutch decolonisation of Indonesia: https://www.niod.nl/en/small-nations-crisis-and-confrontation-20th-century.

  9. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    Mention of trolley problem reminded me on a thought I had the last time I thought of trolleys.

    Does personalization of the subjects make it easier or harder? As long as I know nothing of the people on rails, they exist as an amourphous blob out of which 1 person will die, one survive and 4 can be saved if I so choose. But if you tell me something about them, I’ll have to vocalize my opinion on their relative value.

    • Incurian says:

      I think utilitarianism only makes sense when applied to amorphous blobs. The idea that each person you know is equally valuable is pretty silly.

    • Another thought about the trolley problem: the fat man/man-in-the-yard paradox ignores the question of moral blame. What were the people doing on the tracks in the first place? If you have people already in the snake-pit, who jumped in it themselves, it makes sense to prioritize getting as many of them out as possible. It doesn’t make sense to push someone in in order to get more people out.

    • Garrett says:

      trolley problem

      Does anybody know if there’s be research done to compare the rates at which people will throw the switch if it’s 1 life in the abstract vs. their own life which would be lost?

  10. proyas says:

    [This is a quasi-repost of a thread I created in the last Open Thread. After posting it and seeing the first few responses, I realized I had messed up the wording of my question so badly that it wasn’t worth an attempt to fix it, and I’d be better off starting over by creating this.]

    Why do we care about a person’s motivation for committing homicide? If 99%+ of adults consider the killing unjustified (hence my use of the “homicide” label), then why does it matter if the act was committed in the name of religion, race, terrorism, money, jealousy, grossly disproportionate revenge for some past mideed, or anything else?

    I don’t think the motivations should be “covered up,” but I don’t understand why a killing should be thought of as “more bad” or more worthy of attention because of the killer’s reason for committing the crime. In every case, the most important fact–that a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed–is the same.

    • John Schilling says:

      Do you just want to point at the villain and say “Bad, Bad Human!”, or do you want to do something about it? If the latter, doing something useful greatly benefits from understanding the motive.

    • Eric Rall says:

      A bit over a century, Ambrose Bierce facetiously observed, “There are four kinds of homocide [sic]: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another—the classification is for advantage of the lawyers”.

      Change out “excusable” for “understandable”, and I think the categorization actually tracks pretty well with many (perhaps most) people’s moral intuitions. The motive for the killing matters because it’s one of the bigger parts of how we slot the killing by category.

      To pick an extreme example, someone who gets fatally shot in the course of attempting an armed robbery is a situation where, as you put it, “a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed”: the robber was committing an serious crime and probably deserved a prison sentence, but most people don’t think armed robbery rates the death penalty unless it escalates to the point a robber murders one or more of his victims. But my moral intuition (and I think most people’s) is to mind this killing much, much less than the kinds of killing that our legal system categorizes as murder. Part of the difference is that the robber’s wrongful actions are in large part responsible for the situation that lead to his death, but it also matter to me that whoever shot him was presumably acting out of self-preservation in the face of attack or defense of an innocent, not a baser motive like greed or revenge.

      I know you’re specifically asking about unjustified homicides, but “justified” isn’t strictly binary. There are a range of motives that are not considered (legally or culturally) full-on justifications, but which do (for most people) seem to affect how deeply we are offended by the crime and (for the legal system) may be considered mitigating factors reducing the crime from 1st Degree Murder to 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter, or within one of those categories suggesting a more lenient sentence is appropriate.

      • acymetric says:

        To pick an extreme example, someone who gets fatally shot in the course of attempting an armed robbery is a situation where, as you put it, “a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed”

        I’m not sure you’re going to get widespread agreement on that (and this is from someone that generally takes issue with the leeway granted by stand-your-ground laws/castle doctrine/etc).

        Unarmed robbery, maybe.

    • zardoz says:

      I’m a bit confused, since I thought the answers you got the first time around were pretty good.

      Try this thought experiment. In scenario one, your parents are killed by someone driving a car whose brakes fail at exactly the wrong time. In scenario two, your parents are stalked and killed by a deranged psychopath who did it because he hates you.

      Do you really not recognize any moral or practical difference between the two scenarios? Do you really think the punishment should be the same in both cases?

      • AlexanderTheGrand says:

        To be fair to the commentor, this is roughly what he was trying to clear up. That’s not a homicide, that’s manslaughter at worst.

    • Dacyn says:

      I think I am probably one of the few people here who actually holds the position you are confused about. But I don’t really know how to explain it — it’s like, I put myself in the mind of the person who committed the killing, and I basically find myself disgusted by it. It feels like a thing we have to get rid of, regardless of its effects. But to someone who doesn’t experience that, I don’t know what to say. (I mean, I could say things to try to trigger an analogous disgust reaction, but you have probably heard that kind of thing already.)

    • Thegnskald says:

      I don’t know if you are conveying what exactly you are confused about.

      So let’s pick two cases. In one, the person was motivated by money, and not in a “dire straights” sense, but just “The money was worth killing the person for” sense; it was an impersonal killing. In the other, the person was motivated by jealousy; it was an entirely personal killing.

      In the former case, we are talking about somebody for whom the killing was merely a means to an end. In the latter case, the killing was the end.

      In this particular pairing, the person who killed out of jealousy will probably be seen as less evil than the person who killed for money, because, in a significant sense, the person who killed for money behaved as if the other person’s life was meaningless or irrelevant to them, whereas the person who killed for jealousy behaved as if the other person’s life was deeply meaningful to them. The first person is more… frightening, in a sense, less connected to human experience, more alien to ordinary people; they could, presumably, kill anybody with equal lack of care. The latter person is more human; they didn’t kill somebody who didn’t matter to them personally, and most people, at some point or another, have probably thought about killing somebody for some reason, so it is possible to empathize, to some extent, with their reason for doing so.

      Change it up a bit, however, so the first person was trying to survive, and say killed somebody for $10 to buy a meal with, and the empathy will swing that way, because being that desperate is something people can imagine themselves experiencing, and perhaps even fear their own reactions to.

      The critical aspect of all of this is to what extent people can imagine themselves feeling the same way, in the same situation. Maybe they wouldn’t kill somebody in a fit of jealousy, but they can imagine (or have experienced) desperately wanting to; if they were not evil, because they did not act, is somebody else evil merely because they lacked sufficient willpower (or support networks, or whatever) to stop themselves?

      Terrorism looks like self-righteous if not gleeful impersonal killings; killing strangers, to make other strangers afraid of you. If you don’t think carefully about it, which most people don’t, it looks like the assassin from the first example, only with malice instead of greed as the motivation.

      • proyas says:

        I don’t follow your logic. Remember what I wrote:

        If 99%+ of adults consider the killing unjustified (hence my use of the “homicide” label), then why does it matter if the act was committed in the name of religion, race, terrorism, money, jealousy, grossly disproportionate revenge for some past mideed, or anything else?

        If I’m judging a person who committed a homicide, and if, in my mind, I’ve already decided that the killing was not justified, then they’re already over the key threshold and no useful gradations of the “badness” of their act can be derived by examining their motivations.

        Also, I don’t see how my ability to “empathize” with them should affect my judgement of how bad their crime was, or how much attention it deserves relative to other homicides. I’m not a sociopath, so I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone who coldly murders people for money he doesn’t need to survive, and I’m more similar to the guy who was only able to commit murder because his emotions (jealousy) temporarily overrode his moral programming, but so what? The sociopath is different from the jealous guy, but his actions are not worse.

        • John Schilling says:

          If […] I’ve already decided that the killing was not justified, then they’re already over the key threshold and no useful gradations of the “badness” of their act can be derived by examining their motivations.

          Such gradations are useful for determining if and when it is safe to allow this particular killer out of prison, for deterimining the level of punishment necessary to deter future homicides, for properly targeting and calibrating anti-homicide strategies generally, and for convincing people other than you that justice has been done. These are all goals that I at least feel are worth pursuing.

    • Aftagley says:

      I think you are conflated a couple of related, but separate axes of “badness” here.

      First we have the “this person killed someone axis.” Normally this is moderated by a bunch of different factors, like accidents or insanity, but you’ve removed those as options. In this scenario, the person killed someone, did it knowingly and 99% of people agree the killing was bad.

      There are other factors we use to judge a crime though. Here are a few off the top of my head:

      Indiscriminacy: how focused was the murder on the particular individual victim? Was this a killing that could have only affected one person, or could it have happened to anyone? This would look like revenge killing < targeting a specific population group (member of the free masons) < targeting a larger population group (targeting a particular race/sex) < just going out to kill anyone.

      Cruelty: Did the person sneak a chemical into their drink that makes them feel euphoria for 10 minutes then go to sleep forever, or did they chain them to a wall and skin them alive with a pair of pruning shears? Both kill the victim, but one is way crueler.

      Virality: How likely is this particular killing to inspire other people to also kill? If someone posts a manifesto, make their actions deliberately accessible and tries very hard to make it seem justified to a population that is at-risk for this type of behavior, their actions are more viral.

      So, the individual act is the same in each case – someone is dead, but ancillary factors also matter.

  11. Plumber says:

    As I’ve mentioned once or a dozen times, much of my newsreading is filtered through “What do some New York Times opinion essayist think is important this week?”, more specifically with: born in 1941 (so younger ‘Silent’/”Get off my lawn you hoodlums! Generation”) liberal Thomas Edsall, born in 1953 (so ‘Boomer’/”Flower children” Generation”) progressive Paul Krugman, and born in 1979 (so younger ‘X’er”/”Napster Generation”) conservative Ross Douthat. 

    A few open threads ago I posted long quotes from: Liberals Do Not Want to Destroy the Family by Thomas B. Edsall, and I encouraged conservative readers to get past some liberal signalling and read the meat of that essay, Ross Douthat later did the response: Are Liberals Against Marriage?, and I encourage liberal/progressive readers to get past some conservative signalling and read the meat of that essay, which I’ll quote some of: 

    “…one key fact about the recent decline in the American fertility rate that inevitably revives, rather than transcends, a long-running right-left argument. While marital fertility fell in the 1970s after the baby boom ran its course, the baby bust of the last 10 years hasn’t affected married couples, whose fertility rate has stayed level or very modestly increased.

    So while it’s important to debate questions like how the cost of child care affects childbearing decisions within marriages, the question of why marriage has declined so precipitously in the first place still looms over the fertility discussion…”

    Anyway, there was a “baby bust” in the Great Depression of the 1930’s and by 1940 in the U.S.A. births, church attendance, and marriages were all low and comparable to now, those all increased after the war and spiked in the mid 1950’s. 

    Births started dropping in the mid ’60’s, and then really dropped with the oil embargo and price inflation of the 1970’s, but they picked up again, only to drop again with the ‘Great Recession’ of 2009.

    Ten years later the continued low birthrates would be consistent with the experience of the ’30’s if we were still in an economic slump, but we’re not, jobs have been pretty plentiful the last five years.

    An oft told tale is that as women get more education they have less kids, but were the young American women of 2007 all that less educated than those of 2017?

    The drop in births is partially the continued drop in teenage and unwed births since the ’80’s, which most regard as good things, but also that young adults just aren’t getting married as much, as those that do get married still have kids at 90’s/earlier 00’s levels. I’m not particularly worried about low birthrates causing problems, lots of folks want to come to the U.S.A. and I’m confident in assimilation, I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

    When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t. The comments sections on the essays mentioned above often cited education and housing costs, fear of climate change, and Trump being President as being causes of pessimism, but Trump wasn’t President in 2017 when births were already low, I remember global warming predictions in the ’80’s (and global cooling predictions in the ’70’s), education and housing costs were pretty high in 2007, plus folks keep saying high rents are “only in a few outlier cities”.

    So what’s causing this?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

      There is a smuggled assumption here, that the low birthrates themselves are a problem.

      Non representative thought experiment: Sybil’s mother, rather than marrying and having children, doesn’t.

      • Skeptic says:

        To be charitable, my take of Plumber’s comment is this:

        1. He specifically does not view low birth rates as a problem

        2. He believes there are some factors x,y,z that exist and are causal to low birth rates

        3. He wants to identify x,y,z

        4. He is worried about x,y,z because of what else they may effect, and/or what it (negatively) says about our collective state of affairs

        • Plumber says:

          @Skeptic,

          Yes exactly, and that’s projection based on my own lived experience as when we had our older son it was basically a ‘biological clock’ we feared that if we waited longer it wouldn’t be physically possible to without expensive medical treatments that we feared we’d never be able to afford.
          We didn’t have our younger son until after years of steady work and the 2009 housing crash temporarily lowered prices and we bought a house so my gut level default “smuggled in assumption” is that younger American adults don’t feel financially secure enough and/or older ones can’t afford the medical interventions.

          Except that the economy is supposed to be doing pretty good, in my area housing is expensive but jobs are very plentiful.

          Maybe the “shell shock” of 2009 is lingering even as the economy has turned around?

          Maybe jobs for men are in one region and jobs for women in another?

          What’s (as you term it) the x, y, and z?

          • MrApophenia says:

            How much of the economic turnaround is actually being distributed widely? A booming stock market is only going to do so much when most young people have absolutely no stake in the stock market, and a bunch of crap service jobs will lower unemployment but not make people feel economically secure.

          • Aapje says:

            Except that the economy is supposed to be doing pretty good

            In my country:
            – Tax burdens on companies have declined a lot over the last decades, even as the overall tax burden increased. So who are paying more?
            – Incomes are stagnant, which means that the supposedly booming economy is not operating by the rules of a traditional booming economy
            – Very many of the new jobs are freelance-style jobs with no pension, little security & which aren’t sufficient for a decent mortgage
            – The definition of ’employed’ was changed to include jobs with minimal working hours.
            – There are great housing shortages, caused by large scale immigration* + atomization.
            – Willingness to work through a rough patch in relationships has greatly decreased, causing lots of breakups.

            * Only evil non-globalists point this out.

          • JayT says:

            – Willingness to work through a rough patch in relationships has greatly decreased, causing lots of breakups.

            Is that actually true? I thought divorce rates were falling.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @JayT

            It depends, the whole discussion is confounded by the fact that people may be more judicious in the selection of partners, or slow to go from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘married’ slower. A marriage with a lower divorce probability may have been the product of numerous failed pre-marital relationships.

            But i agree that it’s speculative to blame this on people being flakey. The only data I’ve seen is ‘age of marriage’

          • Aapje says:

            @JayT

            A marriage is not the only variant of a relationship. It can both be true that relationships are less stable and that marriages are more stable, when standards for getting married have gone up, which they clearly have.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @skeptic @plumber:

          2. He believes there are some factors x,y,z that exist and are causal to low birth rates

          I guess I need to make my point a little more explicitly, so it’s clear what my objection is.

          Original statement:

          When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t.

          The point I am trying to make here is that the second part of this equation didn’t use to be true, not in the way it is now. The expectation was early marriage and kids. Mostly people got married and had kids, or didn’t get married and still had kids.

          So maybe some of what we are observing isn’t an increase in problems, but an increase in autonomy. Depressed, anxious, pessimistic people of yesteryear may just have had a lot more kids than the people who are just as depressed and pessimistic.

          You are just assuming that it’s an increase in “problems” causing lower birth rates, rather than simply increased control over the decision to have kids. I don’t think it’s valid to smuggle this assumption in. You need to show that that is likely causal, or at least even correlated.

          I’m not necessarily advocating for this position, but I am saying the onus is on you to show not just an increase in “pessimism” but also that said increase is plausibly causal of low birth rates. I’m guessing that if you compare birth rates and general outlook now vs. most of the 70s, you’ll find that correlation runs opposite of the way you are assuming.

          ETA: and then my earlier point, more explicitly, is that this autonomy (assuming it exists and is responsible for the lower birth rates) might simply be a positive thing. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pessimistic people may not make the best parents. Sure, it’s good to ameliorate these problems for the (prospective) parents, but that’s true regardless of whether it leads to them having kids.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub > “…my objection is.

            Original statement:

            When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t.

            The point I am trying to make here is that the second part of this equation didn’t use to be true, not in the way it is now. The expectation was early marriage and kids. Mostly people got married and had kids, or didn’t get married and still had kids.

            So maybe some of what we are observing isn’t an increase in problems, but an increase in autonomy. Depressed, anxious, pessimistic people of yesteryear may just have had a lot more kids than the people who are just as depressed and pessimistic.

            You are just assuming that it’s an increase in “problems” causing lower birth rates, rather than simply increased control over the decision to have kids. I don’t think it’s valid to smuggle this assumption in. You need to show that that is likely causal, or at least even correlated.

            I’m not necessarily advocating for this position, but I am saying the onus is on you to show not just an increase in “pessimism” but also that said increase is plausibly causal of low birth rates. I’m guessing that if you compare birth rates and general outlook now vs. most of the 70s, you’ll find that correlation runs opposite of the way you are assuming..” 

            Oh, you’re right, “when pessimistic they don’t” seemed intuitive (based on my lived experience, and observations of the people I know) that it simply didn’t occur to me to explore my assumption, I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that along with the increased deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide, the decrease in births and marriages likely had the same psychological/societal causes. 

            At least I’m not alone in that assumption, a piece from 2009 titled The U.S. Recession and the Birth Rate speculated on the previous birthrate nadir of 1936 and 1976, and that “…The U.S. birth rate has exhibited some remarkable swings over the past 80 years (see Figure 1).1 Two record low points occurred during two periods of serious economic crisis: the Great Depression and the somewhat less traumatic “oil shock” inflationary period of the 1970s. It is thus logical to speculate that the current period of stark economic reality and the resultant apprehension for the future will see a similar decline in births…”

            @HeelBearCub > “…

            and then my earlier point, more explicitly, is that this autonomy (assuming it exists and is responsible for the lower birth rates) might simply be a positive thing. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pessimistic people may not make the best parents…”

            Sure. 

            @HeelBearCub > “…Sure, it’s good to ameliorate these problems for the (prospective) parents, but that’s true regardless of whether it leads to them having kids”

            I agree.

          • DinoNerd says:

            FWIW, we’ve had years – decades – of rhetoric about irresponsible people who have children and wind up on welfare, and lots of widely publicized restrictions on the total amount of financial help Americans can get in their lifetime. Birth control has also been more widely available than in my parents’ time, when it tended to be illegal.

            Assuming people paid attention, and applied this to their own choices, I’d expect this to either result in more birth control within marriage, or fewer unwed parents, rather than fewer marriages, but maybe an unexpectedly large number of those past marriages had been the result of premarital pregnancies.

            Or maybe a lot of women also internalized the concept of successful husbands trading in their wives for younger models, didn’t trust the divorce courts, and feared being left as single mothers – leaving them much much choosier. (And no, they don’t have to be rationally responding to actual rates – they might just be responding to hearing a lot about a rare practice.)

            I suspect it’s neither of the above, but thought experiments can be interesting anyways.

      • There is a smuggled assumption here, that the low birthrates themselves are a problem.

        Plumber said explicitly that he did not consider them a problem, but suspected that they were the symptom of a problem.

        I’m not particularly worried about low birthrates causing problems, lots of folks want to come to the U.S.A. and I’m confident in assimilation, I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

        • Skeptic says:

          I think bear’s point is that x,y,z are positive factors.

          Which is entirely possible.

          To be boring, I would hypothesize that it’s most likely a mixture of both positive and negative factors. The negative factors are probably worth identifying regardless of their impact on birth rates.

    • mtl1882 says:

      That decade (2007-2017) roughly corresponds to my young adulthood (twenties), and personally I noticed a shift in the aftermath of the financial crisis that is hard to articulate. Some people have written about the “cancellation of the future,” and that seems to fit it, but no one I knew phrased it that way. You point out pessimism can be a key factor, and I think it is a form of that, or at least uneasiness/uncertainty, particularly among certain socioeconomic groups. One of my close friends just had a baby–a first in my friend group–and her attitude still matched most of my friends’, which is a sort of steady acceptance, not what I think of as optimism.

      Most of us expect to be worse off than our parents, and it’s not something we freak out about. But I think it makes it harder to invest in a future that you don’t have a clear picture of, and is similar in nature to a time of economic stress, even if the numbers look okay. Malcolm Harris gets at some of this in Kids These Days, but I think the sense of malaise goes far beyond millennials. This is just an obvious way in which it manifests, since they’re the ones of childbearing age.

      • Most of us expect to be worse off than our parents

        The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

        This fits with my observation that the popular perception of climate change is much worse than what the IPCC actually projects. It feels as though a lot of people want to believe in a bleak future, for themselves or for the world, and I don’t know why.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Very good related Martin Gurri blogpost:

          https://thefifthwave.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/2019-the-year-revolt-went-global/

          The key relevant theme is that the public in revolt today is almost purely negative; they know what they are against but have no concrete sense of what a better world, one worth fighting optimistically for, would look like. Without such a clear vision, the future is going to seem bleaker even if it probably won’t be. People may not want to believe in that bleak future, but to disbelieve in it they have to be shown a better one.

          I think something similar is true about technological pessimism. In prior eras we had widely-spread expectations of much better things coming in the future (flying cars, civilian space travel etc), even though there were also fears of terrible downsides (nuclear war). Now we still have terrible downside fears but the upside possibilities are less viscerally impressive/cool/empowering and creepier to most people, AI being the clearest example. If scientific progress really is slowing down as per Cowen and Southwood, that will just exacerbate the perception of no clear upside, especially if we have hedonically adapted to a growth rate rather than a particular level.

          • Walter says:

            Yep Yep, very much this.

            Like, we (people who have been on the internet for a while) all grok that having things you are for is a weakness in an argument, Sneer Club wins forever. Modern politics/protest is just an extension of that, platform just distilled down to hating the other side.

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

          Yet millennials earn 20% less than boomers did at same stage of life, despite being better educated.

          That better education comes at a cost: later entry into the job market and higher student debts.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yet millennials earn 20% less than boomers did at same stage of life, despite being better educated.

            Based on household income. Millennials form households later, and even in the 1980s, both spouses worked in about half of all marriages. I don’t know if that explains it all, but the original source study carefully makes no mention of it, so it probably does.

          • Garrett says:

            I also believe that these are cash-only studies and fail to adjust for Total Compensation (like provided health care, life insurance, etc.)

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I think if we’re interested in *marriages* and especially fertility we want to compare relative to age and not relative to the maturity of a household. We’re precisely interested in why households take longer to mature. Unless i’m misunderstanding you.

            Unless this is truly a chicken and egg phenomenon and the household income gap is explainable solely by the fact that past generations had more income earners [on avg] in a given household at a given age. (They’re not holding off marriage because they’re poor, they’re poor because they’re holding off marriage)

            The article made it sound like these were per-capita and not per-household numbers.

            @Garrett True but the illiquidity of these perks and the potential inapplicability to the needs of an aspiring household means they need to be discounted somewhat. To exaggerate somewhat if my income was supplemented with $1Million worth of apples that i couldn’t sell to anyone it would be insincere to say that my true income has increased by $1M dollars.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @RalMirrorAd

            I’m saying that Jack and Jill Smith, married Baby Boomers, age 25, making $50,000 and $25,000 respectively, are one household with income $75,000. Whereas Mark Jones and Mary Brown, unmarried Millennials, age 25, making $50,000 and $25,000 respectively, are two households with income $50,000 and $25,000 — resulting in a far lower “median household income” that is purely an artifact.

            You can’t use a lower household income to explain the later marriages if the lower household income is due to the later marriages.

          • acymetric says:

            @The Nybbler

            That only matters if you look at per-household numbers, not if you’re looking at per capita.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @acymetric

            That only matters if you look at per-household numbers, not if you’re looking at per capita

            Which that study does. USA Today even reported it that way:

            With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            That is a fair objection, although it’s not purely an artifact, because two people living apart will on average have substantially higher expenses for the same standard of living than people who are together.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Again, that’s circular. If the claim is that Millennials aren’t pairing up and having kids because their household expenses are higher, but their household expenses are higher because they’re not pairing up…

          • acymetric says:

            We probably need to agree on what “pairing up” means. A lot of couples live together, but are not married and have no kids. In that case, they would be getting the benefits of shared housing costs (other than filing taxes jointly). Has this behavior increased enough to offset (partially or in full) fewer actual marriages? How do we correctly compare numbers with this group that probably counts as 2 households but is really one?

          • John Schilling says:

            That is a fair objection, although it’s not purely an artifact, because two people living apart will on average have substantially higher expenses for the same standard of living than people who are together.

            Yes, it does. The average 30-year-old Millenial person, having more wealth than did the average 30-yo Boomer in their day, chooses to expend much of that wealth to maintain autonomy and meatspace solitude rather than teaming up like the Boomers did. This doesn’t make Millenials poorer than Boomers, it just means they’re buying different things.

          • LesHapablap says:

            John Schilling,

            If that’s what they are doing, sure, but I really doubt that the choice to live alone is a satisfaction-maximizing free-will choice thanks to greater income. Rather it is likely more due to things like
            -90s-00s child-rearing styles that result in permanent adolescence
            -big changes in the relationship marketplace, both in attitudes and technology
            -greater requirements for education

          • Randy M says:

            -90s-00s child-rearing styles that result in permanent adolescence

            Care to expand the hypothesis? I think “no effect from parenting” is an overstatement, but “once common parenting styles significantly impair development” is also rather bold.

          • LesHapablap says:

            The hypothesis is that overprotective parenting and helicopter parenting result in children who are less independent and more anxious.

            Parenting styles have changed dramatically in the last 40 years and often children younger than 10 are never left unsupervised.

            Supporting evidence is the lowered teen-pregnancy rate, higher rates of virginity among teenagers and young adults, lower rates of drinking and smoking. This all shows a drop in risk-taking behavior which you’d expect from adolescents afraid to take risks.

            Evidence against: Japanese parents purposefully try to instill independence in their kids, walking to school by themselves as as young as five. They even have a reality tv show based on the tradition of sending kids on their ‘first mission,’ link text, yet have an alarming trend in young adult abstinence and reclusion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Supporting evidence is the lowered teen-pregnancy rate, higher rates of virginity among teenagers and young adults, lower rates of drinking and smoking. This all shows a drop in risk-taking behavior which you’d expect from adolescents afraid to take risks.

            Lead hypothesis accounts for all of these, and a bunch of other stuff as well.

            Otherwise you have to posit a different cause for the increase than for the decrease.

        • mtl1882 says:

          The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

          I may write a longer response to the “why” question at some point, but why would economic growth be the only thing that matters? I think is the question we’ve naturally come to ask. The economy can grow in ways that is not helpful to us personally, as it isn’t evenly distributed, and as growth can come from a variety of circumstances, not all of which are as easy to understand or appreciate. But more than that, I do not believe we can grow forever, and I think a lot of people have their doubts about it. It seems like we’re in for a backlash, if not already in one. I’m not inclined to trust wholeheartedly in “numbers” given how easily they are manipulated—reaching the job market at the time of the crisis gave a lot of us a mistrust of the numbers the experts agree on. I know I have anxiety about trusting that sort of information. I’ve seen articles on millennials’ fear of investing. It may not be a wise attitude, but I think it is easy enough to understand that some developed an aversion to trusting the system on those sorts of things. One thing that stands out to me about this era is a proliferation of scammy paperwork that is very difficult to separate from legitimate, important paperwork, because the real stuff is also obscure and often fishy. This connects to what was mentioned below–nobody is aiming for an actual functional outcome, but rather avoiding a mistake or being taken advantage of, checking somewhat meaningless boxes. “Sneer Club wins forever.” This social dynamic is to me a much greater part of it than the numbers—when you suspect everything could be a house of cards, you can’t feel confident about much.

          ETA: It could perhaps be described as a chronic suspicion that people might not be acting in good faith when they give us advice, even if they are outwardly highly respectable and successful. Or at least acting with enough hubris to make their advice dubious in the long-term. Things feel fragile…like they can’t keep going, but it also doesn’t feel possible to move in a different direction, because purpose and action are largely unconnected or actions are highly interdependent such that you don’t know if you’re actually acting towards the intended purpose.

          • But more than that, I do not believe we can grow forever, and I think a lot of people have their doubts about it.

            That gets us back to “why are people more pessimistic than they used to be?”

            Why can’t we “grow forever,” or at least through the lifetime of anyone now alive?

          • Aapje says:

            One reason for growth in the past is population (density) increases, which seems finite.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Income inequality is up and job security is down. It looks to me as if economic mobility – aka the American dream – is also way down – if you are born poor, you now expect to stay poor.

          It doesn’t matter if economic indicators – like stock prices, or even recorded GDP – are going up, unless the change is reaching you. I chatted recently with a grocery store cashier who worked 7 days a week, spread across multiple jobs. She was not young enough to be “entry level”, and insisted that she was “not complaining” because it was good to be employed. I’d be unsuprised if all of her jobs were part time and lacking benefits, so that she couldn’t afford to pay for having a baby, as well as quite obviously not having enough time to raise one – or enough money to hire child care. And while we discussed none of these issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if she felt as if things were looking up – she was able to get all those jobs, rather than being out of work.

          I’m all right – I got my career started while jobs were plentiful, and got into computers on the ground floor. I own a lot of stock, and gain when out-of-US-production and out-of-US-sales combine to raise the price of that stock – or when it gains due to various common manipulations not related to any actual increase in revenue or profit (stock buy backs, etc.) I also own outright a house in an area where prices continue to rise. I’m even high enough on the economic totem poll to actually get raises that outpace inflation ;-( But I’m a boomer, which is not the demographic producing babies these days.

      • Clutzy says:

        Summed up the feelings of me, and my younger siblings, and just about everyone we know.

        The only exceptions I really can point out are some of the people who graduated HS with my brother, are hispanic, and are the first in the family to get a HS degree.

      • BBA says:

        Shower thought: it might be some kind of higher-level Malthusian issue. We’re not bumping up against the limit where if there are any more people we’ll starve, but we are bumping up against a limit where if there are any more people standards of living will fall. The pie remains the same size, or grows slowly, but there are always more people who want slices.

        I dunno, 30 years ago when my parents were my age, they were homeowners with children. I’m forever alone single and I still rent, and when I compare property prices when they bought to now the difference is staggering even after inflation.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      This whole topic might be akin to asking which torpedo sank the yamato. So salt it to taste.

      College Education: The data you’re looking for is here.

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/184272/educational-attainment-of-college-diploma-or-higher-by-gender/

      29.5% to 34.6% from 2007 to 2017 it looks like Here’s an interesting thought experiment that I myself don’t know the answer to, but if you want the % of the population [male female or both] with a college degree to increase by roughly .5% from one year to the next, by how much does the undergraduate population need to increase?

      High Rents are occuring in those areas where the job and population growth is strongest (which makes sense). Meaning that we might discount the value of job growth for young adults if an unusually large

      It’s also been argued that high density areas have always been fertility sinks, so even if home affordability hasn’t changed between the urbs and the hinterland, if the job growth is unusually concentrated in the urbs it will have a net supressing effect.

      I’m going to revisit this after i get more information on student debt levels 2007 vs. 2017

      *In general* If the economic recovery between 2009 and 2015 was heavily weighted towards increasing employment levels, income, and equity of adults between 35 and 60. These folks have likely already madce up their minds about whether they’re going to marry and how many children they may or may not have. It’s no surprise that it doesn’t seem to be having the effect we expect it to. And the impression I got during those years was precisely that:

      As for immigration I fear it’s trying to smother a fire with gasoline. You want your nations capitalists to be forced to employ young adults at an early age with competitive pay and cheap mortgages and rents.

      [inb4: Yes, in libertopia infrastructure, housing, and capital investment would be perfectly elastic and just grow to scale but we don’t live in libertopia, things are “sticky”. ]

    • Etoile says:

      From anecdata observing my environs – urban, early-30s – I part of it is a more fundamental shift in mindset: feeling of having more time, or not seeing marriage and kids as necessary. It’s career, travel, finding oneself, Tinder, and just inertia. Now, I know the culture changes, and I myself didn’t start family formation until mid-20s. But I see people waiting, going on autopilot: couples together for a decade before they get married, then just not having kids for years (yes I know some people deal with inferility, etc. but this is a broader effect) – for seemingly no good reason.

      I also think the gender wars have done real harm. Generations ago, and even today, lots of people who are very far from the most attractive, interesting, intelligent, or successful, managed to get married and have kids. So it’s not just about only the most attractive people getting laid (and I know lots of attractive people not with anyone….) Now, this is based on personal observations, and is obviously painting with a very broad brush, and maybe I’m way off-base here, but: it seems like we’re diligently trying to stamp out entirely the dynamic of men wanting to impress women and women wanting to attract men – all the fun of relations between men and women. Women see doing anything for a man, pleasing a man, as an imposition, as exploitation – it’s no longer a source of pleasure or pride for many. As a result, they don’t practice the craft of “taming” or “shaping” a man, but just suffer in resentment or opt out entirely. Men, on the other hand, kind of stop trying. And I understand – nobody wants to do chores endlessly, buy drinks, suck up to women and be rejected… but nobody explains to the boys how to go about it. So they don’t, or try ridiculous things with no success. I don’t know how to fix this really…. but it is essential for all of us new parents to have a strategy for teaching our kids healthy gender relations if we want them to get married and give us eventual grand-children….

      • Viliam says:

        Seems like for many people, 30 is the psychologically significant number, when they can’t pretend they are kids anymore.

        couples together for a decade before they get married

        Alternatively: a couple together for a decade, then one decides it is time to have kids, the other one is like “why the hurry? we still have a lot of time”, then a few months of increasing conflict, then breaking up. (Optionally followed by a shock of finding out how during the decade their value changed on the dating market.)

        Women see doing anything for a man, pleasing a man, as an imposition, as exploitation – it’s no longer a source of pleasure or pride for many.

        Sometimes this goes so far that even doing a fair share of work feels like exploitation. For example, in most of my relationships, I was the only one who could cook, because for the girls suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against, while for me it was simply a useful skill everyone should learn.

        Note that this wasn’t a reversal of roles, because at the same time, I was the one who cared more about my potential to make money and eventually feed the family, while the girls were usually interested in things like traveling.

        (Sometimes women complain that the only thing men want from them is sex. But many of them need to be asked: “so, what else do you offer?” Note that things like “education” have value only if you are converting them to a decent income, or at least they make you an interesting conversational partner.)

        it is essential for all of us new parents to have a strategy for teaching our kids healthy gender relations if we want them to get married and give us eventual grand-children

        Well, yes, because our society definitely isn’t going to do it for us.

        Sometimes I feel that teaching the kids to be healthy adults with useful skills would do the job, even ignoring the gender-specific skills. They would still turn out better than most of what the market has to offer. For example, I plan to teach my kids to cook, regardless of their gender. (But my kids happen to be girls, so no one is going to believe this, and they will call me a sexist instead. Yeah, whatever.) Similarly, I plan to teach them math and computer science. And how to be nice to people, but also how to make sure they are nice to you, and to shun those who don’t. How to take “heroic responsibility” for things, instead of waiting for someone else to do everything for you and being bitter if they don’t. Etc.

        • John Schilling says:

          Sometimes I feel that teaching the kids to be healthy adults with useful skills would do the job, even ignoring the gender-specific skills.

          Berkeley has that covered.

        • Randy M says:

          Alternatively: a couple together for a decade, then one decides it is time to have kids, the other one is like “why the hurry? we still have a lot of time”, then a few months of increasing conflict, then breaking up. (Optionally followed by a shock of finding out how during the decade their value changed on the dating market.)

          I’ve seen this play out recently in two close relations.

          suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against

          The idea of valuing opposing the patriarchy (or whatever) more than pleasing the partner is a huge red flag.

          But many of them need to be asked: “so, what else do you offer?”

          The romantic notions of unconditional love and love at first sight and all that are deeply misleading ideas. Making yourself lovable is a much better strategy than finding someone who loves you for who you are. By all means, shun people without grace to overlook a flaw or mistake, but at the same time, considering like you suggest what your partner can gain from the arrangement is important. Most people are probably not just so awesome to be around that their mere presence is enough to sustain a romance, let alone life-long partnership.

        • ana53294 says:

          I was the only one who could cook, because for the girls suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against

          Where was it? Maybe because I’m Basque, but I never thought of cooking as a feminine thing. While the toil of daily meals does usually fall on women, Basque men cook. Barbeques, paellas, big meat dishes, stuff like that. Younger generations share the work more equally, but older men (40+) do know how to cook.

          Although my father was quite fine eating bean stew for lunch for weeks, same dish, he’d cook it on a Sunday and eat it the whole week. My mother and us kids couldn’t stand it, so she cooked a separate meal for us and only ate beans once per week, while my father ate beans daily (it’s his comfort food). I think that kind of caring less is more common in single men, although many women do it too.

          Cooking as a skill is not gendered in Spain in general; cooking as a task is gendered. So everybody knows how to cook, but it’s generally done by women. I find it surprising not that your girlfriends didn’t want to cook, but that they didn’t wanna learn.

          • Etoile says:

            There’s this book, “What French Women Know” by an American woman. I liked the book, and one of the insights it points out is, in France, there isn’t a gender separation when people get together socially the way there is in the US (i.e., guys’ and girls’ nights); people socialize in couples and with both sexes.
            Maybe Spain and other continental countries are similar? Maybe the gender wars are really an Anglo-Saxon thing, which the rest of the world has imported, like pop music and blue jeans?

          • ana53294 says:

            Basque friendship is more gendered than Spanish in general. Men and women have their own separate friendship groups.

            Younger couples have more mixed gender friendship groups, but still separate ones (called “cuadrilla”).

            There is a thing called “txokos”, which are country clubs but for poor people. So a group of people own a house, there’s a self service pay as you go bar, and people cook and have events there.

            In the rest of Spain, it’s not as gendered.

          • Etoile says:

            Hmm, I inferred you were Russian somehow from your earlier posts! Are you part one, part the other, if you don’t mind sharing?
            (Sorry if this is too prying.)

          • ana53294 says:

            Half Russian, but I lived all my life in the Basque Country, moved to the UK. I don’t mind, I have shared it before.

        • Etoile says:

          I didn’t really want to get into object-level arguments over who is more crap, the men or the women…. For every lazy-ish entitled-ish woman, there’s a lazy-ish, useless-ish man to be found: video games all day, doesn’t brush his teeth, makes no move to help with anything unless micromanaged and nagged, and still wants praise for taking the trash out that one time. This is a caricature, but these guys totally exist, and it’s hard to fault their women for wondering why they even bother with such specimens.

          But I don’t think the gender wars help improve either of these pathologies by any stretch.

          (Also, just wanted to add: I absolutely despise all those think-pieces on websites with names like “Romper”, “Bustle”, “Scary Mommy” and such, where the narrative of womanhood as victimhood and nothing else is amplified to the point that – if that’s all you’re reading – you believe it! But they sometimes touch on real issues women encounter.)

          • Aapje says:

            The old model had women set the norms for the household, but they also did most of that work, so their typically more stricter norms than men, mostly caused work for themselves. Furthermore, the woman would typically be automatically triggered to do the work to her standards, because she she would get upset over how dirty/messy things were.

            The modern model still has the woman setting the norms, but now the man is obliged to do half the household work, without actually sharing those norms. It seems to me that this makes nagging much more likely, as the woman will notice when her norms are violated and then will get upset at the man, who is oblivious.

            A lot of women now seem unwilling to ‘groom’ a man, which is understandable because with reduced loyalty, he can easily walk out on her, making her investment worthless. Yet how are men supposed to get to a healthy situation where they do enough for the woman to make her happy, but also don’t do so much that their own well-being is neglected, if there is no opportunity to learn this gradually?

            The feminist demands seem a demand for male slavery, where men have to do what women demand and only get what women are willing to let them have. Men who listen to this too much probably can’t help but end dysfunctional, either by becoming useless, to protect themselves from being abused, or giving in too much, allowing themselves to be abused.

          • Garrett says:

            it’s hard to fault their women for wondering why they even bother with such specimens

            I would have more sympathy if they were more interested in me men who were employed, who had diverse skills and abilities and who have duct tape are handy around the house.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Garrett: Advertise your ability to use duct tape for bondage.

          • Dan L says:

            Rookie mistake, unless immediately following wax play

          • Etoile says:

            @Aapje:
            That’s the trouble, isn’t it. I have no answers; virtue is really the only way, then; virtue and character. The women need to work on the men, and take one for the team sometimes; the men too. You can’t mistake what you’re allowed to do (e.g. divorce is easy) for a statement on what is the right thing to do.
            I like Viliam’s approach to raising his daughters; more of that for men and women, and a mechanism for them to find each other, and there is hope.

          • Etoile says:

            @Garrett:
            There’s some kind of coordination problem happening. I see good girls, open to dating, wanting to be asked out; and guys who can’t seem to find a good girl!

          • Viliam says:

            @Etoile

            For every lazy-ish entitled-ish woman, there’s a lazy-ish, useless-ish man to be found

            By the way, I completely agree. It’s just that as a heterosexual man, I don’t really care about how crappy men are. Hypothetically, the worse are other men, the better is my position on the market, heh.

            The difference, though, is that we can read about “men-children” in the mainstream media, but their gender mirrors are not mentioned.

            I see good girls, open to dating, wanting to be asked out; and guys who can’t seem to find a good girl!

            I know such girls, and I know such guys… but sometimes they also know each other, and still nothing happens. (And both of them are considered attractive by other people, so low market value is not the real issue here.)

            So, I am not sure how much solving the coordination problem would help. I expect that it would help many people… but there would also be many whom it wouldn’t help. Sometimes people just can’t decide, even if the options are there.

          • So, I am not sure how much solving the coordination problem would help.

            A very long time ago, I thought that online dating would considerably reduce the problem. I’m not sure if it has or not, no longer being a participant in that market.

          • Garrett says:

            @Etoile: Would you be willing to put me in contact with any of these women? And do you have a form of contact you’d be willing to share here?

    • One obvious explanation of falling birth rates is the greatly increased availability of non-marital sex. Traditionally, the only way for most men to get reliable access to sex was to get married. Nowadays, I gather, a Tinder account will do it, at least for the moderately attractive. Courtship involves a lot of time and effort and marriage is a serious commitment, so it isn’t surprising if the increased availability of a substitute results in less marriage.

      A related issue is the impression that people have become more pessimistic. The causal relation there could run either way. The obvious direction is pessimism as a reason not to get married, more generally to avoid long-term commitments on the grounds that they will probably go bad.

      To get causality in the other direction, I think you need a mismatch between short-term and long-term optimization, an issue I have been thinking of in the context of the surprising popularity of WoW Classic. It’s possible that marriage produces a more attractive life in the long term, certainly consistent with my own experience, but also possible that it looks less attractive in the short run, at least to men. If people are actually leading less happy lives, it isn’t surprising if they are more pessimistic.

      • mtl1882 says:

        I think the sexual revolution certainly changed society in major ways, but I feel like that is somewhat old news. I don’t think that wave is cresting now. Supposedly, younger people are having less sex than before. A lot of men (and women) don’t have much luck on Tinder, either. The young people I see around me seem to get engaged when they feel able to buy a house, and to marry when they are ready to have a kid, because they see that as the “right” way to do things. I feel like this was already the way of thinking for many of our parents, but they hit those milestones earlier and were less likely to live together ahead of time (but this did not mean abstinence prior to marriage). I hear things like “we will get engaged as soon as he finishes grad school”–the couple certainly is not averse to marriage and has essentially committed to and planned out a marriage, but they feel inappropriate making it official prior to then. It is almost over-planned, a mere formality–“oh, graduation is in May, so in June we’ll get engaged.” And when they get married because they are ready to be parents, they mean immediately–living together for ten years is fine, but they have to change the arrangement before having a baby. It seems significant to me because, while they delay marriage, it’s not like they aren’t thinking about kids or aren’t seriously committed. I’m talking about people from a certain socioeconomic group who would pay attention to these things, but I think it is important to differentiate between not marrying and avoidance of commitment/responsibility.

        I do think the short-term versus long-term is a big part of it. Our society has become incredibly short-term in thinking. I believe this is a big part of what is going on. Also, for the average person, I’m not sure that courtship was particularly arduous—people married young and quickly due to norms about sex, but it doesn’t necessarily mean most put a ton of effort and wisdom into this. When those norms exist, a lot of people naturally do not think of it as a serious commitment, but as something they “have” to get out of the way. Which is why a lot of marriages don’t last.

        • Note that STD rates are up:

          https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2019/2018-STD-surveillance-report-press-release.html

          I think both it and the decline in self-reported sexual activity are true, and are reflective of the same social trend.

          I feel like this was already the way of thinking for many of our parents, but they hit those milestones earlier and were less likely to live together ahead of time (but this did not mean abstinence prior to marriage). I hear things like “we will get engaged as soon as he finishes grad school”–the couple certainly is not averse to marriage and has essentially committed to and planned out a marriage, but they feel inappropriate making it official prior to then.

          Rather than explaining the decline in marriage by citing the milestones, I would explain the milestones as a product of people’s lack of desire to get married.

          • mtl1882 says:

            I think both it and the decline in self-reported sexual activity are true, and are reflective of the same social trend.

            Is your point that Tinder etc. have made it easier for someone who already preferred casual sex to take this much further, without improving opportunities much for those looking for relationships? Because I think that might be true, but I’m just not sure if that is what you mean by the same trend. Or that people are having less sex, but it is all casual and sporadic?

            Rather than explaining the decline in marriage by citing the milestones, I would explain the milestones as a product of people’s lack of desire to get married.

            I think this goes both ways, and sometimes they’re not separate—someone who feels unsure that he or she can obtain a secure and functional adulthood may that marriage and the milestones are all off limits from the beginning. But some will react by rushing to find a spouse to rely on. What stands out to me is that I hear a lot of people making the decision about kids first—they want kids, so they will marry. It is true that if everyone felt pressure to marry young, which usually comes with pressure to have kids also, I’d expect more kids. But within the current dynamic, I think the desire for kids is also a driver of marriage—at least some of the time, the causation is reversed.

  12. mtl1882 says:

    Erroneous post–deleted. Meant to reply to a thread, sorry!

  13. Jaskologist says:

    This will be a very hard read for parents, but the author is a former frequent commenter here. Take a moment to mourn with and pray for our brother.

    Crossing Mordor.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Thank you for that. It was beautiful and sad. I’m reading Lord of the Rings with my oldest son, so it hit home pretty deeply for me.

      I pray he will find peace.

    • Nick says:

      So sorry to hear this happened. I’ll pray for him and his family.

    • Murphy says:

      poor thing.

      Back yard pools are, statistically, quite dangerous to kids.

      If you have a pool then it’s abut 100 micromorts per year for your child.

    • hls2003 says:

      You’re not kidding about it being a tough read. Devastating. I don’t know the author, but I’ve prayed for him and his family.

    • zoozoc says:

      Thank you for sharing and thanks to the author for sharing his thoughts on such a difficult experience.

    • j1000000 says:

      This is devastating. I am so sorry.

    • Randy M says:

      Now how am I going to get anything done today?
      Thank you, that was touching.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Read that at home last night and had trouble doing anything afterwards. Horrible tragedy. I hope the author finds some peace.

  14. salvorhardin says:

    A set of economic-prediction questions:

    1. What do you think is the probability that, between now and 2040, there will be at least one period in which seasonally-adjusted world GDP drops by >5%?
    2. Same probability question but for a >10% drop.
    3. If your investment strategy includes explicit planning for a drop of either (or even greater) magnitude, what form does that strategic planning take?

    For perspective, per Wikipedia, the 1929-1932 beginning of the Great Depression saw a 15% drop in world GDP while the 2008-2009 recession saw only about a 1% drop.

    • Erusian says:

      World GDP dropped by 15% from 1929 to 1932. It dropped by roughly 0% from 1929 to 1935 and had grown by 1936. So my plan for the Great Depression would be: wait a few years. Now, if you’re planning for a Nazi/Communist takeover or for the fall of Western Civilization, I might suggest you look to things more important than your stock portfolio. In particular, the ability to flee with whatever wealth you have or to solidify it into real assets is probably more important.

      Meanwhile, the stock market didn’t reach its 1929 height until 1959. But that’s only a problem if you bought in at the height of 1929. If you bought stocks literally any other time than between October 1929 and July 1930, your portfolio would have recovered its value by 1936. If you’d bought at the 1920s average, it’d have recovered by 1933-34.

      • baconbits9 says:

        World GDP dropped by 15% from 1929 to 1932. It dropped by roughly 0% from 1929 to 1935 and had grown by 1936. So my plan for the Great Depression would be: wait a few years.

        World population grew during this period, so you are talking about a 5-10% decline in per person living standards with a flat GDP rate.

        Meanwhile, the stock market didn’t reach its 1929 height until 1959. But that’s only a problem if you bought in at the height of 1929. If you bought stocks literally any other time than between October 1929 and July 1930, your portfolio would have recovered its value by 1936. If you’d bought at the 1920s average, it’d have recovered by 1933-34.

        This isn’t the issue with the GD and stocks, the issue is that while the UE rate hit 25% in the US well over 50% of people experienced joblessness at some period and I have seen estimates north of 75%. Just wait a few years is completely deaf to the situation in the 1930s as people were hit by the combination of losing their income, losing their savings in bank runs, and losing the value of their homes and stock portfolios as well. How are you going to eat and pay rent while you are waiting out the correction?

        • Erusian says:

          World population grew during this period, so you are talking about a 5-10% decline in per person living standards with a flat GDP rate.

          Indeed, you could make this point and say that full recovery hadn’t happened until 1936 or 1937 when it reached comparable per capita levels iirc. You get better numbers if you live in the west: the Soviet Union, for example, saw a decrease after the Great Depression but was not as affected by the Depression itself.

          This isn’t the issue with the GD and stocks, the issue is that while the UE rate hit 25% in the US well over 50% of people experienced joblessness at some period and I have seen estimates north of 75%. Just wait a few years is completely deaf to the situation in the 1930s as people were hit by the combination of losing their income, losing their savings in bank runs, and losing the value of their homes and stock portfolios as well. How are you going to eat and pay rent while you are waiting out the correction?

          Well, your statistics are somewhat inflated.

          Regardless, the question was not, “What should the US’s economic policy be?” It was, “What should I do with my investment strategy?” The answer is: wait for the market to correct. So no, talking about stocks is not completely tone deaf to a question about stocks. If you want to talk comprehensively about what to do when you expect a downturn to protect your home’s value, your livelihood, etc, these are all good questions.

          They are not the ones being asked. I myself pointed out in my answer if you think the world is going to hell then your portfolio shouldn’t be first on your mind.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Regardless, the question was not, “What should the US’s economic policy be?” It was, “What should I do with my investment strategy?” The answer is: wait for the market to correct. So no, talking about stocks is not completely tone deaf to a question about stocks.

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            Well, your statistics are somewhat inflated.

            Please elaborate.

          • Erusian says:

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            What’s your limiting principle then? Should your investment advisor advise you on your marriage because they think she’s going to divorce you and take half? Should he advise you to become Mormon because of low divorce rates?

            Yes, your financial portfolio is one part of a complex web of financial decisions. Likewise, you could come up with a more sophisticated strategy. But, as you say, the strategy must be implemented. For most people, holding through is the best option to maximize their stock value.

            Further, stock ownership in 1929 was significantly more limited than today: something like 2% of Americans owned stocks (again, iirc: it was at least around there). These people naturally tended to be much wealthier and better connected than average and so were probably relatively far from the bread line.

            Please elaborate.

            The BLS says the unemployment rate never reached 25% on an annualized basis: it peaked over 20% but less than 25%. Even the most generous has it at 24% and some change and that’s the highest.

            Further, you claim that 50-75% of people experienced unemployment at some point. This is one of those technically true (at least potentially) but meaningless statistics. Even in a healthy economy, periods of unemployment are normal. If you take an expansive definition of the Great Depression, you have roughly a ten year period. Over the past ten years (which includes, at best, the very very tail of the Great Recession) you had about half a billion job changes. If any of those changes took more than four weeks, the person counts as unemployed. And guess what: the average time to find a job is six weeks.

            Total number of people who experienced unemployment is an irrelevant statistic that will be large even in a healthy economy. Average time to find a job and differences in hours worked, conditions, wages, etc are what would be relevant.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            Standard financial advice is to keep a portion of your savings (up to about six months worth of living expenses, plus any expected large upcoming expenses) in low-risk, relatively liquid investments (bank accounts, money market funds, and maybe a ladder of short-term CDs or treasury bills). This should cover the first few months of unemployment without needing to tap into your main investments.

            But yes, during a particularly bad recession, you might be out of work for more than 3-6 months and need to tap into other savings. At that point, yes, you do need to start cashing in on your long-term investments, or at least spending your dividend/interest income from them. This is an argument for another piece of standard investment advice (and against the common contrarian advice to put your long-term investments 100% in stocks) of diversifying across multiple asset classes. If you’re allocated 80% stocks and 20% the domestic stock market crashes but the bond market doesn’t (*), then you can spend down your bond investments first.

            (*) The conventional wisdom is that this is often going to be the case. In the 2008 bear market, for example, stocks went down by 40-50% and took about two years to fully recover, while investment-grade corporate bonds only went down about 10% and recovered to baseline in about six months, and treasury bonds actually went up a bit.

    • Garrett says:

      one period

      How long? If you count the impact of a major typhoon/hurricane in some select areas for a few days, likely. For a year-long time period, probably not absent nuclear war.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Fine, fair enough, make it a year-to-year change (not necessarily over one whole year but over N whole years where N >= 1).

    • Thegnskald says:

      1. Negligible / 0%.

      Likewise for 2.

      World GDP is a lot more comprehensive than it was in 1929, and is measured much more broadly and in-depth. I think the 1929 figure considerably overstated the drop, because GDP tended to measure things that were easiest to measure, and also most vulnerable to fluctuations in consumer demand.

      I expect that kind of variability in the stock market, and my planning currently includes substantive liquid assets to buy up as much as possible during the next crash.

    • eigenmoon says:

      1. 80%
      2. 40%
      3. gold, crypto, canned food

  15. Well... says:

    I upgraded to Catalina on my Macbook recently. Why the hell did Apple split iTunes into separate apps? I asked my search engine that question and only found a bunch of articles from 8 months ago saying they would do it, and a few from more recently saying they did it on Windows, but nothing about why they made this change in Catalina. I can’t see any advantages, especially since now to burn podcasts to mp3 CDs I have to locate them in Finder, then drag them into playlists in Music.app…ugh. I just want an explanation.

  16. AlexOfUrals says:

    Just finished listening to The Albion’s Seed by Fischer and here’s something I’m terribly confused about. It seems to be saying in the last chapter that California was populated by a mix of the Borderers, Hispanics and Jews – so why is it so… California? By which I mostly mean: progressive, Democratic, extremely fond of large protective government and high taxes, hateful of guns, socialistic/communistic, and otherwise politically left. The Borderers seem to be the opposite of it, and although I admittedly know little about Hispanic and Jewish cultures, they don’t seem to all that left either, at least Mexico and Israel don’t look like that for all I know.

    Is it something that changed in the last 30 years (the book was published in 1989)? But then, why and how does it square with Fischer’s main thesis that regional cultures persist through centuries? Am I horribly mistaken about Jewish and/or Hispanic culture? Or was the author mostly talking about rural regions of California – but nearly 3/4 of California population live in the Bay Area, greater Los Angeles or Sacramento areas, where do all they go?Admittedly what the book literally saying is “the Southern California”, but it didn’t include the Northern into any other cultural region so I assumed it goes here too – am I wrong and it actually goes to the Pacific Northwest and therefore to what Fischer refers to as “the Northern Tier”? But it’s hard to make a case how San Francisco has more in common culturally with North Dakota than with Los Angeles.

    • I admittedly know little about Hispanic and Jewish cultures, they don’t seem to all that left either, at least Mexico and Israel don’t look like that for all I know.

      There’s a tendency to assume Mexicans are:

      not very smart =>
      therefore are all devout Catholics =>
      therefore are inherently politically conservative, and would vote that way if not for the immigration issue

      None of these assumptions follow from the other. In fact Mexico isn’t particularly religious, as far as political culture goes it is much more secular than the United States.

      As for Jews, the difference between Jewish politics inside and outside of Israel has long been noted. Is this a coincidence? Many Jews scream that any American Jews who support immigration restriction for America are traitors to “Jewish values,” so it makes you wonder…

      As for the question of why it votes the way it does, California is full of big cities and it’s outside the South. No need to over-complicate it.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        There’s a tendency to assume Mexicans are…

        Perhaps, but I made none of these assumptions. It’s just that the Mexicans I spoke to said that their country is rather socially conservative compared even to the US at large, let alone to California. But there wasn’t many of them so it may be wrong. And my impression from visiting Mexico was that their culture was much less, not sure how to put it, but I’d say less sheltered-and-happy-about-it than the Californian. Or maybe I can say “more libertarian”, in some very loose sense of the word. Although this is just my impression based on very limited and skewed exposure, of course. Are you saying it’s actually more socialist than the American culture?

        As for Jews, the difference between Jewish politics inside and outside of Israel has long been noted.

        Ok that’s definitely something I was missing.

        As for the question of why it votes the way it does, California is full of big cities and it’s outside the South. No need to over-complicate it.

        Yes that’s the answer usually given and I’m not saying it’s wrong. But I was asking what is the answer within the framework of the book? I mean, Fischer said many times throughout the book how voting patterns are affected by regional differences stronger than by anything else, specifically mentioning rural/urban divide among “anything else”. And he gives exactly zero consideration to the fact of California being very left, and in fact the only mentioning of Californian cultural ancestry in the book – at least as far as I noticed – is what I said in the original comment. And Scott praised the book as “sort of explaining everything about America” and never mentions this in his post either. And by the fact the post is in the top-10 list I guess many other people here also think that the picture presented in the book is generally valid. So there must be something quite big that I’m missing here. One thing you mentioned, is that Israel isn’t in fact a good proxy for Jewish culture in the US. I wonder if there’s anything else.

        • Plumber says:

          California was less Left in ’89.

          Mexico has historically been more socialist leaning than the U.S.A., but less “Wait for the red light to turn green at midnight” than Germany, Scandinavia, or even the U.S.A. – it’s not Sweden!

          U.S. Hispanics are more religious than both Mexicans and other Americans and do indeed lean more culturaly conservative than other Americans, but also a bit more socialistic.

          Jews used to be more “Left” including Isrealis.

          Experience of the Soviet Union and maintaining the citizen army garrison state of Israel has moved many Right-ward, but American Jews largely don’t have that experience.

          • Statismagician says:

            Why, it’s almost as though communist/capitalist, religious/secular, legalistic/contextual, and (culturally) conservative/liberal were all completely separate ideological axes only aligned the way they are in the US thanks to historical accident.

          • Plumber says:

            @Statismagician

            +1

            I mean oh that’s crazy talk!

    • salvorhardin says:

      California has certainly changed a lot politically since 1989– it went Republican in the 1988 presidential election for example. It’s not clear whether the Californians who elected Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson and voted for Prop 187 were Borderers, but it wouldn’t be out of character.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Thanks, I was suspecting something along these lines – California changing since the book published. Do you know if there was a large inflow of people from Northeast during that period, maybe?

        • EchoChaos says:

          A large influx of Hispanics and Asians, plus an exflux of whites, mostly. California in 1990 was 57% non Hispanic white and 25% Hispanic and 7.5% Asian.

          It’s now 40% white, 38% Hispanic and 13% Asian (black hasn’t changed much).

          If California voted with the same demographics as it did in 1990, it would be at least a swing state, maybe a Republican state.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Alex,

      Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote extensively about California in the 1960’s and 1970’s used the term “linkhorns” to describe the borderer types who had traveled to central and southern CA. He specifically wrote about how the tendency to head west when problems occurred had created a conflict when people made it all the way to the coast.

      My opinion, based on both reading, and visiting CA a few times, is that all of the groups you mentioned integrated, to some extent (both with each other, and other groups), before the current political climate emphasized the differences between the groups and increased the social cost of doing so.

    • Watchman says:

      As a thought, this model of classification which requires the onwards transmission of cultures from myths Okd World might not work on the West Coast, considering said cultures have had to be dragged across an entire continent. I don’t think Albion’s Seed states culture is entirely genetic (if it does, why is anyone reading it?), so the further a culture travels the more it breaks down as it has to interact with other cultures (and travel westward doesn’t normally seem to have been done by monolithic Old-World cultures). Why would we assume the borderers of California are the same as those of the Appalachians? Logically the latter, moving more as a group and perhaps even in terms of communication closer to Ireland than California, might retain a clearer distinct culture than their western cousins.

      Or the entire thing might be pattern matching pseudo-history, which breaks down here?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      In the passage you mention, he specifically says that the midlands (ie, Quaker-Germans) also contributed to Southern California. Elsewhere, he says that Yankees founded San Francisco in the 19th century.

    • Plumber says:

      @AlexOfUrals says:

      “Just finished listening to The Albion’s Seed by Fischer and here’s something I’m terribly confused about. It seems to be saying in the last chapter that California was populated by a mix of the Borderers, Hispanics and Jews – so why is it so… California? By which I mostly mean: progressive, Democratic, extremely fond of large protective government and high taxes, hateful of guns, socialistic/communistic, and otherwise politically left…”

      “…Admittedly what the book literally saying is “the Southern California”, but it didn’t include the Northern into any other cultural region so I assumed it goes here too – am I wrong and it actually goes to the Pacific Northwest and therefore to what Fischer refers to as “the Northern Tier”? But it’s hard to make a case how San Francisco has more in common culturally with North Dakota than with Los Angeles…”

      The answers have already been given upthread but only a coward rejects an opportunity to bloviate when the question has already been answered!  

      Oh sweet summer child, you don’t know California!

      San Francisco isn’t Los Angeles, and neither is the interior. 

      See this brief discussion in the last Open Thread (three posts) on ‘Okie’ California by clicking here: here first.

      Read it?

      Good!

      My qualifications are that me, my mother, and my grandmother were all born in California, so roots almost as deep as Senor Peralta of the 18th century!

      Some History:

      Know oh Prince that before the oceans drank Atlantis…

      …skipping ahead a bit…

      Spanish colonial California was relatively sparse, the original missions and presidios were replaced by ranchos that mostly exported leather hides which was still the case when Mexico (including Alta and Baja California) became independent of Spain, after the brief “Bear Flag Republic” in which Anglos attempted independence from Mexico and the conquest of Alta California from 1845 to 1848 by the United States, the Rancho owners had little cash to defend in court their property ownership against the thousands of anglo squatters that came after the discovery of gold in 1849. 

      By 1855 the population of California doubled, most went to Northern California in search of gold, ships (mostly from New England which was then the main ship-building location in the U.S.A.) would come filled with immigrants to San Francisco, be sunk in the bay, filled with mud, and more San Francisco would be built on the bay fill.

      Besides New Englanders, the new San Franciscans were often Irish and Chinese, than later Italian and a host of other nationalities, the Jews that Fischer mentioned were at first mostly German speaking, typically shop keepers and not a large percentage of the population in San Francisco. They were a good number of Jews in Los Angeles compared to many other U.S. cities when Fischer wrote, but not as much proportionally as in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. Spanish speaking and Spanish surnamed Californians were mostly located in Los Angeles and the rest of southern California in the ’80’s, northern California was more anglo then, but all of California is more Hispanic, and (to a lesser extent) Asian now.

      Interior and far north California had a big influx of ‘Okies’ in the 1930’s, from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and especially Texas – into the ’80’s much of rural California accents sounded “southern”, cowboy actor Slim Pickens was born in California, his parents were Texans. The ‘Okies’ were mistly of British ‘Borderers’ and German lineage. 

      Blacks from the rural south came in the 1940’s to work in the shipyards of Oakland, Marin City, Richmond, et cetera where they remained until the ’00’s.

      Vietnamese ‘boat people’ came to California in the later ’70’s and the ’80’s to escape Communism, also in the ’80’, mostly to Los Angeles came Iranians who escaped the “Islamic republic”, and Koreans.

      Anyway San Francisco was a small Spanish speaking mission, presidio (fort), and pueblo (town), then an influx of first New England Yankees, then Irish, Chinese, then Italians, then everybody. 

      Los Angeles stayed more Spanish longer. Interior California had Hispanic, Japanese, and Filipino farm workers, then anglophone ‘Okies’, then more Hispanics. 

      Because amateur armchair sociology is fun (episismetic status: pulled out of…) I’m going to quote from Colin Woodward the author of 2011’s American Nations on the three disperate “cultural nations” that make up California:

      “… El Norte
      The oldest of the Euro-American nations, El Norte dates back to the late sixteenth century, when the Spanish empire founded Monterrey, Saltillo, and other outposts in what are now the Mexican-American borderlands. Today this resurgent culture spreads from the current frontier for a hundred miles or more in both directions, taking in south and west Texas, southern California and the Imperial Valley, southern Arizona, most of New Mexico, parts of Colorado, and the six northernmost Mexican states. Most Americans are aware that the region is a place apart, where Hispanic language, culture, and societal norms dominate; few realize that among Mexicans, nortenos have a reputation for being more independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and work centered than their central and southern countrymen. Long a hotbed of democratic reform and revolutionary settlement, various parts of the region have tried to secede from Mexico to form independent buffer states between the two federations. Today it resembles Germany during the Cold War: two peoples with a common culture separated from one another by a large wall.

      The Left Coast
      A Chile-shaped nation wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges and stretching from Monterey to Juneau, the Left Coast was originally colonized by two groups: merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen from New England (who arrived by sea and dominated the towns); and farmers, prospectors, and fur traders from Greater Appalachia (who generally arrived by wagon and controlled the countryside). Yankees expended considerable effort to make it “a New England on the Pacific,” but were only partially successful: the Left Coast is a hybrid of Yankee idealism, faith in good government and social reform, and the Appalachian commitment to individual self-expression and exploration. The staunchest ally of Yankeedom and greatest champion of environmentalism, it battles constantly against Far Western sections in the interior of its home states.

      The Far West
      The other “second-generation” nation, this is the one part of the continent where environmental factors trumped ethnographic ones. High, dry, and remote, the Far West stopped the eastern nations in their tracks and, with minor exceptions, was only colonized via the deployment of vast industrial resources: railroads, heavy mining equipment, ore smelters, dams, and irrigation systems. As a result, settlement was largely directed and controlled by large corporations headquartered in distant New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, or by the federal government itself, which controlled much of the land. Exploited as an internal colony for the benefit of the seaboard nations, Far Western political leaders have focused public resentment on the federal government (on whose infrastructure spending they depend) while avoiding challenges to the region’s corporate masters, who retain near Gilded Age influence. It encompasses nearly all of the interior west of the 100th meridian, from the northern boundary of El Norte to the middle reaches of Canada, including much of California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska, Colorado and Canada’s Prairie Provinces, and all of Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Nevada. Two other nations—the Inuit-dominated First Nation in the far north and Quebec-centered New France—are located primarily in Canada and are peripheral to this discussion. Their U.S. enclaves in northern and western Alaska and southern Louisiana respectively have scant electoral power, but they both have considerable sway in Canada and have come the closest to forming independent nation-states of their own (in Quebec and Greenland).

      Nearly every internally divisive development in U.S. history in the past two centuries has pitted Yankeedom against the Deep South. Since neither of these regional “superpowers” has had a sufficient share of the population to dominate federal politics in this time period, they have sought to build and maintain alliances with other regional cultures. Some of these alliances have been remarkably durable, like those between Yankeedom and the Left Coast or between the Deep South and Tidewater, each of which has survived since before the Civil War. Others are younger and weaker, such as the axis between Greater Appalachia and the Deep South—cultures that took up arms against one another in both the American Revolution and the Civil War—or between the Deep South and the Far West, where resentment of corporate control may one day eclipse anger at the federal government…”

      So in “Albion’s Seed” terms California if a mixed bag, part New England Yankee (mostly in the coastal northern half), part Borderer Greater Appalachia (interior), a little Quaker/German (also interior), Spanish colonial (interior and more south), and some Asian.

      I myself am mixed Irish Catholic, Yankee Massachusetts via Kansas, German Lutheran, German speaking Jewish from what is now Poland, and Scots-Irish. 

      Five years ago the bulk of my immediate co-workers in San Francisco were Filipino and Russian, across the hall in custodial they’re mostly Chinese and Mexican with a few African Americans. Now my immediate co-workers still have a large Russian contingent, a few second generation of Filipino descent (those born in the Philippines have retired), a couple of Mexican descent, a Puerto Rican (a Spanish speaking U.S. island territory), three of Irish descent (including me), and one African-American.

      The cops are still often Irish, with large black, Chinese and Italian contingents, firemen are still mostly Italian with large Irish and Chinese contingents.

      Building trades unions are still often Irish and Italian with more black, Hispanic, and Chinese contingents than in the past, non-union construction workers are now most often Hispanic.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Know oh Prince that before the oceans drank Atlantis…

        Such a shame that Prince and Donovan never collaborated on a song about this.

      • imoimo says:

        This post alone is a great supplement to Scott’s review of Albion. I’ll definitely remember “San Francisco = Yankee idealism + Appalachian self-expression.”

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Gaming chairs

    I just saw a post from someone with back problems who found that a getting a gaming chair was easy way to find a comfortable chair.

    Admittedly, I’m generalizing from one data point, but it seems to me that gamers would care tremendously about having chairs that don’t distract them, and, of course, they’re buying chairs for themselves.

    Opinions about best chairs? Any other products which are notable because customer feedback is extremely precise?

    • A proper sturdy armchair is the most comfortable chair for every purpose, including gaming. Gaming chairs are kind of like office chairs in that comfort is offset by the desire to have it swivel and pivot. They often break even if you’re not a huge fatty.

      • Well... says:

        Plus they usually have holes for a 4- or 5-point restraint, which is ridiculous.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Not all of us can afford a chair for each of the office and the bedroom.

          • Well... says:

            Huh? I thought you were going to say “Not all of us can afford a chair for each of the office and our modded-out drifter car.”

            Why the hell does a chair you sit in to play computer games need holes for a five-point restraint?

          • Incurian says:

            I’ll tell you when you’re older.

          • Aapje says:

            Circumcision has worse effects on sensitivity than I thought if you have to tie yourself down just so you can pull your joystick hard enough.

          • johan_larson says:

            Why the hell does a chair you sit in to play computer games need holes for a five-point restraint?

            I’m guessing some players want to heighten the experience of playing fighter pilot or race-car drivers, and add seat belts to their gaming chairs.

            Also, I think those would probably be four-point restraints: two belts at the waist and one over each shoulder, all connecting to a central buckle.

          • Lambert says:

            The 5th point is where the central buckle attaches between the legs.

            See here.

          • johan_larson says:

            Ouch.

          • Well... says:

            I’m guessing some players […] add seat belts to their gaming chairs.

            Does anyone actually do this??

            Seems like a big price to pay to configure your computer chair such that you can never let anyone into the room where your computer is. I’m imagining if I went over my buddy’s house and he had installed actual seat belts on his computer chair, that would probably become the running joke for years and years. I suppose at that point he’d have to proudly double down on it and install airbags under his monitors or something. And wear a helmet. Which of course would invite friendly beatings with found objects…better just not to go down that road at all.

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t know. By the time you are buying special furniture for your gaming, you’re already pretty far gone by my standards, although I probably wouldn’t make fun of you to your face. Adding seatbelts doesn’t seem like that big a step. It’s not like you’re building a cockpit in the basement or insisting that your family use your callsign or something.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure any gamer who installs a racing harness on his gaming chair is going to have a friend group (if any, he says cynically) whose response to seeing it would “AWESOME!”.

            Edit: And I wouldn’t rule out them having a cockpit in the basement.

          • Well... says:

            Seems like there’s a line between, say, buying a very realistic controller like a high end gaming steering wheel or joystick, or a comfortable chair that makes gaming easier, because these things can enhance your performance while playing the game. As opposed to seat belts, where the only reason they’re there is to do this kind of make-believe thing where you pantomime like you’re buckling up inside a car and it has no bearing on the game at all.

            Like, to play a racing game you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to allow yourself to interact with the “car” and the “road” in a realistic way so you’ll perform better, because they’re really just pixels on a screen and it’d be hard to perform well if you were constantly aware of that, but expanding this suspension of disbelief outside the boundaries of the game has nothing to do with performance, it’s just a kind of childish make-believe, like those kids’ bed frames that are shaped and painted like racecars.

            And yes, gamers are probably likely to have other friends who are gamers, but to me it seems unlikely that all those friends consider this childish expansion of the fantasy into the physical realm to be cool. And surely most gamers have non-gamer friends as well.

            ETA: There would be something cool about a fully-built cockpit in the basement, but there it’s mainly because of the accomplishment and the extreme level of verisimilitude, like you’ve successfully created a full aircraft sim that can be used to train for the real thing. Just adding seat belts to your chair is not the same as this.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I actually asked about something similar on a previous open thread. I felt my office’s chairs had done a number on me and wanted a better one for working from home [Edit: found the thread and it was also my terrible studio apartment furniture at the time which did have problems such as fixed desk but that chair was a standard target/Costco/amazon/I inherited it chair a college student might have]. Someone pointed me to gaming streamers who sit in their chairs for nigh-on-day-long stretches. The Herman Miller Embody got high praise so I went with that, admittedly a refurbished one from here because goose fucking lord those prices.

      I’m happy to sing the praises of the Embody which I sit in far too much and my back pain is greatly reduced. It doesn’t lean or wobble quite like other desk chairs but mostly I’ve just stopped thinking about the chair, it just works. I also have an adjustable desk but I had the same one at the office and still suffered. I also haven’t noticeably changed my activity level.

      While it’s not a gaming chair, I agree with the premise that gamers opinions on chairs did not lead me astray.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        Another good way to get rid of back pains is to lie down on your stomach with your chest propped up by two pillows and read. Have your head as low down as possible and resting on your hands as you read. This also puts you in a soporific state and is perfect right before bedtime. Might be tricky if you use paperback books rather than an e-reader.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Generally speaking, IMHO, “gaming chairs” aren’t the best option if what you are wanting to do is sit at a desk for extended periods of time. Most of them tend to promote a curve forward, a “hunch over” posture, which is basically the opposite of what you want when sitting at a desk for extended periods.

      Some of this is down to the fact that they have headrests and are designed to tilt back.

      Also, remember that the target market for these chairs is quite a young market. Roughly speaking, they will be comfortable regardless.

      Herman Miller, while quite expensive, makes more comfortable chairs for sitting at a desks. Our company standardized on the Aeron, which will run in the neighborhood of a high end gaming chair, but won’t have some of the features, things like extreme tiltback or footrests.

      Some of the gaming streamers I know, who spend upwards of 12 hours gaming in a session, swear by the Herman Miller Embody. But that’s even more pricey.

    • b_jonas says:

      This is a bit sad because it leads to manufacturers mislabeling every chair as a “gaming chair”, because customers associate that phrase with greater comfort. That has already happened to computer motherboards and keyboards. All motherboards are advertised as “gaming” ones, even if they have server features like error-correcting RAM. The keyboard I’m typing on right now, even though it has strong springs and good for typing but not so good for playing games, was advertised as a “gaming keyboard”.

      • rmtodd says:

        All motherboards are advertised as “gaming” ones, even if they have server features like error-correcting RAM.

        … ECC RAM apparently getting classified as a “server feature” because desktop users are assumed to have no interest in having reliable hardware.

  18. Watchman says:

    Epistemic status: a flippant comment.

    The attempt to impeach Trump looks doomed, since the Senate will short of something particularly explosive reject it on party lines. But, from the point of view of a British observer who doesn’t hold a partisan dislike of Trump but would not like him running his country (no Boris Johnson comparisons please – they are lazy and inaccurate), why aren’t people using a more effective technique to stop him running. Ignore him. Don’t report on him. Make any reports on policy purely technical and anonymous. Try to make the top search result for trump either a fart joke or the world snooker champion. The man is the most likely candidate to be a narcissist in public life that I can see. If people stopped engaging wouldn’t he just disappear?

    This wouldn’t be easy. There’s outraged liberals and MAGA devotees (2, maybe 3, left, all possibly called Budd?) to talk down from basing their entire approach to the day on what the President has said. There’s a lot of content producers (coming soon, my flippant campaign to reserve the label journalist for people who don’t look at Twitter unless the story demands it (and ideally get ab intern to do that for them) who seem to depend on his Tweets for inspiration. Grandstanding politicians have to find some other issue to grandstand on (OK – this one’s easy). But we can persuade these people that their health and sanity demand they look at something else.

    So in the interest of calming everyone down for ten seconds, making reading the news a bit nicer, and stopping people making fools of themselves in British politics by using Trump as an adjective which they imagine is a devastating insult (only in your bubble darling…) and by somehow imagining that the only interest of the President of the USA is buying our NHS (I do wonder whether these people think Trump owns the American healthcare system), can we agree to just ignore him? Spread the message – although not in a way that draws attention obviously…

    • Lambert says:

      You’re not going to get many clicks with that attitude.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        Assume everyone is responding to their incentives as best they understand them, and the world usually makes more sense.

        To a first approximation, news is all about what’s urgent and burning and outrageous right now, and will ignore important but unspectacular stuff because it doesn’t make a good story. Every offensive tweet made by Trump gets a week of news coverage, and once in a great while, someone maybe mentions the polio eradication effort for two minutes at the end of a newscast.

        • Watchman says:

          So we create the incentive of producing real value over bluster to get attention. There’s a rational incentive for people to create this incentive.

          On a serious note, anything that makes people question whether tweets are worth reporting* is actually a good idea, and anyth6that drives incentives in this way should be supported.

          *People’s writings are often very informative (my current favourite being the ideologically staid, unchallenging written pieces of a certain J. Corbyn – I’ve had to read Marxist academic output from the early 80s and at least those writers have generally moved on), but tweets are either crafted for instant impact or not thought through. They exist to reinforce feelings not to challenge us.

          • Viliam says:

            There’s a rational incentive for people to create this incentive.

            Coordination is hard, no matter how valuable would be the hypothetical outcome. Becomes even harder when defecting is profitable.

          • albatross11 says:

            What would it look like for media to have an incentive to get things right?

            One thing I’d love to see: every day, your newspaper publishes a review of one of the front page stories from 1 year ago and 10 years ago, and sees how they have held up, what came of the whole thing, etc. Did the crisis turn out to be a vacuous moral panic? Did the claimed parade of horribles that were going to follow from some bit of legislation actually happen? Etc.

            There’s a good reason why a news source would not want to do this, of course….

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            One thing I’d love to see: every day, your newspaper publishes a review of one of the front page stories from 1 year ago and 10 years ago, and sees how they have held up, what came of the whole thing […] There’s a good reason why a news source would not want to do this, of course….

            I would enjoy that, too. This is reminiscent of Scientific American’s “50 and 150 Years Ago”, albeit with a more critical tone.

            The obvious solution I see here is for a competing news outlet to publish such followups. It should count as fair use.

    • fibio says:

      Ignore him.

      As Lambert says. Trump outrage (for and against) is driving a scary fraction of American interest in the news. No reporting company can afford to ignore him, they would go broke without the clicks/subscriptions/sales he generates.

      • Watchman says:

        Can I suggest that is a feature, not a bug?

        But if we convince the readers to stop clicking, then the publications in question would just have to attract them with something else. If you could effect a change in consumer behaviour then the publishers follow or perish (or claim subsidies due to their essential social role of providing distracting clickbait (sorry, that should say news)). All we need to do is convince billions of peoples and some bots casually cruising the internet to change their behaviour. At the risk of sounding slightly like the sort of person you want to answer this question with a “no” to, does anyone have an impassioned high-school age sibling (and a conveniently-passing film crew who might know them) who could front this movement?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I remember some veteran newscaster calling out CNN’s addiction to Trump.

        I searched and could only find this, this is of the same kind but not as strong: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/05/13/nick-kristof-trump-media-addiction-problematic-rs-sot.cnn

        The news industry is in a lot of financial trouble. Telling them to abandon their one life-preserver won’t work.

    • Well... says:

      I like doing this, and I was pleased to see Maynard James Keenan do it as well, on the JRE podcast when Rogan brought up Trump and Keenan said something to the effect of “Who’s that? Isn’t he a politician or something?” and basically wouldn’t use Trump’s name the entire conversation.

      • Watchman says:

        The correct answer to that question being ‘he is a property developer and TV star I believe’.

        The downside to this lovely position is perhaps the chance of sudden confusion when you are introduced to President Pence. Of course, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring you are a single female.

    • EchoChaos says:

      can we agree to just ignore him?

      Nope. It’s Trump’s superpower. He is absolutely impossible to ignore.

      Especially since he is the President of the world’s most powerful country right now.

      • Watchman says:

        Aha. But that’s my long-term plan! I’m trying to get people to realise life is better if we just ignore politicians. Obviously you weren’t supposed to spot that quite so quickly…

        • albatross11 says:

          I dunno, if we ignore them won’t they just get up to even more mischief?

          • Watchman says:

            You may be confusing politicians and naughty four-year olds there?

            Although there’s a nice similarity in this case. Were not really ignoring them totally (we should still go and vote whenever possible) but just aren’t interested in signalling and marketing: results and plausible promises are fine. Works with small children as well. Must try it on line reports…

    • Chalid says:

      Bad idea. If you tried this, he would probably order an invasion of Canada or something like that to get attention.

      • Watchman says:

        Revising this, as I realise this is actually not an issue but a positive. Any coverage of the guy we’re not interested in can be bumped by ongoing coverage of the siege of Detroit and the confused army wondering what Saskatchewan is for. It produces a news story that can be reported without paying the uninteresting bloke any attention.

        And we can get politicians involved in suitably heroic mode as they arrange a ceasefire, Trudeau singlehandedly returns the army feared eaten by big feet in Saskatoon to the US and negotiators on both sides make increasingly grandiose concessions in order to get the other to accept Detroit. So that’s two key groups of stakeholders who have some compensation to signing up to this idea! And the NFL might de facto get a franchise in Canada as a result (I bet the deal with the CFC fails to mention conquered territory) so we can sign them up as well!

    • I’m not convinced that ignoring Trump, even if effective, would have the effect that people who oppose him desire. The media is a major instigator in opposition to Trump with their negative news stories. If they decided to ignore him, anyone looking for news on the President would be forced to go to sources more favorable towards him.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I suspect the median negative coverage of Trump is taken, on net, as an endorsement of him.

        • Clutzy says:

          In certain segments, but the coverage of things perpetrates falsehoods that are quite negative for his image, even if battling the opinion media is good for his brand.

          For example, “Fine People”, Russia collusion, 10000 lies, children in cages. These are all examples of lies, or distortions that certainly negatively impact him. If they had never been covered, he probably would be at peak Reagan levels of popularity. Remember also, significant parts of the Dem base gets news from the news and believes it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If they had never been covered, he probably would be at peak Reagan levels of popularity

            This is a pretty bold claim for any President.

          • Dan L says:

            This is a pretty bold claim for any President.

            It’s a weird claim, considering that Reagan’s stronger approval periods roughly matched Clinton’s and Ike utterly demolished them both. The evolution of retrospective opinions is an understudied field, IMO.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            No way. Trump’s personal style alienates a lot of people and he had low favorability ratings even before all these stories broke out. He’s basically put his foot in his mouth since he first came down that escalator.

            He would probably win re-election with a 2-4% margin without these stories, but he definitely wouldn’t have Reagan-level blowouts, because he’s just too much of a jerk.

            Trump just needs to pull a Silent Cal and stop tweeting. He’d win re-election comfortably and I’d imagine it’d be better for his legacy.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I have only a hazy recollection of what I was taught in civics class about The Vital Role of a Free Press in American Democracy, but I don’t recall “keeping the public in the dark about what the President is doing” making up any great part of it.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      On ignoring Trump:

      Wouldn’t this have the effect of discouraging democratic turnout (since there isn’t some Big Bad to be against), and also the effect that only Fox News and even further right news organizations would be talking up Trump, thus encouraging republican turnout for their great champion?

  19. zenojjones says:

    I’ve been interested in RetroFuturism for some time, but recently I’ve been wondering what it is about certain visions of the future that seem inspired and why others are laughably silly. It is definitely not only a matter of correctly predicting a gadget or technology- some of the most inspired pieces of retro futuristic thinking are far from reality today. What do you think drives that difference?

    I’ve written a piece where I argue that the silly visions are too focused on the evolution of the technology of their own day (for example- Steampunk thinkers believing that every new invention would be made possible by steam).

    Lessons From RetroFuturism

    Is it something simpler or much more complex?

    • eigenmoon says:

      I’d guess the understanding of society makes the difference. Although not fiction, “Future Shock” by Toffler (1970) is the prime example of futurism done right.

    • What makes a good work of science fiction is that the behavior of the characters is different from modern human behavior, and these differences are explainable by the conditions of the setting. The bad works of silence fiction have characters behaving exactly as moderns do, or behaving in weird ways that don’t seem related to the setting.

    • aristides says:

      You are right about part of it, but the other half seems to be asking scientists what will be possible, without asking what is economically feasible. Flying cars is the prime example of something that could theoretically be created, but is prohibitively expensive, especially because of the liability.

    • Well... says:

      My offhand guess:

      There’s probably an uncanny valley effect. The imagined future has to be internally consistent, for one, and not just filled with magic, but it also has to pass some threshold of different-ness from the present day, on every relevant level of detail.

    • KieferO says:

      First, for BioFuturism, I think Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series (2003 with sequels in 2009 and 2013) should be a central example. Even in a genera that is typified by pessimism, this stands out as overwhelmingly pessimistic.

      I don’t think that “made accurate predictions about the future” is the best metric by which to judge most science fiction. It’s important to tease apart attempts to answer the question “what will we do with new technology?” and “what is this new technology going to do to us?” I think that most science fiction is more interested in the second question, and answers to the first are more means to an end. For example, Snow Crash but especially The Diamond Age are mostly about techno-libertarianism; the new technologies that are speculated about are, I think, mostly there so that we can get to the part where mafia-pizza-hut is basically a country. Sticking with cyberpunk, my reading of Neruomancer isn’t primarily as an honest attempt to predict the future, but more an examination of trends (globalization, the ascendancy of images, and the neglect of the environment) by projecting them to their extremes. I argue that such works aren’t really about the destination, but about the journey. (Interestingly, Gibson’s later work: The Blue Ant trilogy, I think, is largely futurism and done well at that. Though they are less ambitious as they’re only set 5ish years in the future.)

      My short answer to your question is that futurism is hard enough that most sci-fi authors only ever perform a shallow version of it.

  20. Is there a psychological similarity between serial killers and mass shooters?

    • Viliam says:

      Zero actual data, but my guess is that mass shooters are worse in self-control, otherwise they would become mass snipers instead — with higher chance to survive, and probably causing greater harm.

      EDIT: Well, the most obvious difference is that serial killers usually survive their actions (otherwise they couldn’t be “serial”), while mass shooters usually don’t care about their own survival (and just try to do much damage at the given moment). On a second thought, a part of this could be selection effect… potential serial killers who make mistakes don’t get the chance to become actual serial killers if they get caught.

      • That assumes they want to survive. Most of them seem suicidal.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, there’s a big difference between “I want to go out in a blaze of glory and have everyone hear my name and tremble” and “I want to keep up my hobby of murdering people without getting killed or sent to prison for it.”

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t know, but it would be tidier if we called the latter “parallel killers”.

  21. jcrox says:

    Does anyone know a good resource on the harms (or lack thereof) of pornography consumption? Ideally explains the state of the current research in intelligent layman’s terms.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      No but in hindsight that would have been a pretty good adversarial collab.

      • jcrox says:

        Yeah, I just looked at past collabs to see if it had been done already. Sadly not 🙁

        I was just reading this article on it, but the studies it linked to were correlational and not very convincing. link text

        Not surprising, for example, that people with poor impulse control watch more pornography. But it seems way more likely that the causation runs that way than that watching porn makes people have poor impulse control.

      • aristides says:

        I actually stated an adversarial collaboration on this issue, but dropped out for personal reasons. I was pro porn. David Friedman is right about porn being a substitution for rape, and that was my main point. Physical Health benefits to porn were identical to masturbation, so really irrelevant to the discussion, unless porn makes people masturbate more, which was hard to prove. Mental Health was a complicated topic that my opponent had many arguments that showed that porn was detrimental, but I did not have the time or expertise to read all the literature he provided. That was basically where it fell apart on my end.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Are you willing to extend the same reasoning to other subjects? Does posting racial slurs online similarly reduce real-world racism (and should it therefore be encouraged)?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Are there studies showing that? (No there aren’t)

          • Incurian says:

            What the fuck?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Uh, even if so, I think there are some immediate negative effects of that behavior on other people, which pornography consumption lacks.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The pro-porn theory is generally that it acts as a release valve for rape impulses. Why wouldn’t it apply to racism as well? Instead of doing a lynching, a modern racist might just hang out in the storm front forums.

            I doubt anybody has investigated this, but I’m sure we could p-hack a study easily enough.

          • albatross11 says:

            If we see a massive upswing up racist screeds posted and available online at the same time as a big fall in actual racially-motivated hate crimes, I’d at least take the reasoning pretty seriously….

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Why wouldn’t it apply to racism as well? Instead of doing a lynching, a modern racist might just hang out in the storm front forums.

            Sexual drive needs to be satiated. Once it is satiated, you’re good for at least a day (if you’re 40), or a solid 1/2 hour (if you’re 16).

            Racism is different. I think it’s a natural impulse to feel loyalty towards your ingroup, but your ingroup doesnt have to mean your co-ethnics. In fact, it’s pretty easy to avoid this. But if you go on stormfront, that will reinforce the notion that your ingroup is your co-ethnics, and increase racism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @jermo sapiens

            The same could be argued about pornography.

            That it is reinforcing that women exist simply to satisfy sexual needs for a short period and then disappear until needed again, and if you indulge in it you will feel that way about women.

            Although I suspect that @Jaskologist is not actually advocating for it, he’s correct that the same postulated mechanism could exist for both.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it is pretty unlikely racism and rape share the same underlying mechanisms. Borderline impossible. I would need to see some workable theory or some evidence of why that might even potentially be the case for me to think it is even worth drawing the comparison.

            As it stands, appears to be a total non-sequitor, and a pretty weird one to choose (and for people to then latch on to and defend) at that.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            That it is reinforcing that women exist simply to satisfy sexual needs for a short period and then disappear until needed again, and if you indulge in it you will feel that way about women.

            I think “simply” is doing alot of the work in that sentence. Sexual needs will manage to capture your attention one way or another. And if you’re a straight guy you’re going to be looking for women to fulfill that need.

            Also, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to do a proper study on the effects of porn because there is no control group. I’ve literally heard of studies being canceled because they couldnt find enough men who hadnt consumed porn. But fortunately, that means you can also test your hypotheses by just looking around you.

            FTR, I dont support porn, I think it’s unhealthy. Not that I’m in a position to judge anyone.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sexual drive needs to be satiated. Once it is satiated, you’re good for at least a day (if you’re 40), or a solid 1/2 hour (if you’re 16).

            From what I’ve seen, the evidence suggests that indulging your sex drive satiates it in the short term, but makes you want to have more in the long term. So consuming porn should theoretically increase people’s sex drives (although not necessarily the amount of actual sex they have, if they just respond by watching more porn).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            From what I’ve seen, the evidence suggests that indulging your sex drive satiates it in the short term, but makes you want to have more in the long term.

            What happens when you’re going full abstinence? No sex, no masturbation, no porn, no nothing. Like a whole month at least. Do you start feeling less horny? Serious question.

          • SamChevre says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Yes, definitely

          • Viliam says:

            What happens when you’re going full abstinence? No sex, no masturbation, no porn, no nothing. Like a whole month at least. Do you start feeling less horny? Serious question.

            I tried it once, and abstained from everything for about half of year. As time progressed, I got more and more horny, even exceeding my teenage levels. Towards the end, I could barely think about anything other than sex, and it interfered with with my ability to think clearly, so I stopped this pointless exercise.

            It was an interesting test of willpower, but definitely not a recipe for healthy life.

            It may work differently for different people, though.

          • Sanchez says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Yes. Do it long enough and you’ll realize you could probably go your whole life that way.

            Also, you might have a lot of wet dreams.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            The Watchmen tv series shows a lot of violent racist behavior, including lynchings and mass murders of African-Americans.

            How do you think this will affect those who view it? Will they be more likely to be racist, or less? Will they be more likely to engage in violent racist behavior, or less?

    • I saw an article a long time ago on the effect of pornography on rape rates. The idea was that the web had made pornography much more available, that web access had become common earlier in some states than in others, so you could use web access as a proxy for pornography consumption and see whether the correlation with changes in rape rates was positive or negative.

      The conclusion was that it was negative, that porn was, on net, a substitute for forcible sex, not a complement to it.

      But I read that a long time ago and don’t have a link or citation.

      • Protagoras says:

        Milton Diamond is one of the researchers who has done the kind of research you mention, so googling “diamond pornography study” will turn up multiple examples of this kind of study. The usual caveats about being skeptical about social science in general apply, of course, but I haven’t found any sources that have reported any specific problems with this particular research.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Since porn availability, porn use, reporting porn use, rape incidence, and rape reporting are all tangled up in complex ways with changing political, cultural and socioeconomic context, I feel like you’d have to do some exceedingly fancy design to remove sources of confounding and/or reporting bias in a study like that. Given that this is already an issue that attracts a lot of motivated reasoning, I am skeptical that most sex researchers bother with the due diligence, or that the peer review/publication process would reward those who did.

        • Skeptic says:

          The differences in differences model is designed to avoid the issues you raise.

          Not saying it’s perfect. But it’s as close to a natural experiment as we can reasonably expect.

          Unless we can randomly select 500,000 Americans and block porn via IPs and wait a couple years for crime stats to trickle in…

    • Atlas says:

      Here’s an article in Quillette on the issue.

  22. proyas says:

    Does anyone know of a chart, Excel spreadsheet or something like that that organizes and distills the content of the New Testament? Imagine a bar chart where the X-axis is denominated by discrete statements like “Gossiping is bad” and “Forgive people who hurt you,” and the heights of the bars above each of them indicate how many times that point was made across all books of the New Testament.

    It would be interesting to see this kind of statistical breakdown of the work’s themes and areas of focus. It would also be interesting to see how long the X-axis would get before the number of themes were exhausted and all additional content was redundant of earlier content.

    • hls2003 says:

      It’s not in graph form, certainly, but any decent concordance will include a subject-matter index with things like “Forgiveness” or “Holy Spirit” or “Sexuality” coupled with citation references. It would be some labor, but not complex, to organize that into a graph or spreadsheet format.

      The difficulty probably lies on the interpretive margins, deciding which passages apply to which topics. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s more of a judgment call.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Here’s an xml document of a concordance of Greek words used in the NT.

    • Jake says:

      That sounds interesting, so I’m commenting here to see what other people turn up. I found something that is cool, but not exactly what you are looking for http://viz.bible/app. It kind of breaks down each book into major people, words, and topics.

  23. John Schilling says:

    Found while looking for British election results: Doctor in Pakistan mocks lawyers on social media, 200 lawyers sack and pillage hospital, three patients die. Shakespeare may have had a point, but when we’re finished with (some) lawyers, social media may have to be next on the list. And, let’s figure out how to build and maintain societies where this sort of thing doesn’t happen, because WTF?

    • Randy M says:

      The headline reads like a mad-libs and the pictures are surreal.
      I think this says something about education not necessarily imparting moral behavior if there was anyone pinning their hopes on that.

      • Garrett says:

        Nit: You are confounding education and credentialing.

        • Randy M says:

          One would hope that it would be difficult to credential a class of people after ~15? years of schooling without at least some education being performed at some point. But then, I didn’t observe these people before the education occurred, so perhaps they would have been even worse.

          Point taken, anyway.

    • Nornagest says:

      That’s some /r/nottheonion shit right there.

      “Police fired tear gas to try to disperse the lawyers” is not a sentence I expected to read when I woke up this morning.

    • hls2003 says:

      I know some plaintiffs’ firms where I could envision this happening with a mob of doctors descending.

    • ana53294 says:

      They must be bad lawyers. Couldn’t they sue the doctor and make boatloads of money for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

      Seriously, though, WTF.

    • Machine Interface says:

      This the kind of example I bring when people question whether living in a society with high rule of law is really all that great.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        Who questions that?

        • Machine Interface says:

          A lot of people, surprisingly. Generally people who think rule of law synonymous with “legalism” and “bureaucracy” and who’d rather have a Strong Leader Who Does What It Takes To Get Things Done, Even If That Means Breaking A Few Eggs And Getting His Hands Dirty Sometimes.

          • Clutzy says:

            Meh, legalism and bureaucracy are oft antithetical to rule of law. Rule of law requires notice to the public and simplicity, along with your due process, equality under the law, etc.

            A great example of bureaucracy and the rule of law being at odds is the Illinois medical marijuana statute (recently replaced). The act set out some fairly straightforward requirements to get a license and a property and set up shop. In practice, they were able to more or less use the bureaucratic hoops, etc to delay most applications over 4 years (and like $5million+), and almost no dispensaries were ever put into place.

            Legalism is usually a little different, and it usually gets critiqued when you have a lot of obvious criminals getting off for crimes we all know they committed, or pleading down to a minor offense because some cop mismanaged the murder weapon.

            If you have both those situations, your government is often going to be vulnerable to strongman takeover, because it appears to be harassing the normal guy just trying to earn a living making pasta, meanwhile Boss Don and his gang keep not going to jail when they break windows for protection money, and the Mayor lives in a mansion.

    • imoimo says:

      I asked my friend from Pakistan about this and he says (paraphrasing):

      1. That is insane and stupid, he has no explanation for it
      2. There is a history in Pakistan of lawyers organizing such as The Lawyers’ Movement where the president unconstitutionally removed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and lawyers nationwide marched against it
      3. This particular group of lawyers that attacked the hospital probably got cocky and thought they could get away with it

    • Garrett says:

      “Video footage shared on social media showed lawyers – in suits and ties – smashing medical equipment …”

      You know what’s going to ensure their colleagues get better medical care? Destroying the expensive equipment.

      • Randy M says:

        You know what’s going to ensure their colleagues get better medical care? Destroying the expensive equipment.

        Even apart from the physical destruction, how eager are Pakistani doctors going to be to treat lawyers at all from now on? Either from fear or contempt.

  24. Watchman says:

    UK election news: the normally very accurate exit poll indicates a large majority for the Conservative party, bigger than generally projected. Looks like Johnson will remain Prime Minister and Brexit will be completed, although polls are not reality.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Running on “I will give the people what they voted for” appears to be effective and he was the only one running on that platform.

      • ECD says:

        This result saddens me, but seemed inevitable given that Labor never managed to come up with a response to ‘the people voted for Brexit,’ that wasn’t basically ‘yeah, but they’re idiots and we know better,’ which pissed off the folks who wanted to leave (who can imagine why) or ‘well, let’s have a confirmatory referendum,’ which pissed off the people who wanted to remain, without bringing in anyone else.

        There’s going to be a lot of discussion about Corbyn and the manifesto, but this (from an outside perspective, but one who reads quite a bit of British press, because its not paywalled) really looked like the Brexit election.

        • Eric Rall says:

          There’s going to be a lot of discussion about Corbyn and the manifesto, but this (from an outside perspective, but one who reads quite a bit of British press, because its not paywalled) really looked like the Brexit election.

          An interesting indication of this would be to look at the final popular vote totals. If Labour lost support mainly to the Lib Dems and SNP, that points to a Corbyn/manifesto theory. If Labour bled significant support to the Brexit party, that’s a pretty clear indication of disaffected pro-brexit Labour supporters withdrawing support from the party. If Labour bled support to the Conservatives, that could be read either way (moderates deciding BoJo was a lesser evil than Corbyn, or pro-brexit Labourites voting for the Conservatives in order to make sure the exit happens).

          Based on the polls over the course of the campaign and the very limited data I’ve seen so far, I’m expecting to find your hypothesis confirmed. I suspect a lot of voters initially supported the Lib Dems over Labour due to distaste for Corbyn and the manifesto (and perhaps also because the Lib Dems had a cleaner anti-Brexit message), but most of them seem to have drifted back to Labour as the election came closer and people started looking more at strategic voting. It seems so far like the Lib Dems are going to wind up pretty close in seats (and maybe a bit better in popular vote) from where they were in the 2017 election, which implies that the Conservatives and the Brexit Party are the main beneficiaries of people switching away from Labour.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Possibly, but I would say “I will give the people what they want” might be a superior strategy on its face.

        But it seems at least some portion of the population did not in fact consider this to be a referendum on Brexit.

        • JayT says:

          I’m not certain that’s true. I’d guess there are a lot of people that believe votes should be upheld, even if they didn’t like the result. I’d guess a large number of Democrats would have been upset if in 2016 the Democrats figured out some way to not let Trump become president, even though he won fair and square. They would say they are unhappy with Trump today, but they also want the will of the people followed.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Good point, but not the best example, since Trump lost the popular vote.

          • Watchman says:

            The Conservatives haven’t got an outright majority of the popular vote either. In both cases it’s an irrelevance since people are campaigning in the relevant electoral system not for the popular vote: if the popular vote was significant then the incentives and behaviours would be different.

            Popular vote is acwierd way of thinking m really: even directly-elected presidencies such as Brazil and Feance tend to be multi-round not simple popular vote, so why people try and apply it as a relevant measure when hardly any political system applies it is unclear to me.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid
            I keep hearing this argument, and it’s kinda… void?. Popular vote was not the race he entered. Had he entered a popular vote race, he might have won or lost, we don’t know. It’d be kinda stupid for a candidate to optimize for the wrong metric. There’s quite a lot of math involved in preparing a presidential campaign, and what exactly is the criteria for success affects pretty much everything.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Radu Floricica
            I suspect the results of the election by state would have been similar even if we used popular vote and the candidates campaigned accordingly, but that’s probably because I put very low probability on a politician swinging the result of a state simply by holding a campaign rally in that particular state. I’m probably typical-minding this, though; I wouldn’t be swayed simply by Trump or Clinton showing up in the big city nearest me, but I guess other people might. You could also claim that in a popular vote election the candidates might have adjusted their stances to appeal to the majority of the country rather than the key swing states, but I find that similarly unlikely.

            All in all I think the electoral college is a bit of an outdated holdover that doesn’t really even serve its initial purpose well, and if you’re going to hold a nationwide popularity contest you should hold it more straightforwardly. Of course, if I get even more nihilistic about it… Elections these days are usually close enough that to a first order approximation, half the country votes for A and half the country votes for B. The exact count’s gonna depend on random stuff like whether it rained in Detroit causing people who might have voted to stay home. Half the country’s going to be disappointed anyways, so does it really matter exactly how we count the votes? I just find it a bit odd in general to refer to X as “the will of the people” when 51% of the people support it but 49% of the people oppose it just as vehemently.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Which makes the primaries the actual elections, with the presidential vote floating randomly between the two parties. No need to be nihilistic, it’s a decent system.

            And more so if you start respecting the opposite opinions. I switched pretty much 180 from progressive to conservative somewhere around 30, so at the very least I am much more prepared than before to admit that the other guy has a valid point. Because I was that point at one time, and I was woefully unready to see the merits of my current position (granted, more nuanced position, but still much different from before).

          • Jaskologist says:

            In a popular vote, Republicans in California would have an actual reason to vote. In 2016, they knew Hillary was winning the state, and the Senate election had been fixed so that only Democratic candidates were running, so there was very little reason to show up. Rinse and repeat for minority party members in all the other safe states. We don’t really know how all of that would shake out.

          • Guy in TN says:

            They would say they are unhappy with Trump today, but they also want the will of the people followed.

            A total tangent, but since we are are on it, yes there would hypothetically be some portion of Democrats who would have been upset that we violated the political norm of the electoral college, and instead decided to respect the closest approximation to the “will of the people” (aka the popular vote).

            And sure, sure, more Republicans in California would have voted for Trump if the rules of the game would have been different. And more Democrats in Texas would have voted for Clinton. You can never know. But that doesn’t mean we can just default to whatever ridiculous non-democratic electoral system we are still trotting around from the 1700’s as the “will of the people”.

            If the popular vote isn’t the “will of the people” because people didn’t have the incentives to vote in the US system, then the electoral college definitely isn’t their “will”.

            There are certain phrases you can say about Trump’s 2016 election that are accurate. He won the election. He won the contest. He received the most electoral votes.

            However, claims that he won “the will of the people”, “was chosen by the voters”, “he had more support”, “was democratically chosen” are all misleading, if not inaccurate.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Jaskologist, why do you consider the jungle primary to be “fixing” the election? I live in King County, Washington where we have a jungle primary for every office, and I think that gives me a lot more incentive to show up than if we had one sacrificial lamb Republican facing off against a single Democrat already preparing for their coronation.

            Yes, I’d love it if our Republican Party was actually competitive. But with my neighbors as they are, I think the jungle primary is the best way things can be.

          • JayT says:

            “Will of the people” was probably the wrong term to use to get my point across, my point was more about people wanting elections to matter, even if they don’t go the way they wanted. I think that could even be extended to elections that the people don’t agree with structurally (eg, Electoral College), but still want the results followed.

          • Cliff says:

            claims that he won “the will of the people”, “was chosen by the voters”, “he had more support”, “was democratically chosen” are all misleading

            By all means, let’s quibble about semantics. The point was that many people believe in the rule of law and would not support a coup just because it put their preferred candidate in power, but I know you love to debate irrelevant definitions.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            An often missed value of the EC is also missed here: ensuring that the opinion of the populations of each State is represented somewhat proportionally (modulo the 2 EVs per State because Senate) makes the result robust against systematic differences in turnout across the country (e.g., even if there’s a massive blizzard in NE that keeps most voters from the polls, the size of NE’s say in the final aggregate is maintained).

            Making the Maine-Nebraska system the norm across all States would additionally mitigate the most salient complaints about the EC without requiring a fundamental restructuring of our Federalism (whether that’d be a feature or a bug is left up to the opinions of the audience).

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m not certain that’s true. I’d guess there are a lot of people that believe votes should be upheld, even if they didn’t like the result. I’d guess a large number of Democrats would have been upset if in 2016 the Democrats figured out some way to not let Trump become president, even though he won fair and square.

            See, this is the kind of thing that you’d need a test case to prove one way or the other so it’s not really worth arguing about.

            I mean, how would this circumstance even come up? You’d basically need the entire election to come down to one state and then for the political party involved to do something especially egregious that prevents accurate vote counting in that state. Even that might not be enough. You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

          • One advantage of the electoral college that I don’t see discussed is that it reduces electoral fraud. Fraud is easiest in a state where one party controls the government, but in such a state there is no need for fraud in the presidential election, since all the state’s electoral votes will go the candidate even without it.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The point was that many people believe in the rule of law and would not support a coup just because it put their preferred candidate in power, but I know you love to debate irrelevant definitions.

            The Brexit referendum is not law. The general public has no direct legislative powers AFAIK.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Brexit referendum is not law. The general public has no direct legislative powers AFAIK.

            It’s not law, but all the main parties went into both the referendum itself and the 2017 election promising to honour the result. I’m not sure that you can have a meaningful democracy without parties even pretending to honour their own manifesto pledges, as there’d be no way for the electorate to actually translate their wishes into policy.

          • Guy in TN says:

            At what point would you say that a party is allowed to change their stance on an issue after a given time, and it not be considered misleading for the public? I think the parties ought to be given some leeway to modify their positions for dynamic circumstances.

            Surely no one who votes for, say, Lib Dem is under any delusions that they still intend on upholding Brexit-related promises they made in 2016?

          • CatCube says:

            @Aftagley

            You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

            You do know Bush actually won Florida, right?

          • Clutzy says:

            @catcube

            @Aftagley

            You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

            You do know Bush actually won Florida, right?

            Its worse than that. The recount had already been certified by the Florida Secretary of State, and then certain courts intervened to enjoin that certification until votes in specific counties were counted. But the courts didn’t have that power under the law.

            Plus, they didn’t win. Its like the Jill Stein hail mary in 2016. Illegal and fruitless.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The recount had already been certified by the Florida Secretary of State Co-chair of George W. Bush’s Florida campaign

            If you accept her role as an unbiased arbiter, I think you will need to accept the courts’ intervention just as well. 2000 was simply a complete cluster.

          • Clutzy says:

            Oh the SOS was totally biased. But that didn’t grant the courts jurisdiction.

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do, a lot of parties worked to undermine that initial directive, including the Florida Supreme court which had ignored Federal Election law and the US Constitution (both having supremacy over Florida law/constitution). And now the case was back at SCOTUS, and they had to either declare the conduct of Florida’s Supreme Court illegal and unconstitutional, or they could declare a part of federal election law 3 USC 5 unconstitutional, as well as a portion of Florida election law (Nov 14 certification deadline) unconstitutional.

            And if they picked option 2, there was probably at least a month of litigation ahead for the country. With no guarantee for greater certainty of a result. And also there was the issue of the selective recount, which was unarguably unfair, although one might argue it wasn’t unconstitutional.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And now the case was back at SCOTUS, and they had to either declare the conduct of Florida’s Supreme Court illegal and unconstitutional, or they could declare a part of federal election law 3 USC 5 unconstitutional, as well as a portion of Florida election law (Nov 14 certification deadline) unconstitutional.

            And if they picked option 2, there was probably at least a month of litigation ahead for the country.

            I agree with this. SCOTUS was confronted with a complete cluster and they picked the shorter option, which was better for the country.
            The recount was a biased farce that made a glass sausage factory of the very epistemology of democracy. OTOH, Bush needing a state SOS who was his campaign co-chair to keep him from an electoral college curb stomp was pretty embarrassing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do

            Not sure what exactly you mean here, but AFAIK SCOTUS didn’t say dick until after Florida’s Supreme Court had already ruled, and in fact their initial ruling was just to ask for more clarity.

            The big issue here, from the standpoint of JayT’s prompt is that it specified “will of the people” and not “result of the initial tabulation”. You can argue about what the end result of any decent process would have been, but arguing that the initial tabulations of the Votomatic machines can be relied upon to accurately reflect the will of the people doesn’t hold.

            IOW, there isn’t true principle here, just one selectively cited as convenient. The only principle is “my guy legally won”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the meaningful principle to apply here is that you don’t get to change the rules to suit your interests. The rules defining who wins the presidency are well-established. It’s true that there are different rules that could be established that might be better in a variety of ways, and many rules that would benefit some parties/ideologies and harm others. But when we run an election according to the existing well-understood rules, and the other side wins, the fact that some other way of running the election might have put you into the white house instead of that other person isn’t very compelling. If we accepted the principle that anyone could contest the election result by coming up with a plausibly better way of running elections that would have put them on top, we will never actually reach a decision from any election.

            As best I could tell in 2000, the election was basically a tie, with broadly three groups who could put a thumb on the scales and make it come out their desired direction–Florida election officials (Republican, I’m pretty sure), Florida state supreme court justices (I think majority Democrat) and US Supreme Court Justices (I think majority Republican). Everyone basically tried to game the counting rules to give their side an advantage.

          • Clutzy says:

            Not sure what exactly you mean here, but AFAIK SCOTUS didn’t say dick until after Florida’s Supreme Court had already ruled, and in fact their initial ruling was just to ask for more clarity.

            Yes, but those were loaded questions. From the first opinion:

            Specifically, this Court is unclear both as to the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature’s authority under Art. II, § 1, cl. 2, and as to the consideration the Florida court accorded to 3 U. S. C. § 5, which contains a federal-law principle that would assure finality of the State’s determination if made pursuant to a state law in effect before the election. That is sufficient reason for this Court to decline at this time to review the federal questions asserted to be present.

            This is a tut-tut, chiding the Florida Supreme court for making stuff up and ignoring federal law while doing it. Indeed, if you read the whole opinion which is short, so you should. Its basically the SCOTUS version of the principal’s talk at the end of Billy Madison which ends with, “I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Clutzy:
            So when you said ,

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do

            You were, at very best, misremembering , and now you are just saying “I was wrong but that just proves how right I was.”

            SCOTUS said their decision had no weight as precedent. That is a fairly clear signal about how comfortable they felt with the ruling as one based in solid principle.

            Regardless, you still aren’t addressing my point which is that Florida is not an example of “the will of the people must prevail”, or even, “we must ensure the process is fair” and very much is an example of “utilize the system as it stands to ensure our victory”.

            Which is generally how it goes. Close elections turn on process, not principle. It’s more possible to have principled fights about the process before any election is contested, but still difficult. I know, however, which side is currently in favor of the principle “get the votes of all the people and count them all”.

          • Clutzy says:

            SCOTUS said their decision had no weight as precedent. That is a fairly clear signal about how comfortable they felt with the ruling as one based in solid principle.

            I disagree with this. The first response was a 9-0 decision where all the Justices hoped the FL Supreme Court would follow instructions and decide the issue in a way that they could avoid having to make a choice officially. This was an attempt to spare SCOTUS the bad press it got afterwards. Had SCOTUS known what FL SC would have done, the 7-2 decision would have issued.

            SCOTUS trying to be apolitical whenever possible is common, and you claiming otherwise is evidence of a lack of experience with the institution.

            Instead, FL SC did the opposite, and forced SCOTUS into Bush v. Gore. Where they faced the choice I posed above. That went 7-2 and 5-4, on separate issues, but both to the same result.

            Regardless, you still aren’t addressing my point which is that Florida is not an example of “the will of the people must prevail”, or even, “we must ensure the process is fair” and very much is an example of “utilize the system as it stands to ensure our victory”.

            Yes, but I never engaged in that discussion other than in the legalistic sense. My point was that Bush won legally even before SCOTUS, won at SCOTUS 2x, both times the court’s majority determining that the court challenges had been inherently illegal.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, but I never engaged in that discussion other than in the legalistic sense.

            Then you shouldn’t have pretended that you were some how responding to the point Aftagley was making.

    • Atlas says:

      Interesting take from Jonathan Chait on how this relates to intra-left partisan disputes.

    • broblawsky says:

      What surprises me is that this election went so poorly for labor after 2017 went relatively well for them. I’ll be interested in seeing the analysis on which seats went Labor in 2017 and Tory in 2019.

      • One factoid I saw was that they were labor seats that had voted for Brexit.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Brexit is an issue that doesn’t align on the major party lines, rather it fractures both of them. That’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard to bring to a resolution.

          It’s not just Labor that has a split, with many Labor members backing Brexit, it’s also the Tories, with many of them backing Remain. It’s also generally accepted that most MPs themselves are (or at least were) Remain.

        • Aftagley says:

          One factoid I saw was that they were labor seats that had voted for Brexit.

          This is the crux of the issue. The midlands and north of England, formerly strong manufacturing/mining bastions of labour support strongly went for Brexit. Johnson and the tories went strong after these voters basically single-issued focusing on Brexit. Not suprisingly, labour’s red-wall fell down and the torries picked up a bunch of seats.

          Labour could conceivably have picked up gains throughout Southern England which is normally Torrie, but strongly backed Remain. This would have likely required them to finally just accept that they are the Remain party. They didn’t, however, instead positing a mealy-mouthed “well, we’ll go back to Brussels try to renegotiate a deal then have another referendum.”

          So you have one party that focused on a single issue and used it as a cudgel to beat away at their opponents areas of weakest support and another party that just couldn’t get a solid message together. I’m annoyed, but not surprised at how well the torries did. Corbyn should be sent to Siberia; his leadership has been an unmitigated disaster.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            FWIW, though, the consensus amongst Labour party activists seems to be that people were more likely to cite Corbyn as a problem than Brexit.

          • Aftagley says:

            I don’t disagree with you, per se, but can you disentangle the two though?

            For better or for worse, the defining issue of this election/the past 3.5 years has been Brexit. Under Corbyn Labour hasn’t been able to adopt a strategy that properly capitalizes on the immense feelings people have about this topic.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Corbyn’s Brexit strategy has certainly been unsuccessful, to put it mildly. But the impression I got from reading Labour activists (who might not be representative, of course) is that people were more likely to bring up Corbyn’s far-left chums than his lack of a proper Brexit policy.

      • Watchman says:

        I’ve not done comprehensive coverage of this, but I think outside of London the Conservatives win back every seat lost in 2017 bar Canterbury. The Conservatives managed to regain one in London, but I don’t think they got any more back.

        I think there is a clear realignment in the works, as Labour now only has about four predominantly rural seats and outside of the north-west holds only one town (two if you ignore Exeter’s claims to be a city): Labour are rapidly becoming the party of the metropolitan progressive, (a lot of) immigrant communities and a still-significant urban working class. The Conservatives seem to be reassennbling the old Tory alliance of rural and industrial town workers and part of the elite, with the addition of a lot of the rural and small-town middle classes.

        Electoral maps are looking like little red islands in a blue sea (because Conservatives hold almost all the large rural constituencies south of the Scottish central belt), with a nice yellow-orange beach at the top in the rest of Scotland. What’s key here is that since 1935 the map has basically had a red block across the middle, and this seems to have been washed away or eroded now.

    • Chalid says:

      Nate Silver comment on Twitter: “Generally when there’s a landslide (as in the UK tonight) everyone’s hot takes are mostly right and when there’s a close result everyone’s hot takes are mostly wrong. You probably CAN blame Corbyn AND Brexit AND Labour AND going too far to the left AND [insert hypothesis here], because you need some combination of ALL of those things for them to lose to the Tories by 14 points or whatever it’s going to wind up being.”

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Isn´t there some rule that current events should be discussed only after 3 days time lag? I thought there is, but I conf